Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Student Suppers: A Basic Chicken Soup

Mummy, I'm sure you're probably reading this, so I'm very sorry to admit the idea, method and recipe for this soup all came to me while I was distracted during a class on Ancient Epic. I'm so sorry, and I promise I will try and focus more in class, but then again I am not sorry that I managed to think up a delicious yet simple soup with what I knew I had leftover in my fridge, which I know my readers will love too. Will you forgive me? 
The reason this is a good, basic soup is that it provides a base that you can add to or detract from, depending on what you have left over or what you have to use up. It yields about 4 small bowls (to be served with bread) or three very large ones. I'd like to try adding more liquid, and add some bacon to make up for watered down flavour, to make it a serves 6 soup. Or, try using pasta instead of the rice (trust me to run out), or noodles to turn it into a Chicken Noodle Soup, but I was saving those to make Chicken Chow Mein. The only thing I think is a necessity to the recipe, which were actually an afterthought at the time, are the mushrooms. When I added them to the pan they created the most wonderful flavour boost to the broth. 

  • 1 Garlic Clove, chopped
  • 1 Leek, halved lengthways and sliced
  • 2 Celery Sticks, chopped
  • 2 Large Carrots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil 
  • 1 Chicken Breast
  • 1 Chicken Stock Cube, in 1.1 Litres (5 Cups) Water
  • 2 Handfuls Mushrooms, sliced
  • 30g (1/3 Cup) Brown Rice 
  • 2 tsp Fresh or Dried Thyme
  • Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper 

Add the stock and the chopped garlic to a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, add the chicken breast and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a very large pan and gently fry the vegetables for about 10 minutes until they are soft. Set aside. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it to a chopping board and pour the liquid into the large pan with the vegetables  returning it to the heat. Use two forks to shred the chicken (this should be pretty easy) and add it to the pan also. Season with lots of salt and pepper, add the thyme and the brown rice. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and leave to simmer with the lid on over a medium heat for 25 minutes. Stir in the sliced mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes - serve with crusty bread if desired and enjoy! 

What are your favourite Autumn/ Winter soups? I'm looking forward to trying this Tomato and Red Pepper Soup from Ezra Pound Cake, this Italian Vegetable Soup from BBC Good Food and this Spicy Lentil Soup from Joy The Baker!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Outfit Post: Los Angeles County Museum Of Art

For this Sunday's excursion, my fellow Brit abroad Rachel and I (it is shocking how many friends I have called Rachel) decided to head over to Beverly Hills and check out the famous Los Angeles County Museum Of Art, commonly known as LACMA. Obviously, our first stop was to take some photos in and around Chris Burden's iconic 'Urban Light' installation outside the museum. I'm pretty sure it has been in every movie set in Los Angeles I've ever seen, and it is just as awesome in real life - I can't wait to see what it looks like lit up!
Blue Dot Oxford Shirt: Gap (UK/US), Oxblood Chino Shorts: J.Crew (UK/US), Sunglasses: Breo, Handbag: Hobbs, Sandals: c/o Havaianas
DSC_0556 lacmacolumns
The installation is made out of vintage lamp posts from around the local Los Angeles area. Chris Burden also has another awesome, mini LA like city instillation with moving electric cars that is pretty epic! 
DSC_0540 DSC_0570 warhol
There was lots of familiar art in the gallery for me, but I've studied art, art history and photography, so that was a given. However, I think this little Andy Warhol number is something that I think you'll all recognise!  
While we were looking out at Hollywood and Beverly Hills from the observation platform, while I have become rather used to seeing it in the distance whenever I head to the North West part of Los Angeles, I realised that I had not yet posted a picture of the Hollywood Sign - a little bit of a blogger faux par! 
Because every art museum or gallery should have a giant boulder suspended above a public walkway. 

