Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Leeds affordable Vintage Fashion Fair

Leeds Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair - 6th December 2009 - Leeds uni SU
To get into the festive spirit of things I thought I would do a spot of shopping. So me, my boyfriend and my housemate toodled along to the Affordable Fashion Fair in Leeds uni SU. There were so many bargains to be had, and it really was affordable! I was half expecting to find things really overpriced and not really my style, but I left with two polka dot dresses; one for a fiver and one for a tenner, some vintage keys to make into earrings and a christmas present or two! not bad I'd say!
We also made a short stop at the tea and cake stand. I had a cup of hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows and a slab of strawberry jam and cream cake complete with edible glitter: pure indulgance! there was also a variety of teas and mulled wine, cupcakes and treats, all beautiful and gorgeous looking! They were courtesy of 'The Marvelous Tea Dance Co' (who I recommend you check out... they are amazing:
They are sponsored by possibly my favourite shop in the whole of Leeds: Rose & Co. I am a great lover of their beatuiful apothocary-style boutique and their amazing dresses in the downstairs of their shop. (the must also be checked out!
These are my two main purchases: the blue 40's style polka dot dress only cost me £5! and the light blue polka dot dress was a brilliant £10! They make wonderful additions to my already sizable polka dot dress collection!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Goats cheese and caramelised onion tarts

I've been at it again! I just can't help but cook up a storm in the kitchen... and on the menu tonight? Goats cheese tart. I recently made some mini bite-size goats cheese and caramelised onion filo pastry tarts for a colleague's birthday party, and they went down so well I thought I would make a great big dinner sized one. Here's how I did it:

First I cut up three red onions and fried them at a medium heat with a drizzle of oil. Just as the onions began to soften and brown I turned down the heat and left them to cook more slowly, stirring occasionally to ensure that all of the onions were evenly cooked. The key to extra tasty onions is the cook them over a long period of time to allow the natural sugars in the onions to caramelise. I usually cook the onions for about 45mins to an hour.

About 10 minutes before the onions are finished cooking, I added a few pinches of sugar to help the caramelising of the onions and also a generous splash of balsamic vinegar to cut through the sweetness. While the onions were just finishing off I greased the ceramic tart dish and prepared the filo pastry (I cheated and bought some pre-made pastry). I used 4 layers of filo pastry with a brushing of water to make sure that the pastry stayed together during cooking. It's important to not have too many layers of pastry otherwise it doesn't cook all the way through and is soggy... it needs to have a nice crispy crunch to serve as a contrast to the soft onions and goats cheese.

I filled the pastry tart with the caramelised onions and layered the goats cheese generously on the top, and popped in all in the oven at 180 degrees for roughly 20 minutes so that the filo wasn't over cooked but so that goats cheese has melted. Then I served the tart with a fresh salad and a drizzle of the balsamic vinegar... et voila! This goats cheese tart easily served four people and was delicious, I thoroughly recommend!

I even had enough filo pastry left over to make some little bite-size cheese and bacon tartlets... I put a dollop of soft cheese in the centre so that they weren't too dry, fried the remaining onions with some chopped up bacon, topped with a little grated cheddar cheese and popped into the oven until the filo pastry is thoroughly cooked... scrumdiddleyumptious!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Shopping in Hastings Old Town

Well, I have had a very busy week this week. On my days off work I have been shopping and baking for parties. Yesterday I spent the day looking round museums with the family for my sister's birthday... its been a lovely week! I kicked the week off with a little explore of Hastings Old Town with Danny. The Old Town has a little bit of everything: old, new and everything in between. I adore cupcakes and I love these cute little cushions, book ends, and notebooks that I found in Scatter Box in George Street. I also loved the white painted furniture in Scatter Box too. The white painted furniture was something that I found all over the old town.

I LOVE the old fashioned birdcages that are scattered in the antique shops in Hastings. I have always wanted one, but have never been sure about what i would do with it or where I would put it... perhaps I will wait until I have a bigger house so I can adorn it with lots of beautiful old things without it having to take up space of more necessary things... like my books, computer desk, or fish tank. Seeing as I have been living in a tiny one bedroom flat with my boyfriend for the past two years, I have been limited with the amount of pretty things I have been able to fit into the flat... but one day I will be able to have more room for such things!

