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Friday 29 November 2013

The boy and his poison: An Early Anniversary

In a mere two days it will become socially acceptable to start every day with a mouthful of chocolate, for company lunches to extend into late night debauchery, and for morning hangovers to be admired rather than reproached. Christmas is coming.

I'd like to say I toyed with a healthy pre-tox cocktail, but then a healthy gulp of inspiration courtesy of the Rotary Bar's Anniversary Cocktail led me astray. They make theirs 'festival size' topping up the delicious passion fruit and gin base (with that little Aperol hit) with soda water and, whilst I'm all for necking the stuff by the pint, I prefer to go a little shorter and a little less gassy. So, before you erode your your taste buds with mulled wine and eggnog next month, give them a little wake up call with this pre-Christmas treat.

You'll need:
  • 100ml Passion fruit juice
  • 50ml Gin
  • 25ml Aperol
  • 25ml Lemon juice
Then make:
  1. Fill a shaker with ice.
  2. Add to your shaker the gin, passion fruit juice and lemon juice.
  3. Shake for a few seconds until blended.
  4. Pluck out an oversized ice cube from your freezer and relocate it into a large tumbler.
  5. Strain the shaker into the tumbler.
  6. Pour the 25ml of Aperol over the top of the drink and serve.
If you do fancy it longer just top up with some sparkling mineral water or soda water. Also, if giant ice cubes are your thing, you may want to check out these incredible whisky balls, perfect for Old Fashioned and Sazerac season.

Friday Wishlist: Gorgeous things you'll want to buy RIGHT NOW

The perfect sparkly dress. £68 from Oasis.

The perfect vintage baubles. £5.95 from Quince.

The perfect polar bear measuring cups. £36 from Anthropolgoie.

The perfect pyjamas. £62 from & Other Stories.

The perfect compass espresso set. £19.95 from Graham & Green.

The perfect shoes. £75 from ASOS.

Sluttery Sales Spy: Orla Kiely, Anthropologie & Oasis

Sluttery Sales Spy: the juicy maraschino cherry atop a glorious Black Friday gateau. Delish. You can have first bite. NO, I insist. Go on.


Paper Dolls embellished bodycon dress, £38 (was £60), ASOS
'Tis the season to EMBELLISH, and I don't mean the truth. The peplum on this Paper Dolls dress is heavy on the old embellishment - top marks - and the back view features a cut-out which looks like it wouldn't be a total nightmare if you need to wear a strapless bra with it. I'm also greatly enjoying both the colour AND the detailing around the neck - which could look like you don't know how to iron, but instead looks ace.

Oasis Tyler dress, £48 (was £60), House of Fraser
The model's about to deck us, so we'll need to be quick. Points of interest re: this Oasis Tyler dress:

* Purpley-maroon
* Leopard print
* Slim belt
* £12 off

All right, let's leg it before she beats us up for looking at her.
I've been eyeing up this collarless coat from ASOS for quite some time. I'm not sure how boobulars fit into the wearing equation, but WHATEVS, because it's really pretty AND you can turn up the sleeves to reveal leathery cuffs. The term 'leathery cuffs' has inexplicably made me squirm, but the concept is still A+.

Tira capelet, £69.95 (was £138), Anthropologie
Capelet. What a lovely word. Capelet capelet CAPELET. Quite like Capulet, isn't it? There won't be a curse o' both your houses if you buy the Tira capelet from Anthropologie. It is, according to them, suffused with romance and a hint of the unexpected. I think you can clearly see that from the picture. 

But SOFT! What light through yonder window breaks? It is 20% off almost everything at Anthropologie until Monday (not the sales stuff - don't be greedy). I was LITERALLY typing this paragraph when this news arrived in my mailbox. HOW DID THEY KNOW? *searches house for hidden cameras; retracts all previous piss-taking about Anthro's product descriptions in case they KNOW WHERE I LIVE*


Map print skirt, £33.60 (was £48), Becky, Queen of Frocks

"Do you know where Greenland is?" 

