Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The weekend

The weekend of course involved much watching of the Olympics, especially the incredible Opening Ceremony. With the threat of the rain coming back, there was much barbecuing activity, joining friends on the Friday night for some Olympic fun, and re-igniting the coals on Saturday too.

Some chazzing on the Saturday was square-themed, when I came back with these plates, platters and dishes, which have already proven to be good for so many uses around the house. 

{jewellery or hair clip dish}

{my new right-angled finds}

{so many uses - sweetie dish?}

{use as a serving dish, or mini tray}

{beetroot & feta appetisers were demolished}

Our barbecue was put together at the last minute, using some left over chicken for the highlight of the food contributions: Sticky barbecue chicken thighs. They smelled so amazing that I completely forgot to photograph them before we devoured them. The recipe says to use drumsticks and wings, but I prefer chicken thighs and they turned out brilliantly. I cooked them in the oven first for about 15 minutes, and then they went on the barbecue for another 15 minutes. I didn't have any sesame oil, so just used normal oil, and added some sesame seeds to the mixture, which I found hanging about in the back of the cupboard.

{ingredients for the lentil salad}

{good with sausages, but also good with goat's cheese}

{love our bucket BBQ which fits in the dishwasher}

{cooked the red papers on the barbecue & wilted some spring greens in garlic butter too}

{some berries from the allotment}

Monday, 30 July 2012

Second chance sundress

I had found this dress in a chazzy for a fiver, just before the Jubilee, and pounced on it, thinking how very GB it was and perfect for some Jubilee fun. However, the weather meant that this dress didn't see the light of day.

{button fronted and fabric belt}

{Liberty-esque pattern: paisley with a touch of gold too}

But now the Olympics has given it a second chance of life, whilst we're all still feeling very patriotic after Danny Boyle's Olympic Opening Ceremony, and the weather is (more) on my side.

Here are a couple of other frocks if you fancy some red, white and blue styling opportunities. Don't forget to add some gold bling to represent all those medals we're going to be winning (no pressure Team GB, no pressure).

{Allie dress, £150.13, J.Crew}
{pencil dress in wallpaper print, £42 ASOS}

{classic shirtdress, £133.26, J.Crew}
{spotty print pencil dress, £42 ASOS}

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Summer in a glass

With perhaps only a few days of sunshine left, it's time to share with you some of my favourite summer tipples I've been enjoying these last few weeks.

My top recommendation is St-Germain elderflower liqueur, below, which I was given by Bob as a birthday present. I couldn't love this more - it'll add a dose of summer to your standard gin & tonic or vodka tonic, or add to sparkling wine for an instant cocktail. You can buy this from Waitrose (currently on offer) or online, and do have a look at the St-Germain website for cocktail recipes and ideas. And the stylish glass bottle will prettify your drinks tray perfectly.

{a perfect addition to your cocktail cabinet}

For a summery twist on the classic Kir Royale, try Aspall's Perronelle's Blush, which replaces the traditional champagne and creme de cassis with cider and creme de mure. Very refreshing and fruity, this is a lovely summer alternative to your standard tipple, and will be a winner for anyone who likes something fruity without being too sweet. Serve over ice.

{or recreate your own by adding some creme de mure to normal cider}

And lastly we discovered this sparkling cider from our local Chiltern's Brewery, where it's dubbed "apple champagne" being brewed using the same techniques as their award-winning champagne. Made by the Buckinghamshire based Daws Hill Vineyard, at £6 a bottle, it's a bargain.


Monday, 23 July 2012

All white?

{skirt in the sale, available here}
{dress in the sale, available here}

The Daks Spring/Summer campaign really caught my eye this year, especially these all-white ensembles above. We haven't quite had the weather to carry this off yet, and this week might be the only chance, so you'd better get your white frocks on before you can can say "another band of low pressure". Keep accessories and jewellery minimal, adding a slick of bright-red lipstick.

Top row, left to right:
Floral flippy dress, £42 Topshop; Romantic dress, £79.95 Massimo Dutti; Pleat hem dress, £56 Topshop; Laila dress, £59 Topshop

Botton row, left to right:
Dress with pintucks, £69 Cos; White broderie anglaise cotton dress, £47 Laura Ashley; Bowed dress, £54.95 Massimo Dutti; Slouchy tee dress by Boutique, Topshop;

Friday, 20 July 2012

Last weekend

This week has flown and so I'm only just getting round to last weekend's post.

