Saturday, 30 June 2012

Styling 01: Shorts and Stripes

I wish I was a stylist - I'd love to put together magazine spreads in fashion mags and pick out clothes from an endless rail of designers. But alas, I'm not willing to commit 5 years of my life to unpaid work experience in order to get into the industry, so instead I'll just pretend... I thought I'd do some styling posts for how to style different items (and tell you where to get them).

So, here's my styling post Number 01!

I'm not blessed with pins up to my eyeballs, which is a shame, because I love shorts. Sadly I am forever in skinny jeans or chinos over the summer. Trust me, nobody wants to see my thighs.

That doesn't stop me from window shopping though. I think the key to styling when it comes to shorts is to keep it simple. I think a classic Breton stop, which is a wardrobe staple, is the perfect accompaniment to any pair of shorts whether their denim, floral, chiffon and culottes.

 Here's how I'd style mine (if I had the legs!)...

Summer style - Short shorts

Shorts from L-R: Otteny.com, Topshop, Warehouse, Topshop, Sheinside


Marie ♥

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Vintage style: supermarket chic

I'm about to share with you one of my biggest style secrets... I can hardly believe I'm doing it, but for you, dear readers.  This secret is about where to buy pretty, well-made and crucially, dirt-cheap clothes. You can forget Primark - the prices I'm talking about might be a touch more but the clothes won't disintegrate after 5 washes or make you itch.  So what is this shop of dreams?

Tesco!

I have been a devotee of Tesco's clothing since the day I found this gorgeous dress in their online store two years ago.


I bought it for the princely sum of £16 and it has been my summer staple ever since.  The heart-shaped neckline is such a rare find in modern dresses and the fitted waist and skirt is incredibly flattering. And yes I do always accessorise with ghostly white skin, that's not Tesco's fault.

That's all very well you might say, but you could stumble across a cheap summer dress in any shop.  Well, I say, Tesco have also saved the day in tight money situations where a formal/expensive-looking dress was required.  Step up exhibit 2, this satin fitted dress that I bought for £13 with a discount (originally £18).


Again, how can you argue with this classic shape and style?  I wore this dress to a formal work evening event last year and a member of senior management, who I've never heard compliment anyone on anything (as they don't), let alone clothing, stopped me as I walked by to tell me what a lovely dress it was.  When anyone asked where I got it from, my pride at being resourceful just about outweighed my shame.  This was definitely helped by the looks of dismay from girls who had clearly spent near £100 on theirs.

It's not just dresses that Tesco can be good for, I've picked up great separates that I've hunted high and low for at reasonable prices elsewhere.  Check out these high waisted shorts and the tiki-style top.



This whole outfit was less than £20 (not including the shoes, but more on my beloved Swedish Hasbeens another day!)

But these aren't all, I also picked up a really classic wool trenchcoat for £35 a couple of years ago.

So there's some of my best bargain fashion buys and it's all thanks to one supermarket.  And now to share with you some of my favourite pieces in store currently.

Formalwear

Satin bow dress, £30

This dress makes me literally ache for a do to go to this summer.  It's so wonderfully classic 50s - the neckline is divine.  Also comes in black.

Ruched detail dress, £28
Another cracking neckline on an elegant evening dress.

Patent strap sandals, £15

These have stepped straight out of the 40s/50s and into my bargain-loving heart. Also available in nude and silver.

Officewear

Black lace pencil skirt, £18

Ok, some people would probably put a lace pencil skirt into the 'formalwear' category, but I'm a classy kinda gal (at least, that's what I tell myself) and I think a dreary working day is just begging to be sauced up by a bit of lace.  And anything looks demure teamed with a shirt - them's the rules.

Knitwear

Knitted tweed jacket, £7 sale price

This is clearly a cardigan, not a tweed jacket, but lets forgive them while they charge £7 for it.

