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LCM: BACKSTAGE AT ORLEBAR BROWN WITH TONI & GUY

I'm taking you backstage again! This time at Orlebar Brown's Covent Garden shop where the SS15 collection of tailored beach and resort wear was shown both in in the shop, and to the delight READ MORE...
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SHOWSTUDIO ILLUSTRATES THE MEN'S COLLECTIONS SS15

Each season Showstudio invites their favourite fashion illustrators to create their own unique view of the collections, then they present each series READ MORE...
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BOOK REVIEW: LAND/SEA VOL.1

I opened the cover of a new landscape photography periodical I had just received called Land/Sea and began browsing the photos and words as I walked into my kitchen READ MORE...
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LANVIN-TOM FORD JAPANESE HORROR-INSPIRED FASH FILM

Here's a little horror-inspired fashion viewing for your Monday morning! Directed by Trevor Undi and styled by Takafumi Kawasaki, the film follows model Jun READ MORE...
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LC:M BACKSTAGE AT MATTHEW MILLER WITH TONI & GUY

Yes, this is a men's fashion post. And it feels right. This season's London Collections: Men was my first ever thanks to an invitation from long-term London Fashion Week sponsor Toni & Guy READ MORE...
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STOCKHOLM: THE FERRY TO VASA MUSEUM

One day in Stockholm we took the ferry to the island of Djurgården to visit the Vasa Museum, one of Stockholm's most popular attractions. 'Vasa' refers to the Swedish warship READ MORE...
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MISS KIKI SALON CHANNELS ASIA WITH INUI

Miss Kiki Salon is a collective that creates wearable art inspired by the beauty the find in their every day lives. Their latest designs form the Inui capsule collection READ MORE...
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June 11, 2014

Stockholm: The Ferry to Vasa Museum

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One day in Stockholm we took the ferry to the island of Djurgården to visit the Vasa Museum, one of Stockholm's most popular attractions. 'Vasa' refers to the Swedish warship that sank just 1300m into its maiden voyage in 1628 and was recovered nearly 250 years later in 1961, having been preserved by icy waters that were low in salinity. Ordered by the King of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, the ship was ostentatiously decorated and when completed was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. All of this just made its journey to the bottom of the sea a few minutes after setting sail even more embarrassing; the ship was dangerously unstable due to an imbalance of weight in the hull - that's basic! - and all it took was a breeze to topple it. It happened in view of a crowd of thousands. But the King was too impatient and his men were too timid to suggest postponing the voyage and so it ended in tragedy. About 30 people died. During an inquest all parties blamed each other and the formal answer given when the court asked why the ship sank was 'only God knows'. (God has thus far declined to get involved.) 

So this is a little tour of what we saw on the way to the Vasa, beginning with the walk down to the ferry port. 

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The sign for the defibrillator elicited a smile: the word in Swedish reads as 'heartstarter'. 

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Djurgården is an island of fun, with a relatively small amusement park, Gröna Lund, of 30 rides.  

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It's my assertion that you'd have to be kind of mental to go on the Eclipse, a swing ride that stands at just under 122 metres tall (above, left, and below). Amongst other thrill-givers there's a tilting drop tower that sends you plummeting from 80 metres (above, right).

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This is probably more my pace. It looks like a children's ride, and that would be about right. 

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Colourful shoes are a common sight around Stockholm. I picked up a rather neon shade of yellow trainers myself. 

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A streetcar station on the island. 

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I couldn't help but think how the breeze that was blowing these tulips over was enough to sink the Vasa. 

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A garden on the way into the Vasa. 

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I was intrigued by this blue slatted wall which just seemed so Stockholm. 

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It's not often you see a cannon getting a hole drilled into it! I'm guessing this is a replica of the bronze cannons that were found on the Vasa. Though it does look old, doesn't it? Maybe it's an original getting cleaned. 

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The Vasa Museum. And here is the absolutely massive vessel it houses; it takes seven stories to view the ship in its entirety:

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It's so huge that you just can't capture all of it in one shot, and you have to see it in person to get a sense of the scale. 

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Detail from a scale model of the ship, painted in what are believed to be the original colours. As was the custom with warships at the time, Vasa was decorated with sculptures intended to glorify the authority, wisdom and martial prowess of the monarch and also to taunt and intimidate the enemy. Many of the figures are in Dutch grotesque style, depicting fantastic and frightening creatures, including mermaids, wild men, sea monsters and tritons. (I was relieved to find there was a rationale for the creepy beauty of the figures. They were meant to freak you out.)

