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Tuesday 31 July 2012

The boy and his poison: The Berlioni

Cynar is a contrary mistress. Falling very much in to the 'Marmite' category of bitter liqueurs, on first sip you'll either be in love or wondering how such an innocuous looking tipple could do that to your mouth. I first found it lurking on the back shelf of a bar last year at 'that' point in the evening when trying something obscure seems like the best idea in the world, incidentally if ever you're out drinking with me that's the time to make your exit.

I'll save you the embarrassment I faced the first time I tried to pronounce the name of this delicious artichoke based liqueur… it's 'chee-nar'. A bona fide all rounder, both a delicious aperitif and because of the artichoke a lovely digestive too. It belongs to the same 'Amaros' family as Aperol and Campari, so if you're looking to lose your Cynar virginity, rather than going for it on the rocks I recommend starting with a fabulous negroni variant called a Berlioni.

You'll need
  • 50ml Cynar
  • 50ml vermouth (I like to go sweet for this one to take the edge off the bitterness)
  • 50ml gin
  • Orange strip to garnish
Make it:
  • Pour all the ingredients over ice into a small tumbler
  • Stir for 10 seconds
  • Pinch the orange over the top of the glass, wipe around the rim and drop it in the glass

Teapot Tuesday: Tonfisk Wooden Teapot

After the last Teapot Tuesday being a little bit silly, I thought I'd go right to the other end of the spectrum with something very high end. This Tonfisk Teapot is really beautiful - the mix of white ceramics and dark wood is getting me very excited indeed. I'm not always a fan of Scandinavian design, it's often a little bit to edgy and clean for me, but this ticks my tea boxes.

The wooden wrap acts as a handle, as well as insulating your cuppa. The lid is cork so it doesn't get hot, and when you want to wash it, you just take out the ceramic parts and pop them in the dishwasher. It's a really nifty piece of design (I don't know what the Finnish word for nifty is - anyone?)

It's not cheap in the slightest. That little set is £115 from The Lollipop Shoppe (the teapot on its own is around £69 and you can buy it from Caroline McGraph), but if you're looking for a super snazzy tea set then this is the one for you. Just think about the cost per use.

Sluttishly Savoury: Pretty Pea Salad

Every now and then I crave mountains of salad, usually when I don't have any knocking about in the fridge or garden. This salad was born from one of those cravings, I had barely a handful of salad leaves and it needed bulking up, at this point I turned to my freezer and fruit bowl for inspiration and came up with this which is now my favourite seasonal summer salad right now.

Frozen peas are brilliant, I always have them in the freezer and chuck them in pasta, soups and salads all the time. Broad beans would be great in this too and adding some lovely feta or goat's cheese would be delicious. You can throw in whatever fresh herbs you fancy, they are dead easy to grow or really cheap to buy. Most of the herbs in my garden were all originally those little pot grown herbs from the supermarket that I've just cut then planted out.

You'll need:

  • a handful of salad leaves
  • 2 handfuls frozen peas
  • 1 ripe pear, sliced
  • half a red onion, finely sliced
  • fresh herbs such as fennel fronds, basil, mint, chives, chopped and edible flowers to garnish.
Make it!
Put your frozen peas in a jug and cover with boiling water, leave for about 30 seconds then rinse with cold water until the peas are cold again, drain and combine with the other ingredients. Drizzle with your favourite dressing and decorate with edible flowers if you fancy (I always do!).

Future Cinema presents Grease!

We go together, like rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong!

If there's one film we'll sing along to while swishing our skirts about, it's Grease. (And if you're Kat, inexplicably, Grease 2.) There's a bit of a Domestic Sluttery film announcement coming up this week, but you'd never forgive me if I didn't tell you about the Future Cinema screening of Grease.

Because they're turning a secret London location into Rydell High!

From 7th-9th September, Rydell High will be taken over by people playing dress up and getting giddy over Pink Ladies and T-birds. If you're not wearing a 50s dress or turning your collar up a la Stockard Channing then you're definitely not allowed to play. God, I bloody love Stockard Channing.

