Friday, December 30, 2011

A Slightly Irish Christmas

Well, not really. A bit of family heritage and some Guinness though. I love Guinness, at least I love it aesthetically. The taste doesn't do much for me. I'm not really a beer/lager/stout/ale kind of gal. I wish I was. I made valiant efforts in my teens to force myself to enjoy it but no luck. I find the idea of a cold beer on a hot day appealing but then I drink it and eugh. That said, I've grown to really enjoy red wine as I have aged so maybe I just need another stab at the whole beer thing...

Anyway, Guinness, gorgeous. Its thick, rich, dark body and its contrasting creamy head... Beautiful. (I know this sounds quite sexual but it's true, what can you do?). I don't want to drink the stuff but I do admire it and it is amazing to cook with. It takes your stews to a whole other level of deliciousness - so rich and dark. I have been meaning to try and make a Guinness and chocolate cake for ages and Christmas seemed an appropriate time. I don't like Christmas cake (aren't I being fussy today!?) and I wanted a rich, wintry cake alternative and this seemed just right. Guinness and chocolate is a notorious combination. The Guinness adds depth and darkness to the chocolate, moisture to the cake and counteracts any excessive sweetness. Awesome.


Attractively styled with sockets in the background - baked goods must be kept on top of the toaster to be sure that they are out of the puppy dog's reach in our house. That and I'm lazy and we were about to eat it.

I used a Nigella recipe that basically calls for bags of everything - 400g sugar and an entire block of butter! What you might expect from Nigella really. I'm not her biggest fan but this is a good recipe and my only amendments/comments relate to the icing and the cooking time. Nige says 45mins-1hr and my cake took a solid 1hr15mins. Temperature in our oven can be unpredictable but it is a massive cake and 45mins seems optimistic in any oven. She also puts 125ml of double cream in her icing. I'm all for double cream and approve of its addition to almost everything but here I question it. I added probably less than 40ml and that did lighten and smooth out the cream cheese icing and make it extra-spreadable but I felt that even that much cream had begun to make the icing quite greasy. I love cream cheese icing and I like mine to taste of cream cheese and I felt that the cream was beginning to make it taste a bit lardy. I'd suggest that you add the cream to taste rather than just whacking the whole 125ml in. Also, a note on the cream cheese: always use Philadelphia full fat in baking! I know it is more expensive and less 'healthy' but the own brand/lo-fat cream cheeses are always all watery and they split when you try and whisk them and they bake horribly and they are just bad. I speak from unpleasant experience.

Result: Excellent. The cake was amazing still a tiny bit warm from the oven. You have to let it cool before you ice it but it is a massive brick of cake so it insulates the middle really well. It was moist and dense and dark. This isn't an airy, fluffy wisp of cake but that isn't what you want in our freezing dining room where we often have to wear coats. This is a hearty, warming cake. The icing marries beautifully with the cake bulk. I thought the Guinness added a slight, strange banana-y taste but no one else agreed and, as my sister pointed out, it has been a loooooong time since I ate a banana so what would I know. [Bananas rank highly on my least favourite food list - behind smoked salmon and cauliflower but above a whole raft of other things]. You only need a small piece of cake and it is a very large cake so it is a relief to be able to say that it ages well. I think most cakes are rubbish by Day 2 but this one is still going strong on Day 5 (?). It has compacted slightly and become denser and almost pudding-y. Also, the imaginary banana smell seems to have gone which is good news for me.

What do you think? Intriguing, yes?

