Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween Dinner Party Table - All Chic, No Freak


For some, Halloween is something to be done when the kids are little and then forgotten about as soon as they're old enough to stop Trick-or-Treating, but in my house, Halloween is celebrated properly. For one, it's the beginning of the holiday season, a sort of kick-off to the busy schedule, parties, get-togethers and fun that ensues from October to January. It's also a fun holiday that revolves around candy, Autumn and dressing up in costumes - three of my favorite things.



I've never been much for super scary costumes or a particularly creepy Halloween. As a kid I would opt for costumes like Western saloon girl, clown or 1950's girl… As I've gotten older, not much has changed - 1920's flapper, Greek Goddess and 80's Madonna have been a few of my costumes in recent years. I always opt for a smiley pumpkin instead of a spooky one and you won't find spiders and creepy crawlies dangling from the light fixtures in my home. What you will find is an abundance of orange, black and white in place of usual color schemes. Lots of knickknacks and candles are dotted around, there are a few jack-o-lantern fairy lights hung up and a Happy Halloween bunting takes center stage. It's festive without being overwhelming, just the way I like it.



For dinner parties, these things all look great, but I love to tie in my table to the spirit of whatever holiday is upon us. You may have seen my previous budget Halloween table idea which is quite festive, however this time around I'm going for a more chic approach and this is probably the table I'll have set up when my guests arrive for a pre-Halloween dinner party this year. It's elegant and fun without being cheesy and what's especially great is that all these pieces are just thrown together, but will have their uses throughout the year for other occasions. With limited space and storage like I have, this is a particular bonus!



Black & white placemats, black napkins, orange ribbon and a few little elements like miniature pumpkins, orange glassware, monochrome straws and simple votive or tea light holders with orange candles are all you really need to pull off a similar table. Finish off the look with a vase or bottle filled with orange Gerbera Daisies or any orange flowers you can find. I actually used a carafe that I normally use for table water - you can put flowers in just about anything. I'm a big fan of oven to table pieces, so if you have any orange or black pieces for serving the food, then all the better - this is a great time to show them off. My Le Creuset Shallow Casserole in Lava and Silicone Round Cool Tools mat in black are always perfect for Halloween themed dinners. What you serve is up to you, but a festive, orange cocktail might be just the thing for welcoming your guests in style! 

Trick-or-Treat Peanut Butter Cupcakes



I blame Reese's Cups for associating Halloween with peanut butter, probably because that was always the Halloween candy of choice for me. Like clockwork, I begin craving peanut butter every year around this time, though to be honest, I'd very rarely turn it down, especially when it's paired with chocolate and sugar. Yum!

These aren't just any peanut butter cupcakes… They have a surprise inside and I bet you can guess what it is. They don't have to be for Halloween… I'd pretty much eat these anytime if they were handy, but I think a sweet in the middle makes them a Spooktacular Halloween treat!



Ingredients
Cakes:
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup packed soft brown sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plain or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
100ml milk
16 unwrapped miniature Reese's Cups

Icing:
7oz full-fat soft cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar or confectioner's sugar
6 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F.
  2. Line a muffin pan with 16 paper or foil cases.
  3. Add the flour and baking powder to a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, add the butter, peanut butter and sugar and beat together until well-mixed with a hand mixer or stand mixer for about 2 minutes.
  5. Gradually add the eggs, beating well between each addition.
  6. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined and then switch off the mixer.
  7. Alternate sifting in the flour and baking powder and fold them into the mixture with either a rubber spatula or a metal spoon.
  8. When fully combined, spoon about 1/2 the batter into the paper cases. Don't fill them up completely - just enough to cover the bottom of the cupcake cases will do.
  9. Plop a miniature Reese's Cup into the batter in every cup and spoon the rest of the batter over each to cover and fill in the cupcakes completely.
  10. Bake for about 25 minutes in a pre-heated oven or until risen and golden brown.
  11. Remove the cupcakes from the muffin pan to cool on a plate or wire rack.
  12. While the cupcakes are cooling, start on the icing by putting the cream cheese, peanut butter and butter into a large bowl and beating them to gather with a hand mixer. 
  13. Sift the icing sugar into the mixture and beat together with the cream cheese mixture until fully combined.
  14. When the cupcakes are completely cooled, cover the tops of each with icing using a butter knife.
  15. Decorate the cupcakes with sprinkles or Reese's Cups on top and keep chilled in the refrigerator until time to serve. If you're lucky enough to have leftovers, be sure to store them in the fridge as well.

Daily Style October 24, 2014 - Forever Plaid

Thursday, October 23, 2014

GOSH Cosmetics Velvet Touch Lipstick

GOSH Cosmetics Velvet Touch Lipstick #170 Night Kiss - ℅ Superdrug
I took a little hiatus from daily lipstick wearing for a while in favor of lighter glosses. I actually took a hiatus from most heavy cosmetics, going for a more natural look, however lately I've started to feel the pull back to bright lipsticks, mascara for longer, fuller lashes and the appeal of a really great powder. What can I say? I'm a girlie girl and while my skin and my schedule both appreciated the break from a full-on face, I'm really enjoying getting made-up again - playing with make-up is one of the funnest things for us ladies and what can I say? I'm a sucker for a really great lipstick!

Though I've been using GOSH lipliners for a while and quite happily, this is my first lipstick from the brand and it's won me over big time. GOSH Velvet Touch Lipstick is just as soft as the title makes it sound and packs a massive punch of color. Lasting for hours, not drying out my lips and offering the perfect marriage between glossy and matte, GOSH Velvet Touch Lipstick is a winner and won't cost the earth. Its sleek black packaging is chic and compact, making it convenient for stashing in a clutch or a small make-up bag. 

