Tuesday, 30 December 2008

FOOD - Chef Prepared Ready Meals

My boyfriend and I decided today that we were feeling far too lazy to cook and opted for a dinner from Cook instead. The meals are prepared and cooked by chefs then frozen, awaiting you to take them home and pop them in the oven or microwave. No additives are thrown in, and the meals are made as you would do them at home (only better).

We started with the Sausage and Red Onion Casserole (shown above) and ate it with wild rice and vegetables. To follow we had a Belgian Chocolate Pudding and although it said it served two, it would have easily stretched to four with a spoonful of ice cream. In fact, next time we invite friends for dinner, we will definitely take the stress out of it by paying Cook a visit beforehand.

They also offer, children's meals and gluten free options. Here are the current bestsellers...
To browse and order online visit Cookfood.net

Sunday, 21 December 2008

INTERVIEW - Read About me on Your Style Star

Thanks to 'Your Style Star' for interviewing me and publishing the interview over on their blog. Here is a taster of the blog post but you can read the whole thing by clicking the link at the bottom of the page.

What’s your back story?

I am a geek at heart; I love learning and went to university to study media theory and cultural studies. On finishing my course I got a job in the advertising department for a magazine publisher, and it was here I decided that marketing was the career path for me. I now work full time for a commercial company as a marketing assistant....


Tuesday, 16 December 2008

ART - The Art of War

I saw this bowl while browsing the web and just had to say wow out loud. What an awesome idea to use plastic soldiers and melt them into a kitsch fruit bowl. Each bowl is available in blue or white and is priced at a rather substantial £149.50.

You could give it a go yourself, but something tells me it wouldn't work so well. I also would not advise it on health and safety grounds! Melted plastic is not something you really can afford to get wrong.

Find this and more over at Opus Interiors

Monday, 15 December 2008

COLOUR - Pantone Colour of the Year is...

Pantone today announced PANTONE® 14-0848 Mimosa, a warm, engaging yellow, as the color of the year for 2009. In a time of economic uncertainty and political change, no other colour expresses hope and reassurance more than yellow.

"The colour yellow exemplifies the warmth and nurturing quality of the sun, properties we as humans are naturally drawn to for reassurance," explains Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute®.

Best illustrated by the abundant flowers of the Mimosa tree and the sparkle of the brilliantly hued cocktail, the 2009 colour of the year represents the hopeful and radiant characteristics associated with the color yellow. Mimosa is a versatile shade that coordinates with any other colour, has appeal for men and women, and translates to both fashion and interiors.

Mimosa is also one of the 3,000 colours available in Pantone’s line of eco-friendly paint. Perfect for the kitchen or family room, painting a wall in Mimosa will add warmth and cheerfulness to any room, especially during the winter months.

More information is available at www.pantonepaint.com

Saturday, 13 December 2008

PROPERTY - To Rent or To Sell

As house prices continue to drop and mortgage lending conditions continue to remain tight, there are sellers trying to find a silver lining by dismissing low offers for their property and becoming amateur landlords instead.

This view is substantiated by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) latest letting survey? revealing that surveyors are receiving historically high instructions of properties available for rent.

Although the theory of renting out a property allows the homeowner to take cover whilst holding out for prices to increase, many people are beginning to question whether this ‘easy’ option makes sense. There are several factors to take into account; the number of rules and regulations to which landlords need to adhere to, the collapse of the buy-to-let market and the impact of such high rental volumes has resulted in a saturated market, falling rents and empty properties. London and the South East have been hit the worst and the expectation for future rises in rent is pessimistic for the first time in over five years. This trend could hurt existing professional landlords as well as amateur landlords as they compete to rent their properties at discounted rates.

WOW Property has seen a significant rise in sellers unable to rent out their property. Nick Wright, WOW Sales Director comments: “Unless you can genuinely treat your property as an investment and be prepared to rent it out for at least five years then it is questionable whether renting will be the panacea for struggling sellers. By the time you take into account lower rents, rental voids, management costs, repairs and letting fees many homeowners fail to make a reasonable return or even cover their costs.”

