Monthly Archives

April 2019

Cook, Recipe

How To Make The Best Ever Shortbread, Topped With White Chocolate & Pistachio

 

Biscuits are one of the best things  humanity has ever created. I find it incredibly difficult to only eat just one, but genuinely these White Chocolate & Pistachio Shortbread are one of my favourite recipes to have come up with for the blog.

Shortbread should be butter, crumbly and incredibly delicate. The sugar isn’t too heavy here either too and personally I don’t sprinkle sugar over everything at the end either, the chocolate should be more than enough to finish everything off. Serve with a good cup of tea or glass of milk. They’ll keep in a container for a good 4-5 days.

 

The Best Ever Shortbread

Ingredients 

225g Softened Unsalted Butter 
110g Caster Sugar
225g Plain Flour
110g Cornflour
Pinch of Salt 
1tsp Vanilla Extract / Vanilla Bean Paste

To Finish
2 x 100g Bar White Chocolate – I use Menier Cooking Chocolate
50g Shelled Pistachios, roughly chopped

 

 

Method

You’ll likely need two large trays to space the shortbread out sufficiently. Line both with greaseproof paper and put to one side. Don’t preheat the oven just yet, the biscuits will need half an hour in the fridge first.

In a bowl combine the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer, or if you’ve got the arm power, by hand.

Sift the flour, cornflour and salt into the bowl and combine with the butter and sugar, adding the vanilla in the process. As it starts to come together into a dough, switch to your hands and combine into a ball.

The key to keeping your shortbread soft, crumbly and exceptionally buttery is that it needs to be worked as little as possible. Place the ball of dough between two sheets of greaseproof paper and roll out. Using the paper will make it easier for you to remove the biscuits and get also get a smooth surface. Aim for 1cm thick and attempt to make the shape you roll it out to as useable as possible.

Peel off the top layer of greaseproof paper and begin to cut out the biscuits, leaving them on the paper for the time being. When you’ve got as many out of the dough as you can, peal away the access dough and begin to lift the biscuits from the paper, use a palette knife if required. Place on a baking tray with some room around them, they’ll expand during the baking process.

Roll out the remaining dough once again and cut out the remaining biscuits. Transfer both trays to the fridge and leave to chill for at least half an hour, an hour if you can. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees fan at this point.

When chilled transfer to the oven and bake 20 minutes, although begin checking from 15. The shortbread should go a very soft golden colour but shouldn’t show any sign of browning. When they’re cooked remove from the oven to cool, but leave on the baking sheets.

To decorate when the biscuits have cooled fully, heat a small pan of water and rest a glass bowl within it. If you plan on dunking the biscuits in the chocolate, don’t go for one too large as it will make it difficult to dip the biscuits in, go for depth if possible!

Break the chocolate into the bowl and melt, stirring regularly.

Take the biscuits one at a time and dunk into the melted chocolate, or use a metal spoon to drizzle the chocolate over the biscuits in a haphazard fashion. Whilst the chocolate is still liquid (on either the dunked or drizzled versions) scatter the finely chopped pistachios. Leave to set on the tray and try to not eat in one big go.

 

 

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Interiors, My Home, Shop

How I Got A Better Nights Sleep

 

Ah, sleep. We’ve been here before on the blog haven’t we? My troubled journey to getting a better nights sleep has been fairly well documented over the years. On a very simple level, I apparently just don’t need as much sleep as other people may do in order to be fully functional. However, for a very long time the sleep I was getting was far from enough; most nights were broken and restless.

In that department I’m apparently not alone. In 2018 The Sleep Council conducted a survey to get a better understanding of how we deal with sleep as a nation. 35% of us have experienced problems with sleep for five years, with 10% for more than 10 years. The NHS guidelines state you should get between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night, something I find quite laughable to be honest. I’ll get more like 5 to 6 on a good night.