It's not just Rydell that Future Cinema are promising, the fun fair and the diner are being recreated in this brilliant one-off event. John Travolta is probably the only thing that you'll be missing. Take a boy with quiffy hair and you might not even notice.

Tickets for the event cost £35. That's pricey for a film I know every single word to, but I reckon this event is going to be very special indeed. There's going to be a bit of a singalong in Domestic Sluttery HQ now.

Sluttishly Olympic: Doughnuts

My edible version of the opening ceremony, that's Kat on the right with Kenneth Brannagh over on the left, obviously.
How amazing was the Olympic opening ceremony? I basically blubbed my way though the vast majority of it whilst trying to spot Kat being awesome somewhere amongst it all. I was completely blown away by the fiery rings so have decided to recreate that wonderful moment in doughnut form.

I've never made doughnuts before and thought they would be a bit tricky to get right and I would get spattered in burning oil (I don't have a deep fat fryer) but they are actually really easy to make and they didn't spit at all, hurray!

 I made a mixture of vanilla caster sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest to sprinkle over them whilst still hot then sprayed with some edible gold shimmer spray that I bought from Tescos. You could also get some food colourings that match the colours of the rings and add to some icing sugar and water to make a paste then paint the doughnuts for some seriously Olympic tastiness.

You'll need: (makes about 20)
  • 600g strong white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 90g sugar
  • 10g dried fast action yeast
  • 50g butter, soft.
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml warm milk
  • To sprinkle: caster sugar (vanilla works really well), cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest 
  • edible gold shimmer spray
  • Oil for deep frying, I use vegetable
Make it!
  1. Sift together your flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a big bowl then rub in the butter until your mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Crack your eggs into a jug and add your warm milk and beat until well mixed then add to your flour mixture. It will be pretty sticky. Depending on what type of flour you use you may need to add a little bit more flour or milk to get a nice dough consistency. Turn your dough out onto a clean floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes or so until your dough is smooth and stretchy. Sometimes this can take 5 minutes, sometimes 20, it all depends on your flour.
  3. Put your dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave until doubled in size (about an hour or so). Roll out your dough to about 1cm thick then using pastry cutters make large circle cut outs. I used a wine bottle lid to make the small inner circles. Any excess dough just re-roll and make more, I fried off the little inner circles as a special "cook's treat".
  4. Combine your sugar and spice sprinkle mixture, in my opinion you can never have too much cinnamon!
  5. Heat your oil in a small saucepan or deep fat fryer to about 180C or until a little bit of bread turns golden when dropped in.
  6. Gently lower your ring in, it will sink at first then rise to the surface, at this point gently turn it over to brown on the other side then remove with a slotted spoon, put it on a plate and cover with your sugar and spice sprinkle mixture whilst still hot. Repeat with the rest of the rings then spray with your gold shimmer. Eat whilst warm.

Shop in the Spotlight: Happy Loves Rosie

I found Happy Loves Rosie while searching for images of a cat string holder. That'll give you an idea of the kind of things they sell. Once you've visited this site, you're unlikely to forget it - it's a riot of colour and pattern, and a really fun mix of retro and hand-made goods.

If you're the kind of person who has an saved e-bay search for cathrineholm or can't resist a floral teacup, or are generally a believer in 'more is more' (I'm guilty as charged to all three), you'll adore this shop.

The shop is divided into different categories for different areas of the home - there's even a section devoted to decorating a vintage caravan. There's a delightfully named 'Pictures and Whimsy' category containing all the swans and fawns and 1960s prints of doe-eyed children that you could ever want. These little forks are from the Happy Kitchen category. Could you imagine a prettier way to eat cake? The set is available for only £5.

Moving onto the bedroom, this 1950s manicure set is surely all that's been missing from a vintage glamour puss grooming regime. It's pink and ridiculously girlie and yours for £45.

The shop is stuffed full of all sorts of vintage tea cups and saucers. I adore this Chelsea tea set - you get a set of four cups and saucers, each in a different eye-popping colour combination for £20.

And who says the prettiness can only begin with the serving? This is probably the best-looking casserole dish I've ever seen. It's a bargain £15.

This is only a small selection of the goodies on offer in the store - they claim they stock 'everything you need to decorate a bright and happy home'. It's very hard to disagree.