Chuck x

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Comfort and Lies

I lied when I said that I wanted to wear Jenni Kayne's pre-fall collection right now. It was unintentional - I thought I did want to wear it. I do want to wear it generally but, it turns out, just not now now. At the moment all I want to wear is a giant fleece onesie. Unfortunately (or not), I don't own a onesie or anything made of fleece. I have always been relatively happy/proud of this but now I am miffed. I resent the fact that I'm having to get dressed in actual clothes and leave the house and be polite and pleasant and helpful and do things when all I want is to be watching films on the sofa in my mythical giant fleece onesie. To try and reconcile this I have been wearing my comfiest clothes to work, style be damned! It turns out that my clothes aren't that comfy though. They might be comfier than they are fashionable and they might be comfier than most fashion people's wardrobes - I don't wear heels on a daily basis and I love jumpers - but they aren't comfy in comparison to a giant fleece onesie. I have backed myself into a corner where I have three pairs of skinny black jeans that aren't quite right or quite comfortable enough. There is something a bit wrong with all of them but obviously I can't buy any more since I already have three pairs... This bra pinches a bit and that skirt is too tightly waisted and that dress requires perfect posture and those trousers give me cold ankles and that top always rides up a bit... Hurrumph. I love a lot of my clothes but right now they are pissing me off! I just want to be a lovely, warm, comfy sloth and they are standing between me and that goal. Unhappy.


Vogue Russia via FGR
Photographer: Ben Toms
Model: Meghan Collison
Stylist: Katie Shillingford

This beautiful Vogue Russia shoot is the exact opposite of what I want to be wearing right now. It is all perfect, upright, structured 50s loveliness. This shoot sneers at comfort and I love it. I'm not going to be imitating it any time before New Year but a girl is entitled to be stylistically schizophrenic, is she not?

What are you wearing right now? Onesies or waspies?

Chuck x

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Interim

What I would like to be wearing in this lazy period between Christmas and New Year. Slouchy, nonchalant, eazy cool clothes. If only I was living somewhere slightly warmer. Then I would lounge just so...



I hope you had lovely Christmas and are wallowing in festive food and drink and family hangovers.

Chuck x

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Twas the Night before Christmas...


R and I made each other stockings this year. I have to say that I'm pretty proud of my effort. His is lovely too although it involved fewer Transformers (which I am a-OK with). I do worry that he is turning me into a new kind of geek. But then I look at the Christmas Optimus I created and I am impressed. I mean, he is firing snowflakes and glitter and his bell tinkles joyfully. Festive pats on the back to both of us.

I hope you all have a brilliant Christmas and enjoy the holidays!

Chuck x

P.S. Congratulations to all of you who got the pun. I'm so cool.

Friday, December 23, 2011

In Tearing Haste: Letters between Deborah Devonshire & Patrick Leigh Fermor

(I knew there was an excellent reason to come home for the holidays - my Muv has a compatible charger! Oh yeah, and I love them... Of course.)

I love Debo as a writer. I know that Nancy was 'the writer', the French Lady Writer in fact, and that she teased Debo for never having read a book in her life and called her Nine for her apparent mental age. Still, I love Debo as a writer. Her style isn't literary but it is so nippy and vigorous and full of life. It has such pizazz!

She is just the same in her letters and her 50 year+ correspondence with Patrick Leigh Fermor is a joy to read. Even though In Tearing Haste is just an edited selection it still makes me want to wallow in their friendship. In 1956 Debo invited Paddy to Lismore and they remained penpals until Paddy died aged 96 in June. *Pause to weep - I'm devastated for Debo that she lost Paddy since her husband and all of her six siblings predeceased her. It must be awful to lose all your contemporaries. Family is lovely but it's not the same. I have a new sympathy for my wonderful maternal grandmother.*


There are gaps in the letters, for childbirth and travelling, mourning and real world meetings, but nonetheless they are a remarkably full record of half a century of friendship. Luckily, for us if not for them, Debo and Paddy were often separated by whole countries and sometimes continents at a time when international calls were unreliable and expensive. Debo was at Chatsworth or Lismore in Ireland or in France with Nancy or America with the Kennedies or the Tarmac board. Paddy lived in Greece for most of his life after fighting in Crete in WW2 but he was also a great traveller, adventuring around Europe and the world. They had to write and they kept most of the letters.

They both have had such crazy, amazing lives that this book would probably be a good read if both letter writers favoured finger painted monosyllables. Luckily they're both charming and delightful. Debo has flair and Paddy writes beautifully and eloquently. His letters are poetic, longer and more thorough. He also drew lovely pictures and postcards - my favourite being 'Y no Gnus (gnus pictured)?'. He had a wonderful sense of humour and when Debo asked him for some suggestions for titles for a false bookcase he sent her two pages worth of ideas, including 'The Cats Revenge by Claude Balls'. That is the kind of joke that goes down a treat in my fam. Might be whipping that out over Christmas...

