THE GIFTS

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

As we all know, Christmas is about family, about food, about the birth of Baby Jesus... But the presents are, obviously, a major perk, and oh me, oh my, once again I have been very spoiled by the Three Fs: Family, Friends, and Father Christmas...

Here they are, in all their glory... (And pssst, if you have major envy, lots of them are now in the sale...)


1. Glamouriser Professional Digital Ultralight Power Hairdryer - because I now (hopefully) have enough hair to actually use me one of these!

2. Racoon Onesie from Topshop.  Because sometimes I need to wash my Kigu and I'll be damned if I'm going to wear actual clothes while it's drying...

3. Lomography LC-A+ Silverlake - I totally fell in love with the LC-A+ when I got to try one out at Loblography in June. My lovely Ma, remembering this, picked up this little beauty for me.

4. X-Vibe Speaker - this is seriously cool. It's a teeny tiny device that you plug in to your phone/iPod, stick onto your window/fridge/table/whatever, and it turns the whole thing into a speaker. Wooow.

5. Lomography Films - so that I can actually take pictures with my pretty camera, instead of just pretending.

6. Russell and Bromley Berkley Lace-Up Ankle Boots - I get a pair of R and B's every Christmas. Which is useful, as I've almost certainly worn the previous year's offering so much by that stage that they're held together with hope and hairspray.

7. ASOS Fur Ears Headband - it's amazing and hilarious and keeps my (actual) ears warm.

8. Lucky Charms - for the sugar-rush.

9. Fluff - ditto.

10. Michael Kors Rose Gold Watch - I have wanted one of these for so, so long, and (seemingly like everyone else on the blogosphere!) have finally gotten my mitts on one. It's huge though, I need to pop into a jewellers and get it resized before I can actually wear it.

11. Lazy Oaf Batman Leotard - Big Brother: "Never, never wear this outside the house." Me: "I'm going to wear it always."

12. Joseph Texture Knit Roll Neck Sweater - It has tassels. And a huge lovely roll neck. And it's made out of alpaca. I'm going to marry it when I grow up.

13. Jo Malone Blackberry and Bay Cologne - to add to my ever-growing collection. A gift from Middle Brother. No one was sure if I was more flabbergasted or delighted.

14. River Island Skirt - absurdly flattering if there are any of my small waist/sizable arse sisters out there!

15. Clinique Anti-Blemish Foaming Cleanser - one of those practical stocking fillers, because I'd run out. I use the three-step solution and I'm pretty sold on it.

16. Chanel Le Vernis Rouge Noir - the most beautiful nail varnish I've ever owned. I will show you just as soon as I get my Shellac off.

17. Clinique High Impact Extreme Volume Mascara - I was converted onto this in the Summer. It is so, so great. Hands down the best Mascara I have ever used. Seriously. It's like crack for your eyelashes. 

I know, I know. I am spoiled rotten. I'll be slowly slowly posting about most of the bits in more detail, but if, in the meantime, you see a girl dressed as Batman but wearing wolf ears, running around taking very bad pictures on a very cool camera, come and say hi!

What was your favourite present this year?

Mona.

FIRST DATE

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Hi Cool Cats,

I went on a first date the other night. I met the guy at a party, and he texted and invited me to Winter Wonderland. It was very short notice, and I know that a girl's supposed to play it cool, and all, but I really bloody love Christmas - any invitation that involves fairground rides and mulled wine, and I'm in.

Attention, boys, if there are any of you reading. Winter Wonderland is a very good first date location. Why, you may ask? Well, there's a lot going on there, with rides, games, food, drink, shops, and music, so you're very unlikely to run out of things to talk about and be left with awkward silences. If she's a Christmas loving kinda gal (and I'm sorry, but if she isn't then I'm not really sure why you're trying to date her anyway) she will think it was brilliant, and hold you responsible for an evening of festive fun. It is very nearly a guaranteed 10/10 date.

Unless this happens.