I started the weekend a little early, on Friday afternoon, with a massage at Mulberry's in Beaconsfield. Popeye had bought me a course of massages for Christmas, and Friday's was my last one (sob). It's been one of the best presents I've ever had - six massages, and I've not had to pay for one of them (good tip for the fellas out there). They've stopped selling courses there, but if you are in the area, and can manage to get an appointment with Zara, you'll think it's worth every penny.

We met friends for dinner on Friday night, but stopped in at The Crazy Bear for a cocktail beforehand. For those of you who don't know The Crazy Bear, they own a small number of bar/restaurant/hotels all in London or a stone's throw away. The one in Stadhampton is my favourite - if you're eating, ask for a table in the garden, which is laid out properly with white linen. And our nearest, in Beaconsfield, is the WAGiest, with some very blingy decor. It makes very good people-watching territory. The cocktails are excellent, and I had my all-time favourite, the French 75. The drinks are expensive, but you do get some tasty complimentary nibbles, and it's worth noting that every Wednesday it's 50% off champagne. Champagne Wednesday? Why not. *

Saturday started with a boiled egg for breakfast, which is a rare and welcome treat in our house. I always use Delia's method one which gives spot-on results every time. 

{no bread, but pitta fingers did the trick}

Then a little chazzy run found me this jacket, which was one of those "can't believe what I've found here, heart-racing moments". Pyjama-style and spotty, this jacket is a great find, and looks good with skinny black trousers, grey-marl t-shirt, a chunky gold statement necklace and a bright pink lip - Revlon's Just Bitten Kissable Lip Balm Stain in Lovestick is my current favourite.

{excellent find}

The jacket is made by Jacques Vert, which is a label I often see in the chazzies, and when I do, I always pounce on it, because some of my greatest finds have been from this brand. And last weekend, I could hardly move for the stuff - there were so many lovely shirts, just right for this autumn/winter. I know that I go on about hating clothes which are made from polyester, but I can make an exception for vintage clothes. I'm not sure exactly why - maybe because they're still really well made, or because they've proven they can stand the test of time. Or because they were made in an era when polyester was the new kid on the block, so it was in the name of innovation... anyway, whatever the reason, I can let this one slide.

{one to watch}

{candy stripes}

{this colour = very next season}
{very chic}

The rest of the weekend was low-key, spending time down at the allotment, going to a champagne tasting at our local brewery (don't mind if I do) and doing a little sale shopping, especially at Whistles. On Sunday we stopped in at Seasons Deli for an edible treat, as a reward for all that digging and weeding.

*For anyone needing to plan a minimal-fuss, classy hen-do in the London area, without having to travel far, here's the plan:
- meet at The Landmark Hotel for a kick-off drink, opposite Marylebone Station
- get the train to Beaconsfield
- spend the afternoon at Mulberry's day spa
- go for cocktails and dinner and The Crazy Bear
- get the last train home (or stay over - to you, just £350)
(you're welcome x)

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Pie pie

I'd been making do with a roasting dish for my pie making, and been thinking about getting a proper enamel pie dish for a while, when I found this one in a charity shop for £1.50. Spurred on by my newly acquired professional kit, I rushed off to John Lewis to find myself a pie funnel, and came back with this handsome blackbird.

{pie dish also available from Falconware}

So, my favourite pie recipes are this Chicken & Leek Pie and the Mushroom, Leek, Roquefort and Walnut Pie from Joanna Weinberg's book, How to Feed Your Friends With Relish which I use a lot. It's a good veggie pie, and I don't think the recipe's available online. Because I'm nice, here it is below.