Monday 30 July 2012

Gold-Dipped Cutlery

There's something really special about gold cutlery. Even eating Super Noodles with gold cutlery would be brilliant. This isn't the first gold cutlery set I've written about, but I do really like the dipped effect that Anthropologie have gone for.

Of course, Anthro are kings of making brilliant stuff at mega high prices - that little set above is £32. That's because it's actually 24k gold plate, not just pretend gold colouring. Still dishwasher safe, magically. I'd probably buy a couple of spoons if they had the option to buy them on their own - that would make very posh cups of tea.

I might just keep my eye on these and hope they drop into the sale. I reckon I'd treat myself at half the price.

Shoe Porn: ASOS Mary Janes

A modern twist on a classic is a concept that I tend to eye with suspicion. Classics don't need twists! Leave them alone. Putting a twist on a classic is how you end up eating a curry-flavoured Lancashire hotpot and I can tell you that's every bit as disappointing as it sounds.

But then the ASOS Collection had their wicked way with the classic Mary Jane and damn them, I like it. I'm hot for all things chartreuse right now, but against dark wood the leather is so yummy. The double straps are wonderful and probably very handy - that's a rather precarious high heel. Are they too high? Perhaps - the heel height is six inches, but the platform an inch and a half so they're only like to give you a little bit of vertigo.

Let's face it: these shoes are hot. They come in an off white as well, but I'm a sucker for that not-quite-yellow-not-quite-green and since they've got twenty quid off in the sale and they're not £49, I'm powerless to resist.

Design Porn: Dot to Date

The Olympics has caused my love affair with London to reach fever pitch. There's a wonderful atmosphere across the entire city (interspersed with us all shouting "WHY ARE THERE SO MANY EMPTY BLOODY SEATS?"). London is excited.

The majority of London is also stuck at their desks, trying to watch the games on BBC iPlayer without their bosses noticing. So I thought I'd bring London to you and show you this excellent London Dot-to-Date calendar by Dan Usiskin.

I've already shown you grown-up bubbles today, so a dot-to-dot calendar somehow seems fitting. You join the dots each day, and at the end of the month you have a great little picture of London for colouring in.

Each calendar sheet comes with London facts on the back of it and as it's not year specific, you can start when you like. It's £12 from Hunkydory Home and it's so much more fun than your Google calendar.

Sluttishly Sweet: Roasted Chickpeas

For those of you glued to the screens for the Olympics this summer, a tasty treat is probably the call of the day to keep up with the excitement. And in the spirit of the Olympics, surely a healthy tasty treat is in order? These chickpeas are simply roasted for half an hour and then mixed with some seasoning to offer a rather more-ish snack. I was amazed at how tasty they were and offer a nice change to my usual sofa snack of crisps and ice cream (not at the same time, of course).

Be aware that a couple of the chickpeas might pop in the oven like popcorn, but most of them will come out fine. And maybe switch up the cinnamon for your favourite spice such as nutmeg or cayenne pepper if that takes your fancy.
Roasted Chickpeas
You will need: 
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Make it!
  • spread the drained chickpeas onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and pop in a preheated oven of 230C for 25-40 minutes (the timing is really dependent on your oven and the brand of chickpeas you use)
  • in a small pot mix together the cinnamon, sugar and salt. set aside.
  • when the chickpeas are looking crispy they pale in colour and shrink a little. remove the chickpeas from oven and tip into a heatproof bowl.
  • add the olive oil and stir thoroughly to coat all the chickpeas.
  • tip the spice mix into the bowl and mix well.
  • serve immediately.

Agathe Perfume Bubbles

These Agathe bubbles are nothing short of magic. Everyone likes bubbles. Don't pretend that you won't steal bubbles from a small child at any given opportunity. But these bubbles are for grown ups. They're not made of a rubbish mix of Fairy washing up liquid and childhood dreams. Instead they're perfume.

You get a choice of violet, cold mint, cut grass and pear. I got to play with the pear ones at the weekend  and they smelled fantastic. But that's not why you buy perfume bubbles. You buy perfume bubbles so you have a valid excuse to run and chase them in a pub while you drink wine. Running about and giggling like a fool is actually something I'd like to add to my getting ready routine.

