Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A spot of tipple : Rhubarb and ginger cocktail

A tasty autumn tipple, warm your cockles with this spicy cocktail that certainly has a bit of a kick.

 50ml rhubarb infused gin (see instructions below)
 75ml apple juice
 50ml ginger beer

Firstly create your rhubarb gin by placing 250g of rhubarb with a dash of sugar into a bottle of gin to infuse for a month, so you'll need to plan this tasty tipple in advance.

After a month of infusing strain the gin mix and decant into a bottle and your ready to go!

Top a highball glass up with ice and mix together the gin infusion with the apple juice, top up with ginger beer and add the garnish of your choice.

Best drunk: when you fancy a tasty winter warmer on those cold dark nights.

The classic American diner on our roadside: OK Diner

Who doesn't love a good diner?! Why settle for bland sandwiches for lunch when you could tuck into a delicious burger and fries, OK Diner certainly fills a hungry void whilst also re-creating the classic American roadside diner for a truly tasty experience.

OK Diner's have been brightening up UK roadsides for years, a hidden gem amongst many A roads. Bringing everything that makes the classic 1950's diner together with a very American menu of treats and eats for a rather unique experience. With restaurants dotted across the UK from Derby to North Wales making for a perfect pit stop on your trip.

Their diners could have been teleported across time with their chrome exterior and neon lights beaconing you inside, their red & blue booths fit alongside the Americana decor adorning the diner, if you close your eyes and ignore the dreary British weather outside the wafts of malts, coffee and fried treats could easily make you think you were stateside.

Of course it's not just about the look, the food is what really makes OK Diner, full of American classics from the humble burger, to pancake stacks, pulled pork sandwiches and plenty of shakes to over indulge.

If it's classic burgers that your after you won't be disappointed, there's plenty to choose from whatever your tastes, whether you fancy something a little sweet like their Big BBQ burger topped with layers of cheese, bacon, bbq sauce and onion rings, or something different to the usual like their Gauc 'n' roll burger topped with guacamole, cheese and bacon, you can even get your burger cooked to perfection how you like it.

But it's not just about the burgers, OK diner serves up a vast menu of choice for classic dishes, from grills to hot dogs and sandwiches, their pulled pork sandwich simply has to be tasted, even the description alone on their menu will have you salivating..

Top it off with a menu of tasty desserts from hot waffles to cheesecakes for an American taste experience. Their signature shakes and malts are a must try, simply for their peanut butter shake alone, in fact you may just want to house yourself up there for the day to sample a full course of dinners..

Next time you find yourself driving towards an OK Diner why not take a peek inside. Visit www.okdiners.com to find your nearest diner.

First time at OK Diner? Try their Black 'n' Blue burger followed by a million dollar shake, you won't regret it even if your stomach feels more than a little full afterwards..

Images: OK Diner

Monday, 30 May 2016

Collecting vintage : Costume jewellery

You can't beat that feeling when you find a pretty little piece of jewellery, costume jewellery has certainly made it's mark on fashion with a wealth of styles, lavish to elegant, and a great history behind each piece. When it comes to collecting vintage pieces costume jewellery is a great way to start, it's easily found in a variety of places and needn't cost the earth, it's an affordable way to start buying vintage and you can add a wonderful range of styles to your wardrobe.

So where do you start? When buying vintage it's always best to remember that you can find pieces in a range of places so you don't have to stick to just vintage shops and fairs, you can find plenty of vintage pieces at charity shops and car boot sales you just need to have a good look around. The best places to find affordable vintage costume jewellery are often than not charity shops, Oxfam often sells vintage with a selection of costume jewellery in their larger city shops.

I'd recommend starting buying in person at first as this gives you a chance to inspect the items before you buy, but once you've got into the swing of things you'll find a wide range of vintage sites online specializing in and selling costume jewellery, places like ebay and etsy are also great to find affordable pieces of costume jewellery.

What do you need to look for? When you first start buying vintage costume jewellery you'll need to take the time to inspect pieces that catch your eye, what is the condition like? Are there are any stones missing? Is there any discolouration? Does it have a marking on the back? As a new buyer it may seem a little daunting at first but if you are thinking of becoming a serious collector you'll need to research further into the history of costume jewellery and the companies, "Millers Costume Jewellery" is a great book to read through if your thinking of becoming a serious collector, this book takes a look at several of the key companies you may expect to come across when you start shopping for costume jewellery so it's certainly a handy book to have around. Sites like Illusion jewels are great to bookmark also as they're extensive guide of markings can help you to identify and even date pieces you may come across.

