Friday, 30 December 2011

Weekly Love: Week 86

1. I hope that you all had an amazing Christmas! Mine was lovely and restful at home with my parents, eating a lot opening presents, watching films and getting excited about the  Downton Abbey Christmas Special (the ending totally made my Christmas!)
DSC_0244 2. On Thursday night I threw a dinner party for some of my old school friends. I've missed them all so much while I've been in London, so it was lovely to have a nice dinner and I'm so glad I managed to pull off a 3 course meal for 10 people! It's funny, at boarding school your used to seeing your friends almost all day every day, but I think we've only had a couple of meals together since July. Highlights included drinking a bottle of Vodka that had been in the liquor cabinet and was in fact older than we were. (I'll do a proper post with photos and notes on everything I cooked soon!)

3. As I've had some nice quite time at home away from uni I've been spending a lot of time catching up on my reading. Lots of the books I've been enjoying have been review copies I need to write about for Judging Covers, but I've also been getting through some of my own massive stack. I used to get through a book a day a few years ago, and now I'd be lucky to get through one non academic book a month. I think I am going to make it one of my New Years resolutions to try and get back into my reading again!
4. On New Years Day, you're really missing out if you don't watch Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my favourite actors, and I think he makes THE best Sherlock Holmes - I've been waiting for this to return all year! Steven Moffat is also one of the best writers on British television.

5. Thanks to my lovely haul of Christmas presents I have finally got to try Yves Saint Laurent's Touche Éclat highlighter, and I am already totally in love with it! I also reviewed it over at The Glossy Guide

Current Location: Canterbury, Kent
Currently Reading: The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
Currently Watching: BBC's Great Expectations

What have you been enjoying this week? What was the highlight of your Christmas?

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas & a Honey and Mustard Cocktail Sausage Recipe

First up I'd like to wish all of you, my lovely readers a very Happy Christmas and I hope you're having a wonderful time with your family and friends doing something fantastic and enjoying the festive period. I thought I'd just do a quick post this evening to share some pictures of this years edition of the tree we always have at my parents house while it still has all the presents underneath! 
Our Christmas tree at home has looked the same for as long as I can remember. I know when I was very little we used to have it in the living room, one year it was in the conservatory and one year in the drawing room, but for at least the last six or seven years we have had it in the front hallway with the tip standing up through to the upstairs hallway. My mother and I decorate it together after my Dad helps us   stand it up. It is extra special for me this year, as because I used to go to boarding school it is the first year I actually helped choose it in nine years. All of our ornaments are either bells, clear glass baubles, Victorian toys or golden birds. 

Secondly, as a little Christmas present from me to you I thought I'd share the recipe for Honey and Mustard glazed cocktail sausages. I made them for my parents and I this evening, but I think that they'd be perfect for New Years Eve! Sorry that some of the colours are off in some of the photos, but my usual editing software is on my Mac Book which is unfortunately still at the repair shop!
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I got the idea for these from the similar sausages we were served at the Matalan S/S12 press day.
You can use any cocktail sausages, my mother happened to pick these up in Marks & Spencers the other day.
Cook the sausages as per pack instructions.
While they are cooking , you'll need to make your marinade. It could not be simpler, you just need equal parts wholegrain mustard and runny honey.  I used 2tbsp of each.
Mixed together, and once the sausages are cooked add them to the dish and coat them in the mixture. Return to the oven,  and five minutes later take out and spoon some of the mixture over the sausages. 

Remove from the oven, drain the excess marinate into a pot to use as a dip, and  skewer the sausages with a cocktail stick. Serve with champagne or mulled wine.
I thought I'd leave you with a couple more tree photos as I can't get over how beautiful it looks, even though it has looked the same for as long as I can remember! This is how it looks from near the top of the staircase, looking down.
I hope you all have an amazing day tomorrow, and if you have a moment, I'd love to hear about some of your Christmas traditions! Every year I sit on my parents bed and open my stocking, then my Dad does his then my Mum does hers. We have a champagne breakfast, start preparing Christmas lunch, open presents, call the rest of the family, eat then settle down in front of the TV for the rest of the day! 

