Thursday, 29 November 2012

Quirky home ideas... x

Hello Lovely Blog readers...

Today I want to share some photos with you. For those people who know me outside of blogging-virual-reality, you'll know that I love interiors, home decor and the design world. I appreciate lots of different styles from country classic, rural French chic, to modern minimalism...and I think its safe to say I have a somewhat quirky style when it comes to my own home. 

My husband and I bought our cute little house in Bedford almost a year and a half ago, and since then we've been nesting...filling up our home with all the things that we love to make it 'our space'. We have a mixture of traditional, shabby chic, and modern styles, themes and ideas running throughout our rooms, and I thought you might like to see some of that today...

I'm lucky that hubby and I have very similar tastes, so there hasn't been any arguing - just a few compromises - I think my husbands mantra is "the sillier and weirder the better" then I try to tone that down to "quirky but stylish" if I can ;-) 

I'd love your feedback on what you like/don't and which features are your favourite...

Love & Sparkles

xx Mrs B xx

HALLWAY
family name wall decal above our front door, with the year we got married (this year!)

LIVING ROOM

Marv, our robot statue!?! 

large dice statues (Next)

teacups lamp (Next)

Photo sleeve door mount - I am obsessed with photos & this is a great way to display lots easily! Find them at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tobar-Door-Picture-Pockets/dp/B004LNSLUS

KITCHEN

teapot wall decal sticker on radiator cover, with bunting

Tea towel peg, shabby chic style - lovely present from our friends Danni & Charlie

beautiful wooden words, hung on the wall ... a gift from my lovely cousin Vicky xx

Our mini wall mounted dresser, from Melody Maison (here)

our cutlery clock, a gift from my cousin Denise xx

my beautiful piece of original Anita Klein artwork called 'Celebrating Angel' and gorgeous Rob Ryan bells plates. Picture my first birthday gift from husband, and the plates a wedding gift from my lovely inlaws. 

for Anita's artwork please go to http://www.anitaklein.com
for Rob Ryan's paper cutting work go to http://www.misterrob.co.uk

DINING ROOM

my pride and joy! every shabby chic lovers dream display...my dresser, with all my pretties on x

our antique rocking horse, a family heirloom...not our family though...a long story involving my husband, a drunk teenage party, stealing a horse & holding it to ransom! Still...he's a lovely feature in our dining room x

Hubby's choice....I'm still learning to appreciate this particular 'feature'...the globe drinks cabinet....it opens and everything....a bit too 'Del Boy' for my liking...what do you guys think?

my treasure chest boxes, love these! Great for storing away all those bits and pieces...with my vintage vanity case full of our wedding cards to the right, and our framed wedding invites on top xx

my gecko. love geckos. that is all. 

Order of the Day blackboard from our wedding, made by the beautiful Carmi Latham, my wonderful & talented friend (find her artwork at The Inkers Boudoir)

STAIRS

Our ginormous alarm clock! sits on the shelf above the stairs. Very Alice in Wonderland me thinks! We found this at a little home boutique in Brighton when we were shopping there one day & it was so weird & quirky we just had to have it! 

OUR BEDROOM

Feature wall...Hampstead Ink Little Greene wallpaper from here. And a Dyson bladeless fan - soooo space age and cool (plus very easy to clean!) Sheets in mustard from John Rocha at Debenhams.

Our little houses bedside lights, pair from John Lewis as wedding gifts. We chose these to match our quirky wallpaper and give a mottled light xxx

another wall decal...pattern emerging! Our grandfather clock sticker, with real clock centre. Monochrome colour scheme in our room with a splash of mustard. 

SPARE ROOM No. 1

We haven't finished spare room number 1 or 2 yet - spare room 1 is our guest bedroom, and is shortly going to be adorned with all the decorative pieces from our wedding day - a homage to all things floral, Cath Kidston etc...This is the beginning...quirky bed head from Next, floral sheets from Primark, with Cath Kidston bed spread, and hand sewn patchwork pillow (made by yours truly)...will post pictures when the room is finished! 

