Friday, 30 September 2011

Sites we love: Letterheady

Having bored everyone senseless with how I'm "totally getting back into letterwriting" I have, somewhat inevitably, been re-examining my stationery.

I found Letterheady through the Twitter feed of the utterly invaluable Letters of Note website, which collects famous letters and prints photostats and transcriptions of same*. Letterheady is a Tumblr devoted entirely to the personal stationery of the rich, famous, and enrichenerising. No, I don't think that enrichenerising is either a) a real word or b) going to take off.

Here are some of my favourites:

Ray Charles
Jackie CollinsCalvin and Hobbes illustrator Bill Watterson
Rita Hayworth
Timmy Mallett ( I would have *killed* for a letter from him c 1992)
Carter The Great
Muppets Fan Club

It's an absolutely beautiful collection of stationery - you can quite easily waste ages scrolling down, and down, and further down while dreamily going "Ooh, I wonder if I know anyone who could draw me something for all the Important Letters I'm planning on writing at some point very soon in the future.

In the meantime of course, it's the backs of envelopes and A4 from the printer. Hey ho!

* NB - thanks to @Gary_Bainbridge for pointing out that Letters of Note and Letterheady are both run by Shaun Usher, henceforth known as the supreme king of letters on the internet

Bag Lust: Oasis Colour Block Leather Shopper

Some facts about this insanely beautiful range of colour block shoppers from Oasis.

They're £50.


They're made with supersoft leather.


They're big enough to put a laptop in.


I'm buying one.

Sneaky look! The Domestic Sluttery Book!


I came back from Croatia this week to a VERY exciting package waiting for me. The Domestic Sluttery book! Hurrah! Now, you'll have to wait until November 7th before you can get your mits on it, but while you're waiting, I thought you'd like to have a look inside.


Excellent interiors tips.


And very pretty photos.


And really tasty recipes whipped up in our Sluttery kitchens.


We haven't forgotten about the Sluttery style either.


And there's always time for a cocktail (not that you'd expect anything less).

We're thrilled with it and we can't wait for the launch in November. You can pre-order the book for just £9.49 from Amazon. And you definitely should,  it's really very pretty indeed.

Girl Meets Dress Monthly Membership


I can only dream of swishing about in designer gowns. As much as I love nosing about Net-a-Porter gawping at Erdem, it's not going to happen any time soon. I'm more than happy with Miss Selfridge and Oasis. Especially given my self-imposed 'don't spend more than your monthly rent on anything you can wear' rule.



But Girl Meets Dress has always intrigued me. You hire a designer dress, wear it somewhere fabulous and then pop it back in the post. Grand idea!

The main problem is that hire can sometimes cost hundreds - understandable since the frocks are beautiful but the cost of hiring a dress would buy quite a snazzy one elsewhere. So I've always been torn and no designer dresses landed on my doorstep. Now my wardrobe is full of pretty things and there's no room for more dresses.



Enter the Girl Meets Dress monthly membership. You pay £39 a month by Direct Debit and then every month you can choose a new dress to wear. Don't want one this month? Pick two the next month. I like this idea very much.

Of course there's a little small print hidden away. You do still have to pay £9.95 for delivery (though you can ask for more than one dress to try on), and I don't think I would dare rent a dress without the £7 insurance that goes with it - I spill. Still, if you want a little designer fashion in your life, even if just for the weekend, the Girl Meets Dress monthly membership is a pretty good deal.

Thanks to @PoppyD of the glorious WIWT.COM for telling us about the scheme.

Snuggly Sausage Dogs


When Sel wrote about this fox jumper, Team Domestic Sluttery got all excited about it and more than one of us rushed to Debenhams to snap it up. Intarsia knitwear is one of my favourite things and Louche have decided that sausages dogs need the intarsia treatment. Quite right they are.



Of course the cute sausage dog has to go 'round the back of you! He's sausagey.

He's £45 from Joy, and perfect for silly, sausagey snuggling. By the time you've bought him, it'll probably be raining again.

