Friday, 30 November 2012

Recipe: Chorizo, Chickpea & Spinach Stew

Today I want to share with you all one of my most recent recipe discoveries, this totally delicious, slightly Eastern tasting Chorizo, Chickpea and Spinach Stew. You know the feeling when you make a recipe and you take the first bite, and you just know how many times you're going to make it again because it is fantastic? That is were my head was at when I first made this (albiet slightly altered to suit having just me to cook for) recipe from the BBC Good Food website. It looks like it has a long list of ingredients, but once you have them in stock (and I always try to have a selection of beans in the cupboard, and we all have the stay ends of vegetables knocking around in the bottom of the fridge) this would actually suit a quick supper if you had not planned ahead, and you remembered to pick up a chorizo and a bag of spinach on the way home.
This recipe serves two, or serves one for a big lunch or a warming supper. It actually microwaves really well the next day - I found it was very helpful perched on top of my books in a steaming bowl one Friday lunchtime when I was trying to wade through an 8 to 12 page essay on Paradise Lost's roots in Ancient Epic.  

  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used my Homemade Herb Infused Oil)
  • 1/2 Onion, Finely Chopped
  • 1 Carrot, Finely Chopped
  • 1 Celery Stick, Finely Chopped
  • Few Fresh Thyme Sprigs
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Garlic Clove, Finely Chopped
  • 100g Dried Chorizo, Diced
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Hot Paprika 
  • 1 Can Chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp Sherry Vinegar
  • 1 Average Sized Bag of Spinach
  • Freshly Ground Salt & Black Pepper

Fry the onion in the oil in a large pan for a few minutes until it has softened, but not browned. Add the carrot, celery, bay leaf and the thyme. Season with a bit of salt and pepper, stir in and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, Chorizo, cinnamon and the paprika. Gently fry until the vegetables have softened and the chorizo has started to release some of its orange oils, and has crisped up a little bit. Add the chickpeas, the vinegar and 75ml of water. Turn the heat up until it is bubbling, then simmer with the lid on for about 2 minutes until the chickpeas have heated through. Fish out the thyme sprigs and the bay leaf, then add all for the spinach to the pan, stirring into the stew until it has all wilted down - serve and enjoy!

As always, let me know what you think, and I have really been appreciating some of the Tweets and Instagrams people have been sending me with pictures of my recipes you have made for yourselves!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Holiday Gift Guide: For The Total Bookworm

Welcome to the second instalment of this years holiday gift guides! As some of my older readers will know, each year I do them by themes, depending on what sort of person you're buying the gifts for. This year I have already put together a gift guide for The Total Foodie in your life, and today we have a guide almost as close to my heart as the foodie guide: the guide for The Total Bookworm! Be sure to stay tuned for my guides to shopping for The Globetrotters and The Londoners in your life, and if you're looking for something for a makeup lover, over at The Glossy Guide I've put together a round up of this years best beauty gift sets!
Diptyque Oriental Spruce Limited Edition Scented Candle: £45 / $68, Hotel Chocolate Milk Chocolate Tiddly Reindeer: £5 / $10, The White Company Grey Marl Cashmere Cable Knit Bed Socks: £45, Bookworm Rubber Duck: £3.95, Waterstones Gift Card / Barnes & Noble Gift Card, Laura Mercier Vanilla Honey Bath: £31 / $40, Tea Pigs Spiced Winter Red Tea: £4.49

I think the thing on this gift guide I want for myself the most has to be this years festive offering from Parisian candle maker and perfumer Diptyque. I was sniffing it like a mad woman when went to shoot a feature in The Scent Bar in West Hollywood. It smells just like Christmas trees, and I know from press days where they're always burning that Diptyque candles last for ages, and perfume your room like no other candle. So, if you don't have a real Christmas tree, this is the best way to fill your home with the very best festive scent this Christmas, unless you want to start a gingerbread production line in your kitchen! 

Aside from having a scented candle burning, my two favourite states while reading a book have to be either snuggled up with a good cup of tea, or soaking in a nice, hot, fragrant bath. Tea Pigs have to be my favourite tea company; their blends are absolutely delicious, and at the moment they have a festive Spiced Winter Red Tea available. While you're curled up with a good book and your cup of tea, nothing beats a comfy pair White Company cashmere bed socks keeping your toes warm! There is even Hotel Chocolate to nibble on too. Their miniature solid chocolate festive creatures are always a holiday favourite of mine. As for the bath, I think Laura Mercier's Vanilla Honey Bath, complete with honey wand makes such an elegant gift, to be totally contrasted with this adorable little rubber duck who will keep you company in the bath while you are both engrossed in your literary adventures. 