I loved LACMA, and not just because I'm an arty person who naturally enjoys galleries; there is so much cool modern art, sculptures and installations to interest and intrigue someone who is not really a gallery hopper, and this is going to be one of the places I take friends from England to visit when they come to LA - especially as it is just a short walk to The Original Farmers Market (more on that soon) where there are so many delicious places to grab lunch - just like we did!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Weekly Love: Week 120

So, you might have noticed that there was no 'Weekly Love' last week. This is because I've decided to change the format slightly. The last time I posted two weeks ago, I had not posted 'Weekly Love' in a fortnight so I made a bumper edition, with double the links and two weeks worth (two collages) of photos. I actually really liked the double style, how it looked and  had really good feedback from it. So, look forward to bigger 'Weekly Love' posts, every two weeks - let me know what you think and if you like this style!
1. Driving through Beverly Hills on a sunny Sunday afternoon. | 2. Leftover lilies in one of the sliver goblets I picked up at Melrose Trading Post Flea Market.  | 3. As part of my upcoming review of The Joy The Baker Cookbook I made her Giant Cinnamon Rolls with Buttermilk Glaze.. This is the halfway stage. | 4. Adding cook books to my mental wish list in Anthropologie. I would have got it there and then if I had all the stuff to make French patisserie in my kitchen! | 5. Look what I found in LA! | 6. A lovely evening spent in the new Keene LA store in Westwood with the girls from Melrose PR - thanks for inviting me!

7. Bombay Cycle Club played a free gig in the middle of the UCLA campus. I only got to hear about two songs as I had to get to class, but it was still pretty awesome! | 8. I love these Emi-Jay for Splendid hairbands the girls at Splendid sent me - so good to put my hair up with! (Birchbox has put together a great video on how to style them different ways with different hairstyles). | 9. I love the way things still blossom in Autumn here.| 10. Stocking up on European food at the original Farmers Market next to The Grove in Beverly Hills. | 11. My amazing photographer friend Francesca Buenaflor's first mini art show at Cacao Coffee House on Santa Monica Blvd. - there are more photos from the opening on her blog! | 12. In spite of the heatwave we've had in Los Angeles, the leaves are starting to turn on campus - I think this is what the Americans call 'Fall'!

What have you been enjoying this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend? I think I might go check out LACMA with a group of fellow Brits living in LA as we have not been yet!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Cookbook Corner: The Joy The Baker Cookbook

So, in my post about the little housewarming gifts I treated myself to I featured the Joy The Baker cookbook, and now I've really settled in I've finally had a chance to bake some of the goodies she has featured for my roommates and I to enjoy when we get back from class or the gym. Funnily enough, I'd only cooked savoury dishes off of Joy's blog before, so I had no idea what to expect from her sweets. There are so many things in the book from sugar cookies to ice cream, as you can probably see from all the little tabs sticking out of the top of the book (which since I took the photos, is now covered in melted chocolate..!)
Joy The Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple And Comforting Recipes: UK / US

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

How To Open A Bottle Of Champagne

I have no idea how many bottle of champagne I have opened in my life. There is something about a bottle of champagne that is simply perfect. The stylish and elegant bottle shape and label (I have many an empty bottle to mark the special occasions they were drunk at dotted around my room at my parents house, they make such great ornaments, or even jewellery holders), the pop of the cork when you open it, and the deliciously light but rich bubbly smell it gives off. Champagne is also afforded the most glamorous of glasses to be drunk out of too; from the classic 1920's open topped style to the tall and elegant champagne flute. The way to my mothers heart is through a good bottle of bubbly, and I think the same can be said for me too. 
veuve clicquot
Photo by Jamie Beck.

Bottles of Veuve Clicquot will feature heavily in illustrating this post, as it is one of my favourites, and I think the orange labels are particularly iconic. Looking back, the event that inspired this post was probably illegal, but I'm going to tell the story anyway. I was at an event, and one of the PR girls was trying to open a bottle of Prosecco, but she did not know how. Frightened of the cork, and it going everywhere she stepped outside with it for a moment (it is illegal to carry open containers of alcohol in public in America). She still was not having much luck, so, while 2 years under the legal age to consume alcohol in America, I stood there in the street and opened it for her. Anyway, I digress: this made me realise that quite a few people really don't know how to open a bottle of champagne, something I feel is more criminal than my standing there with that bottle.