There are certainly many different types and styles of costume jewellery out there to collect and adorn, with items varying from precious stones to paste stones which is what you'll find most in pieces of vintage costume jewellery. Paste stones are cut to look like precious stones from a distance but upon closer inspection are actually formed from coloured pastes, glass and plastics which make for far more affordable pieces that are still as stunning.

You'll also find items such as pearl jewellery may be imitation, these are still beautiful pieces to collect but be wary of the condition as these do tend to chip and mark whereas real pearls would stay intact. A great way to test pearls you've bought is to rub two of the pearls together if they feel gritty or sandy, they are real pearls, if they feel smooth, they are not real. You can also test pearls by the feel of the weight, real pearls tend to be far heavier than fake pearls.

Is it vintage or modern? With un-marked jewellery it is at times difficult to tell whether it is a vintage or modern piece, with vintage and antiqued style items on the rise of late how can you be sure that those pieces you like are vintage? Take a good look at the items, inspect the quality and craftmanship in the pieces, most modern vintage styled items tend to be made to look vintage but not necessarily crafted in the same fashion with an attention to detail. Are the stones glued on? Does it feel plasticy? Are there any fastenings?

By looking at the details you can begin to piece together whether it's a modern piece, most vintage costume jewellery tends to have elaborate, pretty fastenings whereas more modern pieces tend to have clasp, extension chain fastenings for instance. Vintage pieces tend to have fastenings and fixtures that are more styled than modern replications so with time you'll start to pick up on what to look out for.

Now that you have your costume jewellery pieces you need to take care of them, keeping them in good condition will ensure that they'll last and maintain their condition for many more decades to come. Silver pieces can easily be cleaned up with a polishing cloth for instance, you may not need to splash out for expensive jewellery cleaners either, warm water and soap can be used to clean beaded and crystal pieces and cotton buds can be used to give intricate delicate pieces a gentle clean and dust.

Collecting vintage costume jewellery is a great way to start collecting vintage, it won't break the bank and you can find some truly wonderful pieces to add to your collection, it won't take up a great deal of room compared to collecting vintage clothing or home wares and you can add an abundance of beautiful pieces to your wardrobe.

A spot of tipple : Cherry bakewell cocktail

Our favourite treat turned boozy, why not try this cherry bakewell cocktail for a touch of grown up decadence.

 tinned or fresh cherries
 3 tsp of almond syrup
 2 shots of gin
 dash of lemon juice
 dash of soda water
 dash of cream to top
 glace cherries to top

Firstly pulp the cherries, a pestle and mortar comes in handy to do this. You don't want to overdo it too much, simply enough to mash down the cherries to release the juice.

Add the pulped cherries to the syrup, gin & lemon juice with ice in a cocktail shaker and give it a good hearty shake.

Drain and pour into a glass adding a dash of soda water to finish, top it off with cream and a few glace cherries.

Best drunk: when you fancy something a little decadent to your usual cocktail.

Image: Mondo Bartenders

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Scrumptuous chocolate and cherry cupcakes

Take a staple classic like black forest gateaux and turn it around on itself, these tasty chocolate cherry cupcakes combine some of the tastiest elements of the classic dessert and turn it into a cupcake sized snack.

  100g butter
  140g caster sugar
  2 eggs
  225g plain flour
  25g cocoa powder
  1 tsp baking powder
  150ml milk
  100g glace cherries

For the topping
  150ml double cream
  cherries & chocolate to decorate

Pre-heat your oven to 180c/160c fan/Gas mark 4 and pre line a cupcake tray with cases.

Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Adding the eggs and mixing well.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and blend well, add the milk and food colouring to a smooth consistency.

Chop the cherries into halves and add to the mixture, blending well to ensure an even distribution.

Divide the mixture into your cake cases and bake for 15 minutes. Leave aside to cool.

Whisk the cream to a stiff mixture and pipe onto each cupcake, decorating with a sprinkling of grated chocolate and cherries.

Best eaten: As soon as possible, these tasty cupcakes are certainly rather moreish!

Recipe inspired by BBC Good Food | Left image:Boophotography/Dreamstime Stock Photos.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Knit one purl one : modern day knitting

Gone is the image of a dowdy old lady knitting away baby clothes and scarves, knitting's certainly come into fashion in this modern day and age with knitting becoming a 'must do' craft and even becoming somewhat rebellious, just how did knitting become so popular?

