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Wednesday 29 February 2012

Design Porn: titiMadam

BOO! How cheering is this picture?

Sara's lovely concept of "joy snacks" yesterday reminded me of a particular snacky joy that has been gracing my red cardigan for the last few weeks. It's taken me a while to write about this adorable company, mostly because I keep forgetting what it's called and have therefore been wandering around with my brow furrowed going, "Tits? Madam?" like a deranged pervert.

TitiMadam is a wonky portmanteau of Tiina Hakala and Adam Rowe, two furniture designers who also run and design the TitaMadam range of jewellery, which incorporates lasercut perspex, walnut and metal designs in incredibly cheering shapes, and a wide variety of colours.

Knowing my fondness for all things selachian, my friend Helen gave me the blue version of their utterly gorgeous shark brooch as a late Christmas present, and so I fell in love with them.

Each item has a name, which ordinarily I'd find a bit irritating, but actually now just like. What a contrary sod I am. Here's Juan.

The only thing I find baffling is that their earrings are sold individually so you have to buy two. Maybe they get a lot of pirate trade?

Aleksi the ostridge earring, £8 each

Their metal jewellery is just as delicate and pretty - while I'd like to wear a giant Adam the giraffe across my chest, I fear I'd just be playing to the "Oh ha ha, she's 6'1 what a hilarious joke" crowd, but this birdcage is simply enchanting.

Sluttishly Savoury: Rillettes de Canard

I have a bit of hassle in my local supermarket. For some reason, despite the fact I'm turning 30 later this year, they think I look under the legal drinking age. It's part charming, part frustrating. I promise, if you get ID'ed when buying spirits, just tell the cashier that your brandy is for the duck legs and that you're making rillettes de canard. You'll get your booze. No one under 18 makes rillettes de canard. It's a bit posh, and the French name makes it sound well fancy. The Asda cashier looked stumped and I went on my way with my brandy.

It might sound posh, but really this is duck on toast. You see, I don't like pate. I've tried, but the texture gives me the shivers. I don't like liver, it's just not my thing. But I like the idea of pate. Tasty things smeared on carbs is my idea of a proper dinner. Rilettes de canard is my happy dish for this reason. Cook the duck for hours in brandy, tear it into pieces and smoosh into ramekins with goose fat. The French call that dinner and I'm not going to disagree with them.

You'll need:
  • 2 duck legs
  • sea salt
  • 50ml cognac
  • 70g goose fat
  • bay leaves and thyme
Make it!
  1. Salt the duck legs and leave in the fridge overnight.
  2. The next day, preheat the oven to 180 degrees, making sure duck legs are free from any excess salt.
  3. Mix the fat and brandy in a shallow casserole dish and soak the duck legs, making sure they're covered in the mixture. Tuck in the thyme and bay leaves.
  4. Pop in the oven on a low shelf for a couple of hours. You might need to spoon the brandy mix over them halfway through if they're getting a little dry.
  5. Once the legs are brown and crisp, remove from the oven (careful, they'll be spitty). 
  6. Leave them until they're cool enough to pull the meat off the bone. You don't need the skin for this recipe, but if you don't eat it when no one is looking, I'm going to judge you so hard.
  7. Make sure the duck is torn into little shreds, chopping any larger bits roughly if needed and then smoosh and pack tighly into ramekins. Smear a layer of duck or goose fat over the top and pop in the fridge.
  8. Once it's chilled, serve with melba toast or flat breads or that nice French bread from the bakery down the road (no, Hovis won't cut it). This is perfect with cheese and those mini gherkin things that you bought on a whim and never used.

Phantom swivel chair by Habitat

I must admit that I'd forgotten that Habitat still existed. For shame, because I've lost valuable time that could've been spent plotting on how I could save my pennies and find some space for this ridiculously decadent chair. It's all swooshy and swivelly and velvety and vixeny. It's a chair that demands reclining with a cocktail that was brought to you by your very own butler, while you sift through invitations to parties on yachts and accept diamonds from minor European royalty.

Yep, all that would happen if you had this chair. The only downside to this obviously fantastically viable plan is that you need £1,500 to get it in the first place. Oh.