First, you tackle the obvious stuff, removing the foil from the top of the bottle (there should be a little pull tab, if not use a knife), and twisting open and pulling off the little metal cage that stops the cork coming off if the bottle is shaken too much etc. There is no guarantees even if you open a bottle properly that some won't come instantly out the top the moment the cork is removed, so have a champagne flute to hand to catch any overflow. Hold the bottle by the base of the neck firmly in one hand, and gently twist the cork away from the bottle, making sure to keep it away from you, from anyone else near you and from and away from anything that an accidentally flying cork could break or damage. Pets for example. There are also quite a few people who do not know how to pour champagne  either. You slightly tilt both the bottle and the glass with the edge of the bottle against the glass. The liquid should run down the edge of the glass, so that too many bubbles don't form a froth at the top. This is exactly how you pour a bottle of beer into a glass, too. Final and most important step: enjoy! 
Just because I think it is pretty, and it features Veuve Clicquot, I thought I'd include this wonderful recipe illustration by Damsel in Dior at the end of this post. She's also put together a pretty great Guide To Champagne that is very informative about the different types, and what to serve them with. Swat up so you can impress with your knowledge about the differences between Demi Sec and Doux, or Bruit and Bruit Zero! 

What is your favourite type of bubbly? 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Recipe: Chocolate Covered Frozen Banana Pieces

My roommate Jenna and I both like these things from Trader Joe's called 'Gone Bananas!', which are essentially banana slices coated in chocolate and frozen. They are surprisingly addictive  and while the banana part is delicious, the chocolate is choc-ice, chocolate, and therefore not particularly great. We were discussing this chocolate failure while I was eating a box after dinner one evening, and I realised how easy it would be to just make my own in the freezer with a couple of bananas, a bar of chocolate and some baking parchment!
I used Cadbury's Dairy Milk, the American version, which tastes like Cadbury's but with a little something missing, but they are still delicious, so I'd recommend using Dairy Milk wherever you are. On the other hand, if you like something a bit richer rather than sweet, I would try using dark chocolate.  The bowl is just a serving suggestion if there are several of you, I just eat them a couple at a time out of the ziplock I freeze them in.
You will need roughly one slab of chocolate for one big banana. I use three bars of chocolate and three big bananas at a time. First, cut a piece of greaseproof paper, baking parchment or wax paper to cover a large baking or cookie tray. Then you'll need to melt your chocolate. You should never really melt chocolate in the microwave  unless you're either stupidly skilled or very very lucky it will end badly for you and your chocolate will go lumpy. The best way to melt chocolate is in a glass bowl over steam, and this is really easy to do. Put the kettle onto boil, and while the water is heating break your chocolate into a heatproof glass bowl. Put a large saucepan over heat the add the boiling water. Only fill the pan halfway, so that you can sit the glass bowl of chocolate over the pan without water touching the bottom of the glass bowl. Leave the chocolate to melt, only stirring occasionally to make sure all the lumps are melting away. 

Remove the glass bowl from the heat. Do not leave it sitting over the water, as the chocolate will continue to cook, separate and go lumpy and grainy. Slice your bananas into medium thickness pieces, and dip into the chocolate one by one, until each piece is coated. You can use either a spoon or your fingers for this, whatever is easier. When you remove each piece from the chocolate transfer it to the sheet of baking parchment.

When all of your pieces are coated put the tray into the fridge for about two hours, or until the chocolate  had hardened. Remove from the fridge and transfer the chocolate banana pieces to a ziplock or freezer proof box or bag. Put them into freeze for at least 12 hours, to make sure that the banana pieces have frozen solid for best results. 

I recommend you snack on these while watching weekend television, and not to share them as they will vanish too quickly - and if you are feeling too guilty about the chocolate, remind yourself there is banana too! 