Look through the magazine racks at any newsagents and you'll find far more knitting magazines than you could sensibly flick through, knitting has certainly become a more popular craft in recent years with it almost becoming a fashionable trend. Of course the world of wool has certainly come on a long way in the past few decades with fashionable wool blends now available in all sorts of alluring styles from pretty pastel coloured merinos to sparkling ribbon knits, these glamorous wools are certainly tempting and you can easily see how the trend has grown.

Patterns have also glam'ed up a lot in recent years, no longer are knitting patterns the stuff of baby hats and Christmas jumpers, you'll find pretty knitted tops, berets and even gorgeous evening purses amongst knitting books and magazines, knitting it would seem is no longer confined to the older generation.

We've certainly taken to knitting as a skill and as a pastime, it's been passed down from generation to generation and become not just a valuable skill but a way to create your own clothing from scratch. As crafting has become more mainstream thanks to programmes such as Kirsty's home made home inspiring viewers to turn their hands to crafting, knitting has of course been picked up along the way as a must try craft. Retailers have certainly seen a growth in sales of wool and knitting tools in the past few years which seems to have also come about alongside this boom in crafting.

Why wear something that's off the shelf when you can knit your own cardigan or dress? There is a certain joy in making something for yourself, knowing that nobody else is wearing that exact same item, made in that exact style, shade or wool blend. It's certainly easy to see why and how knitting has become such a popular craft today.

It's certainly easier than ever to find those crucial knitting supplies with plenty of wool shops in every town and city to large chains stores such as Hobbycraft opening up in retail outlets nationwide and we certainly aren't complaining!

Friday, 20 May 2016

So wrong it's right, the krispy kreme 'luther' burger

We all like unusual culinary combinations, mixing sweet with sour, sweet with savoury, so why not mix savoury meat with the sweet sugary taste of a donut! The Krispy Kreme burger, aka the luther has been baffling many a palate for years and now it's temporarily landed here in the UK as part of Ed's diners celebrations at Selfridges in the Bullring.

The krispy kreme burger, named the luther is said to have been created by Luther Vandross, who ran out of a buns during a barbecue and opted to substitute the burger bun for a Krispy Kreme ring donut. The luther tends to vary from place to place with some opting to serve it as a classic burger with cheese and bacon, to others serving it with a fried egg, either way the key similarity with all of the variations is the use of a Krispy Kreme glazed ring donut split in the middle to form a bagel style bun which the burger is placed between.

It certainly seems like an unusual combination at first, placing a sweet bun around the already sweet bacon on top of the burger and cheese, the calorific count of the burger itself tends to vary from source to source but according to the diners staff it surprisingly contains less calories than their regular cheeseburger, that certainly dispels the myth that it's a calorific treat.

It's surprising that no diner has thought of creating their own take on the luther burger here in the UK before, it's perfectly fitting for Selfridges ten year celebrations, combining food from two of the department stores key food outlets together, Ed's diner is already next to the Krispy Kreme stand churning out thousands of the delicious donuts every day, a delicious merger of the two simply had to be done.

The burger itself is a combination that you wouldn't dream possible at first, the sweet sugary donut oddly complements the burger, placing it with cheese and bacon certainly works I couldn't imagine it mixing well with their original burger, donuts and lettuce anyone?!, so they've certainly chosen the flavours well whilst paying homage to original luther burger.

The Ed's take on the luther burger is being served on their menu during the ten year celebrations as a limited edition treat ending on the 8th September, we hope it's a test run more than anything else to roll this culinary wonder out across their diners UK wide.

Images: Eds Easy Diner

Post originally published at www.tweedandtea.co.uk in 2013.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

A touch of hair diy : colouring at home

Who says that you need to pay absurd amounts of money to achieve that beautiful faux red do or a delightfully dark beehive, why pay the professionals to do it when you can easily achieve that look at home for a snippet of the price. The home 'diy' dye may seem a tad unconventional for some but once you've tried it you certainly won't look back, besides if it's good enough for Dita to do who says you can't dye your hair yourself!

A trip to the salon can often be a bit of a minefield for those of us who prefer to go for vintage inspired styles, often than not the hairdresser has that glazed look in their eyes when you say you want a Clara Bow inspired bob or a blond do to match Jane Mansfield's. Doing it yourself is certainly in with the vintage mindset, so why not give a go for your new hair colour.

It may seem like another world stepping into your local store to find the perfect shade to go for, with an abundance of shades and types to choose from just where do you start? Do you brave the new fangled looking colour foam or go for a pack of semi permanent dye, if you've barely touched a packed of hair dye in the past it can be a bit daunting at first. It's best to go for a classic crème or gel dye rather than a foam dye as these can be tricky to use even as a mastered home dyer for years.

