Quick & Easy Mulled Wine From Scratch

Hi guys!

A very quick festive recipe for you to enjoy with a mince pie and friends/family on Christmas Eve - mulled wine from scratch! No need for spice sachets/pre-made bottles here!

J & I cooked this up last weekend and it's totally delicious - spicy, fruity and so warming.

You'll need:
A bottle (or two) of red wine
100g caster sugar
The peel of 1 orange and 1 lemon
Good squeeze of lemon juice
4 cloves
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
A vanilla pod/couple of drops of vanilla extract
Pinch of ground nutmeg

1. Add all of your dry ingredients plus lemon juice to a saucepan and then add enough of the red wine to cover (1-2cm). On a medium heat, bring to the boil but don't let the sugar burn (lots of stirring and bringing it up to heat slowly should help).

Dry ingredients + juice of 1 lemon
2. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer - you'll see the mixture start to become a syrup, this is GOOD!

3. When all the sugar is dissolved and has simmered for around 5-10 minutes, add the rest of the wine.
4. Bring up to temperature but do not let it boil! That will cook off the alcohol, and we don't want that!

Serve in glasses or mugs whilst warm. Either carefully ladle out to avoid 'bits', or run through a muslin.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!


Nail Rock Glitter Nail Art Set - Christmas Sparkle!

Hi guys!

In my December Birchbox, I received a full size Nail Rock Glitter Nail Art Set in Red and delighted in the Christmassy sparkle. I am now home for the holidays (yippee!) so spent last night trying it out. I am no nail artist but this is fairly easy although public service warning - prepare for some glitteriness messiness!

I am loving this product for festive glam - to make it last longer I put a couple of layers of top coat varnish on top of the glitter layer, fingers crossed it lasts me until the big day!

First layer complete! It dries with a matte finish so not sure how much I'll use the colour without glitter..

You can either go for the accent nail...
Or go the whole hog! (I told you it got messy!)

Festive sparkle

Hope you enjoyed this quick little post - have a relaxing Sunday!

Birchbox UK December 2013 - My First Time!

Hi guys! After wanting to for a while, I finally subscribed to Birchbox UK to receive monthly boxes of 4-5 beauty, hair and body products to introduce me to new brands and ideas and today my first ever box arrived! I got strangely giddy unboxing it, lots of little layers to open before the grand reveal - feels like a sneak peek of Christmas to have a little box of presents to discover!

I've not had a chance to try all of the products out yet, but here's a round up of the contents in my box. (When you subscribe there's a chance to fill in a survey on what you are interested in so there will be some variation between mine and others' boxes as they try to tune them to your wishes).

Nail Rock Glitter Dust Red - For me this was the most exciting item in this month's Birchbox. It's a full size product, worth £6.99 and is perfect for the upcoming festivities! I'm not able to wear nail varnish for work so can't wait to try this out at the weekend for Christmas and the New Year holidays. Will let you know how I get on, I am slightly apprehensive for it not being quite as easy as they make it look on the pack...!

Model Co Party Proof Matte Lipstick in 'Get Naked' - Another great full size product, based on a trio on sale on Birchbox online, this is likely worth around £5.20. It's a nude shade and applies really smoothly. Feels very moisturising and would look great with a strong eye or just for daytime neutral looks. 

Laura Mercier Body & Bath Ambre Vanillé Soufflé Body Crème - I've never used any of Laura Mercier's body products before but this one looks gorgeous! It smells lovely and is incredibly light to apply. Feels luxurious on the skin and the perfume lasts a couple of hours too. Based on £43.50 for a 300g tub, this 25g sample is worth £3.63.

Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle - This small bottle of hair spritz looked useful, it detangles, heat protects, UV protects, seals cuticle and smooths hair as well as conditioning and adding shine. The smell is ok, despite being vegan, paraben- and sulfate-free it has a slightly chemical smell to me. The most frustrating this about this one for me is that mine won't spray! Will continue to try but is a shame as would have liked to give it a proper try out on my hair...

Delarom Acquaconfort Mask - I hadn't heard of this brand before but have since read that is a natural skin care brand that focuses on nourishing the skin (I'm in!). This mask contains pomegranate extract and smells deliciously fresh and fruity. Will use it during my next pamper session and let you know how I get on! Based on €26 (£22 approx) for 50ml, this 15ml sample works out at worth over £6 - I better make the 15ml last!

