Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Tailor Made // Design Your Own Wardrobe

Amongst a sea of mass produced, identically churned out fashion, those that stand out in their own right are often the folks that adopt a personal style, put together with an exciting mixture of pieces- high street, thrifted or even self made. It is this care free, one of a kind look that allows us to express our own individuality through the use of clothing and creates a fun and practical voice by which we communicate visually.

Creating your very own signature look doesn't have to mean going against the grain of mainstream fashion or shunning brands in order to appear too cool for school, it can simply be how you put an outfit together or dressing for your body over seasonal trends or even, designing an entire piece yourself!

Those naturally gifted with a needle and thread will have no doubt, already adopted hand made pieces into their every day look, but for the creative fellow with lack of time, resources or skills there are some seriously epic ways to amp up the volume and tailor your style to your every fashion need!

The clever clogs over at Gorgeous Couture, offering luxury British fashion, have hit the nail on the head with this immersive website, full to the brim with stunning outfits custom fit to your body measurements at the click of a button. You simply choose the garment you desire, in the colour of your choice, hand over your digits and await a beautifully bespoke item, letting the professionals do the work!

In my opinion, there really isn't an easier, more versatile way to change up an existing outfit into something seriously instagram worthy than by accessorising with some killer jewels. And what better way to do this than by using the incredibly stylish services of Diwah and design your own statement jewellery! You can either buy straight from the Diwah collections (good luck choosing just one item!) or take control, choosing the style, the components and arranging them to suit your every desire, in a seamless online process! Believe me when I say, the website is super fun and provides the best parts of jewellery crafting- minus the fiddly construction! There is so much to choose from that they narrow down their Aladdin's cave of beads and beauties into super stylish themes, such as Tribal, Sea Breeze and Rebel. Once you're happy with your new game changer and the order is placed, you receive not only your jewellery but also a personal note from the jewellery designer that made it for you!

For on the go inspiration check out the Instagram page from Diwah for gorgeous statement necklaces and fresh ideas!

When it comes to designing your own footwear, there really is no alternative option that to pay Shoes of Prey a visit, a sure fire way to put a spring in your step! Following their online guide you can design to your hearts content until you have the pair of your dreams, at a super reasonable price too! From soft buttery suede brogues to your new summer sandals, create your own kicks and transform your look in a hop, skip and a jump!

Finally, for all your customising needs, be sure to check out the wonderful world of Etsy! Most Etsy stores offering handmade articles will no doubt provide a customisation, allowing you to pick and choose, tailoring your wardrobe as you go! Awesome shops such as Tmeprinting will have you sniggering into your coffee at their geek friendly slogan tee's, LEAPprints let you do the talking and will put the sass in your shopping by adding a quote of your choosing to fine cotton canvas totes and why not add an individual touch to a classy boudoir staple and have My Everyday Party sprinkle your name in glitter?!

So what are you waiting for? Flex those design muscles and get busy transforming your look into something more you!

Friday, 8 April 2016

Phrases and Praises // Quarterly Book Review

It's time already for my first quarterly book review of the year (January to March) and I have to say I've read some real diamonds already this year! A great varied selection of books have slid off my shelf and under my nose, including some rather chunky numbers, so I'm really pleased with my diversity lately and have been super lucky with the amount that turned out new favourites! Since it's quite a list, shall we dive right in?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling 5 * {870 pages}

"Leading up to his fifth year attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry's best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer, making Harry desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what he discovers is far more devastating that he could have ever expected..."

How on Earth do you review a Harry Potter book without repeating what has been said a gazillion times before or without spoiling anything for the small tribe of people yet to have enjoyed the novel? Let me then just say that I loved it! I really enjoyed the development of the characters, from the previous books, the story gripped me and was swept along for the ride. If you haven't picked up the Harry Potter series or haven't yet made it to the fifth instalment, what the heck are you waiting for? Get on it! This one was packed with emotion, as the plot thickens and our characters mature, without losing any of it's magical whimsy that makes this series so special.

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn 4 * {64 pages}

"On a rainy April morning our unnamed narrator, reading auras at Spiritual Palms, immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection. However, when the 'psychic' visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan's terror and grief, she realises she may not have to pretend to believe in ghosts anymore."

Yes! Gillian Flynn strikes again, with a fast paced, sharp tongued short story. Like other novels by this bodacious author we are introduced to a tangled web of intrigue and mystery, odd and disturbing characters and as we tread delicately along the story, face unease as the pages unfold and the truth is revealed. Then again, what really is the truth? This one will leave you with a sour yet delightfully torturing taste in your mouth.

