Monday, 1 September 2014

Remember to breathe...

Hi dolls, I hope you're well! I've been a bad blogger for the last few weeks, I know, but sometimes a family situation takes priority and blogging has to take a backseat. I'll be posting outfits again soon, but since it's now September (HOW?!) I'm starting to get excited about the prospect of an autumn wardrobe. I always prefer dressing for this time of year and I daresay I'm slowly getting my fashion mojo back. Here's a list of some of the items that have caught my eye for autumn...

Faux Fur Coat - I love a good fur collar and this River Island coat does not disappoint! I really need to invest in a decent coat this winter.
Cat Scarf - As a crazy cat lady, this M&S scarf has tickled my fancy... it also comes in pink, but there's something welcoming and autumnal about the dark green.
Ace of Swords - Bloody Mary Metal is definitely my favourite jewellery designer, and having a mini sword hung around my neck appeals a lot to my inner Khaleesi.
Floral Crop Top - Winter floral print + kimono sleeves = Miss Selfridge did gooood with this crop top.
Leather Skirt - I really fancy a leather skirt for the colder seasons and Motel Rocks' vintage section is chock full of appealing designs. Watch this space.
Floral DMs - I saw these at Schuh and fell in love instantly; a girl can never have too many DMs!
Folk Dress - Phew, I'm so in love with this dress from Topshop. At £55 it's a little expensive but reckon it'd be any good for graduation?! I've heard you need something that the robe can grip securely onto...?!
Embroidered Boots - Joe Browns have done sooo well with these boots! I can never get enough chelsea boots but the cute embroidery sets these apart from the rest.

Cleated Heels - I'm so glad cleated heels are everywhere right now: this Spylovebuy pair are so gorgeous and white for winter has a new appeal, it would make for a welcome change!
Fries Before Guys Tote - Illustration is close to my heart and I've been loving following Ella Masters' creations on Instagram lately. The 'fries before guys' tote is so charming, and as a tattoo lover I really love the Big Pop A3 Print.
Leopard Skirt - Woohoo, a hairy leopard print skirt! Not sure I'd rock this as well as the new face of Topshop (dunno if you've heard of some little-known model called Cara Delevingne...) but I'd give it a damn good try.
Ripped Jeans - As working in retail has become part of my masterplan for world domination these jeans would be a handy addition to my wardrobe as dresses are less practical working in a shop every day. They're not too boring, but they'd still go with pretty much everything.
Rings - I've pretty much run out of fingers for rings now, so it looks like it's time for me to start stacking. I love the look of hammered metal and this Accessorize set is pretty perfect.
Kitty Ears - I really want to try out the Crown and Glory Glitterati subscription as they offer such pretty accessories! There's all sorts I'd like to try, but of course these cat ears come top of the list.
Floral Co-ord - Not sure if you've noticed, but if I ever see a floral print on black fabric I'm pretty much guaranteed to love it. This Motel Rocks co-ord is beautiful both in shape and print: want.
Tights - ... to be honest I'm craving a thigh tattoo but I guess these would do for now!
Lilac Babydoll Dress - Yay for lilac velvet! How pretty is this?! Remember you can get 20% off at Motel Rocks as well using the code 'doodleheart' :)

So, that was an extensive wishlist! Which items are you craving for autumn?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Hold me in your lap of luxury...

To be honest, this week's Bakeoff theme filled me with dread - it's dessert week, and as somebody that's really not a fan of cheesecake or meringue my options felt very limited! I dabbled with the idea of tarting up a crumble, the only dessert we really tend to savour in our household, but I felt there was just too little baking involved! So I had a mercy dash through our cookbook stash and found a recipe from Lorraine Pascale that looked appetising. The recipe is almost entirely hers, short of a little improvisation with a bottle of amaretto, but thanks Lorraine for saving the day this week, even if it did mean completely sabotaging my parents' post-holiday diet!

