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Look!!! Wearing double denim causes levity... 

Boyfriend jeans by Gap (in white)
Denim shirt by ASOS
Sweater by & Other Stories
Brogues by Clarks
Sunglasses by Ray Ban
Watch by Bell & Ross

When Emma Watson is gracing the front cover of Elle, April 2014 in a Balmain double denim ensemble it's clear we need to take a closer look at this tricky trend. Doing double denim is nothing new, it was a stone cold fox look for a generation of women in the 1970's; but how to wear it in a modern sense?

I will advocate steering clear of skinny jeans for this look (unless you have legs like Karlie Kloss in which case go for it), opt instead for a boyfriend cut or wide-leg jeans that you can roll up above the ankle. If you're convinced you can channel your inner Farah without inciting mockery a seriously sexy bootcut could work for you, but on the whole I remain unconvinced. 

Distressed denim works brilliantly for this trend as does an oversized borrowed from the boys style chambray shirt scruffily half tucked into the jeans. Most of the people I've seen wearing this successfully are pairing a very pale denim shirt with darker jeans, adding leopard print accessories or shoes works well particularly if they are the flat slip on variety currently so en vogue. If you must wear heels keep them classic to elevate the look and consider matchy-matchy accessories, an over the top heel will destroy the undone vibe this look should achieve.

Do we DD?

Look!!! Wearing double denim causes levity...  Boyfriend jeans by Gap (in white) Denim shirt by ASOS Sweater by &am...
Sunday, 30 March 2014

 You've heard the expression that revenge is best served cold. Well, so is this cake. Just look at it, oozing sticky sweet caramel, packed with bananas and whipped double cream, not to mention the peanut buttercream frosting topped with caramelised peanuts. I'm gaining weight just looking at it. This cake is a showstopper. It's the one you make to silence your mother-in-law. It's the one you make when jaws need to drop. It's the one you gift to a frenemy two weeks before a camera loaded event... this is a sweet cake for mean girls. But before you drop this cake bomb be warned, it tastes phenomenal and once you've tried it self-sabotage is the only possible outcome.

You will need:
100g softened unsalted butter
250g unsalted peanuts
100g honey
200g light brown muscovado sugar
8 ripe bananas (700g peeled weight) 4 mashed and 4 sliced
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3 eggs (separated)
25g peanut butter
225g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
3 tbsp caramel or toffee sauce
150ml double cream, whipped

For the peanut buttercreamfrosting:
50g softened unsalted butter
100g peanut butter
150g icing sugar
2tbsp double cream

Preheat the oven to 180ºC
Bake time is 45 minutes
Prepare two cake tins and line the base of each with baking parchment.

Toast the peanuts in a pan (do not add oil or butter) until they are golden turning and tossing them regularly then set them aside. On a low heat in a non-stick pan gently heat together 75g of honey and 75g of sugar until they have melted and dissolved into each other, the colour should be deep caramel. Tip the peanuts in and stir until they are fully coated then transfer to a tray lined with parchment paper to cool completely. Once cooled blitz them in a food processor or smash to pieces with a rolling pin.

In a separate bowl cream the butter with the remaining 125g of sugar and 25g of honey until fluffy, beat in the mashed banana, lemon juice, egg yolks and peanut butter. Once combined add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir until incorporated.  Finally add 3/4 of the caramelised peanuts keeping some of the larger pieces for decoration.

In a separate clean bowl whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks then carefully fold the egg whites into the cake batter until it is fully combined.

Divide the batter equally between two cake tins and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Do not open the oven door for the first 35 minutes of the bake. This is a dense cake and it will not rise properly/ will sink if the humidity and temperature change suddenly half way through the bake.

Allow the cake to cool for five minutes in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully. Remove the parchment paper when you transfer the cake to a wire wrack.

To make the buttercream whisk together the butter, peanut butter and icing sugar until it is light and fluffy, then slowly add the double cream while continuing to whisk.

