Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas Day

Christmas Day started for me with me being shaken awake (as all Christmas Days should). Except it wasn't my brother or cousin or dog doing the shaking, it was my Mum. "He's been, he's been!!" she squeaked. So I hopped out I bed and headed in to the sun room to see if she was right.


The first thing I got a visual on was the Pimms. Santa you're off to a gooood start!


Christmas Day breakfast in our house is always smoked salmon on brown bread and lemon wedges, with plenty of Buck's Fizz. Nothing says Merry Christmas like drinking far too much alcohol and starting early!

My big brother was at his girlfriend's which was a bit weird, but I wasn't complaining about the extra fuss that was made of me. The present opening frenzy quickly began. 



Wrapping paper everywhichwere!


My favourite ever perfume! Father Christmas had seen my Reb'l Fleur perfume review and had made a special note. He's a clever, sneaky old devil like that!


Grandma also got some perfume which she seemed very happy with... Called, wait for it, Sensuous Nude!! She's got a cracking sense of humour so she was chortling about it for a good 10 minutes. She's a little chocolate monster aswell so I got her a big box of posh chocs which she was cockahoop with. Look at that little face.


Dad well and truly eyeing up the plonk I bought him from Selfridges.


Me with the amazing Joy The Baker's cookbook! I think she's the bees knees and one of the best things that has come out of the blogosphere. Hopefully I can be as good as Joy one day!


The beautifully laid table. We didn't bother with crackers this year... Mum gave us scratch cards! Much better. And Grandma won a fiver!




Mum carving the turkey. She's always tasked with the carving of the joint in our house (sorry Dad) but it's bit really hard to see why - look at that technique.


Dad dousing the Christmas pud with Courvousier. I am not a fan of it whatsoever, so luckily my Uncle's star of a housemate Mark, who happens to be a baker and pudding-maker extraordinaire made Banana Cream Pie and, my absolute fave, his Tiramisu. You haven't lived until you've tried Mark's Tira! I'd live off the stuff if I could, and that's no lie.



 


And finally, as I was happily going through my snaps I found this... a good goofy drunken Christmas Day selfie with my Mum! Happy Christmas one and all.


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Perfect Mince Pies


Merry Christmas Eve to you all! I hope that you're all relaxing with a glass of something nice and spending some time with the special people in your lives. That's exactly what I'm doing as I'm writing this post (G&T for me seeing as you're asking!)

I love Christmas, it's such a happy time of year in my house. Everybody heads to my mum and dad's house, we batten down the hatched, gifts are exchanged, we have some much needed 'us' time... and the food is to die for. My favourite festive treat is, and has always been, mince pies. My grandma is an expert baker, but she's taken her foot off the gas since her 90th birthday (I think she's earned a break!) and my mum has been rushed off her feet with work and the stress of having a new kitchen fitted... I was mortified to learn that Morrison's had been supplying the household with mince pies in my absence... But I'm back now, so not on my watch! There were 2 jars of mincemeat left hopefully on the side (I think someone was secretly hoping I'd make some!) I put on my apron and some Christmas songs and got to work. I've been making these ever since I was tiny; they're the perfect rustic mince pies  I can't tell you how happy I am to be sharing this special recipe with you today! The recipe makes 24 lovely medium-sized pies.

Ingredients 

350g / 12oz Plain Flour (plus a little extra for flourinf your board and rolling pin)
225g / 8oz Butter
A few splashes of water
650g Mincemeat

Equipment

1 medium cutter
1 small cutter (I used a Christmas star)
2 Yorkshire pudding trays
Rolling pin
Milk brush

Method 

1. Preheat the oven to 200c. Sieve the flour in to a bowl and add the butter. Rub until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.


2. Add just enough water to bind the mixture together in to a ball. 


3. Divide the mixture in two. Transfer one of the balls on to a floured surface and flour a rolling pin. Roll out to about 5mm thick and cut as many circles as you can get out. 


Repeat with any pastry left over and line your Yorkshire trays.