In last week's bake I focused a lot on the flavours and technicalities but ended up with a loaf that was very simple in appearance (bear with me guys, I'm a bit of a baking amateur) and upon seeing everyone else's beautiful creations I vowed to make more of an effort when it came to appearance this week. However, this week it all went a bit wrong: the nature of the recipe meant my dessert pretty much fell apart when I turned it out, still, I decided to post it anyway because I've really enjoyed taking part in this challenge even if my bakes aren't always as pretty as they could be! At least it tasted amazing - consider this bake the porn star of desserts: it's really naughty, messy, over-the-top and inelegant, but some will consider it a very satisfying, very guilty pleasure!

This recipe is for a steamed chocolate and amaretto pudding with a warm Mars Bar sauce: you will require a 1.5 litre capacity pudding basin, a pan large enough to stand the basin in comfortably with plenty of room for a lid, and the following ingredients:

For the pudding:
225g soft light brown sugar
225g butter, softened
2 drops vanilla extract
25ml amaretto liqueur (at least, I used 25ml, but a shot or two extra wouldn't hurt!)
1tbsp baking powder
50g cocoa powder
50g ground almonds
Pinch of salt

For the sauce:
5 Mars bars
75g melted butter

Start by lightly greasing the pudding bowl with butter. Add the butter and sugar into a large bowl and cream together. Add two eggs, the vanilla, half the flour and the baking powder, and beat well. When combined, add the remaining eggs, the rest of the flour, and all of the cocoa and beat very well until combined.

When the mixture is smooth and well beaten, stir in the ground almonds, salt, and amaretto. Put aside.

Put the ingredients for the Mars bar sauce into a small pan and melt over a low heat, stirring so it does not burn. Over time it will become smooth and glossy. Once it has melted, pour a quarter of the sauce into the bottom of the pudding basin and set the rest aside.

Add the rest of the chocolate pudding mixture into the pudding basin, on top of the sauce.

Brush a piece of foil with vegetable oil and secure over the top of the pudding basin, leaving enough room for the pudding to rise during cooking. Secure the foil under the rim of the bowl with a piece of string. Create a handle using string so you can lift the pudding basin in and out of the big pan.

Lower the pudding basin into the big pan and put the kettle on to boil. Pour the hot water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the pudding basin, and simmer gently for 1.5 hours. You may need to top up the water every now and again.

Five minutes before the pudding is ready reheat the remaining Mars bar sauce and keep warm. Remove the basin from the pan using the string handle, then take off the string and foil (be wary of steam, and the container stays hot for a long time!) Above is how the cake looked with the foil removed.

Place a large bowl on top of the basin and (using oven gloves) turn the pudding upside down. Carefully remove the basin. Above is a picture from the recipe book, of how the pudding should look! (From Lorraine Pascale's 2011 book, 'Home Cooking Made Easy') However, I think I waited five minutes too long to turn out the pudding, causing the Mars bar sauce to set and stick to the bottom of the basin. Mine came apart as we removed the basin, resulting in a big messy pile of pudding, whoops!

However, it still looked delicious - check out that molten middle. If your pudding turns out perfectly, pour the sauce over the pudding and serve. As mine didn't, we poured the sauce over our individual portions.

Serve on it's own or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream - deliciously indulgent!

Steamed puddings usually have a very wintery feel but this was perfect for yesterday's dull, bleak weather! Be warned, this pudding is super rich - the recipe says it serves 6 but I think you could definitely stretch it to more! Anyway, sorry about the not-very-pretty recipe but I hope it at least looks tempting: I think I consider any recipe a success as long as it tastes good, even if it's not competition material! Let me know what you think of this: will you be trying this recipe?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Heading to San Bernardino...

Hi dolls! So, I know this will make for two Q&A posts within a week but Leona recently tagged me in her Summer Tag post and I feel like the season is slipping through my fingers rather rapidly so I want to get this post up before the warm weather is a very distant memory!

1. What's your favourite thing about summer?
I love the feeling of just sitting outside in the sunshine, too hot to move, not a care in the world! I love pub gardens with friends when it's sweltering, with an ice cold cider to cool down. The excitement of summer holidays and festivals if you're going to one that year. The smell of suncream. Bare legs, bare feet. Those rare few weeks where it's not dark by 9pm, and it's still warm by 10pm. The sound - and smell - of the sea. And, it's my birthday in mid-summer which is a lovely time of year for it!