Fabulous 50s frocks: Mrs Pomeranz

Though my head is often turned by whatever is being touted as the latest fashion, in my heart I know my figure looks its best in a 50s style dress. Most of the time I choose to ignore this fact, despairing of the fact I'll look like a 50s throwback as everyone round me looks cool in skinny jeans and tees. Then I saw the dresses made by Mrs Pomeranz and promptly started saving my pennies. This London/Russian based designer makes beautiful dresses based on a classic 50s silhouettes but out of modern materials and with subtle twists that make them suitably stylish for twenty-first century young ladies.

Take this oh-so-pretty Summer meadow dress, perfect for some summer loving and with the bonus of pockets for adding some necessary nonchalance. Made from an Italian cotton, she only makes 10 items from any one fabric, meaning your outfit will be that bit more unique. Sadly this comes at a certain price: this dress costs 133 euros. Add on the 16 euros postage and the dress is yours for around £125. (If you are skilled in Russian, order directly from her website, otherwise check out the great - and much easier to navigate - range at Dawanda.)

If you want to go all Mad Men in the office this steel grey full circle dress would be a good investment. It costs £138 off-the-peg, though for a very special occasion you can also buy it (and all of her dresses) made-to-measure. That option would set you back £250. Sadly the wind machine necessary for the fabulous skirt swirl shown above isn't included in that price.

And for further proof of Mrs Pomeranz's marvellousness, take a look at this red cotton dress. Deceptively simple, it comes with two detachable collars so you can adapt it according to your mood or situation or choice of handbag. Very chic and yours for an investment of £150. Now, just go out and party like its 1959 - where's Don Draper when you need him?

Etsy Pick: Curious Creatures

Curious Creatures handmade jewellery features some excellent geometric pieces. I have always been a fan of the three-sided shape and pointy decorative motif, so these lovely necklaces and earrings would make an ideal addition to my spring/summer wardrobe.

This stunning copper brass necklace geometric necklace, for £17.50 has lovely contrasting two-tier chain draping. 

These chevron drop earrings, for around £16, are awesome.

And this chevron and turquoise pendant necklace is gorgeous. It is also only £16. 

And my favourite are these colourful geometric triangle necklaces. They are such fun and only £17.

The Curious Creatures etsy shop is based in Singapore but they have super affordable delivery prices ranging from £2 to £4.

Wallpaper Wednesday: Graham & Brown Pink Flamingos

This isn't the first flamingo-inspired wallpaper I've featured. Cole & Son also do one. But Graham & Brown have totally trumped them.

This is bolder, brighter and just a whole load cooler. The purple clashes brilliant with the bright pink. Anything standing on one leg gets the thumbs up from me. Here's a close up:

It's gorgeous, and the best part is it's only £18 a roll. Probably one of the cheapest rolls on Wallpaper Wednesday. It's roughly 20p per one-legged bird. This is definitely going in my dream house.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

The boy and his poison: The Right Hand

First up this week is the Right Hand. If I'm guilty of one thing it's my total obsession with a certain juniper based spirit. So when I found a recipe that presented the opportunity of sharing a gin-based classic with even the gin-naysayers, I couldn't help but go for it.    

The Right Hand is essentially a rum based negroni enhanced with a few dashes of Xocolatl Mole bitters (better known as chocolate bitters and available here). So not only will you be drinking a rum fuelled negroni but you'll be getting a boozy chocolate hit as well.

You'll need:
  • 50ml aged rum 
  • 25ml red vermouth
  • 25ml Campari
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters
Make it:
  • Add all your ingredients to an ice filled shaker
  • Shake for 10-15 seconds
  • Strain into a cocktail glass and prove the gin-naysayers wrong.

Design Porn: Chintz Where?

Oh, Andrew Tanner. You're not helping me get over my ceramics crushes at all, are you? I'm so damn smitten with this Chintz Where? range that I'm tempted to smash all of my plates and cups.

Where's the chintz?! There it is!

Oooh look, there's some more. Sneaky chintz.

And guess what... there's a little bit under here too.

Prices start at £16 from Furnish. I'm off to smash my plates.

Sunshine Brights

Perusing the Kurt Geiger website generally goes like this: "Oooh they're lovely, I must have them immediately. THEY'RE HOW MUCH? I HATE YOU." A case in point is these gorgeous ice cream-inspired flat shoes that I've cooing over for days. I'm not paying £160 for flats. Not even mega pretty ones.

