Monday, 18 March 2013

Spring in your step

Let's face it: the weather is miserable, there's no blossom on the trees and barely a daffodil in sight, so why not put a smile on your face and a seasonal spring in your step with a new pair of shoes instead?! The following selection features some of my favourites of the highstreet's recent arrivals. Don't you love some of these fresh pastel shades? Vibrant shoes are a great way to add a colour pop to an otherwise neutral ensemble, especially if you're sartorially colour shy. For a casual look, team flats with skinny jeans or capri pants, or wear a heel with a nice fitted pencil skirt for work. Now all we need is some sunshine...

Anthropologie, Cadee Booties

Also Anthro, Floral Hayden Heels

French Sole, Harriet Pink Textured Nubuck Ballerina Pumps

Ted Baker, Fluuri Printed Peep Toe

L.K.Bennet, Pacific Patent Leather Brogued Bow Platform

L.K.Bennet, Cannes Laser Flower Pattern Court

TopShop, VEE Woven Metallic Ballerina Pumps

May your dreams be sweet and of fancy footwear... Night!

pp x

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Sunday Smörgåsbord

It's that time again!

Two boards for you this week ~ both brief, one with an Easter theme, as I'm beginning to deck out corners of our home in beautiful Spring shades. I'm not normally one to go crazy with Easter décor, but I think this may be my subconscious attempt at catharsis, having not having a Christmas tree last year. Sob.

Some of the following snaps are just teasers to whet your appetite for future posts! More to come on Crafternoon Tea, Mars Bar Crispie Cakes and Glossybox, so stay tuned...

Top to bottom, left to right:

1. My magnum opus from today's Crafternoon Tea, courtesy of Jay Archer Floral Design (my amazing wedding florist), A Cup of Vintage and Parallel Venues (the beautiful Fetcham Park). A full post on this to follow next week.

2. Pooch Love by Bertie & Jack. I can't believe I forgot to include this weeks ago! I bought this for hubby for Valentine's Day; we both love it! A somewhat selfish gift, perhaps, but aren't those the best kind..? :-p

3. I was in London this week, visiting the Institute of Education, and en route near Russel Square spied the most fabulous gentlemen's outfitter. I truly wish men could dress like this without being considered wildly eccentric. Apologies, the name of said outfitter escapes me at present. Will research and update.

4. Received this comedy parcel from the States. I can hardly believe there wasn't a space-saving alternative to all these stamps, but I'm so glad there wasn't!

5. My new knobs from Anthro. We bought a new coffee table a few weeks back, but it had ugly handles on the drawer that just had to go. They have now been replaced with these handsome hares - love!

6. Tried my hand at one of the latest hairdos from Lilith Moon. Très chic, n'est-ce pas?

7. Glossybox! I've been considering a subscription for a while, but couldn't justify the regular expense while we were saving for the wedding. A close friend of mine was bought a subscription by her lovely fella (clever boy) and was accidentally sent two boxes, so guess who was lucky enough to be given the spare (thanks, H! x)! More on this at a later date.

8. All dressed up for Crafternoon Tea! My wedding fur (which I didn't wear once on the day itself) even had an outing!

Hand painted eggs and vintage style bunny baubles (super kitsch!) currently adorn the twigs in our living room, and yesterday I made a batch of Mars Crispie Cakes, topped with seasonally appropriate chicks, eggs, flowers and sheep. Truly the very best chocolate crispie recipe ever; coming soon.

Only one week of term left before we head for some sunshine, the thought of which will keep a smile on my face in spite of all this dreary wind and rain. I hope you've all had a lovely weekend!

Bonne nuit,

pp x

Saturday, 16 March 2013


A couple of weeks ago, my mum and I were channel-hopping of an evening, when we finally settled on one of the Food Network’s low budget, off-peak shows (you know the ones I mean..?). A very brief scene featured popovers: light, hollow Yorkshire pudding-esque creations, in this instance laced with lashings of cheese! Naturally, we thought these looked and sounded delicious, in spite of their name (my children at school refer to passed wind as ‘pop-offs’; I failed to avoid the unpleasant mental association!). A little online research informed me that they are quite commonplace in the States, but not so here in the UK. So, last weekend Mum and I decided to give them a whirl, and now here I am sharing our results and conclusions with you...


