Friday, 30 March 2012

The boy and his poison: Country Thyme

Easter is so nearly here you can hear the crinkle of the creme egg foil. It’s like Christmas' easier going cousin, but the for this barhound, the problem with this cheeky spring bank-holiday is its chocolate focus. As much as I like inhaling a bar of Green & Black it’s not the easiest ingredient to shake with, so the first of my Easter drinks instead celebrates the fresh flavours and aromas of the season. The Country Thyme smells like a spring morning and has an understated pastel tone that would make it a perfect Easter sun-downer.

I first stumbled on it during one of my dedicated work-avoidance breaks on liquor.com. The original recipe came from Joseph Ehrmann but his suggestion of muddling the entire lemon and relying on the thyme in the glass to pass on the flavour to the drink left my first attempt seeming bitter and a bit anti-climatic. My version puts the thyme in the drink and avoids the taste of the lemon peel but you still get the cute thyme garnish.

You'll need:
  • 50ml vodka
  • 25ml lemon juice
  • 15 blueberries (a small handful)
  • 1 dessert spoon of agave syrup
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
Make it:
  • Slap one of the thyme sprigs to release the oils 
  • Bend the base and place in the bottom of a tumbler along with some ice
  • Meanwhile muddle the blueberries, lemon juice, remaining sprig of thyme and agave in the bottom of a shaker
  • Pour in the vodka, add the ice and shake for 10 seconds 
  • Strain into the tumbler and serve

Sluttishly Sweet: Sea Salted Caramel Sauce


I should warn you that this sauce is seriously addictive, in fact it is the crack cocaine of sauces that will have you sneaking spoonfuls from the jar at all hours of the day and night.

It's amazing drizzled it over blueberry pancakes, or try it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a filled yorkie or another favourite of mine is to use it to make some kick ass cocktails. Make LOTS though as you will find yourself simply eating it straight out of the jar in your pyjamas at 3am.

You'll need:
  • 120g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 tblsp water
  • 250ml double cream
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
Make it!
  1. Put the butter, sugar and water into a saucepan and heat gently. Don't stir it though just swirl the saucepan to mix.
  2. Once it's melted turn up the heat slightly and let it bubble away for 3 minutes before whisking in the double cream. Remove from the heat and add your sea salt flakes, taste and see if you want more salt (it may be hot so be careful, a burnt tongue is really painful!). You can use the sauce straight away but if you chill it in the fridge it will thicken up nicely. This will happily keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks but I doubt you will be able to resist eating it before then!

Weekly Wine: Easter Treats

Easter - and that magical long weekend - is swooping ever closer. And it's definitely going to be sunny the whole weekend. GOT THAT, WEATHER GODS? IT IS GOING TO BE NON-STOP SUNSHINE.

Right, now we've got that sorted, you just have to work out how you're going to spend those four heavenly days off. I recommend eating lots of chocolate that's been moulded into the shape of adorable animals. Oh, and some wine. A good few glasses of wine with all that delicious Eastery food.

Here are some bottles that will be perfect to while away hours in all the (AHEM) brilliant outdoorsy weather.

Rosé

I can't think of a more ideal time to crack open the first of the year's rosé. If you've not delved far into the world of rosé yet, all I can ask is that you please steer clear of the big brand names. They tend to be sugary and underwhelming, and you can get so much more for around the same price.

For instance: Tesco Finest Navarra Garnacha Rosé is a measly £6.99 but has won awards for its aceness. It's a cool all-rounder with food but it's balanced red-fruit flavour is great to serve chilled even on its own.

If you prefer your rosé a little more delicate, then you can't go wrong with one from Provence. You can pick up a bottle of this fresh, herby, exquisite style of rosé pretty much anywhere, but they tend to be a little pricier. Majestic, however, have one of their marvellous offers on: pick up two bottles of the Chateau Saint Roch-les-Vignes Cotes du Provence and you can have them for £6.99 each.

Red

Obviously, lamb is generally the dish of the day on Easter Sunday, and it's one of the easiest wine matches I know.