When it comes to finding the perfect shade though it can often take time, most stores tend to stock natural shades with an abundance of brunettes and blondes amongst the ranges, for those wanting to go black or red it may be a case of finding a few shades amongst the shelves, anything else a little brighter may be a case of lightening using a blonde dye and following up with a semi permanent shade in the colour of your choice.

Of course it goes without saying, check the shade indicators on the box to see if the colour will take to your natural shade, those of us with naturally darker shades may sadly find that some light shades don't take too well, unless you fancy lightening to a blonde shade first.

Shade selected, you may want to invest in some handy diy essentials such as hair grips, tint brushes, shower caps and spare disposable gloves, a tub of vaseline won't go a miss either, a quick tab under your hairline could spare you the nightmare of scrubbing away a dark blue line from your black dye job.

When it comes to the dye job itself, set yourself up with your essentials to hand alongside the dye kit. A tint brush comes in handy to separate hair strands using the fine tooth comb end and applying dye to those tough to reach roots, simply follow the instructions in the packet and you can't go wrong. You may want to tuck your hair into a shower cap whilst the dye sets or clip it up using grips.

Once you've rinsed and washed your hair you may want to style it in place as you dry your hair, your wonderfully vibrant new tresses should be revealed, an instant boost to your look and an easy way to change colour, all at a snippet of the salon price, once you've tried it you certainly won't look back.

Images: Flickr Commons

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A very vintage day out in Birmingham

There's more to this midlands city than it's infamous bendy ring roads and the bull ring, Birmingham is a vibrant shopping hub with plenty of hidden finds to be unearthed around the cities many nooks and crannies. There's many vintage finds to be found from picturesque hidden shopping centers to vibrant outlets to admire.

Ever since Birmingham underwent a major revamp with the re-birth of the bull ring it's had a fresh jolt of energy and revived it as a shopping center at the hub of the midlands, it's independent shops have become far and wide and there's always something new to discover.

Birmingham's vintage treasures can be found right across the city, so it's difficult to know where to wander to first. A walk towards Digbeth, tucked behind the grand silver spheres of Selfridges, will unearth a vintage village of shops centered around The custard factory, sadly not a giant factory filled with the wonderful yellow stuff but a rather quirky colourful outlet of shops and artists. Home to a vast selection of vintage shops from Urban village specialising in 60's-70's finds, to Mr birds emporium, a vibrant hub of vintage traders and artists, and even Le keux salon where you can pop in for a vintage styled do and make over.

Nearby you'll find plenty of other vintage shops to visit from We are cow to Green eyes boutique, selling vintage designer finds.

A walk back towards the city centre you'll find another independent hub Great western arcade, a picturesque grand arcade which is home to a wonderful variety of independent shops. Nestled amongst a selection of cigar shops, boutique hairdressers and whisky shops, you'll find More than vintage, a vintage shop which donates funds from it's sales to local charities, so you'll feel even more wonderful in your new vintage frock. It's also worth visiting one of the many cafes in the arcade, from artisan bakers at The bread collection, to the quaint Victorian restaurant and Druckers if you prefer a spot of patisserie for lunch.

For more tasty treats you'll find Ed's tucked inside Selfridges food court or if you prefer a spot of cake there's Frost and snow on old snow hill which serves up a delicious selection of cupcakes whilst also helping the local homeless community so you can help make a difference by eating cake, that's got to be a good thing!

Then if you feel like taking on a spot of culture you can always make a visit to the Ikon gallery on Brindley place whilst taking in a picturesque view of the city's canals, and swing by the grandiose new library to view some delightful modern architecture. You certainly won't be short of things to do you may even need to take in a weekend in the city.

Images: Le Keux salon & More than vintage

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

A sweet history of the cupcake

Today the cupcake is as popular as ever, a delightful sweet treat which can be found from specialist baker's to supermarket shelves. The cupcake has certainly enjoyed a rise in popularity over the past decade, but where did the humble miniature cake come from?

Historically the cupcake can be traced back as far as 1796, American Cookery by Amelia Simms note's about a "a cake to be baked in small cups" this first reference can understandably explain where the name came from with a cake being baked in a small cup, however the cupcake as we know it today didn't start to surface in recipe books until the 19th century.