Spare room 2 will be our 'nursery' room, when the time comes, at the moment its storing all our vintage china from the wedding. Lol. 

Hope you enjoyed, and would love your feedback...

Do you have any quirky items in your home?

Big sparkles & muchos love

xx Mrs B xx

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Miss BBW 2012

Earlier this month I was invited to be a blog reporter for a plus size beauty event called Miss BBW 2012. The event was the final of a plus sized International beauty pageant, and celebrated the notion that big can be beautiful too. I was excited to be invited and jumped at the chance to celebrate curvy women and share it with all my lovely blog readers. :-)




The organisers say:


"Miss BBW International is a groundbreaking plus size beauty pageant open to big, beautiful women throughout the world.



Miss BBW International is a competition where plus size women and their admirers can come together to celebrate the beauty of size in a non judgemental environment and show that some of us do actually appreciate our curves! Most importantly, we show that we are comfortable in our own skin and not intimidated by the continuous pressure from the media to fit into a certain size label to be deemed acceptable in society. We proudly recognise that a great many plus size women do hold down high powered jobs and lead perfectly normal and happy lives. Not everyone wants to be a size zero and we are here to prove that there is life after a size 18!



Larger women are often rejected by other beauty pageants and we are here to change the perception of the world; which is that you can only be beautiful if you are slim. We need to let the world know that it is possible to be plus size, intelligent, and beautiful.


We at Miss BBW International do not encourage obesity, we purely provide a platform for the plus size women of the world to showcase their beauty on the catwalk that has previously been reserved for our slimmer sisters!"



Being a plus size lady myself I think its vital that we understand that just because you're a bigger lady, it doesn't mean that you can't be 'beautiful', or don't deserve to be beautiful. I have worn size 20, 18 and after my more recent slimming a size 16, and have battled a long time with body issues, food and eating disorders, and have travelled a lengthy journey to achieve a healthier body image. So it was refreshing to be a present at such a ground-breaking event.

I truly applaud all of the contestants for being confident enough to show off their curves with pride, and it was lovely to see how well most of the women dressed. The pageant showcased casual clothing, swimwear, and finally the beautiful dresses pageant-stylie! The girls were asked why they wanted to be crowned Miss BBW 2012, and talked about their own journeys of self-acceptance and confidence in their own skins. 


The Finalists in their swimwear. Image from 'The Sun' newspaper.  

The audience were treated to performances from the awesome plus-size Diva Dolls, four beautiful singers from Ireland who had bags of talent as well as bags of style! (Find and listen to them at www.thedivadolls.co.uk @thedivadolls on Twitter). There was also a funny comedian called Junior Simpson, (@juniorsimpson on Twitter) who coincidentally was from Bedfordshire (my neck of the woods), and gave us in the audience a lot of laughs! The whole event was hosted by the lovely Alison Hammond, (from Big Brother and presenter on ITV's This Morning). Alison is known for being honest, upfront and celebratory of her plus size figure, so she was the perfect woman for the job! Her lively and bubbly personality shone through and she really put the girls nerves at ease when interviewing them on stage. 


Alison Hammond - Copyright BECCABARRMANAGEMENT

The pageant judges had a tough job on their hands, but they eventually crowned the lovely Gemma Cruickshank as Miss BBW 2012, and a worthy winner she was. She was elegant throughout the pageant, she showed her body-confidence and spoke earnestly about her own struggles with her body-image over the years. I'm sure she'll be a fantastic ambassador for Miss BBW, and hope she helps to encourage more plus-size women to embrace their curves and celebrate their beauty, no matter what clothes size you wear. 


Gemma Cruickshank, Miss BBW 2012

The 19 finalists! 