Cabernet Sauvignon is roast lamb's bestie, and I don't think you can beat a good Left Bank Bordeaux. They can be pricey, but surprise, surprise: Majestic have a cracking offer on again. The Chateau Romefort 2006 Haut-Medoc is £7.99 if you buy two bottles (£9.99 normally) and is from super vineyards. It's got a nice dollop of Merlot to soften the Cabernet, making this perfect for Sunday lunch, and most red meat dishes actually.

The other traditional lamb match is Rioja, but again you can easily pay too much without realising it. If you want a classic example, then this Marques del Romeral Reserva Rioja 2005 from M&S hits all the right buttons. A stonkingly good year, the extra credit of the Reserva status, and just £9.99 from M&S - I think this is a real treat.

If your budget doesn't stretch that far, try Epoto Tempranillo from The Wine Society for £5.75. Same grape, same country, and a whole lot of care has gone into the production of this, making it a perfect spicy, fruity lamb match, but good for evening quaffing too.

White

If you've decided on lighter fare for your Easter munching, such as fish, crisp salads and lighter chicken dishes, or if you just want something to lazily pour into your glass in the garden, then you need a refreshing bottle of white.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range have done well recently, and their Taste the Difference Gavi (£8.49 a bottle) won Gold at the International Wine Challenge. The Italians know how to do outdoorsy wine: it's vibrant and minerally and sumptuous with or without food.

Easter started early for me last night at a delightful garden party, and I fell in love with the Quinta da Lagoalva from The Wine Society. It's a Portuguese white with effortless fragrance and charm - not bad for £6.75.

What are your top Easter wine picks? Tell us all about it in the comments or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Image taken from Matthiasson Wine's photostream under the Creative Commons License.

My First Novel Notebook

If you've got a story burning inside you, then why not let it out on to the pages of these gorgeous My First Novel notebooks from Sukie? They evoke 60s paperbacks with their book jacket designs, combined with fabulous retro prints. Available in three different patterns, they're £5.30 from SCP.



If you're not busy compiling character profiles and plotting dramatic endings, maybe you're sketching strangers, designing dresses, concocting recipes. Whitelines notebooks claim to help you avoid getting trapped by the constraints of having to neatly encapsulate your ideas within rigid lines - gridlines are a very faint grey instead. I say what's wrong with plain paper, but this could be worth a try. A4 size is £3.09 from Amazon.


Or if you're like me, your notebooks end up being a mixture of everything including shopping lists, sketches, diary reminders and random phone numbers. They're not always easy to decipher, but fun to look back on. Basically, they're a nudge to Work Less, Play More, Enjoy Life. A5 size, £9.95 from The Paperie.

Sluttery Travels: Hazlitt's, London

Down a side street in Soho, hides a secret. A little old-fashioned townhouse that wants to hide you away and make you forget about outside. Hazlitt's isn't a typical hotel. I walked past it twice (although the second time I was distracted by a cute boy with an even cuter puppy). Hazlitt's might be small with just 13 rooms but it's got everything I want in a hotel - huge beds, history and charm, friendly staff and a well stocked bar. Once you've got the basics right in a nice pile of bricks, I'm all yours.


There's actually no bar to speak of. There's a library, and there's a shelf of booze (that could have benefited from a cocktail shaker and a few nifty bar tools). It's an honestly bar and you scribble down what you drink with your room number and then you curl up by the fire. I promise I was very honest - booze prices throughout the hotel are surprisingly reasonable. Just £3.50 for a beer and £6 for a double. I'm blaming Hazlitt's for my hangover. And the bottle of Talisker 10 hidden at the back of the shelf.


I've never stayed in a suite before. I'm not stupid rich and I'm not a film star doing a press junket. I have no need for suites. But goodness, I like them. I spent a lot of time running about the place just because I could. The bathroom was on a DIFFERENT FLOOR. You could have put 20 people in the bathroom and had a perfectly comfortable, if slightly strange, party.


The rooms are filled with antiques and so carefully decorated. It's not easy to make a dark room backing on a Soho alley fill with light. Yet they do it. That's some snazzy design. I wanted to steal the writing desk (it wouldn't fit in my pocket). It was a gorgeous room with a squishy bed that had I not drunk too much minibar red wine would given me an excellent night's sleep.