Friday, 19 October 2012

How To Build The Perfect Writing Set & Pen The Perfect Thank You

When I was a kid, my mother always made me make lists of every present I received for Christmas and my birthday, and sat me down to make sure I wrote each person a thank you note. While I resented it a little at the time (it took so long and really made my hands hurt after a while!) I'm really glad she did, because now I've got older I really appreciate the importance of writing a good thank you note to someone to let them know you're grateful and you appreciate that they thought of you either with a lovely gift, or by inviting you into their home, be it for a relaxed dinner or a few days to say. (Also, I think much smaller Rachel was a little bit pleased with herself every time she turned out a perfectly executed letter with no crossings out or mistakes!)
How To Write The Perfect Thank You Note

One of the biggest shames I think about the art of a hand written note dying out somewhat is not that all out communication seems electronic these days, but that it means there are less pretty writing papers and note cards about these days. While I used to be content with Paperchase (who are awesome, don't get me wrong) I think after being spoiled for choice in America with the ability to shop at places such as Sugar Paper and Rifle Paper Co., when I return to England I think I'm going to make more of an effort to hunt down cute and unique stationary, writing papers and greeting cards. (I'm also going to try and remember to send more of them.) 

There are a few basic things everyone should have in their writing box on a permeant basis (you can buy unique and bespoke things for specific people as and when, but with these basics you'll never be caught short.):

  • Plain or monogramed note cards. These should be simple, but if they're slightly stylised they should be suitable to send to both men and women, on any occasion. While I have some in England, I don't have anything like this yet in America so next time I stop by Sugar paper I'm either going to pick up a set of either their Anchor Notecards that I've had my eye on for a while, (at the moment I'm using these green and gold monogramed cards, the style is slightly girly, but the colours making them still suitable to send out to men).
  • Note paper and matching envelopes. Sometimes when you want to write a little bit more than you can fit in a note card, or when you're writing to older family members who preserve to receive hand written letter on proper note paper, it is a good idea to have a pad of good quality plain notepaper and matching good quality envelopes to hand. You can get this in so many great colours from Paperchace, but my personal go to forever will be Basildon Bond's Lilac Note Paper Pad and their champagne envelopes.
  • Two Birthday cards. Speaking as someone who has once been guilty of forgetting a significant family members birthday one year (and never living it down I might add) you never want to forget someones birthday. So, while it is preferable to buy birthday cards with the person in mind, keeping either a nice unisex card, or one suitable for a man, and one suitable for a woman in your writing box will keep you safe from the years of reminders of my failure that I've been suffering through ever since!  
  • A sympathy card. It is a sad fact of life while we will always have enough time, and usually enough warning to go out and buy a bespoke congratulations card, you might need to be able to send out a sympathy card to someone at a moments notice, when you may have other things on your mind other than shopping for stationary. So, I recommend you keep a plain but tasteful and thoughtful sympathy card in your writing box at all times just in case. 

Once you have a basic letter set built (I'm still looking for a cute box to store mine in), you're ready to write a thank you note at a moments notice.  Short and sweet I think is best, both for you and the person on the receiving end so I like to stick to a basic format: Greeting (Dear ________,), 'Thank you for...', 'I will spend it/ use it/ it will come in useful for' or one or two details on what was particularly nice about their party or your stay. Then, I comment on how nice it was to see the person and note when I'm next going to see them, commenting on how I'm looking forward to it, where applicable. Then, sign off. Obviously you can make these more personal, and for really close family or friends I always do, but this is a good basic template to work from. I'm notoriously bad at this, but you should aim to send your thank you within a week, preferably within a few days. However, as I am always telling myself, a thank you is always better late than never. 