Finally, if you're still stuck for ideas what to buy your book obsessed friends and family, I absolutely urge you to buy them a Waterstones gift card if you're based in the UK, or a Barnes & Noble gift card if they're stateside. No one buys book tokens anymore, and the thing someone who loves to read wants the most is a book! For some reason people have stopped buying me these and have opted for iTunes and Amazon vouchers too which I always spending on something I need on on books for university. This upsets me greatly. Also, though I do not support this in the slightest, if they own one of those evil Kindles, they can buy themselves eBooks to read on their devices with these gift cards too. 

What are you planning on buying the bookworm in your life this year?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Forget The LBD, How To Find The Perfect Little Sparkly Dress

I know everyone is always banging on about finding the perfect Little Black Dress (myself included), but what I think is actually something everyone should be hunting for like crazy and coveting the ultimate of, especially this time of year, is the perfect Little Sparkly Dress. Okay, so it might find some hunting to find the little black dress that fits like a glove, but you'll always be able to find a good one that you at least look presentable in even with only a few hours notice. However, as much as I really want a nice gold sparkly sequin dress, I don't think I have yet managed to find a single totally glittery or sequinned dress of any colour that actually fits me and looks good on me to date - it has been bugging me for a while.
Image via Natalie Off Duty

Just look how effortless it looks on Natalie Suarez looks in this stunning gold Disco Pony dress (this style, the 'Natalie' dress was actually inspired by her). I want my own sparkly dress to wear under my trench coat on my way to a stylish New Years Eve party this year. Or, you know, to wear any time of the day. I have been witness to my friend Susie wearing this very dress all day one day in London, and she looked fabulous in it!
Louise Gray for Topshop Geometric Zigzag Dress:: £70 / $190, Alice + Olivia Blue Sequin Dress: £480 / $595, Day Birger Et Mikkelsen Striped Sequin Dress: £530 / $680, Topshop Silver Sequinned Skater Dress: £65 / $60

While I wish I could pull off this fabulous electric blue from Alice + Olivia (a brand I think I am falling just that little bit in love with at the moment. I'm still heartbroken over a pair of blue Alice + Olivia shorts in my size but did not fit right last month for $50 in the Cusp sale), but I think the one here that would be mist suited to me is this lovely long sleeved black and cream striped number from Birger Et Mikkelsen. Reglar readers, please stop rolling your eyes at the fact that out of a line up, I've yet again gone for the one with cream stripes! 

Oscar De La Renta Black Embellished Dress: £3,565 / $4,290, Oscar De La Rent Burgundy Embellished Dress: £3,735 / $4,490, J.Crew Zigzag Chevron Striped Sequin Dress: £200 / $198, Rachel Gilbert Art Deco Sequin Dress: £885 / $1,275

However, I think the dress in this line up that I would look amazing in and would cherish for ever, never having the need to look for a sequinned dress ever again is this black one from one of my all time favourite designers, Oscar De La Renta. However, it costs £3,565. I could land a book deal and sell millions of copies and sell more books than J.K. Rowling ever did and I still don't think I'd spend £3,565 on a dress. Just think about it. On a dress. I have been tempted to try on this, much more reasonably priced J.Crew chevron dress every time I see it hanging up in store. J.Crew stores are dangerous places for me.

Finally, because this post is sponsored by Simply Be (as much as I love my blog, I could not afford to keep writing it like I do if some of my posts were not sponsored), I would like to point out if there is a little more of you to love there are some great dresses by Simply Be at the moment, including some with sparkles that I wish did not only come in a plus size so that I would be able to wear them myself! 

Do you already have the perfect Little Sparkly Dress, or will you be hunting one down in time for the party season? 

This is a sponsored post. To read my policy on sponsored posts, please click here.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Weekly Love: Week 122

