Party Season: Fall Fashions

I’m not sure how we’re already in October, but we are! And that means the party season is soon upon us – Halloween parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year parties (and somewhere in the middle a birthday party, for me)!

This season I’m loving earthy, muted colours but also pops of colour with patterns that fade into block colour. I think the latter is one of my favourite current fashion trends. 🙂

I haven’t bought any “party” clothes for a while, but Modcloth has added some great dresses to their Fall/Winter section, so here are a few of my favourites. (I foresee a lot of green in my wardrobe!)

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You Can Fete On It Dress: I love the colours in this dress! It would be great to wear in the day with flats, or in the evening you could pair it with heels and jewelry. I think this will work well during the Spring too.

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Exquisite Elegance Dress: The gorgeous muted, mossy green of this dress is so delicate it works perfectly with the lace! I love the off-the-shoulder style too – it’s a really great dress. I’d wear it with pearls to keep the vintage look.

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Nostalgically Nuanced Dress: I love the button detail at the neckline, and the sleeves, and eveything about it really! This is something I know I’d wear a lot…but it’s out of stock. I’m keeping my fingers crossed they’ll get it back in stock soon.

So those are my top three picks from the Modcloth Fall/Winter collection. What styles are you looking forward to this season? Have you found any great fall fashion bargains?

I’m taking part in Style Sessions and What I Wore – be sure to check out some other posts for great fashion finds. 🙂

Christmas Book Haul and Goodreads Reading Challenge 2016

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How is it 2016 already?!

Brian and I had a fun Christmas and New Year – the first in our new house! We just stayed at home, cooked lovely food and bought some new games in the Steam Winter Sale. We had some lovely Blanc de Bleu blueberry “champagne” for New Year’s Eve – how gorgeous is that bottle!

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What did you all get up to over the holiday season? And what fun presents did you get? I only got a few books as gifts, but they look like good ones. I can’t wait to read them!

DarkLoverDark Lover by J. R. Ward

The only purebred vampire left on the planet and the leader of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who killed his parents centuries ago. But when his most trusted fighter is killed—orphaning a half-breed daughter unaware of her heritage or her fate—Wrath must put down his dagger and usher the beautiful female into another world.

Racked by a restlessness in her body that wasn’t there before, Beth Randall is helpless against the dangerously sexy man who comes to her at night with shadows in his eyes. His tales of the Brotherhood and blood frighten her. Yet his touch ignites a dawning new hunger—one that threatens to consume them both….
Amazon | Book Depository

I haven’t read anything by this author before but it definitely sounds like my kind of series! The next two on this list are the next two from this same Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I can’t wait to read them!  This is book one and at the time of writing this it’s only $4.92 on Amazon (almost half price!) if you’re intrigued by these books too 🙂

LoverEternalLover Eternal by J. R. Ward

Within the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Rhage is the warrior vampire with the strongest appetites. He’s the deadliest fighter, the most voracious lover, the quickest to act on his impulses. He’s also been cursed with two hundred years of hell. Possessed by a beast, he lives in fear of the times when his inner dragon comes out and he’s a danger to everyone around him.

Mary Luce has unwittingly found herself in the vampire world, and under Rhage’s protection. With her own life-threatening curse to bear, she’s not looking for love. Besides, she’s stopped believing in saving grace and miracles long ago. But when Rhage’s intense sexual attraction turns into emotional bonding, he knows he must have her for his mate. As their enemies close in, Mary finds herself praying for something she fears she’ll never have: life eternal with the one she loves.
Amazon | Book Depository

Lover Eternal is book two in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series…

loverAwakenedLover Awakened by J. R. Ward

A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Renowned for his unquenchable fury and sinister deeds, he is a savage feared by humans and vampires alike. Anger is his only companion and terror his only passion—until he rescues a beautiful female from the evil Lessening Society.

Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. But even as their desire for each other begins to overtake them, Zsadist’s thirst for vengeance against Bella’s tormentors drives him to the brink of madness. Now Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past and find a future with her….
Amazon | Book Depository

And Lover Awakened is book three! I think the series continues on with more books, it isn’t just a trilogy.