In the tiny backstreets of Hastings Old Town lie the best little antique and junk shops where you can find some truly lovely little treasures... with more than just a teeny bit of a sprinkling of randomness and madness. This gorgeous little chandelier was a highlight, and there was some old white painted pieces of furniture too. Probably the pieces that have inspired the new ones in Scatter Box. It was in these little antique shops that I bought a wonderful little enamel bucket with some roses painted onto it, which I plan on planting some herbs in when I move into the new House on Saturday!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A New Children's Bookshop in the Heart of the Old Town

This is an old post that I have been meaning to publish for a few months... late is better than never! :)

When I'm up in Leeds for university I love living in a city, but when I come home it makes me appreciate and love my little coastal home town all the more. Hastings old town has had a lot of newer shops, bars and cafes open up over the last few years injecting new life into that end of town. On my latest visit back home for the summer I noticed a new book shop opening up in the heart of the old town in George street......

Being a trainee primary school teacher, anything that encourages young children to be excited and motivated to pick up a book, and enjoy reading is a good thing. The Bumper Bookshop for boys and girls is doing just that!

The books are displayed in a child-friendly and appealing way for young children and are aimed to allow children to access the books in the shop with ease.

It's a wonderfully colourful bookshop, decorated with hand prints, paint splats, bunting, images from storybooks and arts and crafts.

What makes this little bookshop so special in my mind is that it is not just a shop, it's a cafe too! Allowing parents to have a a cup of tea and a cheeky slice of carrot cake while their children enjoy the books and a cupcake.

The Bumper Bookshop for boys and girls also regularly has events that allow children to get involved in arts and crafts, listening to stories at "storytime", sing songs, have parties, get involved in book-themed events, book signings, and above all else, have fun!

As a child I used to love our family weekly trip to the local village library which was conveniently at the bottom of our road, and if I was a child now with this wonderful bookshop within a stone's throw away from where I live, I would definitely spend most of my time there! I think it's a lovely addition to the old town, and when I have either had a nervous breakdown from the stress of teaching or feel like I need a change, I would love to open a similar kind of shop and spend my days organising arts and craft activities with children, baking and selling cakes, and getting children enthusiastic about reading.

Find the Bumper Bookshop on Facebook, or their website.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Some Vintage Polka Dot Etsy Delights!

Polka dots have always been popular since the 20's. They have been consistently incorporated into designs through almost every decade of the last century, particularly with dresses. I'm a self-confessed polka dot addict and I have a dozen or so polka dot dresses of various styles, not to mention polka dot bags, accessories and home-ware. Whilst trawling the Vintage items on Etsy I found a selection of dresses from almost every decade.

1930s polka dot dress
I particularly love the large flower accessory and the lace collar.
ETSY seller: greendragonlady

1940s polka dot dress
This dress design is very flattering for the more curvaceous lady such as myself. The longer sleeves conceal the upper arms, the neckline and waistline show off my curves. Also, being a shorter lady, the length is great, not too short or too long.
ETSY Seller: SmallEarthVintage

1950s polka dot dress
If I had to choose clothing from one decade to wear I would definitely choose the 50s. Normally I go for the more Rockabilly inspired 50s polka dot dress with the petticoats and halter-neck, but Iadore this double layered dress, best shown off whilst spinning and jiving. I also love the red shoes and belt, all I would need to add is some red lipstick and a flower in my hair!
ETSY Seller: fabgabs

1960s polka dot dress
I love the colours of this dress the classic combination of black, white and red. This style of dress has recently been revived in the latest fashions and high street stores and has become very popular. I, like many women love this dress design... however I find it very difficult to find one that suits me, I usually have to avoid block colour teamed with high necklines, as I have a larger bust and this style lends itself to the more slender among us.
ETSY Seller: SecondWindVintage

1970s polka dot dress
Love, love, love the slouchy pockets, white trimming and oversized collar of this dress. It would also be a great day dress and worn out in the evening with some bold white accessories, perhaps some chunky beads, high heels, and a bow in the hair.
ETSY Seller: Reruns

1980s polka dot dress
Technically I suppose this is an oversized jumper, but I love the large polka dot print. This would look great with a large buckled belt and maybe even some brightly coloured tights to jazz it up.
ETSY Seller: heartcity

1990s polka dot dress
Polka dots, pure and simple. I would team this with a cute little brightly coloured cardigan.
ETSY Seller: VioletVariance

2000s polka dot dress
This is a polka dot dress currently for sale on ASOS. It is totally the kind of dress that appeals to me, and it encompasses some of my favourite things: polka dots and bows.

