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Friday 29 June 2012

The boy and his poison: Hard Lemonade

The sun was out! Admittedly with the accompanying humidity it's been a little like spending the day in a giant armpit, but even a hint of summer deserves liquid-celebration. I'd compare this drink to  'still-lemonade' on crack, I stumbled on it at the Pitt Cue BBQ Trailer which last week returned to the London Southbank for another three-month stint of improving the life of Waterloo commuters with cocktails and delicious takeaway pulled pork.

In essence it's lemonade enhanced with a slug of gin but there are a couple of flourishes to that basic recipe that make it far more than just a booze and mixer affair. By the time you've added the bitters and elderflower it becomes a smooth moreish cocktail that after one sip will have you making it by the litre to accompany all those messy Saturday afternoon BBQs on the horizon.

You'll need:
  • Still lemonade (either make your own or pick some up at the supermarket)
  • 50ml gin
  • 1 tsp elderflower cordial
  • 2 dash orange bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • lemon slices to garnish
Make it:
  • Fill a small tumbler with ice
  • Pour in the gin then lemonade
  • Add the elderflower and bitters
  • Then stir and serve with a few slices of lemon

Picturesque Print Swimsuits

I'm all excitable this morning. This is partly due to the fact I've already had four coffees, but is mostly because tomorrow, for the first time in three years, I'm having a whole week away. Which exotic climes am I jetting off to? Well, Norfolk. But still: exciting.

Norfolk = beaches, and whether the weather holds up or not I am going to be paddling in the sea. So I'm buying a new swimsuit. But I don't want just any old plain or flowery number - I'm all over the statement print swimsuits that seem to be everywhere at the moment.

I've been searching around, and probably the best, most statementy one I can find is this absolute cracker from Anthopologie.The Divinity One-Piece is celestial, a bit bonkers and also doing good: part of the proceeds from designer Lisa Blue's work goes to the Australian Whale Conservation Society. It's £148.00, which is sadly a bit out of my price-range, but I've found some other ace prints that are a lot more affordable.

Elizabeth's flamingo fashion post last month made my June. And now I've found another flamingo piece to tempt me: this flamingo print halterneck swimsuit from Marks and Spencer. It's £35.00.

I know I said nothing flowery but look at the stunning print on this Madina swimsuit from Ted Baker. It's even sexier because it's half price at just £40.

This beach scene swimsuit from ASOS is so pretty it might actually outshine your surroundings (well, especially in Norfolk). And it's only £18.00!

Lastly, I am in love with this moody cloud and giant parrot combination that River Island have come up with. It's £21 and you can buy it via ASOS.

Gluten Free: Polenta Fishcakes

I must be the dinner party guest from hell. Any invitation to dine with friends is met with a list of foods I can't eat including; bread, pasta, noodles, english mustard, worcestershire sauce and soya sauce, to name a few. Add this to my husband's nut allergy and I'm amazed that anyone offers to cook for us! (We always suggest that we bring dessert to prevent our poor host suffering a melt-down before dinner has even started.)

Despite the long list of banned foods, it's actually pretty easy to cook for us "dietary impaired" people who can't eat wheat, barley, rye and oats. You don't have to buy any special ingredients or learn new cooking techniques, it's all in the menu. Risotto is a good choice - just make sure the stock is gluten free - and Hazel's salad risotto is bound to be a winner. I'd be equally delighted to be served a bean salad or a roast chicken (using cornflour to thicken the gravy means it's suitable for Coeliacs).

Polenta is cornmeal, so is naturally gluten free. I often use it as an easy alternative to mashed potatoes, which made me wonder if I could use it to make fishcakes. It turns out, you can and it works brilliantly. These fishcakes also happen to be dairy free and, since most of the work is done in advance, they're stress-free, too!

