Autumnal Transitions

Still moving from hot summer days in the US to more “seasonal” weather is hard. It’s actually been very hard to be motivated to purchase autumn/winter clothes when the weather is scorching! (Have I mentioned I’m missing the UK right now???) Nonetheless, AUrate New York reached out to me and asked if I would take a look at their jewellery and put together some ideas for day to evening looks.

That being said, before I agreed, I did take a look at their website and products first. All thoughts and comments are my own and I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post. One reason I agreed to work with AUrate was that they’re a “local” company. Local in the sense that they’re based in New York and make all their jewellery in New York. That means it creates local jobs for local people – they aren’t just an office that then has their product made overseas by overseas workers and shipped back to New York to be sold. They also ethically source all raw materials and diamonds under UN rules. And in terms of marketing and markup, the prices are reasonable – well, reasonable for solid gold and gold-vermeil jewellery – because you’re purchasing directly from them and there aren’t the costs of a turquoise box and white bow, red box, or even a black box involved along with all the related marketing markups associated with those “names.” (And you know which companies I’m talking about there!)

Above: J.Crew faux leather pleated midi skirt $120; Hush diva boots £219; J.Crew Tippi sweater $79.50; AUrate Proud pearl earrings with black diamonds $1200; and AUrate Icon yellow gold ring with black diamonds $750.

All black. Perfect. Long drop earrings may not be ideal for your job, so wear studs whilst at work, and add the bling with the pearls for evenings – but the ring is so edgy and eye-catching, day or night!

Above: Hush Onyx leather jacket £295; M&S Collection floral print long sleeve midi dress £49.50; and AUrate Structural Pyramid gold earrings $200.

Shoes? Try black booties for evening or tall flat riding boots for the day. Even the trainers below would work. Peep-toe platforms may lead to cold, wet toes for your autumn adventures. A black leather jacket is classic. And the earrings are SO fun – edgy but eye-catching both day and night.

Above: J.Crew Billie demi-boot cropped jean $125; M&S Collection cable knit turtleneck sweater/jumper £35; Hush Galaxy trainers £145; AUrate Solid Circle earrings $280; and AUrate Flower Ring $580.

The price point on the M&S sweater is great – there are similar options out there that are 100% wool or 100% cotton for those who prefer natural fabrics to synthetics. As for the Hush trainers – hello, Saint Laurant dupe for about £400 less! And the AUrate – perfect solid 14k gold earrings you’ll wear daily and have forever – and add the ring for a 14k gold fun (but classic) look when you go out in the evening with friends!

Above: LaRedoute slim fit cigarette trousers £39; AUrate Geometric Bar earrings $480; AUrate Large Flower earrings $180; Hush black jacket £75; and J.Crew Academy loafers $248.

T-shirt or chambray shirt? Lightweight merino like a Tippi or Bella Freud under the jacket? Hair calf leopard loafers are classic. And the earrings – the bar earrings are 14k and classic. Buy once, wear forever – day or night! The flower earrings – super fun and 14k vermeil over sterling silver for a great price point and/or gift!

Most of the time, you don’t have time to go home, change and go back out again after a long day at work – you want your jewellery to carry you from work to drinks, movies, or dinner, or school plays. (At least I don’t – and let’s be honest, if I go home, joggers and a t-shirt are going ASAP.) With AUrate, I think many of their pieces are work appropriate but fun and edgy enough to transition to evening. All of the lovely AUrate earrings can be found here. What I didn’t share was their lovely collection of delicate necklaces that can be layered – primarily because in autumn and through winter, I’m always bundled up in a scarf and such lovely bits are bound to get lost under 10000 layers of fabric!

I also forgot to mention – AUrate’s charity of choice provides books to “economically underprivileged” children. Books. Because I know I can’t imagine my life if I didn’t have books…

Thoughts? I can’t wait to hear what you think.

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More Christmas Baking

‘Tis the season, eh? Baking is full scale out of control here, I should be a size 1,890 by next week I’m sure!

Marshmallows made, including another box mix from Marks & Spencer which was super duper easy. Again, you can’t have general groceries from them delivered, but if you live near a larger store, it’s worth trying for only £1.50 (as of last week) a box. It is hard to see lovely marbling due to having to really coat them in powdered/icing sugar to prevent them from sticking!

Pie cookies iced, butter cookies pressed out (and I broke the damn cookie press…SMH), Russian tea cookies done and dusted, and the Linzer cookies will be this coming week. And I think I finally found a mince pie I like! Woot. I was unsure. Because it seemed so traditionally British, for the last few years I felt like I owed it to the country to try to like them. No luck with a super posh box from Harrod’s (given away after 1) or some from M&S (again, given away). I technically should like everything in them – pie crust, raisins, sultanas, apples, other dried fruits, sugar. What’s not to like?