Mushroom, Leek, Walnut and Roquefort Pie

Serves 4
375g ready-made pastry
300ml milk
2 onions
2 bay leaves
few whole peppercorns
freshly grated nutmeg
350g mixed mushrooms
2 tbsps olive oil
60g butter
2 leeks, white parts only, cut into 5mm discs
1 tbsp flour
100g Roquefort, crumbled
50g walnut halves
small bunch flat-leafed parsley - remove leaves and chop
1 egg, beaten

Divide the pastry into two balls, one twice the size of each other. Wrap in clingfilm and allow to rest for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / gas 4. Put the milk in a saucepan with one of the onions cut in half, the bay leaves, peppercorns and a hint of nutmeg. Bring to a murmur and keep on a very low heat.

Meanwhile, fry the mushrooms in the olive oil until they release all their juices. Set aside, reserving the liquid separately in a jug.

Chop the other onion. Melt half the butter in the frying pan and cook the onion until soft and translucent. Add the leeks and continue cooking over a fairly low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking.

Strain the infused milk into the jug containing the mushroom liquid. In a small saucepan, melt the rest of the butter, add the flour and cook very gently for 2 - 3 minutes until golden and sandy. Gradually add the milk mixture, stirring constantly so that the sauce is smooth and has the consistency of thick double cream (don't worry if that seems quite thick; it will get thinner and more soupy as the mushrooms release more liquid into the pie).

Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for a few minutes, still stirring. Remove the pan from the heat and add the mushrooms, onions and leeks, Roquefort, walnuts and parsley.

Roll out the two balls of pastry into circles, lining your pie dish with the larger one and allowing the excess pastry to flop out over the edges. Pour in the filling, then brush some water around the rim of the pie to dampen it. Cover with the other pastry disc, trimming the extra pastry from the edges, and sealing the rim with the prongs of a fork.

Brush the whole surface with beaten egg and bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden and cooked.

Let's face it, it might be July, but it's still pie weather. Just serve with new potatoes and a green salad, to keep things feeling a least a little summery.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Double cream

I'd like to introduce you to two new moisturisers in my life.

{flavour of the month}

Youth Formula Cellular Time Complex Day Cream SPF 15 (such a catchy name) is £9.50 from Marks and Spencer. I tried this as an alternative to my much lauded L'Oreal Youth Code Day Cream, which suits me just fine, but lacks an SPF. This cream has a lovely fresh smell and a light texture which moisturises without feeling greasy. In fact I much prefer the texture to the Youth Code cream, which can sometime feel a bit too dry.

I always look for hyaluronic acid in my moisturiser, and this cream has it, along with sirtuins (which prolong the lifespan of cells) and creatine (which supplies energy to the cells, allowing them to act more liker younger skin cells). There's a good dose of antioxidants in there, by way of golden root extract which protects against external aggressors, such as extreme weather or pollution.

I have normal to combination skin, but like a heavier cream than would normally be suggested for this skin type, and have been really pleased with this moisturiser. And for something you can pick up when you're buying your dinner / tights / underwear, for just £9.50... it's definitely worth a try. They also do a serum in this range which has received some good reviews, and is only £12.

Every now and then, my skin goes through a little extra-dry and sensitive blip, when my normal moisturiser needs to be replaced with something more... .erm, moisturising. In the past, I've always used Clinique's Moisture Surge Intense but I decided to go in search for something cheaper. Aqualia Thermal by Vichy has proven to be the answer - it soothes and calms the skin, and packs in moisture using hyaluronic acid and lipidure, which combine to make the moisture delivery more long lasting. It's a moisturiser which concentrates on delivering hydrating more than anti-ageing, but for those times when my skin is needing something richer, this cream is perfect.

{tops off}

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

In the kitchen

I know - you'd have never thought you'd be in a situation where you'd be lusting after a mixing bowl. But British company Joseph Joseph will lure you into that realm. They caught me out with this steamer. I'll try steaming everything - it's my preferred cooking method, being quick and easy. But the old metal versions, whilst effective, always had that tricky moment working out how you get the steamer out of the saucepan without burning your fingers.

{full of promise}


Well, burnt fingers no more - this baby is a joy. I'm delighted.

Other than that, some new tea towels were a gift from some friends, and have brightened up the kitchen, and a new oven glove make it a hat-trick.

{new tea towels from Boo Vake - happy browsing of this lovely website}

And lastly, my new cut-glass tumblers from a vintage shop are making cocktail hour a dream.