2. Do you have a favourite summer drink?
I drink a lot of ice water in the summer, or water with fruit in it. I love an ice cold cider or a white wine (spritz for mid afternoon, with ice in the evenings when it's hot.)

3. Is there a location you prefer to go to in the summer?
The beach, or on holiday/at a festival are the obvious choices! But if I'm in my hometown I'm happy to hop to the pub garden or take a walk with the dogs. Or just toast myself in the garden, blissing out in a lounger, eyes shut or with a good book.

4. Favourite makeup look for summer?
My eye makeup stays the same for most of the year (though a swipe of Fantasy from Lush is a nice touch in the warmer weather) but for summer I switch to a lighter, brighter red lip, or a coral shade, or just a lip balm. I don't like to wear makeup except for mascara if I'm sunbathing, as you practically feel it all melting off. I've got more into BB cream this year too.

5. Dresses or skirts?
I spent half my summer in crops and skirts, and the other half in maxi dresses. My style gets really lazy in summer: my personal style is all in the accessories so when it's too hot to layer them up I definitely lose my fashion mojo and throw on whatever's nearest and clean.

6. Sandals or ballet pumps?
Ballet pumps. I'm not a fan of my feet and if I can avoid having my toes out I will, unless I'm on a beach or in the garden.

7. Do you prefer to wear your hair up or down for summer?
Down. I'm not so great at putting my hair up so I feel self conscious about it. If someone can teach me how to master the art of a perfect hipster bun I will be eternally grateful...

8. Deep smoky eyes or bold lips?
Bold lips! Every now and again I see a picture of Taylor Momsen and get the urge to black my eyes out  - I tried it the other day when I went to meet my housemates, and I just looked like a zombie, and not in a cool way. I can never get it right!

9. Favourite perfume for summer?
I'm all about Atlas Mountain Rose from the Body Shop right now as it's really fresh and floral, but if I had the budget I'd wear Flowerbomb by Viktor and Rolf all the time.

10. Last but not least, favourite music for the summer?
Can I refer you back to this really really really old summer playlist? See also: this one and I'm going to leave you with my favourite summer song of all...

Thanks for nominating me, Leona! I'd like to nominate Louise, the girls at The Style Rawr, HollKimmie and Char to answer these questions, and for anybody else who chooses to answer these questions please leave me a link so I can see your answers! :)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

We belong way down below...

Salut messieurs et madames, welcome to the third post in my Great Blogger Bakeoff series! I must admit to being somewhat relieved that this week's Bakeoff theme was bread: despite being a huge sweet tooth as a child I much prefer savoury food now. Whilst a sweet treat here and there doesn't go amiss (see weeks one and two, I admittedly polished off my fair share of these concoctions!) I was excited to get stuck into a more savoury recipe instead. So, this week I have written up the recipe for a Comté cheese and red onion loaf. It is based on a Pain de Savoie recipe by Paul Hollywood, but the recipe is altered for those of us who don't eat meat. Enjoy!

This recipe is for a red onion and Comté cheese loaf: you will require a 20-inch deep springform cake tin, and the following ingredients:

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1tbsp of wholemeal flour (optional)
10g salt
8g dried yeast
20ml olive oil, plus extra for oiling
300ml water
1 red onion
200g Comté cheese, cubed

This is a snapshot of the recipe this post is based on, from Paul Hollywood's 2013 'Bread' book. As you can see this recipe has been well used in our family. My parents made it for the first time according to the original recipe and we later devised this meat-free alternative.

Begin by oiling a work surface ready for kneading. Add the strong white bread flour, and an optional tablespoon of wholemeal flour, to a large bowl. Add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other. Add the olive oil with 250ml water and mix by hand. Add some more water to form a soft dough.

Tip the dough onto the oiled work surface, knead for at least 10 minutes. The dough, when ready, will become smooth and elastic.

Finely chop a red onion. Depending on the size of the onion, you will use approximately a third of the onion. Work the chopped onion well into the dough - start by using a small amount, you can always add more.

Form the dough into a ball and put into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for at least 2 hours. It will become 2-3 times bigger over this time.