4. Repeat with ball 2. But this time use your smaller cutter (or star), and reserve the pastry shapes. 

5. Put a teaspoon of mincemeat in each case; try not to overfill, but don't worry about it too much (I like when the mincemeat drizzles down the sides in the cooking process because it looks more rustic!) brush the sides with a little milk and  pop the tops on. Brush the tops with more milk. 



6. Cook for 25 minutes or until the pies are golden brown. (If like me you're using an Aga, put the tray on the floor of the roasting oven).

Let the pies cool a little before letting everybody tuck in. Enjoy with a glass of mulled wine... or why not try a sherry?! Which I have discovered is quite delicious, and making a comeback in the fashionable drinks stakes; you heard it here first! 


Seasons eatings everybody!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Beauty Review - Stay Precise Felt Tip Eyeliner by No7

Seasons greetings everybody! I hope you're all getting very excited for Father Christmas coming, he'll be starting to do his final checks and packing up soon! I have finished uni and am now back in the bonny North with my family for a nice relaxing Christmas at home. I have absolutely loved my first term in Canterbury, but I'm glad to be home for a little while to recharge my batteries and recoup. I've missed being cooked for and cuddles with my cat!

When I get home I'm always bowled over by my Mum's generosity. Picture this typical scene... Mum: 'Jen, do you like this scarf I'm wearing? It's new.' Me: 'Oh yes Mum, I do, it's very pretty.' Mum: 'Would you like it?' This happens so often! With absolutely evething. Shoes, jumpers, perfume, lipstick. Though with the makeup stuff 99% of the time she doesn't use it before she offers it to me. She says she's in a makeup rut, so is constantly acquiring different bits and bobs to change it up, but never ends up changing her makeup regime at all and the products either go unused, sold or given to me. Though I'm not complaining! Today I want to talk about the lastest beauty item I obtained under these circumstances. 


I can't be without my liquid eyeliner and my Mum has always complimented me on the different ways I do my flicks. In the past she's asked my to try it on her bit she's never thought the one I use is quite right on her. So she got Stay Precise Felt Tip Eyeliner by No7 as an alternative. 


It's a pen rather than a brush so technically should be a little easier to manoeuvre around the eye. Plus it shouldn't run like a liquid eyeliner would. Here's how I'm getting on with it!

First I started with a smidge of Maybelline Dream Satin Liquid Foundation in Sand 030. I normally prefer mousse foundations but this one I have got a real soft spot for. 


I then started to draw starting on the inside and working out. The pen says 'carbon black for extreme colour' but I found that you have to apply some pressure to get it to look darker. I actually prefer it a little less intense because I think this makes it perfect for daywear. You can always give it another coat for a bit of eye-drama for evenings! 


I did feel like I was using a colouring-in pen on my eyes, but with these results that's not so much if a bad thing! 


Et voila! Perfect flicks. I think this is a great product; I am yet to be disappointed by an offering from No7. At just £8 from Boots this is an absolute steal. I just hope that it doesn't dry out like a felt tip does. I'll be sure to put the lid back on as soon as I'm done with it. Stay Precise has given me perfect eye flicks for the party season! 


Monday, 16 December 2013

Fragrance Review - Be Delicious by DKNY

I loved doing my first perfume review last week, so I just couldn't wait any longer before doing my next one! There are so many things that make us happy, and one of the things that brings a big smile to my face is breaking open the seal of a new perfume, especially if it's one I've not tried before. And that's where this one comes in; I'd heard many, many great things about this scent, both from magazines (seriously, you cannot open up an issue of Glamour mag without seeing a sultry ad just teasing you to buy this fragrance... And my favourite beauty blogs too were full of praise). I just couldn't wait to get stuck in once I'd finally got paws on it. 


My sources (the Donna Karen New York site FYI) told me that 'Be Delicious' was in fact the first DKNY perfume for women. The top notes it says are green with hints of violet leaf, apple (of course), grapefruit and magnolia. The heart of the fragrance consists of tuberose, lily of the valley, violet and rose. And the scents undertones include just a hint if amber, sandalwood and musk. 


