Your 5 Must Haves this Season with The Oracle {Reading, Berkshire}

I read somewhere that we only wear 20% of our wardrobes and it got me to thinking about what I wear out of my wardrobe and I would have to say that it's a probably fairly accurate percentage. I wear the same two or three pairs of jeans and the same handful of t-shirts and/or sweat shirts that depends on the season. The rest sits there and I keep saying yeah I'll wear that one day.

Therefore it's very important to take the time to pick out those items that one can and will wear over and over again. This is the idea behind The Oracle's "Your 5" campaign. I was invited along as a blogger guest to check out what it was all about. 

One of the professional stylist's took me through the must have coats, knitwear, trousers, boots, and skirts before having a quick makeover with MAC makeup.

At each station we discussed the different looks and colours of the season and I couldn't resist the military style coats especially the black one pictured above in my 5 must haves! Knitwear is always a must when the weather starts to change! Sweaters are my favorite because they can be dressed up  and down depending on where you are going.

One can never go wrong with a great pair of black wide legged trousers. It's a must for any and every occasion. Because it's such an important piece of clothing it's in my general opinion to pay a bit more for them. I have bought many of cheap pairs that only ever made it through a few wears.

Boots. I personally have been in search for a pair of boots for ages and I found a pair from New Look that I just had to have! As seen in the picture below. The heal is a bit taller then I'm used too so I will have to practice walking in them.... but I am in love with them!

Last must have item was a skirt, but I am not a big skirt person. I did fall in love with this long black leather skirt and I have been thinking about it since yesterday. It might be that item I go back to buy sooner then later! I will keep you posted!

And before I left I had a quick stop at the make-up counter and had a mini-makeover! She asked what colour I wanted to go with for my lips and I said lets go crazy! Crazy for me anyway! Lately all over histogram I have been seeing people with purple lips so that's what we went for! It was MAC Instigator! I had compliments on it all night!

Today is the last day they will be in The Oracle so if you have moment go see them! Everyone was super nice and informative!!

notes: I was invited along to the event and was compensated for my time. I was not asked to give a positive review. Please see my contact/policy page for more information. 

Mason Jar Nation by JoAnn Moser {book review}

Mason Jars have an interesting history and in recent years have become widely popular for it's variety and numerous uses. For food bloggers like myself they make great props and are great to bake cupcakes in!

However, JoAnn Moser shows us that that's not all they are good for! She gives us 50 different ways to use mason jars and I'm sure her ideas will inspire you to do much more with them! The chapters break down by Crafts, In the Garden, In the Kitchen, Inspired Storage, and Lighting and Lanterns.

I'd love to try and make -

From Crafts: 

  • Lucky Bamboo Water Garden
  • Tissue Paper Tumblers

From In the Garden:

  • Mason Jar Bird Feeder
  • Jar Band Wind Chime

From In the Kitchen:

  • Dark Forest Trail Mix
  • Pineapple-Infused Vodka
  • Homemade Butter in a Jar
  • Fruit smoothie in a Jar
  • Night-Before Granola
  • Yogurt Breakfast Sundaes

From Inspired Storage:

  • Swizzle Stick Pop-up Holder
  • Wine-Not Desk Organiser
  • Clip and Binder Holder

From Lighting and Lanterns:

  • Moonbeam Stakes
  • Vintage Firefly Lantern

I am not much of a crafter so the projects I would be most interested in are probably on the easy side, but there are more challenging projects for the craft inclined!

Overall the book was very well researched and I thought the projects weren't just cute, but actual things people would want to try out!!

notes: I was given a copy of Mason Jar Nation by JoAnn Moser to review by the publisher, Cool Springs Press. Retails at £11.99 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.

Apple & Elderflower Drizzle Cake

The Great British Bake Off is back! Well it was what 2 weeks ago? Every year I say I'm going to bake along with the Bake Off and every year I don't. I like baking and I enjoy the show, but I hate feeling like I have to bake something I don't want to bake just to tag along.

But every year there is that part of me that wants to tag along! I want to be apart of all the social media groups that are baking along and take part in all the competitions held by Lakeland and Dunelm and other various kitchenware companies.