“For homeowners that want to get on with their lives as well as avoiding the risks and headaches of becoming an amateur landlord then it may be far smarter to accept a lower offer for their own property. This will allow them to benefit from the buyer’s market and make a similarly low offer on the property they want to purchase. For those sellers trading up, this can potentially provide an opportunity to secure a better property for less money than they would have had to pay two years ago.”

WOW Property employs over 200 professionally trained estate agents with expert local knowledge throughout England and Wales and offers a growing and comprehensive portfolio of properties for sale.

Visit www.wowproperty.co.uk for further information.

Friday, 12 December 2008

OFFER - Berry Nice Cocktails

Pixley Berries, the Herefordshire-based fruit farm, will be selling all three of its blackcurrant-based cordials at 20% off (now £2.39 per 50cl bottle) in Waitrose for all of December 2008.

Pixley cordials are very lightly filtered and brim with fresh fruit flavours, making them excellent for children and grown-ups alike.

Pixley Bramble: Muddle the juice from one half of a small lemon (about 20ml) with 30ml Pixley Berries Blackcurrant & Scottish Raspberry cordial. Then measure 40ml each of aromatic gin and tonic water into the glass. Add ground fresh mint and crushed ice and stir. Garnish with raspberries.

Pixley’s blackcurrant-based cordials can also tickle your tastebuds when blended with sparkling or crisp white wines such as Cavas, Prosecco or Muscadet. Just a dash of cordial creates a wonderful celebratory rosé sparkler.

Pixley’s Spritzer: Whether you are under 18 or just after a refreshing long drink, this one is for you (and it is simple to make by the jug, too!) Just add some fresh mint to 30ml Pixley Berries Blackcurrant cordial and top up with lashing of ginger ale before stirring and serving.

Find out more at the Pixley Berries website

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

FOOD - Squirty, Flirty, Anchor Cream

Squirt an extra bit of fun into Christmas this year with Anchor Real Dairy Cream. I love this fruit and cream Christmas tree pictured above. What a festive and inventive idea!

With three fun and delicious flavours Anchor has everyone’s taste covered, so once the fridge is stocked you can sit back, relax and rest assured that everyone will be happy - including your little squirts!

There’s Anchor Extra Thick with Brandy Real Dairy Cream – a favourite with dads, Anchor Extra Thick Real Dairy Cream – a luxury treat for all occasions and Anchor Chocolate Flavour Mousse Real Dairy Cream, the perfect way to make fruit fun for kids over the festive season.

But fruit doesn’t only have to be for kids - let dads relax with the baked banana Anchor Pick-Me-Up Winter Sundae. Kids will also love getting creative when helping to prepare their Anchor Rudolf Fruit Jelly Noses along with the Anchor Festive Fruit Trees which are guaranteed to be a hit!

For festive fruit recipes visit www.anchorsquirtymoments.co.uk

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

TIPS - Make Your Own Decorations

Christmas decorations and cards can work out very expensive! Why not make your own this Yuletide, saving money whilst adding a personal touch to the festive celebrations? Here are some simple step-by-step guides to making baubles, a wreath and an Xmas Star.


Step One

Cut a length of ribbon long enough to fit around the bauble adding a little extra to overlap the ends. Glue it around the bauble. Cut two lengths of braid and glue them along both edges of the ribbon on the bauble.
Step Two

Work in small sections at a time so that the glue does not dry before the ribbon has been pressed onto it. Alternatively, glue one strip of braid along the middle of the ribbon.

Step Three

Apply dots of glue along the ribbon to decorate it, adding sequins and gems for extra embellishment. Make small dots of glue above and below the ribbon decoration for a more glittery bauble.

Materials required:

Plain baubles
Selection of ribbons and braids
Dremel Glue Gun and glitter sticks
Small glittery gems


Step One

Apply glue to the bottom of a pine cone and stick it onto the wreath base. Glue cones around this one, angling them slightly for an uneven look. It is a good idea to tie a length of ribbon onto the wreath base at this stage if needed to hang the wreath to the door when it is finished.