A lot to fit in to one fragrance indeed, so here's how I got on with the perfume myself. This is a real 'make me smile' kind of scent. The first thing that it reminds me of is, wait for it, fresh apples; the smell is just so clean, fruity and fresh. The box notes a lot of flowery undertones but I personally found the fragrance to be much more fruity than floral. 

The smell lasts a decent length of time - when I put it on in the morning for the test I could still detect lovely fruity hints of it in the evening when I got home. Two good squirts of this stuff is plenty, so even though there is only 30ml in this particular bottle it should last me very well. A good job seeing as this size bottle comes in at £34.99.


The bottle is classy and is lovely to the touch. The glass is tinted Granny Smith-green to add to the overall 'Big Apple' appley theme. The colour of the glass is a nice teaser to let you know you're in for a zesty treat once you get inside to the scent.


And crucially the pump spray functions perfectly. All in all my verdict is that this is a delicious scent which is perfect for daywear because of its light, fresh and clean smell. 

I would recommend highly and would definitely purchase this product again in the future!

Has anyone else tried or thought about trying out DKNY Be Delicious?

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Christmas Jumpers Top 5

Nothing says 'it's Christmas!!!!' like a big snuggly Christmas jumper. This time of year when the temperature drops, knitwear gets lifted up to a whole new level. My lectures and seminar rooms are filled with stylish little Christmassy numbers right now, and it's inspired me to get my own festive threads, and to do this post!

I know for a fact that opinions are often divided over this Yuletide garment, but Scroogey nay-sayers can tune out right now because I come before you today to celebrate the Christmas jumper in all its glory. I absolutely love 'em! Here's my pick of the best this December.

5. Oasis Fluffy Fairisle Jumper - £50


Classy, fluffy, snowy. Oasis do fantastic knitwear in general that is sophisticated and wearable. This is a great Christmas jumper for those who want a snuggly jumper that is Christmassy but subtle.


4. New Look Cream Sequin Robins Jumper - £24.99


New Look always bring some great Chistmas jumpers to the mix, and this year is no exception. I think this robin jumper is just ace! Look at the one with antlers on... How adorable?! I love the cream colour contrasted with the sparkle of the robins' red breasts.


3. River Island Navy Embellished Bauble Jumper - £50


River Island have also out-done themselves with their festive knitwear this season. For me, this is the pick of the RI bunch. I love the elegance and simplicity of this jumper - sparkly, navy, baubley. This jumper wins all the beauty contests!


2. Eddie Bauer Fairisle Snowflake Cardigan - £ n/a


My housemate Livvy came in to my room as I was windowshopping (doing my extensive knitwear research) and told me about her baby - this gorgeous chunky Eddie Bauer cardigan. For any of you Brits who might not know, EB is a very famous American brand, but Livvy found this in a charity shop for a tiny fraction of the original price. She's clever like that. 


The design and colours are beautifully understated, and it reminds me very much of something you might find in Fat Face or Urban Outfitters for £60+. It feels amazing on. I want my own! I might have to borrow it on a permanent basis...


1. Topshop Gingerbread Jumper - £42 


And finally, my number one jumper this season goes to... this magic little sweater from Topshop! I told myself I had to be strategic - there are only so many Christmas jumpers a girl can wear in one year, and I don't have a limitless amount of pennies... But when I saw this little red beauty in Canterbury Topshop I just had to make it mine. 


I think the gingerbread men design is perfect and just that bit different to the other standard reindeer designs out there. I will be wearing this whenever I go for the next 3 weeks and I've had so many compliments already. And with student discount on top this was definitely worth the price. 

What do you think to Christmassy jumpers?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Jammy Bakewell Cake


Baking is a balancing act, measurement-wise and flavour-wise. It's very easy to go wrong, so I don't often freestyle it up when I'm getting my bake on. Not often enough as it seems, as this little loaf cake turned out absolutely perfectly! This tasty treat is actually a creation of my very own. I'm rather impressed with my invention skills. If you're a fan if the Mr. Kipling Bakewell Slices then this is the cake for you. It's jammy, almondy and just a little bit more-ish. 

We're at that late point in the uni term where we're trying to use up all the bits and bobs kicking about in the cupboard and the fridge (and the freezer come to think of it, we'd best get eating!!), and this cake is a lovely surprise byproduct of this effort.

