The Perfect Patent Loafers (and other things I Love)

21.1.14

I RECENTLY PLACED AN order for the Bette Patent Loafers from Whistles (which I've tried to illustrate above), I had been lusting after them for a great deal of time and managed to snag a pair at sale price. This never happens!! Unfortunately they are a little snug which is strange as I am always a size 5/EU38 and if I ever have to opt for a different size, it's normally smaller and hardly ever bigger. I am worried that they'll cause pain if I were to wear them for large parts of the day. I have a catch-22 type situation going on. The only way I can really find out whether they are going to cause pain is to wear them out and about for a day but if I find that they are unsuitable for my feet, I'd have worn them out which would render them non-returnable. 

But if I return them...I may never know if these perfect, shiny, beautifully-masculine-with-a-twist-of-feminine shoes are right for me and that makes me sad. 

Whistles advice is that I return them as some feedback received by other customers have also noted that they run a little tight and whilst I appreciate their honest advice, the response makes me sad. Why could it not have been "Leather shoes takes a day or two to break into" this is what I was hoping they would say. 

My sister's advice: "just send them back, no point in keeping them if they're feeling tight now. It's gonna be like Monica's boots. You're gonna end up throwing them in the bin and I would have to give you a piggyback home

It was one of those moments when you find a pair of shoes and they look so perfect on (even if you do happen to be wearing your gym gear at the time) that you start imagining all the different ways you would wear them. Illustrated above, the way I imagined them to style them during the summer months *sobs*. I'm going to return them tomorrow and maybe buy the Repetto Jackson shoes...

Spiced Apple Smoothie

15.1.14

BRRRRR, it's cold out there ain't it? but before you head for the cupboard for your heinz canned tomato soup -or if you're really fancy, to the fridge for your covent garden alternative- and start patting down a slice of soft, wholemeal bread with a bit of salted butter (totally craving soup and bread now), I have a better idea: Hot smoothies! This one is for a spicy apple smoothie and it tastes deeeelish. A quick and simple recipe to get your mouth watering and it doubles up as a hand warmer. 

Once you've got your hands on the ingredients noted above, whizz it all up in a blender until it's smooth and lump free, then simply heat it up in either a saucepan or the microwave. Et Voila, enjoy your tasty, healthy hot drink!

Breakfast Smoothie

11.1.14

OVER THE SUMMER, I decided to finally invest in a decent blender, after many nights spent googling and amazon-review-reading, I decided to go with one by Magimix. The online reviews suggest that it is almost as good as the Vitamix but way less in price and since buying it, I've seen it featured on Gordon Ramsay, let's face it, if Gordon Ramsay (King of food) is using it, y'all know it's gonna be good. I have been experimenting with it ever since I made my purchase and the only thing I can fault it on is this: our kitchen top isn't very big which means I have to store it elsewhere and since elsewhere is taken up by a crazy amount of tupperware and other unnecessary shiz clogging up our kitchen cupboards, it means I have to detach the entire thing but this is a tedious task I'm willing to partake as the smoothies are pretty damn delish and so quick and easy to make. Above featured is by far my favourite smoothie ever, inspired by the original breakfast smoothie by Innocent Juices, which was cruelly discontinued and left me in search for a tasty alternative. I like having this particular smoothie for brekkie as the addition of oats makes it wholesome and filling enough to have just a smoothie in the morning. Soooo tasty,mmm

p.s. for extra special powers, I add a spoonful of flaxseed to my smoothie before whizzing it all up, flaxseed has amazing health benefits, way too many to list here!

New Year's Resolutions

4.1.14

THIS IS basically what I try and improve all year round but everybody knows that the ability to be able to achieve your goals in the new year is especially powerful. 

1. More reading. I remember a few years back, I made one new year's resolution and it was to make more of an effort to read in my spare time, that year I managed to read something like 25 books in a year and they were all pretty thick with super tiny text so I was quite pleased and intended to outdo myself the following year,  I didn't manage anywhere near 25 but a respectable 12 was still alright and since then it got progressively worse. This year I managed 3 and one of the three was a book by Mindy Kaling and took all of 30 minutes to read (does that even count?). This year I'm putting aside time specifically for reading, I've started my first book of 2014, "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden. 

2. Be more Organised. When it comes to being organised, I struggle. There are people I know who live by their google calendars, I don't even own a diary. Most of the time, I end up having to email whoever to reconfirm when our scheduled meeting was, as the note I had scribbled down the date and time has now been lost or I had written it down on the back of my hand which of course will have faded after a couple of washes. My strategy this year involves the purchase of a Filofax (embossed with my name on the front) and writing out a daily to-do list and checking it most evenings to make sure I got the tasks done. 