The bubbles are available from the often too-pricey-for-me Les Senteurs. But they're not too pricey! They're just £14 and they're fabulous.

Vintage Style Me

More vintage dresses for vintage prices? Coming right up. Unlike Lady Vintage, these frocks are genuinely vintage. Vintage Style Me gathers together excellent clothes from all eras, so you can rummage through 60s mod dresses, Bay City Rollers shirts and 80s floral dresses. It's like a brilliant online jumble sale.

Click on whatever takes your fancy to discover the size, era and condition. This checked tea dress is from the 1970s and still in excellent shape. Yours for £15 if you're a size 12-14.

I love the square bib front on this polka dot sailor dress. It proves that some 1980s fashions are still worth wearing. It's £27.

Yeah, you never get to see the model's eyes. She's always distracted by something on the floor. This cropped green polka dot jacket is just £16.

I don't usually like animal print, but look at the nipped in waist and swooshy skirt on this dress. It's just £16 and was originally from M&S. I don't remember them doing anything nice in the 80s, but apparently they did.

If you're going to a party with a 70s or 80s theme, Vintage Style Me would be an excellent place to browse - check out this bridesmaid's dress and be glad you weren't forced to wear it 20 years ago. Most of their clothes are just brilliantly wearable though - quirky and different without screaming "OH HELLO I AM FROM THE PAST." And their website has the best typo: "we cannot be held responsible for lost or stollen packages." Personally, I'd love a package of stollen. If anyone out there wants to post me some German fruit cake, I am ready and waiting.

Miss Selfridge Puff Sleeve Jacket

I know we finally have warmer weather but I can't help but start to plan ahead for when it starts to turn a bit colder. In my defence I am having to start buying new school uniform for The Daughter ready for September and in a way, I kind of like the whole 'new term' aspect of a change in seasons.

As such, I have my eye on this blazer from Miss Selfridge. It has everything going for it. The berry colour is one of my favourite autumnal colours though it comes in black and 'nude' if you want something slightly less obviously seasonal. I'm already picturing it paired with a chunky knit scarf. The shape as well is fantastic. It's a little bit Victorian riding jacket which is very flattering. And it's only £30.

The only quibble is that it's jersey and so will only work so far into the winter before you need to pull out the big guns in terms of outerwear. In the meantime though, you can layer up under it to cut a stylishly warm dash.

Friday 27 July 2012

The Boy and his Poison: Mrs. Lilien's Cocktail Swatch Book

Setting the world to rights one lunchtime it suddenly dawned on me that what the world really needed was a cocktail guide and preferably one in the form of a swatch book. Colour coded, well designed and bound just like those classic Pantone swatch books. I was one phone call away from pestering a publisher before I found Mrs Lilen's Cocktail swatch book.

I'm usually seriously disgruntled when I find one of my ideas 'proto-plagiarised' but this one has been done so elegantly and at such a steal (its only £6) that I couldn't help recommend it. Kelley Lilien is an enviably talented designer that hacked together 20 recipes for blended cocktails, 20 recipes for shaken cocktails, and 10 recipes for punch bowls all in a perfect swatch book ready to be fanned out at a moments notice. If you have a cocktail-lover in your life it's a perfect gift and I was sold when I read about the incredible sounding Senorita Spin Beer-rita. Chuck it in your basket next time you make an Amazon order, trust me, your Olympic BBQ guests will thank you.

You can pick up Mrs. Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook from Amazon for £6

Design Porn: Eat Like a King Plate Set

You know how the old saying goes: Eat like a king at breakfast, a prince for lunch and a pauper for dinner. Alice Naylor has designed a gorgeous range of Eat My Hat plates to go along with the theme. You get a big breakfast and then scale down throughout the day.

Wait, what? That doesn't sound fun. Where will all of my chips go?!

Alice Naylor did have something to say about that (in a handy bitesize quote that I cut and paste from the press release): ‘I don’t want to tell people how to eat – I love my food far too much. But eating what I want off smaller plates as the day progresses seems to work for me. These plates are designed with a wink at our eating habits and they look good too.'