Sluttishly Easy: Cinnamon-tastic French Toast


Some days just demand a sweet treat to start the day. On such days, my favorite alternative to pancakes is to whip up some super syrupy cinnamon French toast. Serve it with a dollop of stewed apple, a handful of berries, or if you are feeling particularly decadent then pile it up with a serving of crispy bacon. If you have never experienced the taste sensation that is bacon and maple syrup, then you should at least once, trust me.

This is very obviously a special occasion breakfast as it is quite literally dripping with calories, but some days just demand a syrupy start. It is also rather tasty for a tea time treat after a long, hard day when you really need something quick and comforting. I always use white bread, nothing fancy just the generic sliced stuff, as it absorbs the eggy mixture best.

Cinnamon-tactic French Toast
Makes 2 slices


You will need:
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 2 slices of sliced white bread
  • Milk
  • Ground cinnamon to taste
Make it!

1. Whisk the eggs with a slug of milk and a sprinkling of cinnamon to taste. Make sure to use a bowl that you can lay your bread in flat.

2. Place your bread into the egg mixture for a few minutes, turning once, allowing it to absorb plenty of the egg mixture.

3. Heat a small amount of oil, or butter if you are feeling crazy decadent, over a medium heat and fry the egg soaked bread until it is golden brown.

4. Serve the french toast immediately, with lashings of maple syrup and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Hidden Animal Tea Party

Oooh, what's this hidden in my teacup? It's a little bear, obviously. What else would it be?


Well it could have been an owl.


Or maybe, it could have been a little sneaky fox.

This quirky new range is available at the V&A Shop and will make afternoon cuppas loads more fun. You can only buy them through the website, and they're £18. I think I want the fox one. I wonder what kind of tea foxes like?

A Love Letter to SE1


I'd love to say that I'm writing about my favourite place in London because I'm happy, but as the excellent blogger Blonde M recently said, one doesn't usually write because you're happy.

Truth be told, ladies and gents, I'm pretty sad.


Last night was my last in London's gorgeous, glittering, ridiculous postcode of SE1. It's home to the Oxo Tower, roast lunches par excellence at Roast and the Royal Oak, cocktails with the best views in London, sleazy bars, dodgy bus routes and amazing food. I've lived, loved, and faffed around here since ditching east London in 2008, and while it may not seem that long, I've packed an awful lot into my time here and woken up to London and living more than anywhere else.

After five addresses and more than enough landlords, I'm moving to Camberwell. That's really it for living in Borough, Waterloo, London Bridge and the Old Kent Road.


SE1 is an embrace of magical places, and total dross. They kiss each other affectionately, like unruly families at Christmas: the beautiful, terrifying Imperial War Museum, and then the Clink, a museum next to Vinopolis that is doomed to smell of shit but manages to be cheerily aware of this fact and quietly ignore it. For every rubbish bar, there are three insanely boutique ones offering artisan drinks and food.

You get the best walk in winter, when it snows: from Tower Bridge along Potters Field Park, with the vast array of snowmen built by excitable Australians, to snow angels and mulled wine at the Tate Modern. Burgess Park, just off Trafalgar Avenue on the Old Kent Road, is another stunning place for a really blustery, snowy walk.

At any time of year, you're half-guaranteed a good book, and definitely a good nose, around the book fair by the BFI. And those glittering blue and white lights that line the trees along the South Bank? The best place for a first kiss in London.

The second best, I think, would be the swimming pool in the Waterloo underpass. Walk from the station to the IMAX, taking in the Sue Hubbard poem Eurydice (the most beautiful poem in or about London? Yes.) and then follow the blue lights towards the National Theatre. It's not a swimming pool, but it's what I call it. The view from Waterloo Bridge now - that's just 100% potted wow right there.

I love pottering around the back streets of Waterloo, through the '40s glamour of Roupell Street along arty Union Street and up to Borough. SE1 has an embarrassment of good food that doesn't require you to spend an hour walking very slowly behind every hungry person in London at Borough Market! The Slow Food market down at the Royal Festival Hall is just epic, and when the Udderbelly comes to the South Bank in the summer, it makes an already vibrant area feel like being at an amazing birthday party.

