Monday, 15 September 2014

I lay back in a glittering mist...

When Rock and Religion emailed me last month to ask me if I'd like to be their September Blogger of the Month I was rather excited, not to mention flattered! I've been following them on Instagram for a while and one of the notable things I liked about the brand is that they have a real personality and interaction with their followers, something other brands often lack sorely. To be featured by such a customer-focused brand really excited me: they offered to send me a goodie box as a thank you for being their featured blogger, including an item from their collection to review - I couldn't wait for it to arrive!

When I first opened my goodie box, attached to the lid was this flyer describing their brand motive. Sounds pretty cool right? And the website doesn't disappoint: the moment you click onto the Rock and Religion website the first thing you see is an old-gold, sequined maxi paired with a black leather biker. I love the grunge-glam feel of it! Whilst the website is up-and-coming, you can shop for Rock and Religion at Spoiled Brat, The Light Room, or Pure London amongst other retailers. And now for the contents of my goodie box...

I loved the thoughtful inclusion of little notes explaining why the R&R girls thought each gift would be perfect for me. I was so excited to find this little nail kit in my box: I love nail art but have never tried this kind of 3D manicure. It will be particularly perfect as we head rapidly towards the party season, but I'll certainly be trying it out long before then!

I always look at these Montagne Jeunesse face masks and want to buy them as they look so appealing, but as I have sensitive skin I've always been too nervous to try them! Has anybody tried these masks, can you advise me on whether they are suitable for sensitive skin?

Woohoo! The girls over at R&R clearly have been reading my blog and know how I am a die-hard fan of Lipcote! This is a product that I buy over and over again, so I'm so pleased that they've treated me to a new one!

I'm an illustrator as well as a blogger so I can never have too many notebooks! I love the iridescent look to this, it appeals to my inner magpie!

Despite the fact that I love trying new beauty buys, if I was told I could only ever buy my beauty products from Lush I think I'd be fine with that! They are ethical, natural, cruelty-free, and these values are really important to me. Receiving a Lush bath ballistic in my parcel was the perfect final touch as I treasure my little hoard of bath bombs!

It was so exciting unboxing this gift as I had absolutely no idea what to expect in my goodie box, and everything was so thoughtful and perfectly selected. There was even a belated birthday card and badge which was so, so kind of them! As for the clothing sample? I'll be featuring that this week so keep an eye out for it: until then I've been featured over on their Tumblr so feel free to check that out!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

I want blood, guts and angel cake...

So, this week's Bakeoff theme was European cakes leavened with yeast. I think these type of bakes are likely to be unfamiliar with most people, I've never used yeast in anything aside from bread, but after some pondering I decided I'd make a Panettone.

This was the first time I've ever made a Panettone - or anything remotely like a Panettone - and I improvised the recipe: as I'm not a fan of traditional dried-fruit flavours I flavoured it with white chocolate and raspberry instead. I'm really pleased that it rose (I couldn't get hold of any fresh raspberries and the frozen ones I had to use made the mixture quite wet) but in this case the way I improvised with the recipe didn't quite work, it's not as sweet as I'd have liked and the cooking times/temperatures need re-evaluating slightly.

Whilst my Panettone isn't a bad attempt for a first effort, I wouldn't make it again without altering the recipe a little so today I'll just be sharing photos and omitting the usual instructions! I hope you like the look of it nonetheless!

I still think that I'll have another go at a Panettone soon, admittedly I've had no time to bake this week: I made this late last night and didn't get to try it until this morning so there's been no time to rectify any problems! I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I can't bring myself to post a recipe unless I'm completely sure of it, but if I give this another go I'll make sure to update it here. I guess at least I gave it a try! Have you ever tried making something similar? How'd it go?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Think old thoughts from yesterday...

Hi dolls! Today's outfit post is long overdue, I know, but things are getting back on track! I'm getting really excited about dressing for my favourite time of year and my wardrobe shifting back to tons of black, layers and textures. Yeah, I can't wait!

Shirt - Urban Outfitters via Depop

 Necklace - Camden Town*
Truthfully I've lusted over this kind of Scrabble-tile jewellery for over a decade now, ever since I first discovered quirky accessory websites with gummy-bear pendants and stoppers full of sprinkles as a teenager. But this necklace is much more appealing to me than a simple letter printed onto a pendant: Camden Town offers a whole host of products with quotes or images printed on the tiles, including Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and fantasy-inspired pictures and text. Most of all I wanted this Red Clover Fairy necklace, surely from the Flower Fairy books I fell in love with as a child: Cicely Mary Barker must have been one of my main influences to become an illustrator myself. The chain hangs at a perfect length and is beautifully eye catching, I'm so pleased to have this as part of my collection.

