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!

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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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Holidays are coming…

So, tomorrow, or maybe Monday, I’m going to post the first ever Sex Blog (of sorts) Christmas gift guide. The Guardian should have theirs out some time this week, but I adore Christmas and have already hit the shops, so even though I think the Guardian one is the best, I can’t wait forever…

Anyway. The reason for this post, which I guess is kind of a teaser post, is that I’m taking part in A piece of Viola’s blogger gift swap because I just love buying gifts for people. You can find out more about the swap here and about the Curiosity Project, which was the first swap of this kind I joined in with, here.