Thursday, 17 April 2014

Secrets To French Style

There is a reason that Paris is referred to as the capital of fashion, and France is a country synonymous with style. What is it about French fashion that captivates the world? French style is about simple chic, filling your wardrobe with classic pieces that have timeless appeal. Even their pyjamas are classy, how do I know that? Well I am wearing french pjymas in Paris in the picture above and the one below! Amazing right?
The classic Breton Stripe is a great example of the classic styles that make French fashion so chic. I am really excited by the bloggers competition being held by La Redoute to become their brand ambassador. They have put together a fantastic look book highlighting key elements of  the Secrets of French Style. 

To be in with a chance of being the La Redoute brand ambassador, a role I would truly love, I have to share with you my top fashion tip. So here it goes.

Wear it with confidence!

Now I could tell you to clinch jumpers and cardigans in with a belt or how to pack for a weekend away but the piece of advice that I value the most is the one I received from my mother and took me 10 years to take notice of. There is no point in wearing the latest trend if you don't feel comfortable in it, clothes are an expression of yourself, I explain this in a previous post on fashion. Wearing something with confidence may sound easier said than done but here my tips for that, the first being, be aware of your body shape. 

Fashion is often influenced by popular culture and last year the store were filled with Great Gatsby, 1930s inspired clothing. As much as I was in love with the beautiful dresses I am well aware that my figure is not be suited to the cut. My breasts and hips look better in a more Mad Men stlye of outfit, see;
Being aware of your body shape does not mean you are limited to one style. I break out of the Joan dress genre often. Below I am embracing the classic knitwear and fitted trousers of classic French style.
Wearing clothes with confidence enables me to look and feel good even when my body shape changed, like when I was pregnant.
Being aware of your body shape and what suits you is one way to wear your style with confidence and look great. Another tip for achieving this is to be sure before you buy. We all have those pieces in our wardrobe that are nothing but clutter now. The skirt we rushed out to buy on a lunch break or the dress we bought for a night out that we were not sure of but we had to buy something. Well stop that. If you  try something on and you are no sure about it don't buy it. If I wake up and I am having a bad hair day, haven't slept and didn't put on any make up to contend with unflattering store lights and mirrors, I don't shop that day. If you are not feeling great then you will not feel good about anything you try on that day and could end up in a bad image slump. When you feel good go shopping, by things that suit your body shape, and WEAR IT WITH CONFIDENCE.

Hopefully I will be chosen as the new brand ambassador for La Redoute and I will get to share more advice with you using their wonderful range of classic items, I promise to show you how to pack for a weekend away in hand luggage using classic French style.

Pots Of Awesome Mr. Izzard

Some years ago I watched Eddie Izzard doing stand up and talking about how the word awesome has become diluted. He told the audience how a word that was primarily intended to describe the sheer awesomeness of heaven, a deity or the vastness of space has now become synonymous with a great sale or a hot dog. As I am typing this precised version of quite a funny bit it has occurred to me that it has lost a certain je ne sais quoi. What I mean by that is that it is not funny anymore. I do not want you to want any of you who are not familiar with the chap to think that he is not funny. He is in fact full of wit and insightful observational humour. Please do not take this ramble of mine as a loyal fan with misplaced loyalty going to bat for the guy. Instead see this as a writer who in her own way has raised a smile or maybe three in folk from time to time, but, when it comes to recanting someone else's jokes in a written format when they were meat to be performed she is hopeless. 