I just can't get my act together. I made a drizzle cake, the one I'm about to share with you two days after the first episode! Yay great, but I'm only just blogging about it. Oops. I also had all the ingredients to make Viennese Whirls and I still have all the ingredients sitting in my cupboard. Oops again. And there is no way I'm going to prepared for this week! Bread.

However, I will be watching every week and maybe I'll be able to sort it out and actually bake something and blog it all in the same week? Although please don't hold me to it.

Apple & Elderflower Drizzle Cake

2 granny smith apples, diced
juice and zest of one lime
2 tbsp sparkling elderflower presse
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
250ml sunflower oil
250g caster sugar
4 large eggs, 3 separated
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp sparkling elderflower presse
juice and zest of one lime
50g demerara sugar

Heat the oven to 160C and grease the bundt with butter and dust lightly with flour.
Mix the diced apples with the juice and zest of the lime along with the elderflower presse.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and almonds and leave to the side.
Beat the sunflower oil, 125g of the sugar, 1 whole egg and 3 yolks plus the vanilla until completely combined it should be lighter in color. Fold in the dry ingredients and just the juice from the apples.
In a separate bowl whisk the 3 leftover egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the leftover 125g of sugar and whisk until thick and shiny. Gently fold it into the cake batter a third at a time. Last, but not least, fold in the diced apples.
Gently pour/spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before carefully turning the cake out of the pan gently poke holes around the cake.
Leave mixing the drizzle ingredients together until you finished the last step. You don't want the sugar dissolving in the liquid you want it to be a bit crunchy where the sugar doesn't soak all the way through. Leave to cool completely before serving!

notes: recipe is inspired from a BBC Good Food recipe found in their 2016 calendar.

The Traveling Oreo Brownies

Summer finally arrived and then it went again just like that. Luckily before it went my friend and I made a trip to London to visit the Tate Modern when it was still sunny. It is my favorite museum in all of London, because to me modern art is the most expressive and interesting. Don't get me wrong, my university professor Kyle Crocker taught me to appreciate all art in all it's forms, but I like art that says something even if I don't agree with what it's saying.

I have been to the Tate Modern many times and there is always something new to see! There are always new exhibitions, but the art that has been there since it's opened is different every time I see it. It's like a book or a movie that speaks to you differently at different points in your life.

However, this time there was actually something new to see! The Switch House has been rebuilt with a 10 story tower and loads of more gallery space. As we were exploring this new space we must have looked a bit lost because a security guard stopped us and asked if she could help. She asked if we had been to the 10th floor yet, we hadn't. She instructed us to go up there right away and to come back and tell her what we thought after we'd seen the view.

Of course it was amazing, London always looks amazing from the sky. Here at the Tate the view is free and you can go whenever you want! The Shard and London Eye charge for the view and where the Sky Garden is gorgeous and free you have to plan the trip in advance and book tickets.

To make our trip even more cost effective we packed our own lunches. Neither of us were interested in playing the game of where to eat. It's a game we both despise. So, to accompany us on our day out I made my favorite brownie recipe and added some chocolate creme Oreos to them, because when you are going for chocolate you might as well go all out right?

They were great and added the sugar boost we needed after an an exhausting day of being cultured!

Chocolate Creme Oreo Brownies

100g dark chocolate, broken up
200g milk chocolate, broken up
250g salted butter
400g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs
140g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1 pkg (154g) chocolate creme Oreos

Preheat oven to 180C/gas4 and line a 9in square pan/tin with parchment paper. Line approximately 9 Oreos on the bottom. I didn't want mine touching so spaced them out a bit. But line them up however you want! Crush the remaining Oreos until they are crumbs of varying sizes.
Very gently melt both chocolates with the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan. Just before the chocolate is completely melted, take off the heat and gently stir until it’s completely melted.
Then add the eggs one at a time to the melted chocolate mixture. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the pan and stir until just combined. Stir in about half of the Oreo crumbs.
Gently pour the mixture over the Oreos and sprinkle the rest of the crumbs over the top before baking in the pre-heated oven for 40-45 minutes.
I suggest baking them until more firm if you are taking them on a picnic, less if you want a gooey brownie.