"I'm sitting on it."

Such japes can be a part of your daily life if you buy this fandabidoze map skirt from Becky, Queen of Frocks' Etsy store. She's having a Black Friday extravaganza - I'm very taken with this tea party skirt, too. 

Orla Kiely striped skirt, £42 (was £105), BrandAlley
BrandAlley - my new favourite place since Sian wrote about their Louche sale - has some great stuff in at the mo, WILDLY REDUCED, including this Orla Kiely striped skirt, and a whole heap of French Connection beauties. They also have millions of Missoni shoes with 70% OR MORE off the original price, which may be relevant to your interests.

I have been waiting patiently for Ollie & Nic's intensely cute apple bag to become reducified, and the wait is OVER. Move fast, though - there's 20% off this bag and EVERYTHING ELSE until midnight tonight. Enter the code XMAS20 at the checkout and watch money miraculously disappear from the internet and reappear in your pocket. They must have Derren Brown working the tills. 

Wild ponies messenger bag, £38.25 (was £45), Cath Kidston
Gasp! Cath Kidston has 15% off everything until December 1st - simply use the code ELF15 at the checkout. This wild ponies messenger bag is splendid, as are the cutest Christmas decorations I have ever seen. My Christmas-present-buying klaxon is giving me a headache, it's so LOUD.

What have you bought this week? I got the 3D cherries jumper from last week's Sales Spy; I think I'm about to buy one of Kat's MOVING Christmas jumpers; and I'm definitely going to snap up Anthro's cocktail chatter napkins while that 20% offer is on. 

Don't forget to hit us up in the comments if you've spotted any unmissable Black Friday deals - sharing is caring!

How to take care of your shoes this winter

It’s one thing to be wrapped up warm in winter (we’ve got your scarves, gloves and coats sorted) but even when you’ve found the perfect winter boot, they're not easy to take care of. Snow, rain, gritted roads and ice are going to play havoc with your brand new shoes. Here are some tips to help keep your lovely winter footwear looking brilliant.

Taking care of your shoes in the snow.

First things first: make sure you invest in a shoe protector or waterproofing spray. There’s no avoiding the elements so you might as well do all you can to battle them. (This has all gone a bit Narnia, have you met a man called Mr Tummnus recently?)

Mr Tummnus doesn't wear shoes, he really has no business being here.

No matter how tempting, don’t put your shoes anywhere near a radiator. Sure, they’ll be all snug and warm when you put them on, but this extreme heat cracks the leather and means your shoes need repairing and replacing quicker. Your soles will split and you won’t notice until you’ve stepped in a puddle and you've got soggy socks.

Clean up any mud from the leather to stop staining, and be patient. Start keeping spare shoes at work if you have to. Radiators will ruin that leather in no time. And it’ll still be cold even when the snow has gone and you'll have nothing to wear but ruined shoes.

What if it rains?

You’re not wearing suede, are you? The very worst thing for suede is water. It's suede Kryptonite. Those lovely suede boots can still be worn in winter and autumn, but on those really bright days when the sun is shining and it’s freezing cold.

Don’t wear these if there’s a high chance of rain.

Even when they’re this pretty. Suede is often quite thin and has no waterproof qualities at all so your toes will be frozen by the end of the day if they get wet.

Wear these instead.

Let’s be realistic: it rains quite a lot in the UK. There are going to be unexpected downpours. If your shoes do get wet, let them dry naturally. If they’re not very sturdy, stuff them with scrunched up newspaper - this will help them keep their shape as well as soaking up any water. Don’t clean any mud of the suede straight away - let it dry and you should be able to remove it with a soft brush (yep, that spare toothbrush should work just fine).

If you’ve got removable insoles, take these out let them air dry. This will stop them from getting… mildewy (so sexy) and they should dry quicker.

Socks can go on the radiator. Mmmm.. toasty.

