Saturday, 28 April 2012

My favourite dishes...

Being a typical girl I obviously worry about my bod, especially when it comes to summer and I have to strip off and unveil it to the public (much to their horror). But unfortunately one of my great loves in life is food and when it comes to a good homecooked meal or a pick up from my good friend Mr King (first name Burger) I can't resist piling my plate high and scoffing my face until the top button at of my jeans has to admit defeat.

My two main weaknesses are..
A good-old English fry-up


and a traditional Sunday roast dinner


Did I not mention the scrummy pavalova?!


These are a couple of main meals that no matter how hardcore my diet is, I just cannot say no to. So apologies in advance to my fellow holidaymakers round the swimming pool that will get to witness me waddling round in my bikini.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Simply the breast!


I reviewed this Freya sports bra for the February edition of Bodyfit magazine. I got a free bra out of the deal which is definitely a perk(y) part of the job! 

"How my sports bra fits is usually a good way to gauge how my workout goes, so it's essential that it holds me in well. If my run is being constantly interrupted by a loose bra strap, I often have to forfeit my exercise earlier than usual, but there was none of that with this bra. The fit was excellent – tight enough at the back, the perfect size and an understated black colour. The only drawback was even under a sports top, it gave me a Madonna-esque cone shape, which made me feel slightly self-conscious!"

Thursday, 26 April 2012

When I met Anthea...


So a couple of months ago I interviewed 'perfect housewife' Anthea Turner for a feature in Craft Business magazine. Being a bit of a celeb fanatic it was quite exciting, but I played it cool and it wasn't long before i was air kissing like a pro; it won't be long until I'm giving Brad Pitt a grilling for Vogue. 

Create and Craft's Big Turner-Round

On the brink of her new role as the ambassador of Create and Craft TV, Anthea Turner will play a big part in helping the channel to get Britain crafting. Zoe Monk found out more

How did the opportunity with Create and Craft TV come about?
Ever since I can remember I've always loved making things, long before I was crafting in front of a camera on Blue Peter. When Create and Craft TV approached me and asked me to be ambassador for the channel, I was excited to be given such a great platform to spread the word of crafting to Britain.

I'm constantly crafting with my children and encouraging them to make. I think that there is a real lack of children's crafting programmes on primetime TV and it's a shame because so many children love making things. When I got married, I was all of a sudden faced with three stepchildren and immediately took to baking and creating as a way to bond over the craft box; even now my youngest daughter still asks me what we are going to be making next.

I'm still very much a crafter myself, and although I've never been too talented with a pair of knitting needles, I know my way around a sewing machine to mend things and embroider. Just last Christmas I was busy making gifts for my family and friends, creating chutneys in jars with nice handmade labels and gin-infused oils.
 
With your crafty television background, what are you most looking forward to about your new role?
It's important to remember that there is already a well-established fan base for Ideal World and Create and Craft TV, with lots of people working with them to bring in new products and keep things fresh and exciting. I'm not there to teach crafts and to be a regular feature on screen – my role is to encourage new markets to get involved and reach new audiences. I'm not taking over from favourite Dawn Bibby, that's not my area of expertise; I want to use my contacts and connections to spread the word of crafting. I'm also really looking forward to picking up some new skills for myself and meeting the fans.

I will be at the channel when I need to be and will continuously help expand the market. I've been working in Canada for the last two years, where the craft trends there are absolutely massive and the product ranges are vast. There are craft shops everywhere, with scrapbooking being the most popular activity closely followed card-making.

As more people realise their love of crafting, what do you think are the benefits of people being creative?
I think that people with time on their hands get a huge amount of personal satisfaction from crafting. If you can make gifts for people, it makes it so personal and something money can't buy; it's priceless. Personally, I think projects like photo albums for special occasions are a great way to preserve memories and create a keepsake you just can't beat.

There are so many benefits of crafting and part of my new job is to raise the profile of the channel and get more people involved. With craft clubs popping up all over the country, meeting up with friends to make is a great bonding experience and the social aspect is a big pull for beginners. Craft is brilliant for people to do on their own as well. 

