When I was a child I remember how my mum was pretty vigilant about getting the washing and ironing done each week. Every Sunday afternoon I’d find her listening to the radio or watching TV, getting through the mountain our family had created. It seemed like a simple relaxing task back then, and when I was helping out I think I even quite enjoyed it. But these days washing and ironing is just a chore and I don’t quite understand how she kept on top of it all! Despite all that I’d learnt sitting by the ironing board, you’ll often find me in despair at how I can never quite get to the bottom of the washing basket, I’ll buy clothes that I think won’t need ironing, and even worse I’ll sometimes blow dry creases out of tops if I can. Then there’s the dreaded dry cleaning pile, full of party dresses and coats calling for a seasonal clean.

This could all be a result of laziness, but I like to think that it’s more likely due to a lack of time where I’ve probably prioritised other things over what is essentially a very boring task (not helped by the fact that there is an endless list of avoidance options in London!). So when the people behind I Hate Ironing got in touch, I was intrigued to see if they could help tackle the task and snapped up the offer of trying their service. As the season for party outfits and winter coats is upon us, I thought it was a good time to share my experience.

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I Hate Ironing is all about providing a convenient dry cleaning and laundry service through the powers of a smartphone app (Apple/ Android) and the internet. I focused on the dry cleaning pile, putting in dresses, skirts and coats for the cooler season ahead.

First impression? It’s possibly the simplest way I’ve ever had any task done for me. In just a few steps I had downloaded the app, registered my details, and chosen the collection and drop off details (including location, date and time slot).

I-hate-ironing-app-3.3

Whilst it doesn’t tell you how much the total cost will be when you’re booking your order (which I thought might have been helpful), there’s a price feature both on the app and online that provides the cost per item, so I managed to work out a rough cost before my items were sent off. They also emailed an itinerary of the items I’d sent in and called to let me know about any non-standard charges they needed to add.

Order completed, I bagged up all my stuff, a driver arrived to collect it the next day and it was all returned a day or so later. As I’d entered all my card details when I registered I was charged as soon as the items had been processed, meaning I didn’t have to worry about it when the items were dropped off.

As for the service itself, the items were all returned within the agreed time slot (I chose the after work one ) and I thought they’d been cleaned to a good standard (my winter coat practically looked brand new!).

I Hate Ironing is a great app for anyone who doesn’t have time to pop to the dry cleaners, forgets to collect items they’ve dropped off or has a few big items that are just too difficult to carry out of the house. It could also be pretty handy for getting party outfits sorted at the last minute without having to leave your desk or sofa and saving the need to buy a complete new outfit.

I would love to give them my entire washing and ironing pile but sadly I’ll just have to stick to the dry cleaning selection!

I Hate Ironing is available in London, Brighton and Birmingham (as well as a few other cities like Reading, Oxford and Cambridge). You can download the app (Apple/ Android) or you can visit the website for more information.

Do you have any favourite time saving apps?

 

I Hate Ironing credited a small amount to my account to review the service, however, all opinions are my own. I love trying new apps and thought this was a handy one to share before Christmas! 🙂

Flowers are always a lovely treat to give or receive, either to celebrate a special occasion or to simply brighten a grey (or freezing!) day and bring a smile to someone’s face. I like to treat myself to a bunch from Columbia Road Flower Market every now and then or sometimes from my local M&S, but you can’t beat the excitement of receiving a delicious box full on your doorstep. So when Appleyard London offered to send one of their luxurious bouquets before the end of last year you can imagine I jumped at the opportunity.

I mentioned in my new year post that I was hoping to find the best services in London, so as you can always find a reason to buy flowers (and Valentine’s Day is less than a month away…) I thought I’d share my review and a great discount for readers!

Appleyard is a luxury flower delivery company with a passion for boutique floral design. I was asked to select a bouquet from their range of valentines flowers and chose ‘True Romance’, mainly because I loved the mix of bright pink calla lilies and sumptuous red roses. Just after lunch there was a knock and a box arrived on the doorstep.

Appleyard-London---bouquet-box

The bouquet was well-packaged with flowers kept fed with by sources within a sturdy base (rather than those precarious water pouches).

But what you’re probably most interested in is the flowers…

Appleyard-London---bouquet

A stunning mix don’t you think?

I’m terrible at following instructions but with something so luxurious I thought I should follow the tips handily printed on the back of the message card.

Appleyard-London---Instructions

Then took pleasure in putting them in my bedroom.

Appleyard-London---True-Romance-valentines-bouquet

Who could resist getting up close to these beauties?

Appleyard-London---Rose

Appleyard-London---Rose-2

Appleyard-London---Lily

Appleyard-London---pink-bouvardia

Appleyard guarantee that their flowers will stay fresh for 7 days and after a week they were still looking pretty fine.