You'll need
  • 400ml water
  • 100g quick-cook polenta, plus 2 tsbp extra for dusting
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 150g firm white fish, skin removed and cut into 1cm cubes (I use pollock, but any type will do)
  • 50g pitted black olives, sliced
  • 75g cherry tomatoes, deseeded and cut into eighths
  • 1 tbsp capers (optional)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1-2 tbsp light olive oil
Make it!
  • Heat the water in a saucepan until it starts to boil then trickle the polenta into the water, stirring constantly. Add the salt and pepper. The polenta will bubble and become thick, keep stirring for 3-4 minutes
  • Add the fish, olives, tomatoes, caper and basil and stir for a further minute (it might hiss at you when you do this, don't panic!). Spread the mixture on an oiled chopping board, about 3cm thick and leave to cool.
  • Once the polenta mixture had cooled it will be set firm. Cut out 8cm rounds, or cut into squares, brush with oil and dust with a little of the extra polenta. Place on a baking sheet and cook in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 25 minutes, turning once.

Lovi Birch Ply Moomin Family

Oh, Moomins. The cutest weird little things of all. They like cloudberries and top hats and they're almost-but-not-quite hippos. Moonminpappa is my favourite, it's the hat.

I'm still on the hunt for new desk toys (I ate the llama biscuits), but I think Lovi Birch have the answer. I want to make a Moomin Family! There's Moomintroll and Snorkmaiden and Moominmamma! (Does this make any sense to people who didn't watch Moomins on the telly? I might has well be saying Wafflemuffin, Snarkgoblin and Trollgubbins.)

Each little ply figure is pre-cut, so you just need to slot them all together in the right order. Then you get to play little Moomin sketches in the middle of conference calls. No one will know that you hiding Snarkmaiden behind your in-tray and making Moominpappa pick up your paper clips.

You can buy the whole Moomin family from Scandinavian design company Hus & Hem. I'm gonna.

Baking for Beginners: Chocolate, Salted Caramel and Ginger Muffins

I'm much more partial to a savoury muffin myself so when I do occasionally make a sweet version I kinda throw everything at it! I also like to convince myself that because this recipe contains the word "muffin" they are perfectly acceptable breakfast fodder.

Apart from getting to eat chocolate cake for breakfast the other brilliant thing about this recipe is the fact that it involves salted caramel sauce which is one of the best things not only in my fridge but in life in general. There is no mood that can not be improved by a big spoonful of salted caramel sauce straight from the jar, in fact you should also probably drizzle some more all over these, I did and it was ridiculously good.

You'll need:
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 150g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 4 heaped tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 100ml milk
  • half a 350g jar of stem ginger and syrup
  • 3 tablespoons salted caramel sauce
Make it!
  1. Preheat your oven to 200C.
  2. Cream together your butter and sugar until fluffy then gradually whisk in the eggs and mix really well.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and stir into your butter mix. Fold it in quite gently so that your muffin doesn't go all hard and chewy when baked.
  4. Chop your stem ginger then stir in with your milk and ginger syrup.
  5. Put paper cases into your muffin trays then half fill each one with muffin mix. Put a dollop of salted caramel sauce in each one then top with the remaining muffin mixture.
  6. Bake for about 15-20 minutes and eat whilst warm.
If I had any I would have thrown a handful of chocolate chips on the tops just before they went into the oven, luckily salted caramel sauce poured over the top when they came out proved to be a much better idea!

Design Porn: Mutts & Hounds

I admit it: this post is largely so I can feature pictures of cute dogs. I want a dog now. Any of these will do. Once you've stopped looking at the cuteness, take a look at the range of dog goodies that they're wearing from Mutts & Hounds.

This lavender dog jumper is so cute (sadly cute dog is not included), it's £25.

Look at the scruffy little thing! Oh, and the union jack dog bed. Yes. It's £48.

This dog is a handsome fella, isn't he? I like his little tweed dog coat. It's £44 and Balmoral Tweed and will make him the most dashing doggy in the park.

