A Seasonal Dessert Tale

I had reservations with this book, thinking that I wouldn't have many of the ingredients. I was wrong, and had most ingredients in my cupboard with the exception of a couple because of the season. I bake quite often, and really enjoyed this Yossy Arefi's book. Sweeter Off The Vine offers a well executed and thoughtful approach to baking. There are plenty of recipes that are both simple and complex, so whatever stage of baking you're at, you will be sure to find one recipe that resonates with you.

If you like rhubarb, there are several recipes for that, but also savoury recipes to fully indulge in. The book is full of fruit based desserts for any season. But, you will likely also need to run to the grocer if you don't bake regularly—spelt flour, rye flour, and whole wheat flour are just a few ingredients for some recipes, but well worth the buy. If you entertain as we do, then it's especially a favourable investment.

I've already tried 5 recipes form the book so far, and they are all very good. This book is inspiring for your baking heart, and will have you concocting your own flavour blends in no time as I did.

 This is an excellent book, occupied with a marvellous array of recipes to  experiment, and equally filled with stunning visuals (more than most cookery  books  that I own), but I'm so happy that I chose it. I loved the fact that it had both  metric and imperial measurements, which was very helpful.

 The only modification I would make would be to number the steps for  each recipe,  but I'm sure it was intentional because of how the layout of  the book is. It reads like  a storytelling book, which is a lovely angle for a  cookbook and you get a sense that  you are getting to know more about  the author. Since many recipes are quite lengthy, I would have liked to see numbered steps instead of long paragraphs, but that's minor.

The Goods: Sweeter Off The Vine by Yossy Arefi. You can purchase the book here. I received this book  from Crown Publishing Group for an honest review. For more information about the author click here.


Tabletop Style: Easter

A few weeks ago, I was asked to create an elegant children's table for a Easter-themed birthday party for a friend's daughter. To be honest, those two words (children and elegant) do not exactly translate synonymously to me upon first thought. Initially, I had not contemplated creating a children's table this year at all, so it wasn't exactly on the top of my "to-do" list.

And, due to having mostly all fine china, I really had to scale back some original concepts and not over think the process. I haven't any children of my own, but I have taught art classes to children in the past, and I do have little cousins, nephews, and plenty of friends with children. I thought I'd stretch my creative tendencies to a niche I had unknown or at least one that I hadn't much proficiency in … yet.

I decided to simply give my friend some tips for her daughter's birthday theme. Afterward, she commissioned me to recreate the theme with extras that she had purchased. It gave me the idea of merging what we did for an inspirational Easter post. Additionally, I had been doing loads of baking and made lemon cupcakes and doughnuts (a healthier version: baked and with maca root and goat cheese buttercream), and coconut energy truffles with peanut butter and goji berries (more on those delicious recipes later). Here is the result, so I will let you savour these details.

The whole intention was to make her young teenage daughter feel like a grown-up whilst dining at the table. I used regal colours like gold and violet as base colours, then paired them with classic pastels. It would have been too easy to go with an abundance of bunny rabbits, instead I used a bunny-eared headband to incorporate in my centrepiece. Then, I used the small party boxes that she had acquired for party favours. For the original party I also added jewelled topiaries.

By matching the focussed colour (violet/purple) for the paper plates, this worked out well and, of course, with the no-fuss clean-up afterwards, it simplified everything. But, I blended both colourful glassware and golden chargers with the paper products so that the overall aesthetic did not look tawdry.

What do you think of this Easter tabletop style? 
Easter Tablescapes Decor
The goods: Etched Papaya glasses in Plum-c/o Gudrun Sjoden, French blue bottles (Similar), Bird cage (Similar), Bunny ears-Art store (Similar), Cutlery-Reed and Barton (Buy here), Chalkboard coasters used as place cards-(Similar).
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Spring Getaway Style

Has the weather been slightly sunnier where you are? Well, with spring and even summer holidays being booked I have yet to think about holiday essentials like beach wear. But, the best part is that there's an abundance of options out there. I am usually a two-piece and mix 'n' match fashionista when it comes to swimwear, but lately I have been loving one piece wonders as well.

