Christmas Gift Guide (of Sorts) 2016

Even when I’m not blogging (though I *do* plan to return in 2017), the annual SBOS Gift Guide has become a thing now. The format is simple – 30 things, in (theoretically) a variety of price brackets (although this year’s seems oddly pricey!) that I’d happily give and/or receive.

As with last year, if you have other great suggestions for gifts, especially from independent merchants, please leave them in the comments – I *love* discovering new stuff! Let me know too which items on here you particularly like – it helps me to plan next year’s!

1.Byredo Unnamed Eau de Parfum, £90
Byredo make gorgeous, gorgeous (expensive) fragrances, but the real joy of this is that it’s nameless until … you name it. Better still, you do that with the set of stickers that come with it in the Byredo font. By the end of 2017 I swear I will have bought this and called it ‘Blood, bruises and semen.’

byredo

2. Scheu… aber Geil Scheurebe 2015, £16.50
The downside to this is that the website describes it as ‘an undervalued German cross between Riesling and a mystery grape,’ which, given German wine’s reputation, doesn’t seem promising. But ‘Scheu… aber Geil’ means ‘Shy … but Horny,’ so this is the perfect gift for your crush. Plus, I’ve tried it and it’s really nice. Honest.

shybuthorny

3. Kawecko fountain pen, £17.99
Because who (especially writers) doesn’t want a cute fountain pen that still takes cartridges? Look, some of us miss being at school, okay?

kw40140-zzzkaweco-skyline-classic-sport-fountain-pen-mint_p1

Roald Dahl Rococo Chocolate Bar Bundle, £40
For someone who’s as much a sucker for beautiful packaging as they are for chocolate (i.e. me), these are perfect.

rococo

5. Dasher throw, £120
I was uncertain about putting what is essentially a blanket on the list, in case I seemed eighty years old, but when I mooted it on Twitter, people seemed very keen. So here it is.

1703069-dasher-throw

6. Sibling gin, £34
This is a) delicious b) beautifully packaged and c) perfect for that hard to buy for brother or sister.

sibling-gin-70cl-2

7. Cashmere blend fisherman rib jumper, £119
Because let’s be honest: who doesn’t love a man in snuggly knitwear? Plus, it’s as much a gift for you as it is for him…

cashmere-jumper

8. Subscription to BUST magazine, from $24.95
Everybody loves getting post that isn’t bills, but glossy magazines have got progressively worse and worse. BUST describes itself as a ‘groundbreaking, original women’s lifestyle magazine’ and has features on everything from craft to sex, as well as an erotic story. Prices start from $24.95 for a print subscription in the US, but international subscriptions are available.

bust-mag

9. Desire: 100 of Literature’s Sexiest Stories, £20
Personally, I love coffee table/reference books that tie in with my interests, and while I don’t care if they shock my mum, Desire is a nice way of acknowledging someone’s interest in sex writing in a way they can display in public without feeling embarrassed.

desire-stories

10. Upcycled wooden wine crate ottoman, from £165
If I had the space in my living room/kitchen/bedroom (and £165 to spare), I would definitely own one of these. Plus, it looks like it might be the perfect height to bend over…

ottoman

11. DIY gingerbread house kit, £35
Is this meant for children? Probably. Would I love to receive it nonetheless? Hell yes.

biscuiteers

12. Toothy shark, £20
Talking of things that are meant for children but I want … I have so much lust for this guy. One friend asked why he had legs when he’s a shark, but I don’t care why he has legs – I find his smile instantly cheers me.

shark

13. Feminist enamel lapel pin, £9.99
This is the perfect stocking filler for your BFF, your mum, your girlfriend, your wife. It’s just perfect, essentially.

feminist-pin

14. Get a room voucher, from £50
Gift vouchers, when presented beautifully, are no longer a gift you get when you don’t know what to get someone. In the case of these, they’re what you get someone who really wants/needs a (dirty) weekend away.

getaroom

15. Diptyque Scented candle la Madeleine, £55
I’m personally not a huge lover of scented candles, but this one really does smell like madeleines. In an ideal world, I think you’d buy it for someone bookish along with a copy of Proust’s In search of lost time.

scented-candle-madeleine

16. Concrete letters, from £4.50
Buying for a brutalism fan, or someone who has a kink for concrete? Buy them their name (or their safeword)…

concrete

17. Feather appliqué journal, £9.50
I sing the praises of the hardback notebook every year: they don’t fall apart and they’re easier to use when out and about. Plus, this Paperchase one is actually pretty good value.

feather-applique-journal

18. Tickets for a show at the Bunker, from £19.50
I think I’m right in saying the Bunker is London’s newest theatre, and it’s great for two reasons. 1) It shows thought-provoking, often feminist stuff 2) The bar stays open after the show and the cast tend to mingle, so you can discuss the performance with them. Combine this with a meal at the excellent Padella, which is right across the road.

bunkerlogo.png


19. Simple cookbook, £20
I haven’t cooked from this yet, but I have asked for it for Christmas, and I would gladly own it for the cover image alone. Also, Diana Henry’s recipes tend to be failsafe.

simple
20. Book and a bottle, from £40
A book and a bottle is a subscription service run by Damian Barr, who also hosts excellent literary salons in London. For every month you subscribe, you get a gorgeously wrapped book and bottle of wine specially selected to match it.