The do look really good. And actually using a tiny plate for my late night snacks might be a good idea. There's also a lady version featuring a queen, princess and maid. Of course, if you want to use the breakfast plates at tea time, I'm not going to stop you. You can buy the plates directly from Alice Naylor over at DesignMaid.

I'm just going to need a different plate for my chips.

Awesome things to do this weekend

Olympic Fever has well and truly hit Sluttery HQ. To be honest, we're not doing much this evening other than shoving pizza into our faces and trying to spot Kat on the telly during the Olympics opening ceremony. But if you're not feeling particularly Massive Sports Day inclined, here are some of the excellent things going on around the country this weekend.


Glasgow: Merchant City International Indie Film Festival. Is Indie film your thing? This weekend festival is packed full of talks, shorts, feature films and events. Pass the popcorn, please.

Manchester: HiddenCity. A text message treasure hunt that shows you wonderful and hidden parts of Manchester?! We could not be more in.

Bristol: Shifts. This play is being run by the Bristol Old Vic, but it's actually off-site so you arrive (promptly, please) and then you're escorted to your venue. Exciting! Tickets are still available for the 7pm showing and they're just £4. You'll be done in time to get to the pub for a few after.


London: The Floating Market in Mile End. I might not rival the markets of Bangkok, but I'm really excited about the floating markets along Regent's Canal. Visit the book barge, or the floating print galley or buy cakes at the canal cake shop. They're here for a couple of weeks and then the boats move up to Little Venice. The London canals don't really get much action, this is an ace idea.

Leeds: Kellie Miller exhibition. This exhibition is at the Craft Centre and Design Gallery and features two and three-dimensional works made from porcelain. The everyday exhibition sounds great too. Both finish this weekend so make sure you catch them before they're gone.

Cardiff: Nothing Like Something Happens Anywhere. This haunting art exhibition at the Chapter Gallery features video and installations, as well as painting and photography exploring personal events and history. It's at Chapter and it's totally free.


Brighton: The Vintage Fair. Need a vintage fix this weekend? Head to Brighton's Corn Exchange for all sorts of vintage fun. There's a tea party, loads of stalls and live entertainment to keep you busy from 12-5pm.

Edinburgh: Jazz & Blues Festival. It's the last day of the Edinburgh Jazz festival and there are still tickets left. Avoid Jools and go for the Edinburgh Schools Jazz Orchestra at the Spiegeltent - it's a fiver.

Birmingham: The Sunday Express. Sunday is a day for doing not very much at all, so the Sunday Express sounds perfect. It's a free afternoon of poetry, storytelling and live music. Sounds great, even though we're gutted they're no longer doing free roast potatoes. Take note event organisers, we'll queue for HOURS for a free roast potato.

What are you doing this weekend?

Sluttishly Savoury: Perfect Potato Salad

No BBQ is complete without a massive bowl of potato salad right? Whenever I'm invited along to a friend's house for one I always get told asked nicely to bring along 2 things: my jerk chicken wings and my potato salad. Homemade potato salad should taste absolutely nothing like the stuff that you buy in a plastic tub from the supermarket (always vinegary/chemical tasting yuck). Homemade potato salad should make you crave it, in fact I always make double as most of it doesn't even make it out of my kitchen.

Lots of tiny things come together to make the perfect dish - your potatoes need to be firm baby new potatoes, your mayo needs to be a fairly decent one (I use Helmans Light), you need plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a good pinch of sea salt flakes but most importantly: DON'T SKIMP ON THE CHIVES. You can add all kinds of other ingredients if you fancy like spring onions, or a touch of mustard but you really can't have too many chives. I throw in the flowers too as they are really pretty and taste fab.

You'll need:
  • 1 kg baby new potatoes, washed but not peeled.
  • 2-3 big heaped tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 or 3 big bunches of chives 
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt flakes
Make it!

Put your potatoes in a big pot of salted water and bring to the boil, cook until tender but not soft then drain and leave to cool right down otherwise your mayo will just be absorbed. Chop your chives and add to the potatoes with the mayo, season and mix well. Potato salad always tastes better the following day after a night in the fridge too, not that I ever really have any left!