Step Two

Continue to glue pinecones onto the wreath, covering the entire surface so that it cannot be seen. Select smaller cones and glue them on top of this first layer to create a little depth.

Step Three

Using glitter glue sticks, apply small dabs of the glitter glue onto the pine cones to give them a gentle shimmer. Tie two large bows and glue them together to form a double bow. Glue this to the top of the wreath using the glue gun.

Materials required:

Wreath base - use a plastic wreath base available from florists' suppliers or try twiggy wreath bases available from flower shops and garden centres
Dremel Glue Gun and glitter sticks
Pine cones
Ribbon to hang the wreath
Wired ribbon for the bow


Step One

Take two lengths of wire and glue them together to form a cross shape using the glue gun and glitter glue sticks. Lay two more wires across the first two to make a star shape and glue them together in the middle.

Step Two

Start to thread beads onto the wire, using the same arrangement of bead shapes and sizes on each arm of the wire star. Continue until the star is complete and you are happy with the arrangement.

Step Three

Apply small dots of glue between the beads to hold them in place and form extra decoration. Trim the ends of the wires with wire cutters if necessary. Using green glitter glue, add dots to the centre of the star, fixing a bead in the middle. Twist a length of wire around the middle of the star to use as a fixing to hold the star in place on the top of the tree.

Materials required:

Florists wire (four lengths)
Dremel Glue Gun and glitter sticks
Pearl beads in different shapes and sizes
Wire cutters

Monday, 8 December 2008

RECIPE - Make Your Own Tomato Soup

We could all do with a winter warmer and tomato soup is a favourite. Rather than pouring yours from the tin, try and make your own with this easy video from VideoJug. Just pause the video as as you cook along following the step by step instructions. Yum!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

FLOORING - Cut a Rug up

Photo Credit: mileena on Flickr.com

A rug is an easy way to give your room a quick update. Not only that, they can provide warmth and comfort, which in the middle of winter is much appreciated. Prices can get expensive if you are looking for something one-off, but machine made rugs are reasonable. Probably less expensive than a new pair of curtains, anyway.

You can get rugs in so many different styles, colours and shapes nowadays that the options really are endless. You can get something safe which blends in, or opt for a statement piece which is more like art than a floor covering. Here are some other tips...

  • Go for natural if the rug is for a well walked on area such as a hall way. Runners near doorways will benefit from being in a hardier material to ensure they last as long as they should.
  • For a living room or bedroom, go for something softer and more comfortable, that you would be happy to sit or lounge on.
  • If you are feeling eco-conscious, try a rug in recycled materials. A rag rug can still be a stylish choice and many companies now offer environmentally friendly choices.
  • When it comes to bathrooms and kitchens, non slip is a must. Rubber backed rugs are ideal or get some Foxi which goes under your rug and prevents movement.
  • Avoid vegetable dyed rugs as they can suffer from colour transfer when wet.

GAFF is a great little shop in Brighton that I pass on my way to the station every day. They always have a great mix of modern rugs that catch my eye. This orange rug is really tactile and cheerful.

A6 Sparkle Copper - GAFF - From £75

If you are looking for something quirky and original then look no further than John Pour Home. You will find hand cut, felt typographical rugs that make a real statement.

Or if you are the creative type with some time on your hands, you could try something inventive like this rug made from ties.

Photo Credit: eileenaway on Flickr.com

Some other good sites to try:
The Rug Seller
The Big Rug Store
Apple Rugs

Laura Ashley Ltd

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

ART - Top 10 in Urban Art

Photo Credit: Stew Dean on Flickr.com

The urban art gallery artrepublic, fresh from curating the hugely successful Saints and Sinners show in London’s St Martins Lane hotel have launched their 2008 top 10 of who’s made the biggest impact in the UK urban art scene in 2008 and who’s poised for even greater things in 2009. Eagerly awaited by savvy art buyers, the list is compiled from sales, customer feedback and insider knowledge of the urban art market.