Appleyard-London---True-Romance-after-7-days-2

The alstroemeria in buds on arrival had bloomed into something rather lovely.

Appleyard-London---alstroemeria

And the roses still looked as sumptuous as the day they arrived.

Appleyard-London---bouquet-after-7-days

The calla lilies still standing tall.

Appleyard-London---Lily-2

I think what I liked most about this particular bouquet is that it was a rich and full with an element of wildness to stop it from being too formal. But I think if I had my choice again I’d like the ‘Goddess’ for its pure beauty.

I definitely think Appleyard’s design, packaging and quality reflect its boutique image, setting it apart from high street offerings. If you want to send someone something a luxurious and a treat to last the week (and a little longer), I’d take a look at their collection.

And if I’ve tempted you to treat yourself or another I’m excited to share a great discount!! By entering the code BLOG40 at the checkout you can get 40% discount on your bouquet order (excluding flowers by post).

If you do use the code I’d love to know, so don’t be shy and send a tweet or post on the Facebook page!

I was given this bouquet as a gift from Appleyard. As ever all opinions are my own.

Merry Christmas Eve all! I don’t know about you but it feels so good to have survived the last few weeks of frantic shopping trips, pre-Christmas catch ups and far too many festive drinks. The next few days I’m going to be with family in my hometown Birmingham, unwinding from and reflecting on another busy year in London. All I plan to do for the next few days is read books, watch films, eat a month’s worth of chocolate, sleep plenty and get a little merry.

I’m usually over wine at this point in the year, so whilst I can’t enjoy cocktails in the city I thought I’d mix up a hot cocktail to enjoy in front of one of my favourite films. The Hot Apple Jerry seemed the perfect choice, Sailor Jerry rum has a nice spice for a mulled drink, and the minimal amount of ingredients makes it ideal for just throwing together with minimal effort.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Cocktail-hour---hot-apple-jerry

Rum, apple cider (traditional still cider is best), cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, oranges and apple (to garnish, which I forgot!).

The recipe recommends 1 part rum, 2 parts apple cider, 2-3 slices of orange, 3-5 cinnamon sticks, 3-5 cloves. It seemed a little strong on the rum front for me so I went for two shots of rum per 500ml of apple cider.

Throw it all into the pan.

Hot-apple-jerry---pan

Gently stir to mix up the ingredients.

Hot-apple-jerry---stir

And heat until it’s hot enough to drink (I did this on a low heat for 5-10 minutes).

Enjoy in front of one of your favourite films.

Hot-apple-jerry---final

Mine was ‘Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire’, a great film to curl up in front of at this time of year.

(I thought the second glass tasted better than the first, so do leave it to cool if you can!)

How will you be unwinding this Christmas? Do you have a favourite festive drink or film? 

The blogging schedule has gone awry recently but I promise to be back before the year is out, so for now MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! 

There’s nothing quite like the taste of the day’s first cup of coffee, especially at the weekend. Leisurely drinking a tasty hot drink, contemplating how best to use the caffiene buzz at the start of a blissfully free day is a great feeling. But despite my love of fine coffee I rarely drink it at home. I’ve been treated to so much high quality coffee in London that I don’t really like the instant kind and it seems much easier to let the experts make the perfect drink for me.

But when the rain pours down and the desire to leave the warmth of my flat diminishes, I suddenly wish I had the supplies and knowledge to make a drink myself. So when I heard about Pact, a coffee start up that delivers fresh coffee to your doorstep, I was intrigued to find out more and determined to make a good cup by myself.

Pact is passionate about providing good coffee across the country. Their aim is to get freshly ground coffee right from the roaster to your doorstep, without being woken up by the postman or left with one of those frustrating collection notices.

Pact-coffee---packaging

(There’s no chance of an unwanted explosion with this packaging either!)

All you have to do is hop on their site, choose a coffee that suits your taste and brewing method, and if you order before 1pm it could land on your doorstep the very next day. Once you’ve signed up they arrange to send you a bag of coffee twice a month, if you run out sooner you can get a fresh bag at the click of a button.

At the moment I only have a cafetiere so I went for Passeio Natural. It smelt pretty good when I opened the envelope!

Pact-coffee---coffee

The handy packaging provides you with the tasting notes, but when you’re choosing your coffee you can learn a whole lot more about where the beans originated from too.

So I dug out the cafetiere, rummaged around the internet for tips, and stumbled upon Grumpy Mule’s guide to making good cafetiere coffee. Here’s my interpretation of their guide …

1. Spoon the coffee into your cafetiere. You need 2 rounded dessertspoonfuls (20g) for a 3 cup, 4 rounded dessertspoonfuls (40g) for a 6 cup and 6 rounded dessertspoonfuls for an 8 cup. (Top tip – a cafetiere cup size is a small cup (demitasse) not a mug, so a 3 cup cafetiere will make 1 mug, 6 cup cafetiere will make 2 mugs and so on.)

