Tuesday, 26 March 2013

And They Lived Happily Ever After. Bollocks They Did.

& Other Stories.

While H&M might be every easy fashion followers best friend, I doubt many of us were aware of its newer but arguably more grown up sister '& Other Stories.' The idea behind this latest offering from our beloved Swedish company Hennes & Mauritz is that the store provides a one stop solution for style. Clothing, accessories, footwear and beauty all grouped together in their own 'stories'. Click on any one item on the website and you're greeted with all the usual info, but a little scroll down reveals a series of thumbnails entitled 'Part of this Story', where you'll find everything else you need to complete your outfit.

Now I know this is nothing new, most online retailers have a 'you might also like this' type vibe happening somewhere, and Lord only knows how many suggestive emails I get from amazon a day telling me that I'm going to love some product or other based on my past buying choices, but &OS have really given this some thought. 'Story' may just be an slightly more whimsical word for 'collection', but the careful consideration that's gone into the clothing line / accessory combinations is clearly evident.

The price range is definitely higher than H&M lovers might be used to, but then again this isn't just the same store by another name. The chic lines, simple shapes and minimalist branding of &OS all indicate a much more mature brand. Think a slightly modernised scandinavian Audrey Hepburn look.

Unfortunately due to a vastly over stuffed wardrobe and the current weather induced necessity to cover even the most fashion forward outfit with about 4 jumpers and a ginormous figure engulfing coat, I glossed over most of the clothing in favour of an easier purchase...

The brands identity is gorgeous and lends itself beautifully to some very understated and simple packaging. I know when your dusting cheek bones, lining lips or caressing eye lids with a loose pigment the packaging means diddly squit if the product itself is rubbish, but my love of graphic design means I'm a sucker for a well put together brand. Thankfully &OS isn't just a pretty face.

I've got a seriously big night out coming up and I've been looking for little extras to compliment my rather dark and broody leather studded outfit for a while, this Voile Pink blush might as well have run up and kicked me in the shin with its attention grabbing gloriousness. I'm not one for romantic quotes really (Billy Shakespeare on no Billy Shakespeare) but stamp a gorgeous serif typeface into a vibrant pink blush and I'm yours.

This shade might not look wearable, and yes as you'd expect it is highly pigmented, but applied lightly across the cheeks and blended out well it's the perfect spring blush. Go a little heavier handed with it for a night out and, if you want to be extremely daring, a statement diagonal sweep wouldn't be out of place in an East London Club.

My second and third purchases were determined by the ongoing battle I seem to participate in with my eyebrows. I've got the shape and size down now, but with regular home dye jobs on my barnet that mean my tresses vary from sunkissed gold to platinum blonde with bright pink and blue streaks it can be a struggle to find an eyebrow pencil or powder that works.

Darker brows are fine for my midnight debacles but I'd recently taken to dusting a combination of three MUA pallet eyeshadows onto my face framers for day time looks. Not only have I hit pan (actually I've positively made friends with it) on all three, but seriously,  'Ain't nobody got time for that! '

I've only been using & Other Stories Eyebrow Pencil (Shade - Worcester Taupe) teamed with their Eyebrow Powder (Shade - "1") for a few days but I can tell it's going to be my new go to combo. You don't have to team them up, either / or works fine if your in a hurry, but I like to start with the pencil and set with the powder. The colouring is excellent, avoiding too warmer undertone without becoming overly 'ashy'. At £6 for the pencil and £7 for the powder, they may be a little more expensive than a drugstore brand, but in my opinion definitely worth it.

Mini mention goes out to the Brow and Lash Groomer. I happened to need one so plonked it in my basket. Only £4 and a thumbs up on the satisfaction scale.

"Viole Pink" Blush & Eyebrow Powder "1"

Overall I'm excited about the beauty range from &OS. The quality of the products seems pretty high, the packaging is highly appealing and there's a lot on offer. My only quibble is that the website is a bit of a trawl. It looks beautiful but if you're hunting for a product in a hurry there's a lot of scrolling involved. My advice is get a cuppa and give yourself a good ten minutes to have a browse. Ooo and there's a free sample (which you have some choice over) with most purchases! Bonus.

What do you think of the & Other Stories look? Has anyone tried their Skincare? 
Any other gems you know of with a happy ending?