Overall, although I totally love the 1950s rockabilly style, I would have to choose to buy polka dot dresses in this decade; that way I would be able to pick and choose the best aspects of the designs from the decades gone by whilst skipping the low points of fashion from each era. If you are looking for something handmade or one-off vintage then Etsy is the place for you, and there will always be a dress (or any other item of clothing for that matter) that appeals to you and will compliment your style.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Gorillas and Tigers and Elephants, Oh My! A Day at Howletts Zoo

Well, I've had a few days off work this week and decided to spend them productively so I have been busy busy busy! Yesterday I had my eyes tested and needed some new glasses so I shopped around and found myself some lovely DKNY frames, only £35 in the sale in Boots Opticians. For the past two years I have had black plastic specs and decided for something ever so slightly different and went for a red pair.

Today me and my younger sister took a little drive out to Howletts for a day at the zoo! Having only been to Port Lympne out of the two Aspinall founded zoos I thought it was about time I visited Howletts as well. The elephants were brilliant, and we got to see them at just the right time: they had just been fed and were all close to the front of the enclosure munching away. There was a huge matriarch elephant, adult, teenager and a baby elephant. The younger elephants were having a bit of a play and run around; unaware that their play was entertaining us all.

The rhino enclosures and safari are the highlights at Port Lympne zoo. But at Howletts, by a long way, the gorillas were the stars of the show. The Silverbacks, (who, by the way, were more than just a little bit smelly - the female gorillas must like it) were really impressive and quite happy showing off, banging the metal slides, thumping their chests and swinging the ropes. The other gorillas were either lazing around grazing through the hay for hidden food, or were at the edge of the enclosure seemingly just as interested in us as we are in them. The youngsters in particular enjoyed people-watching, and one little fella posed for ages while I took a few photos.

I highly recommend Howletts if you enjoy the gorillas, monkeys and lemurs, but if you are more of a tigers, lions and rhinos lover then Port Lympne is the place for you! Or, if you are feeling particularly greedy, go for the annual pass and visit both zoos as many times as you like!
For a link to the Howletts and Port Lympne website:

Friday, 21 August 2009

Ticket Touting - why do us fans have to foot the bill?

Hello Bloggers, I thought I would interupt my usual cake, shopping, and crafts based blogs to blog about something that is a problem to all of my fellow gig-goers. If like me, you love attending gigs and music events, then the chances are you have come across the infuriating situation where tickets have sold out in 4 minutes only to see those tickets on ebay or other auction sites for ten times the original price.

Me and my younger sister - who is a huge Paramore fan - found out about an intimate, one off gig in London. Tickets went on sale at 9am this morning and we were both on the phone and internet trying to get tickets. To our dismay the tickets sold out in under 4 minutes. Don't get me wrong, I was expecting there to be a lot of competition for tickets, and that they would sell out very quickly, but what I did not want to see was those same tickets that I was in an online queue to buy, up for sale on ebay mere minutes later. The tickets were originally priced at £5, and within an hour the tickets on ebay were up for sale with multiple bidders at £430... and the price just keeps going up. When I started writing this blog the touted tickets were being bidded on and were at £370, and in about 15 minutes the price has jumped up by £60 - over ten times the amount of the original ticket. It would not suprise me that the tickets will be sold for a hundred times the original ticket price. Now tell me this, how is that allowed? and what can we do to stop this from happening? It has been a hotly debated topic and problem as long as there have been gigs and sporting events, and the way that things are going, it will continue to plague us genuine ticket buyers for a while yet.

So what can be done?
Well to begin with, I would encourage you to sign this petition to urge the government to act in regards to ticket touting.

Part of the trouble is that people do actually end up paying silly money on auction websites in order to attend gigs and events. I suppose, putting things very simplistically, if people just stopped buying the tickets from unofficial sources, the professional touters would not have a business. But of course, as long as there is a demand for tickets the touters will exploit that and use it as a means of making money. Plus, things are never as easy as that.

Glastonbury Festival has taken new measures to stop the ticket touting that had routinely robbed hundreds of people of their hard earned cash just because they want to attend a music event. All Glastonbury tickets have the buyer's name and photograph on, thus virtually eliminating the professionally touted tickets. The tickets are checked to ensure that the tickets have not been re-sold. Also, the buyers are limited to two tickets per person to prevent people from buying lots of tickets to sell on for a profit.