Lightly flour a surface. Work the dough with your hands, stretching it out and folding it in on itself, then split into three evenly sized pieces, forming them into balls. Put two of the pieces aside.

Roll the first ball into a circle to fit the tin, about 1.5-2cm thick. Lay it in the bottom of the tin and scatter half of the cheese over the top. Repeat this process with the second ball of dough, scattering the rest of the cheese on top, then roll out the third ball to the same size and place it on top.
Note: I would advise keeping the cheese further in from the edges than pictured here, as when I took my loaf out of the oven some of the cheese had melted down the side of the loaf. It doesn't affect the taste, but it doesn't look as pretty and uniform if the cheese is visible from the outside!

Dust the loaf with flour and put the tin inside a plastic bag. Leave this to prove for about an hour, when it should be nicely puffed up. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees.

Bake the loaf for 30 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

All this waiting and proving and cooling meant I had lost the light before I had  chance to photograph my bread! However, I hope you like the look of it, with the cheese running throughout and the small pieces of red onion. It was really delicious, and very popular.

I would advise making this loaf to eat it the same day.This is only because red onion has a nasty habit of losing it's colour. Whilst the bread tastes great and is still moist the day after making, the red onion becomes greyish in colour which looks less appetising! Besides, the bread is really delicious eaten warm: it's a brilliant recipe to keep in mind as autumn approaches.

Overall I was really pleased with the outcome of this recipe: I've made bread less than a handful of times and whilst I enjoy it I couldn't say I'm hugely confident! I'm definitely detecting a pattern, though: my recipes always taste a hell of a lot better than they look ahah! As an illustration student maybe that should be worrying?! Do you enjoy making bread, would you try this recipe?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Now my ashtray's overflowing, I'm still staring at a clean white page...

I was nominated by Louise to take part in a blog hop post, which I thought was a really cool idea: in this case, you answer four questions about the writing process of your blog. I always find it interesting seeing how others organise their blog, and their attitudes towards blogging including their longer-term goals. You can read Louise's post here, and my answers are below!

1. What are you working on?
I've got a few different things lined up: a summer tag, some product reviews, and soon I'll have to start thinking about my August favourites. I'm also working on blog maintenance: trying to clean up my old posts, getting rid of broken image links (it's a slow process as there's hundreds of posts to go through!) and I'm also working on some illustrations that should make it both here and to my illustration journal which has been horribly neglected this busy summer!

One of my latest illustrations.

2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?
Realistically, I'm kind of a 'dabbler' when it comes to blogging. I post outfits, sometimes beauty reviews, sometimes illustrations, sometimes personal posts, I've even just started joining in with a baking challenge. There's nothing content-wise that is astonishingly unique, people blog about those things all the time. But the thing about bloggers is that we are all our own USP - we share our own very specific likes and dislikes, in fact a blog is not unlike reading somebody's personal diary. So like with anything in life, some bloggers will blur into one, and others will stand out to you. Writing styles, outfit styling, taste in recipes, illustration style, lifestyle, these are all things that are unique to any individual; we are all special little snowflakes. So my blog might stand out to some people who are interested in similar things to me, who like my style, whilst to others I am another cardboard cut-out blogger.

3. Why do I write what I do?
I've always enjoyed writing, but the decision to start a blog was twofold: firstly, I've been a reader of blogs way before they started to boom. I've been a follower of the likes of Kingdom of Style and Flying Saucer since way back when, I loved Winona's charismatic, hilarious blogging style so much I bought the book she wrote (gah, I miss her blog even now!) It may even have been in Winona's book that I read something about taking photos of your outfits, so you know how you actually look in something rather than how you think you look (if you've ever faced the nightmare of an outfit working perfectly in your head and horribly in reality you'll know where I'm coming from.)

I guess that was kind of a lightbulb moment for me. As somebody a year into uni with a firm knowledge of what I loved but serious self-doubt of whether I could pull it off, I figured capturing pictures of outfits would be a good way to know what worked for me to try and avoid the early-morning panic attack that putting an outfit together always became. And blogging them just seemed the obvious solution because I had a list of blogs I trawled through every single day, and I thought why not start one of my own? I still have nothing-to-wear moments now of course, I think everyone does, but my wardrobe is a hell of a lot more 'me' due to blogging and I'm much more confident putting things together.