3. Try cooking. I'm cutting down on the number of times I bake, this ties in with resolution number 4. Although, I've not cooked much in my life, I love watching cookery shows and I am a little fanatical about Nigel Slater. I received his "Eat" book for Christmas and I'm going to try and cook something new each week, if it turns out alright I may even share on the blog. Last week I tried making potato cakes, they looked terrible and tasted bland, suffice to say they will not be featured on here any time soon!

4. Eat better. A few years ago, not having my 5-a-day was a rare thing but suddenly these past few years my diet has been absolute terrible. I had a bit of a health scare this year so this isn't because to reduce the size of my tummy, this is so I can be the healthiest I can be. 

5. Dress Up. Be more experimental with my wardrobe and I mean with clothes I already have. I've got into this habit lately of always going for the same type of clothes and I've gotten too comfortable. 

Well, there they are, a few of my resolutions that I hope to achieve this year! 

Snowflake Cookies

3.1.14

BETTER GET THIS post in quick as there are only two days of Christmas left, feels like only yesterday when I started seeing the first signs of Christmas...back in September!?

Firstly, I have to apologise about this picture looking a little yellow, by the time I realised that the pic I had taken wasn't of the best quality, the biscuits were all munched up and I can't even blame family members for this, it was all me!

Going back to the actual topic, the story behind these biscuits started on the eve before Christmas. It was hilarious doing last minute food shopping on Christmas eve, Sainsbury's was packed full of people, completely rammed-I couldn't walk a few meters without literally bumping into someone. There was particular havoc around the vegetable sections where shoppers were being told that almost every supermarket was out of carrots, sprouts, parsnips etc and I'm not sure if it was just me but I did hear a hint of smugness from the workers, perhaps they were thinking "oh thank god, I was organised this year and I DID all of my food shopping on time" as they saw the fear in the shopper's eyes. I felt a little lucky too as the only thing I required carrots for was cake. I know what you're thinking, carrot cake at Christmas? It's because I don't like Christmas pudding and so instead I like to offer a table full of baked delights in support of the few others (okay, there's a total of 3, any excuse to bake though..) that are not keen on Christmas pudding. We, my little sis and I, scratched out the idea to bake carrot cake and agreed that the 7 other baked treats would be more than enough but then on the way to the till I noticed these snowflake cookie cutters and decided to bake biscuits too. I used the basic chocolate biscuits that have been shared on this blog before, my "fail-safe" biscuits as they turn out close to perfect almost every time. The advantage of these biscuits is that they can be adapted to suit any particular occasion and they were easily decorated to look Christmassy, all that was needed was a snowflake cutter, icing and anything that is red and edible. My piping skills are not particularly adequate but they turned out alright. Of course Christmas is now (almost) over but they can just be cut into circle shaped cookies and smothered in icing and indulged!

Happy New Year everyone, I hope 2014 has treated you all well so far :)

Ingredients

For the biscuits:
75g Butter
75g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp. Cocoa Powder (good quality)
 250g plain (all purpose) flour

For the icing:
100g white chocolate
75ml double cream
75g full-fat cream cheese

Method

1. Line 2 baking trays with baking sheets and pre-heat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas Mark 4

2. In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and milk until well combined, gradually sift in the flour and cocoa powder and mix together to form a soft dough, you can use your fingers to bring the dough together. If you find that the dough is still wet, sift in a little more flour. If you find the dough is too dry and difficult to form, add a little milk. 

3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface, it needs to be around 6mm thick. Using a 5cm/2 inch crimped cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can. Re-roll the trimmings and cut out more cookies until all the dough has been used up.
5. Place the cookies on the prepared baking trays and heat for 10-12 minutes. 

6. Leave the cookies to cool and start on the chocolate icing.

7. For the icing, break the chocolate into a bowl. Heat the double cream in a pan, until hot (not boiling) and pour the hot cream over the white chocolate to melt it. Stir until melted and set aside to cool. Once cool, mix with cream cheese until smooth. It is then ready to be piped on to the biscuits. 





Baking Fridays: Christmas Cupcakes

20.12.13

I WISH I COULD take full credit for these but I have Pinterest and Lola's Cupcakes (the actual franchise not cupcakes that I have baked before and me referring to them now in third person) to thank for the idea behind these cuties. Last Christmas, whilst doing some shopping I stopped at Lola's Cupcakes for my absolute necessary treat and spotted these adorable looking Snowman cupcakes, that combined with some browsing over at Pinterest lead me to having a go at baking some festive treats. I am incredibly surprised and pleased that they look very close to the real deal. Oh and to avoid any confusion, the chocolate ones are Reindeers, I feel I ought to point this out as my mum mistook them for being mice. Please, dear reader, assure me that they pass off as reindeers?!
Recipe

The ingredients listed below will bake 6 vanilla cupcakes and 6 chocolate cupcakes.

