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?

Friday, 15 August 2014

Like we're made of starlight...

Hi dolls, I hope you're well! Today I have an outfit post from my birthday: this is what I wore when I went to London for the day to see The Lion King. Enjoy!

Dress - Oh My Love
Belt - Topshop
Boots - Topshop

Bag - Rhodesian of Edinburgh*

Necklace - Bloody Mary Metal
This necklace was an incredibly generous birthday gift from my boyfriend's parents, I can't tell you how shocked and happy I was to open it. Bloody Mary Metal are my favourite jewellery designer, they are so up my street and I love this Lovehunter's Arrow: I've hardly taken it off since I received it. I like it best worn against a darker colour with a slightly higher neckline as this is how it is most visible, but I knew I wanted to wear it on my birthday (I've just photographed it closer up here so you can see the detail, as it's hard to pick it out against the white dress!)

Watch - Gift
Rings - Vintage/Bloody Mary Metal
This watch was my boyfriend's birthday gift to me (as well as an entire day in London including dinner and a stage show... any ideas how I can top that for his birthday next month?!?) To be honest when it comes to gifts, most girls I know give their boyfriends specific instructions as they don't want to get it wrong. Since I like surprises, I referred him to a blog post of mine for ideas, however I wasn't expecting him to pick out a watch specifically, frankly I think that's brave! But he clearly knows me well because I love it. I also received a new Trollbead from my parents, so I added that to my charm bracelet which I wore on my other wrist.

I don't know why but I always want a new dress for my birthday, something different and new, and I wanted a real change for my birthday day out so I opted for white as it's the polar opposite to my preferred colour of choice: T's been rocking the monochrome thing over on The Style Rawr and I had a case of blogger-made-me-buy-it syndrome. My mum wasn't sure about the dress at first, thinking white's not my colour, whilst my brother thought it was a nightdress. However, with a belt and boots I felt it all came together quite nicely.

As for the bag, what an amazing birthday gift from the lovely ladies over at Rhodesian of Edinburgh! I was speechless when this bag arrived, it was a surprise but they must be psychic as I was planning to buy an aqua Rhodesian for my next bag! This bag is the slightly smaller size than my first Fatchel, making it perfect for a wander around London as it's more travel-friendly but I could still fit in all my essentials. The embossed lettering and magnetic popper fastenings are amongst the added extras that make my first Fatchel particularly special to me so it was really thoughtful of Katrina and Charlotte to include these extras again on my surprise bag. (Just as a sidenote for anyone as Fatchel-obsessed as I am, I've been having a nose onsite and they're now offering metallic and neon Fatchels eep!!)

The only thing I'd say with this 'Nobody Minds' dress from Oh My Love is to stay true to your size: I sized up thinking I'd need extra bust and length but I really didn't need to, and it meant when belting the dress I had some excess material that bunched up a little. I'd have exchanged it if I didn't buy it so close to the day (I was pretty desperate to wear it for my birthday!) Still, it's my mistake and the dress is only £15 in their sale right now so I can't really complain! Other than my poor sizing decisions I'm really pleased with this dress: the quality is lovely, it's surprisingly opaque for a white dress and it's a lovely shape and material. Find this outfit on Lookbook here...


So that concludes this outfit, here's to something different! Even though white is really unusual for me this outfit probably feels more 'me' than I have in a while: summer often throws me off when it comes to dressing myself: when it's too hot I don't like to wear the things I'm usually drawn to, and I prefer the colours and layering that come with autumn/winter in general. However, with this I feel true to myself, probably because it's accessorised with all the items I love. Do different seasons ever throw you off style-wise, or are you happy sailing through?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

You can be my sugar, be my cherry cola...

Hi dolls, welcome to another Bakeoff post! Last night I hosted a dinner party - odd for a Tuesday night, but amongst my friendship group there is cabin crew, a teacher, a student, a store manager and a ducter so it means we're hardly ever all free and in the same town at the same time so we always seize the opportunity to get together whenever it comes up! I had a really fun night even if we drank far too much wine; and the dinner party was successful considering I'm a vegetarian cooking for five meat-eaters, I'm just glad they liked the food! This week's Bakeoff theme is centred around biscuits: I was up to my ears in cooking making all the courses and dishes for my party so I wanted a simple but tasty dessert. So I came up with these cherry shortbread hearts, enjoy...

This recipe makes approximately 20 cherry shortbread hearts, depending on the size of your cutter. They are quick to bake and simple but delicious, icing optional. You will need:

For the biscuits:
100g icing sugar
250g plain flour, plus extra for work surfaces
50g ground almonds
250g butter
50g glace cherries
1/2 tsp almond extract

For the icing:
Approx 100g icing sugar
Glace cherries for decoration
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and lay out some baking parchment onto two trays. Finely chop the glace cherries and cut the butter into cubes. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl, then stir in the ground almonds and butter. Rub the butter into the dry mixture until it forms a dough.

