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As we enter the party season, every man needs to ensure he's smelling good! Here's Robert O'Byrne, author of The Perfectly Groomed Gentleman, on scent and the art of selecting a fragrance....
It’s fascinating to see the various reasons advanced as to why humans wear perfume and have done so for thousands of years. Explanations fall into three broad categories, the first and most obvious being that scents hide other, less pleasant smells. There can be no doubt this was once a powerful argument in their favor but it holds less sway in our own age.
It is proposed that far from masking our natural scent, perfumes heighten or fortify them as a way of sending out signals of attractiveness to other people. According to this theory, perfume acts as a magnet, although anyone who has ever stood next to somebody drenched in an unpleasantly powerful fragrance (there were a lot of them manufactured in the 1980s) will argue otherwise. It has also been suggested some perfumes contain chemicals that imitate human pheromones, a secreted or excreted chemical known to trigger a response in other humans and, in this instance, to encourage sexual attention.
Whether this is true, or whether it is a hypothesis propounded by the perfume industry to encourage greater sales—as is evident in many advertising campaigns—remains open to question, not least because too little is known about the human reaction to pheromones.
Deciding what scent suits you best is a matter of trial and error. Of course, it’s not obligatory: if you don’t want to wear any fragrance at all, that’s your prerogative. Some men think of themselves as incomplete without a fragrance, whereas plenty of others have never used one. But, having made the decision to wear some kind of scent, you should proceed the easiest way, which is to choose first which group you like best, be it chypre, citrus, or whatever. Then look at what’s on offer within this field. Even so, there is such a bewildering variety of options available, it is not difficult to become overwhelmed. So another simplification is to stick with classics and let the sound, good taste of many other men help you: go for scents that have proven their appeal over previous decades. Manufacturers bring out new products every season, but few of them will stand the test of time. In fact, one of the hazards of selecting a new fragrance is precisely that it may be discontinued next year. A scent with a long history of success is more likely to remain in production and still be for sale long into the future.
As already advised, when you try a scent do bear in mind that it will smell different an hour or two after settling on the skin. So don’t buy something just because you like how it smells immediately. Apply the fragrance on clean skin, ideally straight after bathing or showering, and then let it settle. If you’re still happy with the smell later in the day, then most likely this is the right fragrance.
There are certain key places where you should apply product, namely on the wrists, behind the ears, and on the neck; the skin is thin at these points and the fragrance will be more quickly absorbed. Don’t overdo it: scent should complement your natural body aroma, not overwhelm it and every other smell within a range of several miles. Take into account that some people possess a more acute sense of smell than others, and some are even allergic to modern scents, owing to the use of chemicals in their production. Be moderate in the application of any scent so that its presence is subtly apparent.
Finally, learn the value of loyalty, and make one scent distinctively your own. All of us possess a Proustian memory for smells, whether it is the aroma of particular meals we associate with childhood or the scent of someone we once loved. Wear the same fragrance for long enough and you will come to possess it in the minds of those who know you: every time they smell that scent, it will bring you to mind. This is the specific power of perfume, and it can be yours, too.
This is an extract from Robert O'Byrne's The Perfectly Groomed Gentleman, published by CICO Books. The book is out now and is available from all good bookstores and online outlets.
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The count down to Christmas is on and we have the perfect crafty treat to help you get through the next few sleeps until the big day!
The standard Advent calendar gets a revamp in this Advent gift buckets project taken from Catherine Woram's lovely new book Christmas Crafts. Now you can craft your way to Christmas!
A simple and quirky alternative to the traditional Advent calendar, these tiny metal buckets are decorated with a sweet heart motif and then filled with small, foil-wrapped chocolates and candy canes. The cute little buckets are finished off with a small numbered peg to denote the passing days of Advent.
Tracing paper and pencil
Piece of clear plastic (for the stencil)
Scalpel or sharp blade (for cutting out
24 small metal buckets, approximately
2in (5cm) high
Masking tape (optional)
Green and red acrylic paint
Narrow ribbon or ric rac braid,
approximately 1⁄2in (1cm) wide
Hot glue gun (or all-purpose glue)
Red gingham and polka-dot
Foil-wrapped chocolates and
1. Draw a heart motif onto the paper with the pencil. Carefully cut out the shape with a sharp blade or scalpel. Lay the stencil over the front of the bucket—you may wish to use small pieces of masking tape to hold it in position while you paint. Apply the paint carefully so that it does not bleed behind the stencil outline.
2 When the paint is completely dry, carefully peel off the stencil and repeat the process on the other buckets. I used both green and red paint to decorate the buckets with a heart motif.
