Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How To: Chloe's Christmas Syrup

I posted last week about making Christmas gifts, many of which I can't post too much about this year, as lots of friends and family keep tabs on this blog. This one isn't so sensitive and it's a bit of a brainwave if I say so myself.

Bottled as a gift, or for your own personal enjoyment, this is a relatively cheap and it's very easy.

Cinnamon Sticks
Star Anise
Cardamom Pods
Whole or dried Oranges
Sugar- Light brown, caster, granulated or dark brown


Add equal quantities of sugar and water to a pan- 1 US cup of each would yield roughly 150ml syrup, stir to help disolve the sugar- I used dark brown sugar for this batch, hence the colour.

Add 3-4 cinnamon sticks, half a teaspoon each per cup/150g sugar of cloves and cardamom pods, 2 star anise pieces and either 2 quarter wedges of an orange or 2 slices dried orange


Set the pan on the lowest available heat and stir gently until the sugar has dissolved. Once dissolved, leave on low heat for approximately one hour, stir gently every 10-15 mins. Consistency should be like maple syrup or runny honey. Pass through a sieve into a jug, and bottle or jar.

TIP: If putting into Kilner/Mason jars or bottles with seals, pour and seal straight away, as the heat should sterilise the glass at the same time.

Although it's desperately 'festive', we're finding it pretty versatile- firstly, cheating with the mulled wine- 2 tablespoons of this, a 70cl bottle of wine and some low heat mean no messing with weighing sugar, or dry spices.

Also, um hello hot chocolate- a half teaspoon of this mixed through really delivers a Christmas kick to a hot drink and all this before we start talking about baking....


Friday, November 21, 2014

Homemade Gifts- 5 Reasons To Make A Christmas Gift

In years gone by, this is the time of the winter where I've started to have a panic about Christmas gifts, what is needed, what to buy, for whom, from where, with what cash. Last year, mostly for financial reasons we opted to give a mix of homemade gifts and gifts purchased on pre-Christmas travels to Leipzig. And this year, the majority of the gifts we give will be homemade.

This is not for everyone, and I've had questions ranging from 'WTF?' to 'But where are you going to find the time?' to 'But do people really want homemade stuff?' when chatting about the bits and pieces that I've been making. All valid, well mostly and so here's a few reasons that we are choosing to give the limited gifts we do as mostly homemade...

1. Cost- crafts can be costly, as can making food stuffs, but if you plan carefully and buy cautiously, making gifts can be a cost effective way to give. I chose to purchase dry ingredients for food gifts when they were on special offers in July and August and by making some things in bulk, I was able to save money per weight of a product that I would have needed.

Skunkfunk Green Purse inside
All about the money, money, money

TIP: Always keep a list of what you intend to make, how many and what the cost is to keep an eye on things though, as this should stop the cost spiralling out of control.

2. Reducing 'stuff'- As a family, most of us have all the 'stuff' we want or need. My mother and I are both quite militant about regularly clearing out and keeping our things more minimal. Giving homemade gifts such as food items or ingredients that can be enjoyed and used up reduces the stuff element of Christmas and suits the food fanatic nature of most of my family members, but consider also gifts like candles, homemade skincare or festive decorations that can be used up as opposed to many ornamental options, and always keep your recipient in mind- what they like, use and might be allergic or intolerant to.

3. Enjoyment- I'm not a naturally craft type, but teaching myself to crochet has actually been very enjoyable and is an excellent activity to keep me busy on winter evenings now the nights have pulled in, bonus that it's productive whilst we hammer through every series of Breaking Bad on Netflix.

Finally made something that isn't lopsided! #crochet
Teaching myself to crochet earlier this year

TIP: If you want to give something you've never tried to make before, have trial run, or teach yourself the skill in the summer to allow time to learn or come up with a different idea if necessary.

4. Personality- I've never been much taken with the commercial elements of Christmas, and whilst I always had generous gifts at Christmas, as an adult I prefer to give as much as receive gifts that have personal meaning or personality in them- along the quality over quantity theory I suppose. Homemade gifts are unique and therefore the limit on how personal they are is only ever set by you.

Think my mum is trying to tell me something.
Not altogether untrue

TIP: Keep wrapping paper simple and have some fun with ribbon, tags, photos or embellishments to inject some personality.