What are your tips for putting together the perfect writing set, or for penning the perfect thank you note? 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Student Suppers: Pasta with Courgette, Lemon and Chilli

I think it has been forever since I posted a 'Student Suppers' recipe, but then again it has been a long Summer! I'm finally back into the swing of cooking myself easy student meals, so I thought I'd kick the academic year off with something fresh, simple and cheap that you can make a massive pot of at once and eat cold for lunch throughout the week. Just a recap for some of my newer readers, Student Suppers is a series of recipes I do with cheap ingredients that are really easy to cook, and either serve one or can be made in big batches so it can stretch out for a couple of days, perfectly suited to students, but equally as delicious for everyone else too!
I adapted this recipe from the BBC Good Food iPhone and iPad app, which I think is one of the best paid recipe apps out there, and I really think is worth the money. I have been cooking BBC Good Food recipes out of their monthly magazine, then off of their website for as long as I can remember. I love that this takes about 15 minutes to prepare with little or no skill involved, but in the end it looks stylish and sophisticated and tastes elegant with clean flavours and a little after kick from the chili. The original recipe does not have as much lemon as my version does, and it was made with linguini; but I felt pasta was more leftover friendly - with these ingredients I had a big bowl as a meal then two more medium portions for lunch the next two days.

  • 1 Average Size Bag Fusilli Pasta Shapes
  • 3 Medium Sized Courgettes (Zucchini)
  • Dried Chilli Flakes
  • 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove
  • 1 Lemon
  • Handful of torn Basil Leaves
  • Freshly Ground Salt & Pepper 

Put the pasta on to cook in a large pan of water. While the pasta is cooking grate the courgettes on the biggest grater you can find into a bowl. Follow by grating the zest of the lemon. Chop the garlic clove into fine pieces. When the pasta is cooked strain the water away and add it to the pan, followed by the grated courgette and lemon rind, the garlic, the basil and a very large pinch of the chilli flakes. Add the olive oil, lots of freshly ground salt and pepper, and cut the lemon in half and squeeze over half of the juice. Stir well over the heat until the courgette is coating all of the pasta, and serve.  

What are some of your favourite pasta dishes to make for supper, then have cold the next day between classes? 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Outfit Post: Shopping At The Melrose Trading Post, Hollywood

After a lay in and a lazy breakfast on Sunday, my roommate Jenna and I drove up to Hollywood to check out The Melrose Trading Post: the famous flea market held in Fairfax High School parking lot on the corner of Fairfax and Melrose Avenues. They hold it every Sunday, and either if you're looking for vintage clothing, jewellery, home pieces or furniture and you're in the LA area you really should go check it out - only $2 entry! 
Melrose Trading Post, Hollywood
When I first got here the prevalence of palm trees, endless blue skies, Beverley Hills in the background and regular sightings of the Hollywood sign made me all happy and excited. I've pretty much got used to the iconic scenery around here, but sometimes I look at a photo I have taken like this one and it all rushes back! 
Fresh Pressed Lemonade Curly Fried Street Food
While whenever anyone from back home asks me what I don't like about living in Los Angeles, I usually complain about the quality of food you can get in the supermarkets compared to back home in Europe, but one thing I don't think you'll ever hear a negative thing about from me is LA food trucks. These deliciously flavoured, epic pile of fresh cut and fried curly fried and a freshly pressed lemonade made up my Sunday lunch. 
Outfit Posts Are Hillarious
Striped Tunic: Gap, Handbag: Hobbs, Nail Polish: Essie 'Navigate Her', Watch: Citizen

There is a story behind this simple Gap shift dress. I first fell in love with it in the display in the Gap store at Bluewater back in England, but as it was part of their Summer collection they had sold out of all the small sizes and were not getting any new ones in. I was walking past the Gap store on 3rd Street in Santa Monica only a week or two after I arrived in Los Angeles and I saw it just inside the door - I dashed in, found the last Extra Small and snapped it up on the spot. I'm usually not a tunic person, prefering something with a structured waist, but I love the way this fits, and is nice and simple when I pair with with my trusty Hobbs bag.