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During a twelve-year period more than one thousand pigment samples have been collected from the Vasa, with twenty kinds of paint being identified. The pigments are made primarily from plants and minerals, though synthetic paints such as lead-white and red lead have also been used. 

The raising of the Vasa and all of the challenges that came with it make for a fascinating story; you can read more about it at the Vasa Museet site.

Tips for Adding Value to Your Home

Contemporary-kitchen-breakfast-barInvesting in your kitchen design not only makes daily life much more enjoyable, it will increase the value of your home and make it easier to sell 

Housing prices are rising in the UK, and one thing you can do if you're looking to sell is invest in upgrading your home. (I always say do it well before you're serious about selling so you can benefit, too!) It will add value and help your listing become more competitive in the market. There are a few essential rooms in every house that can be redesigned or reworked to make the overall property appear unique and more appealing to potential buyers. Here we look at how ways you can improve specific rooms to enhance the value of your home:

  • Kitchen: The kitchen is one of the most utilised rooms in the house. It's the heart of the home and tends to be a magnet for guests at parties. Upgrading this room alone can add significant value to your property; recent research reveals that a kitchen renovation can add 4-7% to the value of a home. Buyers tend to be attracted to kitchens that have adequate cabinet and counter space, a well-functioning layout for appliances, and lots of natural light to make the room feel airy and spacious. Granite countertops are popular as they add high-end style to the overall look. Breakfast bars are also a sought-after feature in the kitchen, and if you think you don't have the space, you'd be surprised to find how easily even tiny kitchens can accommodate one with a little clever design. 
  • Bathroom: Ideally, your home will have a sufficient number of bathrooms/half-baths. If not, look into whether the space can accommodate one more ie. under the stairs. A new, well-fitted bathroom with impressive features such as a soaker tub, wet room, contempoary sink/vanity and storage for towels and toiletries will help make your home a standout amongst potential buyers. A touch of luxury can be added via extras such as heated flooring systems, steam showers, electric showers and whirlpool tubs. If you’re focussed on quality, you will find some of the best electric showers by Mira. Incorporating recessed ceiling lights, illuminated mirrors and wood shelving are great ways to complete the look and make an impression. 
  • Conservatory: A sunny extension in the form of a conservatory or orangery that overlooks the garden is another great way to add value to your property. It is one of the most attractive features for luring potential buyers as it increases the square footage of your home and connects the space between your indoor space and the outdoors. Recessed ceiling lights, built-in speakers and hidden HDMI cables for wall-mounted TVs (these are all features we have in ours) are inexpensive or even free upgrades that will make the room even more desirable.

It's also essential to style your home so the rooms appear as spacious and clean as possible to potential buyers. Get rid of any clutter, anything superfluous and knick-knacky, and do your best to present a neutral palette. Clashing patterns and dark colours tend to really bring the feel of a space down and it's always better to err on the side of dull rather than present as 'busy'!

June 07, 2014

Miss Kiki Salon Channels Asia with 'Inui'

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Miss Kiki Salon is a collective that creates wearable art inspired by the beauty the find in their every day lives. Their latest designs form the Inui capsule collection of three summer dresses that elegantly reflect the patterns, colours, textures and imagery of Asia and the Orient. Each is made to order in softest cotton voile crafted to a fluid, unstructured shape using draping, folding and wrapping techniques that were inspired by their recent trip to Japan. 

What I love about Miss Kiki Salon is their oblivousness to trends. The designs are timeless, the fabrics naturally luxurious and always vibrant. Happy clothes with sophistication. 

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The Son Dress. The unique textile design is inspired by the hot desert landscape and intricate patterns of Rajasthan. 

Miss-Kiki-Salon_Tai-DressThe Tai dress.

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The Shin Dress is inspired by the florals and brightness of springtime Kyoto. 

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Photos from misskikisalon.com

June 06, 2014

Summer Styling: The Modern Garden Deck

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We've just completed the construction of our extension, and because it was off the back of the house, running the entire width and a good chunk in depth, it has completely changed the look and functionality of our back garden. Our patio no longer exists, but we've still got a workable area of grass and beyond that a (very neglected garden) with a wooden shed and playhouse on either side. What we're hoping to do when the interior is all taken care of, is build a wooden deck and create an outdoor dining/lounging area that is like an extension of the inside style; it will have the clean lines of modernism and feel comfortable and welcoming, like the styled decks seen here.  