These will stop your toes freezing.

How do I stop grit and salt stains?

Grit and salt will ruin your shoes if you’re not careful. Don't come in from the pub and forget about them until the next day. This is how your favourite shoes get ruined and forgotten about and beyond repair.

Covering your shoes with a damp cloth for a few hours will definitely help get rid of any salt residue (yep, do this while napping, you mulled wine-soaked boozehound). Giving them a clean with warm water will help the stains and then leaving to - you’ve guessed it - dry naturally. If there’s a bit of colour loss, some shoe polish should sort that and your shoes will look as good as new in the morning. Aren’t you pleased you didn’t go straight to sleep now?

No slipping with those grips.

What about ice?

Caring for your shoes in icy weather is much the same as looking after them in ice or snow - ice melts, after all. But that doesn't mean you can gambol about like Bambi on ice. Making sure you don’t fall on your ace or break your ankle. It’s not enough to be wearing flat shoes, you have to choose a shoe that has some grip. In some snowy countries, women have been known to use stiletto heels as a sort of ‘pick’ to stick into the ice. You are almost certainly not that lady. You’ll be the lady with the sulky face in the plaster cast. Take care out there, fashionable adventurers.

Post sponsored by Shoes International.

Thursday 28 November 2013

Digital Dudz: Christmas Jumpers That MOVE


For the last month I've been mentally crossing off days until December 1st, when I can put carols on Spotify and don my Christmas jumper which this year has lights built into it. Touch me.

Christmas jumpers are just fantastic. Whether they're undercover classy Fair Isle knits, or full-out festive hideousness, they never fail to make me extremely happy, and look forward to Christmas even more.

And now there is this development in the field of Christmas knitwear from the amazing Digital Dudz (terrible name, brilliant idea). MOVING JUMPERS. Specifically, moving jumpers designed by an ex-Nasa scientist specifically for "total ugly Christmas sweater party domination". *claps excitedly* God, scientists are smashing.

Just look at it. Bloody brilliant.

This witchcraft happens courtesy of your phone. Download the Digital Dudz iPhone or Android app and pick the right setting for your top (or the wrong one. Cat's eyes peering out of a fireplace = festively terrifying.). Each jumper or sweater has a little pouch that fits your phone. Switch the app on, add phone - bam.

Not moving (boring)

Moving. Hooray! 

The Snowing Snowglobe is slightly more subtle than the others and the potential for seriously tripping out drunks is therefore greatly multiplied. Excellent.

Caroling Kitty is inspired by the very best-worst present that any of my friends have ever got: the Jingle Cats CD, which I highly recommend you investigate. And then probably cry somewhere.

Singing! This would scare the hell out of my cat. And me. And pretty much everyone I walk past. But the scariest one of all is...




The Creepy Creeping Santa jumper is, like all the Digital Dudz jumpers, £34.95 from morphsuits. Dominate that Christmas party!

Brilliantly Boozy Bits and Bobs

'Tis almost the season for officially making merry - as if you really need an excuse. Whether you are hosting a seasonal soiree, looking for a present for your favourite booze hound, or simply fancy treating yourself, here are some of my favourite tips for those who like their tipples.

The practicality of a coaster and a cocktail recipe, all presented in gorgeous retro style? It's really no surprise I love Carly Dodsley's range from the Southbank Centre. There are four designs of these gorgeous ceramic coasters to pick from, each given their own colour scheme. There's the Gin Sour pictured, or you could go for an Applejack Sour, a Deauville or a tasty Pick-Me-Up. They're oh-so-easy to pick up at £6 each.

More coasters, and this time for people who might fancy some beer as much as some whisky or gin. These letterpress beer mats have been designed especially for the V&A Shop by A Two Pipe Problem. For only a couple of quid each, in my head they are A Two Pound Party.