Sausages dogs on an actual sausage dog! The photo file name informs me that he's call Pedro. Pedro! He's adorbs. I've forgotten what he's meant to be selling, I'm just looking at his cute little face. And his silly little legs! And his funny little ears. For cryin' out loud, someone buy me a sausage dog.

Mutts & Hounds do ace doggy stuff. If you're not a dog owner, then just head there for the cuteness.

Shoe Porn: Boohoo Nude Chunky Heels

Helloooo sexy chunky wooden heels that only cost £35, please will you be mine? I promise to look after you, wear you as often as I can and cherish the height that you give me. I will wear you with all my favourite outfits and we could have many a-happy times together.

I'm not really one of those crazy ladies that personifies inanimate objects, but I have my moments. These shoes just scream out for crazy moments. They are exactly what I have been looking for lately. They have the chunky heel and high platform to give me much-needed height. They are a gorgeous nude and caramel colour which elongate the legs, and they have a super-cute crossover pattern. And I just love the colour of that wood effect on the heel and platform, it's almost a walnut colour. I think they are very chic indeed. 

I have not really given Boohoo much of a chance before. But after looking at Nelly last week, I decided to have a gander at other e-retailers. I think Boohoo can be a bit hit or miss, but as these shoes are testament, they do have some sweet gems. And at affordable prices too, which is my second favourite price after free.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Name Our New Cocktail!

Poor drink - so delicious, yet so unnamed - UPDATE! NO LONGER UNNAMED!
02/07/2012: UPDATE! You voted for its name, and the winner is 'Respect Your Elders' as suggested by Rosie Jones. Congratulations Rosie, what a terrific name!

I'm going through a non-alcoholic drinks phase at the minute, which is great for my mornings, but generally terrible for my tastebuds. Why are soft drinks so awful? Poor The Teetotallers, The Pregnants, Those on Antibiotics and People Who Just Want A Rest.

Go to a pub and you've generally got a choice between drizzly, watered-down coke, those ghastly J20s which leave you feeling as though you've had a mouldy fruit soldered to your tongue, or orange juice and lemonade. Or lime and lemonade. Or a really deeply tedious early exit.

Partly to make my drinks less boring, and partly so I've got a better selection of UnBooze to offer my tee-total friends when they come round for dinner, I've started experimenting to find drinks with a kick. This one is a favourite already because it's dead easy, and it tastes a little bit wicked.

  • Elderflower cordial
  • Tonic water of your choosing
  • Mint ice cubes
  • (Optional for boozehounds: shot of gin)
Make it!

Break up some mint and pop it in ice cube trays. Top up with water and freeze. Add a couple of cubes to a long glass. Pour in a measure of cordial and top up with tonic.

It's really, really delicious. The bite of the tonic makes it feel like a treat and the prettiness of the mint dissolving into your drink adds a bit more ritual and prettiness than just bellowing "DO YOU WANT SOME CORDIAL THEN HELEN" at your poor booze-free guest.

As many people pointed out on Twitter last night, a dollop of gin would make this an excellent alcoholic drink, so go for it. But in the meantime, my drink needs a name! I asked our Facebook readers last night, and was both impressed and horrified at the levels of your punning.

Here are my favourite five, and the genius who come up with each of them. You've got until midnight on Sunday to vote for your favourite.

Still here? Here's another cocktail I invented earlier...

Shop in the Spotlight: Seek & Adore

Imagine if Etsy and the V&A and Facebook joined forces. It would be all crafty and eclectic and a little bit like the best social network ever. That's basically the premise behind Seek & Adore. They've got the designers and the shopping side sorted (so far so online shop), but the website also adds a lovely social element. You can find out what the designers are up to and what they're working - a little like a status update. There are interviews with the designers, they can upload videos and you just get to know them a little bit.

Oh, and the designers are pretty swish as well. This adorable mouse mug is by Helen Button.

This little clay cat brooch is by Georgina Fowler and it's just £15.