bookandbottle

21. Multistripe boxers, £27
I’m not sure if it’s because pink is an unusual colour for men’s underwear, but I really, really like these. They make me sad that Paul Smith doesn’t also seem to make women’s underwear. If you buy them right as I hit publish on this post, they also seem to be 25% off at the moment, so just over £20.

paul-smith

22. Caged kite pendant necklace, £6
I saw someone wearing this on a writing workshop I did recently, and it was so pretty, I asked her where it was from, then went and bought one immediately. It looks much more expensive than it is, and as such, it’s the ideal secret santa gift.

caged-kite

23. Hot Dudes Reading Calendar 2017, £10.99
Another one that’s good for secret santa, although possibly more between friends than in the office…

hotdudes1_1024x1024

24. ‘I Can’t Even’ Collar Tag, £10
This was not the collar tag I intended to put on this list – I wanted to include the ‘Fur bae’ one but it’s currently sold out. Pretty certain your cat-loving friend would like all of these though.

cant-even

25. Liberty Navy Summer Bloom floral tie, £47.50
I love Liberty print and I love a man in a tie – what more is there to say? For people who like their ties more colourful than this, there are also lots of brighter Liberty prints available; for those who like them subtler, you can get the tie in plain charcoal with a print lining.

liberty-tie

26. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Socks, £8.99
When I first came across these, I was all ‘Oh, but why do kids get all the cool stuff?’ only to then spot that these come in (both men’s and women’s) ADULT SIZES. Want.

very_hungry_caterpillar_socks_1024x1024

27. Imposter print, $30
I have so many female friends who need to hear this, so I think it’s a great gift. If you want to give it framed, eBay has a huge selection of cheap frames to choose from. (Also, the spelling of ‘impostor’ is not wrong (I checked!), it’s just American…)

imposter_print

28. Arrow snood – mint, £30
I don’t do scarves, or anything that functions like I scarf, because I get too hot way too quickly. If I didn’t, I’d own this. Your scarf loving friend will probably adore it.

snood

29. Real luxury bath & shower drops, £40
It wouldn’t be a SBOS gift guide without some overpriced bath stuff. This year’s boasts the huge advantage of coming with a *pipette* so you don’t accidentally tip thirty quid’s worth of bath oil into one bath. I haven’t tried it yet, but the reviews seem super positive.

real-luxury-bath-drops-both

30. Tinsel Tits Christmas Jumper, £34.99
I don’t think I really need to explain why I think this is great.

tinsel-tits

All pictures are taken from sellers’ websites. No copyright infringement is intended. If you’d like a picture removing or crediting, please do get in touch.

Gift guide (of sorts): Mother’s Day 2016

Molly of Mollysdailykiss.com fame asked if I’d be doing a Mother’s Day gift guide, and I said no, because they’re time consuming and they don’t get as many hits as the sex related stuff, but then I’ve seen a lot of cute stuff in the past couple of weeks so I figured I may as well share it…

From left to right:

1.Betsy Liberty Print Mini Suitcase, £65

This would be perfect for keeping stationery, craft materials or make up in  – it’s girly, sure, but it’s also really lovely.

2. Mini Lipstick Charms, £29

Charlotte Tilbury make up has a kind of retro, Hollywood glamour to it (makes sense, she’s a celebrity make up artist) – the packaging is stunning, but the products are also really good quality. This set of three lippies is particularly good because all the colours are wearable, *and* they have fab names. Bitch Perfect, anyone?

3. The Nordic Bakery Cookbook, £13.48

Since I went to Copenhagen last month, I’m obsessed with all things Scandi (travel guide potentially on the way). Scandinavian is basically a synonym for cosy, and I think this book looks like the perfect way to create cosiness at home while waiting for Spring to properly arrive.

4. Ren Moroccan Rose Bath Oil, £26

I’m essentially incapable of writing a list that doesn’t have bath oil on it. Rose wouldn’t usually be my top choice of fragrance, but I’m swayed by how subtle this is, and by the beautiful bottle, which makes it great as a gift.

5. Mr B’s Reading Spa, £65

Mr B’s Reading Year was on my original Christmas gift guide, and it was one of the most popular things on there. This, the cheaper version, gets you a voucher to go and discuss books and eat cake with a member of the Mr B’s team, and £45 to spend on books. Great if your mum likes to support independent retailers.

6. Elle Decoration Subscription, £38

This is what I’ve got for my mum. I think it’s a good choice because it has actual content worth reading (i.e. isn’t Cosmo), and is much less old-fashioned than most of the home magazines out there.

7. Dark Chocolate, Pistachio and Raspberry Brittle, £5.85

Pistachios always make me come over all Nigella, because they’re such a great colour, and paired with dried raspberries and dark chocolate, this is so pretty, I almost wouldn’t want to eat it, but is also from Ottolenghi, so guaranteed to be delicious.

8. Andy Warhol Ideas Book, £13.99

Like bath oil, there’s always a notebook. This one has unlined pages with Warhol quotes, and can be used for writing or drawing. And it’s hardcover, which is always a bonus.