A BIG Thank You:

In all honestly I didn't have a clue this brand even existed until the ever lovely Meg author of Lips So Facto mentioned it on twitter. It was after reading her post and instantly falling in love with the Voile Pink blush that I made my over to the website and proceeded to spend about an hour perusing eveything on offer. See her post here for a further look into a couple of the products above along with a rather fetching pistachio nail varnish and what sounds to be a glorious smelling hand soap.Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Monday, 25 March 2013


I'm blessed to be surround by friends that have rather eclectic tastes in music and am therefore constantly subjected to some awesome sounds. Every so often my lug holes get treated to a combination of notes that really hits the spot. Currently that spot is being repeatedly poked and prodded by the devilishly named Lucius.

The band's sound centers around combining the voices of Jess Wolfe & Holly Laessig into one deliciously dark yet magical sound. Grimm's fairy-tales rather than Disney princesses. With the superb musical talents of Dan Molad (drums), Peter Lalish (guitar) and Andrew Burri (guitar) layering some brilliant chords around the energetic vocals.

I've currently got the attitude filled 'Genevieve' and 'Turn it Around' on repeat, but the whole self titled EP (available from i-tunes) is brilliant. Album due August 2013.

The slower and definitely more angst ridden self indulgent 'Go Home' and 'Don't Just Sit There' are more haunting and melancholic than the aforementioned energy boosters but no less worthy of your headspace. The video for 'Go Home' (featured) is a piece of art in itself, give it a oogle if you fancy.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

You Can't Polish A Turd, But You Can Cover It In Sprinkles.

You know that scene in The Vicar of Dibley where she sticks her head in the chocolate fountain. Yeah? THAT. These bad boys aren't quite there, but they're pretty damn close.


125g Dark Chocolate
125g Margarine (Stork)
125g Icing Sugar
6 Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
100g Granulated Sugar
125g Plain flour

&  Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Chocolate Fudge Icing

You'll also need a muffin tin and muffin cases.

Preheat your oven to 190C.

Melt the dark chocolate by popping it in the microwave in a suitable bowl (I use pyrex) for short bursts of time. You really need to keep an eye on it or it could burn, and no one wants that. Once its all deliciously silky and liquified resist the urge to dip your fingers in there and leave it on the side to cool down.

In a large bowl beat the butter till smooth (medium speed on an electric mixer, or a wooden spoon and a lot of welly!). Add the icing sugar to the butter, fold it in a couple of times carefully with a spoon or rubber ended spatular then beat/whisk (low speed for all you electric folk) till it turns light and fluffy.

This next bit makes me feel like a bloody awesome Domestic Goddess ...

You've gotta add the egg yolks to the butter/sugar mixture but keep the egg whites separate. I find the easiest way of doing this is to grab another large bowl, crack an egg gently on the rim and then break it into your cupped hand with your fingers ever so slightly apart, the egg white slips into the bowl and the yolk remains in your hand. Sounds tricky but I promise its not. If you're really struggling or don't fancy using your hands then check out this video. Anyway, I add 3 yolks and mix, then the other 3 and mix again. Now add your chocolate gooeyness and the vanilla extract and mix it all together.

Put that deliciousness to one side, clean off your mixing apparatus and head over to your big bowl of egg whites. Add the granulated sugar and get mixing. You want the mixer set on a high speed for this, and if you're using a hand whisk then you might want to shot a redbull or something before you start. It'll take a while but keep going until the whites form soft shiny peaks. If you can turn the bowl upside down without anything shifting you've got it spot on. Don't over beat or you'll loose all the air, the cakes won't rise properly and are likely to be pretty dense and heavy.

Spoon about a fourth of the whites into the butter/sugar/chocolate/egg/vanilla mixture and stir this in fully with a rubber spatular or spoon. Add the remaining egg whites and fold in carefully. Don't mix fully, leave a few wisps of white, sift half the flour into the bowl, fold a little again, sift the other half and fold once more. Everything should now be completely integrated into a wonderfully light mixture.

When filling your muffin cases you only want to go three-quarters, not the top, and make sure you level out the mixture or your cakes might rise wonky.

Bake for 15 minutes or so, and check by putting a toothpick into the centre of a cake, if it comes out clean those bad boys are ready!

Let them cool in the tin for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool of completely.

Now these cakes work great with a standard vanilla butter cream frosting, however for those of us craving a coco covered smack in the face rather than a light tickle I suggest the following:

Reach for the Betty Crocker and get piping.

Adapted and converted from this wonderful recipe by Kat Suletzki.

Check out her blog www.cupofsugarpinchofsalt.com for a plethora of mouthwatering recipes.