Anyway, this book probably isn't your way into a giant Debo/Mitford love in if you are a newbie - it definitely helps to have some biographical background if you want to get the most out of it. However, if you already know your way around the six sisters and the Cavendishes, this is a lovely read and something to aspire to in life.

Chuck x

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Man Down

Apparently my laptop isn't feeling the festive spirit. Rather, my charger isn't. It is dead as a door nail. Until I can MacGyver some kind of solution/face buying and shipping my third charger in the last twelve months/get an unexpected technological present under the tree, it is going to be pretty quiet around here.

In case I can't get it fixed I hope y'all have a merry Christmas!

Chuck x

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Screw You, Highstreet


One down! 

I trawled Topshop and I browsed Warehouse. I ordered three dresses online from Asos and and another from Warehouse (online sale + voucher code). All deliveries were returned and no store purchases were made. The few things I liked and that fitted/suited me were out of my price range and the things that were in my price range were bad. Why is there so much nasty polyester out and about? I know that Lanvin did a polyester collection but I remain unconvinced. Maybe expensive polyester doesn't give you electric shocks? Cheap (but overpriced) polyester certainly isn't an alluring thing. Also, lots of designers, at least on the high street, seem to forget that women often have breasts. One particular dress seemed to have been designed in two dimensions - it was 'woman' shaped when laid flat but it took no account of forward female projection. Boobs go forward people, think about it!

Anyway, despite all my high street trauma, I've found my party dress. 50% of my dress hunt nailed. A ne'er an overpriced, poor quality, scratchy nightmare in sight. Thank you, ebay. The best/only way to get good quality clothes on a tight budget. This dress is from Antipodium, the material is soft and heavy, the fit is beautiful is beautiful and forgiving. It makes me feel awesome but in a comfortable way. And it was £20 inc. PP. Hell, yeah. My Kurt Geiger killer heels were ebay too. I love you ebay. You're my friend.

Only my everyday-dress to go now. Ebay here I come...

Chuck x

Monday, December 12, 2011

One Wishes You Festive Tidings

This is another Bust Craftacular post; another new (to me) artist. I'm counting myself lucky - as a relative London youngster lots of things are still new to me. It is hard to believe that it has been six months. Occasionally it feels like I have been here battling tourists and public transport frustrations forever but, for the most part, it feels like I've been here all of five minutes. Definitely not fully settled in yet. That has its perks though and the thrill of the new is one of them. I enjoyed the Bust craft fair (in my own grouchy, poverty stricken way) but I don't know if I'll feel the need to go back next year. I've been to a couple of craft type fairs in the last few months and, lovely as they are, they can get a tad repetitive. There is a very funny post on Yes I Like That about the limited ideas and motifs that artists are falling back on at the moment - primarily moustaches but also tea cups, foxes, bunting, cats etc. So true! I've managed to dodge most of those but only because she somehow forgot to add royal regalia and puppies...

There is a reason these things are so popular though, the latter two in particular are like crack to me. I'm whole heartedly a dog person. Not that I have anything against cats, besides a virulent allergy, I just love dogs. We're on the same mental level. All dogs are beautiful to me (apart from those hairless ones, they freak me out) and I struggle to walk past them. It was initially the corgis that caught my eye at Alice Gabb's stand. If I was grown up enough to be sending Christmas cards these are the ones that I would send. There is a strange lull in Christmas card sending in one's life, I have found. I sent many many Christmas cards as a child, cards to all my many youthful friends and all the children I liked in my year and children that I had to write Christmas cards to for form's sake, and I envisage sending many many Christmas cards when I am settled and mature and I have access to an unlimited number of stamps. Right now cards seem impossibly organised and sensible. Has anyone else found that?