Could there be a more perfect green? I think not. Lucy Burley agrees, she's the clever thing behind this bright green jug.

These travel notebooks are yummy. They're from Bookery.

Heh. A lavender-filled bat! He's adorable.

I really like Seek & Adore - it's a gorgeous collection of 'things' (although it could stand to be a little more exciting, it's verging on being a little too 'chic Country Living'), the website is really lovely and it's a great way to get to know designers you might never have heard of otherwise. It might not replace my Bouf habit, but it's well worth a look with a cuppa.

Sluttery Travels: Swarkestone Pavilion, Derbyshire

I'm in a funny ol' mood today. I'm not in the mood to be around people, but the office is too quiet. I'm grouchy at everything and could probably do with a hug. No reason, just got out of bed the wrong side and I'm stabbing at my keyboard so hard it's going to break.

Instead of continuing my grouch, I'm dreaming of running away to faraway places, tiny places, middle of nowhere places. Like Swarkestone Pavilion in Derbyshire, where there's just enough space for two people. You can come with me if you promise hugs and tea and book reading time.

What was the Pavilion for? Could have been a number of things, although jousting or bowls on the ground outside seem to be likely possibilities. Or even bear baiting, if you want to go for the more gory option.

The Pavilion is a strange building. To get to the bathroom you have to go across the roof. It's not often you get to see stars on your trip to the loo, although I can't imagine that being much fun in the middle of a winter's night - those with weak bladders might want to avoid this place, or at least book in the summer.

If you've been having a rubbish day and fancy running off to spend a couple of nights here, then it'll cost you around £100 per person per night via the Landmark Trust. I have dreams of spending an entire year staying at their properties - each one is magical in its own special way and Swarkstone Pavilion (even with its strangely-located bathroom) is one of my favourites.

Bottle Green Homes Vintage

Bottle Green Homes are hiding secrets. Amongst their cushions and mugs and tea towels, they're hiding unusual vintage goodies that aren't all eleventy billion pounds. I want them. I want them all.

Is there a finer thing in the world of cooking than melted chocolate? Once you've got chocolate bubbling away on the hob (never microwave, it'll burn and you'll be mad), you know you're making something amazing. I know it's not Easter, but imagine if I didn't show you this Easter egg mould and then someone else bought it and then you just had Easter eggs from Asda. That would be very sad indeed.

If you want this silver-plated cocktail shaker, you're going to have to beat Nick to it. It's only £50 - some of the shakers from John Lewis are pricier than that.

You have absolutely no need for a vintage key. I know that. You still want it, don't you? It's £6. I've seen them priced online for £20.

I live in South London, I have no need for East London signs, but this reclaimed Brick Lane sign is very cool (the Hoxton Square sign less so, obviously), and £80 doesn't seem all that pricey.

Bottle Green Homes is a cute site, but I'm going to be skipping their new stuff and lurking about their vintage section.

Etsy Pick: Naturally Heartfelt Paper Lampshades

I love a good statement lampshade, but even the high street ones can be pretty pricey.

Imagine my delight when I discovered Naturally Heartfelt on Etsy: they've created some utterly stunning handmade paper lampshades out of old maps and music sheets.

Each of the circles are handcut, but they're attached to a sturdy wire frame so you don't have to worry about it falling apart.

My favourite from their selection is the Geographer's Choice lampshade - it's made out of a vintage map from 1921. I'm pretty sure if I hung this in my bedroom I'd dream of adventures every night. 

I absolutely love this Love and Light music lampshade. Each circle is cut carefully to highlight the nicest parts of the lyrics. You can also get music shades for classic pop songs and 70s tunes, depending on your taste in music...

They're not just pretty in the daytime - when lit, they are absolutely gorgeous.

They're £42.50 with £7.50 shipping, which isn't bad considering the shop pack it super-carefully for you so it arrives in one piece.