I’ve tried a lot of different ways of improving my sleep over the years. There’s been cherry juice and meditation with Oprah, multiple mattresses and a plethora of scented sleep candles. Over the past two months however I feel like I’ve finally got into a better rhythm with my sleeping. I’m still wouldn’t say I’m surpassing the 6 hour mark, but for me I think that’s as good as it’s going to get.

The Gym.

I go to the gym each night after work and if I haven’t been for whatever reason I completely notice the difference in how I sleep. Likely it’s down to simply being kind of exhausted and ready for sleep, but I think part of it is down to simply having a set routine. I know so many people are morning gym goers and come a weekend, so am I, but unless I also head out for a later afternoon run I never feel quite as ready for bed.

 

 

Blue Screens.

iPhones now have the functionality to switch to a night mode, supposedly helping your brain switch off as you wind down to sleep. For me however, I’ve gone cold turkey. Come 10pm my phone goes face down on the bedside table and I try my best not to lift it until morning. I can’t claim to be a huge watcher of TV through the week but I’ve also made the rule that the TV goes off at 10pm also. It’s an easy one to follow for me but appreciate for others that might not be so easy or indeed, welcome.

Reading.

I’ve always been a huge consumer of magazines and books but of late they’ve been mounting. The stacks of unread magazines and Amazon book suggestions were getting rather hefty, so as part of my new sleep routine I decided to tackle it. Before bed I try to get in 30 minutes of reading, whether that be a book or a magazine, it doesn’t matter. I just try to do something that doesn’t involve a screen. If I’m exhausted however, I tend to leave it and get into bed for 10pm. I appreciate to sum that could be excessively early but I will wake when the sun comes up, without fail. So going to bed later won’t mean I’ll get up later, I’ll just get less sleep!

Caffeine. 

I remember years ago watching The Oprah Winfrey Show and a sleep expert saying realistically you should stop consuming coffee after 3pm in order for it to be out of your system by the time you sleep. That’s always stuck with me (most things Oprah say do to be fair – big fan) and generally I’ve always been good at that. What I am less good at is limiting my caffeine consumption prior to that. It’s been a real challenge but now you’ll find me with one or at the most two cups of coffee first thing on a morning. After that it’s peppermint tea. It’s tough but I also want whiter teeth, so I keep myself going on the idea of that!

 

 

The Mattress. 

I’ve been in my current flat for three years now and in that time have had four mattresses. I’m fairly picky with what I can sleep well on; squishyness isn’t for me at all and in general memory foam just makes me feel odd. When Simba got in touch and asked if I would like to improve my sleep by trialing their product I was a little skeptical. A year or so ago I trialed another mail-order mattress and unfortunately it only lasted a week. Far too soft and sinky for my liking. The good thing about Simba however was that I was able to go into my local John Lewis and actually trial it before I accepted the kind offer.

Now, trialing mattresses in a shop is a very weird experience and I’d like to talk about it. Why is it that when you’ve finally plucked up the courage to get on one and lie down on it that the sales assistant comes over, looks down at you lying down and asks if you want help? I am not in a position for a particularly lengthy chat and before you arrived I was psyching myself up to rolling over onto my side and trialing it that way. It’s an odd experience but I’m very happy I was able to do it for the Simba. I’ve had it on the bed now for almost a month and am actually very impressed. Whilst the mattress was gifted my opinion hasn’t, as always, been purchased by doing so. Unlike the other mattresses I’ve tried (I won’t name names) Simba also has springs to support you.

The construction also means that should you be sharing the bed with a partner their movement shouldn’t impact you, even if they happen to be prone to tossing and turning. It can’t sort out someone’s snoring however, sorry. They aren’t cheap – there’s no denying it. When it comes to pieces of furniture to invest your money in, if you think about it, your mattress will likely be the place you will spend the largest amount of time. Your mattress should be everything you need to get a good night’s sleep.

If you’d like to give the Simba mattress ago yourself you can get £75 off your purchase by following the link here.

 

A New Routine.