Alice Gabb's work does make me want to write more letters and post more things though. Her telegrams for formal informalities and letters for the regal writer are encouragement for the laziest of correspondents (viz me). I am often struck by the desire to be a better letter writer - they are just the loveliest things. Alice's letter sets coincided with In Tearing Haste: Letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor which is a fab book that demonstrates two very different but charming schools of letter writing. Will write a mini review at some point because it was so sweet. They corresponded for over fifty years despite the existence of telephones and the advent of email. If they can do it why can't I? Don't even get me started on Paddy's recent death, it is too sad for Debo...

I am clearly struggling to stay on topic today. Alice Gabb - her work is beautiful and so is her letter writing mission. So are her British lavender candles in teacups. Cliched? Perhaps. Delightful? Absolutely. I have such a soft spot for kitsch, particularly royal kitsch. It isn't political, it is aesthetic - I love the iconographic naffness of it all. I basically want everything that she makes.

I'm going to go now because I must be productive and less ineloquent.

Chuck x

Friday, December 9, 2011

Baubly


Look! Look at them! LOOK AT MY DOG BAUBLES. Are they not glorious?? They are the key to my baby bauble collection. It shall grow big and strong over the years but for now it is small but perfectly formed. These were an early Christmas present from R's parents (I've opened my first present - eek!) and I adore them. My Muv said that these prove that they're really getting to know me - they clearly understand that I am the only person in the world who would LOVE these so wholeheartedly. Obviously everyone should think these puppies are awesome but, weirdly, I suspect some people won't get them.

I have absolutely no idea where these bad boys came from. I can't even imagine such a shop. Will endeavor to find out though. Enquiring minds want to know.

Chuck x

P.S. Glad to hear that my picture size is working out - let me know if you have any problems in the future.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Festive Fare, Part One of Many


Christmas Pie - Mushroom, potato & cheese pie from the Pieminister cookbook

Man, I'm getting so excited about Christmas this year. R and I bought our tree last weekend. First time I've ever bought a Christmas tree. Very grown up (also, very expensive - who knew?). We've begun our bauble collection that will hopefully grow over the years. More on that later. I have paper chain plans for this weekend. Mostly though, it's all about the food. There are so many Christmas-y things I want to cook and eat. Also, normal things that I want to make Christmas-y. I'm going to be getting a lot of use out of my mini Christmas tree cutter...

Practical question about image size, do my pictures work for you? I've been realising that my laptop might have an abnormally large screen. All my images look normal/moderate on my screen but turns out they look a bit awkward on the boyf's screen and you can barely see them on an iPad... How are they on your computer/reader? Is there a way to set pictures so that they'll auto-size to individual browsers? I'm not a natural at the whole technology thing!

Chuck x

Monday, December 5, 2011

Five Favourite Friday Fings

So these posts are going up increasingly late... The logical thing to do, perhaps, might just be to delay last week's Friday Fings until this Friday. Where is the fun in that though? I want to put them up now and it is my blog so ner ner di ner ner. This is the joy of a blog - you answer to no one! There are no responsibilities or repercussions for lateness. Well, kind of. Obviously I don't want to disappoint you, my delightful and delicious readers, but I don't think you really care about when you get your Fings. (Do you?).

Anyway.


1. I really really enjoyed the interview with Ben Gorham on Into the Gloss. He is the founder of Byredo and the interview is a big juicy one. I particularly like the way that Emily Weiss doesn't rely on a Q&A format, which I can find rather grating. Instead you get a beautifully curated, continuous flow of thought and story. And what an interesting man. I felt inspired by this. I want to go away and make creative, thoughtful perfume! (Or at least go and sniff some Byredo perfumes). If you are interested in perfumes I can't recommend this enough.

2. Runway shows of the 1990s. Seen at Cat Party (always amazing), this Tumblr is fascinating. I like seeing what still looks fresh and exciting, what I still want to wear, what I can incorporate into my sartorial life. I haven't really bought into the automatic 90s revival that has been going on of late but this makes me reconsider my scepticism. And the supers look so young and fresh faced!

3. Possibly Sister Jane has been around for ages. Sometimes I lose track of those high street level small brands. They're stocked on Topshop and Asos so maybe they're quite well known. New to me though. They have a lot of nice, slightly tweaked everyday wear. The above dress is my favourite - the zig zag collar reminds me of Louis Vuitton. Also, love the model/make-up. Still enjoying a strong, dark lip.