So that's the reason I post my outfits, but really as a student doing an Illustration degree I also needed a creative outlet outside of my creative course. When what you love to do becomes what you do every day, there's a void where that hobby used to be, and writing filled that. Particularly my older entries, but still now, there is an element of journal-writing: I always used to keep a blog on Myspace, and I guess as that became less popular it was inevitable I'd take my blog somewhere else; I just had no idea I'd be keeping up with it two years later, let alone have followers who actually took some interest in what I post here - I'm so grateful for every single comment and follower.

4. How does my writing process work?

My writing process tends to be pretty organic - I'm not an overly organised blogger. I never post my monthly favourites during that actual month, sometimes I don't get a chance to take any outfit pictures for two weeks or so, and sometimes life just plain gets in the way. I've kind of made my peace with that: I remember quaking in my boots reading Becky Bedbug's post about how she organises her blogging time - seriously, that lady is on fire - but as somebody who started blogging during university I didn't want to give myself too many extra self-initiated deadlines: I was stressed enough already!

If I have been gifted items to review, I try to prioritise those posts due to PR deadlines (I do try and be sensible about this though; i.e. over the holidays I will prioritise personal seasonal posts in order to avoid waiting to post my Christmas list halfway through January.) Other than that, some weeks I'll post most days and others I'll post once or twice - whilst I understand that you can reap huge benefits from posting regularly I don't write here with the aspiration to become a successful, 'big' blogger. For me it's just a creative outlet and I post when I want to, about what I want to (which admittedly is mostly about pretty dresses but hey, I'm not alone there, and the blogging community has made me realise that it is okay just to really like lace, shoes and lipsticks. One of my favourite bloggers writes about lingerie and studies astrophysics, it goes to show that enjoying aesthetically pleasing items isn't mutually exclusive to being fiercely intelligent and opinionated.) I don't ever want my blog to become a chore, I'd rather post when I have the time and something to say. Some of my favourite bloggers post sporadically, like Harley, but I always go back and check out her new posts. I'd like to think my regular readers, and the friends I've made through blogging, would do the same if I have a break from blogging for any reason.

As for the process of actually writing a blog post, I'll take pictures first, select, crop and resize them, and then draft the post. If I have a lot of post ideas I'll usually draft them or write them on a to-do list, since to-do lists dominate the majority of my daily activities.

So... there are my answers! Who knew I could ramble on so much about blogging?! I'd like to see Bethany Paige, Leona and Alice's answers to this blog hop, if you guys fancy it. Oh, and anyone else reading this post that might be interested! Over to you guys!

Monday, 18 August 2014

You take the high road down...

Hi dolls, happy Monday! I hope you've had a good weekend: it seemed to go so quickly! The highlight of my weekend was meeting up with my friend Kimmie (who also gave me an amazing birthday goodie bag!) However, today's outfit post is from a few weeks ago when my boyfriend and I had a date night: he cooked me dinner properly for the first time (impressive considering we've been together for almost a year, but that's the inevitable thing about living with housemates, it makes romantic dinners few and far between haha!)

Dress - Warehouse*

There were a range of different dresses that caught my eye from Warehouse but I was most drawn to this flippy hem dress because I liked the shape and the gorgeous back strap detailing. You really can't go wrong with a little black dress for date night, and this one, whilst simple, is still unique and interesting. The shape is really rather flattering and, even better, this dress is in the sale now for £25. As far as testimonies go, my boyfriend was very complimentary!

It's still technically a touch warm for a leather jacket and boots most of the time but as the evenings have started to cool down a little I couldn't stop myself from accessorising this dress in my favourite way. I've missed my faux-litas, they're amongst the most leg-lengthening shoes I own, just what you want when you're trying to look your best! I felt great in this outfit but in retrospect from looking at the pictures I can only apologise for my hair's appearance: that's the first and last time I ever try DIY salt-spray. Beach waves not so much! Find this outfit on Lookbook here...

Is there ever a better go-to option than a little black dress? How do you like to accessorise yours?