If you're feeling ridiculously flush, or wooing someone glamorous, go to La Barca, just where Waterloo Road meets Lower Marsh, for five star treatment and food to kill for. If you want to feel flush without as much cash, drink cocktails at Baltic on Blackfriars Road and treat yourselves to their excellent food afterwards. If you're feeling seriously flush, you'll do all your grocery shopping at Greensmiths on Lower Marsh, and take all your beautiful pictures to Philips Framing to be trussed up wonderfully.

Prowl down to José on Bermondsey Street (one of Vogue's four most fabulous London streets) for tapas and gossip, and drink in The Garrison and The Woolpack on the way. Smell the roses in summer in the Leathermarket Gardens, and when the cherry blossoms kick in in May, walk around the park just behind St Mary Magdalene church.
Even my bus is a good one - take the RV1 from its start at Tower Bridge and it'll take you through London Bridge, the Oxo Tower, the Royal Festival Hall and all the way to Covent Garden.

I'll be back to visit, I know I will. I have an army of friends who live there. But that will involve a walk and a bus. I've got to fall in love with somewhere new now and think fondly back to all the rambling bits of SE1.

Let's just turn to The Cure's Just Like Heaven. I think of it when I read love letters. But arguably, there's little better love letter to an area you adore, to the one that you feel is yours, than this.

Eau de Books and Cleverness



I have never wanted a scented candle more than this one. And I've got to be honest, I haven't even had a sniff.

True Grace always do fabulous sniffy things (I'm very partial to their vine tomato scent). But this Library candle sends my imagination running wild. It'll smell of books and dark wood and sexy leather and maybe even a little bit of cognac. Basically all really really brilliant things. I swear getting a whiff will make you quote Keats and knock up a decent Old Fashioned.

It's £21 (don't balk too much, it'll last for hours and hours) and while it's sold out at the True Grace online shop, you can buy it from our lovely sponsors Natural History. I'm absolutely certain that it's the sexiest candle on the planet.

Baby Thermador

A lot of my friends are having little people at the moment. Loads of them. They're going to be everywhere soon. Usually my baby gifts are cute little booties, but now everyone I know is getting little one of these amazing lobster hat and mitten sets.

Luna & Curious and The Miniature Knit Shop are the genius folk behind this set. It's handmade from super snuggly lambswool so baby will be cosy and stupidly cute at the same time. Although that makes it pricey at £64, lobster claw mittens are clearly the cutest things in the world. I wish there was a set like this for grown-ups. I want lobster claw mittens.

It's available at Culture Label, and it's brilliant.

Dream Dress: New Look Tea Dresses

New Look really are coming up trumps at the moment. I'm more excited about their Autumn range than any other high street shop. And everyone else is as well. The swallow print dress in the middle of those pretty girls is all over fashion pages this month. And it's easy to see why, it's bloomin' gorgeous. The rest of the range is pretty, but that bird print dress steals it for me. Magically, it's only £24.99.

It's not available for another couple of weeks, and it'll only be in eight New Look stores across the country. You're going to have a fight on your hands if you want one, but very pretty things are worth fighting for.

Sluttery Reads: Oh Comely

I don't remember reading a magazine more wonderful than Oh Comely. It's just simply gorgeous. I'm now kicking myself for waiting until issue seven before picking up a copy.

Oh Comely is a sort of creative mish-mash. It's all about quirks and creativity and looking at the world in a different way. This issue is all about things that you weren't allowed to do as a child and it makes you want to rush out and climb trees and build cushion forts. I LOVE me a cushion fort. Every single page is beautiful, every inch of this magazine makes me happy. Some of the pages are even written by our very own Frances. It's bi-monthly and you'll wish it was monthly.

It's £4, it's available in WHSmith and it'll fill you with joy.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Tatty Devine Pansy Power



As the old adage goes, never judge a book by its cover, or in this case a brooch by the flower. This is no ordinary floral brooch, look closer and you will see this 'Queer Boy' brooch is in fact sending out a very serious message about homophobia. These limited edition brooches have been designed and individually hand painted by artist Paul Harfleet of The Pansy Project, in collaboration with the lovely folks at Tatty Devine.