Generally most cupcakes were cakes baked in small tins, cups and moulds, as long as the cake was the size of a teacup it was referred to as a cupcake. The modern cupcake as we know it today does differ with the manufacture of cupcake moulds and trays enabling for a more consistent measure and cake size to the traditional recipes.

The cupcake recipe is essentially similar to traditional cake recipes, using the same basic ingredients to form the cupcake bases. The advantage that the cupcake recipe has over a traditional cake is it's cooking time, taking much quicker to cook baking in batches of cakes rather than one full sized cake, certainly an easier recipe to create at home.

Although cupcakes do tend to require more decoration than the humble cake, with a world of extravagant decorations available today, from edible glitters, to icing motifs, and of course the tasty buttercream icing. It can take time and a lot of patience to create cupcakes to a professional standard, but there is a certain joy in squeezing buttercream out of a piping bag.

Luckily today you can find a wide variety of places offering cupcake decoration classes from independent bakers to colleges where you can try these techniques out for yourself if you fancy yourself a dab hand with a piping bag.

Of course for those of us who prefer to simply enjoy the cup cake you can find a wide number of places baking and creating their own tasty treats, from the pioneers of the cupcake boom such as London's Hummingbird bakery to an eye full of treats on the 5th floor of Harvey Nichols. It's no wonder that many have turned their hand towards baking the glamorous cupcake, not just 'in vogue' but also a tasty treat.

Images: Flickr & Hummingbird bakery

Chester's best kept secret: Becnicks wonder emporium

Tucked away off the tourist track you'll find one of the city's best kept secrets, a shop full of vintage wonderment, exquisite finds and a pretty damn good cup of tea.. all tucked under one roof at Becnicks wonder emporium.

Becnicks wonder emporium is housed in a vast open shop located on one of the city's most eclectic streets, where else could you find a vintage emporium housed on the same street as a tattooists, comic book shop, record shop, greasy spoon cafe and a fancy dress shop. The eclectic nature of Brook street makes it a perfectly fitting location for such a vibrant independent shop.

A shop that's a hub for local independent artists, designers, vintage and antique sellers spread across the shop's wide open floor plan. There's plenty of finds across the shop from re-furbished vintage furnishings to one of a kind handmade finds and art so you can always be sure of something different every time you visit.

The key to Becnicks is it's eclectic nature, it's home to not just vintage and antique finds but also a selection of local designers and artists whose stunning creations you can find throughout the store, from one of a kind homewares to kitsch jewellery and art adorning the walls.

Their selection of vintage wares are incredibly impressive with several of their vintage traders hand picking seasonal items to stock from gorgeous furs to dashing prom gowns amongst a vast range of homewares which are dotted around the shop from re-furbished chesterfields to art nouveau tableware.

Simply walking past their shop window draws you in with hand picked finds adorning the windows amongst their selection of vintage chairs and sofas tempting you inside and it's not just vintage finds that Becnicks does well they also have their own in house tea room serving up a selection of homemade cakes and tea if you simply fancy a stop off for a brew.

A wonderful place to visit on your way in to the city, conveniently located at the top of Brook street walking from the train station. Visit them online to find out more at www.becnickswonderemporium.com

Images: Becnicks

Monday, 16 May 2016

A boozy take on the traditional coffee and walnut cake

A classic given a grown up booze addled touch, a traditional favourite that will certainly keep you feeling peaky just don't take this special recipe to the local bake off!

  200g caster sugar
  200g butter
  4 eggs
  200g self raising flour
  100g self raising flour
  1 tsp baking powder
  15 walnut halves
  2 heaped spoons of instant coffee
  4 tbsp tia maria

For the filling and topping
  500g mascarpone
  85g light muscovado sugar
  4 tbsp tia maria
  walnuts to decorate

Pre-heat your oven to 190c/170c fan/Gas mark 5 and pre line your sandwich tins with baking paper.

Mix together the sugar, eggs, butter, flour and baking powder until smooth.

Chop up 5 of the walnut halves, saving the rest aside for later. Dissolve the instant coffee with the Tia Maria mixing this in with the chopped walnut to your cake mix.

Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for 20 minutes. Leave to cool.

Beat the mascarpone with the sugar and Tia Maria until smooth, sandwich the two cake bases together with the filling leaving enough aside to cover the top of the cake.

Cover the top of the cake with the remaining filling mixture, topping with walnut halves to decorate.

Best eaten: As soon as possible, this boozy cake will certainly be rather moreish!

Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food | Left image: Elen33/Dreamstime Stock Photos.