Hello everyone! What a few weeks it has been, as you can see below, I have done a lot of Los Angeles orientated eating and exploring, but aside from that I've been working hard on my final essays for this term, which by my standards I'm actually making pretty good headway with! I hope all my American readers had a good Thanksgiving yesterday, and for those of you who are wise enough not to head out and face the crowds, I thought I'd do a little bit of a roundup of links and promo codes for those of you planning on hitting today's Black Friday sales from the safety of your sofas: Kurt Geiger is offering 20% off of your entire shop with the code KGXMAS20, Shopbop is offering up to 35% off of orders of $250 or more with the code BIGEVENT12, Madewell is offering 25% off of everything and free shipping with the code TREAT, J.Crew is offering 25% off of everything with the code COLOR25, Selfridges has 20% off Fashion, Accessories and Homewares with the code SELF20 and 10% off of Beauty with the code SELF10, and finally there is up to 50% off at Nordstrom.
1. Christmas has arrived at The Grove. | 2. Visiting the beautiful Getty Villa in Malibu. | 3. A little mid week treat. | 4. My first pizza from a really great pizzeria where they make it in front of you in Westwood; 800 Degrees. | 5. I went for a margarita pizza with pineapple, pine nuts and prosciutto. | 6. Showing our UCLA True Bruin school spirit with a car smash of an old car covered in USC, down with the Trojans slogans ahead of last Saturday's big football game. Of course we won, but this particular expression of school spirit made me laugh. There was also a massive rally with a bonfire symbolically burning red (USC's colour) shirts.

You can now follow people on Instagram via the web with their new web profiles (which are pretty awesome looking by the way), so if you have not yet found me and you want to keep up with what is pretty much a pretty constant stream of food and palm trees, you can find me by clicking here!

Also, I know quite a few of you on Twitter have been jealous at all the different Pinkberry flavours I can get here in Los Angeles that are not available in London or at Bluewater, so I wanted to let you know that one of my favourite new flavours, Chocolate Hazelnut which tastes like a rather deliciously light Nutella, is now available in the UK until March 2013! They have some great custom made topping combos to go with it too, and if you download the loyalty card on the Pinkberry UK Facebook Page you can get your 4th Chocolate Hazelnut Pinkberry free - let me know what you think of the new flavour!
7. Typical LA palm trees down a street off of 3rd Street somewhere between Hollywood and Thai Town. | 8. My first, totally delicious taste of Korean Barbecue. | 9. Baking seasonal Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookies out of the Joy The Baker Cookbook. | 10. Working on one of my term papers. My annotations always look better when they are in pretty colours! | 11. A delicious duck hot dog with onions and French Mustard in a pretzel role at Fritzi Dog at The Original Farmers Market in Beverly Hills. | 12. Shooting Chorizo, Chickpea and Spinach stew for an upcoming blog post.

What have you been enjoying this week, and what have you got planned for the weekend? Unfortunately  I have essays to finish this weekend, but I might go get a hair cut and my ends are in desperate need of some TLC!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Holiday Gift Guide: For The Total Foodie

Welcome to the first instalment of this years holiday gift guides! As some of my older readers will know, each year I do them by themes, depending on what sort of person you're buying the gifts for. This year I am putting together this guide, for The Total Foodie, a guide for The Bookworm in your life, The Globetrotter, for people you know who love to travel, and for The Londoner as I know that is where the majority of my readers are from, and there are so many things like cute Oyster Card holders and gift certificates to places you can't find outside of London that are too great to just pass over. Over on The Glossy Guide, today I have also posted a roundup of what I think are the best beauty gift sets on the market this year in both the UK and the USA.

Hotel Chocolate Cocoa Powder: £5 / $10, Joe & Stephs Gingerbread Popcorn: £2.99, Emma Bridgewater Christmas Edition Biscuit Tin: £15, Larder Box Subscription: £55 (3 months), £99 (6 months) or £198 (12 months), Raisthorpe Manor Shoot Shots Sloe Gin: £22.95, The Joy The Baker Cookbook: £10.49 / $14.20, Tala Icing Bag Set: £8.99 / $24

I know Cocoa Powder from Hotel Chocolate might seem like a strange gift, but if the person you're shopping for is a total foodie who loves to bake I'll promise you that the gift will be really, really appreciated  With some recipes you can't tell, but things you bake where cocoa powder really takes on a strong flavouring job, like brownies, a better quality cocoa is something you can really taste, but who actually wants to buy £5/ $10 bags of cocoa for themselves? it will give them something to bake with when they fill tis lovely Christmas themed Emma Bridgewater cookie tin. My mother has one of these with an all year around harvest apple print and it is an incredible cookie tin, it really seals and has a special lid that helps keep things fresh. 