GOSH Cosmetics Velvet Touch Lipstick retails for £6.49 and several shades are currently available at Superdrug with new shades rolling out soon, including Night Kiss (pictured above) so be on the lookout… This bargain beauty buy is worth every penny and then some!

Daily Style October 22, 2014 - Bunny Hop

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Very Festive Halloween Table


I love a good dinner party - I'm totally into them right now! There's just something great about having people over, bringing people together and chilling out over some delicious food and wine. It's my new favorite thing to do and I don't get stressed about the planning. Actually I relish it.

Rather than focus on too many fancy schmancy details, I try to keep in mind what's important… Friendship, good food and fun are at the top of that list of priorities for me. I don't get too fussy most of the time about what I cook as I generally find that people respond best to good ole fashioned, delicious, hearty normal food. If I'm cooking for a lot of people, I'll opt for a meaty tray bake of some sort… If it's for only a few, I'll generally go for something pasta oriented or maybe a lamb dish. Either way, when the food is tasty, the wine is flowing and the conversation gets going, the details tend to be less noticeable.

That said, I don't shy away from a pretty table - it's one of my favorite parts of throwing a dinner party. It doesn't need to be fancy or over the top… No four foot tall floral arrangements or gold plated silverware on my table these days. I keep it simple and fun… Placemats, a few fresh flowers and little tidbits to make the table welcoming and fun… That's really all it needs, isn't it?

I often hear people say that dinner parties are hard - they don't have enough stuff for the table or space, but you'd be surprised by what you can do with this and that. I put together this festive Halloween dinner table with little more than what I had lying around, mostly by pulling down the decorations I bought for various shelves and rooms in our flat and plopping them down on the table. This table is festive, fun and perfect for a Halloween dinner party on a budget! It's fun, festive and with some delicious food laid out, is certain to impress your pals.


So, you don't have a lot of fancy tableware lying around? No problem. I am particularly fond of plain, white plates, primarily because they don't distract from the food. I don't even spend a lot of money on my plates… I buy them from Robert Dyas where I know I can always buy one or two more if I have more guests or if one breaks. For me, it's more about what's on the plate, not the plate itself. However, as someone who loves pretty things, I understand the blandness of a white plate. The compromise for me is to find a pretty napkin or something decorative to take away the massive white void. I chose paper napkins for this particular table because it's fairly casual, but also because they lower the amount of laundry required. Nice little perk and when cooking for 6 people, every little bit of tidy spared is welcome to the hostess! If you find paper napkins repulsive, then cloth would work too. I got these paper napkins as a free gift with purchase ages ago, but you can find similar just about anywhere. 


When I started thinking about my Halloween table decorations for this year, I loved the idea of a monochrome base… It's appropriate for the season, goes well with pops of orange, purple & green and the pieces can easily be used once Halloween is over. I picked up these adorable striped placemats at Butler's for a steal. 

To add color, find some cute treat bags to use instead of place cards. Fill them with Halloween candy or to give guests a little pre-dinner nibble, pop in some mixed nuts… They'll love noshing on them while you finish up the cooking. An orange ribbon around tied around the knife and fork is simple yet chic and a bit of Halloween confetti brightens things up for minimal cost. Finish with a festively colored straw in the glass and knickknacks like a small, inexpensive ghost candle to round out the look. 


I love the idea of displaying things on the table for added color and decoration. No chance we'd use 25 black & white straws for this dinner, but they look so cute in a pint glass, I just had to leave them out. They add a bit of dimension to the mix and they're fun. Miniature pumpkins or gourds are also great for Halloween tables - I picked these up at my local grocery store for about £1 each.


Stair-step candles in orange & black on glass candle plates provide maximum effect for minimal effort and cost. You can use them throughout the Halloween season as well and they're inexpensive. Should you opt for only orange instead of using some that are black, they'll be useful straight through to Thanksgiving for those of you in the USA.


To complement the larger candles, spreading votive holders out across the table provides a bit of candlelit ambiance. Halloween votive holders are always easy to find at any price point. I picked these cuties up at John Lewis and after the dinner, they take residence on my mantle until Halloween is over. Clear ones with orange or black votives will work just as well… It's about working with what you can find, not making it hard on yourself. 

Festive, fun and low-key, not to mention low-price… It's as simple as that! Be sure to watch this space for more table ideas, coming soon! How are you decorating your Halloween dinner table?

The Perfect Halloween Cocktail

John Lewis Glass (similar) / Butler's Straw / Cargo Napkin (similar) / Waitrose Ghost Candle (similar)

Of course there are hundreds of cocktail recipes floating around, not to mention punch concoctions that featured frozen, floating hands and whatnot… They're all great! But what about the non-scary options for people who don't want to feel as though they're drinking a test tube full of blood & guts or for the hostess who's Halloween party is leaning more towards chic than freak? In comes the cute Halloween cocktail of choice for me… The Aperol Spritz.

I first heard about the Aperol Spritz while on holiday in Bordeaux last summer - they were everywhere and bright orange. I had no idea how easy they are to make, yet I couldn't resist filing away the thought for Halloween. Here's the recipe for this delightful, orange concoction - it's the perfect thing to wet the whistles of your Halloween dinner party guests!

Ingredients
3 parts Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 part soda water
Ice

Method

  1. Fill a glass with ice.
  2. Add 3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts Aperol and top with 1 part soda water and stir.
  3. Serve immediately.
This tasty cocktail is great anytime, especially in the heat of summer, but for a Halloween twist, add a monochrome straw and cocktail napkin. It's the perfect drink to welcome dinner party guests or you can make it in large quantities and leave in pitchers for a serve yourself party. 

Daily Style October 22, 2014 - Casual Stripes