Create and Craft TV is renowned for showcasing a range of different creative products and skills, but which crafts do you enjoy doing yourself?
I like cooking and baking cakes, especially when it's as a gift for someone. I'm also really into creating individual labels for the food I make. People can really be seduced by the packaging of a product without even knowing what's inside. Making something for a gift is not just about the individual item, it includes the box it's given in and the smaller details which are added to make it personal.

The rise of the make-do-and-mend culture has been phenomenal, so what are your thoughts on the craft industry at the moment?
I think that with the current economic climate, the craft market has seen a surge of people wanting to get involved. The internet has definitely helped as well, allowing the tools of the trade to be accessible to everyone and inspiring people at the click of a button. It has given people in all areas the chance to buy all sorts of crafty products, no matter how far they are from a local store. I also think that the increase in easier projects has certainly helped.

Anthea Turner is brand ambassador for Create and Craft TV.
Create and Craft TV is available on Sky 671, Freeview 36 and Freesat 813, and online at www.createandcraft.tv
Join in the craft chat on Facebook - Create and Craft TV, and Twitter - @CreateCraftTV

Anthea's TV Timeline
1988-1991 – Anthea kicked off her television career by presenting BBC music show Top of the Pops for three years
1992 – She then began her stint as a presenter for Blue Peter, where she went on to build the famous Thunderbirds Tracy Island model
1994 – The ITV morning programme GMTV snapped up the presenter to front the show
2006 – Anthea made her television comeback on BBC Three in Anthea Turner: Perfect Housewife
2010 – A new show for Food Network Canada saw Anthea take the starring presenting role



Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Healthy banana cake

As I'm on a bit of a diet fad at the moment, at least trying to shift a few pounds before the bikini comes out, I am trying to resist all manner of cakes, chocolate and naughty treats. Seeing as my office resembles something from an M & S food ad on a daily basis, it's a lot harder to stick to just soup or a handful of lettuce leaves for lunch. So one hungry Saturday afternoon I decided to make a healthy cake which I could actually enjoy...

Ingredients
75g (1/3 cup) softened butter
110g (1/2 cup) unrefined (golden) caster (superfine granulated) sugar
1 large beaten egg
225g (2 cups) plain wholemeal (all-purpose) flour
2 level tsp baking powder
grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon (optional)
4 ripe bananas
50g (1/2 cup) chopped walnuts



Method
Grease and base-line a loaf tin measuring 8.5 by 19cm (1 lb capacity), or set 12 paper muffin cases into a muffin tin. Heat the oven to 350F/180C/gas 4.

Put butter, caster sugar and egg into a bowl. Sift in flour and baking powder. Using an electric mixer, whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the grated lemon and orange rind if using.


Slice the bananas into another bowl, and mash to a pulp. Add to the flour mixture, along with the walnuts and whisk again thoroughly.

 

Spoon the mixture into the tin or cases and bake until risen and browned, and springs back when pressed with a finger. A loaf takes about 50 minutes. Muffins take 15-20 mins.

Leave cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning on to a wire tray.


Et voila!  A delicious cake that you can eat without the guilt of a calorific treat. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The wedding of the year

Forget the London marathon, forget the Diamond Jubilee and don’t even mention the Olympics; this year the event that trumped them all was the Dickson/Posselwhite wedding. Ever since Tom’s mum and her partner announced that they were to become man and wife after 6 blissful years together, my brain went into overdrive to plan the perfect outfit. After a few desperate trips to the dire selection of shops in Bedford and a mooch round Brighton, I finally decided on a pink dress from Miss Selfridge teamed with an h&m beige blazer and trusty shoes from good old Tesco.

So the four-day wedding bonanza started on Thursday 12th April in Oxford. A mad dash at the hotel before the ceremony and my role as wedding guest extended to cake decorator and make-up artist, I had just 20 minutes to slip into my dress and style my hair into an acceptable do.

Once everyone had assembled at Oxford Town Hall and air-kisses and handshakes had been exchanged, we all took our seats and eagerly awaited the arrival of the bride. The intimate ceremony went off without a hitch and then it was back to the hotel to toast the new 
couple.