But I can't let these chunky sunglasses pass me by. I just can't. I concur that sixty quid is a lot to spend on sunnies, but I've only ever sat on a pair once. I live in sunglasses throughout spring and summer. Massive ones that work brilliantly as hayfever shields and hangover hiders. If I could wear them throughout winter without looking like a grade A tool I would do.

I love them, they must be mine. My love/hate relationship with Kurt Geiger is about to start all over again.

Baking for Beginners: Goats' Cheese, Sun Dried Tomato & Basil Muffins

I absolutely love muffins, not simply because you can have so many sweet or savoury variations of them but because they are pretty hard to mess up (even for someone who is somewhat "baking challenged" like me). Where my cakes have sunk in the middle, my meringues flopped, my sponges been brick like, the humble muffin has never let me down.  The muffin is my BFF, my Baking Friend Forever for this very reason.

I have tried many incarnations of savoury muffin  but this one is definitely my favourite.  I adore mediterranean flavours and the sweet saltiness of the goats' cheese works so well with basil and sun dried tomato (also my favourite pizza toppings!).  The kitchen will smell incredible as they are baking and even better: they are at their best when eaten warm so you can dig in, although you should at least try and share them!

You'll need: (makes 10 big muffins)
  • 400g plain white flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • small pinch sea salt
  • few grinds of black pepper
  • 250ml milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170g goats' cheese
  • 130g sun dried tomatoes
  • 25g bunch basil
Make it!
  1. Preheat your oven to 200C.  You can buy muffin cases but I tend to cut squares of baking parchment and pop these into the muffin tray instead, they don't just look pretty it means you can put even more muffin mix in!
  2. To make the basic muffin mix sieve together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.  In a separate bowl beat the milk and eggs.  Roughly chop your cheese, tomatoes and basil, set some aside to decorate the tops with and mix the rest into the flour mix.
  3. Once the dry ingredients are nicely mixed add your liquid and fold gently until just mixed. The trick to a good muffin is not to overwork the mixture when adding the liquid to the dry hence adding your flavours before the milk and eggs.  If you overwork it you will get a heavy muffin, it will still taste great but the texture won't be fluffy and we like a fluffy muffin (actually I just like saying "fluffy muffin").
  4. Spoon the mixture into your cases it will rise but you can be pretty generous with each case piling right up to the top pretty much. Scatter the tops with the cheese, basil and tomato that were set aside and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until puffed up and golden brown. 


I usually stick to the rule of 300g flavour ingredients to the basic muffin mix (not including herbs) so instead of goats' cheese and sun dried tomato you could use stilton and walnut, smoked salmon, smoked cheese whatever takes your fancy.  I once tried smoked mackerel and horseradish which I loved but my fella still refers to as "that horrible fish thing you once made"!

Fuzzy Cat Rings from TemporalFlux

My friend Kate and I have a concept we call 'joy snacks'. A stream of tiny happy things, evenly spaced throughout the day, will keep your happiness levels topped up to acceptably giddy levels. Sure, you can still save up for the bigger stuff that will make you and your home even more beautiful, but keep an eye on the small things that will give you a pick-me-up throughout the day. They're the inexpensive pretty trinkets that make your life less plain and more fabulous.

These fuzzy cat rings from TemporalFlux on Etsy are certainly joy snacks. These velvety-soft cats sit on adjustable rings, and come in various poses in black, grey and ginger.

AND they're only £3.23 each. Being a London ponce, I have spent more than that on coffee. Check out TemporalFlux's other rings if you're not into cats, they're all similarly priced. A caramel moccachino that will keep me going for half an hour versus a deliciously silly piece of jewellery that will make me smile every time I see it? No contest.

Dream Dress: All White Now

I'm going to need to use Scotch Guard on these dresses. I spill and crumb. But there's something about crisp whites that's perfect for spring and as long as you don't go rolling about in the grass on your lunch break, you might just get to the end of the day looking fabulous.

This is my dream summer dress. It's all sexy and smart, and sexy and... oh, I bloody love it. It's £59.99 from MANGO. It's going in my wardrobe.

Oooh, hello. I'm not entirely sure where to start with this wrap dress. It's getting the thumbs up right away. I'm not sure if they're thumbs for the embellished sleeves, the sheer bits or the cracking cleavage. Or the fact it's only £45 from ASOS. I've run out of thumbs.