9. Feminism Dress, £14.99

I saw a girl wearing this slogan on a tee, which sadly no longer seems to be available, but this would be a great dress for lounging around in at weekends.

10. Glitter Hearts iPhone 6 Case, £20

I can’t decide if this is cool or tacky, but I think it would definitely be hypnotic, and she’ll know you love her, at least…

11. Hay Kaleidoscope Trays, £56

There’s a real Scandinavian theme to this list, but Hay trays are cool because you can buy as many as you can afford and keep adding them in new colours and sizes. I think this would be a great way to store jewellery.

12. Champagne Saucers, £20

Champagne saucers allegedly make fizz lose it’s well, fizz, quicker than flutes, but I don’t care, because I love them. Match these with a bottle of cava or prosecco and some elderflower or peach liqueur and you have a perfect afternoon…

13. Beaufort Necklace, £48

I want this, so your mum probably will too, right?

14. Set of 3 Photo and Cardholders, £23.42

I bought a set of these, and they’ve proved to be super useful – especially good if your mum likes bringing home postcards from exhibitions and has nowhere to display them.

15. Wire Mesh Memo board, £55

This is one of two ways of displaying postcards on a list of fifteen items (oops), but I would totally love this as a way of creating a kind of mood board for my novel. Perfect for creative types.

 

Valentine’s Gift Guide (of Sorts) 2016

There was no Valentine’s gift guide last year – there were biscuits, instead. Because, as I said last year, I like Valentine’s, once my front door has shut behind me, the fire is  lit, the Chinese takeaway is plated up and the chocolate and wine is in the fridge. I’ve had a routine, since I went to uni. Valentine’s = solitude + self care + treating yourself.

So these gifts aren’t intended for your partner, although many of them would undoubtedly be welcome. These are my fourteen suggestions, in various price brackets, for what you should buy yourself…

1. Dairy Milk Spring Edition, £0.50, Iceland0002665_470-Dairy-Milk-Spring-Edition-bar

Fancy chocolate is, y’know, fine, but this, really, is all you need. Plus, who knew it was only 50p for 100g at Iceland?

2. Salt made from tears of anger, £7.50, Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

Salts-Anger-f_eb5fd3f1-0fe2-4ccc-8ab6-f0279d8042cd_1024x1024

For the angry singletons out there (yes, ok, for me…), salt made from tears of anger is smoked salt, which, according to my research, goes well with roasted veg, nuts, houmous or pork chops.

3. Deer antler necklace, £12.82, Etsy

deer antlers

I have a bit of a thing for wild animals on jewellery, and deers are beautiful, and spring-like, and available in three finishes for a remarkably bargainous price…

4. Scented hyacinths bouquet, £30, Waitrose

PR732476_a_scented-hyacinths-bouquet-pr732476

This is the traditional option, but there’s nothing wrong with buying your own flowers on Valentine’s (or having them delivered).

5. Wonder woman Jolly Ginger, £9.95, Biscuiteers

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One I might be more likely to buy for a friend than for myself, given the speed at which I can consume gingerbread, this is super cute nonetheless.

6. How to be a heroine, £9.98, Amazon

heroine

I’m reading this at the moment, and it is just so good. A timely reminder that you don’t need a prince in shining armour to be a heroine. Plus, the cover is stunning.

7. Loud, £3.99, Amazon

loud

Is my taste in music five years out of date? Yes. Is this a great album in spite of that? Hell yes. I bought it primarily for the gorgeous piano version of Love the way you lie, but the rest of the album is upbeat and perfect for singing along.

8. Fuck nest bunting, £50, www.cunting.bigcartel.com

fucknest

Self-explanatory, really. But definitely a talking point for the next time you get laid.

9. Champagne hat box, £45, Harvey Nichols, & Liberty print straws, £4, PapermashchampagneLiberty-Betsy-print-paper-straws_1024x1024

If you’re spending Valentine’s with friends, it’s probably not economical to drink mini bottles of champagne with a straw all night, but you could always keep topping the bottles up with cava once they’re done.

10. Superstar tights, £12, House of Holland for Pretty Polly

star tights

I haven’t worn these yet, but I have a star fetish and had to buy them when I saw them. The downside is the fact that they’re one size fits all. The upside? Er, stars, obviously.

11. Bonjour heart foil printed pouch purse, £12, Oliver Bonas

1031874_oliver-bonas_accessories_bonjour-heart-foil-printed-pouch-purse_5

All my cards and cash are loose in the pocket of my handbag, which is a disaster waiting to happen. A proper wallet is beyond me, but this? This, I might just use.

12. Laura Mercier almond coconut milk, honey bath, £33, Liberty

lauramercier

One for fans of sweet scents, I’m not personally sure I love this, but it is creamy as fuck and the little honey dipper is *adorable*.


13. Ultimate Cowshed manicure, £55, Cowshedcheeky

Cowshed manicures are pricey. They’re also great – big leather armchairs, good colour selection, drinks … it’s my favourite place for a treat mani. Plus, with the Ultimate, you get a neck and shoulder massage too. Hell, yes…

14. Monogram crest journal, £22, Anthropologie

anthronotebook

Soon, I’m planning on starting a series of fortnightly posts showcasing my favourite blog posts, notebooks and bath oils (I know, specific, right?). Consider this a preview – these journals from Anthro are absolutely top of my to-buy list.