Sorting through pictures and found this of the hand drawn wrapping paper T made for my birthday gift #simonscat
In our own inevitable style

5. Compromise- T & I truthfully couldn't afford to give shop bought versions of many of the gifts I've enjoyed making this year, and our compromise is that we can give things I'm proud to say I've made. The compromise on making gifts is that I spend a great deal of my time- on which I put a value, not just making the gifts but also wrapping them and making them feel every bit as special as I intend them to be. For many, finding the time to do both the crafting or making and the wrapping is not an enjoyable task, so it might be time to reassess as to whether the cost of purchasing ready to go gifts is worth it to banish crafting misery from your life. Despite the batch of fudge that just WOULD. NOT. SET. or the very lumpy wonky first attempts at crochet on a long car journey back in August, I've had a lot of fun and satisfaction in looking at my finished products, stored away ready for next month.

TIP: Don't, for the love of shoes, spend too long on Pinterest comparing your efforts to those scary über crafty types- inspiration is there to make your of it what you will. Seeking to replicate is likely to lead to frustration and misery.

Burn disintegrated in the shower. Ain't no Instagram filter that's going to make that look better in my short sleeved gown.
Kitchen crafting.... #NAILEDIT


Monday, November 17, 2014

Chloe Likes To Eat: The Master Chefs of Great Britain Annual Lunch Edition

One of the perks of my job managing the business is being back involved with pretty much all things food, including grabbing an invite to this year's Master Chefs of Great Britain Annual Lunch. My dad has been every year since 1997 and has been a member since 1998 so it was awesome to be able to go myself this year.


Traditional plates- each year every attendee gets a plate with the menu on it. Sadly mine has gone straight into storage due to the impending move.

Lobster, crab, avocado and a whole host of other good stuff. My favourite course of the day.

Whilst I like halibut, it was really over cooked, which is always a problem when catering for this many people.

Duck- cooked to perfection, beautifully tender.

'Chocolate Box' Super super rich, filled with some kind a ganache & caramel type job. One of the sponsors for this year happened to be Biscoff, who make Lotus biscuits, the tuille and the crumb were made from Lotus biscuit. A highlight for me.

And finally, my new favourite picture. I do rather love Paddington and with the impending movie, there are Paddingtons all over London. This is the proper one at the station of his naming though... Yes, yes I had been drinking.

Slightly inebriated Paddington selfie from last night. Had to be done!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Baking With Betty

Betty Crocker is a brand my Mum remembers not being able to buy in the UK, she was friendly with kids from the local US Airforce base and as such she got to try and see things that most Brits didn't have at that time. Fast forward a couple of decades, and you'll find Betty on a shelf in most UK supermarkets and beyond.

Cake mixes, like most so-called shortcuts are quite divisive, with many vowing never to use them and simply not understanding why you would start from scratch. I feel this way about lots of food, but cakes are hard. Baking is a science, and chemistry was not my strong point in school, so anything that helps me to get it right first time- and FYI if you have to attempt making your cake 3 times baking gets costly, then bring it. See also icing, frosting and decorating, because I'm about as creative as a brick wall.

So, what do you get with a Betty Crocker bake?


Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting & sprinkles

And these....

Cookie cookie cookie.
'Rainbow' White choc chip cookies

let us not forget these....

'Christmas' Chocolate Muffins

Now whilst I'm quite capable of weighing flour, creaming butter and sugar, and I have a grasp on what the batter should look like before you fling it all in the oven, this is just so... easy. And quick. I have a small kitchen, which I have to share, and I'm often short on time. not including baking time (obvz) I made ALL THREE of those different cakes and cookies in less than 15 minutes. Yes for real, that's what an electric whisk will do for you, as well as not having to faff  with the scales.

The rapid disappearance of all items tell me they tasted pretty awesome. But here's the good bit, no decoration creation. Betty Crocker recently launched Vanilla Frosting with Sprinkles- so one tub, one lid, both items. And even I can shove a bit of frosting I didn't have to make into a piping bag, or lazier still use a palette knife (if I had one)....

Frosting.... not quite all over the kitchen

I never said I wasn't a messy cook.

The sprinkles also working well in paler cakes and cookies for the 'Rainbow' effect a la my cookies

Cookie Monster.


I was very generously offered the opportunity to attend a Betty Crocker baking event last month, but was sadly unable to last the course because my stupid sickly insides decided to be miserable. But before I left, I learned some interesting things:

Did you know that Betty Crocker started of as a radio show advising women on cooking and baking in the US?

