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Friday 31 August 2012

The boy and his poison: The Hibiscus Cooler

You know when you're sat in a coffee shop thinking 'wow this would be so much better if I made it Irish'? While shenanigans like that only ever seem to enhance my Friday afternoon output, I wouldn't necessarily advocate them as a lifestyle choice. Nevertheless this was exactly how this drink was conceived.

Over the summer Starbucks released a delicious hibiscus/berry/crushed ice thing (I refuse to indulge their insane naming policy with recognition). No calories, full of flavour and refreshing; it was the antithesis of their usual fayre. So in fear of it disappearing I set about finding how to make it, and then how to spike it. You can pick up hibiscus tea from health food shops but it works equally as well with either rose, or rosehip and raspberry tea. Rose will give a slight 'Turkish Delight' flavour to the drink whereas the Raspberry and Hibiscus Twinings make brings it closer to its origins.

You'll need:
  • 100ml cooled rose tea/rosehip and hibiscus tea
  • 50ml vodka 
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • 1tbsp Agave nectar or 25ml simple syrup
Make it:
  • Add the vodka, lemon juice and agave to a tumbler
  • Stir until mixed and the sugar/agave has dissolved
  • Add the tea and a handful of ice cubes
  • Squeeze a piece of lemon peel over the top of the drink and garnish with some raspberries

Sluttery Travels: Spitbank Fort, Portsmouth

My dreams are made of hotels like Spitbank Fort. I can't even claim to have found this myself. This is all Nick's work (he quickly followed that up with demands of a press trip for the entire team). I don't say this lightly, because Sluttery Travels is full of magical places to stay, but Spitbank might be the most impressive hotel we've ever featured.

And I want to move in immediately.

That's the birdseye view. Look at it! The entire place is yours to play on (not the hot tub). But first, a little background, before I start plotting to turn it into a Batcave.

It was a fully functioning see fortress, but never actually used in defence. It did however take a little bit of a battering from air attacks in the second world war. The Ministry of Defence only sold Spitbank in 1982 and since then it's been privately owned, renovated and transformed into a luxury hotel. Let's have a look at that renovation.

There are nine bedrooms and three restaurant areas and bars in Spitbank. You have your own personal chef so it's totally a restaurant. I want to sink into one of those chairs with a book and a brandy and never, ever leave.

You have to get the Spitbank's own boat to and from the fortress, there's no chance of unexpected guests turning up to have a little nose about (which is a shame, because that's exactly what I'd like to do).

You know what? The decor is basically my dream home.

Look! A telescope for star-spotting! You can book Spitbank all year 'round (even over Christmas and New Year) but actually I think it would be so special in the cooler months with rough seas and howling winds. And ghost stories! You could tell a brilliant ghost story here. Scooby and Shaggy would have had a field day.

Oh, and just because this swish bathroom wasn't enough, there are spa facilities. You're totally spoiled here, just like you would be in a super swanky hotel. The only difference is that this is your own private island and you get to spend the entire time playing Famous Five.

All through reading about Spitbank, I was doing the maths and tallying up how much it might cost to stay here. It's by no means cheap. One night starts at £6240 (no, wait! don't go!) When you realise that's based on 16 people staying here and it includes bubbly, breakfast and dinner cooked by your personal chef, that works out less than £350 per person. For the best party in the entire world.

Spitbank Fort, you'd better hold onto your hats. The Domestic Sluts are coming for you.

Sluttishly Savoury: Roast Deli Baguette

God I adore deli counters, they are basically the Ikea of the food world. I go for a bit of prosciutto and get tempted by a little slice of this, a scoop of that, ooh and a couple of those too. Basically I leave with enough cured meats, cheese and marinated vegetables to feed the entire cast of the Olympic opening ceremony.

This awesome treat was inspired by Denis Leary's Stuffed Meat Bread from one of my all time favourite cookbooks Eat Like A Man. I can't recommend that book enough, it's rammed with brilliant recipes, cocktails and photos and should definitely be on your kitchen bookshelf .

It's the perfect lazy dinner/movie snack/picnic/oh god I've bough all this stuff from the deli that's got to be eaten in 24 hours, meaty cheesy feast and there are SO many things you can stuff it with you will never get bored of it, yeah I still get dead excited every time I make one because I know whats coming my way in 15 minutes time.

The marinated roast peppers bring sweetness, the cured meats the saltiness, the cheese is all lovely and creamy and to top it off you get the crunchy baked bread that come together to make baked heaven. Go crazy at the deli counter then stuff everything into a hollowed out baguette and bake it, bake it good.

