Oh my, these last couple of weeks have been such busy ones! I’ve been up and down from London so frequently recently that I should probably have just camped out in a hotel room somewhere, my emails seem to have been pinging non-stop, and I’m certain I’ve missed at least two or three of the Very Important Jobs on my to do list.

Part of the reason for all this business has been that it’s press preview season! It rolls around twice a year, though this one, in the midst of the pre-Christmas rush, always seems to be just that bit more hectic.

I thought it might be fun to share a sneak peek of what’s coming up in the Spring/Summer ’16 collections from a few of my favourite stores, though be warned! You might be about to fall back in love with all things pastel-hued and floaty, and wish we weren’t teetering on the brink of winter…

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L A U R A   A S H L E Y  > >


01. Soft velvet upholstery, muted green tones, & a line up of birds! That print is available on a few pieces, but I love that little cushion best.


02. A simple grey and white colour scheme, and a beautifully modern chair. I loved this little collection from Laura Ashley especially. It’s a departure from their classic designs, and I’m keen to see more when the full collection is released!


03. Pale blue patterns (abstract prints, & floral embroidery), and a collection of lamps with bases that can be filled at home with anything you might like to display! Clever, right?


04. A dreamy set of floral gardening mugs and a matching Thermos. I just loved this set- so much prettier than my regular set of cream and green enamel mugs!

C A T H   K I D S T O N   > >


01. Delicate pale blue knitwear, with the prettiest garden-themed embroidery! {Plus a teeny tiny baby swimsuit just behind, that I couldn’t help but coo over. Gorgeous, isn’t it?}


02. Cath Kidston’s signature floral print pieces, combined with feminine broderie collar detailing and a 1950s silhouette. Oh, and hydrangeas everywhere, in celebration of the new hydrangea print that’s being released this spring!


03. Scalloped collars with contrast stitching, and bold graphic floral patterns.


04. A pretty collection of toiletries in the signature pink rose stripe pattern.

R A D L E Y  > >


01. A bold bright yellow mini-collection of bags, offset with grey on the larger pieces. I loved the tiny cross body bags from this range- so perfect to throw on when only a few essentials are needed!


02. Clean lines and sporty shapes, for a summer sports-themed collection…


03. Bright coral and palest pink, in Radley’s signature smooth leather. I love that colour, don’t you?


04. That grey bag to the right of the photo above was my favourite from the whole collection. It reminded me of a ballet bag I used to carry when I was really little, and that elephant grey is just so chic. The shape is such an unusual one too!

 B O D E N  > >


01. A classic trench coat, given a spring update in pale baby pink. Already hankering after this one!


02. A colour palette that just screams summer holidays: rich, egg-yolk yellow, blush pink, indigo and pale chambray blues, and the whitest white.


03. A couple of khaki pieces caught my eye- this spotty lightweight collar shirt, and an effortlessly chic sleeveless jumpsuit.


04. Mixed prints with an abstract floral theme. I loved that blue dress right at the back of the rail especially!

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As far as I know, most of these collections will be available from January onwards! And is anyone else panicking to think that that’s less than two months away?!


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A P P L E S   +   S P I C E S   +   N U T S ,   O H   M Y !

I always feel as though Bonfire Night marks the start of *real* winter.

It’s a coming together of all my most favourite aspects of the season- being outside in air so chilly you can see your breath clouding and billowing in front of you, the jovial, festive atmosphere that builds as the evening goes on, a touch of magic (brought on by bonfires and sparklers and fireworks), and, of course, the delicious food!

Food on bonfire night has to be baked, if you ask me. We hosted a mini-Bonfire Night at our house last weekend, and baked up everything from bread, to apples, to potatoes! That sounds like the most boring, meagre meal imaginable, but I promise you it was delicious!

In fact, the recipe for spiced, baked apples I rustled up turned out to be *so* delicious, I thought I’d better share it! Here’s how…


First things first, you’ll need to buy six or so of the most delicious eating apples you can find. I picked up these Braeburns from the farmer’s market, and they were crisper and tastier than any I’ve bought from the supermarket in a long time.

Give them a rinse, to rid them of any nasties.

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Take each apple in turn, and cut off the top- only about a centimetre or so down the apple.

Use a sharp knife to cut out the core and seeds, and then use a spoon to hollow out the apple so that it’s about a centimetre or so thick all the way around.

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We’re filling the hollowed-out apples with the most delicious, and yet totally virtuous date and nut stuffing! It’s so caramelly sweet and packed with cinnamon-dredged nuts, and tastes so wonderful it’s almost hard to believe that there’s nothing but good, wholesome ingredients in it!