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed 5 * {160 pages}

"From the best selling author of Wild, a collection of quotes drawn from the wide range of her writings that capture her wisdom, courage and out spoken humour."

The perfect little reminder, perspective giver and thought provoker.

A Dance With Dragons (Part Two): After the Feast: Book 5 of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin 5 * {560 pages}

"The future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance. On all sides bitter conflicts are reigniting, played out by a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skin changers, nobles and slaves. The tides of destiny will inevitably lead to the greatest dance of all."

Everything I wanted (needed) and more! Packed with beloved characters, full to the brim with action, drama and enlightening discovery, the epic story develops further and satisfies immensely. That is, until you realise there is yet still more to come. My habit needs to be fed; George please get a wiggle on!

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 4 * {477 pages}

"Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, 'Americanah' is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today's globalised world."

This book blew my mind in varying ways. It is the first of it's nature for me to have experienced, and in doing so I am hungry for more. I immensely enjoyed being exposed to such sharp honesty and blunt delivery. The subjects and issues raised to light may prickle my skin slightly and leave me wriggling in my seat whilst clutching the pages, yet I could not get enough. Walking a day in someone else's shoes... with bells on. For enlightenment, wisdom and to lift that heavy veil of blissful ignorance, pick up this novel and clear your schedule. You got some reading to do.

The Dream Thieves: Book 2 of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater 2.75 - 3 * {439 pages}

"If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take? Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps for himself. One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams. And sometimes he's not only one who wants those things."

Right. Ok. Hmmm.

This book has me torn into two equally measured pieces. On one hand I loved the story. Correction- love the story. So much so, That I fully intend to see it out to the end of the series (another two books, I believe). I really enjoy the characters and how they are fleshing out more since the first instalment, I am enjoying the direction in which the overall story is heading and I simply cannot resist the growing relationship between our two main characters (not wanting to give too much away).

Yet man oh man. I have a real problem with how this book is written and it kills me to say so. I am not down for writing negative reviews, especially if it involves me laying into an accomplished author.  I just do not jive well with the style, the language and the general flow of the books. It hits me immediately and is almost strong enough for me to call it a day with the series entirely, if it wasn't for that darn impending love entanglement (which is very much what the entire books are riding on, it seems.) It reads like a high school assignment. There isn't enough flourish, or beauty for my usual preference, no depth or charisma. Just feels a little skinny.

But clearly, since I have made it through two whole books with another two lined up and ready to go, it can't be that bad, or rather has enough positive qualities for me to continue.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill 5 * {202 pages}

"Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as it's hero Arthur Kipps, an up and coming young solicitor who has come north from London to attend the funeral and settle affairs of Mrs Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and most dreadfully- and for Kipps most tragically- The Woman In Black."

Now that was a ghost story! Pure, spine tingling, white knuckled yet elegant gothic story telling. Not in any way horror as we know it today. You won't find any gruesome scenes, any violence or graphic profanity here. This is one for those high of imagination, a lover of Victoriana smog and of grounded sensibility as there are a few hairy moments that will have you hanging off the edge of your chair!

I loved the gentle lay out of the story, the gradual build up of toe curling suspense and the heart felt history of the characters.

Although I read this in Dutch as a way of furthering my language study, I still felt entirely absorbed by the beautiful writing style and the delightfully dramatic wording.  I devoured this book and know already that this will be one that I revisit time and time again.

Room by Emma Donoghue 5 * {401 pages}

"It's Jack's birthday and he's excited about turning five. Jack lives with his ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures 11 by 11 feet. He loves watching TV but knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real. Until the day Ma admits that there's a world outside."

This story will break your heart. Just so you know. But please, I urge you to pick it up and allow yourself to be fully absorbed in this tragic yet beautiful story. It is told in such a clever way from such a fascinating perspective. I thought this book was written with a delicate hand, despite it's heavy subject matter and I believed every word and felt such a compassion towards the characters. I was so swept up with the story that I found myself struggling to put the book down. This story will stay with you for a while.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte 3.75 - 4 * {368 pages}

"Wuthering Heights is the tale of two families both joined and riven by love and hate. Cathy is a beautiful and wilful young woman torn between her soft hearted husband and Heathcliff, the passionate and resentful man who has loved her since childhood. The power of their bond creates a maelstrom of cruelty and violence which will leave one Emily Brontë's novel is a stunningly original and shocking exploration of obsessive passion."