You'll need:
  • 1 baguette
  • Cheese - I used Emmental slices
  • Meat - I used slices of prosciutto di San Daniele, Chorizo, Salami
  • Marinated roast red peppers
Make it!

Hollow out your baguette then using a wooden spoon stuff layers of fillings inside then plug the end with a bit of the bread that you hollowed out. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes then go to meaty cheesy heaven.

Shoe Porn: Rainbow Flats

The studded shoes of amazingness arrived this morning and I'm absolutely loving running about the office in them. I'm properly in the mood for excellent flat shoes now, and as long as I'm careful of puddles I won't get wet toes when it pours with rain the second I leave the house. Here are my favourite flats in every colour of the rainbow (look, I'm indecisive, OK?)

Apparently my friend's mum always used to say 'red shoes, no knickers'. What undergarments you choose to wear with your outfit is entirely your call. These red ballerina shoes are from Oasis and they're £35.

They're so bright! These citrus yellow flats from L.K. Bennett are gorgeousness in shoe form. I love the flower/bow thing that they've got going on. I also love that they're reduced from £95 to £50.

I adore this shade of pink. It's the most divine colour and the black bow makes them perfect for going out dancing. I'm totally over wearing high heels when I go out dancing. They're £59 from Jones Bootmakers.

Am I in the mood for green snakeskin? I might be. Kurt Geiger make it look very pretty. These are reduced from £30 to £21 in the ASOS sale and there are lots of sizes left for grabbing.

I know this is cheating. These ballerina shoes aren't strictly orange. But they are wonderful and Office only have a few pairs left and I had to share them. They're like a rainbow all on their own and they're £55. (But be careful, suede and autumn aren't best buddies.)

Bows, broques, shiny purple. They're like the Quality Street of the shoe world. They're also in the sale at Miss Selfridge which means - HOLY SHINY JAZZ SHOES, BATMAN! - they're just £7.

These are a really gorgeous blue to end my little rainbow shoe journey on. Yeah, I should probably go with something indigo, but these are too adorable to leave behind. And they're only £18 from River Island. Pretty sure I can get away with buying all seven pairs so I've got a different colour to wear every day of the week.

Gluten Free: Carrot Cake

It's become distinctly autumnal all of a sudden, hasn't it? I'm still hoping for an Indian summer but I'm not holding my breath (I'd just turn purple). Three things happen when the weather gets cool; I  rescue my jumpers from the ironing pile storage, where they've been all summer; I dig out my slow cooker and I start using cinnamon in abundance.

Carrots and cinnamon, they're the culinary equivalent of Mel and Sue - they work together beautifully and make a great duo - just with a bit less of the "soggy bottom" innuendo. Apparently, carrot cake is the nation's favourite cake (according to a survey in the Radio Times last year) so it seemed right that I give it the gluten free treatment, with lashings of cinnamon.

You'll need:
  • 200g carrots, grated (you don't really need to peel your carrots, just make sure they're scrubbed well - mud and cinnamon is not so tasty)
  • 225ml rapeseed oil (or another mild tasting oil)
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 225g gluten free flour mix (I'm using Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour at the moment)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • a good grating of nutmeg
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 175g icing sugar, sieved to remove lumps
Make it!

  • Put the carrots, oil, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a bowl and combine.
  • Pour into a greased 20cm square tin and bake for 45-50 minutes at 180°C, until a skewer comes out of the centre clean. Leave for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
  • When the cake is cool, beat the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar together until smooth. You might need to pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes to stiffen up (behave) a bit before spreading over your cake.
  • Attempt to adorn with icing bunny until his legs fall off, abandon attempt and serve.
I reckon Alex's brown sugar cinnamon buttercream, from her Mary Margaret Blanchard Cake would be brilliant as an alternative to the cream cheese topping.

I could make that myself!

I could make that myself.

That sentence is something that we hear a lot on Domestic Sluttery. Heck, some of us have even said it ourselves. It's never said with malice, it's never done with the intention of doing a Paperchase, but it does say something about the design industry and how we view independent designers, illustrators and makers.

We're not going to pretend that all design is excellent (Regretsy does an excellent job of surprising us on that front), but when you look at a product, you're seeing an end point in a process. You haven't seen the initial idea spark, the first drawings, the material sourcing and the creation. A lot of time goes into that. A lot of thought. That's a huge part of the job of a designer - whether it's a shark laundry basket or rude bunting - there's been an extensive creative process involved to get there.