I adored Hazlitt's and found seven hiding places so I could live there forever. The downsides for me were small. I'd have loved a few more TV channels. If I'm paying hundreds for a room I should have more than 11 to choose from. (Read: I want to watch America's Next Top model when I'm on holiday and I don't have LivingTV at home). And I want to be able to make a cup of tea. It's the first thing I do when I settle into a hotel room and I hate not having a kettle. One last niggle - breakfast was very lovely, but in no world should a bacon sandwich cost £11.95. Checkout was at 12, though. I do love a late checkout.


All of the rooms at Hazlitt's are beautiful, and prices start at £179 for a double via Mr & Mrs Smith who arrange little extras for their members like a bottle of bubbly on arrival. The Teresa Cornleys suite they very generously put me up in would have set me back a cool £550 so I don't think I'll be popping back every weekend, but it's a gorgeous hotel and there could not be a better location to explore, even if you know London already. If you've got something very special to celebrate, you should celebrate it here.

The Friday Five: Egg Cups

It's a rule that I have dippy eggs at some point over the Easter break. Usually in the egg cup that came with my Creme Eggs. Egg and soldiers are a happy breakfast and deserve happy egg cups. Don't use shot glasses, these are much prettier.

These lovely little ladies are just £2.95 each from Hunkydory Home. They're almost seven quid in Urban Outfitters, it pays to shop around.



I really like these Ecology egg cups. They're super stylish and £9.95 for the set of four and you can buy them from John Lewis.




Well hello, birdy. Aren't you cute? This is a chaffinch, Sluttery bird watchers. He's adorable and he looks like he's going to peck the shell of the top of your egg for you. He's £12 from the V&A. Oh, it's always a sign that I'm going to buy cute things when I start calling them 'he'.



Robots on eggs cups, what could be better? This is £12 from the wonderful Julia Davey. I like the flamingo design as well, obviously.



Remember I showed you that amazing puffin breafkast range earlier in the week? Well Maiden stock all sorts of products from the same range - including this hare egg cup. Aren't his ears AMAZING? He's £8.50. Just £4.25 per amazing ear.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Best Towels In The World

I know. Towels. How exciting, really, can they be? Well hugely, in the instance of Anorak's new range, which popped into my inbox courtesy of the quite wonderful Home Shopping Spy yesterday. We've already shown you the amazing cool bag they've done, and I spent most of yesterday with this website open in a window so that I could go back and stare at them.

These are towels made for WINNING.


How gorgeous are they? I want all of them. A face towel costs £4, a hand towel £14. A bath towel is £25 and my favourite, the utterly gigantinormous bath sheet is £35.

Join our next #DomesticDebate 12th April 8pm


After the success of our first Domestic Debate, we've decided to do it all again! This time we're settling down on 12th April at 8pm asking the question "does the world of fashion have a positive impact on our homes and interiors?" 

We'll be chatting about everything from the differences between the fashion and interior design industries, to what effect celebrity-endorsed ranges are having on interiors. Last time things got pretty feisty and we hope that lots of you will pitch in with your opinions.

Of course if you're on Twitter you can catch us on @DomesticSluts and follow the hashtag #DomesticDebate. We're not just on Twitter, though. We'll also be chatting over on the Domestic Sluttery Facebook page so you can catch up with all the action over there.

The debate should last about an hour (the last one was slightly longer because it was so much fun!) and there's almost certainly nothing good on the telly. Grab a drink and join us!

Cloud Pencil Tidy by Suck UK


Although there are glimmers of good weather ahead and so we're all probably thinking of running outside into the garden or spending Saturdays in the park, sadly there are some inevitabilities. For most of us, this probably includes being inside, at a desk, and not eating Mr Whippy cones down by the seafront in pretty dresses (not every day, at any rate.)

To add some cheer to the office, rain or shine, Suck UK have come up with this brilliant Cloud Pencil Tidy, £10. Not only does it come with rainbow coloured pencils, the actual holder is a giant eraser so you can literally scrub that cloud away. Best use of a cumulus I've seen in ages.

And if you need a sharpener, look no further...