It was the first time Jenna had taken my outfit photos, and while I'm pretty used to posing for the camera now, it reminded me of actually how hilarious the concept of doing outfit posts is, shooting these!
Vintage Glasswear
If we had enough room in the kitchen cupboards in our apartment these vintage gold striped glasses would have come home with me - they are so pretty, unique and the perfect type of worn. I think if you went back to somewhere like this every week, you could get your whole home outfitted eventually.
Vintage Soap Boxes
Street Artwork Shabby Chic Picture Frames Vintage Costume Jewellery
There are so many different styles, and while I did not find something to suit me among the vintage jewellery pieces, I'm sure next time I go back (I might make it a monthly thing) I will - the quality of the pieces on offer were so much better than any I have ever seen in any vintage or flea market context in London.
Vintage Prints & Photographs
While I am not really a flea market person in London, I had a really great time and had an amazing find (a pair of stunning sliver goblets for $25, expect to see them probably filled with fresh flowers in an upcoming post) at the Trading Post, so do any of my LA readers have any other flea market suggestions I should hit up?

Friday, 12 October 2012

Weekly Love: Week 119

Sorry I have not posted a 'Weekly Love' update for a while (though, that does mean you get a bumper edition of snapshot photos!), but now classes have started I've taken the last two weeks to really settle into the routine of things here in Los Angeles. I also went shopping, and did and awful lot of cooking and baking, fun, glamorous things, as well as spending hours doing all my reading for classes, making a start on essays, and just generally being hunched over my laptop for hours on end finally making it to the bottom of my unread emails! Now I've got a schedule down, I've started planning a lot more LA adventures like the ones I enjoyed before classes started, so stay tuned for more posts showing you what this incredible city has to offer! 
1. Finally into Fall/ Autumn dressing - Essie nail polish in 'Navigate Her' paired with my trusty Whistles jeans and my totally awesome brand new purple sweater/ jumper from Madewell. | 2. Eating the last of the batch of my M&M Cookies sitting on the wall outside of UCLA's beautiful Royce Hall. | 3. Another beautiful UCLA lunch spot. | 4. Some cute chevron fabric I found in a store on W. Pico Blvd. - any DIY ideas or suggestions? | 5. Late night sugar rush: Vanilla and Morello Cherry Ice Cream in a Red Velvet Waffle Cone at 10pm from Sprinkles Ice Cream in Beverly Hills (next to the famous cupcake bakery and 24h cupcake ATM). | 6. A nice big bowl of my Spicy Chili Bean Soup.

At the very end of last week the second installment of my 'Project LA' column for The High Tea Cast went online! Click through to read about my first impressions of LA, and what little crazy different things have been really getting to me! I have the next two months already planned, but I'm happy to take topic requests!
7. Beautiful fragrant lilies for our apartment - $1 a stem at Trader Joe's! | 8. I picked up this adorable, slightly rose gold nail bangle in the new Keene LA store in Westwood (Los Angeles) on Wednesday morning before class - if you're in the area, I really suggest you go check them out (next to the California Pizza Kitchen) - such a lovely store! | 9. My go to chocolate chip cookie recipe, whipped up for my roommates to come home to! | 10. Sunday night is Downton Abbey time. | 11. My first ever piece of (apple) American Pie at Apple Pan on W. Pico Blvd. | 12. Classic red leather stools in Apple Pan.

What have you been enjoying this week, and what have you got planned for the weekend? Hopefully my roommate and I are going to drive up to Hollywood and check out the famous flea market on the corner of Melrose and Fairfax, and I might head to The Grove in Beverly Hills to do some jeans shopping...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Recipe: M&M Cookies

On Tuesday afternoon, I found myself with nothing to do. Class was over, I'd done all my laundry and I was up to date with all my TV shows and my news feed. I had even done all of my reading for classes. I'd originally planned to use the time to make a start on a Shakespeare essay I have due next week, but it turns out the line numbers in the assignment do not match up to my English, not American books, so while I waited for clarification from my professor, I had nothing to do. Then I realised I had unsalted butter in the fridge. And brown sugar and flour in the cupboard. And one egg left. What else could I put in cookies from the cupboards?
I had the idea from the Smarties Cookies my Mum used to make all the time when I was a kid and I really adored, and the Smarties Cookies you can get in English supermarkets (the only shop brought cookie I can actually eat without wanting to spit it out again). Because of this, when they first came out of the oven and I ate the first one (I am impatient like that) I decided the flavour was great, but the texture was all wrong and I was going to remake them with a different type of sugar so that they were flatter and chewier. But actually, as I sat munching on one while my roommates and I watched New Girl, I decided that I actually rather liked them, they were a good, solid cookie and that I'd treat you all to the recipe as is.