Due to a desperate purchase some time ago I only have an 8 cup so I went for a 6 cup measure and used my coffee spoon.

Pact-coffee---portions

2. Pop the kettle on – then allow it to come off the boil (wait a good 30 seconds at least).

3. Pour the water onto the grounds in the cafetiere – ensure that they are fully wetted. Allow the grounds to absorb then continue adding water in a constant flow. The fresher the coffee, or darker the roast, the more the froth forming on top expands. So more water may need to be added shortly.

Wait a few moments for the coffee to settle then give it a couple of stirs, but nothing too vigorous. Top up with a little more water if necessary

4. Place the plunger and lid on top to retain heat –  but don’t plunge just yet.

Pact-Coffee---cafetiere

Take your cafetiere to the table, read the paper, a magazine, or your favourite book and allow the sweet smell of coffee fill the room. Brew for about 4 minutes.

5. Plunge the filter steadily.

Pact-coffee---cafetiere-pressed

And pour…

Pact-coffee---pouring

If you don’t take it black, add a dash of milk like I did. And pair with some hot buttery crumpets.

Pact-Coffee---Breakfast

Definitely the tastiest cup of coffee I’ve ever enjoyed at home and I feel more confident about making it myself now. Although practice does make perfect and I think I still need work on getting the right coffee to water ratio.

If that’s got you thirsty I’ve got some good news for you! You can get your own sweet coffee satisfaction at home with Pact for just £1 (including free P&P). Saving you a tidy £5.95 on the standard price.  All you need to do is visit www.pactcoffee.com and enter the code CITYLIFE to claim your 250g bag of letterbox friendly coffee.

There is no commitment or trickery, just remember to cancel it if you don’t want any more coffee.

Terms and conditions apply – for details go to www.pactcoffee.com/terms

Do you enjoy coffee at home? What do you drink and how do you brew it?

Pact kindly provided me with a complimentary bag of coffee. As you know I love good coffee and all opinions are my own.

As soon as work is done and the Christmas holiday has begun it’s time to relax, grab a tin of chocolates and sit in front of a fun festive film. Everyone has at least one favourite that Christmas wouldn’t be quite the same without seeing, so I asked my friends and followers to share theirs. Here are…

Your-favourite-festive-films

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) & (1994)

The Nightmare before Christmas (1993)

Elf (2003)

Home Alone (1990)

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Love Actually (2003)

Bad Santa (2003)

The Snowman (1982)

Scrooged (1988)

And a few not so obviously festive…

The Holiday (2006)

Die Hard (1988)

Tom’s Midnight Garden (1999)

What’s your favourite festive film? Or do you have a less festive film that’s part of a festive tradition?

The most relaxing activity after a whirlwind week in the city for me is baking, especially in the winter. You can keep yourself warm by the oven and fill the kitchen with the sweet smell of a treat baking away. After the delicious cookies Rebecca (from Florence Finds) brought to the Dream. Find. Do. masterclass, I had to get my Hummingbird Bakery book out and see what I could whip up.

I fancied a bit of experimentation and, inspired by this mint chocolate chip cookie recipe, I decided to replace your average chocolate chips with Matchmakers (a regular feature in our Christmas chocolate hoard).

So here’s what you need to make a batch of 24:

  • 225g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 350g soft brown sugar
  • 400g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 box of mint Matchmakers (or 225g of dark chocolate)
Here’s how you make them:

Preheat your oven to 170 C (325 F) Gas 3.

Put your butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and blend together until light and fluffy (or at least well mixed) with an electric whisk or spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scrapping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and using an electric whisk mix until the ingredients are combined.

Add the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and mix until a smooth dough is formed. Mine was quite sticky, not the kind of dough that you could roll out.

Now get your Matchmaker chocolates.

Break the Matchmakers in half, put in a small blender and blitz for a few seconds.

You should get small chips that look a bit like this.

Stir your chips into the dough until they’re evenly dispersed (I used my hands for this bit).

Arrange six equal amounts of cookie dough on four baking trays lined with greaseproof paper. Make sure your cookies are spaced apart to allow for spreading while baking.

(By the way your dough will not look green unless you are experimenting with green food dye and the mint chocolate chip look like I was – not recommended!)

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges and quite flat. Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the trays before turning out onto a wire cooking rack to cool completely.

They looked quite raised in the oven but as soon as you take them out they’ll shrink to look like this. The cookies should be soft and chewy.

Put the kettle on, make a cuppa and grab a stack of cookies to enjoy!

What’s your most relaxing activity?