Friday, 23 December 2011

Weekly Love: Week 85

1. It has been a great two weeks for me in spite of the fact my Mac Book came into contact with a glass of red wine (thank god for my old one, even if it is driving me crazy!) and I got the flu. Thing started to get a bit festive in London before I left, and I got the most incredible piece of news I could possibly get regarding my plans for next year - hopefully I'll be able to tell you all about it in the New Year. After leaving London I headed back to my parents house and got to indulge in Christmassy things like decorating the tree, wrapping presents, dropping in to see my old school friends and planning the menu for a dinner party I'm throwing in the gulf between Boxing Day and New Years Eve. 
DSC_0031 2. Part of the Mulberry window display at Westfield Stratford City. I headed over there in order to get out of my flat Sunday before last for a bit of window shopping. Usually I do a lot of thinking about my blog when I shop alone, and this trip sparked my new Tumblr overhaul. While it used to be my place to collect pretty and inspiring photos, I now have Pinterest for that, so my Tumblr will now be like my mini diary - photos of things I have done and events that I have been to that don't quite make my blog for one reason or another!

3. It is no secret that I love my food blogs. One of my favourites (which I love almost as much as I love the accompanying podcasts) is Joy The Baker. She has an amazing new video introducing here and her blog. Watch it, and then get stuck in - you won't regret it!

4. Nominations are open until 31st December for the Marie Claire Blog Awards, I'd love you all forever if I could maybe get some nominations in the 'Best Fashion Blog' category? (I hate to ask, but it appears that asking is the only way to get anywhere in these things!)

Current Location: Canterbury, Kent
Currently Listening To: The Love Actually Soundtrack
Currently Watching: Greek (Season 2)

What have you been enjoying this week?

Monday, 19 December 2011

Planet Hollywood

Sherin and I were on Regents Street this afternoon and had our hearts set on an all American lunch. We headed over to our favourite haunt of The Diner in SoHo, only to find that it was closed due to a power outage on its street. Panic. After a while of wondering around and worrying, we decided that in our pursuit of some American food to head over to Planet Hollywood. 
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Long Island Iced Tea. It was rather potent, but I find the blend of coke, ice and spirits goes really well with a burger or club sandwich and fries.
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I had a Hollywood Club without cheese. Basically, a double decked toasted sandwich with salad, mayonnaise  bacon and chicken. It came with lots and lots of fries. This face made me very happy. 

The meal was by no means perfect, but it is good enough it you're after some American style food and The Diner is either full or closed! 
While dodging the protest march on our way back up Regents Street we ducked into Anthropologie; a store I am always lusting after online and have walked past several times without actually going into. The entire back of their store wall is planted with living vegetation - how cool is that?!
If I was spending money right now I would be all over this beautiful green dress. It reminded me of Annie in 90210.

When was the last time you had an 'all American' meal, or shopped at Anthropologie? 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Introducing: Joliebox December 2011

This morning I was very excited to hear a knock on the door and to discover that the first ever Joliebox had arrived! For those of you that don't know, Joliebox is a French beauty subscription box service like Glossybox and Birchbox who have just brought out Boudoir Prive. This December box is the first one after the switch over, and I was very excited by their new, sleek Parisian aesthetic! 
First of all, I much prefer the sleek, black and slightly smaller boxes. As much as I like the pink of other beauty boxes, the black is just so much more 'me'. 
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The moment I opened the box I was really happy with what I could see in there. Not everything was me, but I certainly did not feel cheated, especially with two special bonus items for Christmas! The only thing I'm not going to use is the Yon Ka anti ageing cream, but that is just because I'm really fussy about what I put on my face. I was also a bit unsure about the rose pink gold mineral dust from Jane Iredale, but when I realised it was an all purpose power that could also be used for blush highlights, I really warmed up to it. 
I think one of the items people are going to be the most excited about is the full sized bottle of O.P.I polish. My heart sank slightly when I realised that is was a shatter polish, which I'm not always a fan of but actually I've seen some really pretty things with gold, it is rather festive and I now can't wait to try and do something seasonal with it over one of my other new O.P.I 'Pepe's Purple Passion'.
This loose Chinese green tea smells lovely and lemony and divine - I can't wait to try it, aside from the slight issue that I don't actually own a loose tea strainer...
I love the slightly lavender like, very country England scent of this Mitchell and Peach shower gel. I'd never heard of Mitchell and Peach before, but I'm glad I did because apparently they are local to me. 
I've heard a lot of blogger buzz about New Kid Cosmetics and I'm really happy with this gloss. I know I would have also been super excited by the concept that this gloss has a mirror on the side and lights inside the lid if I did not already own one like this from MeMeMe. They are so useful though, and I'm really glad to have another one!
Finally, I was really happy with this second bonus gift of a concealer brush. I've been needing one, and the black text on white matches most of my other makeup brushes which are the old style Benefit ones. 