  • 200g (7oz) Plain Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 130g (4 1/2oz) Butter, softened and preferably Unsalted. 
  • Pinch Of Salt
  • 170g (6oz) Soft Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 115g (4oz) M&M's

Pre-heat the oven to 180c (350f) and line two baking trays with baking parchment. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until completely combined, and slightly lighter in colour. If you have one, this can really, really easily be done in a food mixer (the entire recipe can be done that way, rather by hand). Add the egg and the vanilla and beat until completely combined and smooth. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and the salt, and mix well until everything is combined with no lumps of flour left. Finally, add the M&M's and mash in with your spoon until they are evenly spread throughout the mixture. Make the dough into balls slightly bigger than a ping-pong ball and space them equally out on the trays. You should get about 8 cookies out of the mixture, 4 on each tray. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cookies are golden. Remove from the oven and leave on the trays for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely, and in my case put them out for my roommates when they get home. 
I'd love to hear what you think of these cookies, and your own variations on them instead. I'm not a fan of peanut butter, but for my readers in the USA I think these would be pretty awesome made with peanut butter M&M's, or even peanut M&M's for my UK readers. Also, obviously Smarties would make a good cookie too!

What is your all time favourite type of cookie? 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

How To Enjoy Doing Things By Yourself

I have a very vivid memory from school of one of my friends telling me what she liked about me was that I am very independent. I don't need anyone. Usually, I shop alone, I go to museums alone, there are a lot of things other people seem to need to have someone to do something with, I prefer to do alone. I had never really thought about how I manage to spend so much time in my own company, until I first moved to Los Angeles. I knew no one in the city except for my three roommates for the first week and a half, and when they were at work or away for the weekend and I was alone in an empty apartment, in the middle of a city I'd never visited before, in a country I was not entirely familiar with, I really started giving it some thought.
Photo by One and Only

I am a solitary person, more so than most, and that does not mean that I don't enjoy other peoples company, but I also don't have a problem doing practically anything by myself, from going to see a movie, going shopping (actually a lot of the time I prefer going alone, at the time of writing I have just got back from a trip to Westfield in Century City, and I has a much more productive trip than I had the last time I went with friends), or even eating a meal alone in a cafe or restaurant. I think there are great benefits to being able to be alone, it gives you a lot more independence not having to rely on other people, so I thought I'd put together a few tips on how to enjoy spending time by yourself.

  • Make plans. If you keep busy, a lot of the time you won't notice you are by yourself, and your spending so much time having fun you are not feeling alone. On my laptop I have a list of places, such as farmers and flea markets, cafes and independent shops, one list for London and one list for Los Angeles of places that have been recommended to me, that I work my way through whenever I have time to myself. Make plans with yourself to do something fun just the same as you would making plans with your friends.
  • Enjoy the peace and quiet. When I lived in London I sometimes went and hid in the corner of a bookstore with a book, or went bookstore hopping looking for new and creative tomes I had not seen before - I have found books make just as good company as people! 
  • People watching is great fun in cafes and restaurants. People only look at people alone in restaurants and cafes and feel sorry for them if they look like they're unhappy about their solitude - so don't! Sometimes I sit and read, at other times I take time to really take in my surroundings. Look at the people sitting at the tables around you, what do you think their jobs are, their lives like, what do you think they are talking about? Making up stories for them is an incredible lot of fun! 
  • Do something nice for someone else. I love cooking and baking, and while it is sometimes fun to do this with someone (when I'm at my parents house I always cook with my Mother), but spending an afternoon baking a nice cake or batch of biscuits for someone else by yourself is wonderful, because you get all the excitement of looking forward to their reaction when you surprise them. I had the best time I'd had in ages a few weeks ago when I had the afternoon off of class and I baked double chocolate chip cookies for my roommates to enjoy when they got home.