One of the issues that would arise if ticket touting for music events was made illegal would be what would happen with those people who genuinely need to sell their tickets on because they are no longer to attend the gig or their circumstances have changed? To help those people, ethical websites have been set up to allow fans to sell their tickets on without profit to other fans who still need tickets. But doesn't that just perpetuate the cycle? What is stopping professional ticket touters from cruising the "ethical websites", buying the tickets, and simply selling them on again at a profit? The internet has made the ticket touter's life very easy indeed and it is up to the music industry and government to find a way of avoiding this from happening.

It is currently illegal to resell tickets for football matches. This measure was brought about to help control football violence, but it has also lead to the end of football ticket touting. So is making it illegal to sell on gig tickets the way forward? What I can say is that it is a very difficult problem to tackle. But if something isn't done about it soon, it will certainly put me off attending mainstream gigs and gigs where, potentially, the demand is going to outstrip the supply. Until the government and music industry can come up with an answer that actually has an impact, fans, promoters and performers will always have to foot the bill and face the consequences of touted tickets.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Pirates, cakes and more cakes!

It is Hastings Old Town Carnival week and I have been loving the festivities, especially pirate day. I spent the day at work dressed as a pirate, singing sea shanties and face-painting. Then we all headed into the old town for some more pirate themed fun. There were supposed to be sea shanties being performed in a little old town pub, so me and the work colleagues decided to go check it out. But to our dismay the sea shanties had been cancelled! Not that that stopped us, we started our own impromptu sea shanties singing session instead, all good fun.
But on my travels from pub to pub I spotted the window display in Interior Illusions, a shop on Hastings old town highstreet. I loved the cute floral tea cups (even though I don't drink the stuff) the cupcake fridge magnets, the chocolate scented calculator, the polka dot cupcake trinket boxes and most of all, I loved the flannels and towels that were made to look like swiss roll and cupcakes! Who knew that something as ordinary as a flannel could be made to look so appealing!?
And now, after flicking through the Tv Channels I have spotted that 'Ace Of Cakes' is on, so I'm going to settle down to watch some crazy professional cake baking and decorating in action. I would love to work there... this crayons cake is one of my faves.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

bargains, soup and sunshine!

Well lovely Bloggers, it's a beautiful day! The sunshine is out and the shops are open, So I thought I would see if I could grab myself a bargain or two! I spotted a new shop in town that had only just opened, and decided to have a little peek. It is a clothes shop but to my delight they had some home bit and bobs at the back hidden away. I managed to buy this cute little mug complete with polka dot fairy cake design and the slogan, 'I love Fairy Cakes' on it, for £1! I also got two photo frames for £1 each and a lovely little floral material lined white basket, for £3... not a bad little bundle of purchases all for the princely sum of £6!

I also felt the urge to treat myself to a bit of a Marks and Spencer lunch. None of the sandwiches were really doing it for me, so i got a gorgeous slab of cheese, onion and mustard bread instead. It was delicious sliced up and dunked into my broccoli soup! yummmo!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Rice Crispie cakes, Homemade Hummous and Peanut butter cookies

Well my fellow bloggers and blog-readers! I have been baking again this week, First on the Agenda... peanut butter cookies. There is something I LOVE about the slightly salty sweetness of these crunchy-on-the-edges-and-soft-in-the-middle cookies. They also make a perfect little treat for me to have for my lunch at work this week!

These are my special rice crispie cakes.... they are divine! The rice crispie base is made with a bit of butter mixed with melted Mars Bars... heavenly! Topped with creamy milk chocolate, and left to set in the fridge.

I also made (for the first time) my own hummous from scratch. It all went according to plan, making my own tahini paste, adding, garlic, oil, lemon, chickpeas, until it came to the addition of red peppers. Unfortunately they were quite juicy and it only served to water down the hummous and make it taste a tad bland. I think perhaps next time I might make a spicy hummous, with either chilli or jalapeno's. But loathe to waste food, I teamed it with some mini toasted pitta breads and some olives and it went down a treat!

Ooh! Me and my boyfriend have been putting our green fingers to use as well. We have been growing our own pepper plant... and this is the first of our mini harvest! It's great fun growing your own food and I highly recommend it! This little Pepper certainly isn't as large or perfectly shaped as the peppers from supermarkets but it is extra special as it was grown with my own two hands! :D