What do you think of the new Joliebox? Do you think it is any better than Boudoir Prive? Will you be starting a subscription/ keeping your subscription?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Mobile Phones & Social Etiquette

I was listening to Gala Darling's Love & Sequins no. 4 podcast on manners and etiquette the other day, and it made me start thinking a lot about the use of our smart phones at the dinner table. I would like to think that I am polite enough not to be guilty of this, but then I realised that I am guilty of using my Blackberry in some situations at the table. That got me thinking about the role of smart phones in todays totally wired society; we use our phones to email, call, text, bbm, browse the web, tweet, update our blogs, take phones and depending on the model of your phone, for example in Pizza Express there is now an app you can use to pay your bill. 
When I am eating a meal at home, or out for a meal with my family I would never use my phone, both because I know it is impolite and because I know my Dad absolutely can't stand it. The only exception to this is when one of us is expecting an important call, but as soon as that call has been taken (away from the table) all phones are switched off. 
When I am out for a meal with a friend I let the same rules apply, though thinking about it, when I am out for tea or a meal with one of my two best friends, we both use our Blackberry's throughout the meal, but I don't think it affects conversation. I think it is because we know each other so well and it is almost a much more relaxed environment than with other friends we don't seem to see it as a problem. However, with large groups of friends or friends I'm not as in sync with I love Gala's suggestion in the podcast of having a no phones at a meal rule with groups of friends at least until the bill arrives. The photo at the top of this post was taken by my mother at my 18th Birthday dinner. Enough said about my friends and I... 

One situation I can think of, however, if you're in a group and it is not just the two of you having tea or a meal where I think it is acceptable to be using your smartphone, is if you are out with other bloggers or other such internet type people. I think if you are in a group where everyone has the mindset where it is considered completely normal to be always plugged in to the point where what is happening on your handsets becomes a part of the conversation you're having, as long as you don't have the thing surgically grafted to you it is okay to be occasionally using it. Not having whole conversations with people though, I'm talking about occasionally Tweeting and reading any email that comes in, saving them to reply to later. 

Are you guilty of using your phone at the table? What situations (if any) do you think it is okay to be using your phone during a meal? 

Friday, 9 December 2011

Weekly Love: Week 84

1. I've been thinking recently about the layout and the direction of my blog, and I've decided that I want to speak more, maybe explore some issues, maybe just include some more comment pieces. I don't know yet, but what I do know is I was not happy with the format of one of my longest running features: Weekly Love (well, it has been going for 84 weeks!) and moving it to once a fortnight has not really made me love it any more. So, I've decided to mix things up a bit with a brand new format to the post - enjoy, and I'd love to hear your thoughts!
2. Earlier today I went and sampled some of the  festive cupcakes at The Hummingbird Bakery  -this Christmas Pudding one had the most amazing almond frosting and tasted just like Christmas pudding and mince pies! We followed up with Mulled Wine on a biting cold Brick Lane - now I'm feeling super festive!

3. My amazing friend Ally who I have known since we were 10 years old (we went to boarding school together for 8 years!) is going to be climbing Kilimanjaro (the highest free standing mountain in the world) to raise money for Childreach International. It would be great if she could have all your support - just £2 is enough to vaccinate a mother and child in Nepal. You can sponsor her HERE!

4. I'm not usually a fan of reality shows, but I have been absolutely hooked to Sorority Girls on Channel 4! Basically, five girls from American sororities have flown over to set up the first sorority in England with students from Leeds. It is vaguely hysterical, and I can't wait for Tuesdays episode! (You can catch up on the last three on 4oD) Little known fact about me: one of the reasons I originally wanted to go to university in America was so I could join a sorority. I have also been watching a lot of cooking shows lately (?) including River Cottage (this season it is about going meatless and as I don't eat lamb or beef this has been really interesting for me!). I also love the fact everything on River Cottage is with fresh food. At the moment my fridge has basically turned into one massive love letter to Innocent juices and smoothies as I find they are a great way to make sure I keep up my fruit intake as my favourite things like berries are getting too expensive. I better not try one of their veg pots - I bet that it will soon get full up of those too!