To assemble place the lower cake on a cake stand, layer with caramel, sliced bananas and whipped cream. Gently place the other cake on top and spread the buttercream over the top. Decorate with the remaining caramelised peanuts and if you're going to eat it that day the rest of the sliced bananas.

Enjoy as you see fit.

*With thanks to Waitrose Kitchen magazine for the recipe.

Caramelised Peanut Banoffee Cake

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Blouse by Topshop (in creampale duck egg blue, petite and maternity)
Trousers by Zara (old)
Shoes by ASOS
Coat from Anthropologie (sold out, but I love this Zara one and this M&S peacoat)
Clutch by By Malene Birger from Feather & Stitch (sold out everywhere)
Necklace from Accessorize (this one is a great alternative)
Watch by Michael Kors (on sale)
Sunglasses by Marc by Marc Jacobs
All other jewelry is old

Believe it or not there is something of a 'travelling pants' history to these trousers. I bought them years ago on sale at Zara, then they sat unworn in my closet for over two years because fairly soon after I bought them, I fell pregnant with Bella. Two years later just as I was about the right size to get back into them Bear was in the oven. I decided enough was enough, these fabulous trousers had to get out and have their day, so I gifted them to my sister. Fast forward another couple of years and I find they've made their way back to me and I am rediscovering them in a big way. I love the oversized, borrowed from the boys look that's in style, plus this style of trouser is the perfect antidote to skinny jean fatigue. This Topshop blouse is on repeat at the moment, it seems to go with everything! I may have to get it in blue too.

It Ain't No Slouch

Friday, 28 March 2014

 We've all heard it said 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' yet five days out of seven (school mornings) I find myself skipping this meal and opting instead for a strong cup of tea. Last week Bella asked me why I insist they sit down to eat breakfast every morning when I do not. It was a wake up call (pardon the pun). I want to promote healthy eating habits at home so this week rather than preparing Bella & Bear's breakfast, grabbing my tea and flying back upstairs to take a shower I've been sitting down and enjoying the first meal of the day. It's been great, every morning feels like a Saturday.

This breakfast bowl contains greek yoghurt, red grapes, blackberries, strawberries, grape nuts (for crunch) and orange blossom honey. It's a great way to kick start your metabolism first thing in the morning.

The Breakfast Cheat

Thursday, 27 March 2014
Skirt by Alice & Olivia (old, similar available in blue here and white here)
Sweater by Florence & Fred
Shoes by Clarks
Bag by Hoss (old)
Watch by Michael Kors
All jewelry is old

Emma has got her skirt on,
Emma has got her skirt on,
And she's coming out to play... lol x

The moment I saw this sun-spirational skirt from Alice & Olivia I fell in love; it was a heart stopping sensation but two years on I am still so happy with the decision to add it to my wardrobe. The first time I wore it a woman stopped me on the London Underground a.k.a the tube (people do not make eye contact on the tube let alone speak to each other) to compliment me and ask where it's from and ever since it has been garnering praise and admiring glances wherever it goes.

Sadly this particular skirt is no longer available for sale but with midi and maxi-skirts having a major moment right now there are plenty of alternatives to be found. Chiffon pleats are a wonderful way to wear a skirt long as the vertical creases pull the eye down the body breaking up blocks of colour making it easier to wear; plus the movement achieved when the material is in motion is both sassy and sexy, while remaining elegant.

I always wear this skirt with flats. In summer it's sandals but during spring I choose brogues and this pair by Clarks have become an instant favourite. They go with everything and I'm enjoying playing around with the matchy-matchy look by pairing them with this F&F sweater.

Anna Anna Bo Banna BANANA Fanna...

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Cut flowers have a natural ability to soften, lighten and bring freshness to interior space.
Wherever I live I plant tulips en masse. I love to watch the flowers glow in bright spring sunlight or against moody skies. They also have a very personal meaning for me. My Dad would plant them under my window every single year growing up, it's a reminder of the flowers he brought Mum on the day I was born, perfect white tulips. These viridiflora tulips look beautiful blooming in the back border, but I think they look even better brightening up the dresser in an antique vase.