CowsInActionCows In Action: The Victorian Moo-ders by Steve Cole

Genius cow Professor McMoo and his trusty sidekicks, Pat and Bo, are star agents of the C.I.A. – short for COWS IN ACTION! They travel through time, fighting evil bulls from the future and keeping history on the right track …There’s DANGER in Victorian England! Important gentleman gardeners are VANISHING one by one – moo-dered by a mysterious GHOSTLY cow. Why is this F.B.I. phantom attacking plant experts? McMoo, Pat and Bo RACE back to the time of soot, steam and AMAZING inventions to find out …but can even they save QUEEN VICTORIA from the most terrifying TER-MOO-NATOR ever built?
Amazon | Book Depository

This is a jokey gift from my Mom because I’ve always loved cows – they’re so adorable and inquisitive. It’s book 9 in a series of children’s books and at the time of writing this it’s only 49c on Amazon!

Also I’ve decided to take part in my first ever reading challenge – the Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge. All you do is pledge how many books you’re challenging yourself to read during the year, then try to reach that goal. I’ve set my goal at 30 books (2.5 a month) because I know we have some big things happening later this year and I might not get enough reading time. But hopefully I’ll reach my goal, and even surpass it!

Are you taking part in the Goodreads challenge? Or any other fun reading challenges?

I also made a new YouTube video of this Christmas haul, if you like to watch booktube videos. I definitely appreciate the support for my channel so far 🙂

As usual I’ll be taking part in Stacking The Shelves, and The Sunday Post – check out some of the other posts to find great reads 🙂

These books were Christmas presents, and I received no compensation for my honest opinion.
I am a Book Depository and Amazon affiliate, and I receive a small commission if you use my link.

Chinese New Year: Happy Year Of The Horse!

Happy Chinese New Year! 🙂  This year we’re into the year of the horse. Now myself being a brony since I was in single digits (we won’t go into how many years ago that was), I had to add to this year’s celebration with this awesome purchase: Chinese New Year Pinkie Pie! (best pony)

This year my husband and I are going out for a meal tonight to celebrate. So I thought it would be fun to share the recipes I’ve made in the past for Chinese New Year celebrations.  I’m making myself hungry just looking at them!  I hope you try some, they’re all delicious 🙂

 

Happy New Year to everyone 🙂 No matter if you celebrate or not, have a great Friday and these recipes are good all year round!

 

Chinese New Year: Happy Year Of The Rabbit!

Well, it is now the year of the rabbit 🙂 I hope everyone who celebrated the Lunar New Year (be it through Chinese New Year, Imbolc, or any other celebration) had a really enjoyable time!

My Mom made a Chinese dragon as a paper sculpture 🙂

She couldn’t get the photocopies of the pattern that she wanted so she did it by eye, and we both think the face should be longer, but it’s still really great and was a nice surprise to find it in the hallway that morning! 🙂

We had a lot of dim sum and decided to make some sesame prawn toasts too…they were really delicious! I’ll put the recipe up tomorrow (although we did kind of wing-it a bit).

I stuck to fairly low-key decorations for the table, keeping things simple because I knew how much colour and texture the different dim sum would add 🙂 (sorry the picture is a bit dark – the lighting in the dining room isn’t very bright)

Then after we added all of the food…

Even Spike joined us for a little while 🙂 Although he soon left when he realised it was “human only” feeling time!

We made a bit of a discovery this year too. Marks and Spencer were selling a few things for Chinese New Year and one of them caught my eye, this rather tasty looking Mango & Sweet Chilli dipping sauce.

To top it all off, they were selling them at half price! So, I was eager to try it out and wow this stuff is great! The lovely sweet fruitiness from the mango works so well with the slight heat from the sweet chilli.

We had planned to have dim sum and then do a main dish of ho fun noodles and some beef in black bean sauce for me and Quorn in black bean sauce for Mom. But we were so full after the dim sum that we decided to do the main dish the next day! …although we did make room for some sesame gelatinous balls later for desert (they’re far more tasty than they sound lol!).

Chinese New Year: Char Siu Bao (pork buns)

I love char siu bao! In fact, I’m sitting here eating some while I type out this recipe 🙂 The soft fluffy dough and sweet pork filling make these buns one of my favourites and something I always come home with from Chinese supermarkets!

With that in mind, I decided to make some from scratch for Chinese New Year. I have to admit, when I went to get the ingredients I did buy a packet of dough mixture (so I only had to add water and oil) instead of doing that from scratch. But I’ve been cooking pretty much non-stop so decided it wasn’t cheating…too much! I’ve put the full dough recipe here though and will use it the next time I make some…which will probably be next week knowing me hehe.