The Fishs Eddy range at Liberty also plays on the vintage cocktail thing brilliantly. They've got a range of four different recipe glasses, including the seductive charms of the Merry Widow shown above. Or mix yourself up a Blue Devil, a Brandy Sour or a Moulin Rouge for a very merry little Christmas. The glasses are each £6.95.

Anthropologie may be calling these Cocktail chatter napkins but really it's all about the fizz. "It's never to cold for champagne," according to this little set of four napkins. Well, if you insist. They're yours for £20. The champagne's on ice, obviously.

Though we're now so many drinks in, your power of recall might not be what it should but you might remember Crispin Finn's cocktail prints? A select few of the designs are now available as tea towels, including the Negroni. They're priced at £12 and a suitable treat for finally doing the washing up, perhaps?

Finally, actual booze! You'd be very lucky if one of these Cocktail lover gift kits turned up in your Christmas stocking. It's proper fancy - as you'd expect with a £115 price tag -  with matching rose gold cocktail strainer, jigger and shaker, as well as swizzle sticks and martini glasses. Oh, and that actual booze - a nice bottle of Sipsmith Barley vodka in this case. Cheers!

Sluttishly Savoury: Crispy Lamb Buns

This is one of my absolute favourite new recipes, I've had the pleasure of eating at a wee Asian tapas place down here in Brighton call Yum Yum Ninja (Best. Name. Ever) who do not only a great non-alcoholic cocktail but also something they call the Legendary Ninja Bun! I obviously couldn't pass up a dish with a name like that and, thankfully, it turned out to be as legendary as they claimed. Obviously I then set about figuring out how to make these at home.

Now the overall time it takes to make these is long, but most of that is just spent waiting for the lamb to cook and the dough to rise, so do what I do and spend that extra time playing some more GTAV!

Crispy Lamb Buns (makes about 6 buns)
You'll Need:

For the lamb:
  • 750g cheap cut of lamb (I used a shoulder but anything with a bit of fat on it is good) 
  • 1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger roughly chopped 
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed 
  • 1 hot chili pierced 
  • 8 tbsp dark soy sauce 
  • 3 tbsp Chinese 5 spice powder 
  • 150ml rice wine (I just chucked in some Sake I had left over from a party) 
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
For the buns:
  • 90ml warm water 
  • 1 tsp dried yeast 
  • 1.5 tbsp oil (rapeseed if you've got it but sunflower is fine) 
  • 150g plain flour 
  • pinch of salt 
  • 1 tbsp sugar 
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • glug of oil 
  • spring onions and peppers sliced fine vertically 
  • Hosin sauce! (I love hosin sauce) 
Make It!
  1. Throw all the lamb ingredients in a saucepan or casserole dish and pour in enough water to just cover the lamb. Bring to the boil and lower to a medium low heat, pop the lid on and let cook for about three hours. Do the hoovering...ha, yeah right, make yourself a gin and tonic. Keep an eye on the liquid levels. 
  2. After the lamb is cooked and falling apart, take it off the heat and leave to cool in the liquid. You can do this the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight. Be sure to skim any fat off the top. 
  3. Now for the buns! Pop your yeast in the warm water and stir, give it 5 mins to activate before adding the oil. 
  4. Put the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a bowl and pour in the yeast water, mixing vigorously with your hand until it comes together in a ball of dough. 
  5. Pop the dough on a clean oiled surface and knead for about 5-8 mins it doesn't need too long just until it becomes lovely and smooth (I call this the smackable stage) 
  6. Pop in in an oiled bowl and leave to rise for an hour or so, until it doubles in size. Pour yourself a glass of wine, you deserve it. 
  7. Set a pan of water on a high heat (this is to steam your lovely buns) and turn on the grill to medium. Lift the lamb on to a baking tray and pop it under the grill to get nice and crispy, it's almost (ALMOST) impossible to dry it out at this point, so don't worry if the next bit takes a while. Don't chuck the cooking liquid as you can always freeze it for noodle soups or reduce it down to make stir fry sauce. 
  8. Scoop your dough out on to a clean surface and gently roll it into a sausage shape. Take a floured knife and divide it into six equal pieces. 
  9. Roll each piece into a ball and then, with a rolling pin or the empty bottle of wine you drank, roll them into little flat discs about 1/2 inch thick. Brush one side with oil and fold them in half with the oiled sides touching, space them evenly in your steamer and pop it on top of the now boiling water, turn the heat down to medium. 
  10. When the lamb looks crispy on top, pull it out and shred the meat with two forks, pull out any bones and discard. 
  11. Once the buns have puffed up (about 10 mins), take them off the pan of water. 
  12. Now Buns! Assemble! Stuff some of the lamb in a bun, add a dollop of hoisin sauce (or chilli sauce of your choice), and top with some sliced spring onions and peppers. Now munch to your hearts content!