As many have already celebrated St. Patrick's day, next up is Easter (Passover). As far as retail goes, the sales have already started. So, I've put together a few of my spring favourites, including sandals, beachwear, and men's show styles.

Come Easter Sunday, even the little ones will want to look their best. My adorable nephews have already gotten their three-piece suits ready. In the meantime, I am preparing a special treat for you in the spirit of spring, so check back here next week.

Wishing you a marvellous and sunshine filled weekend!

Retro style swimsuits and tassel heels are also definitely on my mind. Shop the Easter sales or the bikini sale here, and use code: REBATE for 15% discount on Sammydress pieces.

Shop similar designer styles below:

The electric blue above, and the classic black dress shoe in the middle make modern and classic statements for men. *Some affiliate links enclosed within this post.

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What is your favourite shoe style or bikini style for spring-summer?

FT Kitchen // Irish Soda Bread

A tad behind posting this recipe, but better late than never right? I loved the idea of this modern version of Irish soda bread that I came across. It was timely because we have friends in town from California and Ireland visiting. We had a late lunch, and I made homemade fish 'n' chips: salmon burgers, sweet potato fries and this bread with a few extras. And, since we are of the stylishly eclectic kind we served espresso, fresh raspberry-basil lemonade, and Guinness alongside the early afternoon spread.

The best part about soda bread is that there's no yeast, therefore no proving the bread is needed. It's incredibly easy to make as well.

I modified this recipe because I just used what I had on hand in my kitchen cupboard, and it still came out delicious. I've only made Irish soda bread a few times, and have used currants before. I keep flax seed in our pantry religiously, so I opted for that instead of wheat germ that this recipe called for. Plus, the nutty flavour of flax worked well as an excellent substitute in this recipe makeover. Of course, flax having ace health benefits aren't too shabby either.
Irish Soda Bread 
(120 g) 1 cup cake flour
(240 g) 2 cups all-purpose flour
(65 g ) ½ cup whole wheat flour
(80 g) ½ cup organic flax seed (ground)
2 tablespoons dark Muscovado Sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary (dried), plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
(390 ml) 1⅔ cups buttermilk
(125 g) 1 cup golden raisins/sultanas
2 ½  tablespoons melted butter
 Jam and/or butter for serving

Yield: 1 loaf  (serves 6-8) 
Bake: 40 mins. 200 C/ 400 F/ Gas Mark #6

  1. Preheat the oven to Bake at 200 C/400 F  Next, lightly grease a cast-iron skillet (approx. 22 cm or a 9-inch baking pan. I used my Lodge cast-iron skillet). 
  2. In a large bowl, combine all three flours, ground flax seed, sugar, baking soda, salt and chopped rosemary. 
  3. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk. Stir the mixture with a spoon until combined, and mix the golden raisins into the dough. Now, use your hands to lightly knead the dough and form a ball shape, being careful not to over-mix the dough. 
  4. Next, place the dough into the greased skillet. Use a knife to score the top of the dough, cutting about a third of the way through the dough in an X or cross formation. Using the melted butter, brush the top of the dough with it, then sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of rosemary on top. Place skillet in the oven, and bake the bread until the crust is golden brown for about 40 minutes. The bread is done when you have a nice crisp golden top. After that, hollow out the bread. 
  5. Let the bread cool completely, then enjoy the deliciousness and serve with jam.  
*After the loaf was ready, I sprinkled ours with a scant coarse sea salt for garnishing. I chopped my rosemary a bit finer (only for the top garnish), but you don't have to. We ate our loaf in different ways, and also used two of our favourites with this bread: a ginger jam, and a blackberry-cherry jam. Enjoy!
*Recipe adapted via Tasting Table 
How to make Modern Irish Soda Bread
Irish Soda Bread Recipe
Hope you're having a wonderful St. Patrick's Day!