If you're planning to give your mum flowers this Sunday (it's mother's day after all) and you don't have a garden bursting with flowers in bloom I suggest taking a peek at the beautiful bouquets on offer at Waitrose, they are simple to order in advance online and delivery is free.

Cut Flower Series: Tulips & Mother's Day Bouquets

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Skirt by River Island
Shirt and socks by ASOS
Blazer by Ann Taylor (old, similar here)
Shoes by Zara (sold out)
Bag by Whistles
Watch by Bell & Ross
Necklace by River Island (similar here)
Sunglasses by Marc by Marc Jacobs
Bangle by Stella & Dot, all other jewelry is old

Sing it with me folks... "bend over let me see you shake your tail feather, bend over let me see you shake your tail feather, come on let me see you shake your tail feather, come on let me see you shake your tail feather, oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhh.... TWIST IT!!!"

(To hear the song click here)

This skirt from River Island just screams fun. The pale blush pink feathers are so soft it's impossible to keep from running your hands over the plumes; the black elasticated waistband adds structure (and thankfully an extra inch or so) to the skirt. With so much frivolity in one key piece of this outfit I wanted to keep the rest of the look quite prim. If over the knee socks are one step too far into the 'Clueless' revival for you, tights will work just as well. Choosing low-heeled shoes will help to take some of the flirt out of the feathers for the office, oh and contradictory to the song it's probably best not to bend over...

Linking up to: Visible Monday, Funday Monday

Le Plumage

Monday, 24 March 2014

I've heard more than a few people say they've had no luck at all making french macarons, that they don't rise, or they stick to the sheet, or they are not uniform circles after baking... so they have a reputation as being difficult to make but trust me, if I can succeed with these so can you. Here are some basic pointers to help you with your baking and a few links to some wonderful online resources I have used to perfect my macarons.

Let the egg whites rest for 24 hours in the fridge
  • It is imperative to separate the egg whites and let them rest and age before using them to make macarons.
  • Separated egg whites will keep for up to five days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature when baking
  • Macarons are fussy little fancies and the egg whites will not behave properly if they are cold when whisked. This can result in the batter being overly wet in which case it will not form a crust or will not rise and form a proper foot in the oven.
The whisked eggs and sugar mix should be thick enough to stay in the mixing bowl if you turned it upside-down above your head.
  • Over or under mixing the egg whites is the main cause of macaron fail. 
  • Using a cold stainless steel bowl helps (I couldn't tell you why the eggs just seem to like it). 
  • If the peaks are floppy continue whisking until they are firm.
  • If the mix become lumpy (over whisked) add an extra aged egg white, whisk until the peaks are smooth then remove 1/4 cup of the whisked whites to return to the correct recipe proportions.
Other problems encountered when egg whites won't behave...
  • Yolk in the whites - there can not be even a teeny-tiny bit of yolk in the whites. It will not work, the only outcome is disaster.
  • Grease in the mixing bowl or on mixing equipment - everything that comes into contact with the egg whites must be completely clean and free of grease.
The art of macronage (otherwise called folding the almond and sugar mix into the whites)
  • Beaten egg whites contain a lot of air. You need to push the air out of the mix by firmly folding (not mixing) the dry and wet ingredients together.
  • The consistency of the mixed batter should be slightly thick but not runny, with no lumps of dry ingredients. If you hold the spatula above the bowl and the batter slowly drips off the spatula then sinks back into the batter you've got it right. Picture a lava lamp and how it all amalgamates at the bottom, smooth but viscous.