Summerwear

Prom dress, £30


Ditsy print tie shirt, £10

Two lovely 50s-style pieces at much better prices than you'd pay for the same elsewhere.

Constant stock turnover means it's always worth having a browse through their 'new in' section.
http://www.clothingattesco.com/invt/bk214652/

They're also always having a sale or running a discount.  At the moment they're offering £10 off a £40 shop with code FFJUNE that I stumbled across running as a Google search promotion.  I realise I sound like I'm working for them, but honestly I just like their nice, cheap things!  And a tip for if you do buy anything, if you're between sizes, go for the smaller one.

Happy bargain shopping!


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Friday, 22 June 2012

Bake: Gooey chocolate cranberry brownies

WARNING: If you're on a diet or concerned about calorie counting do not read on....

If you've read the about us page on this here little bloggawog you'll know that when CiCi and I first met we bonded over the amazing chocolate brownies from Konditor and Cook. They seriously are the best brownies you would ever taste in your entire life. I know this because I am a brownie connoisseur and I have the thighs to prove it. (There's a reason only size 8 CiCi ever shows off photos of herself on here!)


We used to trek (I say trek, it was only a 7 minute walk) down to a little back street in Waterloo to get our Curly Wurly Brownie fix of a lunchtime, which usually resulted in a sugar crash at around 2pm -apologies to any authors attempting to get hold of us after 2pm on Brownie day.

When I left my publishing job in London to move to Nottingham for a boy, I obviously missed the wonderful world of publishing and my work pals, but the thing that left a lasting hole in my heart, and my gut, were those brownies (obviously the relationship with said boy suffered as a result).  So, I was absolutely delighted to find the recipe for Konditor and Cook's plain chocolate brownies on the Guardian website (as was the boy - he lives for these brownies).  And here, just for you lucky folks, I've decided to share with you my own, slightly altered, take on the best brownies in the world....

Behold, the recipe for the Second Best Brownies in the whole wide world:

Kayleigh's Gooey Chocolate Cranberry Brownies

What you will need:

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g good-quality dark chocolate
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 175g plain flour, sifted
  • 75g cranberries
  • Handful of mini marshmallows (or big ones cut into pieces)
  • 100g white chocolate buttons
  • 100g plain chocolate buttons 
The method:

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line one brownie baking tin with greaseproof paper and set aside.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

3. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until pale and creamy. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold in the chocolate mixture, then the flour, the white chocolate buttons, a handful of mini marshmallows and the cranberries

4. Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared tin, then scatter with the plain chocolate buttons. Bake for 25 min, until set on top, if you insert a cocktail stick you want it to come out mostly clean, but with a little bit of gooeyness. 

5. Allow to cool in the tin on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, cut into brownie sized chunks (depending on how much of a piggy you're being). 


These brownies are yummy warm out the oven with vanilla ice cream, but they taste even better the next day when the top is all crumbly but the inside is all gooey.

Enjoy!
Marie ♥

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Vintage style: judging an (e)book by its cover

I am more than a little in love with books.  They've given me joy, tears, sleepless nights and a career.  But they've also given my parents an attic that's about to collapse, shelves that actually have buckled on top of my head, backache on many occasions and RSI from trying to read them one-handed while propped up in bed. Anyone who reads themself to sleep will know that last pain!  The answers to all my prayers were solved one Christmas a couple of years ago when I was given a Kindle. Now I can always have my own library with me and when I finish one book I can immediately purchase and start on the next.

The only thing I don't like about it is that it is pretty ugly.  Books can be so beautiful, the ereader is bland. It is also more fragile than a book and you can't just throw it in your bag next to your keys unless you enjoy throwing £100+ down the drain.

An even more curious phenomenon is that this could be so easily solved by covers and skins - yet so many of these are also very ugly!  Amazon's accessory store makes me wince, both from the prices and the aesthetics of the eyesores they sell to keep your precious gadget protected.

