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Thursday 31 May 2012

The boy and his poison: Bartenders Choice

Imagine having me in your pocket. Not literally of course, I'd be pretty cumbersome to drag around and I'd ruin the line of your trousers, but thanks to my recent discovery of Bartender's Choice it's now possible to have god-like booze knowledge at a swipe and tap of your iPhone.  

It's the brain child of Sam Ross (the bartender behind New York's swanky speakeasy Milk and Honey) and rather than setting out to be an encyclopaedic catalogue of everything he has instead set out to make a genuinely well crafted and useful tool for would-be home bartenders. The recipes are all hand selected and span the classics as well as the menu of his bar, and then there's the best bit, they're all sorted into meaningful categories like 'alcohol', 'sensation' and 'style'. Pick what you or your friends fancy and at the shake of your iPhone a clutch of drinks to die for appear in front of your eyes.

There's also a nifty hidden page on glassware, ice, syrups and spices, a handful of how-to guides and even a glossary. So for £1.99 you can wave goodbye to being stuck for drinks ideas, your career as a nocturnal party bartender awaits.

You can find out more about it at the app store.

Plastic Fantastic Glassware by Sagaform

One of the loveliest things about nice weather (it will come back!) is eating and drinking outside which somehow automatically means switching to ugly plastic cups so as not to smash your nice glasses when you suddenly have to dodge a wasp and lose grip on your Pimm's. You could get away with dropping these glasses by Sagaform though.
They're a bit goblet-y which would go well with getting stuck into some BBQ'd chicken wings. Better still, they come as a pair for £7.50.

Normally I make my Pimm's up in a jug but this punch bowl would work much better. It's £29.95.
If you need a jug to dish out other drinks though, this jug would do the job perfectly. It holds 1.9 litres so you wouldn't need to be constantly refilling it either. It's £23.

All items come in each colour and are available from Dotmaison.

Design Porn: Pantone Postcards

I am a sucker for a nice postcard. I use them for everything - cheering up friends, invitations, expensive post-its at my desk, sometimes even prompt cards when we're running events. I've been working my way through my second pack of Penguin book cover postcards and now I've run out, I'm on the hunt for something new.

These Pantone postcards are fantastic (although I do think it's weird that a single company basically decides all of the colours). I'll spend far too long choosing the perfect colour for the perfect person and their mood. I'll favour the bright postcards instead of the pastels. I probably won't use the green ones until the end, I'm not really a fan of green. Yep, I'm totally playing favourites.

They're £12.99 from those wonderful folk at the V&A. You get 100 in a pack and get to add a little colour to your friends' post. Trust me, it'll make them smile when they know that you saw PANTONE 13-0756* and it made you think of them.

*That's Lemon Zest, by the way.

Peek-a-boo Sheep Mug by Herdy

Surprise animals are ace [I'm currently drinking from my surprise bunny mug] which is probably why I rather like these mugs by Herdy.

They're simple but effective which is sometimes the best way to be. The colours are fab - I'm particularly keen on the orange one (not pictured) - and the sheep is just cute. I think I'd want the coasters too. The mugs cost £9.50 which makes it a nice baaaaa-gain*.

*I'm sorry. I couldn't resist at least one baa based pun.

Etsy Pick: Does this Queen Print Press Your Buttons?

Well, what a day we had yesterday. From life-size corgis to sweary bunting, the Sluts' dedication to finding you the best Jubilee memorabilia surely merits some kind of medal gin-based reward.

The thing is, I can't decide whether I absolutely hate my latest find, or whether it's actually a bit genius.

Sugar Rush UK on Etsy have immortalised Her Maj... in buttons. Shiny red and silver buttons. Shiny red and silver buttons that make her look like RoboQueen. There should so be a RoboQueen.

The print itself is just a photo, so sadly you don't get all the vintage buttons for keeps, but it does look pretty 3D because they've used textured art paper and pigmented inks. In all seriousness, a lot of work has gone into this and it shows, and I'm sort of impressed with the individuality. The problem is I'm pretty sure she'd terrify me for always.

It's £29.74 with just under £2 shipping to UK addresses.

Would you let this adorn the walls of your jubilee celebration? Or did I get distracted by all the shiny shiny? Tell us in the comments or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Everything Stops for Tea: Michelle Mason cake stand

It's all new home chats with the Domestic Sluts at the moment. Elizabeth is just settling into her new place, Sian is moving at the weekend and I'm looking forward to getting a place of my own next week. As ever, my priorities are slightly skewed: rather than doing things like, er, budgeting, I'm spending my time looking at gorgeous wallpaper, searching for ridiculous eBay kitsch and I'm planning exactly how to celebrate my housewarming.