Christmas Gift Guide (of Sorts) 2015

There are few posts that could become an annual tradition, but this is one of them. Last year, I realised that I was no longer confined to reading gift guides, I could write my own if I wanted to. The format is simple – 30 things, in (hopefully) a variety of price brackets that I’d happily give and/or receive.

As with last year, if you have other great suggestions for gifts, especially from independent merchants, please leave them in the comments – I *love* discovering new stuff!

1. Write till you’re hard, £4.89
This is a very slim book, but it’s a gem for anyone who wants to learn to write erotica, or who needs a reminder of why it’s worth writing about sex. If you’re particularly brave, you could buy this for a colleague with a £5 Secret Santa budget.

writehard

2. Stay Home Club tee, $26.94
The perfect gift for an introvert friend, these are printed on American Apparel tees, so they hang nicely, and would suit a cat lover, too! If your introverted friend prefers dogs, that’s also an option.

shc_loose_tee_april_large

3. Cheese Sloth plate, £25
Using plates as art can go one of two ways – twee, or pretty damn cool. Personally, I think this, and the other Jimbobart designs, fall into the latter category. Alternatively, pair it up with some really good cheese.

sloth_plate

4. Persiana and ingredients, £37.50
There are a lot of books in this year’s guide. Persiana went down really well with my mum last year, and has a properly beautiful cover.

Screenshot 2015-11-24 21.14.06

5. ‘Laterite’ A4 print, £14
This is meant for children, but I’d totally put it on my wall because a) wolf fetish and b) the wolf has the cutest side-eyes. If you want to frame it, eBay has loads of cheap frame sellers.

wolf print

6. Kitchen and Bedroom Nutella, £9.98
Personalised Nutella is back in Selfridges this year and you can have up to nine characters per label. If you’re sleeping with someone who loves it, why not give them two jars – one with a label saying ‘Kitchen’ and the other with a label saying ‘Bedroom’?

nutella

7. Tricolore pants, 75,00 €
Le Slip Français have some of the hottest male models around, which is partly why I spend so much time on their site. The other reason is that the packs of pants are lovely, and beautifully packaged.

trio-slips-bleu-blanc-rouge

8. V&A membership, £64
One for the writers and other creatives, I’m not a huge museum fan, but the V&A can, on occasion, provide fresh ideas and inspiration for writing even for me. Membership gets you free entry to exhibitions for a year and various other perks including previews.

v&a membership

9. Hourglass ambient lighting powder, £38
The idea of this powder is that it makes you look like you’re in the most flattering possible light at all times, and personally, I think it’s pretty damn good. It’s pricey, but it’ll last a bloody long time.

US300023943_HOURGLASS

10. Rifle Paper Co jardin desk pad, £12
The wrong friend will think a desk planner is a shitty gift. The stationery loving friend will adore this – trust me…

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11. St Germain elderflower liqueur, £19
This has just *the* prettiest bottle and makes the world’s easiest cocktails – just slosh a bit into a champagne flute and top up with fizz. Perfect for Scrooges, because it’ll remind them that Spring is on the way.

stgermain

12. Moleskine postal notebook, £5.17
This would be the perfect pairing with the first item on this list – you could write the start of a story, send it to your lover, get them to continue it, send it back and … yeah, it makes me wish I had a lover right now.moleskine notebook

13. Gold heart and black scarf, £12.99
Given its low price, this is surprisingly cute. I’ve already bought one for a scarf-loving friend…

goldheartandblackscarf_medium.20150911104607

14. Brushed silver coin earrings £17.72
This one, despite the price in pounds, may actually be better for Americans, seeing as I’ve sometimes been caught on customs fees having Elephantine jewellery delivered to the UK. It is beautiful though, and neutral enough to be hard to object to.

coin earrings

15. Inner Strength bath oil, £45
Super-pricey though it is, and although it’s pretentious enough to refer to baths as ‘experiences,’ I love this stuff. It fragrances not only the bath but the whole house, and some of the profits go to breast cancer research.

innerstrength

16. Great Pub, Great Walk, £11.66
All long walks need a good pub en route, and this has the added benefit of not needing to carry a book – just take the card you need out with you.

great pub

17. Hardback notebook, £12.50
When I’m writing by hand, and even for a notebook I mostly just keep stuffed in my handbag, hardback is hugely useful, because it doesn’t fall apart and it’s easier to scribble in on the go. Plus, aren’t these just the most beautiful prints?

hardback notebook

18. Cassandra Yap print, £30
Cassandra Yap makes very cool erotic prints – C is for corsets, but there’s one for every letter of the alphabet. The only problem will be choosing between your initial or your kink…

cassandra yap

19. Suede red fox purse, £30
I’m not allowed this, because it’s made of suede, and I’d want to keep my make up in it, and would inevitably trash it in no time at all. Probably one for someone tidier/more organised than me.

fox purse

20. Grumpy bear, £22
I’ve already requested grumpy bear on my own Christmas list because I’m a sucker for anything with a sad face. However, these are suitable from birth, so ideal for both big and little kids.

