Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Eat your heart out Delia!

The holiday season is upon us and like many other women up and down the country that means that i'm in for a month of baking yummy goodies. I love cooking but most of the time don't get to do that much as I haven't got the time, but at Christmas that all changes - the smell of freshly baked cookies goes hand in hand with the fresh pine Christmas tree and mulled wine. Yum.

So on Saturday I went to the Bot's parents house to learn how to bake a proper Christmas cake.  I used to be pretty good at baking cakes but since I went wheat/gluten free my cakes have been less than impressive.  The Bot's mum is a bit of a cake pro, often cooking around 12 Christmas cakes for various friends and neighbours.  She is also gluten free so knows the pain of cooking sans gluten.

Parakeet feeding in the garden

Locked outside by the Bot. Little git.

Looking good

In my opinion, the best bit about baking a cake is getting to lick the spoon, and the bowl!
The finished article
 Et voila, not bad eh?  Now I just have to decide how to decorate it...for now it's wrapped up like a little present but I have to decide what to do.  Traditional royal icing with a box, a Christmas scene?  What do you think?  Answers on a postcard please!

After the succes of Saturday, I decided to cook my tradional Christmas cookies on Sunday.  I've baked these for the past three years and they are now a festive favourite in our household.  They are the easiest biscuits to make - ever - and certainly won't dissapoint! I wish I could credit the recipe but I found it online ages ago.

200g Caster sugar
400g Plain flour
175g unsalted butter (always use unsalted for baking, you can add in the salt later if needs be)
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
11/2 teaspoons of vanilla essence

1. Preheat over to 180C.
2. Mix butter and sugar until creamy.
3. Add eggs and vanilla essence.
4. Add in flour (make sure you sift the flour), salt and baking powder.
5. Now take the mixture and seperate it into two fat balls. If the mixture is too sticky add a dash more flour, but not too much otherwise the dough will become tough.  Put these balls in the fridge for at least an hour.

When the balls have cooled for an hour, take them out one at a time and roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm.  Then have fun cutting out whatever shapes you like!

Bake for 8-11 minutes until they are golden brown, and then decorate as you like.  Most of the time I tend to leave them plain, but sometimes I use plain white icing and sprinkles.

The Bot decided to bake the star, and the star cutout, so you could push the star through after baking. A bit like a child's toy, but then, he is a big child.

I tend to make up the mixture and cook two batches over the course of a week.  Each ball makes about 20-30 small/medium sized cookies.

I hope you don't mind the slight change in my posts - this blog is focused towards bargain fashion, but it's meant to incorporate all aspects of my life, and at this time of year I tend to focus on food!

Happy baking, and let me know how you get on if you attempt these biscuits.  Or if you've got any other good Christmas recipes you think I should be trying let me know! xx

Friday, 26 November 2010

Andrew Barton + BAAF + bubbles = a fine evening in London town

Me, Gav, Blakers the ungrateful and Sophs

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that on Wednesday evening I and a few of the gals from work went to a charity event at Andrew Barton's salon in Covent Garden. The do was to raise funds for the very worthwhile charity The British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF). Bubbles were served on arrival at the small and intimate gathering at the salon and then Andrew, as a patron of the charity, gave a few words. And can I say when a genuinely nice bloke he was - just as he comes across on tv, that warm infectious smile shone through. An adopted child himself, his words were heartfelt and meaningful and you could see how much he believed in and valued the charity.

Anna and Sophs

The main dude himself, Mr. Andrew Barton

Digging the doggy wallpaper

Champs chilling in the wash bowl

After the speech, a raffle. First prize a cut 'n' colour at the salon, second prize a scarf and gloves, third prize, bubbles. Unfortunately I didnt win anything (I was convinced i'd win the hairtcut) but my friend Blakers did - the bubbles - and did she accept the prize gracefully? Did she heck. 'Can I swap?' were her words to Barton on receiving the gift. I think most people say thanks Sarah - you can't take that girl anywhere honestly!

Blakers hides her disappointment at not winning first prize and manages a smile with Barton
Me and Justin, my new fave hairdresser
"Ah right, yes, I get exactly what you mean. Uh huh, mmmmm."

After some more bubbles we were whisked downstairs for a hair consultation. I admit I was a little apprehensive about this part of the evening. As a girl who flits around her hairdressers and is quite non-committal I feared for the worst, "madam, you're 'air is terrible" (i'm not sure why i've gien the faux hairdresser a french accent, it just seemed to fit).  As it turns out I needn't have worried, much. The hair wasn't quite as bad as I thought and so I asked a question I have never asked a hairdresser before - what would you recommend? The response - just a trim (turns othe split fringe is a bit on-trend at the mo, isn't that the way when you don't actually try you look better?) but with some colour. Slightly darker all over, with lighter bits underneath and at the ends.  Make sensey?  Probably not.  Think Alexa Chung or Caroline Flack.

Alexa Chung
Caroline Flack

I have to say I've always loved Alexa's hair, so I was sold. I've booked myself in for next Friday so fingers crossed I like it, otherwise I'm a bit fooked for crimbo! 