Baking for Beginners: Ginger Nuts

Ginger nuts are the biscuits of my childhood. They're massively underrated in the biscuit world - I often forget about them in favour of fancier, showier biscuits. (I've got your number, Chocolate HobNob.) Then I have a hunt in the biscuit tin and it's basically a ginger nut or a Rich Tea. Who buys Rich Tea? Own up, you're rubbish and should be banned from biscuit buying. Every now and again, I remember just how damn tasty ginger nuts are and run to the shop immediately. They're often little as well, which means you're allowed to eat 27 in a day. Probably.

They're also really easy to make yourself. Seriously, your cat could have a pretty good bash at making these. Sara tested this recipe while watching the telly - "I made the mixture during the first ad break of Come Dine With Me, and they were ready by the next ad break." Yeah, that's how we measure our time these days: in chunks of CDWM. Strangely, we've discovered that they don't taste great when they're warm so you'll have to wait until they're properly cool before you eat them. And then you'll probably eat all of them.

Ginger Nuts: Makes about 25-30, depending on how big your balls are.

You'll need
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 150g salted butter
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • cane sugar
Make it!
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4
  2. Cream together butter eggs and sugar.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and roll into walnut-sized balls.
  4. Roll the balls in cane sugar and lay out on a lined baking try, with a little space between them. Pop in the oven for about 12 minutes.

Geographically Gorgeous: Due Clothing

Sometimes I find it hard enough to navigate myself to the train station, let alone around the wider world. I am constantly in awe of fearless explorers who bravely stride into the sunset and don't find themselves back where they started fifteen minutes later. The range of tops from Due Fashion make me want to explore every corner of the world. I found out about this UK-based company through the joys of the internet and the wonderful South African-based blog Miss Moss. That seems appropriate for designs that feature places in the world that range from Africa to Alaska.

Though Due Fashion have been selling vintage for a while now, this is their first collection. It's fourteen tops, each digitally printed with a different breathtaking aerial view. Each top is £38 each and a few minutes on the site has probably done more good for my world knowledge than my A Level in Geography. The design at the top of the post shows a view of Kitakami which I now know is in Japan.

The colours on the tops are stunning. Full marks to Mother Nature. The gorgeous greens in this is top are from Capriviwhich is part of Namibia.

This looks like it's an old master painting as much as being a shot of the Sahara. It's beautiful. I'm honestly don't know what to do first: buy one of these tops or pop into my dentist to read his back issue copies of National Geographic. Either way, I'm then definitely booking myself a holiday.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Design Porn: Stephanie Bates

I've been staring at this piece of jewellery by Stephanie Bates for a while now. At first, I was trying to work out exactly what it was (it's a ring) and then trying to work out if it would even be comfortable to wear. I'm thinking that it'll take a while to get used to, but once you do I think it'll be a very striking piece of jewellery.

Yeah, I love this. I can't not. Here are some more pieces from Stephanie's 'Changes in State' collection - inspired by architecture and the constant changes of our landscape.

This cube pin is very cool, but I think I'd worry about it catching on something and flinging off never to be found again.

Luckily this piece looks a little more sturdy. And a lot more flamboyant.

I love that you can wear them however you like - just slip your finger through a different side when you fancy a change. You can buy some of the collection from Stephanie's online shop (prices start around £40) but also at the jewellery design collective Vanilla Ink where there are loads more goodies from other jewllers.

Etsy Pick: Kitsch Bitch

Never let it be said that here at Domestic Sluttery we are not afraid to exhibit our geeky and silly sides. In fact, sometimes we positively revel in it. For days when we just want a subtle nod to this, we need Kitsch Bitch. Personally I need this My Little Pony necklace. It's £7.90.

We've not shown you any cute foxy things lately have we? Oh, look! This little chap would cheer up any outfit. He's £7.90 too.

If you're more of a gamer, you'll find it pretty hard to resist Mario.

He's a bit more expensive at £16.50 but there's a lot more work involved. 

