Floral Prints and Sewing Chat

Shop!

 NO.1 True DecadenceXJohn Lewis/Tropical Shift Dress £37 £12
NO.2 MinkPinkXUrban Outfitters/Moonflower MaxiSkirt £60 £27.99
NO.3 Dorothy Perkins/Collared Floral Dress £32 £11.80 

SO… I’ve been bad.

Between all the final year assignments, essays and job applications, I confess I’ve been doing a liiiittle too much online shopping.

The good news is, however, I have sated my autumn obsession with floral prints, and a got myself a couple of sewing projects for (my guilty pleasure…) Monday Made in Chelsea nights.

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florals

There’s a bit of a floral theme going on with my October online-shopping spree. I think I’m finally getting in touch with my inner girly side. I’ve had a morbid fear of a) PRINTS and b) COLOUR all my life (idk), but it looks like my monochrome wardrobe is getting a flowery kick in the ass.

As per, my shopping bag this month is filled with classy bargain bin buys. In this month’s spree I’ve made two exceptions to my only-perfect-fit, and I’m hoping a cheeky needle and thread job will fix. Or 50/50 chance ruin.

I get a bit ambitious with a needle and thread.

sewing

NO. 1

This shop, I’ve been slowly altering the fab Tropical Print Shift Dress from John Lewis. The statement collar: big, bold, sharp – is just totally not for me, so I’m altering into a slight less obtrusive high-necked white band.

I’ve snipped off the collar, folded back the thick material of the remaining white neckline, and am taking a doubled thread round the inside edge with a blanket stitch. Easy-peasey!

Ta-dah.
Pre boozy Cosy Club debut.

Pre drinks debiut

NO.2 

I absolutely LOVE a sweet Peter-Pan collar, case and point the Dorothy Perkins purchase above with the cutest little rounded collar. There’s a lot to be said for a just about the knees skirt that’s long enough to be demure but wonderfully flattering.

NO.3

Is my next project: the beautiful, dreamy MinkPink x Urban Outfitters maxi skirt. The hefty £3 shipping price made me loath to click ‘confirm’, but I absolutely adore the huge moon-like flowers against the black. What you can’t see in the very sneaky UO shot is that there are two front slits. Weird and Angelina Jolie meme-esque…

Thank God a straight line of stitching even I can handle.

Love

Charlotte xx

Lemon Drizzle Cake: “Easy Peasy…”

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“Easy peasy lemon squeezy!”
– Not sure if anyone else’s family have this saying, but it’s a oldie in my house. Urban dictionary tells me it comes from an old TV commercial from when dinosaurs roamed the earth, lost even to the cataloguing power of Youtube.

So here I am in Taipei, Taiwan as I start my Year Abroad in the East, and already I’ve been doing my fair share of baking (typical!) with my girlfriends here, and in our tiny Asian-style kitchen as gifts for old family friends. This recipe is a favourite, and it’s based on one that I found by Tanya Ramsay, and have experimented with to give it a proper lemony bite; it’s a cake I’ve saved for special occasions so I can guarantee it’s a crowd pleaser!

Even if you’re a first-time baker, this is one to try, it’s very very hard to go wrong.

Have a read through the method, gather your tools, and get baking!

Ingredients:
The Cake Mix
1 lemon’s worth of zest ie. yellow of the peel grated
1/2 lemon of squeezed juice
225g self-raising flour
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs

The Drizzle
75g Caster Sugar
1 lemon’s worth of zest
1 & 1/2 Squeezed lemon juice
(pips removed, bits removed if preferred – but I like them in)

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Method:

Tip – Start by grating both lemons of their zest, then cut lemons in halves and put aside for squeezing

1. Turn on the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

2. Mix the butter and sugar either by hand or electric whisk till light and fluffy.

3. Add the eggs and beat thoroughly until the mixture is smooth.

4. Fold in the flour, grated lemon zest of one lemon and the juice of half a lemon – gently fold till mixed thoroughly.

5. Use a kitchen tissue/butter wrapping to grease the insides of the cake tin, then fill with mixture.

6. Pop in the oven for 45-50mins!

The Drizzle

– While your cake is cooking, squeeze the rest of the lemons (1 & 1/2).

– Add the sugar and the lemon zest of one lemon to the juice and set aside to steep while the cake is baking.

The Finishing Touch

– When the cake is ready, a metal skewer can be inserted and removed leaving no trace of mixture on the skewer.

– Take the cake out of the oven and pour the drizzle as evenly as possible over the cake.

– Leave to stand for approx. 15-20 mins to cool before removing from tin.

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Voilà!

Cake is ready to be served.

For any experienced bakers out there who want to experiment with a different texture to their cake, I recommend trying a pure wheat flour. I struggle to find anything other than this extremely fine version of low-gluten flour here, and it produces a very light and even bake to any cake. Try your local Asian food store and let me know what you think!