3 Cut a length of ribbon or braid to fit around the bottom of the bucket, adding about 1⁄4in (5mm) for overlap. Use glue or a hot glue gun to fix the ribbon in place, starting at the back of the bucket to hide the ribbon’s raw edges. Repeat on the remaining buckets, using either ribbon or braid.
4 Cut a small square of tissue paper, measuring approximately 5 x 5in (13 x 13cm). Place the tissue paper in the bucket, folding in the edges neatly. Fill with chocolates and candy canes. Clip a numbered peg to the front of each bucket to finish. (If you can’t buy numbered pegs, simply glue card motifs to pegs and add the numbers.)
Enjoy the countdown, happy crafting and have a very merry Christmas!
Christmas Crafts by Catherine Woram is published by CICO Books.
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As we approach Thanksgiving we have been sharing a few ideas from our books for you to prepare. Last week we had a guest post from the Craft it Up girls, showing how to make a Thanksgiving Jar, as well as a recipe from The Easy Kitchen: Preserves and Pickles for a tasty homemade Cranberry and Raisin Chutney.
Today we have a project from Elyse Major's lovely craft book, Tinkered Treasures. You can use this as a way to seat your family and friends around the table or as little gifts for your guests.
Party guests will delight in finding their place at the table with markers hatched from egg cartons, tiny clay pots, and craft sticks. Paint one pot per eggcup to accommodate friends by the dozen. Reuse, or offer as unusual party favors that are sure to be appreciated.
Egg carton in paper, pulp, or recycled fiber
Mini clay pots
Sprigs of faux flowers
Latex or craft paint
Permanent fine-point marker
Paper plate for a palette
Wax paper to protect work surface
1. Wipe the egg carton clean, break it into two and brush away any debris. Paint the cup base using either latex or craft paint with a dry foam brush, or spray paint (the quicker route). It may take a few coats to get the finish and coverage you want. Allow for a sufficient amount of drying time—possibly overnight.
2. Next, paint the clay pots; spray paint gives the best coverage in the least amount of coats. In the project shown, pots were given 2 coats of spray paint followed by a brushed band of latex at the rim.
3. Finally, snap craft sticks in half and treat them to a light coat of white craft paint on each side. You will need half the amount of sticks as pots (6 pots need 3 sticks). Once the sticks are dry, write a number at the tip of each using a fine-point permanent marker.
4. Take some fabric flowers with stems and twist the stems into a bunch. Fold the bunched stems around into a ball that will fit into the bottom of the pot. Push the bunch into the pot and adjust until the flowers rest as you desire.
5. Once all the flowers are placed in the pots, stick a craft stick in each and adjust around the stems until each stick stands up straight. Place the pots in the cups of the egg carton.
TINKER TIP: To achieve sufficient drying time, this project will likely require a prep day and a make day.
FANCY THIS: For a natural display that’s garden-party-ready, skip all the painting and fill the pots with tiny blooms in soil instead. Label with a craft stick to identify each plant.
Tinkered Treasures by Elyse Major is available here.
Have a lovely week everyone and enjoy your Thanksgiving preparations!
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It’s nearly that time of year again… no, not Christmas (yet!), but Thanksgiving! With the American holiday on its way, we wanted to send thanks to our colleagues across the pond in New York from all of us here in London, and share some recipes and crafts for you to prepare for your celebrations.
The first recipe that we are sharing is from The Easy Kitchen: Preserves and Pickles, and can be used as either a gift or as a delicious accompaniment for your turkey dinner! This cranberry and raisin chutney is great made in advance, so why not make a big batch and save some as Christmas gifts too?!
cranberry & raisin chutney
A special homemade gift for Christmas or Thanksgiving, this chutney can be made at least a month in advance and it will keep for several months if stored in a cool, dark, dry place. It is the perfect accompaniment for Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey and ham, cheese and salads.
125 ml / 1/2 cup white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
90 g/3/4 cup raisins
90 g/3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (Brazil nuts or almonds are best)
finely grated zest and freshly
squeezed juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
375 g / 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons sugar
500 g / 1 lb. 2oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
Makes 1 litre / 4 cups
Put all the ingredients, except the cranberries, into a preserving pan. Add 175 ml / 3/4 cup water, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender. Add the cranberries and simmer for 40 minutes or until the fruit is soft but not disintegrated, about 45 minutes.
Spoon into warm sterilized jars (see below). Cover and seal (see below). Store in a cool dark place for 2–3 weeks before using. After opening, keep covered in the refrigerator and use within 2 months.
Below are a couple of preserving tips from the book, just to make sure your chutney keeps well and is stored properly:
Jars: Jars must be sterilized before use. Wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse in hot water and leave to air-dry. Place a folded dish towel on an oven shelf and lay the jars on their sides on top. Shortly before you need them, heat the oven to 110°C (225°F) Gas 1/4, and leave the jars at this temperature for 20–30 minutes. The jars should still be hot when you fill them with the hot jam. Always prepare a few extra jars in case they are needed.