An Early Easter Picnic

With all this lovely weather, I doubt I'll be the first person mentioning the word "picnic" to you. But I'll continue with it, as there are lots of pretty picnic type things in the shops at the moment should you be planning a venture out into the great outdoors over Easter. No doubt the weather will be rubbish again by then - luckily these products will look as nice inside your home as they would being enjoyed in a park surrounded by flies, dogs and screaming children... ah, the delights of the summer...



First step, a blanket. I spy this binoculars blanket, new in at Anorak. It'll cost you £36 but will see you through many picnic seasons. Keep a look out for the canoe version too.



Sitting comfortably? Let's move onto the important matters of eating and drinking essentials. Hunkydory Home are stocking these great A to Z paper plates and cups, Each is decorated with its own retro symbol and letter. £7.25 will buy you 26 (of course!) cups or get the plates for £9.75. And because my name begins with "F" I get to quaff from the pretty Flamingo. Win.


If the paper alternatives are too pretty to throw away, or you fancy some stronger stuff, these
festival wine glasses are sure to jazz up proceedings. The set of three pictured will cost you £18 from Found Home and Interiors.



Crisps, vine leaves, sausage rolls: picnics are generally all about the finger food. If you're lucky enough to get ice cream too, what could be more jolly than tucking into them with these checkered spoons. They're £20 from Anthropologie for four.



Finally, mop up your well fed and watered selves with these pretty lemonade napkins from H&M. Lemonade? Well, since you're asking. They're only £1.50 for twenty.

Planning on venturing out into the great outdoors this Easter? Let us know where you're going and, most importantly, what you're going to eat and drink while you're there.


Shop in the Spotlight: Edith and Bob

Oh, I love the Spring. It reminds me of the Easter holidays, and my family taking my childhood self on endless trips to parks, the zoo, and the seaside, every time with a little hamper filled with corned beef sandwiches, pork pies, fairy cakes, bourbon biscuits, and a great big flask of sweet tea.

I'd forgotten how much I loved these simple pleasures, until I discovered Edith and Bob. They appear to share my passion (and my food-filled upbringing), and they've created a delightful range of Britfood-themed cards and accessories.



This is my favourite item from their range. Birthday teas are just the best, right? My Mama always used to make me a fabulous themed cake like this one. I think I'm probably too old now (being a grown up sucks sometimes), so I'll settle for the card instead. It's £2.35.



We all have someone we'd give this card to. And now I really, really want some yorkshire puddings (thankfully, Hazel can help me here.). Cards that make me hungry are ace. This is £2.35 as well.




tea towel full of teatime treats. This is made for doing the washing up on a lazy Sunday evening. Of course, once you're done you're going to want some more cake, which will generate more dirty dishes, and in turn more washing up, and then more cake-lust. It's a vicious circle that I'd be glad to be ensnared within. It's £9.00.

Eggxtremely Eggcellent Easter Eggs

Earlier this week we showed you some non-eggy things you can buy for Easter and now it's the turn of eggs. You can buy me all the chocolate bunnies you want, but it still won't feel like Easter unless I've had an egg. Now you already know about Cadbury eggs, and Green & Blacks and all the others you can pick up when you're going your weekly shop. But what about something more snazzy? Save these for your favourite people.


Let's start with something utterly ridiculous (why not?) This isn't even an Easter egg. It's an egg-shaped box with some chocolates in it. It's also £125. Really. It's Fortnum & Mason, and covered in eau du nil silk. That's really not an excuse for the price, but I like the packaging and from now on I would like my Cadbury eggs all wrapped up like this.


What egg do you buy a fashionable girl who likes dinosaurs? You buy an egg with chocolate dinosaurs inside with packaging designed by Vivienne Westwood. Obviously. This is also from Fortnums and it's £32.50.



Now, this one is pricey, but it's THE BIGGEST EGG EVER. We all know that the bigger the egg the better it is. Don't pretend you like Mini Cadbury Creme Eggs as much as the little ones (image the Creme Egg cupcakes you could make with giant eggs). This chocolate-filled Ostrich egg might be £70 from Hotel Chocolat, but weighs over a kilo and it'll feed the Domestic Sluttery team a small family for about a month. They're also sending out free chocs with any order over £35.