110g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
225g Caster Sugar (Preferably golden)
2 large free-range eggs
150g self-raising flour
125g plaing flour
120ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temp
1 teaspoon, good-quality vanilla extract
2 tblsp good-quality cocoa powder

Toppings and Frosting
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
60ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
500g icing sugar, sifted
1 tblsp cocoa powder

1 pack of chocolate covered pretzels
1 pack of m&ms (these will be making up the reindeer's eyes and nose)
1 pack of Lindor white chocolate (or anything that can pass off as a snowman's head)
1 pack of strawberry fizzy laces
1 pack of pre-made chocolate icing (to draw the snowman's face)
250g of desiccated coconut

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160C (fan)/180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tray.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, it needs to be pale and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time. This process can be done either by hand or using an electric hand mixture.

3. Sift the two flours in a separate bowl. In a jug, measure out the milk and add the vanilla extract to it.

4. Add 1/3 of the flour to the creamed mixture and beat until combined. Follow this, by adding 1/3 of the milk and beat again. Repeat this process until all the flour and milk has been used up.

5. At this point, I transferred half the batter into a separate bowl and to it I added the cocoa powder. This step can be omitted if you prefer to make just the snowmen or if you prefer to just make the chocolate reindeers then add 2 tblsp of cocoa powder to the batter.

6. Carefully spoon the mixtures into the cupcake cases, they need to be about 2/3 full. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. Check by inserting a skewer, it should come out clean.

7. While the cakes are cooling, you can proceed with the making of the frosting. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter, milk, vanilla extract and the icing sugar. The buttercream needs to be smooth and creamy, if you find that your buttercream is too stiff, add a few more drops of milk, if you find it too wet, add a little more icing sugar.

8. I divided the buttercream mixture and added cocoa powder to one half for the chocolate cupcakes. Transfer the buttercream to two piping bags.

9. Once the cupcakes are cool, pipe the buttercream over each cupcake. Easiest way I find is to use a large, round nozzle and then to smooth the icing over using a palette knife.

10. To finish snowmen cupcakes: Once you've smoothed over the icing, dip the cupcake in a plate of desiccated coconut, stick in a lindor chocolate and wrap around a fizzy lace and finally draw on a smiley face. Repeat process for reindeers, using m&ms and pretzels.

Phew...that was long. I hope that made sense to everyone, feel free to ask any questions anyone may have in the comments box.

Now, all that's left is to wish all of you a very Happy Christmas!

Christmas Wishlist

19.12.13

1. Twenty-Six collectible hardcover editions of classical literature by Penguin. I have "E for Eliot" on my wishlist. 

2. I wasn't sure about these headphones by Frend, they look too pretty so I automatically figured they'd be absolutely rubbish at blocking out any background noise. Gave them a go at Topshop, Oxford Circus (one of the nosiest places I know) and could not hear a thing...well, apart from the music!

3. The high-street is littered with tartan printed items, I've not found any appealing but these ones from Toast have managed to lure me in. 

4. I just like the look of these by Topshop. 

5. Despite Jack Wills being a place for Uni students, a lot of the cool kids were wearing it at my school and it is the only time I can recall wanting to spend more than £100 on a scarf. I'm ashamed to admit that the only reason was because wearing Jack Wills instantly depicted you as the coolest girl ever, I'm glad I never had enough money though! A few years ago however, I was lucky enough to win a giveaway over at one of my fave blogs: thestylecrusader.com and one of the items I won was a cashmere scarf by a brand called Muriee. The price was over a £100, outside my realm of spending so I never would have considered buying it but the scarf has swayed me to invest in accessories and has shown me that it is worth spending a great deal more than I tend to. I wore it for the entire winter last year and it's been keeping my neck warm this winter too. The quality is unreal, it still looks as good as it did when I received it, no sign of bobbling at all! I love the look of this one by J.Crew

6. I took up knitting earlier this year and I'm proud to announce that I successfully knitted my very own scarf. Continuing with my success, I'm going to have a go at a jumper though I feel I am now ready to invest in better quality wool

7. I have been saving up for a watch by Daniel Wellington for a while now. Love the simple, classic looks they stock. 

8. These are the prettiest shoes by L.K. Bennett I have seen in a long time. I wish they were available in red so I could click my heels and pretend I was in the land of Oz. I am secretly hoping they will go down in sale and be available in my size as they are a little pricey. 
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