My only criticism of the pageant, would be that as a plus-sized woman myself, I would have liked to have come away from the event feeling truly inspired by the outfits the women wore, and with a nice list of shops, stockists, designers or online stores who provide beautiful plus size fashion. This didn't happen. 

I did think some of the women didn't dress in an overly inspiring way, and some of the outfits did not encourage me to flaunt my curves, but instead made we wince a little! I must say that some of the contestants were dressed beautifully but I felt like the organisers didn't concentrate as much on what the contestants wore as perhaps they should have done. Maybe this was down to budget? Or maybe they need in future to secure some big clothing sponsors so we, the audience can see where the clothes are from and where we can buy the items for ourselves. 

I did however meet an inspiring plus-size clothing designer in the audience at the event called Syreeta Badu (find her website here). She had designed and made a dress worn by one of the organisers of Miss BBW which I absolutely adored. Emma Walker who wore the dress is a plus size lady herself and looked absolutely breathtaking in the dress. I believe it should be designers and clothing lines like this one who should be on board with Miss BBW, and provide future outfits for these plus size beauties. 

C for Chickah dress by Syreeta Badu, very flattering dress, this picture doesn't do it justice! 

It is time to break down boundaries and promote plus size women as beautiful too, and I'm well and truly on this band wagon! Size 16 is the UK's average clothes size, and we need to 'get real' in the media and promote healthier images for young people to aspire to. Yes, being obese isn't 'healthy', but neither is being an underweight size '0'. We need to find some middle-ground, and personally I'd like to see the media full of curvy size  12, 14, 16, 18 women, instead of being inundated with unrealistic body images. Miss BBW is leading the way, and with some ironed out creases will continue to be a wonderful platform for plus size women around the world. 

For more information on Miss BBW, or to apply for Miss BBW 2013 please go to their website - Miss BBW 

And please watch the documentary filmed at Miss BBW 2012 'PLUS SIZE BEAUTY PAGEANT' - on TOMORROW Wednesday 28th November on BBC3 at 9pm. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Homemade Lasagne & Pesto

So...while watching ITV's This Morning this week with my breakfast and a cuppa (a daily tradition while I'm stuck at home with a slipped disc) I saw the lovely TV chef Gino D'Acampo making a lasagne. 

This really put me in the mood to make one, as I haven't for AGES. Hubby has made me one with the normal version of 'from scratch' (jarred sauces & pasta sheets) which was nice, and undoubtedly better than any pre-made one you can buy from the supermarket, but I wanted to try a literal 'from scratch' version - making all the sauce and the pasta sheets. 

Gino inspired me with a lovely twist to the usual lasagne recipe by suggesting that you make your own pesto (which I do often) and put some of it in the b├ęchamel sauce...what a fab idea!!

Here is Gino's recipe for Lasagne (using pasta sheets)

And here is how I made my version....

Pesto...
Blitz up the following with a hand blender or food processor:
2 tbsps pine nuts
3 big handfuls of fresh basil
1 tbsp grated parmesan
olive oil to loosen to paste 
(add oil to your own taste - some people like thick pesto, some thinner - just keep tasting until it is right for you)




B├ęchamel  sauce:
large knob butter
2 tbsp plain flour
(make a roux)
add milk to thickness you desire
then add...
grating of nutmeg
salt & pepper
a generous handful of grated parmesan
2 tbsps homemade pesto




Mince & Sauce:
500g beef mince
onion chopped
garlic
1 tsp marmite
1 spag bol oxo cube
tinned tomatoes
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
baby plum tomoatoes halved
fresh basil
1 x mini bottle of favourite red wine
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 x bouquet garni
1 x bay leaf 

Pasta:
300g plain flour 
(you can use special '00' flour, but plain does the job too!)
3 eggs


Sift flour onto board, make a well in middle and crack in 3 eggs, work quickly to mix this to a dough, making sure all the eggs are incorporated. 