My recent obsession with skincare and YouTube reviews lead me to finding a new pre-bed routine. It’s not just about improving my skin to be honest, the act of having a routine you do every night before bed seems to help? I suppose it starts to make your mind feel like it’s winding down. Brush your teeth, cleanse your face, moisturise, hand cream, sleep spray, bed. I’ve always been the kind of person who responds well to a set routine and for me, I think the act of self care is a big part of what’s been helping me get to sleep quicker.

This Work’s sent me through one of the Deep Sleep Pillow Spray some time ago and since then I’ve gone through countless bottles and gifted countless more to friends and family as a result. It could be that it’s a simple placebo effect, but for me scent is such an integral part of our home. I smell that familiar vetiver scent and instantly I think of sleep. I spritz my pillows with it before drifting into the bathroom to brush my teeth.

 

 

The above steps might not work for you, we’re all different and I’m certainly no doctor. It has worked for me however and if you are having trouble sleeping or switching your mind off, maybe give it a go. Aside from improving my sleep, trying to use my phone and TV less on an evening has been a really good experience. We’re so dependant on these things now, it’s nice to just have some quiet time. Visually and acoustically!

 

 

|1.| This Works Bath Soak |2.| Pukka Sleep Tea |3.| John Lewis Croft Bedspread |4.| Jo Malone Lavender & Lovage Candle |5.| This Works Sleep Spray |6.| Clarins Re-Charge Sleep Mask |7.| John Lewis Two Tone Bedspread |8.| Dolly Alderton, Everything I Know About Love

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Interiors, My Home, Shop

Why Minimalism Doesn’t Have To Be Boring. millergrey x French Connection Home

This is a sponsored post produced in collaboration with French Connection Home

 

 

Some of the most rewarding pieces of content I’m able to create are those that challenge me. The process of creating an image is exactly why I do what I do, it’s my favourite part of running my own blog. That quiet afternoon spent moving around furniture and framing shots, filling mugs with coffee and lighting candles.

I’ve always been a rather meticulous planner when it comes to creating an image. Sometimes there’s an element of chance to the perfect image arriving on your screen but for the most part each and every piece of content I create has started life as a rough sketch on the page of a notebook, or a hurried note on my phone as I sit on the bus to work.

As soon as I received French Connection Home‘s email inviting me to see how I might go about styling their latest collection within my home, I was scribbling down ideas and mentally rearranging my furniture to make way for the marble coffee I’d already seen a few weeks previously in ELLE Decoration.

 

Large Cane Glass Vase, £55 & Medium Cane Glass Vase, £45

 

Quartz Fringe Cushion, £45 & Metro Mug, £7

 

This post isn’t about entirely revamping a room in my home and it doesn’t feature any great feat of DIY, instead I wanted to showcase how the look and feel of a room can be changed by the addition of a handful of new pieces and a re-style. My living room is something that (if you follow my Instagram in particular) you’re likely very familiar with, so in the process of styling the collection I wanted to offer it up in a new light.

Working with French Connection challenged me to look at how else I could make the space work and how I could change up its look and feel without having to lift a paintbrush. Living in a rental property means I have to be a little bit smarter about how I decorate – my landlord is not someone who would appreciate me going rogue with a roller.

The pieces I chose from the Spring/Summer 2019 collection were all selected for their texture. French cane, a kaleidoscope of knotted wool, soft matte leather and a cool slick of white marble. All were new ground for me and lead to a whole day of re-styling my living room – one of the most satisfying days I’ve had in a long time.

 

 

If you’re not too familiar with French Connection‘s homeware range, then you’ve done yourself a disservice by not having explored it sooner. Whilst this may be a sponsored post, my opinion has in no way been purchased, of that I can assure you. If you found yourself in my home prior to this collaboration you’d have come across several pieces from past collections, including a frosted glass vase that has made its way into countless Instagram posts atop my mantlepiece.