Twistband Hair Tie - My initial reaction to this hair tie was that it was just a length of nicely coloured elastic tied at one end (and why would anyone pay £10 for 6 of that?!). However, I can see some strengths to these over conventional hair bands - for example they are much softer and less likely to dig in if you wear on your wrist and also less ugly so can always have one handy (hand pun not essential!!). They do hold my hair well in a pony tail too, although would be worth seeing how long they hold their stretch. I am on the fence on these, I don't think I would choose to pay for them but it was fun to get one and try it out.

I have loved my first Birchbox (and I'm pretty sure you can see why!), it was £10 for the box plus (£2.95 p&p), if you are interested in giving it a go, here's a link to their site*! Perfect treat for yourself or a last-minute Christmas subscription gift to a friend.

Will update you on how I get on with some of these products, in the meantime have a lovely weekend and bring on the festivities!


*if you subscribe through this link (click it, click it!), your subscription will be totally as normal but Birchbox will reward me with points to spend on their online shop. Likewise, if you subscribe and then send your link to a friend, you'll get the same. It's a chain of Birchbox love here, guys!

Saturday Style Sessions - Christmas Tree Edition!

Hi guys!

Today we went and bought our first ever Christmas tree together!! It is small but PERFECTLY formed. And we have no angel or star, so a small robin is taking pride of place on top.

Naked Tree!

I am feeling all festive writing this, eating Quality Streets, listening to 'Now That's What I Call Christmas' (classic!) and sipping mulled wine - bliss! For our Christmassy adventure buying the tree, lights & decorations, I wore some of my new, cosy birthday clothes:

OOTD: Clarks ankle boots, Topshop Tall Skinny Jeans, Merino Wool Jumper from M&S, Zara Leather Jacked, Zara Scarf (LOVE this, so warm and snuggly - and also doubles as a picnic blanket...), Topshop Bobble Hat, DKNY Handbag.
I am going nuts for autumnal/winter lip colours at the moment, today I was wearing 17 Lasting Fix in Autumn Berries and I also invested in a new Moisture Renew lipstick by Rimmel today, in 500 Diva Red. It's bright and very red. But I think it's perfect for Christmas parties and I'll definitely be wearing it for my Christmas lunch this year!

This is the 17 Autumn Berries shade.

New Lippy! Rimmel 500.

Left = Rimmel Diva Red 500, Right = 17 Autumn Berries

Hope you are all having a lovely weekend - tomorrow I have MAJOR Christmas shopping to finish!


Birthday Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Hi guys! I recently turned another year older and to celebrate I went home for the weekend and saw lots of friends and family and had a LOVELY time. I chose to bring the whole affair forward a couple of days because turning 24 in the middle of a night shift and then sleeping through the entire day and then going back to work whilst it's still your birthday doesn't really seem like a birthday at all. 

Anyway. I got special permission to make my own birthday cake this year and due to the fact I have been obsessed for the last month or two, it had to be carrot cake - with cream cheese frosting, naturally. 

The recipe is based on one I found by Mary Berry, baking wonderwoman extraordinaire, with just a couple of changes. It made a big, tall cake which would easily serve at least 10 people (as long as you're not all planning on having doorstop-sized slices, though I wouldn't blame you!).

You'll need:

250ml sunflower oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 225g light muscovado or soft brown sugar
  • 200g (3-4) carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 50g walnuts, shelled and chopped
  • 75g raisins or sultanas

  • For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 50g butter (room temperature)
  • 100g icing sugar 
  • 250g full-fat cream cheese (room temperature)
  • a few drops of vanilla extract

  • 1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan 160°C/350°F/Gas 4). Grease two deep 20cm (8in) round sandwich tins and line the bases of the cake tins with baking parchment. 

  • 2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs and sugar. This should blend together and thicken slightly. 

  • 3. Fold in the grated carrot.

  • 4. Add the flour, baking powder, ginger and mixed spice. Mix together and then stir in the chopped walnuts and raisins. The raisins are not in the original recipe but add a little more moisture and tasty goodness.

  • 5. Once all mixed evenly, divide into the two sandwich tins. Handy tip - using your spoon, create a slight dip in the middle of the surface of the mixture in the tin. This just helps avoid having conical cakes out of the oven!