I've spent much time - too much time - searching for ways to adorn my beloved and I finally think I have some of the best covers sussed.  Here's my guide to the best 'retro' Kindle covers you can buy.

1. 60s-style book covers (6 varieties) - £14.99


These are new offerings from www.firebox.com There are 6 designs, these two are my favourites but the link above will take you to all 6.  Wuthering Heights - you're mine!  NB: these are designed for Kindle keyboard, I don't know if they'll fit something smaller




Lunartis' handmade covers are both quirky and cute - I love the idea of the comic print above.  There's lots more designs in the Folksy store I've linked to above. 




Annie claims she sources the material for her handmade cases from authentic vintage fabrics.  I have to say, I absolutely love the Liberty peacock print above.  Again, more designs if you click through.

4. M-Edge, $30-40/£19.00-25.50 (and you'll possibly need to pay import shipping)




I wasn't going to include covers from the US, but these are so original and call to my inner book-nerd in ways I just can't deny.  I don't see how any fan of Austen is going to resist the Pride and Prejudice one.

5. KleverCase for Kindle, £24.99



If you really miss the feel and look of a book in your hand, look no further than the KleverCases. There's many designs, some based on classic books, others like the top one here more generic. They really are quite special.

And if you really want to go for budget, or you don't like the idea of keeping your Kindle in its case, there are many neoprene slip-case designs to be found on ebay.  Don't pay £20 for the lurid beasts you find on Amazon!  These two are £8.



Happy reading!
CiCi x

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Make-up: Nars Heat Wave lipstick review

It's been a while since my last post - it's tricky to blog with a long commute to work and Olympics training at the weekends (which is at last thankfully complete, now just to do my first shift!) It's also been a while since I've done a makeup post, so here's another review of a favourite vintage red: Nars Heat Wave.  I'll be keeping it short but hopefully sweet.

Now, this lipstick has a strange reputation for being very orangey.  But I think this sells it short - it's a red with orange tones, but it's not orange!  

Here's Nars Heat Wave in the tube and as a swatch.

Nars Heat Wave

Below left: Nars Heat Wave, Top right: Rockalily Hot Rod Red

And on this swatch, you'll see how close this is to the discontinued Rockalily Hot Rod Red, which I've previously reviewed and labelled a favourite - Heat Wave has a touch more orange. It's much more matte than Rockalily's though, which is a definite bonus.

And here it is on me - and you can see it appears quite a true red.  This is applied at medium-full strength with a lip brush, it can be brighter applied more thickly.


Nars Heat Wave lipstick review

Quite simply, I love this lipstick and here's why...

Pros
  • Beautiful true red colour that is quite buildable
  • Great staying power
  • Matte
  • Good texture - not drying like the Mac matte range and you hardly notice you're wearing it
Cons
  • The price! It'll set you back £17, which is just too much for most people for one lipstick

But the price is the only thing I can find at fault with it - I'm fool enough to pay the money for a lipstick that looks good on, stays on and doesn't flake my lips to pieces.  Mac can't even touch Nars on this formula.

Quite simply one of my favourite red lipsticks now and probably the closest I'll come to replacing my beloved Rockalily Hot Rod Red.


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Friday, 8 June 2012

For the love of craft: Jazzing up a lampshade

Following my terrible first attempt at screen printing, I'm so proud to share with you my very successful stencilled lampshade!

Here's what you'll need:
  • Plain white lampshade (mine was cotton, but I recommend canvas)
  • Oil based spray paint in a colour of your choice (I went for mint green)
  • Contact paper (otherwise known as sticky back plastic - you know, that stuff you used to cover your exercise books with at school!)
  • Marker pen
  • Scissors

The method:

1. First of all, measure the circumference of the light shade and mark those measurements onto the sticky back plastic (you'll wrap the plastic around the shade eventually so that's why you're marking measurements).