(Makes 6)

2 eggs (at room temperature, not from the fridge)
1 cup milk (warm)
1 cup plain flour
200g Gruyère cheese (cubed)
Salt & pepper


The trick to getting these to rise sufficiently is not to over-beat any of the ingredients, and to add the finished batter to preheated tins straight out of the oven.

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. You might want to consider reducing this if you know your oven to be especially hot.
  2. Put your milk into a small pan and heat on medium. Bring almost to the boil before turning off the heat and leaving to one side.
  3. Grease your tins generously with an oil spray or alternative and place on the middle shelf of your now (hopefully!) hot oven. A normal bun tin is not deep enough for popovers, I would suggest muffin tins at least, or we used individual little pudding tins for extra depth.
  4. Crack your eggs into a medium sized bowl. Season liberally with pepper, and add a pinch of salt. Beat with a balloon whisk until the the yolks and whites are only just blended.
  5. This part is important! You need the milk to be warm, but not too hot or you risk scrambling your eggs. You need to whisk briskly as you add the warm milk to your eggs.
  6. Sieve and mix in the flour (again with your balloon whisk) in three stages, avoiding over-mixing.
  7. Remove the preheated tins from the oven and pour in your mixture until each tin is almost full ~ none of this two thirds/three quarters full business. You want these to rise above the tin as much as possible!
  8. Evenly distribute your cubes of cheese between each tin. This should raise the level of your mixture to the top. (You'll see we had insufficient batter to fill our tins...)
  9. Into the oven for 30-45 mins until golden. Marvel at how fast and far they rise!

The verdict?

Not bad for a first attempt! Let’s say it demonstrated tremendous potential for future incarnations...

This time around we had insufficient batter for the 6 tins we used, so only made five popovers, and they would have been better if we'd only made four. Next time, I would use one and a half times the ingredients for 6 popovers. Also, above, I have doctored the oven temperature and cooking time, as our oven was too hot at 175°C, and they were overdone after 40 minutes ~ the original cooking time was 45 minutes to an hour! Keep a close eye on them and go with your instinct; we held off taking them out after 30 minutes, when we should have trusted our own judgement rather than sticking rigidly to the recipe.

We really enjoyed the popovers, which we served with a green salad of watercress, spinach, rocket, grated courgette and cucumber, seasoned and dressed with just a dash of light honey and mustard dressing. They were very light and tasty, but we feel they would benefit from a stronger cheese flavour (we are total cheese monsters, so we like things to be über cheesy). I would suggest using a mixture of an extra strong vintage cheddar for punch, and a French Comté for nuttiness, in place of the Gruyère. We also think a couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard in the batter wouldn’t go amiss… I’ll definitely be making these again, and I will update the recipe here once I’ve perfected it!

I would really welcome any comments or tips, especially from my readers in the USA with experience in the popover department!

pp x

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Monday Montage

Sorry, folks! Last night, fatigue claimed me when I wasn't looking. I was so tired that I couldn't even muster the strength to knock up a quick smorgasbord for you. Shameful. So here I find myself, wrapped up on the sofa on a cold, snowy Monday evening in March (seriously seasonally inappropriate!), excited to share a few recent highlights with you.

From top to bottom, left to right...

1 & 2 New blue hydrangea to brighten up the kitchen windowsill, now that my two orchids are temporarily flower-less.

3 Supremely sweet, if somewhat juvenile, scrapbook from Paperchase. Can't wait to get the glue out!

4 Love my new Comic Relief mug (Only £3, from Sainsbury's!) :-) Please show your support in whatever way you can.

5 My niece's latest masterpiece, Face. Anatomically correct with ears and everything. (Aged 2 years, 9 months)

6 ~ 8 Pretty Things is relatively new to Horsham, having opened in late October, 2012. A gloriously girly, unashamedly kitsch tea room/shop selling temptingly calorific homemade treats alongside an array of sweet little bits and bobs ~ I had a blueberry meringue with fruit compote and whipped cream. Yum. Love, love, love the bunny wallpaper!!!