Getting stuck on a ride. Yes, that actually happened. 
I couldn't find an appropriate image to use, so I thought I'd just draw you a picture of it. But yes, our fairground ride got stuck for a good five or ten minutes, leaving us suspended in mid air, pretty chilly, and with me feeling a tad uncomfortable. It was a bit of a tight squeeze, if you know what I mean, and the enforced "closeness" of the whole thing made my socially awkward monster rear its ugly head.

No matter, though. Nothing a few mulled wines can't handle. I didn't feel nearly as awkward as I did later in the evening. We made our way to quite a fun and noisy pub, and he kept looking at me, and then leaning in. As I said, the bar was quite noisy, so I kept assuming that he was trying to say something into my ear, and kept turning my head as he leaned in. In hindsight, he was more likely trying to kiss me, which would have been why he (a) didn't actually say anything, and (b) kept getting my hair in his mouth. This happened more times than I'd care to mention. I am just a bit slow on the uptake.

Despite my cringe-worthy behaviour, I had a really good time (SEE! What did I tell you! Winter Wonderland goggles cover a whole host of sins). Hopefully we will go for a date two, and I won't make such a noob out of myself.

I like the idea of dating a guy who has matching glasses to me. It's kind of adorkable. 

Hope you're all doing better than me at finding someone to kiss under the mistletoe!

Mona.

OREO CAKE

Thursday, 13 December 2012

One of my best friends is a girl called C. We met as awkward 11 year olds at boarding school and immediately stuck to each other like glue. On weeknights, you'd most likely have found us hiding in my dormitory, gorging on cups of tea, chocolate fudge cakes and Oreos that had been sent to us in the post. Most weekends, my Ma would take us out, either camping, or on jaunts to London for shopping and Chinese food. Every Summer, I'd fly out to visit her in Seville and Soto Grande. 

Twelve years later and C is a stylish, intelligent, poised young woman who always makes me look like a hobo by comparison. She has, however, retained both her wicked sense of humour which drew me to her in the first place, and her love of Oreos.

Inspired by The Londoner's Double Stuffed Oreo Cake, for C's birthday a few days ago, I whipped up this little thing just in time for her surprise party...


Oreo Mascarpone Icing, sandwiched between two chocolate fudge cakes. And decorated like an Oreo, because you go the extra mile with writing icing for friends, don't you? I thought it was the perfect nod to our childhoods!

It was really easy, too. In fact, the cake bit is so easy, the recipe is one that I dubbed Easy Peasy Chocolate Cake. You can find the recipe here.

In addition to that recipe, you will need:
150g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
50g mascarpone
400g icing sugar
1 bag of Oreos, smashed (but save one whole for later!)
1 lemon (at room temperature - it makes juicing much easier)
Milk
1 tube of chocolate writing icing

You guessed it. Cream the butter and mascarpone, and then stir in the icing sugar, all of the juice from the lemon, and the milk. You're aiming to get the texture a bit runnier than normal icing, as you're then going to add your smashed up Oreos, and you don't want it too thick to spread on the cake.

Separately ice your two layers of Easy Peasy Chocolate Life, and if you have one use a palette knife to make sure that the icing is really, really smooth, so that it's a perfect canvas for your writing icing artwork. 

Put your base cake on your serving dish, smother it with all of the Oreo Mascarpone Icing, pop the second cake on top, and now the fun begins...

See your teeny, tiny Oreo? Look real close, and try to copy the pattern with the writing icing.

You should be left with something that looks like this.


Now eat your spare Oreo as a reward for good behaviour.

This cake is delicious, quite impressive to those who aren't really bakers (I received two proposals of marriage at the party!), and surprisingly easy. 

And what about C, you may ask? Well, as afore mentioned, she's grown into a stylish, intelligent, poised young woman...


But she's still not above literally sticking her face into a freshly baked Oreo Cake.

And that is why I love her.

Mona.

UGLY CHRISTMAS JUMPERS

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Hi Cool Cats,

So remember how a while ago I mentioned that my Ma and I trawled through Beyond Retro looking for Ugly Christmas Jumpers? And that we wanted to get a cheesy family photo in them? Well this weekend, the whole pack of us descended on North Yorkshire (I've posted about the place we stay in before, here)  for a weekend of country walks in the snow, Christmas shopping, and watching Middle Brother playing rugby. 