But on the flip side of that, independent design can get expensive. While we absolutely think that designers should charge for their time, small print runs and making by hand push costs up. Often higher than some of us can afford. It's understandable that if you see something simple on Domestic Sluttery and you're a little bit crafty, you might try and whip up your own version.

So where do we draw the line? Vintage dress patterns are all the rage and no one has an issue if you follow one of those. Soy candles in teacups aren't really something with a copyright and you can do craft classes to make your own. When is it OK to 'make that yourself' and when is it hijacking someone else's hard work and creativity? Every creative idea starts somewhere, every artist is inspired by something, but the initial inspiration moves forward to create something new.

We're stuck in a strange place between high street and indy. We want original design at high street prices and that's not easy to achieve with quality. Often it means designers and illustrators running at a loss while they're trying to build up a following. Is the answer to this for the high street shops to be more keen to work with smaller designers?

Should we be making our own versions of Coulson MacLeod originals just because we can't afford our own? Is it OK if we're inspired by something rather than doing an exact copy? Surely if you're not selling the piece you make yourself then it's fine, right?

We're not sure what the answer is, but the Domestic Sluts debate about this behind the scenes a lot so we thoughts we'd open up the discussion. Do you make your own versions of work you've seen elsewhere? Or are you a designer who shudders at the words 'I could make that myself'? Grab a cup of tea and let's have a bit of a chat.

Home Sweet Home: Best New Bedding

I have been resisting the urge to pop the heating on this week. Instead I have been making like a sausage roll with layers of blankets wrapped around me. Autumn is upon us and the time for snuggling is here. As a self-confessed blanket fiend I am quietly known for wanting to hoard ALL the bedding. I have vintage suitcases and wicker chests filled with an array of bedding. It is just another one of my weird collecting habits.

In true collector’s fashion I have begun hunting out what is new in the world of bedding and finding some wonderfully quirky designs.

For an interactive bedding experience at a fun price, this doodle duvet is £65. It looks like a giant note pad and comes with eight wash-out colour pens. You can doodle on your bed to your hearts content and have a fresh start every time you wash it.

Rhododendron's are marginally hip again these days, which pleases me greatly because I never really fell out of love with the bushy flowers. Orla Kiely adds her retro design twist to the humble rhododendron for this rather lovely duvet set. Priced between £65 and £95, this might be on my dream bedding list for a little while longer, or at least until the man in the red suit comes along.

Urban Outfitters offer a Persian-style patchwork quilt with lovely rich, sumptuous colours. It is ideal for adding a striking change to your bedroom. It is 100% cotton and king-size at the royal price of £120. So this might be for those wanting an investment piece.
Heals have taken inspiration from the 1969 Lucienne Day sunrise print for this striking avant-garde bed linen range. With prices between £30 and £100 it is a relatively affordable way to update your bed clothes with cool blue, green and lilac.   

This is possibly one of my favourite bed linens designs and it may or may not be helped by the super plump bedding in this photo. The Jonathan Adler duvet cover featuring a striking 70s palette with retro flame pattern has a 400 thread count which I believe means it is particularly cosy. It is certainly in the higher price bracket at £97 but I'm going to keep my eye on it all season for a potential drop when the sales come around.

Thursday 30 August 2012

Design Porn: MONUmini

I've been very into mini architecture recently. Paper Tango and Chisel & Mouse have captured my love of gorgeous and iconic buildings and put them into miniature form for me to enjoy. Just when I thought I couldn't get any more London models to adorn my desk, Aimee Furnival has wowed me with MONUmini.

MONUmini models are made of sheet metal. They come with assembly instructions, like the prettiest Ikea ever. Then it's your job to play architect and put them together. No glue or screws needed - everything just slots together.

I'm not the biggest fan of 70s architecture, but The Barbican Tower is very popular with locals. If you recognise the name Aimee Furnival, it's because she's the lady behind Postcarden and Matchcarden and she got involved with our Paper & Penmanship event last year. I think her brain works most in flat pack.

I need a MONUmini Tower Bridge! It's so wonderful. I expected that something so intricate would be mega  expensive, but the prices are as mini as the models - each one is just £15. You can buy the designs from Another Studio. My Monopoly board is about to get a bit of a makeover.

Shoe Porn: Pump up the jam!

(Pump = flat shoe. Jam = marmalade, if you look at the coral in a particular way and have encountered some really strange marmalade).