Beautiful, heart wrenching, tragic. This story is one great contradiction of emotions and a joy to read. Falling into this landscape whilst reading this novel is inevitable and almost a character in itself, the further I reached into the story the closer the air felt, the heavier the haze of early morning mist, the richer the smells from the moors and beyond. The characters are flawed and at times unbearable, which lends to the complexity of the plot and their dark history and haunting fate fill the pages. Richly written and cleverly manipulated.

Hate List by Jennifer Brown 4 * {405 pages}

"Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year, come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on in her life."

What a complex and superbly clever book!

Despite it's harrowing and somewhat difficult to digest subject matter, this novel was a pleasure to read. Tackling so many heavy issues (high school shooting, life as a teenager, trauma recovery, divorce), should have left a dark and unsavoury feel after reading, yet the clever and heart felt way in which it was written eliminated any harsh after thoughts and left the dense reality coupled with a gentle, human delivery of tragic events and how to move forward in the face of it.

The pace of this novel was just right and leads you as a reader through the horrific experience, whilst balancing the emotion and mood of the story with plentiful back and forth between past events leading up to and a current perspective, making for a full and rounded book. Highly recommend.

An Education by Lynn Barber 4 * {199 pages}

"At 16, Lynn Barker was an ambitious school girl working towards a place at Oxford, when she was picked up at a bus stop by an attractive older man in a sports car. So began a relationship that almost wrecked her life. Barber's fascinating memoir takes us beyond this bizarre episode, revealing how it left her with an abiding mistrust of men which paradoxically led her to a promiscuous life style at university until she met her husband- to -be. An Education tells how she went on to work for seven years at daring (for the times) mens magazine Penthouse before beginning her starry days as the Demon Barber- Britain's most entertaining and most feared interviewer."

Read like a dream! Insightful, wise, hilarious, dramatic and incredibly entertaining.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters 5 * {592 pages}

"Sue Trinder was an orphan left in the care of Mrs Sucksby, as a child, who raised her with unusual tenderness, within her home of petty thieves. One day, the most beloved thief of all, Gentleman, carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the main to Maud Lilly, a naive gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud's vast inheritance. With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways... But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals."

Everything I love in a novel!

Historical drama jam packed with twists and turns. I loved the complex, fully developed characters, each offering a new depth to the story, a highly thought out perspective and a colourful enrichment to the world I had delved into. The setting is deliciously gritty and grimy, thick with detail and so wonderfully described that it played out in my head like an award winning film. The story immensely clever, I was guessing right up to the very last page and loved the delivery of each new turning of the plot. As you read this novel you will find yourself transported! Allow yourself to fall into another lifetime; tread the cobbles of the Dickensian London slums, hear the screeches and wails beyond the walls of a lunatic asylum, enjoy an afternoon stroll throughout the gardens of Mr Lilly's estate or simply watch from the crowd as the hangman prepares the gallows. Read. This. Book.

So there we have it, a pretty good start to the year I think! What has been the best book you've picked up, in the last couple months? Is there anything on your shelf you're super excited to reach for? Have you read any of the books in this list, and what were your thoughts on them? Let's keep our fingers crossed for some nice weather so we can head outside for some sunshine, fresh air and a brand new book!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Random thoughts on a fairly sunny Wednesday...

// image //

* I really should take my make up off at night.

* Why do I spend so much time worrying about what people think, and worse, let those thoughts hold me back?

* What if we all wrote a daily journal for a year and then sent them on to someone on the other side of the world (that spoke a mutual language... ), or swapped with a family member/ friend. How much more we would connect with people, learn to walk in someone else's shoes, appreciate your own life and worry less about small things, be humbled by other perspectives, situations, cultures.

* How cool would it be to have your make up done by one of RuPaul's ladies!

* I should buy flowers more often.

* I wonder if I'll ever live in England again...

* Sure hope these little plants grow. It would be most excellent to eat something home grown!

* Why don't our local blue tits like the bird seed we put out? Picky little buggers!

* I wonder how many people are looking out of a window right now, at this very moment...

* What book should I pick up next? Those thinner ones would bump up my read number but I so want to start Outlander or The Name of the Wind...

* Should I be concerned about Brexit, being a Brit living in a European country other than the UK?

* How much is too much chocolate?

* Note to self, pick up some SPF, that March sunshine really packs a punch!

* Why is it that time feels to be slipping out of my fingers too quickly yet I can never seem to motivate myself to get stuff done? I really am a walking contradiction...