All three brothers were horrified when they saw the jumpers. But that's okay. That was expected. It would have been much more worrying if they'd actually liked them.

Anyway a few of you said that you'd like to see the picture, so here it is...

All Jumpers - Beyond Retro
This is the one my Ma likes, anyway. I think that she wants to frame it. To be fair, it's quite unusual for her to get a picture where we're all smiling. You see, my brothers and I are all photo-ruiners. We can't help but to pull a bit of a weird face, if we see a lens pointing our way. Sometimes, there is perfect serendipity and we all ruin the same photo. And it is glorious.

Which is why we all think that this is the best Christmas photo.


We really want to send this one out to everyone, but my Ma thinks it's taking the joke a bit too far, and we'll all get sectioned. 

Baloo hates both the pictures, because he's dressed as Rudolph and he just didn't find the outfit becoming. He's more of a traditional dressing dog, if you know what I mean...


A weekend of snow frolicking more than compensated for ten minutes in a Rudolph suit, though. 

Family time is great. I'm feeling very fat and happy, and my tummy muscles hurt a little from laughing so much all weekend.

Anyway, time for a huge lunch and a little snooze, I think.

Hope you're having an amazing weekend!

Mona.

MONA'S EASY APPLE STRUDEL

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

[WARNING: I TEMPORARILY COMPLETELY FORGOT HOW TO TAKE PICTURES. BASICALLY ALL OF THEM ARE SUPER OUT-OF-FOCUS. THIS MAY MAKE YOUR EYES BLEED. I'M REALLY SORRY.]

Hi Coolcats,

My name is Mona and I am a strudel fiend.

A strudel binge last Christmas. I'm so attractive.
So far in life, my favourite strudel spot is in the Manchester Christmas Market (but arrive late at your peril, they always always sell out of apple really fast).

Last week, however, I was staying in the countryside far, far from a shop, let alone a Christmas Market,  so I put my cooking cap on and managed to whip up a pretty passable version without too much trouble. This is a bit of an ad-hoc recipe as I didn't actually measure anything, but it should do the trick! 


Ingredients:

10 apples, peeled, cored, and finely sliced (I used a mixture of cooking apples and regular apples)
A handful of raisins and pine nuts
A splash of apple juice
A dollop of honey
A sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg
A box of pre-made puff pastry
Some honey and water, mixed together
One egg white - if you don't know how to separate your eggs, check out this guy from the French Culinary Institute. If, like me you were addicted to that 'Cooking Academy' game way back when on the iPod touch a while back, you'll have this one in the bag already.

Let's take a second to discuss the pastry. Traditionally, strudels call for filo pastry, but it's really difficult to use, and this is an easy recipe, so not only am I using puff, it's store-bought. If you want a proper strudel recipe, click here. Mine's much easier though. And still yummy. Just saying.

Method:

(1) Peel, core, and finely slice your apples. Throw in your cinnamon, nutmeg, apple juice, honey, pine nuts and raisins. Simmer on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are softened.
(2) Once it looks like this, remove it from the heat and allow to cool. While it's cooling...
(3) Use a basting brush to cover your pastry in the honey and water mixture that you made earlier. It's a more important step when using filo pastry, but it still makes your strudel very tasty and is a healthy alternative to butter.
(4) Spread your apple mixture onto your pastry, leaving a little bit of space around the edges for rolling, and then start to roll! Fold in the two short edges, and then start rolling (long-ways) so that it looks like a giant spring-roll.
(5) Make sure all the edges are tucked in and sealed, and then brush your strudel with the egg-white so that it will crisp up nicely. Put your remaining honey and water on a baking tray, add your strudel, and pop it in the oven (180 for a normal oven for 30 mins - I was using an Aga, so 10 mins in the top right, and then 20 in the bottom). 
(6) Set your alarm a few minutes early, so that you have time to heat up some fresh vanilla custard and mull some wine. Cut up BIG slices, smother them in custard, and preferably eat in front of a roaring fire. It's probably for the best if you're wearing Christmas jumpers, too.
There you have it! Sorry again for the photo quality, but I hope that you'll find that the recipe makes up for it! And just keep remembering that with apples and raisins, it's two of your five a day!