Early Spring in Eco-Footprints

Although I adore the occasional all-black ensemble and neutral colour palettes, I wear colourful outfits generally. And, even with spring at a moments entry of our doorway (very soon) there's not too much that wavers with my personal style. I am not one to wear certain colours only by the season, as many of you know that I wear florals throughout the year, and don white or burgundy on any given day without a faltering of uncertainty. That's just who I am!

Gudrun Sjödén has loads of colour, and that why I love the brand so much, in addition to their ethical principles and ongoing celebration of women. I especially adore the eco-home collection, as you've seen before. This time, I chose a dress in a bold rouge paired with flamingo pink. The large scale pinnate style print was one that I would not ordinarily wear, but I thought that I would change things up as I've not a ton of red garments in my wardrobe.

The dress is a simple silhouette---a maxi style jersey dress can go far in the fashion arena, and for me versatility is everything. To play up the pattern I mixed classic stripes with this look, and since it was gloomy and cold at the time, I used a boyfriend blazer in black to break up the colour.

This dress is not only hassle-free to wear, but the fabric is soft and supple, and folds so compact that it makes packing a breeze. With that being said, have you thought about your spring-summer holidays yet? Mine are pretty much booked, but there's a wedding thrown into the mix (not mine), so there is much to modify, and prepare for.

I am looking forward to being able to sit outside street cafés as the sun shines brightly. A perfectly mind day preferably late morning. Meal: brunch, Drink: espresso, and a generous mimosa, Extras: probably 2 biscuits, Key items: wearing my Kate Spade sunglasses, and open-toe sandals.

What are you looking forward to for spring?
The goods: “Vippa” dress in lyocell/spandex and “Gondola” striped shawl in silk-Courtesy of Gudrun Sjödén, Boyfriend blazer-H&M,  Bag-Dorothy Perkins, Leather loafers-Vintage Massimo, Jewellery: Bracelet (not shown), Necklace-Oasap-c/o, Hat-Urban Outfitters.View the spring collection here.

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Insta-Living Vol.09 // In The Pantry

When it comes to cooking, there are many parts of the culinary industry that inspires me. And, as you may know by now my gastronomic tendencies all came from my mum (also known as the incomparable cook in our family).

I've memories of inviting friends over and seeing a feast set before our eyes to indulge in, even with short notice. At that table you'd likely savour every spoonful. This made me ponder about some of my favourite spices. It was very difficult to narrow it down to these faithful few, so here's seven. Perhaps, I will make a second volume of favourites soon …

Cinnamon: Aside from the marvellous health benefits of cinnamon, (enhancing cognitive actions, and regulating blood sugar), it's such a great spice to have in the cupboard. It's also perfect for seasonal ciders, and spice drinks, given its strong flavour. I keep cinnamon bark in the kitchen cupboard especially for making big batches of seasonal teas. Cinnamon bark oil is also an excellent anti-bacterial, and as I mentioned with my homemade potpourri can be used to preserve flower petals, food, etc.*1

Sumac: Sumacs are shrubs that come from the Rhus genus, and is the Rhus coriaria species. The stone fruit of the Rhus is what you see ground into the aubergine and red colour powder that is used as the spice. Sumac has a great lemony and tart flavour, and is one of our staples. I use it on fish, as well as salads, rice, and of course in za'atar.

When I was in university, it was occasionally difficult to get to the spice markets, so I'd use zest from a fresh lemon, which is similar to sumac and a good substitution. Now, you can find it in many international stores. It's also used regularly In Middle Eastern cuisine, etc. Some leaves of specific sumacs have tannin properties, which gives the ability to dye. Morocco leather is actually created with sumac tannins.

Ginger: An excellent spice that we use in so many recipes of both, sweet and savoury. Ginger is also rich in phytonutrients (gingerols), and has anti-inflammatory properties, which many studies show that it combats arthritis, heart disease, and cancer, amongst other ailments. I use it regularly in my tea with lemon.