1. Banksy
2. MissBugs
3. Nick Walker
4. C215
5. Charming Baker
6. Blek Le Rat
7. Pure Evil
8. Lidia de Pedro
9. Screen Prince
10. Ben Allen

Find out more at www.artrepublic.com

Monday, 1 December 2008

RECIPE - 12 Cocktails of Christmas (yum!)

This list of festive cocktails all contain Caribbean rum. Top mixologist and UK Rum Ambassador Ian Burrell says:

“Caribbean Rum is a versatile spirit that is the ingredient in many classic cocktails, as well as a great alternative to other spirits, making it a favourite of many of Europe’s top bartenders. Experimenting with the drink at home can create a carnival of taste that’s perfect for Christmas entertaining.”

Partridge in a Pear Tree

- 1 1/2 parts golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2 parts pear juice
- 1 part simple syrup (2 parts sugar / 1 part water)
- 4 sprigs mint
- soda water

Add rum, simple syrup, lime juice, pear juice and three sprigs mint to a cocktail shaker and muddle until desired flavour is achieved. Strain into tall glass filled with ice and top with soda water.

Turtle Dove
- 1 measure golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- ½ measure white crème de menthe

Mix ingredients together with ice in a mixing glass and strain into cocktail glasses.

French Hen
- 1 measure golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- ¾ measure Amaretto

Mix the ingredients together with ice in a tumbler glass

Calling Bird
- 1 measure golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- 2 tsp Galliano
- 2 tsp Cointreau or other orange-flavour liqueur
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 maraschino cherry

Shake the ingredients together with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Serve with a maraschino cherry.

Five Gold Rings
- 1 measure golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- 3 measures ginger beer
- A squeeze of lime

Pour rum into a tall glass over five ice cubes (to provide the ‘ring’ to the drink), add the ginger beer and squeeze in the lime, adding the spent lime shell to the drink.

Goose a Laying
- 3.5 measures milk
- 1.5 measures golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- Grated nutmeg

Shake the ingredients together with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a glass tumbler. Sprinkle with nutmeg. (Note: eggs should be fresh and you should not use any eggs with cracked shells. Raw eggs may contain salmonella bacteria which can cause food poisoning. Drinks containing raw eggs should not be drunk by young children, the elderly, pregnant women or anyone who is ill)

Swimming Swan
- 1.5 measures creamed coconut
- 1.5 measures pineapple juice
- 1 measure golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- 2 tsp light cream
- 2 tsp blue Curacao

Shake all the ingredients, except the blue Curacao, together with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a tall glass over ice. Pour the Curacao into the drink.

Milk Maid
- 1.5 measures golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- 3 measures milk
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 dash vanilla extract
- Grated nutmeg

Shake all ingredients, except the nutmeg, in cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a tumbler with nutmeg sprinkled on top.

Dancing Lady
- ¾ measure golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- ¾ measures dry vermouth
- ¾ measure orange juice
- 1 tsp white crème de menthe
- 1 tsp grenadine

Shake the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain and serve in a cocktail glass.

Leaping Lord
- 1 measure golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- 2 tsp orange-flavoured liqueur
- 2 tsp sweet vermouth
- 1 dash bitters
- 1 slice orange

Stir ingredients together in a large glass with ice, except the orange slice. Strain into a glass tumbler and add the slice of orange to the glass.

Piping Piper
- 1 measure golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- 1 measure Drambuie
- 1 slice of lemon
- 1 maraschino cherry

Stir ingredients together in a large glass with ice. Strain into a glass tumbler and add the lemon and cherry.

Drummer (warning - not for the faint hearted!)
- ½ measure tequila
- ½ measure triple sec
- ½ measure apricot brandy
- 1.5 measures golden Authentic Caribbean Rum
- 3 measures fresh orange juice
- 2 drops Bitters
- 1 dash grenadine

Pour all ingredients into a blender with 2-3 ice cubes. Blend for about 10 seconds, and pour into a tall glass over 2 - 3 ice cubes. Decorate with an orange slice.

And don't forget to drink responsibly.