Despite being Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, I haven't bothered with ballerina pumps for years. Most of them, however ridiculously expensive, tend to have minimal support on the heel, which makes walking through London incredibly painful. The only flat shoes that I wear now are my insane crocodile green Irregular Choice brogues (red laces! Left in from Christmas 2009, oops) or peep toes with a little wedge to make it more comfortable when I'm striding around. I do a lot of striding, and I really cannot be bothered to have my striding impeded by crap support.

With an hour to kill before drinks the other day, I did the rounds of Gracechurch Street's shops and ended up in New Look's shoe section, more out of fondness for their having size 9s than anything else - their shoes haven't been great this year. Or so I thought.

There are LOADS of great shoes in there at the moment: I tried on a bunch of size 9s and ended up coming away with three pairs: some pretty leather numbers that are just vaguely Chanel enough without looking like I bought them for 50p at a jumble sale, some suede studded ones, and these lovely grey suede(ish) and orange ribbon pumps for £15.99

These did that wonderful thing of making my feet look elegant and pretty the minute I popped them on.

All three pairs have been immediately comfortable to walk in: I haven't had any rubbing, no impact on my heels, and they look marvellous. But these grey numbers are my favourite: I love the positioning of the bow, the side makes your trotters look ever so much smaller and more ladylike, and the ribbons through the side are lovely too.

You can only get them in 3-8 on the website so if you're a 9, keep your eyes peeled on your local store.

If you fancy something a bit more discreet (boo!) then you can get them in a black and white colourway too. The website has them in a 5 and 6.
And if you've got wider feet, snap up these beautiful little numbers. Gosh I love scarves/ribbon.

Gifts for Geeks: Classic Games Kitchen Accessories

You've got your Pacman cookie cutters and the oven timer starts beeping, what do you use to remove the hot baking tray from the oven? You could use regular, boring oven gloves, or you could get yourself this Pacman oven mitt. Yes, this little Pacman is actually a very functional (kind of) and basically essential piece of kitchen kit. So you'd be completely justified in heading over to Amazon and spending £12 on it. 

If you're more of a Tetris fan, then you'll need this ice cube tray (especially if you need to cool down after basking in the warmth of your Tetris lights). I want to make chocolate in this and then play my own, slightly sticky, game of Tetris and I can just eat the blocks that don't fit where I want them to. You'll have to wait a while for all this Tetris-ice-cube based fun though because it's not available yet, but you can pre-order yours from Forbidden Planet for £5.49.

Siany thinks that Space Invaders is the best arcade game ever so I know she'd love a cake made with this cake mould. Quite honestly, who wouldn't? I think every birthday, anniversary and Thursday would be made even more special if it came with a space invader shaped cake. This one is yours for £14 from Pixmania.

So, what is the best arcade game ever? Is Siany right, or does anyone else hold a special place in their hearts for Dig Dug?

Waxing Lyrical

Ever since we brought you the magical delight that is Ryan Gosling colouring-in books last week, I have been in a near-constant state of longing. No, not for *gratuitous link to photos of attractive Hollywood actor klaxon* Ryan Gosling, but for wax crayons. Now, I know I'm the wrong side of 6 and should probably have outgrown crayons several decades ago - but I haven't, and you can't make me. So there.

Imagine my unadulterated joy when I discovered that Crayola has created a range of nail varnishes. Imagine how that joy doubled, perhaps even trebled, when I saw the packaging. Just like a box of crayons. Marvellous. Unfortunately, these aren't available in the UK yet, but you can buy them stateside from Fred Flare for $12 (about £7.50). The delivery charges seem pretty ridiculous, though (read: prohibitively expensive), so my joy has waned momentarily.

A specific scent can bring your childhood memories flooding back, can’t it? The very whiff of a freshly-opened box of crayons transports me to my doodling days. I'm pretty sure I don’t really want to smell like crayons, though. If you do, this Demeter Crayon cologne is for you. Or you could just colour-in your wrists. 

It turns out that designers Charles and Ray Eames shared my love of the wee waxy wonders. This Eames ‘Crayons’ mug uses a pattern inspired by their belief that “the smallest things in life are the best, because they are the ones that make us nostalgic.” It’s £9.40 from Made In Design, and there’s a matching notebook, too. 

Over on Etsy, Que Interesante is selling these nifty chemistry crayon labels to stick on our Crayolas, telling us the chemical element, compound, or reaction that corresponds to each colour. No, really. Apparently Barium Nitrate burns the colour of a green Crayola! I am so in love with these, and for less than a tenner - £9.72, to be freakishly precise – they can be mine. 

Further adding to my overall mature, sophisticated, and worldly-wise air, I am firmly in the gaudy and plastic camp when it comes to jewellery, so this Punky Pins crayon charm necklace is ticking all my boxes. It’s £15. 