4. I'm going to start regularly including fave pieces of longer writing. Obviously I like looking at pretty pictures on the interwebz as much as anyone but sometimes it is good to engage other parts of your brain. The interwebz is a big place and there is lots of great writing on it that goes under-appreciated (at least by me). That said, this article has got a lot of luvvin. Kate Bolick's (hee hee - I'm so immature) article critiquing outdated attitudes towards marriage in the Atlantic magazine got excerpted somewhere else but I think it is worth reading in its entirety. Funny, considered, thought-provoking. Do it. I'm also excited about reading through the Atlantic's back catalogue - it looks like they have some cracking gender/sexuality articles. Expect to see more.

5. The idea of pre-made Christmas stockings freak me out. They can be hideously impersonal and I would be most affronted if the boyf/fam bought me one rather than making me one. [I am a BIG stocking fan btw - best part of Christmas? Certainly better than presents.] Backpedaling momentarily though, I love these Of a Kind holiday grab bags and I want the men's and women's. What lovely contents - independent, interesting, gorgeous goodies. Still, no substitute for my actual stocking, R/fam. No getting lazy, just get some ideas...

What has piqued your interest of late?

Chuck x

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Recent Eats


I've been really enjoying the Pieminister cook book of late. Admittedly, I do love Pieminister in a big way. I sadly miss testing all their different flavours and licking their enamel plates in the original Stokes Croft shop... Personal bias aside, it is a lovely book and I would definitely recommend it (and I say this as a person with a lot of cook books, many of them mediocre). So far I have made the cheese, mushroom and potato pie (top left) and the Fantaffy pie (bottom right) and both have been excellent. I even made the pastry for the Fantaffy pie which is full of delicious things like leeks and toasted hazelnuts and Caerphilly. A top notch vegetarian pie if anyone is looking for exciting veggie options for the festive season.

Also of note, R made Julia Child's legendary beef bourguignon and it was amazing. It blew our socks off. I Heart Julia. This is a powerful ol' stew and it is a lot of work but it is totally awesome and exactly what you need on a cold winter night. Served with rather nontraditional but delicious rosemary wedges and garlic kale. YUM. Casual food-wise I have re-made similar red wine and tomato pasta sauces a bunch of times in the last few weeks. I don't follow a recipe and I have a rubbish memory so I couldn't say exactly what is in them, they probably differ slightly each time, but they are bang on. They consistently involve bog standard tomato sauce ingredients plus fresh cherry tomatoes/sundried tomatoes + generous amounts of red wine and lots of reduction time. It makes for an intensely rich and tomato-y sauce that is powerful enough to be eaten without cheese, which is good because I keep forgetting to buy any Parmesan...

Anyway. Any good eats of late?

Chuck x

Friday, December 2, 2011

Scorchio


Silver screen goddess dress c/o Warehouse

I tried this dress on today and it is it. It is hot shit. Dipped at the front and down low at the back. Necklace collar. Thigh split, fitted waist, falling pleats. The maxi, the shape, the draping and the particular shade of red make it vair sophis rather than trashy. It fitted like a glove and made me feel decadent and glamorous. I would glide and lounge and be all kinds of golden age film fabulous in it. It is £80 and I have nowhere to wear it but I love it. Love. It makes me feel like a different person. Ah, the transforming power of fashion.

Mega thumbs up.

Chuck x

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On Consumerism and Dream Scarves

I went to the Bust magazine Christmas Craftacular on Sunday. It was a big, festive craft fair in Bethnal Green's York Hall full of independent crafters, top choons and DIY workshops. It was busy and jolly and full of beautiful things. It was generally lovely but... it turns out shopping events aren't much fun when there is no possibility of shopping. I purposefully didn't take any money with me because I knew that I couldn't spend any and I didn't want to be tempted. This seemed sensible until I arrived and saw all the niceness. I mean, I guess it was still sensible since I can't really afford frivolous crafty loveliness but it felt rubbish. I've often been shopping and not bought anything but there is normally at least the possibility of buying something and this time there wasn't and it rather sucked the fun out of the whole enterprise. I'm worried that this makes me disgustingly materialistic and unable to enjoy myself without consuming products and spending money like a filthy cog in the capitalist machine... Or maybe it is just difficult to enjoy events where you know you can't take part in the event? Like how you would miss out on the fun of a pool party if you couldn't swim. I'm hoping it is the latter because the former is hardly very flattering. Do you know what I'm talking about? I wonder if it is just me.