  • 6. Pop them in the oven for around 35 mins or until golden brown and a knife comes out clean from the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

  • YUM.
  • 7. Enjoy the amazing smell that will waft around your kitchen.

  • 8. Whilst cakes are cooling, prepare your frosting. Ideally using an electric whisk, blend together your butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract and icing sugar until light and fluffy. It is really important that both your butter and cream cheese are at room temperature, otherwise you'll end up with tiny lumps on butter visible throughout the cream cheese frosting.

  • 9. Once cooled, spread half of the icing on one of the cakes to form your middle layer. Lay the second cake on top and then cover the top with frosting. If you like, get creative with some extra walnuts on top - I tried this but it looked disastrous so took them off and patched up with more frosting...!

  • 10. EAT! This cake is so moist and delicious, not too sweet and lasts well, up to around 4-5 days if kept in an airtight container. You'll need to keep it fairly cool though so if you have a hot kitchen then pop it in the fridge.

  • Would love to know if you give this recipe a go guys, I would definitely recommend it - the spicy flavours are extra special at this time of year too. 

  • Thanks for reading! JAM x

  • One Girl, One Factory, MANY Men: Working in Manufacturing & the Supply Chain

    Hi guys! Today's post is a bit different from the usual - in the past six weeks there has been a lot of changes for me, moving house, moving job location and experiencing a WHOLE new work environment too and I want to record some of the mad and also mundane things that have been going on! I would never have thought that I'd be spending six months in a factory, wearing a hairnet and ugly safety shoes every day and yet am totally loving it, and hey, maybe there's someone else out there who's in a similar testosterone-filled boat or just a 100% life/work change who can relate to my mumblings.

    I work in the food industry and am on an eighteen month graduate scheme in the Supply Chain in which I develop experience and knowledge and undergo training to supposedly 'set me up to be a future manager/director/whateveryouwanttocallit'. Firstly, let's go back a few years - my degree is in German with Linguistics & Phonetics. Ask me two years ago what the Supply Chain was and I would have only thought of paper chains. Ask me if I thought manufacturing sounded up my street and I would have laughed. And yet, through a series of fortunate circumstances (and a gruelling application process, I might add...), here I am, after two placements in cosy, plush head office learning about planning and procurement, up to my ears in dough and walking around a factory floor for 10 hours a day!


    I am surrounded by men. In the factory office. In the factory itself. The engineers (a WHOLE other species). I am about to go onto PERMANENT NIGHTS for 3 weeks (totally mad, I'm petrified that I won't sleep at all and become a horrible zombie but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it). In the six weeks so far I have learnt a few things about being a girl in a manufacturing, man-filled environment and they may help you out too if that's why you're reading (if you're reading for a laugh at my hairnet photos, that's also a-ok with me).

    Crazy lady. Why have one horrendous hairnet photo when you could have two..!?
    1. Swearing no longer becomes offensive. Not even the C word. If you haven't heard that the production line is f***ing this and the weather's f***ing that by 7.30 in the morning then something's not right.
    2. Days are long. 10 or 11 hours running around on your feet gets tiring, but you won't realise at the time because there's enough going on to keep that adrenalin pumping around your body until you get home and crash anddontgetoutofbedagainallnight.
    3. Your hair can look disgusting and noone will know. Hairnets can be a blessing in disguise.
    4. You can't say a single sentence without someone making an innuendo from it. Roll with it.
    5. There is a moment, when you are accepted by your colleagues. You know this because they feel they can make digs at you and you'll be ok with them. It's a big moment, for both parties.
    6. It SUCKS to not be able to wear any jewellery, scarves, watches, strong perfumes, nice shoes or skirts. Weekends become all the more reason to dress up nicely and be girly.
    7. Be friendly (not friends) with the operators. Be firm, too. (This is something I'm working on - I am naturally very relationship-focused and always want harmony with my colleagues so 'difficult conversations' - the politically correct way of saying giving someone a good talking to - is a work in progress for me...)
    8. If you get opportunities then grab them - this is the only time I'll get to work shifts and nights so I want to give it a go and say I've done it, even if it's hell on earth for a few weeks!
    9. Enjoy it! Relax, you don't know anything everything, you've just started, you're allowed to make the odd mistake. A (food) factory is a fast-moving, disaster-any-minute, exciting environment to work in and no day is boring so forget the fact that you look like a tramp, forget that you've been up since silly o'clock and get stuck in!
    JAM x

    Nutella and Banana Bites - The Boy Who Bakes

    I recently had the pleasure of meeting Edd Kimber, aka The Boy Who Bakes and winner of the first series of the Great British Bake Off and as part of the event, won myself a signed copy of his book (hurrah!) - also titled The Boy Who Bakes. Edd was absolutely lovely, and the recipes in his book all look SO delicious. The book is divided into various sections and includes the likes of cakes, bars & cookies, desserts and help on the basics too e.g. different types of pastries, creams, custards and fillings.