Mourne Mussel Feast

If you’re squeemish, mussels may not be the meal for you. As my grandma has always said, (and look away if you’ve got as weak appetite!) mussels look like snatters – and that’s bogeys to you non-Northern-Irish English speakers. Personally, I reckon it’d be pretty worrying if I was blowing fluorescent globs of orange out my nose; I suppose I see where she’s coming from but I’m not sure I agree. While there’s not much escaping the visceral when you’re eating meat, seafood is definitely less cute-and-relate-able than lambies.

mussels

Mussels have grown naturally in Dundrum Bay off the East coast of N.I. for hundreds of years, and my family own a rustic, weather-beaten cottage in the Mourne Mountains (no running water; no electricity; not many female visitors), the drive to which passes the bay. We’ve made it tradition to now and then stop off at a small mussel farm, the back door of which is tucked between new-built, luridly pastel seaside flats on a road pot-holed with concrete dust soupy puddles. We’re served through a gritty back-trap (between machinery that would look great on the set of a horror movie) 3kg of mussels for £5 – take that for local sourcing. I may never eat mussels in a restaurant again…

On a less bodily note, this ‘recipe’ can barely be called such, it’s so simple. We can get you from tub to table in less than 30 minutes!

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Ingredients:
White Wine – 500ml
Mussels – 3kg
Garlic – 4 Cloves, crushed
White Onions – 2, Cubed to inch sq
Pepper

Method:


1. Give the mussels a good wash and scrape seaweed/grit off with a blunt knife (your local fishmonger may have already done this for you).

2. Golden the onion pieces so they separate and add crushed garlic cloves.

3. Bring a 250ml of water to boil in a pot and add onion, garlic and pepper and bring back to boil.

4. Add the mussels and seal lid for 12 minutes.

5. After 7 minutes, check the pot – some mussels will never open because these are already dead before cooking (live mussels open in the heat and cook) so under no circumstances eat unopened or not sufficiently opened mussels – keep cooking  until nearly all of the mussels have opened

6. Plate and serve with white wine and thick-cut bread with butter to mop up the sauce!

Open fire to Open Bowl: Guest Chef Dad!

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Bon appetit all!

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Painted Prints: Does it come in acrylic?

One of the tops that stars as a style piece in my ‘She Interns‘ feature is a top that I made a long time ago, and I thought I’d take a second to give it it’s five minutes of fame. The top itself was bought it a Zara sale for £5 when I think I was about 17, but was so sheer and low cut (bought in a strange moment of complete common sense lapse that sometimes occurs when I see cheap clothes) that it got put to the back of summer drawer.

It reemerged one fateful pre-clubbing night when I was gripped by utter I-have-NO-CLOTHES-desperation, and in mad panic, I opened my acrylics that were in constant use when I was still a teen grabbed a pencil and started sketching on the fabric. The whole nautical theme was every that spring, so a quick going over with black acrylic paint – much to the bafflement of the girlfriends who (quite reasonably) didn’t quite know how to respond to, “I’ll be ready in 10, I’m painting my top” – and I made it out. Photo evidence exists, and the top looks fine; the wearer, on the other hand is happier in the past I think…

Paintbrush Magic

It’s not quite the quality of the work on the Great British Sewing Bee or Project Runway, but it just goes to prove that you really can just do it yourself.
Fancy that.

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Taiwan: Confucius Culture Weekend

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This weekend, I’ve enrolled myself into a World Youth Confucius Camp Culture weekend, to learn a little about Eastern philosophy and religion in Taiwan. Besides learning about the life and times of Confucius himself, we explore the culture that springs up around philosophical thinking: the culture of Confucianism that is prevalent in the Eastern hemisphere from learning about the architectural and decorative construction involved in Taipei’s temples, observing modern and contextual Confucian rites, to lessons on deciphering his readings, acting them and  in the modern day context.

The weekend camp runs in the early summer of each year, and is free to successful applications, so definitely check out their facebook page for details here. Besides being a fantastic introduction to Eastern philosophy, the camp gives an, albeit brief, tour overview of Taiwanese history.

Great trip!

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Taiwan: Catan Creations

A 100% home-made Travellers of Catan board. Unbelievable.

A great day of first meetings, roof-top sight-seeing and my first time playing Settlers of Catan after years and years of listening to my male friends talking about their ‘Catan Parties’ and feeling not at all slighted by the lack of invite and deciding it must be rubbish anyway; it turns out to be a great game! But I can’t tell if that’s just my exultation at beginners luck win or the sheer awesomeness of local Taipei Alabamian Council Vaughn’s incredible home-made Catan board. Little bit indicative of political leanings, if you know how the game works 😉 but the ingenuity of getting around international postage fees of these local expats makes me laugh. What a great evening!

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