grumpy bear and woodsman pygmy cloud

21. Refuge/John Lewis gift list, £various
I was really pleased to be able to donate so much to Refuge after Lippie, and I think their gift list for women in their refuges is a genius idea, especially because it has so much genuinely nice stuff on it. If you’re buying for a friend who likes to do a lot for charity, consider this instead.

refuge

22. Pom-pom ballet slipper socks, £9.50
Cute, cosy, and good value – these are an example of M&S having a few little gems in their range and would work just as well for a friend as for your grandma…

pompom ballet slipper socks

23. Anne of Green Gables, $16
OK, so most people have read Anne of Green Gables, but I don’t know many who wouldn’t happily read it again, especially if they received this gorgeous edition. There are other options, too, including Heidi and Little Women.

annegreengables

24. Modal long lace vest, £25
I’ll admit it, £25 is a lot for a vest top. But these are fabulously long in the body, last for ages, look really cute and come in a huge range of colours. Plus, they stretch, so it doesn’t matter if you guess someone’s size a tiny bit wrong.

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25. Tokyo Ghost Stories box, £34
Death to Flowers’ boxes are a bit strange, I know, but there’s a kind of joy to receiving lots of little bits, especially when those bits include good chocolate and cool stationery.

NEW-Tokyo-Ghost-Stories-Home-Retina

26. The Etymologicon, £12.08
If you know someone who’s obsessed with words and their meanings (*waves*), this would make a great gift. There are a couple of other titles in the series too, so you could give them all…

etymologican

27. Fitzgerald print, £16.36
I’m not a huge fan of quotes as art, but I think these could be really striking in an office or study. You can also buy a set of three (there are lots to choose from) for £39.54.

fitzgerald

28. Ours decanter set, $118
This makes me wish I drank more spirits (and had a boyfriend!). It’s expensive, sure, but it’s also *super* cute. If you’re feeling really rich, you could buy a bottle of something to go with…

decanterset

29. 80s children’s books, £various
There are loads of good kids’ books out there, so there’s no reason to go back to old classics apart from the fact that a) nostalgia value and b) there were some really good books around in the 80s. The Avocado Baby is my favourite, but if you search Amazon for anything you have fond memories of, I reckon there’s a good chance you’ll find it.

avocadobaby

30. Delancey, £11.88
I share posts relatively often from Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette, and she writes wonderfully about food and relationships, so this is definitely on my list this year.

delancey

 

All pictures are taken from sellers’ websites. No copyright infringement is intended. If you’d like a picture removing or crediting, please do get in touch.

Vanilla Kisses

Everyone expects me to be super-cynical about Valentine’s, but somehow I just don’t have it in me. Perhaps it dates back to Cambridge and just being exhausted by this point in the term, but despite being eternally single, I’ve always managed to turn it into a relaxing evening on my own. Valentine’s is about Crispy Duck and Pancakes, Dairy Milk and a bottle of Champagne.

This year will be a bit different, firstly because it falls on a Saturday and because of a certain film. And now because the build-up has been a shit, shit day – thanks, BBC.) Also, because the whole world has gone batshit crazy about vanilla, and I’m batshit crazy about gifts, I thought I’d combine the two*. I did this for my colleagues – hopefully you’ll have a recipient who’s a tad more special.

I’m calling these ‘Vanilla Kisses’ with my tongue firmly in my cheek. I ordered my lips cutter off eBay and forgot to check the dimensions – what turned up makes lips big enough to swallow even the thickest cock whole. So ‘Vanilla Kisses’ or ‘Deepthroat Cookies.’ Your relationship, your choice.

Vanilla Kisses

Ingredients and Kit

350g Plain Flour
100g Self Raising Flour
125g Granulated Sugar
125g Salted Butter
125g Golden Syrup
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
Half a teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

250g Royal Icing Sugar
Food Colouring
Piping Bags
Squeezy Bottles
Presentation Box or Jar
Cutters ( I used lips and hearts – if one of your cutters is huge, it helps to also use a much smaller one to fill in any gaps in your box or jar)

Method

*Preheat the oven to 170C/350F/gas mark 4.

* Mix the flours and sugar together in a mixing bowl.

* Dice the butter and add to the bowl. Using just your fingertips, rub together the ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

* When all the butter is evenly mixed in, make a well in the centre and add the syrup, the egg and the vanilla extract.

* Using your hands, mix well, drawing in any of the flour left at the sides of the bowl and stop as soon as a ball has formed.

* Place the dough onto your clean worktop. Divide into two and squash the dough into two even-sized flat discs. Roll each disc out to the thickness of a pound coin. Keep turning the dough so it doesn’t stick to the worktop. Don’t use extra flour as it will dry the dough out.

* Cut biscuits from the dough, re-rolling the spare dough as necessary.

IMG_4237Ignore that mine are all different thicknesses – I’m bad at girth

* Cover a baking tray with parchment. Make sure the biscuits are not too close together as the dough will spread a little on baking. Cook for 14–18 minutes, depending on your oven.

* When the biscuits are just beginning to turn a golden colour remove the trays from the oven and transfer the whole sheet of parchment to a cooling rack or lift each biscuit off with a spatula. Do this carefully as the biscuits will be fragile

* Cool totally before icing, or the icing will melt.

* Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar with 40 ml cold water. Beat with an electric whisk for at least five minutes – the icing should be bright white and the consistency of toothpaste.