Knead the dough well for about 10 mins (this is hard work, but will work the gluten in the dough, making it nice and stretchy). Wrap in cling film & chill for 30 mins. 
Once chilled, roll out onto a floured surface - the key is to get the pasta as thin as possible.



 Once satisfied - cut to size and then layer up your lasagne. Meat/Pasta/Sauce/Meat/Pasta/Sauce ... grating of parmesan & slices of mozzarella to top.




Bake for 30 mins at 170 degrees until bubbling & golden brown....



Tuck in...

It was SOOOOOO yummy! :-)

Keep any left over pasta wrapped in cling film & pesto in a sealed pot in the fridge and use in the week for a quick lunch! (it cooks in 2-3 mins in boiling water & you can cut any shape you like...fun for kids with small shaped cutters!) :-)

My Lunch Today....

I quickly rolled out the left over pasta really thinly. Sliced with a sharp knife to make tagliatelle-type pieces. Boiled in salted water for 3 mins, drained & mixed in a generous spoonful of the delicious pesto! Et voila...lunch in less than 10 mins! :-)




Yum!!!!

I hope you enjoyed...and I would love to hear from you if you have a go and make this at home. 

Good luck & happy cooking

Mrs B

xxx

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Homemade Crisps! Yum!



A picture for you to salivate over! :-)

When cooking dinner last night I thought I'd have a go at making my own crisps! How delicious!
I used a peeler to make thin 'crisp-like' potato slices, heated up about 3-4 inches of oil in a pan & fried them in batches until golden brown & crispy. Then I drained the crisps on some absorbent kitchen towel, then coated with salt & pepper. YUM! These were soooo delicious and would be a really cool thing to do for a party, for guests coming, or even for the kids! Good at teaching them where their food comes from. 

You could really play around with flavour ideas; salt, salt & pepper, a little vinegar, some dried chilli maybe, or some dried herbs - lots of ideas? 

I'm not sure how long they'd keep (as they don't last long enough in our house!) but I'm sure in a sealed bag they might last a few days! 

Let me know how you get on with your own crisp making. 
Have a go! 
Mrs B xxx

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Mississippi Mud Pie - South American Feast

It was my hubby's 28th Birthday yesterday; and as per our traditions he got to choose what he wanted to eat for his birthday. He always has a full on fry up for breakfast on his birthday, and usually chooses homemade chicken kievs, chips and beans for his 'return to his childhood' birthday meal (plus he just loves my homemade kievs!). This year however, he opted for something different. He decided he would like to try a themed meal - after watching The Hairy Biker's Mississippi Adventure on Good Food Channel, he selected his favourite courses from the series and asked me to recreate!

The Breakfast:


Note the unintentional 'heart' of sausages & beans :-) I'm so romantic without realising it! 


The Evening Menu:

Creole spiced chicken wings with sticky BBQ basting liquor & a sour cream and blue cheese dip
(recipe here)

Authentic Jambalaya (recipe here)

Mississippi Mud Pie (recipe here)

Being off work at the moment meant I could take the cooking really slowly and go at my own pace, preparing things like the base of the mud pie in the morning, making the dips, rubs and sauces intermittently, and then resting in-between spurts in the kitchen. There was a fair bit to the menu - lots of chopping, sauce making, some baking, whipping, deboning chicken etc so it was a good job I had time on my side. 

CHICKEN WINGS: I think I was most impressed with the chicken wings recipe, the spice rub, BBQ basting sauce, and dipping sauce were all so easy to put together and just created the scrummiest flavour! It is totally worth making the rubs etc from scratch as the levels of flavour you get are beyond any supermarket-bought pre-prepared ready-to-bake chicken wings I have ever tasted. I also think I definitely enjoy food far more when I know EXACTLY what has gone into it (and I'm not faced with E numbers, flavourings, and preservatives on the ingredients list). 