The shells cracked
  • The oven temperature was probably too high. Perfect macarons prefer a longer bake at a lower temperature, oven temperature readings and actual temperature achieved can vary from oven to oven, try to get to know how your oven works; 140ºC to 160ºC is ideal for baking macarons.
  • Under or over mixed batter. Too much air (under mixed batter) means the macarons will dry out too quickly in the oven leading to cracked shells. Runny batter (over mixed) means the balance between wet and dry ingredients is not correct. This could be due to food colouring, flavouring or fresh egg whites being used.
  • Humidty effects macarons in the oven, try propping open the oven door with a wooden spoon, this can also help improve air circulation.
Hollow shells
  • The piped out batter rested for too long, forty minutes to an hour is ample time any more and the batter can dry out.
  • Oven temperature set too high.
  • Over beaten egg whites.
Sticky shells on the bottom of the macaron foot
  • Undercooked macarons, allow the next batch to cook for longer at a slightly lower temperature.
  • Allow the macarons to cool completely before trying to lift them of the baking parchment.
  • Double up the baking parchment, this also helps the crown and foot of the macaron to form.
Uneven shells or burst feet
  • The oven temperature is set too high.
No crown or foot
  • The batter was too runny or over mixed. This is usually down to a problem with the egg whites but can also be attributed to a low oven temperature or adding too much food colouring or flavouring. Try leaving out the flavouring from the shells and put all the flavour into the ganache. Your macarons will still pack a flavoursome punch.
  • No resting period allowed or too long resting.
I hope this had given you a few pointers on how to tackle problems when baking macarons. In spite of all the do's and dont's they really are worth learning how to bake and when it all comes together the sense of achievement is wonderful, not to mention the taste! I've listed the best online resources I've found and referred to in my quest to bake perfect macaroons below, if you have any other problems or queries the answers are probably on this site.

Food Nouveau - the ultimate macaron troubleshooting guide
Food Nouveau - an illustrated step-by-step guide to making macarons

Happy baking!

Trouble Shooting French Macarons

Sunday, 23 March 2014

It's been a few weeks since I treated myself to a batch of these delicious French fancies and you to another mouth watering macaron recipe. There's a lot to be said for the expression 'practice makes perfect' because each time I make macarons I am finding that they come out just a little better than the time before. These little beauties with their delicate orange flavour are so exquisite I'm making them again tomorrow (because I ate them all already... hangs head.)

Begin as usual by separating the egg whites at least 24 hours prior to baking. They will keep in an airtight container for up to five days in the fridge. Allow the egg whites to return to room temperature before you begin the recipe.

You will need:

For the shells:
2 large eggs (separated)
60g ground almonds
110g confectioners' sugar
20g castor sugar
Orange food colouring
1 tbls Essence of Orange Blossom

For the ganache:
2 eggs
50g turbinado sugar (brown cane sugar is an acceptable alternative)
1 heaped tsp of cornstarch
Juice of 2 oranges
20g butter (softened and diced)

To make the ganache beat the eggs and turbinado sugar together in a large mixing bowl. When combined add the cornstarch and orange juice and mix well. Pour the liquid into a saucepan, cook on a low heat stirring continuously until the liquid begins to thicken, at which point add the butter and continue stirring until it has dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the hob and allow the ganache to cool before chilling it in the fridge until it is slightly viscous. Once chilled pipe the ganache onto half of the macaron shells and top with a matching shell. Chill the assembled macarons for at least one hour before serving, over night it better. The flavour is especially intense if you bring them out of the fridge 30 minutes prior to serving.

To make the shells combine the confectioner's sugar and ground almonds in a food processor. Grind them for a minute or two, then push the mix back into the centre of the processor and grind for a further minute. Sieve the powder into a bowl. Don't try and force any large bits through the sieve as this will make your mixture heavy and the macarons lumpy. Transfer to a baking tray and cook in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes at 150ºC. Allow to cool.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until the start to form soft peaks, then add gradually add the castor sugar until the peaks are firm and glossy. Sieve the cooled almond and sugar mix over the egg whites and fold in gently with a silicone spatula. Add a few drops of orange food colouring and the essence of orange blossom and continue to fold in until the colour is evenly dispersed. 

Transfer the mix to a piping bag and pipe out uniform circles about 4 to 4.5cm across onto a baking tray  lined with baking parchment. Try to create an even number of circles. Let the mix stand for 40 minutes to an hour (or until a crust has formed on the surface) then cook for 10 to 12 minutes at 150ºC.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. If the shells seem a little stuck to the paper try trickling a tiny bit of water between the tray and the parchment paper, not too much though or the macarons will become soggy.