The starting point for any celebratory plans is definitely this cake stand from Michelle Mason.  Well, I'm a Domestic Slut so it's a no-brainer that cake will be involved. I also entirely agree with the title of the single illustrated on the bottom plate of the stand which is that Everything Stops for Tea. I'm a fan of that music link too, as I definitely don't consider any home fully warmed until there's been some dad-like dance moves pulled in the front room. And finally, I love its retro cool: it definitely offers some design inspiration for the rest of the decor.

The stand will cost me £45 of my new home budget and is just one of a number of designs Michelle has made based around the classic record label Decca. That means there's plenty more things that might be a suitable gift for a well-loved friend's housewarming. Just in case you're looking.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Bunting gone Bad

Cunting: Incredibly rude bunting.

This is the kind of twee that will get my attention in the run up to the Jubilee. It's British! It's patriotic! I'm getting involved! It's sweary and it's brilliant.

Fucksticks. One of the very best swear words. It's used a lot when I spill tea all over my desk.

Tits are pretty brilliant. Tits bunting is even better.

Oh, fuck.

Cunting bunting isn't cheap - prices start at £25. But it's all handmade and as the 'fuck, this is pricey' page states, 'basically, it's a shitload of work'. Too right. I think I like my Jubilee party celebrations with extra tits and fucksticks.

Thanks to Dave Haste for the tip. He wrote a whole chunk of Londonist's ebook of pub crawls. That would be a fine activity for the long weekend.

Wallpaper Wednesday: Best of British

The main issue with Jubilee-inspired homewares is that it's got a pretty short shelf life. A cushion with a crown motif might be timeless, but that expensive corgi ornament you forked out for is going to look out of place by June.

Wallpaper, as a rule, is pretty safe from design whimsy. You might only change your wallpaper once every few years (if at all), so it needs staying power. That doesn't mean you can't be inspired by all things British, though. Wallpaper Direct have some cracking British designs.

I like the London in old books when it's all raincoats and top hats. This La Via Ordinaire paper from Albany has little scenes of London, Paris and New York. It's just £18 a roll.

Andrew Martin has gone for a map theme with his Traveller wallpaper - the paper sprawls across London and it's just £39 a roll. It comes in four colours, but this one is definitely my favourite.

Need something a little bolder? This Albany Fashion paper is bright, bold and British. It's a bargainy £12 a roll, I'm just not sure if I want the Daily Mail stamped on my walls. I'm more of a Times girl.

I think this one is a winner! London Life is £28 and even has a little Oxford and Cambridge boat race going on (rogue protesting swimmer not pictured). Amazing.

You can buy all of these from Wallpaper Direct. Please don't spend all of your super long weekend wallpapering, get yourself down the pub.

Shop In The Spotlight: Pryl Design

Sweden, eh? Not only do they win Eurovision with a stonking Euroclub anthem (seriously, it's been number one across Europe and in my head non stop) but they also have the very charming Pryl Design. Luckily, we can now get in on some of that action. It's all douze points stuff.

Like this Clover chopping board.
It's super cheery and a little bit retro. It can brighten up your kitchen for SK225. That's about £20. Don't need a chopping board? How about a sandwich board? This happens to be my favourite new thing I never knew I needed but now I totally do.

I like that the pattern isn't in your face Scandi. It's SK95 which is about £8.50.

They don't just do handy household stuff though. Oh no, you will fall in love with their jewellery too. I'm rather taken with this bicycle brooch even though I don't ride a bike. It's SK95 or £8.50ish as well.

Worried about the shipping costs? Don't. They charge a flat rate of SK100 to Europe. Which is about £8.90 and a bit of a bargain for what amounts to international shipping. Euphoria indeed.

Sluttishly Vegetarian: Barbecue Hoisin Quorn

In summer, I want my dinner to be as simple as possible, but I don't want to live off salad/pasta/pasta salad for months. My brain tends to switch off when it gets hot, so it's good to have a few decent recipes on stand-by. This hoisin Quorn dish is easy to prepare, especially if you make the sauce in advance (it'll keep for a few days in the fridge or longer in the freezer). The sauce is a very satisfying mix of sweet, savoury and smoky, combining to give a deep barbecue flavour.

You can fry or grill the Quorn pieces or, if you're handy with a skewer, cook them on a barbecue to make the flavour more intense. Who says vegetarians miss out at BBQs?