I must say I tweaked the recipe slightly when it came to the dipping sauce - Firstly, I followed the recipe exactly and used 100g of sour cream, 2 tbsp mayo and 75g stilton but upon tasting it I felt it far too sour (the stilton was SO strong). Hubby and I prefer a hint of blue cheese rather than a very intense hit of it, and I felt that the stilton at that potency would overpower the spice rub and basting sauce on the chicken. So, to solve the problem I simply 'watered down' the intense stilton with more sour cream. Once blitzed it tasted absolutely INSANE ;-) and would be really versatile - going beautifully with chicken, mushrooms or pasta. 

The Starter: Creole Spiced chicken wings in BBQ basting sauce, with a Stilton and sour cream dipping sauce. (Table complete with finger bowls as this is a messy starter!) 

JAMBALAYA: This is a rice, chicken and prawn dish, with creole spices, chorizo sausage and lots of vegetables, cooked together to make an almost risotto-type dish full of flavour! I have made Jambalaya many times before from a recipe that my mum taught me as a child after she visited New Orleans on holiday. We always really enjoy it, but I hadn't made it for a long time, and decided I'd have a go at following Si & Dave's recipe to see how it differs. 

In fact the recipe was very similar to my usual one, and really some of the only differences was using lots of celery (which I hate, but actually added a lovely savoury flavour to the rice), using deboned chicken thighs rather than chicken breast (which was far more succulent and I would definitely use the thighs again!) and actually putting the prawns in (I used to leave them out as I don't enjoy seafood). This time I used big juicy king prawns and my hubby really enjoyed them. Unfortunately I still don't enjoy eating prawns, and don't 'get' the meat & fish combo, so I ate round them and gave all my prawns to the Mr (Happy Birthday!) It is all down to personal taste at the end of the day.


I didn't get a picture of the final dish in our big casserole pot as we were to busy eating/enjoying it. I made enough to serve 4 - hubby has taken a big pot for his lunch today, along with the left over stilton sauce in a pot with celery sticks to dip, and this is the 4th left over portion, which I snapped a quick photo of for you to see! 


MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE: I was excited about trying this recipe as I had no idea what to expect having never made or eaten it before. It is not normally something that would appeal to me, or that I'd choose if I saw it on a menu. This is mainly because I always assumed it would be cheesecake-like due to the biscuit base, soft centre & cream. I am not a fan of cheesecake - I find it too rich, usually quite badly made and quite frankly pretty bland/boring. The only cheesecake I enjoy is Nigella's baked lime cheesecake with chocolate-chip cookie base (recipe here) which I've made a fair few times and is always a scrummy show stopper.

The Mississippi Mud Pie was a HUGE hit with both me and the hubby, and is a very moreish dessert. It uses chocolate digestives and oreo cookies all smooshed up for the base/pie crust, and this gives the dessert an intense saltiness which I LOVED. It took the edge off the sweetness, and meant that although decadent and rich it wasn't 'too much'. I was unsure what the filling of the pie would be like as although like a cheesecake it didn't use cream cheese...what would a mixture of eggs, chocolate, butter, cocoa powder and double cream baked in the oven taste and look like? The answer: a soft fudge-like chocolate truffle YUM! Once out of the oven and cooled you cover the 'pie' with softly whipped double cream and lashings of grated dark chocolate et voila! 




I must admit that my mud pie was not 'pie' like as I didn't push the biscuits up the sides of the tin to make a crust, I just made a base (like a cheesecake), this worked fine and it was still just as delicious I'm sure. 

My scales broke as I started measuring out the biscuits and I had to 'guess' and just didn't quite make enough to push it up the sides. Next time I make it (there will definitely be a next time) I will make a pie crust with the biscuits as I think it would improve the over all appearance of the dish. 

Later in the day, armed with some new scales I made the rest of the mud-pie and it was easy and problem-free!

A successful dinner all round - HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBY! 

Go on, try it yourself...you know you want to! 

Mrs B 
xxxx