Makes: 12
Preparation time: 25 minutes (plus 3 hours proving time for the dough)

Dough
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
310 g (11 oz / 1 1/2 cups) plain flour (all-purpose flour)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Filling
Ingredients:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
250 g (9 oz) Chinese barbecued pork, finely chopped
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce

1. To make the dough, pour 250 ml (9 fl oz / 1 cup) of warm water into a small bowl and add the sugar. Stir for a few seconds to dissolve the sugar then add the yeast. Cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes.

2. Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture and vegetable oil into the well. Quickly stir the ingredients together and turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Brush a large bowl with the sesame oil and put the dough in the bowl, turning the dough around to coat it all with the oil. Cover the bowl and set aside to rise for at least 3 hours.

3. Lift the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Punch the dough down and flatten into a large round. Sprinkle the baking powder in the center of the circle, bringing the edges up towards the center. Firmly press the edges together, then knead the dough for a further 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll into balls. Cover with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.

4. To make the filling, heat a wok over high heat, add the oil and swirl to coat. Add the pork and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the oyster sauce, sugar, rice wine, sesame oil and soy sauce and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool.

5. Take each ball of dough and press it onto a lightly floured surface to form a circle 12 cm (4 1/2 inches) in diameter. Place a heaped tablespoon of the filling in the center of each dough circle, then bring the edges up to the center. Press the edges firmly together. Sit each bun on a 5 cm (2 inch) square of baking paper.

6. Place six pork buns on each layer of a double steamer (our steamer is smaller so we only had 3 on each layer) and cover with a lid. Sit the steamer over a wok or saucepan of boiling water (the steamer shouldn’t touch the water) and steam for 15 minutes.

Serve warm and enjoy! 🙂

Chinese New Year: Mushroom And Water Chestnut Steamed Buns

This is a recipe I’ve wanted to try for a while but have been saving it for Chinese New Year. Mushrooms and I have a very shaky relationship – I love them but they don’t love me. Or rather, they used to love me until I turned about 17 and then suddenly gained an allergy to them :/

So, why am I making a mushroom recipe? I like to live dangerously! Lol no, not really, I’m making it because certain mushrooms, such as shiitake and oyster mushrooms, don’t affect me. It’s weird, I know. So I’ve altered the recipe to use double the shiitake mushrooms for me, but am giving you guys the proper recipe and will then look at you enviously when you get to eat the little button joys that I dare not! You can really use any mushrooms you want in this though, so if you have trouble finding one of them, substitute a different kind that you like 🙂

Makes 24
Preparation time: 25 minutes (1 hour rest time for the dough preparation)
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Dough
Ingredients:
600 g (1 lb 5 oz / 4 3/4 cups) plain flour (all-purpose flour)
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
3 tablespoons oil

Filling
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 small red chilli, seeded and finely sliced
8 Swiss brown mushrooms, finely chopped
8 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
225 g (8 oz) tin water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch) mixed with 1 tablespoon water
2 spring onions (scallions), chopped
1 tablespoon chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves

1.
To make the dough, sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt into a bowl. Gradually stir in the oil and 375 ml (13 fl oz / 1 1/2 cups) of water and mix to a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and let the dough rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for 1 minute, or until softened. Stir in all the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender. Add the water chestnuts, oyster sauce, soy sauce and combined cornflour and water and simmer, stirring, for about 1 minute, or until the mixture has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the spring onions and coriander. Set aside to cool.

3. Divide the dough into 24 pieces. Shape each piece into a 6 cm (2 1/2 inch) flat round. Put 1 teaspoon of mushroom mixture in the center of each and gather the edges together, pinching to enclose the filling.

4. Line a steamer with baking paper and punch with holes. Place the buns on top, 2 cm (3/4 inch) apart, and cover with a lid (you may need to do this in batches).

5. Sit the steamer over a wok of saucepan of boiling water (the steamer shouldn’t touch the water) and steam for about 15-20 minutes, or until the buns are firm. Serve immediately.

My Mom is vegetarian so this is a recipe we can both enjoy 🙂 The thing to remember with these buns is even if they don’t look perfectly round (I know mine didn’t!), they’ll still taste just as good!