Top Ten Dairy Free Recipes

Dairy free? Never fear! We're here with much inspiration without milk, butter, yogurt and cheese. Thanks largely to Laura H's brilliant dairy free creations and Sara's fabulous vegan recipes, you'll never go hungry again.

In lieu of toast and butter, or cereal with milk, try these brilliant breakfast cups on for size. Not an eggy person? How about scrambled tofu instead? Or, you can go the English muffin and jam route for breakfast. Muffins are a legitimate way to have cake for breakfast, and our apple muffins are damn tasty.

Speaking of cake, we have a rhubarb cake that's absolutely gorgeous. So's our pumpkin, orange and fig cake. For smaller cakes, try these black velvet cakes (that's marshmallow on top) or coconutty tom yum cupcakes.

If you think you can't have chocolate when you're dairy free, then think again! Most good quality dark chocolate is ok. Good news! Celebrate with chocolate brownies, chocolate torte and chocolate orange cake. When you're done with cake, (is that even possible?!) it's time to get started on the dark chocolate fudge.

Dairy free dinners are as exciting as the sweet stuff, too! (If you avoid dairy because you're vegan, don't forget to check your wine choices.) East, and South East Asia are good places to find your meals, they don't use much dairy in their foods. Try Chinese crispy beef, Thai jungle curry or Japanese spiced tofu. Falafel is a good choice for a quick and easy tea, as are samosa stuffed potatoes. For something a bit special, try vegan pepper and courgette quiche, the leftovers make a great lunch the following day!

If you're only avoiding cow's milk, you can go mad with the goat's and sheep milk. Say hello to beetroot feta frittersgrilled peach and goats cheese saladhaggis, pomegranate and feta salad and squash and goat's cheese risotto.

Time for dessert, yes? Avocado for pudding sounds mad, but it makes a creamy mousse that even sceptics will love. Coconut crème brûlée is a custardy dairy free treat that's brilliant for afters. If you like the cardamom and coconut combo, a couple of Nankhatai with your coffee will definitely hit the spot. 

For more dairy free delights, keep an eye on Laura H's posts, every other week.

Still peckish? We've got loads more top ten recipe posts for you!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Sluttishly Snug: Cheat's Double Glazing

My cat is forced to live in a box for extra warmth
This is an urgent broadcast from the DON'T FREEZE AT HOME department.

Does your flat make you feel like this cat? Mine does. It also makes my cat feel like this, because - well, because that is my cat.

Every winter since I moved in, I've suffered the 'characterful period flat' curse which is extremely draughty windows. Last winter, I sealed them up with copies of the Sunday Times and the beautiful circus tape I got with my Butterscotch and Beesting lampshade. This helped with the whistling gaps around the windows, but not the glass itself.

Then this week, I got one of the most romantic presents of my life thus far. My boyfriend bought me double glazing film. Doesn't sound romantic? Then, my friend, you don't understand the utter joy of not having wind coming in through your windows even when they're closed!

I didn't even know this film was a thing. It is amazing and I absolutely have to share it with you because it's cheap, insanely fun to apply (after an initial bit of faff) and makes a massive difference.