As far as other edible gifts are concerned, I know this Gingerbread Popcorn is from Joe & Steph's Easter Collection, but who has gingerbread at Easter instead of at Christmas anyway? Besides, anyone who loves a good hit of ginger will appreciate this at any time of year. Something for me that I do really associate with Christmas is homemade Sloe Gin. While I have not got any this year (though I do plan on making more next year, and posting the recipe and a guide) we used to bottle it up for gifts, so I know it is well received; so maybe if you're stuck for what to buy one of your guy friends, this bottle of Sloe Gin from Raisthorpe Manor will hit the spot while supporting British business at the same time? Both of these edible treats actually come from a site I have been browsing for a few months, and I can't wait to order from when I return to the UK, featuring some amazing great British and gourmet food choices: Love Your Larder. They also run a amazing looking subscription service called Larder Box, where you can get every month for £19.95 you can get a selection box of gourmet foods to try sent you your house (it is like a Glossybox for foodies). Rose reviewed it when it first launched if you want to hear more about it or see some more pictures, and they also offer gift subscriptions which I think would make a wonderful gift, options above. 

Finally, I just needed to include The Joy The Baker Cookbook I reviewed a few weeks ago in this list, because now I have baked more out of it I have to say it is simply one of the best baking books I have had in a very long time, full of wonderfully sweet and easy to make treats that I think every keen baker would be amiss not to have on their shelf! Alternatively  you could buy it for yourself and make food gifts from the book like Joy's Peppermint Chocolate Chip Marshmallows to give as food gifts. You could also make up some bottles of my Homemade Herb Infused Olive Oil to give as a gift to your foodie friends too. 

What are you planning on buying for your foodie friends this season? Remember to look out for my next three instalments of my gift guides over the coming days!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Home Inspiration: Jewellery Storage

As far as accessorising is concerned, I never used to be one for jewellery - I barely owned any, but what I did own were small, classic pieces which I am pretty sure that I will own for ever. Then I discovered the joy that were statement necklaces, and my collection exploded. I gained so many cool finds that jumped out at me, both fashion pieces and some more classic finds that will look good with practically everything season after season. As my new 'thing' seems to be picking up unusual things at flea markets, I decided to turn to The Coveteur for a bit of inspiration unique ways to store and display my ever expanding collection in style.
statement display
I own quite a few statement necklaces, but the one that sparked it all, the white jewel bib I picked up at a Hobbs sample sale for £1 which has been featured in countless of my outfit posts remains my all time favourite, and I love the idea of having a necklace display bust on my dresser so it can take pride of place. 
Mary_Kate_Steinmiller-12-full necklace tree
I actually have a necklace tree on my dressing table at my parents house in England. It was originally a silver chrome utensil tree I rescued from the masses of packaging we threw when we first kitted out the kitchens in the holiday cottages at the end of Spring when we were getting ready for our opening.
Nevena_Borissova-04-full floral necklace
Forget a display stand for your favourite statement jewels, just hand them over your flower vases to bring an extra bit of flair and sparkle to your every day surroundings - this one I am going to try!
J jar jewel display
I just wanted to finish with this amazingly created jar display for natural stone inspired rings and bracelets - what an amazing feature for a side table or mantle, not to forget a talking point when you have guests!

How do you store or display your jewellery? Do you like to keep it all organised away, or out for the world to see? Does anyone do anything particularly unique like store their rings in jars of sand?(!)

This is a sponsored post. To read my policy on sponsored posts, please click here.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Places To Eat In Los Angeles: Soot Bull Jeep, Koreatown