Filling and storing: Have your hot jars and jar funnel ready. Pour the jam into the jars, leaving 6mm / 1/4 inch between the top of the jam and the rim if you are using a mason jar; 12 mm / 1/2 inch if you are sealing with paraffin wax and ordinary lids; or to the top if using waxed discs. If using mason jars or other canning jars, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for covering and sealing. Paraffin, if used, should be applied right away. Similarly, if using waxed discs, cover the jam with a waxed disc, push it down onto the surface, then screw on the lid, and leave the jar to cool. Jars which have been filled to the brim can be left to cool upside down, as this helps to produce a vacuum as the jam cools. Store the jam, once it is cool, in a dry, cool place.
The Easy Kitchen: Preserves & Pickles is available here.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone and pop back for some more ideas soon!
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In the run up to Thanksgiving we're sharing some crafts and recipes for you to enjoy as our way of saying 'thanks for visiting'! So keep an eye out on twitter and on the blog for our next posts, but for now it's over to Craft it Up...
Guest post from authors of Craft it Up Around the World, Libby Abadee and Cath Armstrong.
This year we are grateful for so many things! For our families and friends...and for a new book contract! You'll be seeing even more of us in 2014!
Even though Thanksgiving isn't a holiday here in Australia, we think it's a good time to join our American friends and think about what we are thankful for! This project should come together fairly quickly and all of the components are flexible. Use what you can find! The head doesn't have to be a ball, you could use a piece of card instead. And if you don't have a glass jar for your notes, you could swap it for an ice cream tub or bowl. If you want a quicker project you can use a hot glue gun instead of waiting for the PVA to dry.
Thank YOU for visiting! We're thankful for you!
Libby Abadee and Cath Armstrong's book, Craft it Up Around the World, is available here. We hope you enjoy the craft and all your preparations in the run up to Thanksgiving!
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Today we have a delicious recipe from the forthcoming book by Ghillie Basan, Vegetarian Tagines & Couscous. To be eaten on its own, as a flavoursome accompaniment, or even to jazz up your Sunday Dinner with a Moroccan twist, this sweet potato recipe will make that weekend meal just a little more special. Enjoy!
Roasted Sweet Potato Tagine with Ginger, Cinnamon and Honey
This is a very tasty way of cooking potatoes, ideal as an accompaniment for numerous grilled and roasted dishes, or simply on its own with garlic-flavoured yogurt and chunks of crusty bread.
2 tablespoons ghee, or 1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 tablespoon butter
50 g/a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin sticks
4 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into thin sticks
4–6 cinnamon sticks
4–6 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1–2 tablespoons runny honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a small bunch of fresh coriander/cilantro, finely chopped, to garnish
FOR THE YOGURT:
400 ml/12⁄3 cups thick, creamy yogurt
1–2 garlic cloves, crushed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.
Melt the ghee in the base of a tagine or in a heavy-based casserole, stir in the ginger, garlic and cinnamon sticks and sauté for 1 minute. Add the sweet potatoes and toss in the spices to coat, then pop the tagine, without the lid, in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
Remove the tagine from the oven and toss the potatoes in the ghee and flavourings, season with salt and pepper and drizzle over the honey. Return the tagine to the oven for a further 10–15 minutes, until the sweet potato is tender and slightly caramelized.
In a small bowl, beat together the yogurt and crushed garlic, then season with salt and pepper.
Garnish the sweet potato with the coriander/cilantro and serve it with the garlic-flavoured yogurt.
For more information about Vegetarian Tagines & Couscous by Ghillie Basan see here, or if you fancy a meatier version then why not try Ghillie Basan's previous book, Tagines & Couscous.
Have a lovely weekend everyone and happy cooking!
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Guest post from authors of Craft it Up Around the World, Libby Abadee and Cath Armstrong
If you like your Halloween to be more about cute pumpkins and friendly witches and less about dripping blood and severed hands, then this craft project is for you!
The best bit is that kids of all ages can cut out the felt circles. And because you're stacking them together they can be cut out fairly slap dash and it'll still look amazing!
This project uses a lot of felt, so it can be pricey. You could try using any fabric scraps for more texture, or even circles of paper and card.
Thanks to our authors, Libby and Cath for sharing this post with us today. The original post is on their Craft it Up blog, which you can see here.
For more fun crafts like this for your children to make, Craft it Up Around the World is available here.
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With the nights drawing in and the days feeling colder, we’re all fancying a cosy weekend in with family, friends and a bowl of warm soup! With the incredible book by Yorkshire Provender’s Belinda Williams, Delicious Soups, coming out last week, we thought you might like one of the hearty recipes for this weekend’s cooking. Why not make double and take leftovers into work for lunch next week?