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Tough Love // Costume meets Fashion #2

If you know me at all then you'll already be aware of my netflix addiction, so naturally when Marvel released their latest instalment of super hero goodness via that beautiful streaming high way, I was set and ready to go. For a comic book nerd I knew surprisingly little about this particular character but boy was I intrigued, and the more I watch the more I likey!

If you like your super heros perfectly flawed, kick butt bad ass with a heavy dose of sarcasm then Jessica Jones is for you. Episode by episode we learn more about her strengths and weaknesses, back story and fellow intricate characters, all the while served with a fist full of attitude!

While you add this action packed show to your list, feel free to take a moment and enjoy the dark and grungy style of our leading character! Smudgy eye liner, heaps of distressed leather and a mane as black as her wit is sharp, this is one seriously wearable style; car flipping and whiskey drinking optional.

Jessica Jones wears: Warehouse

Jessica Jones wears: H&M

Jessica Jones wears: C&A

Are you a fan of the show already or are you more of a Downton dolly? What is your general style when it comes to viewing content? I love a bit of everything, hence my addiction, but am always on the look out for suggestions!

From super strength to super kook, check out my last character profile, merging costume with fashion, of Zooey Deschanel's Jess from Who's That Girl.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Pedal to the Metal // Introducing my new toy!

Since lusting over this little beauty sitting pretty on the shelves at John Lewis, I sprang at the opportunity to snatch myself one as a 'welcome' gift when subscribing to my favourite crafty magazine Simply Sewing. Like I needed an excuse to add this wee speed machine to my studio...

As a motivational boost and a self indulgent treat, I see this cute John Lewis Mini sewing machine (made by Janome) as the perfect way to kick start a fresh new year of creating handmade goodies. The colour alone brightens up my sewing desk and the light weight, petite shape makes it ideal for practical use whilst not taking up too much space (and could easily work as a portable machine, if you work on a freelance basis)!

It has a handful of basic functions, everything needed for most of the sewing projects I tend to work with but this little guy can always be upgraded for tougher, thicker fabrics simply by swapping out the needle it came with, for a heavy weight contender. Like wise with various foot attachments, I will be doing a bit of research to see what I can rustle up in this department!

With three clear, light bobbin reels you can get started immediately. I am super intrigued to take this baby out for a spin. The threading system is slightly different to my usual domestic machine, but theres nothing like a little diversity to excite things.

Super sweet and a bargain at that, I am already on the hunt for my first project! There are quite a few options in the first issue of the year of Simply Sewing magazine and as usual my pinterest page is full to the brim with ideas. I will keep you posted on how I find the functions and general use of this guy, I've heard pretty great things from reviews so it has a lot to live up to!

Be sure to let me know of any exciting makes on your list, any new studio pieces you may have added to your stash or if you've bought anything handmade recently. Supporting small businesses and locally crafted goods is super important these days and of course, provides you with incredibly special and unique products! What's not to love!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Pile Em Up // My Favourite Reads of 2015

Golly what a fab year for reading it was! I really got stuck in these last twelve months and was lucky enough to enjoy many of the novels that crossed my path. I'm pretty happy I made the time for my 'to read' list and managed to drag myself away from my dearest Netflix long enough to devour a good number of them. While that is great for my literary motivation, it sure didn't help when compiling this list! There were many I couldn't quite squish onto this post (if you're interested feel free to check out my goodreads page for all the details!), and as indecisive as ever, they are in no particular order, that would hurt many a books feelings, right? So let's just dive on in!

10. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel 4*

What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty. If civilisation was lost, what would you preserve and how far would you go to protect it?

From what is essentially a post apocalyptic 'what if' story, I found it such an original plot! I loved the entwining elements that run throughout, I enjoyed the pacing the whole way through and the focus on various characters as their individual stories merged into a whole. For me, this book provoked many thoughts and reflections over priorities and relevance when looking at life from a greater height. Highly recommend for anyone interested in a wonderfully modern and unique take on a classic 'end of the world' dynamic.

9. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent 4*

Set against Iceland's stark landscape in 1829, Hannah Kent brings vivid life to the true story of Agnes, a young woman sent to an isolated farm to await her execution on the charge of the brutal murder of her former master.

Soft, enchanting, gentle paced story full of intrigue and emotion. Cleverly led and delicately delivered, I was captured by this touching story and felt submerged into this cold and desolate world.