Spicy Hoisin Quorn (makes enough for 2)

You will need:
  • 200g Quorn pieces
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • Salt and pepper
Make it!
  1. Pay attention, this is complicated. Put all the things listed above in a bowl and mix well. Pop in the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking
  2. That's it.
  3. Ok, fine - lift the Quorn pieces out of the marinade and cook them up however you choose. I usually fry them for a few minutes over a medium heat. Cram them into half a pitta with some salad and enjoy with a cold, crisp glass of white wine.
Flickr image from jules:stonesoup's photostream.

Keeping it Cool: Hot Squash Maxi Dress

I spent most of the winter wearing my Hot Squash thermal top and it totally did the trick at keeping me snug and warm. So I was more than a little surprised to find out the very same Hot Squash did a Spring/Summer range of clothes with cooling thermal technology. The idea is that the fabric draws the heat away from your body and keeps you feeling fresh and cool in the summer heat which, quite frankly, is pretty handy right now.

I road-tested The Maxi Dress this weekend and I was pleasantly surprised. The fabric does indeed keep you cool. The fabric is very light anyway and the cut is a loose Grecian-style which bodes well for the present heatwave we are experiencing. I found the neckline a bit too plunging for my liking so I did end up wearing a little vest top underneath it to preserve some of my modesty. Also I am 5ft 4in and the dress stops about 2 inches from my ankle so this dress would be ideal for the shorter ladies (for the taller girls check out these non-awful Maxi's).

The dress has super-cute ruched detail on the shoulder and the waist is elactiscated which is one of my favourites. It is also available in Dove Grey as well as Inky Blue. It costs a bit of a pricey £95. But for slightly cheaper cooling clothes there are some rather cute tops for around £50 -£60. They might be a worthy investment, particularly if you are planning on heading to the tropics this year - it gets very sweaty over there.

The Worst Ever Diamond Jubilee Souvenir

By and large, the tat magnet that is the 60th anniversary of our beloved Queen hasn't actually turned out that much awful memorabilia. True. I have seen more bunting and patriotic flags than I did around the Royal Wedding, but I honestly thought we'd be able to get through this difficult time for merchandising relatively unscathed.

And then my colleague sent me a link to this corgi statue which costs TWO THOUSAND POUNDS.

Oh, my bad - it's actually a very reasonable £1,953. Presumably the three pounds adds a halo and an Estonian maid to come and polish it every other Thursday. (UPDATE: in the comments, the artist's partner has pointed out that the price refers to the year of coronation. Thank God they didn't go for 2012.)

"Availability: low stock" says Selfridges. The idea of people actually buying this monstrosity - which comes in two other variations, illustrated for your viewing pleasure below - is too much to comprehend, so I can only hope that Selfridges bought one of each, and that is why the stock is low. Although actually, that would probably be Availability: very low stock. Oh sweet Jesus - what if they've bought two?
Sitting corgi statue
" This adorable Corgi statue is the must-have accessory for a truly royal celebration this Diamond Jubilee," says a copywriter who has never seen the six-pack of Queen masks that I saw in Dalston Tesco the other night.
"You may also like: Standing corgi statue." I do not like, no.
You know what is good though? This River Island Jubilee dress that Frances found. Or this cute mug from Sophie Allport. It costs £8.50. You could buy one for your entire street for the price of a corgi statue. But what do you think, dear readers? Am I being too mean? Or have you seen something worse?

Tuesday 29 May 2012

The boy and his poison: The Martinez

There are times when you need a guaranteed route out of the doldrums, maybe even with a touch of glamour. Whether you're stuck in the office when the rest of the world is out in the sunshine or the list of household chores has reached the sort of critical mass where new life forms are emerging from your flat‚ being able to conjure up a bit of escapism in a glass can be a life-saving skill.

Today's drink is just that sort of shortcut. The grandaddy of the martini, this little glass of magic is smokey in colour, sweet and moreish to taste and can elevate even the most banal situation into a eminently more swanky affair. So whatever you're up to, chuck all the ingredients in a shaker, grab an elegant glass and have yourself a cocktail soiree for one.

You'll need:
  • 50ml gin (originally Old Tom so a sweeter gin like Beefeater would be great) 
  • 50ml sweet vermouth
  • 12ml (2 tsp) maraschino liqueur
  • A few dashes of orange bitters (Angostura will give it an equally nice hit of flavour)
  • Small piece of orange peel to garnish
Make it:
  • Add everything to an ice filled shaker
  • Shake until ice cold
  • Strain into a coupe or martini glass, squeeze the orange peel over the top and allow it to rest in the drink

Dream Dress: Oasis Daisy Dresses

Daisies are my favourite flower. I spent hours making daisy chains as a kid (once I wanted to break the World Record, but that was probably Cheryl Baker's fault). If my hayfever will hold off for an entire lunch hour, you'll still find me making them now. Someone in the Oasis buying department clearly made daisy chains as a kid as well. They've got loads of pretty daisy things on their racks at the moment.