Friday, 13 May 2016

A very vintage day out in Leeds

A city bustling with vintage finds in sometimes the most unexpected areas of the city centre, Leeds has really come into it's own for vintage finds over the past few years. Known for it's picturesque Corn exchange, the looming dome greets you as you make your way into the city centre, but there's so much more to Leeds than it's stunning buildings.

A city which is undergoing a re-vamp of late, with a new shopping centre taking over the main streets towards the city centre, this has had somewhat of an effect on the cities vintage quarter but one which certainly won't deter away any determined shopper. Deep in the sultry underbelly of the city vintage lifestyle is certainly alive and well, you'll definitely find plenty to do in the city.

But where to start? With so many areas to shop around you'll be spoilt for choice, head towards the Corn exchange on Call Lane for a selection of vintage shops in perhaps one of the prettiest buildings you'll find, a stones throw away is Memphis Belle a darling little boutique full of vintage inspired clothing and accessories.

Just tucked behind the Corn exchange is Upstaged - updated Feb 2016, now unfortunately closed, on the surrounding streets you'll find plenty of vintage stores worth a visit for any hidden gems from Pop boutique on Central Road to Blue Rinse on Call Lane.

A visit the the Victoria Quarter is also a must, an elegant grade II listed building which is home to an abundance of shops from designer to boutique. Worth a visit to peek at Jeffery West's taxidermy displays and the Illamasqua store alone.

If a day of just shopping doesn't tickle your fancy you may want to pay a visit to Fabrication at The light, where you can get crafty from learning the art of millinery to bodices and blouses, if you ever wanted to make a 40's inspired shirt this is the place to learn how to, you'll find plenty of workshops year round to choose from.

After all that you may feel a touch parched, you can find the likes of Patisserie Valerie on Albion street & St Paul's street for a spot of tea and cake, or if you prefer a classic diner Ruby Jeans at Nation of shopkeepers on Cookridge Street does a tasty selection of sliders, burgers and 'dogs. Primo's gourmet hot dogs at the Corn exchange also does a great selection of hot dogs and shakes.

Leeds truly comes into it's own in the night time, if you fancy a longer stay you'll find a branch of Dr Sketchy's and The wet spot holding monthly burlesque events. You can indulge in a spot of tipple at 51% bourbon at Hirst's Yard, holding an impress selection of bourbon's and whiskies to The wardrobe which has an impressive cocktail menu.

There's certainly plenty to do in the city, with regular fairs popping up year round and plenty of boutiques and department stores around the city. Simply take an exploratory walk around the city and see what you can find.

Images: Corn Exchange Leeds & 51% bourbon

Thursday, 12 May 2016

A scrumptious twist : Chocolate and banana cake

A tasty twist on the traditional banana bread recipe with added chocolate for a soft yet rich cake that will surely go down well. Perfect for using up any ripe bananas, or simply when you fancy a spot of chocolate cake that you can pretend is a healthier option, I won't tell!

  175g plain flour
  150g caster sugar
  25g cocoa powder
  1 tsp bicarbonate of sofa
  1 tsp baking powder
  115g butter
  2 large eggs
  2 ripe bananas
  100g dark chocolate

Pre-heat your oven to 190c/170c fan oven/Gas mark 5 and grease a loaf tin.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler then set aside to cool down.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder together adding the sugar.

Mash the bananas in a separate bowl then add to the flour mixture. Take your melted mixture and add the eggs in to this mix, make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour this mixture into it, mixing well.

Place your mixture into the loaf tin and even this out, then bake for an hour or until a knife comes out clean.

Leave to cool for an hour then remove from the tin and your tasty chocolatey cake is ready.

Best eaten: This cake will last well for a few days, the ripe banana helps to keep the cake soft so you can be sure of a tasty, squishey slice every time.

Recipe adapted from Baking mad

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Modern vintage frames by London Retro

Finding classic retro styled prescription glasses can be a nightmare at times, especially when you don't want to pay above and beyond for the right pair of frames. Thankfully an internet opticians has answered our plea and designed a range of retro inspired glasses.

Glasses direct's London Retro range encapsulates classic style with a modern twist, a collection of glasses designed to look vintage without the hefty price tag. Taking inspiration from vintage frame designs with classic styles taken up to date to fit in with modern styling and shapes. With classic looks from cat-eyes to aviators, that certainly wouldn't be amiss on the counters of a vintage shop.

The beauty of having a vintage inspired collection available at an opticians is certainly miraculous, how many of us have picked up a pair of vintage frames and wondered if a local opticians could fit modern lenses into them? It certainly would come with a high price attached, the London Retro collection is certainly most welcome, especially at a time when vintage style and nostalgia seem to be at a all time high, the demand has never been better.