I’ve always felt like their pieces look like they have history, have lived a life and been a part of your home for years. The Eclipse Leather Pouffe you see here couldn’t display that point any better. The leather sourced to create it has a soft, irregular quality to it that makes me infinitely happy. There’s nothing shiny and new about it, its raw edged construction gives it a soft, comfy feel. Furniture you’re going to sit on, touch and experience in such a tactile way should be inviting. This is an inviting footstool. Is that weird? Maybe that’s weird.

 

Eclipse Leather Pouffe, £150

 

Quartz Fringe Cushion, £45, Chunky Knitted Throw, £80, Large Cane Glass Vase, £55Medium Cane Glass Vase, £45

 

The French Cane Chair I selected reminds me of a piece I grew up sitting on, albeit delivered with a Scandinavian twist as part of French Connection’s rejuvenation of the material. When you’re working with a minimal colour palette, having an array of textures becomes ever more important. French Cane is a new one for me, but the soft honey-hued cane against the pale grey of the bookcase works to knock back the ‘newness’ such a straight-lined, modern piece of furniture can deliver.

 

French Cane Chair, £395

 

The Agadir rug is one of my favourite pieces of the entire collection. Rugs are something I’m often asked about over on Instagram. They’re never the easiest thing to settle on for a room, after all how do you really know if it works until it’s in and down? Whilst it may seem a little more neutral in appearance online, the Agadir is in fact a snow white with marled grey. A quietly chaotic mix of knots, plaits and flat weaves, it’s the kind of muted pattern a colourphobe like me dreams of. If you’re a minimalist who can’t fully commit to absolute minimalism for fear of it being too austere, I couldn’t recommend it enough.

 

Agadir Rug, £175

I live my life in a state of monochrome and yet it’s somewhat baffling I haven’t owned a piece of marble furniture until now. The Banswara Marble Coffee Table found itself shifted around the room into a multitude of new homes throughout the process of creating this blog, something that was not in any way easy. The fine iron frame beneath the marble top counteracts the weight of the piece, allowing the rug beneath to still have its moment. If your room is on the smaller side pieces of furniture that have space to breathe are ideal. Heavy blocks of furniture shrink a room immediately.

 

Banswara Marble Coffee Table, £375

Carved Elipse Bowl, £35

All of the French Connection Home pieces you see featured in this blog were chosen by me and kindly provided by the brand for me to style with. I’ve mentioned it previously, but I don’t take on sponsored work lightly. I loved styling the images you have seen here and am proud to partner with the brand to bring them to you.

If you’d like to explore the full Spring/Summer 19 Collection you can do so online now. Should you need any help in selecting which pieces to bookmark, I’ve included an item of my favourite pieces below, because sometimes you just need a little nudge in the right direction.

|1.| Linea Rug, £75 |2.| Trumpet Vase, £45 |3.| Washed Velvet Cushion, £36 |4.| Rattan Chair, £495 |5.| Rattan Screen, £495 |6.| Terazzo Candle, £65

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My Home

10 Things You Might Not Know.

 

 

As 2019 arrived I decided I was going to try to broaden the conversation here on the blog and on millergrey in general. I can’t lie, it’s taken a little while to get off the ground. This year hasn’t been the best for my blogging mojo that’s for sure. (I too hate that I used the word ‘mojo’ in a sentence, but it arrives solely due to the fact I can think of no better word, so let’s allow it.)

I thought I’d start by explaining a little more about why the blog is ever here in the first place and who I am. I don’t know if this is a little odd, but it feels like something I’d like to do, to clear up a few things about me and answer some of the questions that I receive. It feels a little self-indulgent but I assure you it isn’t meant to be. I’m not one of those who is particularly ‘present’ in the content I produce, so I appreciate that for the most part it might appear like a series of detached images. Maybe this helps and if it doesn’t? Feel free to pass entirely on this one.