2. Draw your pattern onto the back of the sticky plastic - something with solid blocks of pattern is  good as you'll cut it into a stencil, so don't want it to be too fiddly.  Unless you've got incredibly steady hands and cutting skills!

                                  

3. Cut out your stencil shapes and peel off the back of the plastic - position and stick the shapes onto the shade as you want them

4. Shake the spray paint up until you hear it rattle - (I recommend taking the shade outside for this bit and wear gloves and old clothes!). Spray the shade all over, avoiding the inside of the lampshade.


5. Leave to dry for at least 2 hours, then peel off the sticky black plastic to reveal your pattern.


Et voila - let there be light!

Happy crafting,
Marie ♥

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Bake: Jubilee bunting cupcakes (and a matching outfit)!

I don't know anyone who's having a street party, or even any kind of festivity to celebrate queenie's big day.  So I decided to take matters into my own hands and create my own royal fun!  This is both a baking and outfit post, with a very special theme.

Jubilee bunting cupcakes

Now, I'm not the baker of the two of us, Marie has infinitely more skill and patience than me when it comes to sweet treats.  I'm not really interested in cooking usually unless I can eat it as I go along - and there's only so much raw dough most people can take - and it sure as heck won't give you an indication of how good the finished product will be.

But just this once, we'll make an exception.  Because what I'm about to show you combines my complete disinterest in baking with something I do like doing - getting a little bit arty!

Ingredients (makes 24 small cupcakes)

225g self-raising flour
225g caster sugar
225g unsalted butter
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
2 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
100g chocolate chips (in this case broken up bar - optional)

Buttercream icing (250g butter, 250g icing sugar, few drops of vanilla extract)

Blue, red and white fondant icing (mine is ready-made and was found down my local Tesco, so can't be too hard to come by)

Essential tools: a rolling pin



Method

  • Put the oven on at 180 degrees, Gas Mark 4
  • Bung all of the sponge ingredients listed above into a blender, or a bowl and then use an electric mixer, to quickly and easily create your cake mix
  • Put into cupcake tray and cook for approx 18 minutes
  • While cakes are baking, make up your buttercream icing and then put to one side

Now for the fun part, the icing bunting!

This is just a decoration and the aim is to make little sugary flags that look like bunting when laid out on top of a cake.  This was an idea I stole from an article in Vintage Life magazine by Charlotte from Restoration Cake.  And it turned out simply adorable...

  • Roll out your fondant icing until it's about 3mm thick
  • Trim this into long rectangles and then cut into this to make slightly elongated triangles - Charlotte recommends you use a pizza wheel for a clean cut, but unfortunately all I had was the world's bluntest knife, so I had to make do



    I cut far too many of these and it depends on how you want them to look at the end, but I estimate about 3/4 per cake makes enough for a line across.

    Now, wait for your cakes to cool and once ready, ice them with your buttercream and then you can have fun starting to lay out the bunting!


    They already look like bunting, but now to take it one step further and leave no doubt in anyone's mind just how festive these little cakes are.  Get a small paintbrush - I used the smallest one I have - and put some food colouring into bowls, to act like paint.

    Now get busy!  And voila!


    No one can deny these are cakes to make the queen proud.

    And now for a red, blue and white dress

    Michelle dress Motel review
    Michelle Dress, Motel, £42

    In case it helps anyone to know what I think of this recent purchase, it was a good one!  This dress is beautifully shaped to mean it's fitted as it's supposed to be, but it's not riding up every time I take a step (I'm looking at you, 60% of the dresses in my wardrobe).  My criticisms would be the jersey is thin for £42 (and it's white, so that means careful underwear choices) - but I bought it with a discount code so I can only complain so much. The shape is very 50s - which is exactly why I've fallen in love with it.  (And I'll love it even more when my stomach isn't faking a 3 month pregnancy; we live in hope of that day.)

    Best of all, it is definitely pretty enough to wear all through summer - which is good, because we've got rain a'comin for the party day itself.

    Happy jubileeing!


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