One of the brilliant things about Los Angeles, is that there are so many different cultures and nationalities squashed into one amazing city, so you really can experience something new every single day. Now, I would not really recommend Koreatown as a prime tourist destination, because there is only one (but pretty important) thing to do there: eat. This in mind, a couple of us headed out with empty stomachs (most of us were pretty hungry, which you'll see was a good thing later!) for our first ever experience of authentic Korean Barbecue. 
DSC_0584 DSC_0545
Now, Soot Bull Jeep does not look like a prime gourmet food destination from the outside, and I'm pretty sure under most circumstances, from the outside I would have never considered eating there. We got off the bus, and thought we'd wonder around until we found somewhere, but Sarah remembered she'd the name Soot Bull Jeep from the top of a food guide, so we mapped it into our iPhones and headed over. 
While you are pondering the menu of meats, soups and noodle sides, the traditional side dishes for you to eat with your barbecue arrive. My favourite of all of these has to be this dressed salad; it was mouthwatering by itself, but a perfect compliment to the meat. I will be spending a lot of time on Google to work out how to reproduce it, as I think it will make the perfect light supper in a bowl with some sliced grilled steak on top (Yes Mummy who is reading this as ever, America has turned your daughter into a steak eater!)
Your meat arrives at the table raw, and cooks in the middle of your table. Each table has a fire pit in the middle, which has a griddle placed over the top. I snapped this picture while the woman helping us with the cooking changed the griddle after our short rib and steak, and before we sampled our final meat; the chicken. 
I did not try all of the sides (I got too busy eating and forgot!) but here we have from the bottom clockwise, white onion marinated so it was sweet rather than sharp, raw garlic cloves (I'll explain in a minute), a paste I did not try, a slightly fishy, slightly meaty dipping sauce, a green leaf I did not try, marinated artichoke (or that is what we thought it was, I have now been informed by a reliable source that it is Kimchi, which is a type of fermented cabbage) and more of the sweet onion in whatever the artichoke was in. 
DSC_0558 DSC_0573
The idea in the restaurant we thought, by looking around at all the Korean-American couples and families eating there is that the raw food arrived at your table and you cooked it yourself. However, though we did keep an eye on it to make sure it did not burn, I think the woman in the restaurant saw us, realised that none of us were remotely Asian, may not have had Korean Barbecue before and took pity on us, and came over whenever our meat needed turning, and served a lot of it out to us too!
The meat was mouthwatering, and the salads were amazing, but nothing beats the combination of them together. This was a piece of the short rib, the first meat we tried, and I think if I could only eat one meat for the rest of my life it would have to be this one. It was so tender, so mouthwatering and one of the best things I have eaten in a very long time. We had chicken last, which was nice but I don't think I would order again if I went back there, but in the middle we had the steak which was also stupidly delicious. We had 5 lots of meat between the 5 of us, and we struggled, starting from a point of very great hunger, so I would say if you're hungry, order one less dish than how many of you there are, if you had a big breakfast, half.
koreanbbq DSC_0560
So, the pieces of raw garlic  Only a crazy person, or someone who was very, very terrified of getting attacked by a vampire would eat a clove or raw garlic  so we were rather unsure of why we were given bowls of the stuff, but then a Korean woman dining at the next table leaned over and explained to us how you were supposed to eat the salads in mouthfuls with the meat (there were also big leaves we used to make wraps), but more importantly that the garlic cloves were meant to be put on the barbecue to go sweet and soft.
I was still full later that night, but my first experience of Korean Barbecue was one of the very best meals I've had in a very, very long time, and when friends visit Los Angeles this will be a restaurant I'll try to take them to; there is nothing else to do in the area, but they have a car park and you can get there by bus, so if you're planning a trip to Los Angeles, or you live in the LA area Soot Bull Jeep (it is at 3136 West 8th Street) is well worth a lunchtime visit.

Have any of you tried Korean Barbecue before? Also, do any of my LA readers know any great unsung restaurants from different world cuisines you think I should make the effort to go and try out? 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Visiting Lucky Scent's Scent Bar, West Hollywood

I'd read quite a bit about Lucky Scent's scent bar in West Hollywood, and I'd planned to stop by at some point, but as I was wandering down Beverly Boulevard on Saturday afternoon and I spied it across the street, I decided I'd be amiss if I were not to stop by, check the place out, soak up the atmosphere and find myself an ideal new scent. Perfume shopping usually intimidates me somewhat, so I was curious as to how I would find a specialist perfume experience, rather than just sniffing bottles in a department store. 
scentbar1 DSC_0564
The Scent Bar stocks unique and individual fragrances from around the world. There were so many hard to find brands there, as well as so many I've never heard of before. I love that on their website you can buy little sample bottles, so you can have a play around with different fragrances too, if you can't go to the store. 
Can you imagine what it would be like to work here? Such a totally awesome, beautifully aesthetic store. I have a real thing for plain white interiors at the moment, and I love the quirky details and the exposed floor. 
DSC_0559 DSC_0586 DSC_0545
No self respecting fragrances would be complete without an array of Diptyque candles. I have not pictured it, but I stood there for about 5 minutes sniffing their new pine tree scented candle for Christmas like a mad woman. I'm quite tempted to treat myself to the miniature version to burn this holiday in my apartment to make up for the fact I won't have a real tree for the very first year ever. It smells divine.
DSC_0555 DSC_0543 DSC_0587
After taking these pictures, I sat myself down at the scent bar, and told one of the women working there that my favourte scents for fragrences were rose and vanilla, and she started walking around the store, pulling down bottles and handing me fragrances she thought I'd like. She was very, very good and while all the scents she handed me were lovely, she was bang on with the first one she gave me to try; Attar De Roses by Keiko Mecheri, a perfumer I'd never heard of before. It reminds me of Diptyque's special edition rose scent from last year, but with something deeper and spicy replacing the fresh top note. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