Cardamom: I absolutely loved my nan's cardamom cake when I was younger, because it wasn't that sweet and had loads of flavour. Native of India, cardamom is a spice that you've likely tasted before if you enjoy chai tea. Both black and green cardamom is used a lot in our home for savoury and sweet dishes. It's great with teas, cooking poultry, baking, and even used in seasoning homemade rubs.

Garlic: Although, it can be a bit too stringent for some, in our cooking we use fresh garlic, and roasted garlic quite a bit. But, garlic pastes can also be perfect for some dishes. Garlic is in the onion family (Allium). It's also nutritious for our bodies, and has antioxidants that protects the body from oxidative damage, and can aid in fighting off infectious illness and disease, amongst other benefits. Some people opt for garlic tablet supplements. Do you include garlic at all in your diet?

Juniper Berry: A popular favourite that my family uses in cooking, but one that is also used in making beverages (think, gin!) giving them a distinct flavour. Juniper berries (and its essential oil) has been known in some cultures to help lessen joint pain, inflammation, and gas.

My parents keep the oil in their home, and have used it in making homemade balm that they made for me as a child for joint relief when I played sport, but I never really thought about it. Natural remedies are very common on my mother's side of the family, so this is probably why I never got sick much at all in my youth. You may find lingers of juniper oil in some cosmetics, and soaps for fragrance. My grandmother used juniper berries in lamb, sauerbraten, essentially homemade pickled foods as well, amongst other dishes.

Harissa: One of my favourite things to use in cooking is Harissa. We actually used it quite a lot in cooking family recipes (West African cuisine). The Tunisian chili paste is a nice and spicy hot paste that we also use in homemade rubs and flavouring fish, veggies, Fufu, soup, or rice sometimes. It's what my papa calls a "good heat," being that if you're used to a bit of spice, you'll likely love it. My parents make it fresh and preserve it, as it's quite easy to do so. You can also find it used in the spice's native dishes, as well as Moroccan cuisine.

I hope you enjoyed a closer look at some of my favourite herbs and spices. As always, stay tuned for more foodie tales in the future.

What is your favourite spice to cook with?  Is there a herb or spice that reminds you of your childhood? 


Colourful Street Style

You might have noticed in recent years that adult colouring books have amassed quite the following. Perhaps, you've even heard some people refer to them as meditational colouring books, therapy, or similar.

Although, some professionals say that colouring is similar to therapy but doesn't take the place of it, others say that actually creating art is more therapeutic than colouring. I find it both stress-relieving and fun, therefore at times somewhat therapeutic. But, of course it doesn't take the place of my painting or sketching time.

It has indeed become quite trendy though, and you may acquire "colouring books" that are so incredibly detailed. Some are so intricate that even as an artist myself (or anyone who can draw) can get addicted to shading inside the lines created by someone else.

These popular adult colouring books have recently been admired amongst creatives, business professionals, and essentially anyone wants to, you guessed it … colour! These books also topped the bestseller list on Amazon!

I recently received a new colouring book unlike anyone that I've ever had, called Paris Street Style by Zoe de las Cases. As you will see below (à la eco-friendly edition) I have also been partaking in some marvellous colouring of my own.
 Above: Gudrun Sjoden 2016 collection colouring book

Not only is Paris Street Style just the most adorable book, but it's filled with blogger style details that any style blogger and fashion enthusiast will love. This was such a fun and creative little book. Being a fashionista, I found myself taking this colouring book with me even in the airport. It was a great way to pass the time, but you'll find yourself loving the details and locations outlined within the pages as well. If you could use a break away from scrolling countlessly on a certain social media platform, then this one's for you!

 Location: Paris. Well, it's all the more reason to love shading inside the lines within this book. Even creating your patterns on the blank spaces was a lot of fun to do---that's  what I did on some of the clothing in the oh, so very "blogger" styled poses.