Oh, and we did see the security guard again in another gallery and we told her how very impressed we were with the view! The piece of art that spoke to me this visit: Ibrahim El-Salahi 'Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams I' 1961–5

Tate Modern: Bankside, London, SE, United Kingdom

notes: this post is not sponsored in anyway by either the Tate Modren nor Oreo people for more information please see my contact/policy page! Recipe is adapted from Bakes & Cakes Magazine Summer 2013 (BBC Good Food Mag).
Other brownies I made using variations of this recipe: Snicker Stuffed Brownies, Twix Brownies, and Chocolate Chip Brownies!

Summer Food Fest {at the Oracle Reading, Berkshire}

The Oracle in Reading is my shopping centre! I go there not only for the shopping, but for the food! The Riverside has an amazing variety of restaurants all in one spot! From sushi, to burgers, to tacos and pizza there is something for everyone!

This weekend (August 12-13th) sample food from some of the restaurants and if you have the Plus App check it out for some amazing deals this weekend from Jamie's Italian and Boost!

The Oracle invited a group of us bloggers out for another supper safari! We got to try Ed's Diner's shakes and floats (amazing by the way) and our main course was from the well known Miller and Carters followed by dessert at Las Inguas !!

As an American I love a good retro American Diner and Ed's doesn't disappoint with their amazing shakes and floats! I of course had a classic rootbeer float and it was just what I had wanted after a walk through town!

I had heard amazing things about Miller and Carters, but never had the pleasure of visiting before. I can honestly say the steaks were so good that I can't wait to take my friends there!! We were given a variety of all the sides and salads to accompany the steaks. The steaks we were given to share were the 8oz sirloin and the famous Tomahawk steak! Both were cooked to perfection and served with a sort of onion hash brown that I couldn't get enough of! That's saying something because I generally don't like onions! The waiter served us an great red wine (Newton Johnson: 2013 Full Stop Rock) to accompany the dinner and it was a perfect pairing!

We ended the night at Las Iguanas with a cocktail and their dessert menu! We couldn't decide so they gave us one of everything! My favorite was the churros and the chocolate cake!! The cocktail was a bit like a mojito, but is called a Caipirinha that is made with Las Iguanas Magnifica cachaca, fresh lime, and sugar. I found it refreshing after such a rich meal of steak!

Overall a great night out and I met some amazing new bloggers that I've only met or seen in passing at other local events! Find them on twitter: 
Mode Madeleine @MaddieMagpie 

The Oracle Shopping Centre, Reading, RG1 2AG

notes: I was invited out by the PR group that handle the Oracle and was not asked to write a positive to review, but to share and spread the news of their summer food fest this weekend! For more information see my contact policy page!

Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, & Fudge Muffins

Whenever some one says to me that they would like to start baking, but don't know where to start or what to try first I always suggest muffins. Muffins are one of the easiest things to bake as you just mix all the dry ingredients together and then the wet ingredients. They also almost always use oil instead of butter and therefore usually turn out soft and fluffy!

Muffins are also a great thing to bake with children for the same reasons above! These delicious Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, and Fudge muffins were created last Sunday morning by my two girls.

Sunday's are our lazy days and they wanted muffins for breakfast. They couldn't agree on chocolate chips or fudge pieces so we put both in! We were all ready to go and we had all our stuff out ready to go when I realised we didn't have eggs!! I know!! To avoid disappointed we ran to our corner shop in our jammies!

Both girls were like "What?!?! We're going to walk there in our jammies?!?!" They were shocked and horrified, but at 7 o'clock in the morning (they are early risers) it was only the guy working there who saw us!

So, for lazy Sunday mornings or something to do over the summer holidays bake these tasty peanut butter muffins and add whatever you want to them!!