8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 4*

In the year 2044 reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the Oasis. Like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies hidden within this virtual world! The race is on and if Wade is going to survive, he'll have to win and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

If you're ready for some serious fun, peppered with a hearty dose of 80's pop culture and ultra nerdy action, then this book is for you! Fast paced, original story, a touch on the lengthy side but all in all I had a heck of a time reading this!

7. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 4*

Horror hides behind an attractive face in Oscar Wilde's notorious 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. A scandalous tale of a Victorian libertine and his life of evil excesses. Though Dorian's hedonistic indulgences leave no blemish on his ageless features, the painted portrait imbued with his soul proves a living catalogue of corruption. A landmark of literature today and tale emblematic of it's time.

This book was magnificent and everything I was hoping for in Victorian gothic literature! I truly love this story with it's gruesome happenings and heavy moral undertones but had it not been written in Wilde's beautiful hand, then I am not so sure I would have enjoyed it quite as much. Oscar Wilde's writing is sumptuous, enveloping and indulgent and I was swept away on a tide of beauty. Full to the brim with delicious descriptions and pompous yet wonderful characters, I plead with you to pick this classic number up!

6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling 5*

As a fully grown adult I am finally finding time in my life to read these beauties, I may very well be the last human on earth who has yet to consume Hogwarts and all it's inhabitants, but I'ma making my way through the series and am loving them. Well duh. I won't bother adding a synopsis here, since I'm quite sure most people know the story by now, but I will say that this is one of my favourite books of Harry, so far! Loved the characters, loved the tense build up and love love love this entire world.

5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn 5*

Twenty five years after surviving the mass murder of her family, testifying against her Satan worshipping brother and losing touch with society, Libby Day hopes to turn a profit from her tragic history, leading her to The Kill Club. Working together with this group of grisly crime groupies, she digs up dirt on her past and discovers an unimaginable truth, forcing her to face the killer once more.

Flynn knocks the ball way out of the park, once again, with this tightly wound thrill wide of a novel. From the first page I was pulled into this dark, twisted world of loss, deception and forgotten hope. A genuinely enthralling and totally original story that follows the now pitiful, hollow life of main character Libby Day, as she looks back and unfolds the story and mystery of her painful past, in order to clear the pathway for her future.

A book full of shadow and sadness, murder and corruption. Highly recommend to anyone in search of a perfectly written, unique tale that will grip you right to the very end.

4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett 5*

Enter a vanished and unjust world: Jackson, Mississippi 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren't trusted not to steal the silver. Following the unlikely friendship of women from two very different walks of life, in the face of out dated, awful norms of society, who push the boundaries of kindness.

What a beautiful, heart wrenching and delicately honest book. I went into this one already knowing much of the story, having watched the film a few years ago, but even so I devoured every page. Each chapter of the book reads personally, tailored to the voice of each individual character, offering perspective and insight.

Although this is wonderfully written fiction, it speaks volumes of how ignorant and misinformed people really were, some to such an awful degree. I challenge anyone from any background to read this book cover to cover without a lump in your throat. I found myself going back and forth from feeling anger and loathing to admiration. Such an important story, with a hard hitting message but offered with humour and warmth. All that for the first novel from this author!

Sincerely recommend.

3. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton 5*

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen year old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household but as she uncovers its secrets she realises the escalating dangers that await them all. The miniature replica of their home, that she receives as a wedding gift, holds the key to unlocking her many unanswered questions; but will it be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

Set in the hussle and bussle of a thriving Amsterdam in the late 1600s, this story is full of mystery and intrigue, injustice and darkness and a heart felt insight into a lonely and confusing period in history. Whilst reading this book, despite it's weighty size, I felt truly transported. I could almost hear the hectic buzz amongst the worlds busiest port, I could smell the damp old house and felt my heart collapse at several parts of this story.

Enjoyable escape and surprisingly emotional read. One that stirs my thoughts even months after finishing.

2. The Martian by Andy Weir 5*

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. Damaged machinery, starvation, unforgiving environment or plain old human error are all possible ways in which he could die. But Mark is not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills and a gallows sense of humour that proves to be his greatest source of strength- he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

To think I almost avoided this book because of the crazy hype that was surrounding it. Well, it goes without saying that this book surpassed all expectation, despite the build up, and hit the mark big time, for me. I loved it!

This guy is just the type of person you hope for, if stuck in a shitty situation. His life is hanging in the balance, odds are highly against him, yet his larger than life personality, incredible wit and down right lovable character drives this book from beginning to end. Jam packed with all the action and excitement from a lost in space novel, I mean, they couldn't wait to make a movie from it, that says a lot! Hilarious and bizarrely up lifting, a super fantastic book to pick up immediately!