    I have not yet had much of a chance to get properly stuck into trying delights such as PB & J bars, apple & pecan tart or speculaas blondies, but the other day had a spare few minutes so rustled up one of the easiest bakes in the book Nutella and Banana Bites (in fact, so easy that not even a 'bake' is required!).  This recipe is clear and simple, I amended only a teeny bit and they taste UH-MAZING. So, here goes!

    You will need:
    3 tablespoons butter (plus extra for greasing)
    140g mini marshmallows
    75g rice crispies
    100g milk chocolate, broken into pieces (could also use dark if you prefer things a little less sweet)
    275g Nutella (I only used 200g - one small jar - and had just about enough)
    2 large bananas

    1. Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper and lightly grease.
    2. Melt the butter in a pan on medium heat.

    3. Once melted, add the marshmallows, allow to melt and then stir together.

    4. Remove from heat and add the rice crispies then stir to coat evenly.

    5. Once all mixed together, press firmly into the tin and set aside (at this point I popped it in the fridge to speed up the cooling process whilst I prepared the next stage)

    6. For the chocolate topping, break the chocolate into a bowl and add the Nutella then microwave gently, stopping frequently to stir, until all the chocolate has melted.

    7. Avoid temptation to forget the recipe and eat the chocolate instead.

    8. In order to avoid temptation, spend time slicing bananas onto rice crispie layer.

    9. Cover with the chocolate mix and then leave to cool.

    10. Once thoroughly cooled, slice into squares with a sharp knife.

    Note: these do not keep that well - the banana can lead to some sogginess although taste remains top throughout, all the more reason to enjoy them with a nice cup of tea asap!

    Let me know if you give these a go, or anything else in the book. I definitely would recommend it and can't wait to try something else out when I have a spare afternoon sometime soon! Have a lovely weekend!
    JAM x

    Coastal Castle Adventure - Corfe, Swanage & A Ferry!

    Hi guys! As you know, I have moved down to the south coast of the UK for 6 months with work and not long ago, J & I went exploring my new surroundings! Our journey started in pretty exciting fashion - we caught a ferry! It wasn't entirely intended, we thought we were headed around the coastline but then ended up being directed by the satnav to a little ferry port instead where we (obviously) decided to go for it and hop on the boat, car and all! Sadly, the trip was over as quickly as it began, we had just clambered out of the car onto the deck with cameras ahoy when the boat started to slow down and we had to jump back in and drive off - fun all the same!

    The drive over to Corfe from Shell Bay is a stunning one, rolling hills and heathland as far as the eye can see and then coastline and white sand around every corner - can definitely see why this is a popular tourist spot. When we got there, we parked and then trekked up about 20 minutes to the town (village?) of Corfe. Met a nice sheep on our way. 

    Such 'Englishness' - Corfe Town.
    The ruins are pretty spectacular the whole walk up so after a quick look around Corfe and one of the worst lunches I have had in a pub ever (awful awful awful!), we paid our National Trust entry fee and entered the castle! The child in me took over and I played with the medieval dress up and masks straight away (J pretended not to be with me - sorrynotsorry). We then explored the various towers, rooms and arrowslits (new word alert! Wikipedia even references the very arrowslit we saw...!) of days gone by. The view from the top of the castle was mp

    This wood + sky + rope just appealed to me too much to not take a photograph.

    When we were medieval castled-out, we headed back and drove via Swanage, another town nearby where we had afternoon tea and a quick wander along the beach. It feels so nice living by the sea, but so disappointing that as soon as the weather becomes good enough for sunbathing and surfing lessons, I'll be finished here and heading back to head office!

    All in all, we had a LOVELY day on our exploring adventure, who knows where we'll try out next!
    JAM x