The London Retro collection features both mens and womens styles with plenty of 30's - 80's inspired designs amongst the range, all at affordable prices, with many of the designs fitting into their '2 for the price of 1' offer, so you could snap up two vintage pairs for just £95!

There's certainly a style to suit everyone, whether you fancy a perfect rounded pair of 1930's frames such as their Sweeney frames in a gorgeous antique gold colouring, or you'd prefer the perfect pair of 1950's styled cat-eyes in a stylish havana frame.

The fit and feel of the frames are certainly perfect, their Eliza cat-eye glasses are far lighter than I'd envisioned (even with my thick lenses!) and certainly capture the iconic glasses style. The gorgeous brownie camera inspired case that comes with the frames is simply darling and finishes the package off perfectly.

All you need to order your own vintage style frames is your most recent prescription and they'll do the rest from there, you can even order a home trial to test out the frames prior to ordering so you can try a few of your favourites out, it's almost like bringing the opticians to your home.

You certainly won't find a more fitting classic style for such an affordable price on the high street, why not view the range and find your favourites at www.glassesdirect.co.uk/londonretro

A very vintage day out in Liverpool

Home to some of the countries biggest fashionistas, Liverpool is perhaps one of the few places where you can overdress and not stand out like a sore thumb, a city where fashion is celebrated and adorned so it's no surprise that the city is brimming with vintage inspiration.

Still beaming from the success of it's Capital of culture year back in 2008 the city has certainly had a revival not just in culture but in it's bustling shopping quarters. A city already steeped in history with it's infamous docks and beautiful architecture overlooking the river Mersey you can certainly spend a cultural, vintage day out in the city.

So just where do you go for a day in the city? For a day out in the city you certainly can't go wrong starting off with a spot of shopping, Liverpool's cultural quarter along Bold Street is certainly choc full of vintage shops and style where you can easily spend a happy hour flitting in-between shops.

Starting at Bold street you'll almost be spoilt for choice for vintage shops with a mixture of eras along the street from the era most associated with the city the 60's paying a particular strong hold in several of the shops such as Pop Boutique with it's 60's staples and reproduction wares, to Little Red Vintage with a mix of 60's-70's wares inside. A good place to stop by which may surprise you at first is Soho's, well known for it's alternative style their Bold Street shop is actually full of vintage attire with a great selection in store at more than affordable prices you could easily come away with a new vintage wardrobe for a small price.

Off Bold Street, Hardman Street is also home to some vintage gems such as Bullet which has a gorgeous range of vintage and their own reproduction wares, and The Jumble People a vintage collective where you can find a vast range of vintage wares.

A visit to Grand Central on Renshaw Street is also worth noting for the gorgeous chandelier heavy architecture inside alone, a primarily alternative collective of stores but you will find some vintage treasures on the lower ground floor such as Miss Millies with some beautiful pieces of costume jewellery.

After all that shopping you'll need a good refresher, thankfully the city is home to several diners and foodie places worth visiting, Rockafellas on Bold street is a must visit the cities only 50's diner which serves up a hefty menu of American treats (Update 2014 - unfortunately this restaurant has now closed, but you may want to visit Eds diner by Liverpool One!). If you prefer a simple brew instead Leaf further up Bold Street serves a great selection of teas and of course cake as a tasty accompaniment, whilst Cafe Tabac has more of a 70's feel with its boho vibe offering food and cocktails for a boozy lunch.

If you feel like taking in a spot of the cities culture a visit to the Tate on the Albert docks is a must, further up into Liverpool's city centre the Walker Art gallery is another must visit where you'll also find some of the cities finest architectural delights.

You certainly won't be short of things to do in Liverpool with fringe events from vintage fairs to fashion shows cropping up across the city year round, the cities infamous cavern club and of course plenty of designer boutiques and shops, why not take a walk around and see what you can find.

Images: Bullet & Rockafellas

Monday, 9 May 2016

Zugers tearooms : a little slice of Swiss

Elegant baked delights and swiss treats certainly make for a unique take on afternoon tea, Zugers is a family run chain of tea rooms across the Wirral and Chester making award winning pastries and cakes that have certainly made their cafes a 'must visit'.

Zugers first opened it's doors in 2006 in Bromborough however the family run business has long been creating baked delights since the 1960's, and it's this passion for baking from the families Swiss background that certainly comes through. Their first tea room opened with an abundance of confectionery treats alongside afternoon tea, a delightful experience which has made their tea rooms a huge success.

