Sunday, 30 October 2011

Not On The High Street...but I wish it was

I'm sure that most of you are aware of the website Not On The High but if you are not then I am going to try and convince you that you should know about this website!

I don't think I can begin to explain how much I love this website, especially at this time of year. I am one of those people that spends almost as much time thinking about how to wrap my Christmas presents as I do thinking about what the presents actually are. This website caters for both! Page upon page of lovely homemade style gifts, letterpress cards, recycled gift wrap, metres and metres of beautiful ribbon. I can waste a good few hours just looking through their gift wrap and stationery sections before I have even thought about the other areas of the website. There are sections for home and garden, for her, for him, for baby and child, gifts, fashion, weddings and christmas (one of my favourites right now).

I've always loved this kind of style product, especially in the home. So not on the high street is on to a winner, no more so than when vintage, antique and homemade are all words that are very 'en vogue' right now.  They also do a lot of personalised items which are great for parents and grandparents.

Some of my favourite things on the website at the moment:

I can't chose any favourites from the Christmas range as there are just so many, so I'll let you discover those for yourself.

My only wish is that they actually were on the high street. In my head I envisage a huge old store filled to the brim with all the delights that the website has to offer. You would lose me in their for hours...perhaps it is a good thing that it only lives in the virtual world.

Go on...go look for yourself...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Luminize Your Eyes: L'oreal Luminizer Mascara

I kept seeing adverts for L'oreals latest mascara offering and apart from being distracted by the serious amount of J.Lo airbrushing, I was actually quite intrigued. I've always liked the idea of coloured mascaras but have never been brave enough to try them out. I'm apprehensive about spending the money incase I end up hating it. So, when I saw this had come on to the market I thought it could be a good compromise. It didn't appear to be really coloured but still different to your standard black. 

When I was in Boots at the weekend they were offering L'oreal two products for £14. I needed to replace my Volume Million mascara and figured that as it would only cost me an extra £3, I may as well get a Luminize one.  I have blue eyes so obviously enough I went for the blue eyes mascara. Although I was tempted to go for the purple for hazel eyes because I generally like purple eye make up on me! 

Yesterday I decided to give my new mascara a go. I am unhappy to report that I am quite disappointed. To be honest, I'm not really sure what I expected, but I'm pretty sure it was more than this. The idea of the product is to 'light up' your eyes and make them sparkle. Hmmm. I'm not convinced. As far as I can see it is exactly the same as the normal Volume Million mascara but very slightly different in colour. When I mean slightly, I mean slightly too. If I was wearing this I don't think anyone would realise that I wasn't wearing a normal black mascara. The only possibility of it being noticed would potentially be if I was wearing it on a very sunny day as it has a slight petrol shimmer to it in bright light. Saying that, you do have to look very hard for it. I had been planning on wearing this on nights out but I don't think it will be noticeable at all. If anything I'd wear it more in the day as it is not quite as dramatic as the normal black Volume Million.

On a plus side, the formula is good. As with the Volume Millions it creates lovely length and volume with just a few coats. It can also be built up really nicely for a really dramatic look. 

Here I am wearing Black Volume Million on the left and Blue Eyes Luminizer on the right.

Close up of Blue Eyes Luminizer

Close up of Black Million Volume.

As you can, hopefully, see in the photos, the Luminize mascara has a very subtle shimmer to it whereas the black looks quite matte in comparison. I think it looks like a shiny black though, I don't think the hint of blue is that obvious. 

I'd be interested to see if the other colours in the range (green and purple) are any different. 

Overall, I wish that the colour was more obvious, however as a mascara, in general, it's pretty good. I think I'll be sticking to the normal Volume Million lashes in future though. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

ROTD: Apple Blossom Cupcakes

This recipe is from the latest Hummingbird Bakery book 'Cake Days'. Oh my,! Page after page after page of mouth watering cakes, biscuits and muffins. My first try from this book were the Chocolate Orange cupcakes. They were quite possibly, the best cupcakes I have ever had. I'll do another post next time I make them. I can assure you it will not be long.

I made these when we were having a bit of a return of summer (if we actually had one to begin with) and this recipe really is perfect for sunny days. I can imagine eating them on a sunny spring day with a small group of your closest girlfriends while gossiping and drinking fresh lemonade or tea.

Makes 12-16 cupcakes. I usually end up with more than 12.

For the sponge:
4 tbsp apple iced-tea powder (I used apple and white cranberry instant tea from Whittards)
3 tbsp just-boiled water
80g unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
200ml whole milk (I have used semi-skimmed before, shhh don't tell anyone!)
2 large eggs

For the icing:
4 tbsp apple iced-tea powder
50ml whole milk
500g icing sugar
160g unsalted butter. 

* Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/GM5 and line a muffin tin with muffin cases. 
* Place the apple tea powder in a bowl and add the just-boiled water, allow to dissolve completely. Using a hand held electric whisk or electric mixer, whisk together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed until the ingredients resemble fine breadcrumbs. 
* Place the milk and eggs in the bowl with the apple tea and whisk together by hand. Add 3/4 of this to the dry mix and whisk using the electric whisk, increase the speed and add the remaining milk mixture. Continue to mix until smooth. 
* Divide the batter between the cases, fill them to two-thirds full. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes. Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin, then place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

* To make the frosting dissolve the apple tea in the milk. Whisk the icing sugar and butter until no lumps of butter remain and then gradually add the apple milk. Once this has all been added increase the speed and whisk until light and fluffy.
* Top each cake with a generous spoonful of frosting and smooth with a palette knife. Decorate. I used edible glitter. Enjoy...

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Mid-Season it that time already?

It seems that everywhere I look at the moment another high street store is announcing a mid-season sale or further reductions. I'm also getting emails and notifications on twitter and facebook telling me about the latest discounts in 'my favourite shop'. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not ready for it. Ok, so I love a bargain and getting something cheaper is always nice but I'd only just started finding things for 'this season' that I liked. I know that our summer has been messed up and we had our heatwave long after fur lined wool coats and knee high boots first graced the shop floors of the high street. Does that mean though, that not even fully into October we already need to see prices plummeting? What is there going to be for us when the weather actually gets cold and doesn't let up in the temperature department for a good few months? The weather man has forecast that we are all going to be snowed in this December, oh goodie, there's loads of bikinis and flip flops in the shops. You can buy a beautiful padded parka for 70% less than it's original price, but it's only in a size 4 or 18...and in the colour of new born baby poo.

I know, I know, the fashion world likes to do things early. We have the shows for Spring Summer before we've even had Autumn Winter but these are just the ideas. Do we really need to get rid of anything current and useful in the shops before we have even had a chance to wear it? I've bought boots, a new coat and some chunky knitwear and they are all sat in my wardrobe not being used, yes it is unseasonably warm right now, but I still had to buy them early on in the season at the risk that when the temperature does drop into single figures, none of them would be around.

I think this was all hit on the head when I was speaking to a friend who is the store manager of a high end high street brand. She had had an email telling her that the mid-season sale would be going live the following Saturday. This was followed by an email telling her that she was to go to a presentation on the Sunday with her team to be briefed on the the new Autumn Winter collection. How can you have a sale of something that half of the people selling won't have seen fully until the following day?! The mind baffles!

I love the Autumn Winter season, I love the clothes, please retail gods, can I have it around for a little while longer. I'm perfectly happy to wait until January 1st and hit the sales then to grab myself a bargain jumper like we used to 'in the olden days'. Let's face it, in January we are pretty much guaranteed at least another 3 months of shocking weather.

By the way...the River Island mid-season sale starts tomorrow...

Monday, 10 October 2011

ROTD: Lemon Trickle Cake

Todays Recipe Of The Day is an absolutely delicious Lemon Trickle Cake. This recipe was my first attempt from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall River Cottage 'everyday' cookbook. I do get excited about a new cookbook and having watched the River Cottage series on the television I was very keen to try out some of the recipes for myself. This was of course made all the more exciting by the fact that WH Smith are currently selling 'everyday' for £9.99 instead of £25. You can't beat a new cookbook, unless it's a bargain cookbook.

My mouth was watering just reading the recipes let alone getting a taste of them in real life. So if this is how the other recipes in this book are going to turn out then I cannot wait to try out some of them.

The recipe was simple and easy to follow. I really don't think you could go that wrong with it. As Hugh states in the book 'It is essentially a victoria sponge mix flavoured withe lemon zest and drizzled with lemon icing'. What's not to like!?

This is meant to serve 10, but if your friends and family are anything like mine it won't make it that far. We like our portions big.

Here is the recipe, or you can head over to the River Cottage page and order a copy of the book.