This Harrods dark chocolate egg is gorgeous. So simple. It's dusted with gold powder and filled with mini eggs. It's £21.50.



Donna Wilson has designed some eggs for Rococo. They're all hand painted with her cute designs. Chocolates in the middle, of course (we will never recommend an empty egg, they ruin Easter). These are £17.50.

I don't mind which one you buy me, by the way. But the fashionable dinosaur egg has the edge.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Dream Dress: Wallpaper Prints

I can't see for bring and summery prints right now. I'm not complaining, I want them all. I've never been a girl for the little black dress. I like colour and pattern and this season is spoiling me rotten. Since it's Wallpaper Wednesday, I've been inspired by some prints that frankly would look gorgeous on your walls as well as your dresses.


This summer dress from Oasis reminds me so much of those gorgeous Yukari Sweeney toile wallpapers. It's a print that works so well on fabric and the shape is gorgeous. Still, it's £85 - what's with that, Oasis?



Argh, this orange floral dress is so beautiful I can't stand it. Nope, must buy it immediately. I've never really liked floral wallpapers, but this daff print works so well on this dress. I'm loving the T-back as well. It's £36 from Topshop.



Remember I told you about this digital print from Joy? Here's the dress version. If you have this kind of print on your walls, I probably think you're amazing. If you have this dress already, I'm jealous. Wanna make me green with envy? It'll cost you £55.


This keyhole dress is from the ASOS Curve collection, which means it goes up to a size 26. See that print? It looks like flowers from a distance, but it's actually little tiny elephants. Amazing. Animals are always popping up on our wallpaper, and I like it very much when they pop up on dresses too. This is £35 and manages to look slinky rather than overly cute.

Top Ten Biscuit Recipes


Sometimes I prefer biscuits to cake. I love a chocolate hobnob (milk, not dark) and you can whip up a batch in 15 minutes - you can't often do that with a cake. A good biscuit makes me happy. Especially with a cup of tea. I'm not a dunker, but the two go very well together. Quite fancy one now I've thought about them.

Here's a round up of our favourite biscuit recipes. Pop the oven on to preheat while you decide which you want to make.
  • Biscotti. You can't have a biscuit list without biscotti. It's the rules.

Now all you have to do is decide which to make first. And check out the rest of our top ten recipes lists while they're baking.

Sluttery Fantasy: Barnickle

While sliding my jaw along the ground at the Country Living Spring Fair last week, moths took up residence in my face due to my prolonged period in front of the Barnickle stand.

Owned and run by Lucy Schmidt from her studio in East Devon, Barnickle takes full advantage of her training in theatrical set design to do up old cable boxes and filing cabinets into all-singing, all-dancing bits of loveliness. Feast your eyes on some of my favourites; for real drool factor I'd recommend clicking on a picture and scrolling through the gallery. The detail is quite astonishing.



We Can Do It filing cabinet, £350 Telephone box lockers, £850
Sunflower Chest, £550
OXO Cube drawers, £275
Union Jack table reels, £75-£250

You can follow Lucy's adventures with Barnickle on Facebook, or contact her for more details. She takes commissions so if you've got something really splendid in mind (oh for that gorgeous beach wardrobe) drop her a line.

I'm so in love.

Wallpaper Wednesday: Magscapes Magnetic Wallpaper

When I wrote about join the dots wallpaper a while back, half of you loved it. The other half? You knew that once your kids started drawing on one wall, they'd probably go nuts on the rest of them as well. That's why Magscapes magnetic wallpaper is such a good idea.

Each wallpaper has a bit of a theme going on, and then you buy cool magnets to go with it. You can pick sea creatures for this one, but obviously I'm going with pirates.
There's something a little bit Fuzzy Felt about them, isn't there?


Or perhaps you like fairgrounds more than pirates? (I don't have to choose if I don't want to. You can't make me.)

You don't  have to pick something for the kids. They've got some really nice options for the rest of the house as well.


Clever, huh? You can also buy a plain white paper and go nuts - like a giant wall to play on with whatever magnets you like. Handy when the fridge gets full of pictures.

I thought prices for Magscapes would be really high, but they start at £39 for a wall sheet. It's wallpaper that will evolve and change, and no one will scribble on your walls.
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