Where was I? So this comedian, blah blah blah, the word awesome. I, like many a hot dog manufacturers before me have given the title awesome to food. I challenge Mr. Izzard and anyone else who shares the opinion that we use the word awesome too freely to disagree. In fact if there is an astronaut out there who has in fact seen the awesomness of space could you please make this recipe and confirm for me what I already know that these are nothing short of pots of absolute, unadulterated, chocolate awesome. If you have not yet tasted awesome it tastes like these. Have I built them up enough? I don't think I have because they also happen to be incredibly simple to create. If you have struggled with mousse recipes in the past don't be put off, this one you will be able to master.
you will need; (makes 8)

200g chocolate (around 60% cocoa)
6 eggs
15g white chocolate
15g dark bitter chocolate

  1. Melt the 200g of chocolate over a pan of water. Please do not microwave your chocolate to melt it it changes it and ruins the flavour.
  2. Separate the eggs into 2 mixing bowls. Very slowly add the melted chocolate to the egg yolks. If you don't take your time the egg yolks will scramble and cook.
  3. Whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks and fold them into the chocolate and egg yolk mixture until fully incorporated.
  4. Grate the white and bitter chocolate, mix theses and split equally between the bottom of 8 espresso cups. The choclate nibs will be a nice surprise at the end of the mousse.
  5. Fill each cup with mousse and chill for at least 3 hours before serving.
A great little pudding for dinner parties because they look so cute in the espresso cups but far more satisfying consumed by yourself in pyjamas listening to records.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Adventures In Pin Curls

Season after season of Mad Men I would sit and drool over the hair, and clothes and furniture and cocktails, but we are talking about hair here. Well after watching the new series Masters Of Sex, another 50s based show I could no longer continue without trying to put my hair in pin curls. The main character, Virginia often had her hair in pin curls in the evening so I paused on the relevant scene and attempted to recreate the look. 

Below is an image of how my hair looked whilst in pin curls, I don't know about you but I quite liked it as a 'do' in itself. I even attended a mummy and baby group like that.

How to;

Start with slightly damp hair, ever so slightly damp. In fact you could have it completely dry and dampen it with setting lotion if you are truly committed to the 50s vibe. Part your hair how you would like it to be when finished. I pinned the parts of my grown out fringe down as I didn't want to curl them. Section your hair off into sections about 3 fingers thick. Starting from the bottom of your hair make a curl, rolling under towards your head. Once you have finished rolling twist the loop so that it is flat towards your head and secure with pins. 

So to give you an idea of time, putting the curls in took me less time than blow drying or straightening my hair. In future I will take a little more time on the back. I left the curls in for 7 hours.
I had 7 pin curls on my head. You may want to change this for yourself depending on how much hair you have and how tight you want the curls to be.
Taking the curls out took less than five minutes. Then with a large flat paddle brush, this tool is vital, I brushed the curls out from the underneath.

I was pleased with the results, especially for a first attempt. The curls were done on a Thursday and my hair was still wavy on Sunday, and all of this was done without any heat damage on my hair so a double bonus.  I am still not as good as the Mad Men or Masters Of Sex ladies but hey they have on set stylists so I am letting myself off the hook.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Fast & Healthy

Yes I develop recipes for a living, and yes some people pay me a princely sum to do so, but..there is a but. As a new mummy with a teething baby, who is working full time something has to give, that does not mean that I have to head down the ready meal/fast food route - lets face it as a vegetarian in Paris that is not really an option. Nor does it mean I have to compromise on flavour.

This meal took less than 25mins, that is inclusive of preparation time, it is full of flavour and full of healthy high energy foods, a must in this house. There is absolutely no space for sugar crashing here.

you will need;

3tbsp sweet chilli & ginger sauce
1 cup broccoli (include stalks, peeled and thinly sliced)
1/4 unsalted raw cashew nuts 
2 sheets dried egg noodles
1tbsp sesame oil 

  1. Boil a pan of water for the noodles. Meanwhile in a frying pan or wok heat the oil.
  2. Place the noodles into the pan of boiling water and the broccoli and nuts into the frying pan.
  3. Drain the noodles an add to the frying pan, then stir in the sauce.
  4. Serve hot. So simple and so delicious. Also cheaper and healthier than a ready meal.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Warm Coconut Pudding