1. You likely won’t ever see me talking to the camera. 

All advice I have ever received about ‘growth’ on Instagram has been that I’ll need to be physically present in my content in some capacity. That a personality and face helps sell content and create a brand people wish to be a part of. I get that, faceless content can likely only resonate so far. I admire those who have the self-confidence to do it and especially admire those like Lisa Dawson who are so sure and confident in who they are that it’s become second nature to turn the camera around and have a conversation. I admire it immensely, however it will never be me.

I despise seeing photos of myself and and you can read into that what you will! Every now and then a photo makes it to my Stories, usually with immense trepidation and immense regret seconds later. I’ve tried to push myself to do it a little more lately, but it’s a real effort. On my Instagram feed I’ve made two appearances in as many years and on both occasions I was mostly hidden. There are no plans to make any further appearances, which is one why makes a reappearance here. I have Instagram and my blog because I love to take pictures and style scenes, that’s what my content is and likely always will be. If it curbs how far I’m going to be able to take this amazing opportunity, then that’s something I’ll have to accept.

 

2. I do indeed have a full time job.

Whilst it would be great to say millergrey was where I could devote all of my time and energy, it’s not my day job. I work for a Digital Marketing Agency five days a week and for the most part spend my weekends producing content and working on the blog. It’s an entirely different role to what I’ve done before but it’s one that works perfectly in harmony with what I try to do here.

 

 

3. All I ever wanted to do was work in Fashion.

For the best part of eight years I lived in London and worked in the fashion industry, having studied Fashion Design up here in Newcastle. I graduated in the middle of the recession (2009) and to say it wasn’t an easy time to be a graduate then would be an understatement. I was incredibly lucky to land a job before I had even graduated and in the space of a few months moved from my life in Newcastle to living in a flat with complete strangers in West London and working in the design team at Karen Millen. 

Design turned out not to be for me, which was a pretty tough thing to come to terms with. For as long as I can remember I had wanted to be a designer. I’d made tin foil outfits for my toys as a kid, I’d sketched out designs in my text books when I should be doing multiplication; it was what I had always wanted to do. Working in design at Karen Millen taught me an awful lot but ultimately it wasn’t my taste and designing something that isn’t your taste and doing it well is a true talent. To remove yourself enough from the situation that you’re still giving someone else exactly what they want genuinely is a talent I admire. It’s sadly just not one I had.

After six months I moved into the brand’s PR and Marketing teams and began a rather muddled job of working in the press office but also styling the photography for the website and various other projects like lookbooks and campaigns. As well as design I had also always been obsessed with magazines, something that continues to this day. You’ll be more than aware of this if you’ve studied any images on my feed and seen the mountains of them that fill my flat. Moving in the world of photography and styling felt like a much better fit and my aim was to try and get into an editorial team of a magazine ultimately.

After Karen Millen I moved on to a company who couldn’t be more different if it tried. In the four years I spent at Sahara London I was able to visit and style shoots in Lake Como, Ibiza and Tuscany. I have amazingly fond memories of my time there and it was the place I felt like my creativity was best put to use.

 

4. I left London and came home.

One night in early September, having stayed later at work than normal, I was walking home from the overground station when someone attacked and stabbed me. I am incredibly lucky that two men saw what was happening and ran to help, chasing the guy away and waiting with me till the ambulance came. I’ve no idea who the men were, they declined to be questioned by the police, but I’m incredibly grateful to them. I stayed in London for almost a year after it happened but life wasn’t never quite the same. I stopped going out after dark and began to politely decline invitations to do things, I stopped running in the park after work, I wouldn’t put my headphones in if I was outside the house; I stopped living like I should have been living. So, I decided to move back home to Newcastle. Newcastle isn’t my technical ‘home’ I should point out, I’m originally from Middlesbrough. I moved to Newcastle when I was eighteen for University and knew straight away I would be back here someday. It has always felt like home to me.

Moving back to Newcastle came with a lot of sacrifices – mostly being all of my friends were there and my career was there. I’m still very close with some of the friends I had down there since moving back, others sadly haven’t stood the test of distance quite so well. Career wise I tried to hold out for something that felt right and settled on an online menswear retailer based in the city. I accepted a copywriting job there, said my goodbye to London and moved back.

