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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Is my taste in music five years out of date?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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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!