  In my opinion, this is a cute colouring book for adults, and I wish I thought of it! I also love the sleek cover; it's still stylish without being too conspicuous in telling everyone around you that you're carrying a colouring book, although they will soon find out. Right, but don't worry, because you're colouring très chic ensembles, beauty essentials, and Parisian boutiques.

Yes, I think you'll be needing this book if you fancy a quick art session, one that only involves selecting your favourite hues. Just pick a colour, and start the process. This book just might become a coffee table prop or carry-all essential very soon.

What do you think of Paris Street Style? Do you own a colouring book? 

Check out this article about adult colouring books and stress-relief.
The goods: Paris Street Style by Zoe de las Cases. View more about the author here. This book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review by the Crown Publishing Group. Buy this book here


Style Moments + Giveaway

Much of the weekend was spent resting, then a few hours of getting pampered. A proper massage was long overdue, and necessary. Did you enjoy the weekend?

My February was good, and like most people felt that the month went by swiftly. But, most of the amazing moments that I experienced were those that were not exactly captured. Now that its March, I wanted to share a few snapshots of both, February and March moments that I loved and did capture. Of course, a lot of it had to do with food—you will see more of that soon—inspiring kitchen adventures and experiences to remember.

 Above: Homemade doughnut making, I'm perfecting and adding a few new flavours, Working on my flower arranging, A new craft project with gold trimming, Spring nails with Trust Fund Beauy in colour: "Do You Know Who My Father Is, Homemade sweet potato curry, A work  of art: I made a breakfast beet sandwich on fresh pumpernickel.

I am also really pleased that everyone enjoyed learning about the great artists featured from my music inspiration post last week. It was chosen in Links a la Mode last week. Do check out others featured in the roundup as well.

Links à la Mode, March 3

Al Balsam: The Blue Jean
Alive as Always: Mix It Up a Notch | Navy Printed Dress
Attire Club: The Best Dressed Men of the 2016 Oscars
Cat Eyes & Skinny Jeans: March Crush List
Cubicle Chic: Loop Giveaways on Instagram | I Hosted One and Here’s What I Learned
Elements of Ellis: Double Denim
Everest Says: Black Out | How to Wear Black
Everyday Starlet: Beauty Tips from Your Beauty Mark by Dita Von Teese
Faith Bowman: Colorful Clouds of Controversy
Fashion Tales: In Your Ear | 5 Artists You Should Already Know
Happy. Pretty. Sweet.: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Hello Abella: On Building a Minimal Wardrobe {By Necessity}
Les Assorties: Otiumberg | A Go-To Destination For Accessories Aficionados
Life in the Fash Lane: Sporty Chic
Lil Miss JB Style: Knit Picky
Modavracha: 5 Countries to Visit in Africa Right Now
The Outfit Repeater: I Dressed Like The Baby-Sitter’s Club for One Week
Sassy Plus: Petite, but not Short on Style & Confidence
Tales of Two: Day Trip to Lantau Island
We Are Ready Made: Gucci Galore

SPONSOR: Shopbop Mara Hoffman SwimwearLanston DressesWhistles Sweatersplenty by TRACY REESEElina LebessiRicher PoorerBoho BlousesDenim SkirtsLace Up SandalsMen's WANT LES ESSENTIELS

I also have an excellent giveaway for you. So, if you're looking for a few extra things to get from target online or at a stand alone store, this will speak to you.
design (55).jpg
Prize: $200 Target Gift Card
Rules: Open worldwide, just use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. This giveaway ends 30 March. The winner will be notified via e-mail. Giveaway is ran by Oh My Gosh BeckGood Luck lovelies!
This is an international giveaway


Fantastic Florals

I love to keep myself busy, which is often an understatement, but to be fair, I do usually finish all of my projects. As a freelance stylist, sometimes I find myself having to use other aptitudes (aside from food and fashion skills) to interpret my client's visions and needs.

Even though my day job is on a completely different level of fashion (more on the business and science side of things) there have been moments when I've had to rely on my "DIY" ability, and quick thinking sensibilities when I least expect it.