The simple things in life can often add the most pleasure. If you saw my post on Massaman Curry the other day and you may have done as it had a record 12,486 hits in just 2 hours! I sit with a proud expression on my face when I type that, when I first read the figure I did a happy dance in the living room, not unlike my I have just won a board game dance or the it's my birthday bugaloo, all of which make up for in enthusiasm what that they lack in rhythm. I digress, yes in the recently popular post I spoke about re-visiting recipes from my travels and here is another. It is a deeply satisfying warm pudding that brings comfort before you even start to eat it, just holding the warm bowl in your hands and smelling the lovely flavours start the comfort chain reaction in your body.

you will need;

2 cups coconut milk 
4tsp brown sugar 
1/3 cup almond slivers (toasted)
4 mini bananas or 2 regular
1tsp mixed spice 
  1. Toast your almonds in a dry frying pan. Peel and slice your bananas. You should be able to find mini ones in an Asian supermarket, they are different in texture and slightly sweeter than the regular kind and the ones we get all the time in India. So depending on where you live when you read this regular and small will be the same thing for you. If however you have larger bananas don't worry they will work just fine as long as you make large bite sized pieces.
  2. Place the coconut milk, sugar, spice and bananas into a pan. Warm very slowly on a low heat so that the bananas warm through but the milk does not boil.
  3. Once everything is warm remove from the heat serve into bowls and sprinkle with the almonds.
This is a fool proof recipe that will fill you with warm feelings and make your tummy think it is on holiday.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A Homespun Wedding - Wedding Favours

This post is a long time coming and it was not until I was speaking with a friend recently about her upcoming wedding that I realised I had not shared it with you. Now we are approaching wedding season once more what better time to talk wedding favours. 

First of all the photo above is not our wedding, our wedding photos were awful, why is that you ask you are not bad looking. That is nice of you to say so and I am complimented by those thoughts as my imagination types them up but the truth is we had a really bad photographer, long story short I wish I had known this lady then. So if you are on the hunt in the north of England you will not go wrong with the talented Sarah Mason, she had her own post on here a few months ago and will be having another one soon, but for now enjoy her talent in the image above.

When I was growing up wedding favours in the UK only ever consisted of five sugared almonds wrapped in a bit of netting. The almonds represented the bitterness of life and the sweetness of love. Well thank goodness that tradition evolved as I find the bitter sweet sentiment a little depressing and it is much nicer to have a free reign.

When Joe and I sat down and started to think about wedding favours we really struggled. We both knew that we wanted to give people something personal and we didn't want to go down a generic route of buying something online with our names printed on it. We also had the budget to consider, throughout the whole planning process we had an extremely tight budget guiding our decisions. Of course it isn't a pre-requisite to give out wedding favours but so many people made such long journeys to come and celebrate with us and we wanted to acknowledge that. In addition to distance our friends and family played such active roles in the whole weekend that it was important for us to give people a token of our thanks.

Music is such an important part of my life and choosing the music for different parts of the wedding weekend was such an event in itself, (in fact I spent Joe's stag weekend dressed as a Jedi making the making an eleven hour playlist), giving people a little something to listen to on their journey home seemed fitting. We chose a set of songs that we loved, I designed CD labels with my Spirograph, scanned it and played with the colours in photoshop before printing it onto label sheet.

To make them more personal I made a cute drawing with a small message from Joe and myself; on the reverse was the playlist. Looking at the drawing now it is still like looking into a mirror, sometimes I even astound myself. The playlists were printed up all that was left to do was design and make the CD envelopes.

Back in the day I was famous for my mixed tapes. Perhaps infamous is a more fitting term, the people receiving them had mixed emotions but I am sure deep down they found my eclectic taste in music charming. I made a drawing of a cassette tape as a homage to my tape making days using a special carbon pen and then printed up the envelopes with my Gocco printer. I love my Gocco!

When you think about wedding favours try to think of something that is pertinent to you both and don't be fooled into thinking that more money spent means a better or more valuable gift. Something that you have created yourself, be it a small drawing or a poem of gratitude on a card it will mean more to the recipient than an impersonal expensive gift.