Since their first tea room they've expanded to open branches in Chester and Bebington making their renowned treats quite the talk of the town, with their Chester tea room constantly full to the brim with sweet toothed patrons it's certainly a little slice of swiss in the heart of the city.

With it's stylish yet simplistic decor and a counter bursting with treats tempting you in from the window.

The passion for baking shows through with their confectionery and baked offerings in each of their tea rooms, you'll find plenty of swiss treats on their menu from hearty strudels to black forest kirsch tortes and ice cream coupes, all as much of a feast for the eyes as the palette.

You'd be easily forgiven for getting distracted by their desert menu with an abundance of sweets available alongside their afternoon tea, but it's not just swiss sweets that they do so well their breakfast and lunch menus feature plenty to tempt. You can even treat yourself with their special tipple laced coffees, like their special Irish cream coffee.

If you find yourself passing through Bromborough or in Chester for the day it's certainly worth visiting one of their tea rooms. Zuger's tea rooms are located on St John Street, Chester; Allport Road, Bromborough and Bromborough Road, Bebington. You can find also find them online where you can tempt yourself with their menus at www.zugerstearooms.co.uk.

First time at Zugers? Treat yourself to their black forest kirsch torte and a Zurich coffee for a delightful yet grown up spot of swiss delights.

Images: Wirral Borough Council & Zugers

Friday, 6 May 2016

A spot of tipple : Ginger Fizz

Where did spring go to? We're certainly in need of a spot of tipple with a bit of spice to warm us up so what better than a gorgeous bit of ginger fizz to warm our cockles!

 dash of freshly squeezed orange juice
 5oml gin
 dash of bitter lemon

Ginger syrup
 2 cups of stem ginger
 2 cups sugar
 4 cups water

Start off by preparing your ginger syrup, chop, peel and blend the ginger in a food processor, cook gently on a simmer with the sugar and water for an hour until the liquid has reduced. Then strain and save aside, the mix will last for 2-3 weeks kept in the fridge.

Add all of the ingredients together, using 50ml of the ginger syrup and shake well.

Strain into a glass filled with ice and garnish with an orange wedge.

Best drunk: why, straight away of course!

Image: Cocktail remedy

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Lomography : Analogue photography isn't dead

With the recent announcement of Jessop's closure you'd be quick to think that photography is a dying art, the growth of digital photography has certainly been vast since those first chunky oversized 250mb digital cameras over ten years ago, but that hasn't made us hang up our old film cameras for good, with the growth of Lomography, analogue photography has certainly made a comeback.

What started as a small group of keen photographers turning their hand to a more experimental approach has grown to a vast worldwide community of photographers, helping to bring a shot of enthusiasm to the world of analogue photography.

Lomography is a more experimental approach at film photography, trying all sorts of techniques out from shooting "from the hip" to using expired film, which more than often results in a whole new world of photography, from saturated images to vibrant colours, all with the knowledge that you can't be sure of the end results until your film has been processed.

This experimental technique isn't far from the likes of iphone apps and instagram, but taken using traditional film cameras, and it's this approach that we're certainly keen on. 

Lomography has helped to revive the film camera and inspire new photographers to give it a go. Whilst some of the rules of Lomography may seem somewhat baffling to those of us who've spent years honing the art of photography, such as shooting in the dark without a flash on a low light camera (surely that shouldn't work!!) and shooting up close on a camera without a focused lens, but it's the spark of creativity and the growth of interest in film photography that has taken our interest, did I mention that the cameras are also rather fetching..

Taking inspiration from traditional film cameras Lomography cameras have help revived film photography in a new way, when was the last time you used an old 120 roll of film? Probably not since the 1990's, medium format is making a comeback in a somewhat small fashion, but a comeback non-the less through Lomography. With cameras such as the Seagull which hark back to classic twin lens cameras and the Diana F+ designed with the classic 1960's Diana camera in mind, it's certainly helped to invigorate interest in film photography and remind us why we loved the medium so much in the first place.

Technology may be making fast advances, placing high resolution cameras in mobile phones with the ability to focus at will much like a high spec dslr camera, but you can never take away the simple pleasure in holding a reel of film negative up to the light and viewing your images. Lomography has helped to put film photography back on the high street, did you know that they have small concessions in Selfridges, and stores in London and Manchester, you do now. Film photography may not be as large an industry as it once was but you can certainly take to capturing images on film for some time to come.

Images: Flickr Commons & Lomography.com