The rest of the evening was brilliant; yummy food, bad dancing and raucous laughter, not to mention the speeches. This was Tom’s time to shine and he didn’t disappoint. A little wobbly after a few whiskies (don’t ask) he had the whole room giggling and ‘ahhhing’ at his anecdotes and kind words and I couldn’t stop beaming at him from across the room; I was a very proud girlfriend. 


(Please excuse my non-stop giggling at Tom's speech. Pretty sure by this time the drink had started to go to my head and he could've said anything and I would have been wetting my knickers!) 



It was a fabulous day and when I finally rolled into bed with throbbing feet and a dizzy head after a few too many chardonnays, I just had enough strength to peel back the sheets and crawl inside.
 

The next day was a struggle to say the least and even a fry up at the hotel didn’t help my cause. I could barely stomach my poached egg and sausages and the epic hangover didn’t ease off until an afternoon nap and a homemade Nandos back in Northampton.

Saturday was round two and before the festivities began I challenged the ever-competitive Tom to a friendly game of badminton to which he informed me that he wouldn’t go easy on me and would play to his full ability. Well I rose to the challenge and won two games to equal Tom’s score, even if I was a sweaty mess at the end of it all.

The evening reception was being held at the Hilton hotel in Northampton and everyone was raring to get into the party spirit one more time. With memories of my Friday hangover still lingering, I promised myself not to go too heavy on the liquor. Unfortunately Tom decided to take things to the other end of the spectrum and probably drunk enough for the both of us by the end of the evening. Again it was a brilliant night; reminiscing about the big day, seeing old chums and celebrating the coming together of two families.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

See off April showers in style

With the Queen's Jubilee hot the heels of May, now is the time to start organising your royal attire to celebrate in style

April should be teasing us with peeps of sun and longer evenings, but with all the blasts of chilly winds and dizzily showers it seems more like we are on the cusp of Christmas than a summer heatwave. 

April was a busy month in the fashionista calendar. We saw Raf Simmons take the helm at Dior after John Galliano’s highly-publicised departure, and with the county gearing up to host two of the biggest events to grace our shores this year, what better way to win a sporting event at the Olympics than in high-end designer gear? Designer Stella McCartney ensured the athletes step out for the Games in style later this year, by designing the patriotic official team GB outfits. In collaboration with Adidas, the stylish ensemble is typically skin-tight and proudly shows off our national colours of red, white and blue. 

Before we start thinking about how we are going to enjoy the Olympic Games (speed shopping is my sport of choice) June will see our very own Oueenie take centre as we celebrate her 60 year reign. With everyone from Beatrice and K.Middy to bumbling Prince Philip and the prize corgis already hiring designers to compile some outfit options for the big occasion, the extra bank holiday is a great excuse to have a right royal knees-up in style.
Fingers crossed that we will start to see more yellow sun symbols hovering over the British Isles on the weather reports and we can dive back into the wardrobe to dig out those summer staples.

For the perfect garden party attire good enough to rival any princess, there are a few key looks to nail. Midsummer party glamour is perhaps the hardest to pull off with aplomb. How do you do glamour when temperatures sizzle? In winter, at least you have the LBD to fall back on. In warm June, black just feels wrong.
 

With Hollywood A-listers basking in the sun at the stylish Coachella festival in Tinseltown, the fashion magazines do a great job at papping the most fashionable celebs for us to feast our eyes on and draw inspiration from. One noticeable trend is the crop-top. Thankfully they don't all require a Britney-Spears-washboard-tum to pull them off and can be worn with skirts, shorts and even your favourite pair of denims. Topshop has once again nailed this ensemble and provides a quirky range of floral, lace and plain crop tops to suit the garden party perfectly. While cropped tops seem to be very casual they can come in evening outfits as well. Remember the black ensemble Gwyneth Paltrow wore at 2011 Emmys?