Through The Pansy Project, Paul highlights the widespread occurrence of homophobic abuse that still prevails in our society by planting and photographing a solitary unmarked pansy at the site of homophobic attacks. An exhibition of Paul's photography is also being shown in the Tatty Devine Brick Lane shop.

The brooches cost £45 each and all proceeds will go to support the continued work of The Pansy Project. So plant your pansy brooch firmly on your lapel and show your support.

Wine Weekly: What's In A Name? Learning Label Lingo


If you like wine, you'd expect a trip to a wine shop to be like one of those Willy Wonka moments, but it can quickly deteriorate into that nightmarish instant when you flip your French A Level exam paper over and realise you can't even read the questions let alone write the answers (not that I'm scarred or anything). You leave needing a glass of wine more than ever before.

Labels aren't very forgiving. Depending on the country, different words can mean the same thing, and just to confuse you sometimes the same word can mean different things. It's like they're doing it deliberately.

New World wines look much friendlier as they generally just list the brand name, the grape and maybe a region, but even they can mess with your head when it comes to grape varieties: Shiraz is also known as Syrah, Zinfandel as Primitivo, Pinot Gris as Pinot Grigio, Grenache as Garnacha etc.

Obviously, there are thousands of label terms, but I've compiled a handy list of some of the more common ones to arm you with some know-how when faced with a room full of scary-looking bottles.

Key: Spain (S) France (F) Italy (I) Germany (G) Champagne/Sparkling (C)

Age

Some wine is aged in oak barrels, giving it certain characteristics (more on that next week). If a wine has Reserva (S) or Riserva (I) on the label, it means it has fulfilled legal ageing periods - this means it's probably been aged for longer, and will be of higher quality. Spanish reds may also have 'Crianza' on the label to mark a shorter period of ageing, or 'Gran Reserva' for particularly long ageing.

For example, Tesco Finest's Rioja (£7.19) is a Reserva, so it's been aged for at least three years, (at least one year in oak) and will be smoother and more complex than a crianza.

You should bear in mind that if the word Reserva is used on New World wines, it may well have still spent time in oak but it has no legal bearing and so that's not guaranteed.

Sweetness

If a wine is dry, the label may say: Sec (F), Seco (S) Secco (I), Trocken(G) or Brut (C)
Medium-sweet wines may say: Demi-sec (C/F), Moelleux (F), Halbtrocken (G), Amabile (I), Semi-Seco (S)
If sweet, it may say: Doux (F), Dulce (S), Dolce (I), Suss (G), Rich (C)

This isn't an exhaustible list of terms denoting sweetness, and not all wines will be marked with their sweetness level, but it gives you the main ones to keep your eyes peeled for.

A good example: It can be hard to tell whether a Riesling will be sweet or not, but excellent producer Prinz Von Hessen makes this cracking Riesling Trocken, and you can grab a bottle from Majestic for £9.99.

Vineyards

Often the best wines come from the oldest vineyards, as older vines give less grapes but with more concentrated character.You may see Classico (I) or Vieilles Vignes (F - not a legal term) on a wine to suggest that.

For example, this 'vieilles vignes' Bourgogne Rouge by Nicolas Potel from Berry Bros is £17.95 a bottle. I love this producer and the old vines help make this is an exquisite mouth-filling Burgundy with great concentration of flavour.

Champagne/Sparkling

If a Champagne (not any other sparkling wine) has a vintage, it's probably very fine indeed, with a pricetag to match. You don't have to spend that much though: most Champagne is non-vintage to keep the style consistent.

Cremant is used to describe a sparkling wine with a little less than full sparkling pressure.

Petillant (F) and Frizzante (I) mean lightly sparkling.

A good example: The Wine Society sell this Prosecco Frizzante for £8.95. As well as being the best Prosecco I've ever had, it's also got a pretty suave-looking bottle. Delicious.