Anna "two cuts" and our other fave stylist

We ended up having a really nice evening and on departing we received a little gift from Andrew - some Redken goodies.  The stylist I spoke to Justin (awesome dude) told me one week of using Redken products and i'd be sold. Try one day. My hair is super clean and shiny after just one wash and two days.  Damn it!

Hairdressing aside it's the people who really make this salon unique. The stylists we met were awesome and made you feel extremely welcome. Andrew actually said in his speech that when opened a year ago (actually it might have been two years ago, god my memory is shocking) that he had wanted to create a small, intimate and welcoming salon - one where customers didn't feel intimidated. Well he certainly achieved it. 

Thank you to everyone at Andrew Barton and BAAF for a wonderful evening xx

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A right royal knees-up

Unless you've become a hermit the past week you'll know that there is a royal
wedding taking place very soon. And not just any old royal wedding, one that we're actually interested in, Wills and Kate. Oh yeah, we get the day off gratis too - nice one Cameron, guess you think you're on to a winner with the timing of this one, non! Oh yes, the media has gone wild speculating the date, the venue, the dress and the public seem to be fully on-board (I think the day off has defintely helped!).  In fact a friend of mine has already declared that she will be holding an official 'Kate and Wills' wedding party - hats compulsory of course. 

Well the date has been set - Friday 29th April - which means two four day weekends in a row, with just three working days in-between.  The way life should be really.  It also conincides neatly with my wedding of the year as it's the day one of my besties ties the know with her beau.  Move over Kate and Wills, that weekend is dedicated to Cullers and Marky!

Anyway, I read yesterday in the Telegraph fashion online that Fred & Florence at Tesco had released a replica of the Issa London dress Kate wore to announce the engagement, and that said dress sold out in an hour! Impressive. (The Issa dress also sold out in an hour, according to the Huffington Post)

So what do we think, good replicor, or bad? I might add at this point that Tesco's dress come in at a snip at £16 compared to the Issa dress which costs £385.  Cashing in on the royals, or genuinely providing an affordable imitation for consumers? Ok so you're not going to get the quality, that is of course a given, and I think they could have carried across more of the gorgeous ruching across the centre panel. Oh, and they forgot the arms (is it just more or do 3/4 and full-length arms add a certain class to a dress?), but I don't think it's a bad copy.  I'm sure i've seen similar styles at M&S for a lot more.

I've no doubt we'e going to be seeing a lot more 'as seen on Kate' replicas hitting the shelves over the next few months, years and even decades. This lady is sure to be one of our generations newest style icons. Personally, I find her dress rather conservative, but then who doesn't try to impress the in-laws during the courting phase? 

And I can only imagine how quickly the imitations of her wedding dress will take to hit the shelves - I'm betting 24 hours, max.

To finish off a little video that was sent to me a couple of days ago, in-keeping with the royal theme of today's post, naturally.


Monday, 22 November 2010

You say goodbye, and I say hello

Hello lovelies, did you have good weekends?  The Bot made a welcome return which was delightful and the rest of the weekend was spent having some QT with my dear friend Wehrle and partying on Saturday night.  I double booked myself but luckily both the parties were in Dalston only a few roads apart.  The slight glitch - the second party was fancy dress, 'Under the Sea'!  On the plus side it meant I could re-use my Bestival costume and become a mermaid again, good times!

This outfit would be a lot cheaper had it not been for the shoes - but how could I resist?  I picked them up in Argentina on my travels - i'd been looking for a pair just like them so when I stumbled across this gorgeous little boutique in Palermo it was an easy decision.  I know I wear a lot of Primark and high street clothes but I love having bits that you can pretty much guarantee no-one else at home will have!  Especially when you get to reply, "Oh this? I picked it up in Argentina!".

I picked up this Singer sewing machine cover at the weeked for only £2.  What a bargain!  As you'll probably know if you read the blog when I can find the time I like to make my own clothes (unfortuntely this isn't as frequent as i'd like and I can be a bit lazy in actually completely projects) but because of this I love old vintage sewing memorabilia.  At my mum's house we have her grandmother's old sewing machine.  It weighs an absolute ton but it's gorgeous.

And the briefcase?  That was my dads.  It reminds me so much of him that I couldn't never part with it. Ha, I bet he never thought when he bought it (he was a solicitor) that it would end up being used as a prop on this blog!

I think this may be a debut for the glasses on the blog too.  I wear glasses for reading, at work and driving, but my eyesight isn't that bad so I don't tend to wear them the rest of the time.  These ones are from D&A - they were actually the free pair when you bought a designer pair of glass.  I got Prada, and naturally I wear these D&A own brand ones which were only £11.95 all the time.  That'll teach me to get something just for the label!