* Colour the icing to your desired shades – you’ll probably need less food colouring than you imagine unless you’re making red, in which case you’ll need enough to fell a grown man.

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* Use half the icing to fill your piping bags. If you’re a singleton without friends or housemates, it’s easiest to do this by putting the bag in a mug, folding the sides over the edge of the mug and going a bit crazy with a big spoon. It will, inevitably, get messy, and probably look more bloodbath than Valentine’s at this point.

* Hold the piping bag tight by the wide end (no, like *properly* tight) and shake it so that the icing moves down to the bottom of the bag. If you can tie knots, tie a knot in the bag above the icing, if, like me, you can’t, improvise.

* When you’ve made as many colours of piping icing as you need, add more water to the remaining icing very, very slowly and mix until it’s the consistency of double cream. Pour it into your squeezy bottles (there is no good way of doing this).

* Cut the very tip of your piping bags and practise piping a bit on a piece of parchment until you get the hang of it. Use this icing to pipe an outline round the edge of each biscuit – you’ll need to hold the bag slightly above the biscuit and don’t break the flow. When you’ve done the complete outline, press the tip down on the biscuit and lift it straight up. Do this with all your biscuits.

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If you fuck this bit up, you can wipe the icing off while it’s still wet and start over. No one will ever know.

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* Leave the outline to dry for 10 minutes, then, using the icing in the squeezy bottles, colour in the biscuits, trying not to go over the lines.

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* If you like, you can use the other colours to add dots/stripes etc or you could add silver balls, glitter and all other kinds of crap.

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* When you’ve finished your biscuits or have got bored of fucking around with them, put them carefully back on the baking tray and put in the oven at 80C for half an hour. This sets the icing and gives them a nice matte finish.

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* When your biscuits are completely cold, transfer them to a box/tin/jar/mouth of your choice. You may also want to pimp your packaging a bit before you hand your gift over.

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I took the label off before I presented these to my colleagues. I like them, but not *that* much

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Charlie’s ‘No Need to Panic’ suggestions

I’m kind of at a loss now I’ve finished my Christmas shopping/wrapping. Plus my Christmas gift guide was one of the posts I’ve most enjoyed writing this year, so here’s a mini UK-High Street-based follow up in case you’ve left it till the last minute:

1. Cosmic Desk Pad, £7, Paperchase
Yeah, ok, a desk pad isn’t the *most* exciting gift, but you’ve left it late, so how exciting can you really expect to be? I have something similar on my desk, and I use it a hell of a lot – it beats lose post-its floating around everywhere…

cosmic pad

2. MAC Red Lipstick, £15.50, Debenhams
Red lipstick really does look good on most people, but a lot of girls still don’t have a nice one, I think – perhaps because they’re a bit scared of it, perhaps because it’s more than they want to spend on something they won’t wear every day. Either way, it’s a great gift.

red lipstick

3. Socks, £8-£12ish, FatFace
If you’re going down the socks route, they’re going to need to be both cute and cosy. FatFace win on both fronts. Personally, I’m a big fan of the cashmere-mix stripy ones and the Russian doll design, too

fat face socks 2_940

4. Tea & Crumpets hamper, £15ish, Boots & your local supermarket
Essie’s ‘Tea & Crumpets’ is a beautiful shade, and paired with nice tea, a pack of crumpets, some jam and the offer of home-manicuring would make a lovely gift for anyone from your best friend to your nan.

tea_crumpets

crumpets

5. Amelie Retro Stripe Jersey Top, £39, Jigsaw
Because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a Breton stripe? Accompanying beret is optional.

jigsaw top6. Vine Long Elaborate Earrings, £6, Accessorize
I’m always surprised by how much I like Accessorize jewellery, given how cheap it is. Tie these to a Lindt chocolate reindeer and you’re winning at Christmas.

earrings

7. Winter Candle, from £6, The White Company
This smells like Christmas. What more can I really say? Comes in a variety of sizes, plus diffuser and fragrance oil for those who aren’t big on candles.

white company candle

8. Sipsmith Sloe Gin, £24, Waitrose
Alcohol can be, frankly, a bit of a lazy gift, but this is seasonal, has a beautiful, beautiful label, and is super yummy. If you’re feeling particularly flush, pair it with a bottle of champagne/prosecco/cava and you have instant sloegasms.

1985-sa3624-sloe-gin-lifestle-xmas-056-ret

9. Not Another Bill subscription, from £24, notanotherbill.com
If we’re being totally fair, this isn’t off the high street. But oh, I want it so, so badly, and presumably that means everyone else will too…

notanotherbill

10. Improvised Book Subscription, £?, Your local bookstore
This one came about because somebody complained that one of the suggestions on my original gift list, The Willoughby Book Club, is no longer available before Christmas. I agree that’s a bit silly, but y’know, you have had all month to sort it out. Anyway, if you too find yourself in this situation, why not buy someone 4/6/12 books from your local bookshop, wrap them beautifully and send them one every month or 2-3 months, depending on how fast they read?

bookshop

Christmas 2014 Gift Guide (of sorts)

This is another of those posts that I get to write because I blog primarily for me, and therefore I can be completely self-indulgent. I fucking love Christmas gift guides. I think the Guardian will probably launch theirs this coming weekend, which has been pretty good in previous years, the Cup of Jo one is imminent, and is pretty useful if you’re in the States, and there are even gift guides for writers and some written by the wonderful Alison Tyler (again, 2014 ones on the way).