Summer suits can hardly be worn to a real office but they look so smart and stylish that ladies will still rock them. Made in a variety of colours and prints, summer suits can also come trimmed with lace to add a cute twist. Popular on the catwalk with Gucci and as seen on celebrities, head down to Debenhams for the best selection of floral summer suits on the high street. And while designers team it up with shirts and ties, you can experiment with different items in your wardrobe to create your look.

Head down to Zara to check out its range of asymmetrical hemlines. Although a classic fit might be your typical hem of choice, opt for something different and you'll be bang on trend. It's not only dresses either. There are plenty of skirts, both long and short and even jackets that play with the aysmmetrical design. Wear with a casual tee for the day or a sheer shirt to glam up for the evening.


By now, it's a little too late to look in the summer sales for evening-wear bargains, so why not start experimenting with new season fashions? Stuffy marquees make parties a fashion nightmare; opting for a stiff skirt could be torturous, but wafting maxi-dresses aren't the only answer to be in-vogue at a garden party.

So, don't let the heat cramp your style and the excitement ruin your barnet- follow this guide on how to do summer soirées with flair.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

This weeks picks

This week has been a typically jammed-packed week for the media, with no shortage of jaw-dropping headlines, celebrity slip-ups and slatings for the government. Here is what has caught my eye this week...


A Good Week For...

Chocolate and cupcakes
With Easter coming and going and the bumper bank holiday, it seems that not a day has gone by where I haven't stuffed my face with a chocolate egg or a homemade cupcake. Easter is certainly one of my favourite seasons, so it seems only just to celebrate it with a mountain of sugary treats. 

Bows
I actually got to browse the shops this week and noticed one trend has edged its way into all the high street favourites. Bows are making a comeback; whether it's attached to a snazzy clutch, on a pair of pumps keeping your tooties warm, or even covering up greasy hair that is long overdue a wash, bows are bang on trend right now.bows 
Justin Bieber
So I finally got round to seeing Never Say Never, the Justin Bieber epic and I have to say red-faced that after 10 minutes I was hooked. Any excuse to fuel my obsession for teeny bopper boybands and I will stick my new poster of Justin proudly next to JLS and One Direction.


A Bad Week For...

Samantha Brick
This poor woman has had probably one of the worst weeks of her life. Ever since posting a very honest and modest (cough cough) view of her life on the Daily Mail's website, she has been hounded with Twitter abuse, smarmy remarks from celebrities and even appeared on This Morning in an attempt to clear up the mess. No matter what you think, it was certainly a hot topic in our office. 

Shorts and flip-flops
If you brought out the bare legs and strappy sandals last week when the sun came out for more than a peek, then I'm pretty sure these summer staples are safely back in the wardrobe now. At the first sign of sunshine us Brits embrace the shorts and flowy dresses in a bid to catch some rays. Typical English weather meant it didn't last and now we are digging out the umbrellas again. 

One Tree Hill
After 9 juicy seasons, one of my all time favourite shows has come to an end. I watched One Tree Hill right from the start of the Lucas, Peyton, Brooke love triangle, to Keith's death and recently Nathan's kidnapping, and I laughed, cried and exclaimed as if it was real life. I'm not too sure how I'm going to fill this void, but I may indulge in another teen-angst filled drama like Gossip Girl.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Fashion faux pas

Waking up in morning I am immediately faced with the daily wardrobe dilemma. What the heck do I wear today?

First of all, what’s clean and doesn’t stink? Secondly what did I wear yesterday? And lastly what’s the weather like? For your average man this debate is oh so simple, they just chuck on the nearest combo and roll with it, but for us girls we rack our brains for a good 10 minutes often trying on a number of variations before settling on our final choice. I often have to explain to my boss why I am a little late to work because I have been held up staring blankly and uninspired at my dowdy wardrobe.

Probably one of the best complements on a new top or favourite dress comes from your nearest and dearest, so I when I sauntered into work the other day and noticed a shimmer of familiarity over by the sink, I embraced my fashion faux-pas. My good friend Holly had made the exact same wardrobe choice that morning and we were papped wearing our trusty floral New Look shirts proudly side by side!