As for the garden furniture, I gathered up some ideas from George's new expanded home range, which are a mix of modern styles and the patio classics, such as the canvas deck chair and butler's tray. Space is limited so the priorities would be a dining set and something to lounge on. The bench/ottoman is a great piece as it can be used to get comfy on a dining chair when the lounger(s) is in use (we'd probably ony have room to keep and store one), and the drawers are handy for keeping magazines and other things that you might not want to have to go back into the house for once you're all comfy. There's also an extending dining table which is a great thing to have for larger gatherings yet is compact when you only need to seat four. 

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Your outdoor area looks and works best when it's uncluttered; it's all about choosing a few pieces that you will get the most use of and work together style-wise. It might just become your new favourite place to hang out (especially if the weather agrees!). Now for the matter of that garden....

June 04, 2014

Blogger Competition: Win £1000 in John Lewis Vouchers from Cunard

Mediterranean-living-roomA few well-chosen pieces of furniture and accessories in warm textures and ocean colours is all is takes make your home Mediterranean

Home decor bloggers: this is your chance to win £1000 in John Lewis vouchers doing what you love! Cunard is offering savvy and stylish bloggers the chance to bring of touch of the Med into your own home. The Mediterranean is one of the most sought-after cruise destinations for its richness of culture and history, beautiful oceans and landscapes, and saturated, vibrant colours. Who wouldn't want to live with a bit of that?

To enter, choose one of Cunard's Mediterranean destinations  - it could be Athens, Lisbon, Monte Carlo, Naples, there are dozens! - and then use its inspiration to create a mood board on Pinterest showing how you would bring Mediterranean style into your home, and blog about it. Then be sure to let us know you blogged by commenting  on this blog post or this one with a link to your post. Check out the competition here

The competition closes 20th June at 11:59 pm. 

In addition to first prize of £1000 in John Lewis vouchers, up for grabs is £500 in vouchers for second place, and third place gets £250 worth!

I've done a little daydreaming myself and created a board to get things going:

Follow The Swelle Life's board Cunard Mediterranean Blogger Competition on Pinterest.

Myself and Jen at lovechicliving will be judging all of the entries at both blogs, together.

We look forward to seeing your original, beautiful and inspirational mood boards and blog posts. Have fun interpreting the Mediterranean with your unique sense of style - it might you win £1000 to make it a reality!

You can read the full Terms and Conditions on the wearecunard here

June 03, 2014

Stockholm: Gamla Stan, The Old Town

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I've just returned from my second trip to one my favourite cities, Sweden's capital, Stockholm, where our luck with the weather was, again, so fortuitous that I should probably be buying lottery tickets. Both times it was unseasonably warm -  hot even! - by a good 10 degrees. One day I couldn't find my sunglasses and didn't have a hat, and I started to get sunstroke when I had to queue in the sun for about 30 minutes. But I wasn't going to complain about glorious weather. (Yes, I'm sensitive.) 

Even when the sun isn't present, Stockholm is a city of yellow. It's especially prominent in the structures of Gamla Stad, the 'old town', along with saturated shades of orange. The painted buildings far outnumber the naked concrete ones. But elsewhere you're only ever around the corner from a burst of sunshine.  

So let's take a little tour through the streets of Gamla Stan, to be followed for the next several days by scenes taken from the water - the architecture is varied and just so cool and colourful, and we spied many sunbathers on rocks  - and other places around Stockholm, including Marimekko who are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their iconic flower print, Unikko. (They're a Finnish heritage brand but they certainly fit well with the joyful aesthetic of Sweden.)

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Um, 7-11 is way better looking than I remember it back in Canada...even inside it's styled like an internet cafe - are we still saying that? Is there a cooler name now? The branding of American institutions in Stockholm, such as McDonald's (there are not many others visible in the city), assumes a higher level of sophistication when communicating to its demographic. In that it doesn't seem to be parsing out a specific segment of the population to talk down to. I might be jumping to conclusions here, but you can see the tax dollars (or krona in this case) put to good use. People are well taken care of in terms of social programs, the streets are clean, there's a commitment to green spaces and work/life balance, gender equality is a reality and not a lofty notion, and you have to go out of your way to find food that's not good for you. And although it's a very expensive city, the salaries are commensurate with the cost of living. So it's just us tourists that feel the crunch! But it's worth it. It's a city of people who actually look happy. And healthy. I've mentioned their peachy glow before which I admit I am in awe of. Peachy glow! People here in the UK pay for that and then wind up looking orange. (Hint: it comes from within. You can't buy it.) 

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Pippi Longstocking was the trendsetter for this look: 

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Even a sophisticated city like Stockholm has its cheesy tourist shops, though they're thoughtfully condensed to one street. This t-shirt that survived the 70s was only trumped by the 'Rasta Baby' - a stoned baby in a pot leaf-emblemed hat smoking a joint. I'm not showing that, I don't want it on my blog! I didn't want it on my brain, either. 