1. Night Film by Marisha Pessl 5*

Night Film tells the haunting story of a journalist who becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of a troubled prodigy- the daughter of an iconic, reclusive filmmaker.

For investigative journalist McGrath, this death, another connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty, is more than just a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, McGrath is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova's eerie, hypnotic world.

What. A. Story. I was gripped the entire way through, felt like I couldn't put the book down and even found myself checking the dark shadows in my bedroom. This book was everything a great, thrilling, horrific mystery book should be. Interlocking characters, freakish dealings with dark powers, paranoid perspectives- all building and winding together creating the sticky web of this awesome tale. This book messes with your mind and pulls you down the rabbit hole, spitting you out at the end of one heck of a ride! I may even go as far as saying, my favourite book of the year!

So there we have it, 2015 top reads. The books I enjoyed that didn't make it to the list can be found on my goodreads page, if you're feeling particularly investigative. Would love to know what your favourite books were and what you are particularly excited to read this year!  I am super pumped for this brand shiny new year, and all the literature that awaits! I wish you all a fantastic new year and that you enjoy those beauties sitting on your shelf waiting to be opened!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Festive Treats

After spending a fantastic weekend in Dusseldorf, eating and drinking my way around the Christmas market, I returned home full of the spirit of Christmas and ready to get my joy on. This rapidly translated into baking something naughty but nice (naturally!), that is both super tasty whilst also quite seasonal!

These meringue goodies are a traditional winter treat in Austria, where they pride themselves on creating some of the lightest, crispest, sweetest confectionery that is almost too pretty to eat! These delicious meringues are not only fairly easy to make at home, they are also incredibly moreish and make wonderful festive gifts either wrapped up as they are or prettied up with a touch of ribbon, to tie and adorn the Christmas tree (as popular in Austria!).

All you need is:
6 egg whites (do your best not to burst the yolks!) and a pinch of salt
200g caster sugar
200g icing sugar (preferably sifted but if you're incredibly lazy like me then maybe, just maybe you can skip this step...)
20g vanilla sugar

sugar sprinkles/ decoration

piping bag & nozzle or free hand it perhaps!
baking tray lined with parchment
mixing bowl
whisk or electric mixer (highly recommend an electric whisk of some kind)

May I also suggest you have a large mixing bowl for this project, as I speak from experience, this baking lark can get a little messy. You have been warned! (I managed to cover my kitchen and pjs in delicious meringue mixture!!)

Whisk (in your large mixing bowl) the egg whites and pinch of salt until you reach stiff peaks of fluffiness. Don't lose heart, this can take a while. The mixture will froth and grow, this is all good in the hood. Once you have desired peaks, add slowly your caster sugar and continue whisking. The mixture should become glossy at this stage!

Carefully fold into your shiny mix, the icing sugar and vanilla sugar, gently goes it, fold until all is mixed nicely together.


Next step can get a little sticky. Have your lined tray at the ready and pop the oven on at 100*. Take your piping bag and attached your nozzle of choice, then fold the top edge of the bag over towards the outside an inch or two (this should help avoid some mess). Carefully spoon your mixture into the piping bag, fold the ends back over and twist the bag until you have a firm grip then begin creating your forms. I went for circular shapes and did this by piping in a tiny circular motion as I made a larger circle. Add your edible decoration!

Pop these lovelies in the oven for anywhere between 1.5 hours to 3 hours, you just need to give them a poke as they bake. You want a crisp outside but not over cooked. Open the oven door every 15 mins or so to let the damp air escape, this is perfect intervals to check your baking progression. When you're happy, take them out and allow them to cool. Try not to eat them all at this point, but of course allow yourself first dibs!

Next step, snip up a few bits of ribbon, tie gently into loops big enough to hang on your tree.

And that's about it! Your finished meringue, festively fun and super sweet!

I applaud you if you manage to keep a lid on that cookie jar after making these... I simply can not stop eating them. Luckily I made extras for such a situation (I know how greedy I can be!). The mixture stretches quite far, I managed to make two full trays worth and still had left over. What I didn't eat with a spoon, I covered with cling film, popped in the fridge and made teeny tiny snow drops the next day... That also didn't last much more than a day! Oh well!

I hope you enjoy giving this a whiz and do let me know how you get on, and if you have any other meringue recipes I should give a go! Wishing you all merriment and joy, full bellies and lots of love!!