Peanut butter, chocolate chip, & fudge muffins

150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
pinch of salt
90g peanut butter
100ml sunflower oil
1 large egg
175ml milk
chocolate chips
fudge pieces

Heat the oven to 200C line the cupcake/muffin tin with paper cases.
Sieve the flour and baking powder into a big bowl, add the the sugar and salt - mix together.
In a smaller bowl or jug mix the peanut butter, oil, egg, and milk together. The peanut butter won't fully incorporate, but that's okay!
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold in until just combined. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and fudge pieces. I guesstimated them about 50g of chocolate chips and about 25g fudge pieces.
Spoon into the paper cases and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Until the sponge springs back after being lightly touched, if in doubt use the skewer test.

notes: recipe adapted by my 8 & 6 from 100 Magnificent Muffins and Scones by Felicity Barnum-Bobb 

Cafe London: Brunch, Lunch, Coffee, and Afternoon Tea (book review)

Ask and you shall receive. In my book review of Eat Like a Londoner last October I said it would have been better if there were more bakeries and similar places mentioned. Well, this book covers those bakeries and similar places; those places where you can get a good cup of coffee or enjoy a great afternoon tea and even some really off the wall places that you could only find in London!

In 2015 London had a population of 8.674 million people and there are hundreds if not thousands of cafe's in and around London to cater to the caffeine boost everyone needs on a daily basis. Cafe London gives us 100 of the best places to find not only coffee but, a great place to get brunch or lunch! It also tells us the best places to book in for an infamous afternoon tea or where you should go to satisfy a sweet tooth with some of the best bakeries in the city!

Not only are we told about the food, but we are also told of the ambience and decor of the places and if the gorgeous pictures are anything to go by these places are absolutely stunning each in their own way.

The addresses of each cafe is provided along with websites and any other information that might be important. At the end of each chapter we are given "seven more" places to check out! The index is broken down into London districts and it includes maps with the cafe's pinpointed! Our editor thought of everything!

If one lives in London or they are planning a day trip I would consult this book for the best places to grab a quick bite or treat!

Chapter Breakdown: 

Brunch - It's a very American thing to have brunch, a sort of meal that is eaten early morning. A meal that isn't quite breakfast but, isn't lunch either. The Counter Cafe, a converted warehouse, is said not only to serve a great brunch, but roasts it's on coffee on site! You can take a bag home with you after enjoying a great cuppa! Sounds like my kind of place!

Lunch - Sometimes lunch can be over looked, by that I mean it's the meal that gets rushed because of time. Instead of grabbing an awful pre-packaged sandwich or salad any of the places listed in this chapter would be a great alternative! The cafe I'd like to visit is the J+A Cafe mainly because the location, tucked away down an alley way run by two sisters who insist on sourcing great ingredients!

Coffee - What can I say I'd visit every place listed here as I love a good cup of coffee! I also like trying new and different types of coffee! Coffee isn't for everyone, but don't rule these places out as the majority of them sell more then coffee! They provide food too!

Cakes & Bakes - I have heard and visited several of these places listed and there are so many more I have never heard of and need to remedy the fact that I haven't visited!! I can recommend Konditor & Cook for their Curly Wurly cake that I tried a few months back for the fist time. I have wanted to visit Violet Cakes and Lily Vanilli for ages now, thinking I am due a trip to London to do just that!

Afternoon Tea - When you think of London and of England you think of afternoon tea and this chapter gives you the best places to visit for a great afternoon tea! Of course the majority of the places need to be pre-booked so make sure you plan a visit to these places! I think I need to book myself into Sketch mainly because it's described as making "you feel like you're dining in a giant fondant fancy."

Culture, Shop, Tea Break - the best cafes found in museums, galleries, and shops! As much as I love a good baked good I also love a good book so my first stop would be the London Review Cake Shop it's connected to the London Review Book Shop.

Unusual & Alfresco - This chapter is split into two, first listing all the unusual places to go like the Cereal Killer Cafe that serves all varieties of cereal and Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium where cats wonder around freely. You're not allowed to cuddle the cats, but you can pet one if and only if it comes up to you. Then there is a short list of places that have outside seating! The Lido Cafe even has a pool and is described as South Beach in south London!

Overall this is a great little book for those who love food, coffee, cake, and most of all London! 

notes: Cafe London by Nicky Evans, Pippa Bailey, Andy Hill, and Nicola Tup Edited by Zena Alkayat and Photographs by Km Lightbody (SRP-UK £9.99 US $14.99 Canada $17.99) was given to me to review by the publishers Frances Lincoln - Quatro, no other compensation was given - all opinions are my own, for more information please see my contact/policy page above.


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