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Walking out of Gamla Stan toward the water will take you through the Parliament buildings and the palace:

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Notice the Brutalist addition to the top of this wing of Parliament building (above). 

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The parliament building is quite a grand presence (above), while the palace across the water is less ornate, at least from this viewpoint. Love the yellow guard station though:

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We got to see the changing of the guard which was different from what you'd see at Buckingham palace in that the guards included women and they were all quite young. Two from the procession stepped up and peformed the ritual with the on-duty guard that involved a lot of (seemingly) angry shouting. Whatever they were saying, they meant it! When the new guard was in place we noticed that her bayonette was mighty sharp. I think I saw daggers as well. You don't really see bayonettes much these days, do you?

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The lion with its mighty paw on the globe symbolised the Swedish empire's reign as a great European power in the 17th and early 18th centuries. (And they didn't miss a detail in carving out that lion's undercarriage.) 

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This was an unusual sight - a classic American muscle car, in purple no less, cruising through Gamla Stan. It's kind of hard to see, but in proper muscle car style, the driver is watching the girls watch him. He likes what they see. 

More to come...in the meantime you can see photos from my previous trip to Stockholm here (just scroll down a bit as this is the Scandinavia category and includes everything). 

June 02, 2014

Last Call for Entries: Aesthetica Short Film Festival

Four_tellScreenshot from Four-Tell, a fashion film featuring Bella Freud and Caryn Franklin

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF), one of the largest and most exciting short film festivals in the UK, makes its final call for submissions.

An established and dynamic player on the UK film festival circuit, ASFF is an annual celebration of short films from across the world. ASFF 2014 hosts a strand dedicated to fashion films, which recognises the artistic output from the industry. Fashion filmmakers are invited to submit works that showcase recent collections, engage with industry issues and experiment with different approaches to moving image-making.

Working with leading organisations in the fashion and film industries, including London College of Fashion, BAFTA, Film 4, Warp, Film London, Channel 4, Raindance and Sheffield Doc/Fest, last year they showcased a fashion film from acclaimed filmmaker Kathryn Ferguson and Selfridges. Fashion film Four-Tell (2013), represented inspirational female role models starring Zaha Hadid, Sharmadean Reid, Caryn Franklin and Bella Freud, and promoted Selfridges' new bespoke branch. Also part of last year's selection was Meghna Gupta's Unravel (2012), which introduces audiences to the life cycle of unwanted textile products.

Hazel_5Screenshot from Hazel, 2012. Directed by Tamer Ruggli (Tipi’mages Productions), Switzerland. Comedy Finalist in ASFF 2013.

ASFF 2014 will take place in 15 unique and iconic locations across the historic city of York, including medieval halls and boutique cinemas, during the weekend of 6 - 9 November 2014. Films selected for the festival qualify for cash prizes and awards nominations for Best of Fest, People's Choice and Category Awards; inclusion on a Top Picks online compilation; screenings at a number of other UK festivals; editorial in Aesthetica Magazine, and editorial on the Aesthetica and ASFF blogs. Visit www.asff.co.uk for more information and to register your entry today. Entry is £15 and the deadline to submit your work is 2 June 2014.

Watch ASFF 2013's Official Trailer here 

May 21, 2014

Clerkenwell Design Week: Bark Goes LoMo

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Bark became an instant favourite when I saw their Acorn range of furniture at last year's 100% Design show, and now I'm looking forward to seeing their latest spin on modern classics at Clerkenwell Design Week. (It began today but I'm only able to catch the last day on Thursday. Yes, it's a short 'week'.) 

The Cornwall based design duo, trained cabinet makers Jonathan Walter and Lakshmi who share a passion for modern design, are launching their new LoMo collection of seating and storage units, constructed from sycamore. I love that they've revived the two-seater; it's a stylish design from a by-gone era and an intimate arrangement that invites couples to sit close together. Upright, with good posture. How 1950s! Pass the heavy marble ashtray. 

Their version of the sideboard, the LoMo Storage System (below) combines organic cuves and pastel colours anchored in (I'm guessing) black walnut stands. They're very 'happy' pieces, aren't they? I'm a sideboard freak and I've never seen a design anything like the LoMo. As shown here, it falls somewhere between the low, wide sideboard and the tallboy, although the cabinets and bases are made to order in a range of sizes and configurations. 

