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21 November 2014

The ultimate dinner party

To me, there is something very special about holding a dinner party.  It brings all of my loves in life together - good food, friends and family, the warmth of home, and an opportunity to relax and be in good company.  I love the whole 'Kinfolk' ethos - soul food, nourishment, community - people sharing food and sharing stories.  At the moment I feel a little overwhelmed with everything going on, and I just know that holding an evening like this would really help me relax and remember what's important.

So when I was challenged by Anthropologie to blog about my 'ultimate dinner party', I couldn't help but get a little excited just thinking about it.  To me, Autumn and Winter are the ultimate times to hold a cosy family get together.  So, dig out your best party frock, and pack your appetite and a pair of slippers for later...

T h e  d i n n e r  t a b l e

For me, an Autumn or Winter dinner party has to be cosy - candles burning, fairy lights strung around, comfy places to sit and thoughtful, welcoming details.  I love the idea of interspersing nature with homely touches - the place settings and centrepieces made from wreaths or tree branches are lovely.

anthropologie dinner party

anthropologie dinner party

credit unknown //

T h e  t a b l e w a r e

Even if Anthropologie hadn't been the ones to inspire me to post about my ultimate dinner party, I'd still have hopped right over to their website for tableware and kitchenware inspiration.  They just have the most beautiful things, and I constantly have a long wishlist of items from their site that would look perfect in my home.  I always serve food in mismatched plates and bowls, I think it's much more fun to add new kitchenware as you go along rather than buying a boring set!  Their colourful crockery and textiles would definitely bring some cheer to a winter dinner party.

anthropologie dinner party

F o o d  a n d  d r i n k

As it's an Autumn/Winter dinner party it has to be full of comfort food - hearty, warming, good for the soul type food.  A little bit indulgent, but we'll burn it off with all the board games later, right? 

anthropologie dinner party

P a r t y  d r e s s e s

Of course one of the most fun things about hosting or attending a dinner party, can be choosing the perfect party outfit.  As usual, anthropologie also have some pretty lust-worthy dresses for the party season - currently majorly coveting that embroidered neoprene shift - so fab.

anthropologie dinner party

But as it's a dinner party with cosiness at the heart of it, you're welcome - no, you're encouraged - to bring your PJs and slippers for when you want to pop on something a little more comfortable.  We take board games very seriously at our house, and you don't want anything too restrictive for some serious Cluedo or Trivial Pursuit action.

What would be a part of your ultimate dinner party? (And would you like to come to mine...?)

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20 November 2014

Under £25 Christmas gift ideas with Hotel Chocolat and Bluebird Tea

For me, the perfect present is always something that the receiver wouldn't buy for themselves - something that's a bit of a treat, a bit indulgent or beautifully packaged or wrapped; something that will put a smile on their face and make them take a little time for themselves.  I've come across two things that definitely fit this bill recently and wanted to share them here in case anyone was looking for some gift inspiration for the tea or chocolate lovers in your life this Christmas.

The first was definitely a real treat when it popped through my letterbox recently.  Hotel Chocolat are a great place to look when you want to buy a little something for the chocoholic in your life - they are always beautifully packaged and feel decadent.  This isn't your box of Celebrations or a hastily wrapped king size bar of Dairy Milk, it is the gift of chocolate, done properly.  Their Christmas Collection box features a bottle of Prosecco, Butterscotch Puddles, mini box of chocolates and a Pecan Bûche.  Trust me when I say that those chocolates taste just as good as they look.  I think this would be a great present for a Mum, sister, work colleague - anyone who deserves an evening in with a glass of fizz and some really, really good chocolate.

Hotel Chocolat Hotel Chocolat Hotel Chocolat
// The Christmas Collection, Hotel Chocolat, £25*

The second slice (or should I say cup?) of Christmas gift inspiration I wanted to share comes in the form of the amazing Bluebird Tea Co Christmas Tea Bauble Set.  These three baubles come packed with a selection of their Christmas teas - Christmas Cake and Gingerbread Chai.  I quite like to buy a few little presents for family ahead of Christmas (last year I bought my Mum a really fun Christmas cushion from H&M) and this would be a perfect little treat to give to someone to hang on their tree - I don't think they'd be able to resist cracking them open for very long though!

Bluebird Tea Bluebird Tea
// Christmas Tea Bauble Pack, Bluebird Tea Co - £10*

What do you think of these two gift ideas? Are they something you'd like to give to someone - or even something you'd like to see under your tree this Christmas?

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17 November 2014

Mulled wine around the world - Vin Chaud recipe

Several years ago I went to Paris with my friend Becki for a long weekend during a particularly cold December. In all of the excitement for Christmas markets, cheese fondue and swanning around Montmartre, I must admit that I did not pack appropriately, and took a relatively thin coat, leggings (no actual trousers) and little in the way of clothes with thermal properties.  There were two French words that we used more than any other during that trip, and they were 'Vin Chaud'.  Vin Chaud translates literally to 'hot wine' and is typically made with red wine, sugar, cinnamon and lemon.  I am going to make a confession here and admit that on some nights we were so cold that we heated up cheap red wine from the supermarket in the hotel kettle just to keep warm (I wonder if they ever got that red stain out...) The third word we learnt pretty quickly was tire-bouchon - which is French for corkscrew...

When Waitrose Cellar recently got in touch to share their own mulled wine recipe and ask if I wanted to blog about my favourite mulled wine recipe from around the world, I knew the French 'Vin Chaud' had to be the one.  I eagerly got to hunting around for the perfect recipe and came across this one, which originates from Alsace in France.  The region of Alsace is located on France's eastern border and on the west bank of the upper Rhine adjacent to Germany and Switzerland, so with all of those cultural influences, I thought they might know a thing or two about mulled wine.

mulled wine 08

I adapted the recipe slightly to make it a little simpler and leave out an ingredient I couldn't get hold of - so this is my version of 'Vin Chaud Alsacien'...


1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 bottle red wine (I used Waitrose Torre Del Falco - on reflection, I probably should have used a French wine; this Alsatian Pinot Noir would have been perfect)
1 cup sugar
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 cup water
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
1 cardamom pod
1 tablespoon cocoa nibs (or use good-quality grated chocolate)
1 cinnamon stick
2 tea bags

mulled wine 07


Place all ingredients except the tea bags into a saucepan (when you add the lemon wedges, squeeze their juice into the mixture before dropping the wedges in.)
Bring to an active simmer; reduce heat to a low simmer and add the tea bags, allowing the tea to steep for 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove the tea bags and the bay leaf.
To serve, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into heatproof mugs. Makes 4 servings.

mulled wine 05 mulled wine 02mulled ine 03

This makes a mulled wine that is very rich, with a hint of spice - it so warming, like a hug in a mug! You can taste the hint of chocolate, it adds a really lovely edge to the drink.  I couldn't help but gulp it down - oops... It would be perfect to pop into a flask and take out a winter evening walk.

What's your favourite mulled wine recipe? Are you a fan of the German Glühwein or the Swedish Glögg? You can always go for the Waitrose Cellar Mulled Wine if you don't feel like concocting a recipe, but I highly recommend giving this one a try!

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