9 Love my new hot pink and gold waxed linen bracelet from Lilas Chocolat on Etsy.

10 I cannot help but be excited by a plush red theatre curtain. Who can? The vivid colour bleeding through a dimly lit room, the dust circling in the glare of the lights, the hushed anticipation of what is to come! I went to see a wonderful production at hubby's school at the weekend and was bowled over by the incredible young talent of the leading cast members. It made me feel especially proud to be a teacher.

11 Out and about. Fabulous colour pop begged to be photographed.

12 Soft and subtle for Mothering Sunday. I learned so much from my wonderful wedding florist, the supremely lovely Jay Archer, that I have become somewhat obsessed with plants and flowers ever since. I really enjoyed putting this bouquet together for my lovely mum: Hydrangea, Sweet Avalanche Roses, White Veronica, Wax Flower and Thistle. I hope you approve, Jay!

13 I was naughty and indulged in Topshop on Oxford Street last weekend. Oops. Ahu Multi Stone Ring with semi-precious stones by Ottoman Hands.

14 The Easter Bunny's on his way... (Paperchase)

15 Ridiculously over-indulgent dinner, featuring carbs, fat, more carbs and, you guessed it, more fat. So delicious! I figured the gherkins, cucumber and grapes went at least some way to counter-balancing all the cheese, right?

16 More flowers! Stocks and ranunculus ~ kept our hallway smelling sweet for a week. Spring seems to be springing somewhere at least, just not here... Sigh.

Last, but not least, a few pictures, as promised of the adorable hand-knitted bunnies I ordered from WereRabbit on Etsy. Beautifully made and packaged, super fast delivery and so darn cute you won't want to give them away!

Bunnies remind me that in spite of the weather, Easter's on its way... During what I very much hope will be the last of the cold weather this side of September, stay warm and safe travels.

pp x

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Magpie Must Haves: Albums to augment and refresh your collection

Music is something I honestly feel I couldn't live without. I listen to it everyday, without exception. Music moves me: it can energise and motivate me, keep me company while I indulge in a little melancholia, lift my spirits, or simply entertain me. Whatever my mood, I know there's a track I can play to suit it.

I have been horribly lax in recent years in exploring new music, and performed very little myself. Recently, however, I have delighted in discovering some beautiful, fresh-sounding albums, which I recommend to you wholeheartedly. I should clarify, that when I say recently, I mean within the last twelve months or so; please excuse me therefore if any of my selections expose me as horribly behind the times! I must confess that whilst I love hearing new music, I don't much care for musical trends or reviews; in my humble opinion, beautiful music never gets old, and beauty, where music is concerned, is in the ears of the listener ~ it's not about jumping on bandwagons. That's not to say that I would purposefully avoid popular music; there's a reason why it's popular, after all!

So, with that in mind, the following are my top album purchases from 2012/2013...

Laura Mvula ~ Sing To The Moon

(Soul; Jazz; Pop & Rock)
I defy anyone not to fall in love with her voice.

The Civil Wars ~ Barton Hollow

(Country; Folk; Americana; Pop & Rock)
Dazzling in its simplicity. Velvety smooth harmonies.

Mumford & Sons ~ Babel

(Folk; Pop & Rock)
Ignore the mixed reviews of the critics. Deservedly debuted atop the 
charts in both the UK & the US, with its infectious, toe-tapping beats.

Lianne La Havas ~ Is Your Love Big Enough?

(Soul; Pop & Rock)
Another seductive voice...

Bastille ~ Bad Blood

(Indie; Pop & Rock)
Refreshingly melodic and rather sensitive for a debut indie album.

Eric Whitacre ~ Light & Gold

OK, so this was released in 2010, but, shamefully, I only bought it last year. Eric 
Whitacre is arguably the hottest composer of all time, and his music is every bit as
beautiful as his chiseled, all-American face. We had a choir made up of our friends
and family sing my favourite track, A Boy & A Girl, at our wedding in December.

I could go on, but my intention was for quality rather than quantity, and these really are my favourites. It would be lovely to hear some of your musical recommendations ~ please do post them in the comments box below!

pp x

Friday, 8 March 2013

Every little helps

Over the past five years or so, my shopping habits have changed dramatically. I estimate that I now do somewhere around 65% of my non-food shopping online, from my daily skincare products (Liz Earle), to many and varied gifts (books, cooking paraphernalia, jewellery etc). As such, I am sent rather a lot of emails containing handy little discount codes from time to time...