Classified

Every country has different wine laws and ways of regulating what producers can put on their labels. Very loosely, they are:

Table wine: No vintage or grape varieties allowed. Pretty simple stuff.
Vin de Table (F), Deutscher Tafelwein (G), Vino da Tavola (I), Vino de Mesa (S)

Table wine with geographical description: Vintages and grapes are allowed on the label, as well as a particular region. They have to abide by the wine laws of that region, so quality tends to improve.
Vin de Pays (F) Landwein (G) IGT or Indicazione Geographica Typica (I) Vino de la Tierra (S)

Quality Wine from a Specific Region: Wines that are regulated more stringently so they are allowed to list a certain region on the label. They tend to be better-made and have more character but they vary pretty wildly in price (as you can see from the examples below). They're everywhere but we often don't notice the label telling us how good our wine is because we ignore the terms and acronyms we don't understand. But look out for the following on the label, and you'll know you've got a well-made wine:

  • AOC - Appellation d'Origine Controlee / AC - Appellation Controlee (F) - The Burgundy I mentioned is from Bourgogne Rouge AC
  • Qba or even better Pradikatswein (G) - the Riesling I mentioned is Pradikatswein
  • DOC, or even better DOCG (I) - the Prosecco I featured is DOC
  • DO or even better DOC/DOCa (S) - the Rioja I mentioned is a DOCa

Premium Classified: The word 'cru' means 'growth' in French, and a 'Premier Cru' or 'Grand Cru' wine will be some of the finest wine that region produces. They'll also be some of the priciest, so don't worry about this unless you're looking for something special.

Got a wine term that's always bugged you? Come and tell us about it on our Twitter or Facebook pages!

Image taken from David Marcel's photostream under the creative commons license.

My, What A Nice Teapot You Have!

This may be a little twee for some tastes but I've been completely charmed by this Little Red Riding Hood teapot and cup from Urban Outfitters. She has a very smiley face for someone who has to dodge Big Bad Wolves. Maybe she's pleased at being cute and practical.

See? A cup that's just the right size for a cup of tea with a top up. You could put sugar lumps in the basket. Or little chocolates.

She'd make a very nice gift - it's up to you to choose whether to yourself or someone else.


Little Red Riding Hood teapot, £40 from Urban Outfitters

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Sluttery Travels: The Reading Rooms, Margate


I actually found this Reading Rooms in Margate because I was googling this Reading Rooms in London. One of those happy little accidents that mean I've discovered a new hotel to tell you about. And this one is very sexy indeed. It's in a Georgian townhouse and there are just three rooms for you to choose from.


Gosh it's beautiful. Now I want to stain all of my wooden floors.


I think I want to live here.


Don't these smellies look like they'd smell amazing? Let me be clear, if I was staying here I'd probably just lounge in the freestanding bath and read books. And then sit on the snuggly bed and read books. And not much else at all. Maybe a walk along the beach at sunset.


Breakfast is included in the rates, which are around £150 per night at the moment and you can follow them on Twitter for news of last minute bookings. I can't wait to stay here, I've always been a fan of the beach in autumn and the Reading Rooms looks like the ideal base for that.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar wall stickers

Our dear editor and guru Siany has been away and how have we missed her (and her 12am Sluttery-business emails). If I didn't know that she'd been sunning herself in Croatia, I'd swear that she'd been away inventing stuff. See, we all know how obsessed she is with wallpaper and wall coverings. And how her all time favourite book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar. She leaves us alone for a week and just look what starts getting sold... Very Hungry Caterpillar wall stickers.


Yes, it's wall stickers based on the classic Eric Carle book. In fact, it's 49 stickers based on the classic Eric Carle book. There's the days of the week, all the treats that the caterpillar used to scoff, and even the beautiful butterfly it becomes: in fact everything you need to tell the story.

Of course it's intended for kids but as it's only £22 from Wallpaper Direct every home, whether young or old, can afford a bit of Very Hungry action. And I can guess at a lady, freshly back in the UK, who might be one of the first to get a set. If it's not in Sian's kitchen by Christmas, I'll be a Very Amazed Domestic Slut indeed.

Sluttishly Simple: King Henry VIII Mashed Potatoes

*WARNING* These potatoes are hazardous to your health.