Gluten Free: Fruit Tartlets

There are some things we do really rather well in the UK; polite queuing, sarcasm and summer berries. Despite all our complaints about the recent weather (something else we do pretty well), the warm and sunny spring well had this year had brought us some wonderful strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, red currants and black currants. I haven't found any gooseberries yet, but I'm fairly sure that they'll be brilliant this year, too.

I have, on occasion often, been found with my nose pressed against the glass of my local bakery or the display case of a patisserie, gazing wistfully at all the beautiful treats. The thing that mostly catches my eye are the colourful glazed fruit tartlets. I want them all. So, when all our wonderful berries are in season (right now) I get myself to a kitchen and make my own.

You can make your own gluten free pastry, or pick up a readymade block from the freezer section of your supermarket. If you really can't be bothered, you can buy the creme patissiere, too (just check that it is gluten free, some recipes use wheat flour). 

You'll need (to make 12 mini tartlets, or 6 10cm tartlets)
  • a selection of summer berries (about 500g worth)
  • 6 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 200g gluten free shortcrust pastry
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 37g caster sugar
  • 20g cornflour
Make it!
  • Take about 100g of your berries and squash them in a bowl, sprinkle with 1 tbsp granulated sugar and leave to rest for at least an hour to allow the juices to come out. 
  • Roll out the pastry to about the same size as your shallow bun tin and cut out 7.5cm rounds. Press the pastry rounds into the shallow bun tin, you can use the end of your rolling pin or a spare blob of pastry to avoid tearing it. 
  • Prick each pastry round with a fork and bake at 180°C for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool.
To make the creme patissiere
  • Heat the milk and vanilla extract in a pan. Once it comes to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar together in a bowl until they turn pale, add the cornflour and whisk until smooth.
  • Remove the milk from the heat and allow to cool for about a minute before pouring over the egg and sugar mixture, whisking all the time. Return to the pan and keep whisking as you bring the mixture back to the boil. Still whisking, simmer for 1 minute before transferring to a clean bowl to cool. (Top tip, cover this with a sprinkling of icing sugar to stop a skin forming)
To make the glaze
  • Strain the juice from your squashed berries into a jug and make up to 125ml with water. Pour into a pan and add the remaining 5 tbsp sugar and bring to a boil, let it boil rapidly for about 5 minutes until it reduces by a quarter. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
To assemble your tartlets
  • Spoon the creme patissiere into the pastry cases and spread to cover the base. Arrange your berries over the top and brush with the glaze, or dust with icing sugar.

Green Fingers: The Koubachi Plant Sensor

I kill plants.

I've never been able to keep a plant alive for longer than a week. I don't know what happens. Perhaps I over water them? I care for them, sometimes I even talk to them. But as soon as a plant is within my care, it dies. I'm really sorry to anyone who has been a bit put out when I've refused to water their plants. It's honestly for their own good.

But I like plants! Especially indoor ones. I think they're good for you, having a bit of green around makes us happier.

In lieu of a sexy gardener, might need a Koubachi.

This nifty (if expensive) little gadget means that you know exactly what care you plants need. The plant sensor is connected to wifi so you'll be notified if you're drowning your poor little Venus fly trap, or if you're spider plant is starving. Maybe you've left your cactus somewhere too dark? Or you thought the best place for your giant beanstalk was by the radiator and it's sweating a bit? You'll know straight away that you're sucking at plant-raising.

It's a little like a real life horticultural Tamagotchi.

If you're really into your plants but you're a bit rubbish at them, Kabouchi Plant Sensor sounds like it might be quite useful, but it's £89.99 from no1gadgetstore. Please don't call them Sally or Penelope like they have in the photograph. You can buy an awful lot of fresh flowers for that. And of course, you could just buy a Tamagotchi.