I do like this strapless dress from French Connection. Gorgeous cut so you won't be hitching it up all day (there's really nothing less sexy), and there's a nice bit of pattern on the bodice as well. It's £130, though. Why so pricey, FC?

Now, can someone teach me how to drink red wine without throwing it all over the place?

Monday 27 February 2012

Cute or Creepy: Selda Okutan

I'm sitting firmly on the cute/creepy fence with this post. Not all of Selda Okutan's jewellery creeps me out. Actually, some of it I find absolutely beautiful. It's still unusual, but a large amount of her pieces are hugely wearable in a 'ooooh where did you get that?' kind of way.

Pretty, isn't it? Certainly eye catching but lovely at the same time.

And then it gets a little more unusual. This open ring has a guy taking a nap in it.

Now more little guys have woken up to take over this ring.

And now they're all having a play in this hotel brooch. I'm so on the fence with creepy and cute. Is it possible to enjoy getting the heebie-jeebies?

And then we get to this Of Mice and Men ring and I'm full on creeped out. It seems the more little people there are, the creepier the pieces get (and incidentally, they get more expensive with each extra little guy too). Yet I can't not love Selda's work. I think it's gorgeous. What do you guys think? Cute? Creepy? If you love it, head over to Boticca and show her some love.

Isala Desk by Ikea

A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with Ikea. I love it, mainly because they seem to get the idea that people don't live in huge houses. I don't have a huge house and as such, much as I'd love one, I don't have the room for a little hideaway office of my own. I do though have a corner of a dining room which is handily just the right size for this desk.

It's quite nice for Ikea, don't you think? The drawer slides out to provide a shelf for you to put your laptop on and you can slide and lock it away again when you've finished looking at funny pictures of cats. I mean, working on Very Important Work. If I get myself some shelves and some good looking brackets, then I reckon I have the makings of a very useful space indeed which at the moment doesn't do anything except collect junk.

The desk is £149 and worth a trip I reckon. Especially as it means you can get some Daim bars too.

Sluttery Travels: The Old Parsonage, Oxford

The Old Parsonage ticks so many of my hotel boxes. It dates back to 1660 and sits next door to St Giles Church in Oxford so you've got some very pretty neighbours and places to explore nearby. There are just 30 bedrooms in this boutique hotel and it's not much more than an hour away from London.

I have a very special place in my heart for old doors like this one.

Old doesn't need to mean old fashioned. Traditional doesn't have to mean stuffy. Instead the Old Parsonage is chic, luxurious and has beds I wanna jump on.

Log fire for snuggling up with a book? More ticks. In green pen. With a gold star.

And some mighty fine food in their restaurant, and the sister restaurant next door. Throw in free wifi and a big telly and I'll never want to leave. They've got great deals as well - room rates start at £158 per night for a standard double, but they offer breakfast and dinner for two for an extra £40 on all rooms.

Tick tickety tick.

Sluttishly Savoury: Butternut Squash and Chilli Dip

Of course, nothing will surpass the king of dips, taramasalata, for me. It was the food I was practically brought up on (strangely). But sometimes you need to add some variety to your dip repertoire and if like me you are not a fan of the creamy cheesy variety than this butternut squash dip is an ideal addition.

I discovered the M&S Butternut Squash and Chilli dip on one of my many picnic outings. It was a taste revelation. And after a quick google on the internet, I could not find a similar recipe to make my own. So here is one I came up with.

You only want half a butternut squash (unless you are using a small one) for this recipe so maybe the use other half to make this delicious soup. Too much squash and the dip will be too runny, this is where the excellent cannellini beans come in handy, they add that much desired dip-texture. If that is even an official texture.

It’s a slight more faff than Hazel’s easy-peasy Roasted Red Pepper Houmous, but that extra time spent roasting the Butternut Squash adds a lovely depth of flavour. 