Betty Crocker only launched in the UK in the 1990's, despite being in existence since the 1950's.

There are way more products than you think- I'd never heard of Betty Crocker tray bake mixes or muffin mixes, and it was only when embarking on this review that I knew they made frosting and icing. One stop shop much?!

And FYI there's a whole load of inspiration for customising your cakes on the Betty Crocker website, and my muffins above were doctored to become Christmas Muffins- I added 2 tablespoons of dried cranberries, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and the finely grated zest of half an orange to the mix, to add a hint of Christmas spirit and thinking forward to some of the baking I've committed to over the next few weeks.

If anyone has any more suggestions for Christmas-style alterations to make, be my guest- please do let me know if the comments, especially if you have tried these things with a Betty mix.

All products featured are press samples sent for review. All new, views & photos are my own, and gracious thanks to the Betty Crocker crew for their patience. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

From Where I Stand

You know how it goes... I take narcissistic pictures of myself from above, you pretend to be interested and I get to indulge in Instagram pictures of my recent outfits that probably aren't very trendy.

#todayimwearing kitty shoes, Aquascutum bag & a scarf that does in fact double up as a blanket.
Skinny Jeans, That (knockoff) Zara Scarf and cat shoes, duh. Bag as per my recent Bag Lady Post

#todayimwearing new favourite @marksandspencer jumper & first outing of boots this season.
The best jumper ever (Marks & Spencer FYI), denim leggings & ankle boots for a day out at London Zoo

#todayimwearing new favourite trousers from @laredoute & @geox shoes. Black widow much.
Almost grown up trousers & Geox flats- FYI La Redoute have some crazy nice trousers at the moment and shed loads of discounts. These zipped not-quite-jeans are available HERE and they're £22. I'm a bit gutted they're now too big.

Working from home today. More in love with these @asos leggings since the make my legs look slimmer.
Working from home- magic jumper and apparently magic denim leggings because there's no way my legs are that skinny. No seriously, the jumper is magic, whatever I do, it's always comes clean, never shrinks, and always keeps it's shape.

#todayimwearing too big black and very bright blue. Love these trousers but now annoyingly big.
Can you tell I'm having a cat shoe phase... Trousers as above with this awesomely bright blue and a very snuggly cardigan because it was FREAKING COLD.

#todayimwearing @asos cat elbow patch jumper. Oh yes I am.
My jumper has cat elbow patches.... does yours? Jumper from ASOS was reduced to £16.50, lilac version available for £22 right HERE

Having managed to get cats, designer bags and *that* scarf into one post, now I'm off to enjoy more clichés such as scented candles- screw Diptique, I've been making my own orange and cinnamon ones, of which I'm rather fond.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bag Lady

With the business, I no longer have a fixed work place and so I often end up needing to carry around a fair few things. Couple this with the sad demise of my usual handbag, at the back end of the summer I set about the arduous task of finding the gold at the end of the rainbow- a new 'everyday' handbag, particularly for the working week.

#todayimwearing kitty shoes, Aquascutum bag & a scarf that does in fact double up as a blanket.
Bag, Aquascutum

I usually look for black in a handbag as it works with the general colour palette of my wardrobe, and is a true classic for something so everyday. I really lucked out with the purchase because I has become my new everyday handbag, or certainly for my working week.

AW bag contents Aquascutum
A small amount of the junk that ends up in my bag....

I look for leather for a bag that I expect to use as much as this one as I find it be super durable and always classy, I prefer a shoulder strap that isn't super long and my bags must have a sturdy significant closure like a full length zip because I don't want anybody who doesn't belong dipping their hands in on the tube or the bus.

This Aquascutum beauty doesn't appear to be in production any more and was in fact an eBay bargain. I paid (inc P&P) just over £50 and it came in it's original dust bag. Whether or not it's genuine is up for debate I suppose, but whether it is or isn't I still love it, and for a good quality, strong bag that does everything I need, I still think £50 is a good deal.

AW Aquascutum

One of the other joys of this bag is that it has a fully padded section for a laptop and whole bunch of pockets that I can fit all my crap into. I can comfortable fit my laptop, diary (it's a large Moleskine...) my iPad, AND the rest of the usual girl junk from a standard handbag. It's quite heavy at that point, but do-able.