Design Porn: H&M Home Authentic Tradition

I think I must have been living under a rock or something for the past couple of years, because I had completely missed the fact that H&M stock a homewares section on their website. I mean, I use their website on occasion having bought this lovely dress a few months back. But the Home tab seemed to escape my attention. So when I stumbled upon this lovely little collection of home accessories I was rather excited. Specialising in a range of textiles and small accessories at affordable prices, H&M Home has some cute finds to be had like this Horse cushion cover for £7.99.
My favourite 'campaign', as they call it, is the Authentic Tradition style. I'm really enjoying those native-style patterns featured on cushions, towels and blankets like the one above which is priced at a fairly reasonable £24.99.
Cushions really are a super quick way to spruce up your living room or change the style around. This jacquard-weave cushion for £9.99 is made with canvas fabric and offers a lovely rustic feel to a room.
When I was in Canada a few weeks ago I found some Pendleton patterned towels that I totally fell in love but didn't buy (I am now kicking myself) but these patterned towels at £12.99 could ease the pain a little.
H&M Home also offer some practical and stylish storage options too. I could do with a new towel or blanket storage opportunity at the moment instead of flinging them over the banister. This jute weave storage bag at £7.99 is plastic lined with a metal rim to keep it's shape. Not bad, H&M, I say.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Design Porn: 50 Shades of Grey Poster

Everyone seems to have an opinion on E L James' 50 Shades of Grey. Love it or hate it, it's now the fastest-selling paperback of all time, and you can't move in London for people getting hot and sweaty on the train because of their choice of reading material. Apparently the Central Line is the perfect spot for reading a bit of soft porn.

I haven't read the whole thing, although I know some of the other Domestic Sluts have. It's not likely to be one of the books we include in the Sluttery Book Club but I have read bits and while I wasn't that impressed, I'm very impressed with how quickly word of mouth works with something a little bit controversial.

I also really like this tongue-in-cheek 50 Shades of Grey poster. It pokes fun at the 50 Shades phenomenon and appeals to my love of paint charts. I particularly like the colours African Parrot and Grey Matter. Actually, if these were real paints, Kat would not doubt be eyeing them up for her flat.

Whether you love or hate the book, this ironic poster is actually very clever, and rather nice to look at. And it's just £9.99 from Firebox. You might not have it on your wall for long, but it would make a fun gift for someone who was a fan of the books. Or a fan of paint charts.

Sluttery by Post: Wychwood Deli

This is my lunch. Nom.
Having spent the last week existing primarily on bread or Pringles while rehearsing for the Olympics Opening Ceremony tomorrow - I'm sorry, I'm a bore, but it is so amazing - I practically fell over in joy this morning when Wychwood Deli sent me a delivery of deli goodies that involved MAXIMUM cheese and minimal flour. I headed off to the supermarket, bought some Finn Crisp (best accompaniment biscuit in the history of ever, and I traitorously say that as a Carr descendant) and some grapes, then doled it out to the office so I didn't eat it all and explode.

The Wychwood Deli website is very well done - like a more relaxed, portable version of the Harrods Food Hall. Brimming with hams, pies, charcuterie, cheeses, as well as groceries, condiments, and exotic tea and coffee. (On a web nerd note, their homepage carousel is amazing - the most delicious-looking photographs of edibles). They've got a really lovely food gifts section, and postage for everything up to £75 is £5.95, after that, it's free.

So, what was in my bag of fun? Oh my God, I really hope you've eaten.

I fell passionately in love with Barkham Blue, winner of the Best Blue Cheese at the 2011 British Cheese Awards (and don't you just love the fact that we have a cheese awards? Who knew!). I adore a blue cheese, the stronger and more frightening the better, but there's nothing scary about the Barkham Blue: it's the orange and blue one on the right of the picture, just below the Finn Crisp. It's got a fabulously unctuous flavour, rich and tangy with a real smoothness that stops it going over the top. Prices start at £4.50 for 150g up to £26.95 for a whole.

The Mario Costa Gorgonzola was almost walking off the plate and thus almost impossible to get out of its pretty blue paper wrapping - very French. This was a real hit with my office; a gorgeous flavour and that real Italian thump. A 250g serving is £4.95. Cotswold Wild Boar Salami had my mouth watering - I seriously love pig products - but was too over-peppered for me and I'd have preferred thicker slices, and due to being an olive denier, I had to leave it up to the rest of my office to rave about the Castelvetrano green olives (£3.95). Divine, apparently, but ultimately no good to me what with being olives.