Dress: £15,Primark
Shirt: £14.99,H&M
Tights: £1.50,Primark
Shoes: £60,Argentina
Briefcase: free, via my dad
Earrings: £5,Vintage fair
Glasses: free, D&A

Friday, 19 November 2010

When in doubt, layer it up

I've been feeling like a very bad blogger of late but honestly 'life' just seems to have taken over of late.  Not that i'm complaining, what's not to love about catching up with friends, but I do feel like i've neglected the blog a little.  I'm also blaming the Bot - he's been away the past week in the States which means i've got no one to help me with the photos! Last time I attempted to take my own shots this happened. 

Aaaaaaaanyways...these photos were taken at the weekend - the Bot and I had to pop down to Portsmouth to sort out a few of my dads bits (he used to live down there) and of course I took it as an opportunity to get a new back-drop for some photos - two birds, right? 

I actually bought this turban aaaaaaaages ago but hadn't quite got round to wearing it yet. The lovely Sarah over at Mocha-Soy-Whippy, who does lady elegance so well,  has the same one.

For me winter is all about layering it up to the max.  I'm terrible at controlling my temperature - freezing one minute and hot-flushing all over the place the next - so layers are ideeeeeeeeeal!

There is something about wearing driving gloves that makes me feel like i've gone back to a forgotten time

Hat/turban: £15, Topshop
Fur stole: free, via the Bot's auntie
Brooch: £10, Dulwich market
Cardigan: £12.50, Primark
Shirt: free, via a friend of a friend of a friend
Leggins: £8, H&M
Boots: £15, Primark
Gloves: £2.50, Primark

Always take advantage of clothes going free - this shirt was actually from a work friend's boyfriend's housemate. Random, but good if you're on a budget!

Have wonderful weekends one and all xx

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Shoes and bongos

If you've got a spare five minutes, check this out! Using the hundreds of words that have been recorded by celebrities such as Davina McCall, Jamie Oliver and Jon Snow you can create bespoke amusing sentences.  The best will be shown on TV and online.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Argentina of dreams

Why hello lovely readers, after what seems like an eternity I am finally back online and back on the blog!

Thank you for all your well wishes before I left and apologies for not responding to everyone individually. I actually came back last Saturday night but i've spent the last week catching up things. And catching up with all your blog posts - you guys have been busy while i've been away!

Argentina was the most amazing of all holidays. I'll try to keep it brief - I could  carry on for hours.

We started off in the capital Buenos Aires - a cross between a European city and New York.  Lots of crazy yellow taxis (man do they drive here - you are constantly fearing for you life!) and big tall buildings, and the people were great.  Our first day was a bit of a disaster - first Fran had her bag stolen and then a quick nap before dinner turned into a 16 hour sleepathon! But after that we took the city by storm.  On one night we joined three American guys and a great Canadian couple for supper club in the home of a wonderful guy called Dan. He and is partner cook for you in their typically Argentinian home.  I defintely recommend. And the rest of our time was spent eating delicious steak, coiffing lots of red wine, tango-ing and strolling round the markets in San Telmo, seeing the colourful buildings in La Boca and soaking up the atmosphere.

Buenos Aires is full of amazing grafitti

One very daper gentleman in BA, and a bit of a tango legend
Even trees need accessorising sometimes
The wonderfuly colourful La Boca
Perfecting my tango moves with the professionals
From BA, we headed north 16 hours to Iguaza and the falls.  The pictures speak for themselves.  If you ever get the chance to visit, I thoroughly recommend taking the boat ride which takes you right up to the bottom of the second largest waterfall.  A soaking is de rigour.

The stunning Iguazu falls
Fully prepped for the best water ride ever
This little fella took a shining to Katy, and stayed with us for a good half hour as we wondered round
Local celebs at the falls

From Iguazu it was another overnight bus to Cordoba.  If you're ever in Argentina, you have to take the bus.  For anything from £25-£60 the middle range bus (cama class) gives you an almost fully reclining sofa chair, dinner, champagne, breakfast and they show English films.  Mostly.  On our last journey the film was in Russian.  You can't win them all. In Cordoba we went horse riding in mountains and met the wonderful Marcelo who ran the ranch.  He used to play polo in London and tells the best stories.  If you're in Cordoba in summer he hosts all day parties at his ranch.  Get invovled, he is ace!

Dining out in Cordoba

Day trip to Jesus Maria, just outside Cordoba
The beautiful Jesus Maria
Ladies on horseback!
Me and the beautiful Pansona
Riding like pros
And then onto Mendoza.  Wine, wine and more wine.  And a five-course lunch with paired wines on a private terrace. Heavan.

My new best friend, Candy who lived at the Monky hostel in Cordoba
Chillaxing at the winery.
From left - right: Cat, Katy, Penny, Clare, me and Fran

And then all too soon it was back to BA and some last minute shopping. And then home and back to the Bot. 

Four of us bought bags from this guy, clearing out his stall!
My lovely ladies, thank you so much for an AMAZING holiday!
The biggest road in the world

Thank you for your patience while i've been away - normally posting will resume this week.  I have to say it has been a bit of a shock going from summer back to winter but i'm adjusting into my winter wardrobe nicely and have purchased some items so watch this space!