Butternut Squash and Chilli Dip (serves 4)
You will need:
  • 1 Butternut Squash
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 2-3 tbsp Rapeseed Oil
  • 1 tin Cannellini Beans
  • 2 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 2 tsp Coarse Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp Smoked Paprika
  • ½ tsp Cumin
  • ½ tsp Chilli Powder
  • ½ tsp Ground Coriander
  • Handful of chopped Fresh Coriander
Make it!
  • Peel, deseed and cube the butternut squash. Lay the squash over a baking tray and drizzle with rapeseed oil. Use your hands to toss the squash to ensure they are evenly coated. Chuck a few whole, unpeeled garlic cloves in the tray too. Roast in a preheated oven at 180C for 40 minutes.
  • Remove the garlic cloves and set aside. Continue to roast the squash for another 10-15 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  • Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their cases into the food processor. Chuck in the rest of the ingredients except for the butternut squash and the oil. Blitz. Then slowly drizzle the rapeseed oil into the food processor as you blitz.
  • In a separate bowl mash the butternut squash. Add the rest of the mixture and stir to combine. Add a little more oil if you want a smoother consistency. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with a large hunk of bread or some tortilla chips.
  • Serving suggestions: do like the M&S folk and add a dollop of harrisa or salsa on top of the dip. Or maybe go with a crumble some feta cheese.

Shoe Porn: Yellow Loafers

After my towering high heels last week, I promised you that I'd find some lovely flats to wear. And what's more lovely than sunshine yellow? I adore the colour of these these loafers from Urban Outfitters. And isn't the little heart detail on the front cute? I know some of you are going to argue about loafers, but they pop of colour stops these from being old fashioned.

Now, the downside to these summery shoes is that they're not leather. I couldn't tell when I first looked at them and the slightly raised heel should protect them for longer. But they're not going to last forever. Still, on the flipside they're only £28.99 so that's certainly a bargain. You'll be very lucky to find leather flats around that price (you might be lucky in Oasis).

You can get the same pair in black and tan but now the sun is creeping out from behind the clouds, I'm ALL OVER yellow shoes. I want them all. Wear with crisp whites and dark denims.

Sluttishly Sweet: 'Bhang' Lassi

Holi is probably the most exciting Indian festival. Also known as the festival of colours, it celebrates the start of Spring and happens around the end of February or start of March. People throw coloured powder at each other and end up in a great big multicoloured mess. It's a way to say goodbye to drab old winter and hello to spangly happy spring.

I was in India during Holi and a man offered me some bhang lassi. "That sounds nice," I thought, before one of my friends firmly escorted me away and explained that bhang is cannabis. While for some people that's part of the celebrations, this version is strictly above board . Happy Holi!
'Bhang' lassi

You will need:

150ml natural yoghurt
2 tbsp coconut milk
75-100ml water, depending on how thick you want it
2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp almond essence

2.5cm piece of ginger, grated
1/2 tsp ground cardamom or nutmeg
Mint sprigs

Make it!
Mix all the ingredients, except the mint sprigs, in a blender (or simply by hand if you don't have one). Garnish with the mint and enjoy. Oh, and use the rest of the coconut milk for one of these recipes.

Flickr image from igb's photostream.

Friday 24 February 2012

The boy and his poison: The PDT Bacon Old Fashioned

Prepare to reap the reward of your bacony labour earlier in the week. I've mentioned New York's Please Don't Tell cocktail bar before and I strongly advise picking up a copy of their book if you haven't already.

Where this recipe differs from the traditional old fashioned is its substitution of maple syrup as the sweetening agent, and its use of bacon bourbon instead of that horrible run-of-the-mill stuff that doesn't involve 7 hours of love, a freezer and a coffee filter.

You'll need:
  • 50ml bacon-infused bourbon 
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Twist of orange
Then make:
  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice
  • Pour the bourbon, syrup and bitters into the shaker and stir for 15 seconds
  • Strain into a frosted tumbler 
  • Squeeze an orange twist over the surface of the drink and use it to garnish

Dream Dress: Pretty, pink and pastel

You haven't got a chance of avoiding pastels this spring. Ice cream colours and pastel shades are slowly sneaking into the shops. Too girly for some? Perhaps. But hey, the sun is going to creep out from behind the clouds soon. Don't fight it. Here are my favourite pastel pink dresses on the high street right now.

Pink and pleats please me. This pretty dress is only £22.99 from MANGO. Also, Kate Moss is looking HAWT. Made me think twice about doing my roots.

This pink floral Fever dress really couldn't be any more adorable, could it? It's £59.99.

I'm loving the lace bodice on this dress, but it's £85. C'mon Warehouse, don't take the piss.

Pink + gingham = cuteness. And just £35 from ASOS. This is the kind of dress that suits grass-stained knee accessories.

This is £30 from Dorothy Perkins. It's the perfect dress for all those spring weddings I've been invited to. Well, it will be until I throw a glass of red down it.
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