Stir in the chopped cherries and add the almond extract. The dough should be smooth but not sticky; if it is add some flour until it has the consistency to roll and cut into shapes.

Lightly flour a surface and roll out the dough, then cut out the biscuits using a heart-shaped cutter. Keep rerolling the dough until all of the mixture is cut into hearts.

Bake the biscuits for 8-10 minutes until they are a pale golden colour - don't overbake these! Give them a few minutes to toughen up, then place them on a wire rack to cool.

As an option, you can ice the biscuits for an extra-nostalgic touch. Mix some icing sugar with half a teaspoon of almond extract and top with a cherry.

So here are the finished results: not as pretty as they could have been but sadly I was rushing around trying to get my other courses prepared; besides despite their somewhat haphazard appearance these really did go down a storm! For results this messy make sure to have a preparatory glass of wine while you ice the biscuits (vital prior to hosting a dinner party, no?!) Let me know whether you like the sound of this recipe, and enjoy the Bakeoff tonight!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Nobody likes you when you're twenty-three...

Hi dolls! Is it really Tuesday?! This weekend has flown past so quickly, as I suspect birthday weekends always do! I wanted to share with you some pictures from my birthday weekend as I had such a great few days (outfit post to follow!) Enjoy...

I spent Saturday morning being sickeningly spoilt: I got some gorgeous gifts, from this Alice in Wonderland teaset to some Bloody Mary Metal jewellery; from the new Mastodon album to a bunch of Disney Blu-Rays; from a brand new watch to some Body Shop goodies... yeah, I was pretty lucky!

My boyfriend then whisked me into London where we watched The Lion King on stage: it was incredible, such an amazing surprise; although we got lost on the tube and the show started as soon as we reached our seats, phew!

"Time Wounds All Eels"

Afterwards we popped to Somerset House to look at their current exhibitions: there was a really cool few rooms dedicated to Rude Boy style, and then we spent ages in an exhibition where selected prominent tattoo artists were given the theme of 'time' and asked to create a piece using any medium except for skin. I'm a huge fan of tattoo art, and it's given me such a craving for new ink.

Afterwards we trekked around London searching for somewhere to eat dinner as the stage show had run later than expected which meant that we missed our reservations at a vegetarian restaurant that my man had thoughtfully booked for us. Still, it was nice to wander around popping into the restaurants (which were all full!), people-watching and enjoying the Saturday-night vibe in central London. However, my man had injured his knee at work the day before my birthday and we'd done a lot of walking that day so it was time for us to limp home! (The photo above is a sight we saw just before our train home at Waterloo, it was pretty cool!)

The next day my best girlfriends picked me up at a rather delicate hour (we may have stopped for cocktails in town when our train arrived home the night before) and we drove to Bath!

Due to Hurricane Bertha, my outfit plans went to pieces: I don't even have a waterproof jacket so I was rocking my brother's mac with DMs and a giant checked shirt. Not so much the ladies-who-lunch vibe I'd originally planned for but hey, I was comfortable.

Bath was looking pretty beautiful when the sun came out and we even met an art director in a pub which was hilarious because I had no business cards, was pretty drenched, tipsy on half a cider and generally not in the right mindset to chat art haha. Still, he bought us a round of birthday drinks which was really kind!

We shopped around for cava and toothpaste (as all three of us assumed that somebody else would have some) and then went back to our lovely hotel to doll up for dinner.

We stayed at The Windsor Hotel in Bath which was so pretty - I'd certainly go back there! My girls certainly spoilt me rotten; here's us posing trying to get a nice pre-dinner photo haha. I wore an old dress from Freak of Nature which I ADORE but have never seemed to take any good photos in haha!

We ate in a really cool underground Italian restaurant named Sotto Sotto. We all fell a little bit in love with the suave Italian waiters (sorry boyfriend!) and they embarrassed me by all crowding around me singing happy birthday at the end of the night. It was so cringeworthy but very lovely of them haha!

Then, it was suddenly Monday and we had to hit the road - but not before lunch! We ate in Bath's Riverside cafe, which was really beautiful (until a monsoon hit our outdoor table, so we took refuge inside!)

We drank some local cider (San Pellegrino for our poor driver) and got some food to tide us over for the journey, where I slept most of the way home.


So, that was my weekend in pictures! How was yours? I still can't get over the fact that I'm twenty-three now (I totally had to use that lyric from What's My Age again as this post title ahah!)