Usually I'm not a fan of cap sleeves, but they look adorable on this daisy sundress dress. It's only £38 - remarkably cheap for Oasis.

Oooh, this is a yummy blue. This Lori dress is £50. Comes in an orangey red as well.

This daisy bodice dress is my favourite. It's £60 and if I could wear white without being a grubby little mess by lunchtime, I'd be all over this. Sadly, so would my lunch.

I'm not really a playsuit kind of girl, but this daisy print could totally convert me. The wrapover is a little bit 'dressing gown sexy' (is that a thing? I want it to be a thing), and it's just very effortless. It's fifty quid.

Luscious Lingerie: Madame V

I'm not even going to pretend that Madame V lingerie is practical. It most certainly isn't and that's why I like it. It's basically wrapping yourself up in silk. What could be more fun than that?

Damn, that's one sexy bra. Wait! It gets even better...

This halterneck bodysuit pretty much defies gravity.

This strapless babydoll is cute! Kind of sexy/cute.

Nice touch of lace on these knickers. Even if they're teeny tiny. I told you, not practical at all. Prices for the Violet range start at £30. It's all yummy, even if you only choose one piece.

Sluttishly Vegan: Pico de Gallo

I don't know about you but when it's hot the last thing I want to do is to crank up the heat in my kitchen by turning on the oven. No siree, I would much rather be sat outside smothered in factor 30, sipping cocktails and nattering with my cat friends over fridge raided dips and nibbles that can be thrown together in about 2 minutes.

When I was 21 I lived in Japan with a Mexican girl called Lizzie who taught me how to make amazing salsas. Up until that point I thought salsas were just runny tomato based dips spiked with chilli but there is a whole world of sexy salsas to choose from. The pica de gallo salsa isn't runny so won't make your nachos go soggy and is perfect for stuffing in quesadillas, tacos, piling onto burgers or just use crisps to scoop it up with and stuff it in your mouth.

The base for a pico de gallo is always chopped tomatoes, onion and chilli then you just pep it up with whatever fresh salad veg takes your fancy and throw in some coriander and a touch of garlic.

You'll need:
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 onion (I use red)
  • 2 chillies (include seeds if you want it with even more kick)
  • handful of radishes
  • 1 cup of sweetcorn
  • cucumber
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 clove finely grated garlic
  • 1 bunch coriander, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Make it!

I use my trusty V-Slicer mandolin to julienne all the veg but if you don't have one just chop everything pretty finely (leave the sweetcorn whole) and throw them in a bowl. A pico de gallo should be able to be eaten with nothing but a toothpick! You can eat it straight away but if possible leave it for 20 minutes (make some margaritas) so that all the amazing fresh flavours will be allowed to develop and it will taste that extra bit more awesome!

After a While Journal

I don't actively keep a daily journal anymore. I write diary entries in my notebook, along with shopping lists and plans and schemes and the odd game of hangman on the train. It's been a long time since I've scribbled my thoughts down at the end of each day.

There's something about summer that always makes me want to start doing it again. Writing in the garden in summer is always fun. Since I'm moving house in a few days and I'll have a new garden, I think I need a new journal to get scribbling in.

I'm going pretty nuts over this bright orange 'After a While' journal from Anthropologie. It's leather, and it's even got a little bit of colour blocking sneaked into the design - how clever. The pages are unlined so you can draw pictures and doodles. It's smart enough to take into meetings as well, should I abandon the whole journal thing and need to write plans for taking over the world. I almost certainly will.

It's really very swish, and it's £24. It's comes in white (green stripe) and blue (orange stripe) and it's the perfect place for all of your secret thoughts.

Mrs Bloom's A-Z Animal Prints

One of the best things about small children is being able to read them all the awesome books that you had read to you when you were a small child. And with that goes teaching them the alphabet and how to read. Even if I didn't have children running around, I'd still want these A-Z animal prints by Mrs Bloom.

'The Tiger Who Came To Tea' is very popular in my house. I think this little tiger would be too. But then look at all the others!

This is A-F or Anteater to Fox. Who knew anteaters could be so cute? What about G-M or Giraffe to Monkey?

Even the jellyfish look adorable. I think my favourite there is the iguana though. And how about N-S and T-Z? They are all adorable. YAK!


Each A4 print is £16 and you can get personalised ones too if you're looking for a gift. I think my only problem would be deciding on just one.