Assemble the macarons and enjoy your delicious treats, or gift them to a friend... if you can.

Orange Blossom Macarons

Saturday, 22 March 2014
As soon as the days start getting longer my salad cravings start. I could eat salad and sushi all summer long and never get bored. This is mainly due to the fact that I have a fantastic book by Patricia Wells called "Salad as a Meal". I've been following the recipes inside for two summers now and my personal favourite is a lobster and apple salad... just perfect enjoyed with a glass of crisp, ice cold chablis.

Back to today though, this salad is a doddle to put together yet still packed with flavour. To begin toast a generous handful of pumpkin seeds in sesame oil or olive oil if that's what you have. Chop letttuce, buffalo mozzarella and sweet vine ripened tomatoes and place on a plate. Sprinkle the warm pumpkin seeds over the top, drizzle balsamic glaze over the salad and top with prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Toasted Pumpkin Seed & Prosciutto Salad

Friday, 21 March 2014
Sweater by & Other Stories
Cropped trousers by & Other Stories
Heels by ASOS
Scarf by Margit Brandt (gifted by Feather & Stitch, this is a great alternative)
Watch by Bell & Ross
Beaded clutch by Anthropologie (old)
Earrings (old)

Everything about this outfit makes me smile. The bold monochromatic stripes of the cropped trousers (that are the deepest navy, not black), the heavy gauge knit of the candy pink cotton sweater, the snug warm feeling around my neck from the soft Margit Brandt scarf, the smooth texture of the beaded clutch against my palm and those heels pitched at a perfect height to wear all day with ease. This outfit is going to be on repeat this spring but I'll wear brogues or white flat slip ons for the school run and this black rucksack for days out.

Candy Striper

Thursday, 20 March 2014
Last weekend I spent a glorious Sunday wandering around the gardens of RHS Wisley in Surrey with Bella & Bear. It's a short drive for me and at this time of year I always feel a pull to visit. Maybe it's the lengthening sunlight hours or the brazen flashes of yellow daffodils from every grass verge, but something calls me to go seek out spring. At this time of year in Devon I crave rampant nature, secluded walks, wild rivers and beaches with rock pools that change with each tide, but when in London I find my longings are more reserved; I want to see perfectly groomed lawns, neatly clipped box, tulips by the bucket load and magnolia, oh how I love magnolia. 

There's something a little naughty, even erotic about a magnolia in full bloom (it's not sweet and pretty like cherry blossom), it's vibrant, rugged and a blatant show. Magnolia are one of very few trees to flower without first putting on some leaves, it's like it's standing there saying 'Yep. This is me. I'm totally naked, but look... I got these!' So, because it's a tree and not a vile flasher you go to take a peek and wow, frankly nearly loose an eye on the sturdy stamen hidden within the silk-like petals. I have to say it's an unusual twist for uninitiated gardeners to find this fine looking protuberance in such an unexpected place. It brings to mind a comedy sketch where the beauty at the bar is not all she seems to be... so there you are, Magnolia the pre-op transexuals of the horticultural world. It's amazing where your mind can go while you're wandering around a garden.

If you dare to go further here is what we saw.

 The Lily Pond
Magnolia (close up)
Magnolia (close up)
Magnolia flowering on branches
 Trachycarpus fortunei under bare branches 
Cherry Blossom under the bluest spring sky
Perfect Tulips
 Phalaenopsis orchid in the glasshouse
Bella & Bear by the lily pond
Bella wears:
Skirt by Florence & Fred
Leggings by H&M (old)
Boots by Clarks (sold out)
T-shirt & fleece were gifts

Bear wears:
T-shirt and denim shorts by Florence & Fred
Shoes by Clarks (sold out)
Jacket is a wonderful hand-me-down from a dear friend

Seeking out adventures...

Weekend Wanderings

Wednesday, 19 March 2014
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