My housemate is also a keen baker and had almond essence and half a bag of ground almonds to be used. My lovely Mum had brought me a jar of homemade Apple and Blackberry jam when she came to visit me last month, which I hadn't really made a dent in... It just made sense to combine the two in my experiment! 


My weapons of choice.

I followed a classic sponge recipe but then went off piste. I made a note of what I added so I can recreate this lovely little treat, and I want to share it with you today!

Ingredients

225g/8oz Unsalted Butter/Stork
225g/8oz Caster Sugar
2 eggs
225g/8oz Self-Raising Flour
1 Teaspoon Almond Extract
100g/3.5oz Ground Almonds
100g Jam
Splash of milk

Method (Takes about 60 mins)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190c/gas 5. Line a 8 x 21cm/9 x 5 inch loaf tin with grease proof paper. Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon. 

2. Add the eggs one at a time, with a little flour. Add the almond extract and beat thoroughly. 

3. Stir in the rest of the flour. Add the ground almonds and a splash of milk to loosen the mixture. Beat together until completely combined. 


4. Spoon half the mixture in to the loaf tin. Then generously spoon jam on top with a teaspoon. Don't be shy, you want a nice jammy, juicy middle when you bite in to the cake. I used Blackberry and Apple Jam, but I imagine raspberry would be delicious too.


5. Spoon the remaining mixture on to the jam, and level off the top. 


6. Pop in to the oven and bake for 45 mins (or until you insert a skewer and it comes out clean).


I love that when you cut in to this you can see the all the lovely jam inside, it looks so inviting! Deliciousness guaranteed. Enjoy warm with fiends and a nice cup of tea.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Fragrance Review - Reb'l Fleur by Rihanna

I'm a bit of a perfume floozy. There, I said it. At the age of 21 I have not found my 'soul', or indeed 'sole' fragrance. At the moment I have no less than 3 perfumes on the go, and I choose from them depending on what mood I'm in (or the first one that comes to my hand when I am in a hurry!) 

My favourite womens' fragrance of all time is actually 'Narciso Rodriguez For Her', and I've been privileged enough to own 2 bottles of stuff in the past. It is a little whiff of heaven, in my opinion. However, the price is sadly rather high for this student's non-existent pay packet, and weirdly it seems only to be available in airports?! And online now too of course. But I feel as though at least for now I should continue the hunt for my fragrance and try to commit if I find one that's 'me'. So here goes, let's see what the Dutty Wining, Bogle-meister, Ri-Ri, is bringing to the dressing table.

Celebrity fragrances always have a way of sparking my curiosity. I'm pretty sure that the stars who lend their faces to these scents have very little input with regards to the way that the perfume turns out, and certainly not what goes in to it. Nevertheless, I'm always intrigued to see and more importantly smell what a celebrity deems worthy of bearing her namesake.

From the musical world, I've tried scents by BeyoncĂ©, Britney, J Lo, Christina Aguilera and Katy Perry (told you I was easy in the perfume stakes!) So far my favourite by a country mile is 'Live' by J Lo. A sexy scent that lasts all day long and still smells so good, even without reapplying. 


I am unashamedly a big fan of Rihanna's tuneage - her music is near enough the soundtrack to my whole undergraduate uni experience! 


So, the perfume. The box notes red berries, plums, peaches, Hawaiin hibiscus flower, violet, tuberose, coconut water, vanilla, amber and musk. When I put it on I immediately detected the feminine, floral side of it, with secondary tones of berries and vanilla. Overall, it's fresh, clean and simple. Just what you want from an elegant ladies' perfume. Two good squirts of this is plenty so the bottle should last quite a long time.

With regards I the bottle, it's a sophisticated, streamlined trumpet shape made of clear glass with a black design which goes around the bottle. The cap is black with a gold edge. The bottle doesn't make a fuss, and the stuff inside does the talking, just how I like it. I hate it when it's the other way round! 



Overall, I think this perfume is... awesome! Fan of Rihanna or not, I think this perfume is a great product in its own rite. Not bad for a purely random pick from Boots' perfume section!