Obviously, I enjoy Do-It-Yourself projects. Recently, after reading The Flower Shop by Ariella Chezar, I became overjoyed with excitement.  The book is excellent for crafters, an ardent DIYer, or anyone interested in floral arranging. Essentially, the best gift for me, because I am heavily into learning more about floral design.

She provides a diverse roster of materials needed for designs, which I appreciated. There are a few step-by-step guides and helpful information about the whole development process for creating art with flowers. Chezar is a true artist and uses nature as the canvas base for designing, and flowers as her paintbrush. You can easily see it in her work. Each creation shown is stunning, as is the photography loaded throughout the book. You will learn how to make champagne boutonnieres, flower curtains, handheld bouquets, and more!

 This book was everything that I had hoped it was gong to be: inspiring, visually    satisfying, and beautifully executed in depth, although there are more photos of finished  works than images of the beginning and mid-process points. It's a great guide if you're    looking to  start your own workshop, because after mastering these  techniques you're  well on your  way!

 Even though I have a long way to go from  "mastering" floral arranging, this  book has  helped me to fine tune a lot of the  techniques that I  knew  beforehand. It has also  enlightened me about using  an array of foliage in creating  garden and flower displays in  general.

 As I mentioned earlier, I am helping with styling a wedding, so The Flower Workshop will indeed be a great reference. I'm sure I will even use it as inspiration going forward.

Have you recently read anything enlightening for your hobbies?  
The goods: The Flower Workshop by Ariella Chezar. View more information about the author here. This book was given to me for an honest review by the Crown Publishing Group. All opinions expressed are my own. The book is available to shop here.
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Accessories For Every Occasion

Spring is about to roll in, and I am in no rush because I have definitely enjoyed wearing comfy layers and having an actual winter. Although, at times we've endured bone-chilling temperatures, that's all the more reason to snuggle up near the fireplace, right? However, March has arrived and all that I can think of is sunny days and far milder weather than the present.

To get the month started off to a dazzling start, let's talk accessories! UK based ethical brand, Accessorize has a multitude of accessories to take care of every occasion imaginable. I am going out on a stylish limb here and going to include little travelling accessories, like compact mirrors, passport holders (in metallic leather, of course), and charming printed makeup bags as well.

It's easy to get lost in the abundance of options. Their wide-range of plenty includes everything from baubles for work-wear to swim suits to get you ready for a warm holiday.
Oh, and if you're still looking for a lovely gift for Mother's Day, or a "just because" sparkling gem for yourself you can likely find one in the Accessorize shop.

UK Accessorize Style fashion
Above: 1-Sailor Stripe Weekender Bag, 2-Classic drop earrings, 3-Leather Passport Holder, 4-Amelia Crystal Hair Comb, 5-10X Eclectic Stretch Bracelets, 6-V-Neck Crochet Swimsuit, 7-Travel Manicure Set, 8-Strawberry Milk Carton Bag, 9-Classic Pearl Necklace, 10-Stone/Crystal Stretch Bracelet 

The company's deep British heritage is rooted in charitable efforts and simply making a difference. I remembered the Monsoon children's line, but had no idea that the first Monsoon store was founded in 1973. Sound familiar? If so, you may have even shopped Monsoon's pieces before yourself.
Here are just a few brilliant characteristics to know about the Accessorize brand. I have also included a style board of some personal favourites.

Brand dedication to:
-Ethical trading 
-Sustainability: staying true to being a green brand, saving energy, wastes, etc.
-Employing skilled artisans, properly rewarded for their work. Artisans are used for their skilled hand-crafted works. They use ancient techniques and traditional methods.

Right now you can get 20 percent off jewellery! Shop here.
Image credit: via Accessorize.com, This post is written in collaboration with Accessorize, a Fashion Tales sponsor, but all opinions expressed are my own. 

"To us, ethical trading is all about building long-standing, sustainable relationships."  

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What is your favourite accessory to wear? Have you shopped at Accessorize?
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