How To Find The Perfect Christmas & New Year Party Dress

Christmas is coming. For years, I tried to fight anything halfway festive appearing before December 1st, but save for a few moans about Target's Christmas ads appearing on television before we'd even had Halloween yet, for some reason this year I've started to embrace the Christmas spirit sooner, rather than later. This year I think I am planning the worlds most low key Christmas (more on that in a later post), but that has not stopped me window shopping what dresses I would buy if I had anything nearly festive to wear them too.
Photo by Tim Walker

I know dress shopping and shoe shopping for a certain occasion can be terrible, so while it is only the beginning to middle-ish of November, if you know you have a Christmas party where you know you have to dress to impress, I suggest you start scanning the shops now so you don't have to find something to wear in the last minute rush. Also, no one else has thought of starting to shop yet, so all the good choices will still be in the shops! I'm employing this logic with Christmas presents too this year, especially as I have to avoid the mailing rush to get my gifts from California back to England this year - I actually found my Mothers Christmas gift while I was looking for something totally different at The Grove on Saturday afternoon. 
This video from Warehouse about the stereotypical office Christmas party made me laugh. At the moment over on their Facebook page, Warehouse are running a competition to win a £500 festive wardrobe and a Return To Glory pampering session, which I'm sure I'd need if I were going out anywhere this year! It is really easy to enter, all you have to do is head over to their page and enter your details. 
Warehouse Jewel Shoulder Shift Dress: £80, Warehouse Sequin Lace Body-con Dress: £60, Warehouse Lace Panelled Mid Dress: £75, Warehouse Necklace Peplum Dress: £75, Warehouse Corset Bandeau Chiffon Dress: £70

They actually have some pretty amazing dresses this year, which are glitzy and glamorous enough for the holidays, but sophisticated enough that you could wear them for other formal or dressy events throughout the coming year. I hate just buying dresses for one event and never wearing them again - such a waste!

My personal favourite from the collection is this final velvet and mesh bodice dress with the pretty awesome feathery skirt. Unfortunately, I don't think I could pull it off, and something like the burgundy dress at the beginning of the top row would suit my style and body type better. Which of these dresses do you think would best suit you?

Have you got any Christmas or New Year party invites yet that you're going to want to splash out on a new dress for? What sort of style and colour are you thinking about wearing?

This is a sponsored post. To read my policy on sponsored posts, please click here.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Outfit Post: Seeing Skyfall & A Fairground Dress Giveaway

As classes were cancelled on Monday because of Veterans Day here in the USA, my friend Katie and I decided to go and see Skyfall; I had been getting frustrated by the fact it had already been out a week or so in England, and it only opened a few days ago here. Thank you to all my friends and family, in spite of threatening to, for not ruining it by telling me what happens! We were lucky enough to see it in the historic Fox theatre in Westwood (they have a lot of film premiers and red carpets there), but the real highlight of it all for me was the Britishness of it all. I'm not going to ruin anything, but I feel sorry for the people who saw it in London, and had to ride the District Line between Embankment and Temple on the way home after seeing the film!
Black Dress: c/o Fairground, Grey Tee: BDG, Ankle Boots: J.Crew, Military Jacket: H&M, Sunglasses: Breo, Nail Polish: Essie 'Where's My Chauffeur'

This casual afternoon look is really a mixture of new and old. First, it is an opportunity to unveil my brand new J.Crew boots that I am totally in love with, an early Christmas present from my parents. The nail polish I'm wearing is also new, from Essie's brand new Holiday 2012 collection. It is called 'Where's My Chauffeur' and I am going to feature it on The Glossy Guide soon; it excites me because it is an exact Tiffany blue. The real oldie in this look is this cotton cargo jacket I picked up in the H&M sale two Summers ago for only £10. 
skyfall1 DSC_0632
This dress, which was sent to me by the guys at Fairground (which I have layered over a plain grey BDG tee), and it is perfect the the chilled, laid back vibes that have been creeping their way into my wardrobe since I moved out here. Having a tan, especially on my legs must be changing me, as I usually would not wear something this short in England (it might also be a temperature thing, it is November after all!)  
The guys at Fairground have been kind enough to offer one of my readers the chance to choose anything they want from their lookbook! This giveaway is open worldwide, and I will announce the winner on my Twitter page on December 1st. I've decided to try and start using Rafflecopter to host giveaways, so check the box on how to enter! Leaving a comment on this post letting me know what you would choose if you won is mandatory, as is following Life Lasting PR (the guys who rep Fairground) on Facebook, but there are also a couple more things you can do to get a few extra entries!
Good luck everyone, and I just wanted to leave you with a little outtake from this outfit shoot, hopefully sharing a little bit of the beautiful Californian sunshine I am so lucky to be able to enjoy here, with all of you!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
For those of you who have already seen it, what did you think of Skyfall? I think my favourite part were the words 'Bond will be back' at the end of the film, it means we get another film to enjoy!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Improve Your Photography Skills With The Guardians Free Guide & Their Photography Masterclass