Monday 28 May 2012

Shoe Porn: ASOS Transparent Panel Peep Toes

The more ridiculous the shoes, the more I'm likely to want them. I can't help it. I'm not really a frills and ruffles and accessories kind of girl, so if I'm wearing something stupid then it's likely to be on my feet. Very soon, it's likely to be these platform peep toes from ASOS.

They've got suede bits, there's a strap, transparent panels, colour blocking, an unusual heel and a peep toe (I'll almost certainly be wearing bright yellow nail polish). They're really rather silly. But wait! They've also got quite a low chunk heel. I could walk in these! I need a strappy shoe (I'm a half size, I fall out of slip ons), and these actually aren't as impractical as I first thought.

They are still totally ridiculous, though. I'm not denying that. They're also £65 and totally in my shopping basket.

Dream dress: River Island Jubilee dress

Like Siany, I'm not too impressed by the majority of the products that have been 'inspired' by the Jubilee. But I've finally seen something which manages to mark the occasion without beating me around the head with union jacks and bunting. It's this jubilee dress from River Island.

I'm not much of a monarchist but I do get patriotic and proud of Britain's design talent when our high street can produce something as unusual as this. River Island are currently my favourite shop for good value, quirkier designs and this dress shows why. It's a vintage-inspired design that would have looked just as good back in the 50s for the Queen's coronation as it would do on a long weekend in 2012.

To be honest, it's mainly about the print, a lovely sketchy 50s-style celebration of our green and pleasant land. And okay, while the print does contain both bunting and union jacks, I think the marching bands and general aura of prettiness means they can just about get away with it.

I'm escaping the country this weekend to head to Copenhagen. This dress costs only £28 and I think it may well find its way into my suitcase. I can think of nothing I'd rather be wearing while I'm stocking up on all Danish design I can (or can't) afford.

Children left unattended will be sold to the circus

I do like children but if you leave them unattended, they eat your biscuits, they play in your make-up and they spritz your Chanel all over the place. Even the good ones get up to mischief when you're not looking. They've all got very sticky fingers.

The obvious answer is to sell them to the circus. Do you remember Enid Blyton's circus books? I loved those and immediately wanted to go and live with an aunt and uncle who just happened to be a juggling clown couple (my aunt is actually a solicitor, I don't think she can juggle). This adorable print reminds me of those books. It's by Swedish duo One Must Dash and it's available exclusively from Bodie & Fou next week for £35.

That's about the going rate for a small circus child, I believe.

Sluttery by Post: Crumb

"We send cake through the post." There aren't many sentences in the entire English language better than that. Crumb don't just send cake through the post, they send you tea and cocktail syrups and everything you need to surprise your favourite people.

Better than that, because they send you slices of tasty treats rather than cupcakes, everything slides through your letter box. There's rocky road, yoghurt and cranberry tiffin, granola bars (that's not cake, they'll get left until the end) and caramel shortbread.

Tea for two? Or a whole afternoon tea party? The choice is yours.

Their cocktail boxes come with Monin syrups, which you can add to bubbly or gin and vodka (or all three at once if you fancy falling over) and price start at £15 - just pick your favourite and decide who you want to send it to! Crumb recommend ordering before midnight on Tuesday if you want your treats to arrive before the Jubilee weekend.

I'm going to sit by the front door and wait very patiently for my cakes.

Baking for Beginners: Lemon and Basil Biscuits

Just next to my mint plant sits a basil plant. He's a rather useful fella providing delicious fresh flavours to our frequent pasta outings at dinner time (yeah, I totally just personified my plant). Again, I was wondering what other dishes I could basil in. I wanted to switch it up a little and use basil in a sweet. After hours of trawling through recipes for inspiration I came up with these lemon and basil biscuits. They are your usual sweet biscuits with a shortbread texture and a lovely fresh basil kick.

Lemon and Basil Biscuits (makes 12)
You will need:
  • 100g butter
  • 60g sugar
  • 100g plain flour
  • zest of lemon
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1tbsp chopped fresh basil
Make it!
  • Get the oven preheated to 180C.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar. You can do this in a mixer but I like to get stuck in with my hands. Makes the biscuits taste better I think.
  • Add the flour and knead into a ball.
  • Knead in the lemon zest and basil. Make sure the bits are well mixed into the dough.
  • Finally add a touch of lemon juice, between 1 and 2 tbsp.
  • On a lightly floured board roll the dough into a sausage shape roughly 1.5inchs thick. Then slice the sausage into 1 inch pieces. Give them a slight squish and place on a baking sheet covered in baking paper.
  • Pop in the oven for about 10-15 minutes depending on the strength of your oven.
  • Once golden remove from oven and allow to cool. 
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