I was joyously surprised by the Montgomery Cheddar (£3.95 - £11.45). Far from the ghastly, sweating accountant cheddars I suffered at school, this is a real manly, sit-up-and-bark cheese: a lovely strong flavour and a texture that's on the crumbly side and as far away from squeaky as you can get. Word of warning however: it tastes atrocious if you should be silly enough to return to it after a mouthful of blue.

They offer a 10% discount to Twitter fans, just head to their page for the discount code.

Wonder Woman! The Best Mug in the World

I truly believe that this Wonder Woman mug makes the best cup of tea. When I'm feeling hungover rubbish and need a cracking start to my morning, this is the mug that I use. My house isn't short of a mug or twenty, but my Wonder Woman mug (a Christmas present from the parentals) is the best morning mug for chanelling my inner kick-ass super hero.

She turns into a super hero just by spinning around! I remember trying this as a kid. I actually fell into a gas fire and still have a scar on my left elbow from being so moronically stupid. Her tiara was a boomerang! I'm quite up for having a tiara anyway, but even more so if I can use it as a weapon against dastardly baddies. Kick-ass accessories are clearly the best kind of accessories.

The mug is £6.98 from Half Moon Bay on Amazon, and it'll make your emails seem like a breeze. Pow! Bang! Kazapp! Pang! 

If you need a little reminder about just how fabulous Wonder Woman is, here's Lynda Carter doing her thing.

Sluttery Travels: Railway House, Norfolk

The gentle chug-chug-chug of a steam train is enough to send anyone into a gentle slumber. It's the reason I'd always miss my stop. But doesn't this sedative quality make a train carriage the perfect place for a hotel?

Heck yes! And the Hoste Arms in Burnham Market, Norfolk, have done just that. While their main hotel is the heart of the village, Railway House is all cosy and secluded on the outskirts on the site of an old railway station. It ceased business in 1957 and now it's probably the coolest place to sleep ever.

The main part of the station has seven bedrooms and a lounge area for guests, but the really special part is the railway carriage room.  It's actually on the tracks. It's quirky, it's luxurious, it's gorgeous and YOU GET TO SLEEP IN A TRAIN.

Prices start from £80 per person per night for this room plus a full English breakfast (it's £55 per person per night for the other seven rooms), and you do have to take a scenic 10 minute walk through the village to get breakfast from the hotel in the morning.

Slightly closer by (just over the village green from the hotel, in fact) is the Hoste's Vine House boutique hotel. Each room is individually designed and packed full of Georgian opulence.

The standout rooms are the Deluxe range - I'd begin to ideas above my station after a night in this place. I mean, just look at the bath - it has its own chandelier:

Prices start from £110 per person per night, brekkie included.

The restaurant in the main Hoste Arms hotel is also seriously special (their fillet of beef was so tender it made me make embarrassing scoffy noises, and I could have easily polished off the assiette of seafood starter for two by myself) plus their wine list is absolutely massive and all kinds of wonderful. It's a good job Vine House is within perfect stumbling distance.

Luscious Lingerie: b.tempt'd

Now summer has hit, I'm going on a massive colour spree. I do this every summer. I want bright pink everything. Not least bright pink lingerie from b.Tempt'd. It's gorge, isn't it? I do love a balconette. But do you know what? It looks comfy! I'm all for bright colours in summer, but the last thing I want is something itchy and scratchy when it's sweltering outside.

This floral set is divine. It's almost bikini-esque and the daisy print is so pretty (and it's reminded me about the wonderful-but-only-in-summer scent Marc Jacobs' Daisy). I love the scalloped lace edge. b.tempt'd offer a small range of sizes, but they start small at 30A. They go up to a 38DDD.

Stripes, criss-crosses, this set has a lot going on, but the cornflower blue is such a summery colour. I love it. Hipster shorts make me happy. Each bra comes in at £30, the briefs are kicking around at the £9 mark, or £15 if you'd rather shorts. ASOS have a huge range and whatever you pick will come in at under fifty quid. b'Tempt'd also do stuff in black and white, but where would be the fun in that when their brights are so pretty?
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