If you prefer your crayon-chic to be, well, a bit more chic, Hilary Laing is the woman for you. Her textile designs are inspired by childhood, and most of her prints are a riot of colourful, scribbly, crayony goodness. This Ilaria Scarf is £60, while the Ilaria bracelet is just £15. And to continue our robot love this week, these frilly knickers are £12.50.

So, what was your favourite Crayola colour? Mine was Periwinkle Blue. Here's a handy infographic to aid your memory. Look! Look at all those colours! Hang your heads in shame, rainbows. You ain't got nothing on Crayola.

Matt Pugh's Sitting Dog Lamp

This isn't the first Matt Pugh lamp that we've featured. Oh no, he's been putting cones on the heads of poor defenseless animals for ages and there's nothing that anyone can do to stop him*. But this sitting dog lamp is exclusive to Pedlars and I honestly think that he's my favourite.

I find myself (don't laugh) feeling sorry for the dog lamp. He looks sad! You'd have to put him in a corner and then he'd be a lot like the dogs on Dog Shaming and I want to cuddle all of them. Sad and pathetic-looking animals always win me over. I think it's the eyes. I'm a total pushover. I still cry at The Incredibly Journey.

Anyway, back to the lamp. The base is solid walnut, and he sits about a foot tall (without the shade). You can buy him direct from Pedlars (and nowhere else) and he's £195.

*No dogs were harmed in the making of this lamp. Probably.

Let Her Eat Cake: Bramble & Lemon Loaf

There's nothing that says the end of August like the scratched arms and sticky lips of a good blackberrying session. That is not a euphemism. Blackberries are yummy picked straight from the bush, but are also awesome in this not-too-sweet cake.

This recipe started life as Dan Lepard's lemon butter cake from his RAD book Short & Sweet. It has changed a lot since then - I prefer yoghurt to condensed milk and I can't be bothered to faff around measuring lemon juice. And obviously Dan's lemon cake doesn't have blackberries in. Or a sticky blackberry syrup drizzled over the top.

If you're a maths geek like me you'll probably arrange your blackberries in a geometric pattern (kind of a cake spreadsheet). If you're a bit arty you'll probably scatter them freeform. Either way is fine and the result is totally worth the scratches.

Bramble & Lemon Loaf

You'll need:
  • 2 medium eggs, separated
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 100g melted unsalted butter
  • 100g plain yoghurt
  • Zest & juice of 3 lemons
  • 275g self raising flour
  • 150g blackberries (or as many as you can find on your local bramble bush)
Optional blackberry syrup for drizzling (leftovers are lovely in champagne!):
  • A few blackberries
  • 100ml water
  • 100g caster sugar
Make it!
  • Preheat the oven to 180c / gas 4. Grease and line a 19cm loaf tin.
  • Beat the egg whites with 50g of the sugar until they form a stiff white foam.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar, butter, yoghurt, lemon zest and juice.
  • Sift in the flour and fold through.
  • Gently but quickly stir in the fluffy egg whites.
  • Tip the batter into the loaf tin, it'll be quite thick and you might need to smooth it over. Push the blackberries into the top of the batter.
  • Bake for around 50 minutes, until cooked through. Leave to cool.
  • For the syrup, put the ingredients in a pan and boil for 5 minutes.
  • Drizzle a little syrup over the cake.

Etsy pick: Clare Illustrates retro New York and London

We've seen the awesome artistic results triggered by Paris Vs New York, but who would you plump for in London Vs New York? It's a tough call to make between the hustle of the big smoke and the bustle of the big apple. Perhaps the Etsy shop of Clare Illustrates can help us decide.

Featuring the work of Bristol-based illustrator Clare Phillips, this gorgeous retro artwork is less about setting the cities off against each other and more about being madly in love with both of them - a sentiment that I definitely share. Want to see the contenders?

Why yes, I'd love to be in New York where even hailing a taxi cab can make you feel like you've stepped off a film set. Buy this espresso set and feel a million bucks for £20.

Or I could save those pennies and spend them on the very prettiest kind of rainy day in Springtime London.

No. I'm firmly sticking with London. I'll swear my allegiance with these fridge magnets available for £5.

Wait! I love peanuts! I definitely wish I was in New York. I'll say howdy with these appetising versions of the magnets.

Luckily I don't have to pick a favourite with these London and New York mugs: perfect in their subject matter, as well as in their typography and with their cute image of the bus stop and taxi inside each mug. For only £14 for the set I can easily ♥ NY and London.
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