I’m a big believer in buying handmade/indie/Etsy stuff for gifts, the only real exceptions I make being clothing, books/music/film, beauty products, make up and alcohol. Even with the last of those, and chocolate too, I’ll buy from smaller producers where I can. If I’m being totally honest, I do buy books from Amazon, but please be a better person than me and buy them from RL bookstores where possible.

So, with the preamble out of the way, here are my top 30 Christmas gift recommendations. I’d love to know what you’re buying too, so *please*, *please* tell me in the comments – it’s like porn for me…

1. Flasher Bat Plush Bat in Tiny Tighty Whities £29.40

OK, let’s start at the crazier end. I’m a real sucker for stuff that’s completely odd, and this bat definitely falls into that category. I especially love that when you wrap his wings around him you have no idea he’s wearing pants…

Flasher Bat plush bat in tiny tighty whities by carefulitbites - Windows Interne_2014-11-21_13-12-44

2. Willoughby Book Club Subscription, from £34.99 

My friends bought me a six-month subscription to the contemporary version of this for my 30th, and I swear it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Not only do the books arrive beautifully wrapped in tissue paper every month, it also supports an independent bookstore. There are different options too, including kids’, toddlers’ and cookery books.

willoughbybookclub

 

 

3. What I See When I Run Prints, from $30

I’m not really a floral person, but I have the print below in my spare room, and I adore it. The story behind the prints is nice, too – you can find out more about it at http://whatiseewhenirun.tumblr.com.

whatiseerun

 

4. M&S Best of British Tights, £8

These are pretty new, I think, and they’d make a nice stocking filler for a girlfriend. M&S normally make good but really boring tights – lots of these designs (back seam, cable, chevron) are sexy, not tacky. Equally, I bought a pair of these Autograph leaf design ones at the weekend and fuck me, they’re comfy.
tights

 

5. Cambridge Satchel Co. Shoulder Bag in Oxblood, £255

This is my current handbag, in a different shade. I’ve never had so many compliments on a bag, and if I could justify buying it in a second colour, I totally would. Plus, isn’t ‘Oxblood’ just the best name for a colour?

The Shoulder Bag  The Cambridge Satchel Company - Windows Internet Explorer_2014-11-21_13-47-45

6.Sharpie Limited Edition 80’s Glam Fine Point Permanent Markers, £16.99

Everyone needs a good set of felt tips or markers and these are the best, as long as you’re working on decent quality paper. Because they’re permanent, they scream ‘Take me seriously!’ Kristina Lloyd signs books with black Sharpie, and, as far as I’m concerned it’s just another reason why she’s so damn kick ass.

sharpies

7. Hush PJs, £49.50

I sleep naked, which is clearly the only sensible option. However, great PJs double as loungewear, so even though I take mine off before bed, I do kick around the house in them a lot. Hush often have discounts and/or free postage, so they’re worth keeping an eye on…

pyjamas

8. Pulp ‘Different Class’ Album As Books Poster Print, £18

One of those things I wasn’t sure if I loved or hated when I first saw it, I’ve now decided I love it. All the tracks on Pulp’s Different Class album are reproduced on book spines as if they were classic Penguin titles. If you’re not buying for a Pulp fan, there are lots of other artists, too.

Pulp 'Different Class' Album As Books Poster by StandardDesigns - Windows Intern_2014-11-21_13-11-56

9. Origins Ginger Float Cream Bubble Bath, £27

I swear I mention this stuff at least once a week, but it really is the best bath product I’ve ever used. If you don’t like ginger (What’s wrong with you?!), Origins do lots of other gorgeous bath oils and shower gels, any of which I’d be thrilled to receive…

originsginger

10. Gold Triangle Necklace, £18

This is actually a brass triangle on a gold chain, but it’s very pretty and very simple and I know when I buy stuff from Oh My Clumsy Heart for my friends, they’re pretty much guaranteed to love it. Plus, it’s less than £20.

ohmyclumsyheart

11. NARS Blusher in Orgasm, £22.50

You can’t go wrong with a classic, and NARS Orgasm is certainly that. It’s a very easy-to-wear shade, but the other colours are worth a look too – especially ‘Deep Throat.’

narsblush

12. Wooden Mistletoe, £22

This is my latest gift to myself – it’s Christmassy and it encourages kissing. Need I say more? If you want to encourage kissing, but you don’t want to spend £20+, there’s also a smaller £10 version.

mistletoe

13. Mapping Manhattan, £10.53

For some reason, I still don’t own a copy of this, although I’ve bought it for friends. People who read my blog regularly will know that great sense of place is a real love of mine and this book, which contains maps of Manhattan illustrated by a huge variety of people to show what the city means to them, is fascinating to me.

mappingmanhattan

14. Shopping List Magnets, £22

Not gonna lie – I want to be a domestic goddess almost as much as I want to be a successful sex blogger. Plus, I’m a magpie when it comes to shiny, colourful things. These are both…

magnets

15. Magimix Le Mini Plus Food Processor, £149.95

Want to tell someone who loves cooking that you love them? Forget diamonds, what they really want is a Magimix. On my list (in orange) as soon as I have the worktop space for it, I’d give a lifetime of blowjobs to any man who bought me one of these…

magimix

16. Let’s Make Out Cushion, £63.37

Another item that features a lot in my blog posts, I was horrified by the price of this when I saw it on a holiday in Washington DC, but I went back to the shop to stare at it longingly so often, I decided in the end it was worth it. And I’ve never, ever regretted it.