One of the most popular questions readers always have for me, which I always have the most problems answering, is how I get my photographs on my blog so clear and sharp. Is it the camera I use? Have I invested in any particular gadgets or am I super skilled in Photoshop? Well, I do have a big DSLR camera, and I do use photoshop on a few of my images, but I don't feel I am able to give hints, tips and tutorials on how to get the perfect shot, because I've always been a photographer; I know what works for me and I just do it automatically. I know I'd be hopeless at teaching a photography class as I'm not sure I could explain what I was doing. Also, I'm pretty sure I've developed hundreds of dreadful habits that should not be passed on!
Image via The Guardian

I may not be much use advising people as to their photography skills, but if you pick up the Saturday edition of  The Guardian newspaper you'll find a free 84 page photography guide with hints and tips to improve your camera work from the photography experts at The Guardian and The Observer including their Head of Photography Roger Tooth, award winning photographer Dan Chung and photography critic Sean O'Hagen.

As well as lots of hints and tips, the guide also contains seven masterclasses, each with a reader assignment where you can send your 'homework' into to be in with a chance of winning a place on a Guardian Photography Masterclass of your choice, which, by the way sounds pretty awesome! Unfortunately as The Guardian is a British newspaper, this is open to my readers living in the United Kingdom only - sorry!

What do you think of the idea of The Guardian's photography guide and masterclasses? Will you be picking up a copy of Saturday's paper and taking part in the masterclass assignments?

This is a sponsored post. To read my policy on sponsored posts, please click here.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Weekly Love: Week 121

Hello everyone! I feel like I have not blogged much in a while, as lots of the posts you have been reading have been pre-prepared, as I had my first encounter with one of the downsides of spending a year at an American university rather than a British one this year; mid-terms! Don't you just *love* exams?! I had a pretty chilled Halloween  going out for burgers for my friends 21st and watching TV with my roommates, a television session we repeated to watch the US Election results. It felt very strange to be watching, feeling detached from it all; the last time I watched results come in like that was for the the UK General Election which I'd spent months campaigning in, which really helped me get caught up in the momentum of it all. 
1. These rather spectacular (and very comfortable) new ankle boots I'm modelling on the Santa Monica #2 bus are from J.Crew. | 2. Halloween is for junk food, so we went to grab some pretty great burgers and their epically large portions of fries at 5 Guys. It was a very good burger, but I'm not sure if I love it as much as my beloved In-N-Out? I also tried traditional American Candy Corn - nice, but so sickly after more than one or two pieces! | 3. All of the things I'm going to cook from my brand new Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Considering I've dropped a jean size since moving to LA with all the walking I've been doing, oh dear... | 4. My first (of what I think will be many) Jamba Juice. Remind me why I waited 3 months to try this LA gem? | 5. Deb from Smitten Kitchen doing a demonstration at her book signing in Beverly Hills. | 6. It has been a fortnight of firsts, this was my first Yogurtland on a hot day as a post mid-term treat. I don't think I like the yogurt as much as I like Pinkberry, the flavourings are too artificial, but they have good toppings and I like how you serve yourself.

The third edition of my Project LA" column for The High Tea Cast is now online; part one of my talking about my experience of rushing an American Sorority at UCLA at the beginning of the school year! Also, speaking of The High Tea Cast, tickets for their annual charity blow out, Sex, Mugs & Rock 'N' Roll in London are on sale for £8 - I really wish I could go, and from what I hear from Sam and Lea it is going to be a really great night - Londoners, don't miss out! 
7. Homemade meatballs. Just because. | 8. Not a great photo, but a little capture of the incredible view from the rooftop of The London Hotel on the Sunset Strip. It was the first time I'd ever see the whole of Los Angeles spread out in front of me, lit up at night and it was simply magical. I was up there as a guest of HTC for the launch of their new Windows Phone 8X/ their Movember kick off party. The new phone is pretty awesome, I did not get much of a play with it but what I did determine is that it comes in some pretty amazing colours, has a really good, big screen and as a totally awesome camera with some great angles, aspects and effects unlike any camera I have seen on a phone before - well worth consideration if you're looking into a new phone. I know lots of you may be questioning why I, the self confessed Apple freak is plugging a Windows phone, but I'm not actually a big fan of the iPhone 5, and I can't stand the Samsung Galaxy - my Dad has one and it irritates me! | 9. Deliciously amazing fries at The Original Farmers Market in Beverly Hills.