There are some things wardrobe wise that I still buy on a disposable level- a lot of my tops & shirts that I pull on with favourite jeans or trousers are inexpensive and last only a few months before I start again but shoes and handbags are something I choose to hunt hard for to find something that's exactly right, that I prefer to spend a little more on for something that is right and that really good quality shoes & handbags (amongst other things) can really lift simple or basic outfits.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Clean Skin: My 4 Favourite Cleansing Products

My skin is an ongoing war zone, it's quite oily and troublesome but I'm not talking about curing all skin ills here- the one thing I prize in my skin care is that my skin feels properly clean at the start and end of each day, and I've used so many products that just don't deliver.

Clean Skin Essentials

1. Weleda One Step Cleanser & Toner

This is the most miraculous cleanser/toner that isn't a wash I've ever used. I usually use this to remove my make up after I finish work but before I jump on the bike to go home & onto the gym. Rarely have I ever had anything remove so much of the day's grunge from my skin without being left with tight or raw skin. A true miracle and whilst not super über well priced, it's not bad either and worth every penny. But Weleda, please please please start putting in something that dispenses a bit easier. The blue glass bottle might pretty but getting the right amount out of it is hellish!

Available HERE approx £14

2. Dermalogica Dermal Clay Cleanser

A recommendation after a Dermalogica facial and one I used years and years ago. Actual love. Despite being call a clay cleanser, this isn't heavy or sticky. It's more of a cream texture and when applied to skin has a tingly minty sensation thing going on. Perfect for removing a days dirt without and dryness or tightness. Get friendly with a shower cap or flannel head band if, like me, you don't wash your hair every day though, it dries to a really gross consistency if you accidentally smear it into your hair and don't rinse out.

Available HERE approx £25 but often on offer

3. Elemis Tri-Enzyme Resurfacing Wash

And old but brilliant wash, feels super luxurious and quite gentle but does the dirty work needed. I use this each morning (and the Dermalogica clay cleanser in the evenings) for clean but soft skin. My (limited) understanding is that the enzymes in the wash exfoliate your skin through using the chemistry of the enzymes, and I have to say, since going back to it, I feel my skin is brighter as well as oh so clean.

Available HERE approx £29 but often on offer

4. Natural Sponges

Manual exfoliants are all fine and good, but I'm yet to find one I actually like, so as a slightly gentler option to use with a cleansing wash I use these natural sponges to scrub away dead skin etc. I buy them in Spain where they cost about €1 for 3 or 4 as opposed to £1 for one here. I use them for all over my body too- simple, small and super useful I wouldn't be without one.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Let's Go Round Again

Oh and so the mayhem continues. As if being sick in October wasn't disruptive enough, it looks like I'll be out of our current flat by Christmas. Yes, really. Hello 12th house move in 7 years.

In some respects I shouldn't bitch too hard, we lasted a whole 15 months in this flat, a flat I love FYI and am leaving for reasons that it's none of my business to be disclosing or chatting about.

There have been times in my life where I've felt extreme stress that displays a bit like frantic panic, similar situations to this one- negotiating the early termination of a contract and having an unspecified time period left living somewhere and being unable to start looking for the next place. This time around I just feel weary of it already and the chaos has barely started. It's a bit like having a consistent dark cloud obscuring the bright sunlight that everyone else seems to enjoy.

I continue to be a believer in the box theory- that houses are boxes that you put you stuff in. This has been a bigger better box than the previous and the next box is going to be one that T & I don't share, but I'm getting a bit fed up of exchanging boxes now.

Chloe Likes To Talk Marks and Spencer Christmas Room
I never was much of an interior designer, but I did love doing a small amount of styling for M&S last year

I never used to mind moving house, I've done a fair bit of it, including moves across countries as well as counties and cities but maybe I'm reaching a point in my life where the exciting of unpacking my life into a new space is just a hassle now.

But ultimately, we can't stop the steam train that's in motion and now's a time I'm choosing to use to look back on some of the things that made this box our home for now- after all, home is what you make it.

I have no idea what is going on here.
I still have no idea what was going on here.

Happy fucking Friday. #fuckofffriday #fuckitfriday
I told you interiors weren't my forte... matching wine & wallpaper....

Pretty sure this isn't what normal people's living rooms look like on any given Friday afternoon....
So. Features is back....

#loveis having a pumpkin carved for you to order.
I made T get his pumpkin on last year. Boy done good this year too.....

T carved me a tiger pumpkin after yesterday's epic zoo visit.

And not least, this is a flat we've had a good time and partied hard in.

Saturday night sorted.