Since having taken to Depop to sell my own clothes (please do check out my profile and help me in my quest to clear out my wardrobe, by the way) I've managed to purchase several items at bargain prices. This shirt is one of them: I snapped it up in great condition for a third of it's RRP and I haven't wanted to take it off since. Myself and my ex-housemates recently were discussing whether our styles would mature after student life. Just as I started to suspect that might be true I felt a huge urge to pair the shirt with DMs and overknee socks (arguably a bad idea given my thunder thighs) but it was fun to wear something 'student-y' again for the first time in ages. Find this outfit on Lookbook here...

What are your thoughts on this outfit? Graduates: how did your style change after university?

Monday, 8 September 2014

Straight through the eye of a needle at night...

Hi guys! So little time, so much to post. I just can't believe we're already a week into September, so my August favourites are well overdue. There was a real chill in the air this morning, and you can tell that the season's definitely shifting. Now, as August is my birthday month it's actually been bizarrely difficult to pick favourites for the past month as I was horribly spoilt really, and I've featured lots of these favourite items either here or on Instagram and I didn't want to repeat myself. However, I've selected a few key items to write about today: enjoy!

I've featured this bag before in an outfit post but I couldn't resist posting it again as it truly was one of my August highlights. I don't need to tell you guys how much I love Fatchels, I write about them enough as it is, but I was so grateful to the lovely ladies over at Rhodesian for gifting me with this bag as a birthday present. Kind doesn't begin to cover it! I love the colour scheme, the personalised nature of the bag and, as always, the craftsmanship is impeccable.

Temporary Tattoo - Camden Town*
I'm craving a tattoo so badly at the moment and I really, really want something floral like this. However until I can afford it, temporary tattoos will have to be the way forward for me. Camden Town have such a gorgeous collection and I couldn't get over how many of their designs I wanted!

Necklaces - Gifts
These necklaces were gifts from when my parents went on holiday to Italy. Their choices were perfect: I love the (functional) pocket watch necklace with it's old-gold colour, and the heart necklace on the cord seems to be crafted from shell and can be worn long or as more of a choker. Swoon. (They also brought back some Italian chocolate, but admittedly that disappeared fairly quickly...)

Amy Lee - Aftermath
It's no secret that I'm a huge Amy Lee fan. Recently she gave birth to a baby boy(!!) so she's clearly had her hands full: therefore I was really shocked that she also released a film soundtrack so recently! Now, anything that Amy Lee releases now on her own is always going to be compared to Evanescence but this is very different and needs to be listened to in it's own right without comparisons. Being a soundtrack, much of the album is instrumental, a great thing when you're as talented as Amy when it comes to creating and layering dark and brooding melodies. In the opening track, Push The Button, Amy's love for Depeche Mode is more noticable than ever. Overall it was a surprise, but a pleasant one: this album won't be for everyone, but I love it as it's so atmospheric and emotive.

So there are my August favourites! Will you be trying any of these items?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Can't stop what's coming...

Another Wednesday, another Bakeoff. Truthfully I'm really enjoying keeping up with this series, and I've endeavoured to keep up despite the difficulty of the past few weeks. Some of you may have read yesterday's blog post, a vegetarian pastry bake, and this post will make for a double whammy of veggie pastries as I couldn't resist the urge to cook something savoury this week since the theme is pies and tarts!

I've never made shortcut pastry from scratch before and this went surprisingly well - even my chef brother told me he was impressed which is always a compliment! This blogger bakeoff has made for such a learning curve but it's been a lot of fun trying my hand to new things. Today's veggie pepper tart was a bit of an experiment in that I didn't really know what it would turn out like: as it turns out, I pretty much made a quiche and it was delicious. Does that still count as a tart? The pastry's right so I'd like to think so! If you'd like the recipe, read on! :)

This recipe makes a roasted pepper tart. For this recipe you will need an 11 inch loose-bottomed flan tin and the following ingredients:

For the pastry:
225g plain flour
Pinch salt
125g butter or margarine
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp milk

For the filling:
4 peppers
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 tbsp olive oil
100g Mozzarella cheese, grated
2 eggs, beaten
150ml milk
1 tbsp tomato puree
Pinch dried oregano
5-6 basil leaves, torn

To make the pastry, sift the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter or margarine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the tomato puree and milk to form a firm dough, then knead on a floured surface until smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes. (My mum thought I was making playdough due to the colour the tomato gives the pastry haha!)