All these pieces are made by Kerry Callaghan in Glasgow. One of the other things I like about her stuff is that it's all grouped by colour making it easy to find something to match or clash as you see fit. She makes earrings, hair accessories and bracelets too and ships internationally.

Llama Baked Bites

If you want to get my attention, apparently all you have to do is send me an email offering samples of Llama Baked Bites. I think my response was along the lines of "OH HELL YES". I'm nothing if not professional.

I crossed my fingers that these llama treats would be tasty, because nothing would make me more sad than llama biscuits that I didn't want to eat. They come in three savoury flavours - cheese (making a salty mess of my keyboard, above), sweet chilli and BBQ. Usually I hate things that taste of BBQ sauce, but I even like that flavour. The chilli ones actually had more of a kick than I was expecting and it looks like the chilli is baked into them rather than just sprinkled flavouring. The cheese ones taste... well, cheesy. A little like those goldfish crackers you can buy, but llama shaped. Everything is better llama shaped.

This is a llama at Mudchute City Farm in South London. You can't eat him, but I did discover that his latin name is Llama Glama, which makes llamas ten times more amazing llamazing. It's their glam fluttery eyelashes - you've gotta love an animal that rocks the falsies.

Llama snacks are now roaming out and about in the wild and you can find them hiding in Tesco supermarkets, (admittedly an unexpected habitat for them) for just £1.69 a 150g bag. There are probably a hundred thousand llamas in each bag (approx) and they also make very excellent desk toys until you bite their heads off.

Sluttery by Post: The Fine Oil and Spice Company

I'm a firm believe in good salt. You can ruin a fabulous meal with crap salt. I was mocked once for spending £6 on a jar of the stuff (I was mocked even more when if was one of the kitchen things that got lost in the move). You might think that's extravagant, but if you've ever roasted pork with rubbish salt, you'll understand. If I've spent £20 on a piece of pork belly, I'm not going to throw any ol' rubbish over it.

I like crackling too much for that. And baked potatoes for that matter.

I've been aware of The Fine Oil and Spice Company for a while now, but it's not very often I'm in the market for posh salt - it lasts bloody ages, assuming you don't leave it in a box somewhere. Now i am, I've got my eye on one of their salt and pepper gift boxes.

What's in the box? (Not 1p, this isn't Deal or No Deal.) There are two salt and pepper boxes, which I'm absurdly excited by. You can get rosemary and garlic salt (OH HELLO!), basil salt, green peppercorns and lemon pepper and something very fancy called Baies Rose. The boxes are less than a tenner.

Sure, it's expensive for salt. Don't put it on your chips, you crazy fool, save it for those special occasions. This box will last you months and it's definitely worthwhile.

Hand Printed Tights from Luna and Curious

Let's face it, we didn't expect to be entering July in tight-wearing weather. But the wind, the rain and the clouds suggest otherwise, and if we're going to be wearing winter clothes we might as well make things interesting.

You don't get tights much more interesting than the ones created by French design brand Les Queues des Sardines, and they're being stocked by the ever-brilliant Luna and Curious via their Culture Label shop. So now you can keep warm and also have the coolest legs in town.

The Bouba tights are cute but kooky. They also come in a toned-down brown, but I like that fetching shade of mustard. They're £40.

The Polly tights get curiouser and curiouser. Eyes on your shins? Why not? They're £40 too.

Schneewittchen, the name of these tights, means Snow White in German. You can probably tell why they were named this. I like the idea of wearing a fairytale. They're £46.

Lastly, for something a little more everyday subtle, you could try the Bonny tights. I'd feel pretty kick-arse wearing these. They're £40.

If any aren't available on Culture Label, you can also buy them direct from the Luna and Curious shop.

Although perhaps a little more than I could afford ordinarily (not at the rate I ladder my tights anyway), these are not the sort of thing I'd wear every day, so I'm oddly tempted to grab a pair and go frolicking through a forest.
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