LET'S MAKE OUT recycled felt applique pillow by alexandraferguson - Windows Inte_2014-11-21_13-14-51

17. Edinburgh Gin Cocktail Kit, £45

This is so cool I’d never want to take it out of the box, but it probably wouldn’t take much of a gin emergency to persuade me. A good one if you’re willing to spend a bit, but you’re looking for something more exciting than a bog standard bottle of alcohol.

ginkit

18. What Fresh Hell Pencil Set, £2.63

Alison Tyler and I overlap on our love of Etsy shop Carbon Crusader, and their pencil sets make great stocking fillers for stationery lovers. I think fresh hell is a universal sentiment, but there are lots of other designs available too.

freshhellpencils

19. How to Feed Your Friends with Relish, £12.99

Nobody cooks from cookbooks anymore, right? And yet, I do cook from this one. The boy (and probably all boys) wisecracks when I cook for him from it that really you should feed your friends something other than relish, but don’t let that put you off. It doesn’t have any pics, which is the downside, but it reads like a novel or a blog. Highly, highly recommended.

feedfriendsrelish

20. Essie Nail Polish, £7.99

After Polished, how could I not include a nail varnish? One particularly cool year, I picked out colours that were associated with something to do with each of my friends and then themed the rest of their gifts round the polish name. The one shown below is Midnight Cami…

essie

21. Cowshed Horny Cow Room Fragrance Diffuser, £36

Cowshed is another of my adored brands, not least because it doesn’t contain any nasties. Horny Cow smells of Rose Absolute, Patchouli and Cinnamon Essential Oils and let’s face it, diffusers are so much less fuss than scented candles.

diffuser

22. Crumb by Ruby Tandoh, £9

Yes, yes, Great British Bake Off fans, you want to hate her, but be honest, you can’t quite bring yourself to. I haven’t baked from this yet, but it would definitely get my vote for gorgeous cover of the year alone.

crumb

23. Chicks Over Dicks Keyrings, £31.36

Remember when you bought your friend the Forever Friends necklace? This is like the grown up version and if you’re not totally sure you agree with the sentiment (I’m not), you can also buy ‘Best Bitches’. Plus, it’s a gift for you too, right?

Copper Heart by MetalTaboo - Windows Int_2014-11-21_13-13-50

24. Charbonnel & Walker Pink Marc de Champagne Truffles, £12.95

When I was a pre-teen, and chubby, my mum offered to give me £20 cash if I agreed not to eat the Easter Eggs I’d been given. It’s no wonder I have a slightly unhealthy addiction to chocolate these days. Anyway, I think fancy chocolate is underrated as a gift, especially if the packaging is beautiful. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do with an evening than kick back with a box of these, a glass of wine and a good book.

charbonnel

25. Caramel Wafer Cushion, £44.50

After notebooks, cushions are another weakness of mine, which is probably why there are two on this list. And seriously, who *wouldn’t* want a Caramel Wafer cushion?

caramelwafer

26. Young Punks Wine, Quickie, £12.49

Wine can be a *really* boring gift. You can make it more interesting by buying ones with cool, or relevant, names, or ones that explicitly reference sex…

Buy Quickie! - Sauvignon Blanc 2013 - Some Young Punks - WineBase - Windows Inte_2014-11-21_13-34-11

27. Brain Design Notebook, £18

You knew there’d be a notebook, right? I personally advocate hardback because you can write in them easily even on public transport, and I love Fanny Shorter’s prints, which are inspired by cross-sections of the brain and the heart. Good for scientists, medics or design fans, less good for the squeamish…

brainnotebook

28. Bloom & Wild Letterbox Subscription, from £50

I’ve written before, I’m sure, about why it’s fine, great even, to buy yourself flowers. But receiving them is a lovely, lovely thing, and a bouquet through my letterbox once a month? Yes, please!

Bloom & Wild - Beautiful flowers, delivered through your letterbox the next day _2014-11-21_13-31-52

29. Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, 3.49

By far the best book I’ve read all year, ‘Apple Tree Yard’ has a great plot, amazing sex scenes for a mainstream novel and a really well-written central female character. It’s a shame the cover’s shit, but hey, you can’t have it all.

appletreeyard

30. Writing Retreats, £45-£500+

I’ve totally saved the best for last. Charlie Haynes runs one day writing retreats in London and longer ones a couple of times a year in Devon. They have very different feels – the London one is pretty intense, while the residential ones are more chilled and make me happier than other holiday has recently. Both involve a hell of a lot of excellent homemade cake. There are no dates up for either at the moment, sadly, but it looks like Charlie might put new residential dates  for 2015 up before the end of the year, so I figured it was worth including…

writingretreat

 

 

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