Chunky Provençal Vegetable Soup with Smoked Paprika
This is such a simple and quick soup, and you can use up little left-over bits of vegetable, as only small amounts of each are needed. The quantities and ingredients below are a rough guide because really you can use whatever you happen to have in your fridge. The smoked paprika and balsamic bring it together to give a great balance of interest on the palate.
50 ml/31⁄2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1⁄2 courgette/zucchini, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, sliced
1 small leek, white only, sliced
800 ml/31⁄3 cups vegetable stock
a 400-g/14-oz. can chopped tomatoes
50 g/31⁄2 tablespoons tomato purée/paste
a good pinch of smoked paprika
200 g/7 oz. mixed canned butter/lima beans and kidney beans, drained
a small handful of green beans, sliced into short lengths
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
a small bunch of fresh basil, roughly chopped
a small bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
sea salt and ground black pepper
Put the olive oil, onion, garlic, courgette/zucchini, carrot, celery and leek in a large saucepan and toss over medium heat for about 3–4 minutes, until they have taken up the oil.
Pour in the stock and chopped tomatoes, then add the green beans and tomato purée/paste and stir everything together. Simmer for about 15–20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Add the smoked paprika, mixed beans and balsamic vinegar to the pan, cooking for a minute to heat the beans through. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and stir everything together. Finally, stir in the freshly chopped basil and parsley, reserving a little to garnish.
Ladle the soup into chunky rustic bowls and serve scattered with the reserved fresh herbs.
Delicious Soups by Belinda Williams is available here.
Have a lovely weekend everyone and happy cooking!
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Well it's Friday and what an exciting week it's been, with London Cocktail Week, Frankfurt Book Fair and a fantastic collection of our autumn titles hitting the shelves yesterday. One of these books inspired a Sandwich Day in the office on Tuesday and we have to admit that sandwiches have been on our mind ever since!
At the launch of the book, 101 Sandwiches, the guests (and us!) were lucky enough to taste some of Helen Graves’ amazing creations and so we thought we would share one of these recipes with you! It might not be the barbeque season, but Helen’s evening proved that a good sarnie, some good company and a little optimism about the weather is all you’ll ever need for a good time! So this weekend you might want to hunt some jumpers out (and maybe the big umbrella!) and have a go at this… truly one of the tastiest chicken sandwiches you’ll ever make!
Jerk Chicken Sandwich with Pineapple Salsa
The cornerstone flavors of jerk are allspice berries, Scotch bonnet chilies, and thyme. It must be cooked on a BBQ, preferably a “jerk drum,” and there should be plenty of smoke. It's fun to soak some allspice berries in water and chuck them into the coals; this creates a beautifully scented smoke and a bit of food theater for guests if nothing else.
FOR THE JERK CHICKEN:
11/2 tbsp allspice berries, ground to a powder
1/4 cup (55g) dark brown packed (muscovado) sugar
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
A bunch of large scallions (spring onions)—about 5
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3 fresh Scotch bonnet chilies, seeded
Juice of 2 large limes
Slug of dark rum
1 tsp sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
4 chicken legs (or other chicken pieces of an equivalent size)
Extra allspice berries soaked in water (optional)
FOR THE PINEAPPLE SALSA:
1 tsp runny honey
Juice of 1–2 limes
1 small fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and finely diced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
A small bunch of fresh cilantro (coriander), finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 white rolls, to serve
To make the marinade for the jerk chicken, put all the ingredients, except the chicken and soaked allspice berries, in a blender and whizz together until smooth. Smother the marinade over the chicken legs, rubbing it in well. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Allow the meat to come to room temperature and brush or wipe off most of the excess marinade before grilling the chicken on the BBQ. To set up your BBQ for the indirect cooking method, light the coals in the middle in a kind of volcano shape, then wait for the flames to disappear, leaving you with coals that have a light gray ash coating. Move them to the sides. This gets the indirect heat circulating around the kettle when you put the lid on. I find it helps to also brush the grate with a little oil. Chuck the soaked allspice berries into the coals before you start cooking, if using. The chicken pieces will probably take about 30 minutes to cook (although it depends on size)—always check that the juices run clear before serving.
While the chicken is cooking, make the pineapple salsa. Mix the honey with the juice of 1 lime in a bowl. Mix this with all the other ingredients in a larger bowl, plus some salt and pepper. Add more lime juice to taste, if necessary.
To serve, split the rolls, fill with the hot cooked chicken meat (discarding the bones), top with the salsa, and serve.
Helen Graves' new book, 101 Sandwiches, is available here.
Have a lovely weekend everyone and happy cooking!
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