I have never regretted the decision to return to Newcastle. I am far happier here than I ever was in London.

 

5. I started the blog to save my sanity. 

I went from a job that celebrated and indulged my creativity to create images and content to a job that had me chained to a desk for long hours in, to be perfectly frank, a rather awful company. I hated it.

I hated it, but it gave me the blog and it gave me Instagram because I hated it. I was determined to do something that used what I was good at and what I liked to do. I would go to work, do my job, leave, come home and get on with styling and taking pictures. After eighteen months I had well and truly had enough of the day job however and decided to look for something else. By this point I was starting to get through the first pieces of sponsored work for my Instagram feed and launched the blog. I moved on to the job I’m still in now, two years later.

 

 

6. I say no to a lot.

There’s a widely acknowledged fact in this industry that posts that are sponsored or labelled as an ‘ad’ are much less successful with audiences. Engagement is lower and as a result so is the reach. I imagine that’s due to many different factors to be honest, but it’s always a little sad. Whenever I produce a piece of paid content I can assure you more time and effort has gone into it than those regular posts that fill my feed and blog. There’s a client involved and you’re trying to deliver a brief whilst still producing something you feel happy with and are hopefully proud to be posting.  There are a lot of things that land in my inbox and for the most part I say no. Over the years of doing this I’ve learnt what content I want to produce and what product or brands fit within that little white world.

At the start I played around with a number of paid campaigns I wouldn’t accept now, mostly to gain experience. I don’t regret them in any way as they taught me a lot, but I certainly wouldn’t accept a campaign for a vodka brand now. (It happened once, the bottle was all white and I got to make a fancy cocktail. It was fun, but it wouldn’t appear now!)

Those campaigns I do accept I do so because I’m looking forward to creating the imagery. Sometimes it’s a total challenge and vaguely scary, which is when it can be the most fun.

 

7. I have absolutely no training in photography.

I’ve spent a lot of my career with photographers, art directing and styling, but actually photographing things? Not so much. I’ve learnt what works and what doesn’t over the years but I’ve no training as yet. I’m sure some people will be able to spot that a mile off and my hope is in 2019 to take a course to get a little better at it all! Auto Mode can only carry you so far.

 

8. I rent.

The flat that fills both my blog and my Instagram feed is rented. When I first moved in the flat was painted magnolia and a little bit shabby but I saw past that and said I’d take it immediately. Three years and a lot of white paint later and it’s been a lovely home to have been a part of. My lease is up in November and I’ve made the decision that I’ll be moving on. I fancy a change of scenery but also will likely need to find somewhere a little cheaper if I’m ever to have a deposit saved to buy somewhere myself. Being Victorian and really not well insulated, the flat comes with some very high energy bills come winter!

 

 

9. You never see my bathroom or my kitchen.

Neither are worthy of being photographed and are the flat’s real downside. The kitchen has green tiles, black work tops and fake beech cupboards. It also doesn’t contain a single drawer, which if you ask me, it’s insanity. Where does your cutlery go?! (Artfully styled in an empty Diptyque candle vessel in this case.)
The bathroom, whilst being white, is truly bizarre. The shower is back to front: hot is cold, cold is hot, on if off, off is on), the bath takes around 2 hours to fill and the tiles are sketchy to say the least. You’ll never see them arrive on Instagram and I think it’s probably the thing I get asked about the most!

10. ‘Insta-reality’ isn’t really for me.

There’s a real trend at the moment for people showing you how their homes really look and the mess they can be. That’s likely also not going to be something I’ll be doing any time soon. I like to fill my feed with images I’ve spent time creating, ’cause that’s what brings me joy. I don’t want to see a messy living room any more than you do and whilst I appreciate the idea of not showcasing unachievable lifestyles, I just take it that everyone who follows me has the common sense to know that sometimes things are a little less tidy.

And that’s all really, that’s me.

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