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