Hopefully I"ll be able to navigate CDW with some efficiency and be able to see the LoMo collection in person. I'm already imagining the sideboard in our new orangery, and I'll take that little cabinet, too - isn't the dark grain running through the side gorgeous?

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May 20, 2014

Making the Most of Your Space: Interior Solutions for the Small Apartment

Small-flat-storageSmall-flat-storageSmall-flat-storage

If you're currently living in a small apartment then you have probably found things are a bit of a tight squeeze at times, especially if there is more than two of you residing there. 'Cosy' or 'easy to maintain' might be the way your estate agent described it to you, but let's face it, a lack of storage or generally not having enough space to live can be difficult. However there are things you can do to make the most of the room that you do have - it just takes a little bit of creative thinking.

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Get that TV out of the way

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If you have a flat screen TV, get it up on the wall and make use of the room that the media unit was taking up previously. If you're not particularly handy in terms of drilling holes or lining things up accurately, don't worry - there are plenty of companies around that can not only supply a TV bracket but install it as well.

Tv-Bracket
 

Dekomount are one such example, and they have a huge range of TV wall brackets that cater for televisions of all sizes, right up to 90" sets.

Convert furniture into storage space

Storage is always an issue for the small flat owner/tenant - the secret is to find storage solutions in places that you wouldn't normally use. Convert the bottom of your sofa and chairs into drawers that you can keep all of those odds and ends in that are otherwise cluttering up the living room. Does your seating furniture have an open bottom? Invest in some space savers and make the most of the room!

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Go Beneath the Floorboards

Why not take your quest to seek out storage space to the next (sub)level? Building storage space into your floorboards is an innovative way of working with what you've got, with flooring joists even providing natural dividers so you can categorise what you keep down there.

This might require a little bit of DIY ingenuity, but once it is completed you can free up a huge amount of space around the house. However, if you're not a ground floor flat it might be advisable to avoid sawing into your floor!

Implement the 'Magic Triangle' in your kitchen

If you're specifically short on space in the kitchen then the 'Magic Triangle' is a great way of making efficient use of the space. The aim of the Magic Triangle is to organise the space in such a way that preparing food is as easy as possible. It requires the sink, cooker and refrigerator to be within a couple of steps of each other which allows you to move between the three of them quickly. Just because your kitchen is small doesn't mean that it is efficient, but by arranging your three main appliances in such a way you can transform your small kitchen into a stylish and efficient space you're proud to call your own.

This guest blog was written by John Rooney in partnership with Dekomount, stockists of a wide range of high quality and durable TV wall brackets.

May 16, 2014

Review: Wonderful Pistachios live up to their name

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I love pistachios. My favourite ice cream since I was a kid, even when I didn't even know where the flavour came from (I just asked for 'the green one'), has always been pistachio. So when Wonderful Pistachios offered to send me some of their new Sweet Chili flavour of the green-fleshed nut, I was very excited to try them. They arrived along with other flavours such as Salt and Pepper, Roasted and Salted, and Roasted No Salt. Needless to say, I was in pistachio heaven. Or was about to be. I first ripped open the Sweet Chili bag, popped one of the shells in my mouth and was delighted to find that the flavour was more savoury than sweet, no artificial taste whatsoever (which some crisp brands can't seem to avoid in their versions of sweet chili seasoning), and spiced perfectly. I became instantly addicted and thought I was going to have to drop them at the neighbour's to keep me from devouring the entire bag at once. They were a hit with the family as well and they went so quickly that I didn't have a chance to photograph them! (Above, in the dish, are the Roasted No Salt.) My second favourites were the Salt and Pepper which adds an extra dimension to the usual salted variety. But what counts most is the nut itself. I found the Wonderful pistachios to be fresh, with a crisp, creamy texture, and superior to what you find in grocery store brands and the bulk variety, both of which I've found to be bland in flavour and texture in comparison. Wonderful sources their pistachios and almonds (I got some of those too and loved them just as much) from Paramount farms, the largest grower of both nuts, in the San Joaquin valley of California. Now I admit I would eat just as much of them regardless, but pistachios happen to be quite nutritious, packed with fibre and vitamins B1 and B6. (You can find out more about the health benefits of pistachios here.) And Wonderful Pistachios come in at just 3 calories a nut which makes them a healthier alternative to crisps and other snacks, with no compromise on flavour. And it doesn't take a lot to feel full with pistachios, they're dense and hearty little things. (But somehow that doesn't stop me from being gluttonous.) 

You can pick up a bag of Wonderful Pistachios from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco for £3.19 for 250g. They're worth it. 

Wonderful-pistachios

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