I named these potatoes King Henry VIII's as the ingredients are all right up the mighty monarch's ample avenue.

Your cholesterol levels won't thank you; your waistline will become a distant memory; your chin will get a twin ... but your taste buds will love you forever!

You'll need:

  • Four baking potatoes

  • 1/2 cup double cream

  • 2 tablespoons of butter

  • Large pinch of salt (rock or flaked)

  • Sprinkle of oregano

  • Freshly cracked black pepper

  • 1/2 cup parmesan (fine grated)

  • 1/2 cup cheddar (grated)

  • Make it!

  • Peel, quarter and boil the potatoes in salted water until a sharp knife can slide into them and out again without any starchy residue remaining on the blade.

  • Once boiled, drain and return to the pan. Add the cream and mash lightly.

  • Add the butter and mash some more.

  • Add the cheeses, oregano and salt and mash further until smooth. Finish with a decent crack of pepper all over.

  • Enjoy with a steak!
  • Design Porn: Natalie Nicklin

    If you like your prints to say a little bit more to you than a blithe "Keep Calm and Carry On", I can highly recommend the work of my latest artistic obsession, Natalie Nicklin. The collage and colours of her work reminds me a little of Bryony Lloyd's, but as though those beautiful ladies and landscapes have been transported to some strange and fascinating other world.


    Take for example Waiting For.... A retro swimsuit clad belle is stood in a barren and eerie environment looking dreamily into space. It's up to you to speculate on exactly what she is waiting for (I'm no expert, but I'm guessing it's not the number 39). Part of an edition of 30, this screen-print costs £70.


    Other pieces are cheaper, and still as atmospheric, such as this Far Off Place print which costs £40.


    Finally, here's Of Dust. I'm not exactly sure what the piece means or is trying to say, but there's definitely something quite captivating about it. For £35 there's plenty more hours of intrigue to be had from looking at it.

    Monday, 26 September 2011

    Cocktail Hour: Zenna, London

    Zenna is one of those places that I've been meaning to go to for aaaaages (Kat has been and worked her way through the entire menu). But given that England has been having 'summer' and Zenna is all underground in Soho, I sort of forgot about it. I've been on the hunt for the perfect roof garden instead (no, I haven't found that either).

    But, Zenna has actually wowed me. Myself and some of the Domestic Sluts were invited to play a couple of weeks ago and I wish I'd come here sooner. We've already mentioned their DIY bellini (genius idea) but their garden martini is without a doubt the very best cocktail I've tried this year. I've tried around eleventy billion and this is the most fantastic. It's a vodka, mint, apple and cucumber concoction and was the one that everyone was fighting over (they didn't win, obviously). It was refreshing, strong and it smelled divine.

    Zenna has an Indian theme (the Bollywood music is slightly tacky, but apparently better than the house music they played previously). This theme means that the cocktails have a savoury and spicy edge. Not least the 'world's spiciest cocktail' which includes a secret chilli sauce and three types of rum. Obviously, I had to try it in the name of research but also I had to sign a (gimmicky?) waiver to drink it, just to make sure I don't sue the bar if I get sick. This is a very spicy drink. And it's still tasty. You can taste everything in the cocktail and that's impressive as I was just expecting heat. But about halfway down I started to get heartburn and I'm not sure I really want to spend much time (or money) on something that I only classed as 'drinkable'. I love the idea and it's a real crowd puller, but I wouldn't order it again. Much better was the peach and chilli cocktail - a little bit of a heat and an interesting flavour, but I actually wanted to finish it.

    I'll come back to Zenna. I like the sexy booths that felt separate from the bar without being shut off. The staff were lovely to us (and *ahem* Dan is very handsome indeed). There was a bourbon tasting going on when we were there, and the bar was quiet. I'd love to go when it was a little busier - I imagine it's a lively little place at the weekends. I'm so pleased this place is on my radar now. There's a whole cocktail menu for me to work through. Once I've had seven more garden martinis.

    Zenna is on Dean Street in London's Soho. We didn't pay for our drinks when we visited, but we'll be back soon and we're more than willing to give them all of our pennies in exchange for martinis.
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