Basically if you stay busy and creative, and take the time to take in your surroundings in a way that you don't get to enjoy when you're always plugged into your iPod or chatting with friends and family, you'll come to enjoy spending time alone as much as you do when you're surrounded by people, and you'll be able to enjoy the freedom of not being tied to other peoples schedules. 

What are your tips for enjoying time spent alone? 

Monday, 8 October 2012

Book Review: Cupcakes & Cashmere

Ever since one of my favourite Los Angeles based bloggers, Emily Schuman of Cupcakes & Cashmere announced that she was publishing a book version of her blog, I have wanted to get my hands on it, but waited to order it until I was settled into my new LA apartment. I love how her blog throws together all aspects of my life from personal style (I get so many ideas from her as she has just a slightly more grown up version of my personal style), food, and interior ideas which are starting to be relevant to me as I'm growing up into my own spaces. 
Cupcakes And Cashmere: A Guide For Defining Your Style, Reinventing Your Space and Entertaining With Ease: UK / US
The book is separated into seasons; each season with the relevant style, beauty and entertaining (think Halloween or Christmas) entertaining tips for each season, as well as other, more general tips that are good for practically any season dotted throughout the book, but grouped together, so if you're looking for a section it is not too hard to find, and so that the book flows rather nicely. 
There is a lot in the book I already knew a lot about, like flower arranging for example (I love having fresh flowers around the house or my apartment), but her beautiful photography and styling gave me a few ideas all the same. There are also sections in the book I learnt quite a bit from, so I think at least something in the book will be helpful for everyone. I learnt about going to flea markets, something I'm not great at. She uses the famous flea market on Sundays on the corner of Melrose and Fairfax in Hollywood as her example, and armed with her tips my roommate and I are going to go and check it out next weekend. 
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If you don't buy it for anything else, buy the book on this great page on how to photograph well - I'm taking notes as I'm never quite happy with how I look in most of my outfit shots.
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As well as food, style, beauty and interiors the book is also heavy on entertaining; I love having friends over, and I love having a theme, so I'm really excited to try out some of her ideas, and add a little something of my own to them as well the next time I have people around to my place. 

I really love this book; it has a beautiful design, stunning photography and it is really well written - I'm going to keep referring back to the seasonal sections throughout the year; it is the perfect companion to her blog. 

Had anyone else got their hands on the Cupcakes & Cashmere book yet?  

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Store Visit: Farmshop, Brentwood Country Mart

During my first week in Los Angeles, I headed over to Brentwood to check out somewhere a lot of people had recommended to me; Brentwood Country Mart, a quaint little shopping complex home to some lovely boutiques, a cute little post office, an outpost of Sugar Paper, some lovely street food vendors and Farmshop, the delicatessen come restaurant which is the number one reason I'll be heading back there sometime soon. 
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All of this fresh, local and artisan produce gets me very excited. Also, how awesome are the lights hanging from the ceiling? They have managed to put a modern twist on a country farm shop, something I have not seen done so well in a city anywhere in London - it reminds me of a more chic version of Gibson's, for those of my readers who live in and near Canterbury and have been out that way (heads up, I love their lemon infused oil!)
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How amazing would these be baked, stuffed with ripe cherry tomatoes and salty anchovies, served with a dash of olive oil and fresh bread to mop up all the delicious and flavourful cooking juices?
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This is the restaurant area. It seemed pretty packed, but I'd like to go back with a lunch date at some point. 
When I go back I think I'm going to treat myself to one of these rather cool, and super chic recyclable market totes for when I'm out getting my groceries - saves my lugging around the paper bags they give you in Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

LA readers, are there any other places like this in Los Angeles I need to know about and visit? For my London readers, if you're looking for something similar, you can't go wrong with Daylesford Organics in Notting Hill, which is a farm shop and a restaurant, but you can also buy their food in the Selfridges food hall.