As your dough chills, roast the peppers. Chop the peppers into halves and lay them on a baking sheet. Mix the garlic and oil in a small bowl and brush over the peppers. Bake them at 200 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, until they are slightly charred.

When the peppers are cooked, remove them from the oven and put them on the side to cool. Meanwhile, roll out the dough on a floured surface and line the tin. Prick the base with a fork and put back in the fridge to chill.

When the peppers are cooled, slice them thinly.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a small jug, then mix in the milk, basil, oregano and tomato puree. I also added half a teaspoon of the remaining garlic from the roast peppers, and seasoned well.

Arrange the peppers in the base of the pastry case, layering with the Mozzarella cheese. When the peppers and cheese are all in, pour the egg mixture over the peppers. Then return the tart to the oven to cook for about 25 minutes, or until set.

Once the tart is ready, remove it from the tin and put it onto a plate. You can serve it hot or cold.

We ate ours for dinner with baby potatoes, asparagus and salad.

So, that's this week's offering, I hope you liked the look of it! Are you more of a savoury person or are you all about the sweet? It seems like it's back to cakes next week so I need to think fast..!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

I have finally freed myself, but it's been hard to break away...

Hi dolls! So, today I landed myself a job (finally, after months of searching) and I'm feeling much more positive about life post-university. It ties in quite nicely with today's blog post, actually! Today I'm writing another recipe post - I realise my blog's become rather food-orientated lately, but having recently faced an event where our family has had to come together it's become apparent that whilst there might be less time for outfit photos, people still need to eat! Currys emailed me a while ago to let me know they were putting together a student cookbook and were looking for quick and easy recipes. As somebody fresh out of student life and into the real world I'd like to think I've mastered the art of the quick and easy dinner, so I was more than happy to contribute!

Despite being somebody that loves cooking, I lived for three years in student digs without a dishwasher and washing up was my most-loathed chore. As a result of this, I mastered the art of utensil frugality (that's a thing, I swear) and today's recipe for a vegetable pastry requires only a chopping board, big pan, measuring jug and baking sheet, plus utensils (fairly good for a recipe that serves at least 5!) This is easy, a bit of a crowd-pleaser, can be used up for lunch the next day, and is a great excuse to open a bottle of wine.

To make this vegetarian pastry bake you will need a rolling pin, baking parchment, and the following ingredients:

450g prepared puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp butter or margarine
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 leek, shredded
2 peppers, sliced
70g mushrooms, sliced
75g asparagus spears
2 tbsp flour
1 vegetarian stock cube
85ml milk
4 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp oregano, dried

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Then, prepare the vegetables: weigh out and slice the leek, peppers and mushrooms, and crush the garlic. Bend the asparagus spears to find where the stalk breaks naturally, and throw away the woody ends. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the leek and garlic to cook for 2 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Mix the stock cube with 85ml of hot water in a jug, then add to the pan along with the milk and wine. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring continuously until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the oregano and add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the baking sheet in baking parchment and dampen slightly. Roll half the pastry out onto a lightly floured kitchen surface to form a rectangle. Put this onto the baking sheet, on top of the damp baking parchment. Spoon the filling on top of the pastry, leaving about an inch clean at each edge. Brush the clean edges with the beaten egg.

Roll out the other half of the pastry to the same shape but a little larger. Cut parallel slits across the rectangle to about an inch from each edge. Place this rectangle on top and seal the edges around well by pinching the sides of the pastry together. Brush the whole pastry with egg and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.

Remove the pastry from the oven when it is puffed up, as pictured above, and serve immediately. Bonus points if yours is prettier than mine (I'm kind of a messy cook) but either way it should taste incredible! My family commented that this bake would also be nice with chicken, but the recipe could also easily be adapted for vegans, so it's quite a handy basic (and a welcome change from pasta or beans on toast!)

I hope you like the sound of this recipe! I remember towards the end of university, when we were busy with our projects/dissertations, my housemates and I would consider dinner to be the highlight of our day as it was the only break we took from studying. Back then I'd often try and buy myself some time by cooking things that needed a little extra preparation (I don't miss that feeling haha!) This recipe slipped my mind at the time, but I'll pass on the legacy and hopefully it will benefit somebody, whether in the first year or third, pre-night out or pre-library all-nighter. Good luck with your studies, guys!