The ingredients are as follows:
200g Medjool dates
150g mixed pecans and walnuts
1/2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp flaky sea salt

- Soak the dates in boiling water for 15 minutes, then remove them from the water and use a food processor/blender to whizz them up into a paste along with the 1/2tsp of salt. {You’ll need to add a few tablespoons of the soaking liquid if you’re using a blender or NutriBullet (as I did), to help the machine run.}

- Add the nuts to a large, dry frying pan set over a medium heat, and gently toast for a couple of minutes until they begin to smell warm and fragrant. Add in the cinnamon, toss to combine, and then turn off the heat.

- Transfer to a clean tea towel, cover over and bash up with a rolling pin until the nuts are in small pieces.

- Stir together the date paste and cinnamon nuts, and set aside to cool.

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Fill the cored apples with the cinnamon date filling, and then put the ‘lids’ back on!

I found I had enough of the spiced date mixture to generously fill 6 medium apples- enough to serve the five of us I was catering for, plus an extra for the chef! ;)


With the apple prep done (and wasn’t it simple?), it’s time to pause for a cup of tea…


To further spice up our bonfire night, the tea blending geniuses at Taylors sent over a box of their Spiced Apple tea to serve alongside my own baked spiced apples!

I fell in love with the blend last December, and the warm spices and sweet appley flavour are *so* festive that drinking the tea again felt like my first taste of Christmas this year!

Served with those hot apples taken fresh out of the oven, it really is the most divine pairing.

Isn’t that colour so beautiful, too?


The final step to finishing off these dreamboat baked apples is, of course, the baking!

We cooked up our batch late on in the evening (after a main course of chilli-loaded jacket potatoes!) nipping back in to check on them in between rounds of sparkler-waving and turns taken toasting our hands over the fire.

25 minutes in an oven at 180 degrees will leave them soft, melting, and beautifully wrinkled around the edges. The cinnamon in the filling infuses the apple from within, and each bite tastes like an apple pie in a mouthful.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla icecream, and eat by the light of a fire for true magic.


Do you have anything fun planned for Bonfire Night? :) I hope you love the baked apple recipe as much as we did, if you give it a go this weekend!

~ ~ ~

This post was sponsored by Taylors.


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S U R P R I S E   S L O E S .

For easily a good four or so years now, Jason and I have been desperate to make some sloe gin. The whole time we’ve lived in together, in fact!

There’s something about the idea of infusing your own alcohol at home with hedgerow bounty that’s always appealed to me, not to mention the fact that, aside from mulled wine, it’s our favourite alcoholic drink during the winter months.

Where to find sloes was always the problem we had…or so we thought.

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What I realised this weekend, however, was that there’s a sloe berry bush so close to our house, we can actually see it from our front bedroom windows.

I spotted it early on Sunday morning whilst out on the green with Teddy and my friend Jo (who’d stayed at ours the night before, following the little Halloween and RWC final get together Jason and I hosted) and after double checking that my eyes were not deceiving me, ran back to the house and proclaimed to Jason that sloe gin making was to happen that very afternoon!

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We picked them later that same day, in the middle of some of the thickest fog we’ve ever seen.

It had settled low over the pond an hour or so before sunset, and clung to cobwebs and my hair alike. In fact, I’m writing this a full 24 hours later and the fog’s yet to lift.

I think it’s just magic and so very beautiful, don’t you?


We gathered some 800 grams of berries, burst the skin of each one in turn with a thin skewer and shook them up with about half their weight in caster sugar, before pouring in around a litre and a half of gin.

The gin is actually some that we had leftover from the wedding, and call me sentimental, but I like to think that the timing of using finally noticing the sloe berries that’ve been on our doorstep all this time, ready for us to make up a batch of ‘wedding sloe gin’ is too perfect for words.

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In other news, today is now Tuesday and I’m off to spend a couple of days in London (the very antithesis of this weekend and its quiet countryside activities!).

I’ll be Snapchatting my way through a few press previews, so do add me (I’m ‘ciderwithrosieb’!) if you’d like to follow along!


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T H E   A R T   O F   T H E   B R E W

At a little before 1pm on Thursday of this week, I found myself wandering through an industrial estate over in East London, trying to sniff out a good cup of coffee. You see, I’d been invited along to spend the afternoon learning about the art of coffee making at Union’s roastery, and had been promised that I’d be able to smell the aroma almost as soon as I left the station.

My eyes were glued to the map on my phone as I walked past shipping company warehouses and anonymous grey-fronted offices, and I began to doubt whether I’d even left the station via the correct exit.

But, as promised, a waft of coffee drifted across my path just at the right moment, and led me straight to the Union headquarters!

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T H E   ‘ S N I F F ‘   T E S T .

Our masterclass began with a lesson in ‘cupping’, or, in layman’s terms, ‘the art of tasting coffee’!

Set out on the table in front of us were an array of glass cups, each filled with an inch of so of ground coffee. Before getting stuck into the coffee itself, we learnt a little about Union’s passion for their beans.