What have you been enjoying this week, and what have you got planned for the (extended over Veterans Day if you are in the USA) weekend? I'm hoping to head over to The Grove and The Original Farmers Market at some point, make a start on some of my long essays for university and my friend Katie and I are planning on trying to catch a screening of Skyfall in Santa Monica - I'm so upset it only came out yesterday in the US while everyone back home have already seen it - thank you for not spoiling it for me though, everyone! 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Make Your Own Leftover Herb Infused Olive Oil

Today I thought I'd share with you a little tasty kitchen trick I've developed to use up fresh herbs before they go off in the fridge. The problem I have, is that most fresh herbs come in big packs, and the only herb I use enough of to be able to use up a whole pack is Basil, which I have a fresh pot of by the kitchen sink. While I try to use as much as possible in my cooking, for example last week I purchases Thyme to go in a soup, and I later had it in a pasta sauce, meatballs and in biscuits and I only just managed to use the package up. This can be a massive problem for people living by themselves, or even just cooking for two people. 
Herb Infused Olive Oil
I was in The Container Store (I do not know how I managed to survive in England without this amazing store) looking for something to ship a birthday gift in, and I stumbled across this lovely little olive oil bottle for only about $3, and I thought to myself, why can't I infuse leftover herbs in there with some extra virgin olive oil to make my own herb infused oil? (Or, something along those lines; my stream of consciousness is nowhere near as lucid as that!) The whole thing is pretty easy. Choose a bottle that suits the size you want (there is only one of me, so I chose this really little bottle), I'd recommend looking for one in The Container Store if you live in the USA, or at Lakeland if you're in the UK. When you have some herbs to use up (sprig herbs will hold up best), just bung them in the bottle and top up with the best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can afford. Allow to infuse for at least a week before using, but leave for as long as you can beforehand for best results. You can add herbs over time, and when you get the the bottom of your oil, fish them out and start again to always have a good flavour, and to make more room for fresh herbs. I only have thyme in there at the moment, but I brought some rosemary to make some focaccia at the weekend, so no doubt I'll be adding some of that soon too!

If you get a bottle that can be stopped tight, or has a screw top I thing these would make lovely gifts too, which is great if you're thinking of giving some handmade Christmas favours this year (that is my plan for next Christmas when I'm back in England and I don't have to think about making gifts post friendly!) 

What are your hints and tips for using up leftover fresh herbs? I really want to try making a herb butter!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

DIY: Tissue Paper Tassel Garland

You know those pretty paper garlands that you see on blogs, on Pinterest and behind Emily Schuman's desk in her book Cupcakes & Cashmere? I've been wanting to make one for years, so I decided yesterday in between classes to try my hand at making one. I think now I have got the hang of it, I am going to make one for my blue room at my parents house out of Tiffany blue tissue and metallic silver paper, and maybe a festive Christmas coloured one to hang where this one is currently in these photos to brighten the place up a bit in December? 
This garland actually now has its home above my bed, but as Emily and I's room is rather dark I thought I'd showcase my handiwork for you all on our mantle, along with my lone hydrangea blossom in a mason jar. 
DSC_0639 DSC_0561
All you need to make one of these yourself is some string or twine, some sticky tape, a pair of scissors and some sheets of tissue or thin metallic paper. One sheet makes one tassel so you need the amount of sheets you would want tassels. I opted for six, but the space above my bed is pretty small, so I'd try about 9?
Fold your paper twice, top to bottom, then left to right. Place the longer folded edge at the top, and the other folded edge to your left. Start cutting 1cm strips from this side, leaving about an inch attached at the top. 
Once you have cut all the strips, carefully unfold the tissue so there is a spine down the middle. Place the bottom of the spine in front of you and tightly roll the spine up into one roll (see below).
Seal the roll with tape and fold it over to form one tassel. Repeat with each piece of your tissue, then hang the loops over about two metres of your string or twine. Attach to the string and stick the loops at even intervals with strips of tape cut down the middle to make them really thin. 
Now, hang your garland somewhere you want to add a little colour or festivity to - let me know what colours you make yours, and I'd love to see any photos of garlands make using this DIY!