Process of elimination has led me to think it’s the rum (or brandy) that for me, gives it an odd flavour. Also, what about suet? Maybe it’s because traditional suet is meat based? I’m not sure, but after much research (I’ve said before I’m a marketing person’s dream) and double-checking the Good Housekeeping site, the rest is history. I purchased a box of the Iceland brand luxury mince pies! With vegetable suet. Seriously. 6 for £1.50.

Recipes found on BBC Good Food indicate you can make a mince filling too without using suet which is intriguing. I’m not at the stage yet where I’m ambitious enough (or really really like them enough) yet to try that, but this recipe looked promising. Could I substitute the alcohol for water or juice? Hmmm. A project for next year I think…

 

Well, that being said, Christmas is here, so enjoy yourself and time with friends and family! Merry Christmas!

 

 

Pie pictures are courtesy Iceland and Good Housekeeping, trademarks and all that. 

Easy (Easier) Christmas Baking

My mom bakes up a storm over Christmas, but because she’s in England and didn’t pack lots of kitchen stuff (smaller kitchen, plugs are different, etc.) much of her baking in the last three Christmases has been scaled back considerably. So, for an easy, scaled back Christmas to get your GBBO on, here are two easy recipes (one isn’t even a recipe, really) – the reindeer cookies from Marks & Spencer and a recipe modified/adapted from Pinterest! The pie cookies started last year and are the newest cookie to grace my mom’s Christmas baking arsenal since, probably, 1975!

First, the reindeer cookies! Easy on a scale of 1-10, I’d say 6.5. Easy to make, PITA to assemble, but super fun if you have little kids (though supervised as some things have to be done when the cookies/baking tray are still very warm). And number two – the pie cookies are probably an 8 or 9 on the easy scale! There is no measuring or anything involved; they were made up and all baked in less than 2hrs – decorating for the next day.

Reindeer:

I was in a larger M&S food hall near my home and, on a whim, hoped they’d have cake mix. Yes, cake mix is more an American thing, but easy in a pinch when you don’t have time to make from scratch! Anyway, M&S did have the cake mix (carrot) and I found this box of reindeer cookies. The mix makes 12 cookies; comes with all the stuff – pretzels for ears, white chocolate for eyes, and jam for the noses! You literally just add butter. The cookies are shortbread, so when the come out of the oven use caution as typically, it crumbles easily. When I popped in the other day, the mix was on offer 3 for 2 or £1.50 per box!

HINT – put the pretzels in right when they come out of the oven and the cookies are still warm – don’t wait the 3-4min like the directions say!

Pie Cookies:

Adapted from Pinterest (if you have it, the link is here), they were supposed to be a topping for a turkey pie used from the leftover bits of Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey. How the idea came to turn them into cookies, I don’t remember.

  • 2 pre-made refrigerated pie crust (in the US, use your standard Pillsbury – in the UK use any standard shortcrust…I used some from Sainsbury’s that was on sale)
  • Chopped walnuts or pecans, or a mix (I just used a knife to coarsely chop mine)
  • Dried fruit (I had a mix of raisins, sultanas, cherrys, apricots, cranberries – or one or the other, whatever you prefer)
  • For the icing: Confectioners (icing) sugar, orange zest from a fresh orange, and rather than water, use the juice of the orange instead

Let the pie crust sit out for about half an hour to get to room temperature. Pre-heat your oven to 220c/425F.

Then lightly dust your work surface with flour so the crust doesn’t stick & is a bit easier to roll out. Roll out 1 crust so it’s a bit thinner and seal any seams (particularly in the Pillsbury crust). Sprinkle the nuts and dried fruit on the pie crust, then place the second pie crust on top and again, lightly roll out so the crusts are now even and the crusts are pretty well stuck together.

Cut out with a small 2″ round cutter, or be even more simple and use a knife or pizza cutter to easily cut them into squares! The pie crust will be a bit gappy – unless you go and try to pinch each individual round cookie together around the edges. Take all the bits of scrap dough together, ball it up, and roll it out again to get those last bits of cookie! (The cookies that are made with the scrap dough are square below, the just plain “sandwich” method had them round.)

Now, the alternative method, which I’m starting to think works better, would be to sandwich the nuts and dried fruit between the dough as above, but start with balling it up and then rolling it out (so you’ll have lots of cookies that will look like the square ones in my photos). The dough doesn’t seem to separate this way when baking. Go figure. Either way…

Bake for 15min (anywhere between 8-15 depending on your oven though – just lightly golden coloured). Based on the size of the cookies, and using up all the scrap dough, I got 58 cookies. If the square scrap bits had been a bit more even, easily 60 cookies – no bad.

After they’re cool, mix up some powdered sugar, orange zest, and orange juice to make a little royal icing glaze to drizzle over the tops. (Mine were still cooling at the time of this post). You could even sprinkle coarse sugar on the top before baking if you don’t like the idea of royal icing.

What’s not to like about pie crust, dried fruit, and nuts?!?!