{gin & tonic time}

Monday, 16 July 2012

And the eyes have it

I have two faithful under-eye concealers which I switch between, which I think are the best out there. I want a product which will cover dark circles, without sitting in fine lines and making them more noticeable.

Start off with a good eye cream, to help with the fine lines, and then use either Laura Mercier Secret Concealer (£18.50) or By Terry Touche Veloutee (£35) as your under eye concealer. I've never found better.

Touche Veloutee has the familiar brush applicator, but it's much fatter than the other brushes out there, and I think this improves its application. It's a creamy, highly pigmented concealer which means that you only need a tiny amount to cover the whole area. This concealer is illuminating and light-reflecting, which makes it particularly effective at covering dark circles.

I apply the Secret Concealer with my ring finger, and it has a light texture, which makes it easy to glide onto the eye area without any pull. Vitamins E and A help to condition and moisturise the under eye area, keeping the concealer from settling into fine lines, and the pigmentation is strong enough to give good coverage of any dark circles. It comes in six shades, which gives a wider choice than you'd normally get from an under-eye concealer.

And I'll happily double-up these products as a normal face concealer, whenever I don't have my usual one to hand.

{outstanding in their field}

{nice sleek packaging}

And when pennies are tight, I go for Boots No. 7's Instant Radiance Concealer which is a great budget alternative at £13.50. It's their version of YSL's Touche Eclat, and gives good coverage, with a light texture. And although I realise that Touche Eclat has long been the market leader in this area, I have always found that these alternatives perform better.

The thing to remember though, is that although Touche Veloutee is a steep initial outlay at £35, because the tube is 6.5ml, it actually works out cheaper per millilitre than the No. 7 product, and in the process makes YSL's Touche Eclat look like a complete rip-off. In this situation, with Touche Veloutee, you can get both quality and quantity.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The weekend

The weekend was leisurely, making the most of the sunshine when it reared its head. Saturday involved a trip to the chazzies where I exacerbated the problem of my bulging necklace collection, and then added to it at the DP sale. Turns out that the necklace I bought at Dotty P's looks as good the wrong way round as the right way round - two for the price of one.

{jewellery from the Dotty P's sale}

{chazzy necklace and DP necklace reverse side}

We spent some time down at the allotment, where we're just starting to reap what we've sown. We had been intrigued by some huge green offshoots coming out the top of the garlic plants. Turns out that these are garlic scapes, which can be harvested before the rest of the plant (in fact, it's good to take them off, to get a better garlic bulb) and put to all sorts of uses. We decided to make ours into pesto.

{packed lunch at the allotment}

{garlic scapes}

{garlic scape pesto}

{harvested broad beans}

The broad beans and pesto have been frozen, to use at a later date. A break for the men's Wimbledon final followed, giving me a chance to use my latest china and pottery acquisitions: a small milk jug by Royal Albert, and a blue Polka dot dish from this shop in Devon. Plus the evening sunshine meant that a trip to the local pub was in order.

{strawberries and cream + Wimbledon}

{pizza and prosecco in a moment of sunshine}
Hope you all had a good weekend - not long until the next one.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Money, money, money

I need a new purse. My old faithful from Zara, which I've had for years has been perfect, but has a broken zip.

{my old purse, bought from Zara}

I love leather goods - love, love, love - they are something I will spend serious money on, if the quality and style is right. A purse purchase has to be an exacting one, because if it's not right, you'll hate it. You use it too often to compromise. I was prepared for a long, hard slog to find my perfect partner. But then I happened upon this purse in a chazzy, and job done - new purse, secured.

{new purse, made by Tula, £1 from a chazzy}

{back of purse, with zipped coin section}

{inside purse, with different sections}

But if you're not lucky enough to find something similar in the chazzies, here are some other options. I found the best selection at House of Fraser, so if you're on the hunt for a new purse, have a good search on their website.

Top row, left to right:
Woven leather purse, £16 Topshop; Soft leather purse, £24.95 Massimo Dutti

Middle row, left to right:
Emsworth purse, £29 Hobbs; Ashwood leather pouch, £23 Red Direct; Continental flap over purse, £17 Made

Bottom row, left to right:
Dalston zip around purse, £15 Linea; Coccinelle purse, £52.50 House of Fraser