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g caster sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
  • Three medium eggs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • A splash of milk (optional)
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 75ml lemon juice

Grease a large loaf tin, 1 litre capacity, and line the base and sides with baking parchment. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together with a hand-held electric beater, or using a freestanding electric mixer, until very pale and fluffy – at least 5 minutes; up to 10 if you can manage it. This makes all the difference to the lightness of the finished cake. Add the grated lemon zest and then beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour with each (to help prevent the mixture curdling). Sift the remaining flour and salt into the mixture and fold in lightly using a large metal spoon. Add a little milk, if necessary, to achieve a good dropping consistency – i.e. the mixture should drop fairly easily off a spoon when you tap it on the side of the bowl. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top gently and place in an oven preheated to 170°C/ Gas Mark 3. Bake for 45–50 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Put the icing sugar in a bowl, add the lemon juice and stir together until smooth. Leaving the hot cake in its tin, use a fine skewer to make lots of holes all over the top of the cake, going quite deep, but not right through to the bottom. Spoon the lemon icing slowly over the cake so that it all soaks in. Leave in the tin until cool, then turn out and serve in slices

I cannot wait to try out some more recipes from this fabulous book. Of course I'll let you know when I do...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Ready, Set...BAKE!

Ah, the Great British Bake Off is over for another year (apart from the master class with the legend that is Mary Berry). Congratulations to Jo who is the 2011 GBBO champion. Her final 3 petit fours looked absolutely delicious and have really inspired me to delve into the idea of miniature bakes. I have a particular idea for a cake in my head that I think I am going to have to try out, although I will need a mini muffin tin first *brings up John Lewis website*. I'm not giving away any ideas though-don't want anyone else beating me to it!

The reason for my post is that once the credits had rolled after the GBBO final there was an advert inviting people to apply for the next series. Oh, oh, now that has got me thinking. Could I do something like that? Could I put my hard earned and well loved bakes out there for criticism by the terror that is Mr Paul Hollywood? Seriously, that man frightens me, first off that cannot be his natural skin colour. To me baking is such a personal thing. I for one, put my all in when I bake, or cook. It is a labour of love. Ok so sometimes it might be a bit wonky or they may be slightly different sizes, but if it tastes good does all of that really matter? When the judges were trying to decide who was going to be the winner between Jo and Holly they made a comment about whether it was going to be based on technical perfection or taste and flavour. To me that is obvious. Flavour should win every time. I'm not saying that presentation isn't important, no not at all. If that were the case then I certainly wouldn't have a cupboard full of edible glitters, sprinkles, ribbons and other such finery for decorating with. I just felt that sometimes on the show there was too much focus on how uniform everything should be.

I suppose that every time we make something we are offering it out there for criticism. Especially if we take the plunge to start selling our goods and subjecting them to the general public. I have always had good feedback on my various baked goods from friends, family, friends of friends, colleagues. I think, or at least I hope, that they aren't just being nice. I would like to think that if that were the case that they wouldn't be quite so enthusiastic with their compliments.

I have just finished reading a brilliant book called 'Meet me at the cupcake cafe'. I loved it. It was like reading into a little bit of my own soul. It followed the story of a young woman who is made redundant from her city job and decides to take the plunge and open up a cupcake cafe. Oh, to dream that dream. I've been baking and cooking since I was about 5 and I enjoy the fact that baking is currently so 'en vogue', although a little part of me feels a bit now that because 'everyone is doing it' it's losing its speciality. If I took the plunge and decided to follow it as a career now would it work or would I just be yet another girl selling pretty cakes to the world?

I guess what it all boils down to is confidence. Not in your abilities but in yourself. From being judged live on television to being judged by strangers on the street. Could I cope being told that something I absolutely love doing, just isn't good enough. Or is being told by your loved ones that you have created something delicious good enough. For the moment, yes. I love seeing peoples faces when they try something I have made and they love it. I'll still keep that application form up on the computer doesn't have to be sent in until the end of the year...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

October Wish List

The new fashion season is well and truly upon us and so I thought I would share with you a few things that I am lusting after at the moment. I may be naughty and use a wee bit of my student loan to give in to some of these beauties when it comes through next week.

This dress from Oasis comes in purple and red. I STILL cannot decide which one I love more. £45

I think this Oasis dress has a real retro feel to it and is super feminine. £60

This Oasis top isn't available in my size anymore but I'm hoping to find it in a store. Especially as it's been reduced from £40 to £25.

I LOVE this coat. I think I try it on every time I go into Topshop, it's so cosy and warm. £89.

I have to admit I find the bunny a bit scary but I like the owl and the fox on this Accessorize ring £9.

I am limiting myself to show you just this ONE item from River Island, their new season range could cover multiple blog posts!

I love her shows and having tried and tested a few of her recipes I can not wait to get my hands on the books.

Those are my main objects of desire for this month. What are you after?