5. I know I used to do my links in a list, but I really did not like how it looked. So, here are the same round up of online links I have been enjoying, but in cloud form! My favourite ones are the largest, but I think all of them are pretty great - otherwise I would not have included them in my round up in the first place!

If you take the London Underground on a regular basis, this article will make your day with laughter | I need this nail polish in my life | Into The Gloss has a fantastic feature on one of my favourite classic makeup brands, Clinique | Kani has taken some beautiful and bright photos in Brighton | I  really need to thank Sherin for linking me to what has to be one of the funniest and well written Tumblr pages I've seen in quite a long time | Some pretty awesome zombies storm Mexico City | The Fashion Bloggers Guide to Blogging | The Beauty Department has put together a brilliant gift guide | Rose has put together an amazing winter warming owl friend DIY project | Nicolette's photos make me really want to visit Los Angeles | Gala Darling has a great December activity guide20 Signs that you are a *real* Fashion Blogger - this post made me both laugh and smile a lot, in equal measure! | Benefit are launching a new blush in January - I'm so excited! | This is a brilliant post about how we are no long read magazines | 5 Ways Pinterest Can Benefit Your Blog | Gala Darling has put together an amazing list of ways to survive the winter that I will most certainly be adhering to

6. Some of you may have heard about a new 'X Factor' style show that the BBC are producing called The Voice. It is originally from Europe but earlier this year it first showed in the US. I'm pretty sure the BBC are going to destroy it and turn it into trash, but is was actually pretty amazing. And I'm not just saying that because Adam Levine is a judge. This single is from 'Red', the new album from the runner up Dia Frampton who I thought should have won. It is amazing, just like her!

7. Finally, this time lapse video of the Downing Street Christmas Tree being decorated is absolutely adorable. Thanks for the wonderful and interesting feedback and conversation I got from my post on Blogging and Politics - I promise you all that there is absolutely nothing political about this video!    

Current Location: London
Currently Reading: Nylon Magazine
Currently Listening To: 'Songs About Jane' by Maroon 5
Currently Watching: Pan Am, which is totally my favourite new show!

What have you been enjoying this week, and what do you think of 'Weekly Love''s new layout? 

Friday, 2 December 2011

Blogging and Politics

So today I'm going to talk about something I usually don't talk about on my blog, but makes up an even bigger part of my life than my blog does (and that really is saying something)! This post is really centred around something that, after a few comments and conversations on Twitter I really started to think about: How many (if any) readers have I lost not because of my blog, but because of my political affiliations? 
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I am very political. I worked on the 2010 election campaign, I've volunteered in my local party and I've done work experience in the House of Commons. When I open the newspaper on a Sunday I always reach for the News Review before the Style pages, and every morning when I set out to attack my Bloglovin' feed I always check up on the political news first. That is just me, what I'm interested in and what I am passionate about. While anyone who has ever had a conversation with me, even at blogger events will have noticed that I find it very hard to not end up bringing a conversation around to politics, here on my blog (aside from the odd link in my Weekly Love roundups that I find amusing and could possibly be interpreted as party political) I try to keep things about fashion, food and general lifestyle, which, after all is what this blog is all about. 

However, my Twitter page is a totally different matter. I tried for a while having two separate Twitter feeds, one for my blog and one for personal and political ramblings but it soon became way to complicated so as my followers will very well know @makingmewonder is akin to a crazy stream of conscious including fashion, beauty, food, complaints about the London Underground and lots and lots of political opinion. Increasingly I've noticed that my Twitter followers, I who I know are readers of my blog taking offence to some of my more political Tweets. Some of them have un followed me on Twitter, and I wonder if any of them have decided they are not going to read my blog anymore because of my political beliefs. I know at least one person has, because they told me that they were doing it.

You may have noticed that I have not actually mentioned my exact party political affiliation in this post, though those of you who follow me on Twitter my politics is blatantly obvious. However, I have not mentioned it in this post because for those of you who are not aware of my politics I want to know, if you know I was strongly in support of and an active campaigner for a political party that you do not support, would this make you stop reading my blog, regardless of the content I am posting on this site, or on my beauty blog The Glossy Guide? I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts! 

This whole argument comes down to one question. When you choose to read a blog, what is more important to you, the content or the person behind it?