Here are a few current codes for a variety of retailers, in case you too love the scope and convenience of online shopping! I appreciate that the following is a real hodgepodge of offers, but perhaps one will prove useful/tempting for you...

Pure Collection (Women's clothing, esp. cashmere)
25% off + Free Delivery
Expires 11/3

Boden (Clothing for women, men & children)
£10 off voucher (only works once, so will only be valid for the first person to use it!)
Expires 21/03

The White Company (Homeware; women's & children's clothing)
15% off + Free Delivery
Expires 11/03

Cox & Cox (Homeware & Gifts)
12% off
Expires 30/06

Heal's (Furniture & Homeware)
10% off Furniture & Accessories
Expires 10/03

Vistaprint (Printing services)
40% off orders, 50% off Photobooks
Expires 24/03

Monarch (Flights)
£30 off Return Flights

Southern Railway (Train travel)
20% off
Expires 21/03

Happy shopping and have a lovely weekend :-)

pp x

Thursday, 7 March 2013

'Twas brillig

Good evening, one and all! I hope this post finds you well and enjoying the milder weather while it lasts. A colleague at school mentioned the s*** word today - yes, apparently we may be in for yet more of the white stuff again next week. As much as I enjoy a good seasonal dusting of snow (I was even a tad disappointed not to have a sprinkling on our wedding day in December), now is not the time, surely?! I myself am most definitely not keen to have any more until at least November, please.

I'm sorry not to have shared my highlights with you last Sunday, as intended, but having been rather busy, I only managed the one post ~ my last ~ from my bed, and only just in time for lights out. This week has been a busy one too, so whilst I'm desperate to share lots of odds and ends with you all, I thought it best to save them all for a double whammy of content this weekend, so to speak, rather than squeeze them in in a hurry midweek.

One of the more pleasant reasons for having been so busy, is that Sunday last found me up in London, all mimsy with the borogoves at the Sanderson Hotel, enjoying their wonderful Mad Hatter's Tea! It was such a fun and culinarily novel experience, that I felt it merits its own solo post, rather than a mere cameo in a smorgasbord...

Even without the themed afternoon tea, the Sanderson itself epitomises the nonsensical and disproportional world of Carroll's Wonderland. The interiors are both plain and garish, minimalist yet busy, juxtaposing as they do the tastefully elegant and the conspicuously absurd. Bright white walls provide the perfect blank canvas for an array of lurid, giant furniture, and through the soft, clean lines of a hand-carved chair, for example, you might spy an over-sized portrait of a lapdog. Though it is part of a chain, the Morgan Group (its sister hotel on St Martin's Lane is very similar in style), and this approach to interior design is hardly original, the Sanderson still manages to retain a sense of individuality.

The tea itself was very tasty, and included some quirky surprises, which I won't spoil! The tableware was designed specially, and successfully reflects the Alice in Wonderland theme along with something of a vintage circus vibe. I don't want to go into the minutiae, as it is so worth experiencing for yourself. It would make a great gift. For further details of the tea on the Sanderson's website, click here. Just a few photos to give you an idea of the treats in store that will make you chortle in your joy ~ Callooh! Callay!

pp x

PS Best recital of the Jabberwocky I've heard, by the legendary Christopher Lee ~ what a voice...

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Waiting for Spring

I feel myself almost aching for Spring this year. My pitifully pasty skin longs to feel the warm embrace of the Sun, which continues to evade us here in England. This week, however, I took my class to the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, where the first hints of early Spring were in evidence. The stunning orchid exhibition was such a riot of colour, that you could in fact be forgiven for mistaking this last vestige of Winter for the height of Summer! If you, like me, love flowers, then I can highly recommend Kew Gardens for a day out, no matter the season. Wherever you turn, the miscellany of colours, textures and scents is just breathtaking, and there are some wonderful new installations to be spied amidst the foliage by renowned British sculptor, David Nash.

So, just a brief post to share a few photos, and to recommend Kew if you're looking to get out of doors and seek out elusive Spring...

pp x