Enjoy.

Mona.

IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE...

Monday, 3 December 2012

CHRISTMAS! Hello, December. It's been about eleven months, and I've missed you dearly. The first glass of mulled wine reminded me just how worth the wait you were. Nice to have you back with us. You may in fact be my favourite month, as it's the only time of the year where I'm allowed, nay, encouraged to eat a Lindt every morning for breakfast. And because you look like this.

We got lots of these bubble-like baubles this year, mainly because they remind me of Harry Potter's first Christmas at Hogwarts. In case you haven't been paying attention, making life that little bit more like Harry Potter is my main aim in life.

To get into the festive spirit, my Ma and I spent Friday doing some Christmas shopping, after grabbing some fortifying pancakes at the Breakfast Club in Soho. I pretty much never stray from my order when I'm there; pancakes with bacon and maple syrup (the best crispy bacon in London?  Certainly up there), a glass of fresh orange juice, and a side of berries, so that I can pretend I'm being healthy.

Resistance is futile.

After a quick scoot around Partridges to scout out some festive edibles, we headed to Liberty. As always, we started in the hat department...


... And finished next to the giant reindeer. Who I want to adopt. But he wouldn't fit in my bedroom, and I don't think that my room-mate would be that enamoured by the idea. Maybe Santa will leave him in my stocking. Fingers crossed.

Headscarf - Vintage; Trench Coat - Dolce & Gabanna; Dress - May Costume

We then went and picked up some more presents around Carnaby Street, and it's cool little sister Newburgh Street, which is fast becoming one of my favourite spots in London. You can drool over this camera there, there is a chocolate shop called Choccywoccydoodah, which is just brilliant, there are loads of ace shops for boy's gifts, if you're short of an idea or two, and it's right round the corner from my new favourite haunt, Speakeasy Espresso Bar.** Flat Whites and Portuguese custard tarts were the perfect pick-me-up after what was actually a fairly strenuous day (my Ma shops a lot, and has a slight aversion to carrying bags).

Saturday was Blogger's Christmas Lunch, organised by the wonderful Julie and Safira. This was probably the most fun of all the blogging events I've attended so far, and I will tell you all about it just as soon as someone else does, so that I can steal their pictures. 

Yesterday, I took a trip down to Berkshire as my family are having a countryside Christmas this year, and we needed to test-drive the oven and put up the tree. The dog ended up covered in glitter and tangled up in ribbons. I decided that the wreath would make quite a fetching garland. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.


My big brother managed to swing by for a couple of hours, which was an unexpected delight as he slaves away in a hospital Up North, so we don't see nearly as much of each other as I'd like. I can't wait for Middle and Little to break up from school, so that family time can properly commence. December is definitely a time best spent with loved ones, after all. 

December is also good because most of my male acquaintances desist from the awful facial hair that is wrought upon us by Movember. It's great that you're doing your bit for charity, boys, but just because you can, doesn't mean that you should. 

Please forgive my dog's demon eyes in the above shot. He's not really a minion of the Dark Lord, I promise. 

Oh December, I'm so excited for all that you have in stall for us. Bring on the mince pies, the get-togethers with my nearest and dearest, and being smug in front of a fire when it's snowy outside. 

It's going to be a good month. I can feel it. 

Mona.

* December is also good because most of my male acquaintances desist from the awful facial hair that is wrought upon us by Movember. It's great that you're doing your bit for charity, boys, but just because you can, doesn't mean that you should. 


**If you click on but one link today, make it Speakeasy Espresso Bar. They make the perfect flat white, it's surprisingly affordable, and the man John is really, really nice. And no, this isn't a sponsored post. I'm just a fan-girl.
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