This passion was what struck me the most during the day with Union, and encompasses everything from dedication to creating a working relationship with their growers that goes beyond a fair trade stamp, and instead is something more reciprocal and evolved, to their assurance that every bag of beans they sell has been hand roasted to bring out the coffee’s nuances and idiosyncrasies.

Every person we met was so passionate about their work, and I have to say, it was infectious!

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Our first task was to breathe in the aroma of the dry roasted coffee grounds, and see if we could identify any of the ‘notes’. They each smelled so very different- one was dark and chocolatey, another reminded me of the tobacco my Grandpa used to smoke, and the next was fruity and sweet.

Once we’d had chance to smell them each in turn, next came the brewing! And the tasting too, but we’ll get to that a little later…

Water, heated to a precise temperature just below the boil and measured out to an exact quantity, was poured into each cup, and the coffee then was allowed to brew for four minutes exactly.

Are you beginning to see a pattern of precision, here? Who ever knew coffee could be so very exacting!

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You’d not believe how amazing the smell was, as we ‘broke the shell’ of each cup of coffee and put our noses to its surface.

Everything I love most about a lazy Sunday morning, all contained within one heady hit of aroma!


We then set about tasting each cup in turn, sucking tiny spoonfuls of coffee across our teeth (it aerates the coffee and helps bring out its flavour, so we were told!) and talked a little about its flavour characteristics. Was it bitter, like the peel of a lemon? Dark, like cocoa, or sweet like raspberries and cherries?

I’ll tell you though, this whole thing about being able to identify different flavour notes? It’s harder than it sounds!

It sort of reminded me of wine tasting, except instead of getting more and more light-headed, you get more and more jittery and wind up with your heart pounding up against your ribcage as though it might burst out any moment ;)

I regretted not having had a bigger breakfast, I can tell you!

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E S P R E S S O .

My favourite part of the afternoon came next- time to brew up espresso!

Now, I’d been pretty happy with my at-home coffee brewing set up, up until we made (or rather, ‘extracted’, as is the term!) espresso using that spectacular machine you see in the photos here. Isn’t she a beauty?

I just can never quite get my espresso at home to be as rich and thick as the kind we made at Union. How much coffee do you reckon I’d need to drink for a top of the range espresso machine to become a justifiable expense? ;)

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^ ^   T A M P   I T !  ^ ^


Barista trainer Geoff taught us about the correct ratios for a cup of espresso (roughly 1 part coffee grounds to two parts water), and about the importance of cleaning out the ‘basket’ (where the coffee grounds get packed into) so as not to mess with the flavour of each cup.

There’s something so therapeutic about watching an espresso pour, isn’t there? And would you look at that beautiful golden crema?


^^ Taste test. ^^ The verdict? Delicious, of course!


Next came a form of coffee brewing I’ve had no experience in whatsoever- pour over brewing.

That fancy looking piece of glassware above, the darling of the Instagram world, is a Chemex, and the team at Union told us that it makes the loveliest coffee to serve at the end of a dinner party!

I suggested using it as a vase for flowers in between times, and the idea didn’t go down all that well, I can tell you…;)


The coffee drips through slowly the paper filter, and the result was some of the most delicate and light coffee I’ve ever had.

You can pick up a Chemex for around £40, which seems so reasonable a price for making fantastic coffee at home!


Our final, and most anticipated lesson for the day was in everyone’s favourite- latte art!

And I feel like now’s the time for me to tell you that I’m actually giving up blogging and becoming a full time latte art professional instead, because I absolutely *nailed* it.

Okay fine, that’s not true in the slightest. But it really is harder than you’d imagine!


Espresso was made, and milk heated just so in order to get a glossy, ‘stable’ foam. Geoff had given us a demonstration of how it’s done, and I felt confident that it didn’t seem all that tricky. (Oh Rosie, what were you thinking?)

I carefully began to pour right into the centre of the espresso, and then as the thicker foam started to flow, brought the jug right to the surface of the coffee and then pulled the milk ‘through’ the white dot that had formed to make…


A swan!!!

Okay okay, what I actually did was wind up with milk spilling over the sides of my cup (because for some reason the pressure got to me and I forgot how to pour a liquid like a competent adult), and was left without so much as a hint of a heart shape on the top of my coffee.

Dan, who is Union’s resident latte art pro, made that beautiful swan design above. Isn’t it spectacular?

The afternoon really was such a fun one, and had I not already been a diehard coffee lover, Union’s infectious love for their craft would have convinced me for certain that coffee is where it’s at!


And what’s really exciting is that for those of us who like our coffee made easy, Union are launching a their very own subscription service on Tuesday 3rd November, delivering roasted to order coffee right to your front door!

If you love the idea as much as I do, you can claim £3 off your first order using the code ‘ROSIE’! Pretty great, hey?

I’ll be sharing the link to the Union’s CoffeeClub site when it goes live this coming Tuesday, so keep your eyes peeled on my Twitter and Instagram accounts!

~ ~ ~

Thank you to Union for sponsoring this post.

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