Step 1: Remove film and tape from box and then arrange neatly on a white background
The one we used is called Stormguard (you can get it for £8.99 or so at places like Homebase, or on Amazon for £7.99). For that, you get 6 sqm m of film, which folds out, and double sided tape. Line an area around your windows with the tape, and then apply your film. Once it's there, use a hairdryer to remove all the wrinkles and creases and make it tighten. This bit is insanely entertaining, and a bit like being in a JML commercial.

Tips! (As ever, I have made the mistakes so you don't have to).
  • Don't worry about being very exact with how your apply your film. As long as it isn't enormously baggy, it will all tighten up with the hair dryer.
  • Allow plenty of room for the sides of the windows, as the film will contract and you might end up, like me, howling at your window.
  • Try not to rip it. It's not particularly weak, but just don't. You might end up, like me, howling at your window.
  • DO NOT let your cat in the room at the same time. Ambridge basically thought that I'd arranged a trip to feline Thorpe Park and spent five minutes joyfully throwing her toys around and pouncing on the film before I removed her. She was most put out.
Despite my 'tips', applying this is very easy. The film is a bit of a faff, simply because there is so much of it, but once you've got it chopped up, it's fine. Being some kind of DIY saint, my boyfriend did my bedroom windows for me, and then I had a go at my sitting room windows the other night. Even if you are also in possession of a DIY saint, insist on doing the hairdryer bit yourself. It really is the best fun.

Well, it's nearly the best fun. Having toasty(er) rooms and not being able to feel a minor hurricane coming in through your windows tops that list fairly comprehensively. And when spring comes, you can take it down and reclaim your windows for the warm weather.

So for now you can feel more like this:
Or like this.
Or like this (That's enough pictures of your cat now - ed.)
Leg forts = best

Baking for Beginners: Sweet Potato & Marshmallow Blondies

An admission: I've never been that bothered about brownies. On paper, I think they sound marvellous; in reality, they're just a wee bit too rich for my tastes. I am, however, a big fan of blondies (see also: Blondie). A little less full-on, blondies are the paler, less intense cousin of the brownie.

In honour of Thanksgiving, happening tomorrow in the good ol' US of A, I have taken one of their traditional holiday side dishes - marshmallow-topped sweet potato - and repurposed it as a blondie.

The addition of sweet potato lends a wonderful fudginess to the blondies, while the marshmallow topping gives an extra layer of chewy sweetness, and the pecans are pleasingly crunchy. Whip up a batch of these little beauts, and you'll have plenty to be thankful for. Don't use your Instagram marshmallows, they're too pretty.

Sweet Potato & Marshmallow Blondies (makes 16)
You will need:
  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato (should weigh around 360g uncooked - you'll need about 200g of cooked sweet potato flesh)
  • A little butter for greasing
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 150g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped into smallish pieces
  • 100g pecans, chopped
  • 100g white mini marshmallows (find them in the baking aisle)
Make it!
  1. Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.
  2. Pierce the sweet potato all over with a fork, then bake in the oven for around 45-50 minutes. 
  3. Once it's soft, cut in half and scoop out the flesh. Set aside to cool, and turn the oven down to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
  4. Grease an 18x18cm deepish cake tin, then line with baking paper and grease again. 
  5. Combine the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and salt.
  6. Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract, followed by the sweet potato flesh. Mix well.
  7. By hand, fold in the flour until combined but not over-mixed. Now add the white chocolate and pecans and stir together.
  8. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer or toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
  9. Add a layer of mini marshmallows, whack the heat of the oven right up, and place the tin back in to allow the marshmallows to melt and start to turn golden. This takes only a few minutes, so keep a close eye!
  10. Remove from the oven, and slice into 16 squares while the marshmallow is still melty (this helps achieve a smoooother cut). Serve warm or cool.
A happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers! 
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