The positive thing I took away from the craft fair was a bunch of new makers, artists and designers that I might not otherwise have discovered. Perhaps I was just viewing it from the wrong perspective. I'm planning to share a couple of my new fancies over the next few days/weeks. The first of these is Cleo Ferin Mercury, purveyors of printed scarves, collars and handkerchiefs. All of Cleo and Chris's prints are great and their animal scarves are hilarious but my heart beats for their 100% silk icon scarves. BeyoncĂ©? Brigitte? Liz as Cleo? Love! The Liz Taylor scarf would go very well with Topshop SS12 but I think Brigitte would be my first choice. So sweet and innocent - all sixties and South of France...






And, ultimately, it doesn't matter that I can't afford them. I'm glad I got to admire and fondle them. I'm glad I know they are out there and being awesome. I know that somebody will be enjoying them and they will be leading merry lives. I don't need to buy them. I don't think.

Chuck x

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Hunt Begins

I'm on the hunt for the mythical dress. I suspect it is like the Questing Beast and I shall chase it forever and ever without catching it. Some people seem to find this dress easily but it's not like that for me. It's a long and exhausting pursuit. The dress I'm talking about is the smart-casual, dress down for day, dress up for evening, correct for every occasion, perfect dress. I know that sounds like a lot to ask but some people own them so they clearly exist. Also, I think part of my brain is being sucked in by the onslaught of inevitable 'Sparkly Christmas Party Dresses' articles that are going around like a rash at the moment. Not that I have ever been or am ever likely to go to a party where a neon, glittery, lacy, mini bodycon dress is the appropriate attire but I like the idea of a Christmas party dress. In my head it should be elegant but luscious, chic but a little bit sexy, interesting and luxurious. I'm keen on the idea of the idea of black, navy and red; thick velvet, crepe and real lace. I don't want to go above the knee, I could go either way on sleeves. Mostly I don't want it to be tacky. I don't see how that should be too much to ask but looking at the high street it seems impossible sometimes.

Basically I want a new dress, possibly two, a casual, dress-up-able dress and my version of a Christmas party dress. I am not wearing any dresses at the moment and that makes me sad. I do have a few dresses but I haven't worn any of them in ages because they don't feel right. My vintage dresses are beautiful but they are too busty and too feminine and the very fitted waists aren't comfortable enough for all day wear. The rest are a handful of ancient jersey dresses that don't really feel relevant to how I dress/want to dress any more. So, I popped into my local (admittedly limited) Topshop to have a look round and a little try on...

1. The One that Made Me Look Bulky Pt. I. Also, the One that Failed to Live Up to My Expectations - I'd seen this one on the TS website and been intrigued by the idea of burgundy velvet but in reality it was too short, too stretchy, too cheap looking. The velvet was disappointingly short and it generally looked naff on me.

2. The One that Made Me Look Bulky Pt. II. Also, the One that Made Me Look like a Deranged 8 Year Old. Seriously, so bad. The cream was so unkind, the polyester was so unkind, the dress just made me look awful. Simultaneously underage and pregnant - a cruel and impressive combination. There is a kind of girl that is going to look very sweet in this but it is not for womanly bodies. I was feeling quite low at this point in the excursion.

3. The One that Surprised Me. You say bright orange-red leopard print, I say bad, but I actually quite liked this. It has a certain pizzazz! There is something Joanie about it. It is definitely more of a statement than I'm used to making though!

4. The One that Made Me Look Bulky Pt. III. Also, the One that Looks like a Nighty. This is one of my most stylish lady friends' go-to dress. She wears it a lot and it is just exactly what one would wish for from a day dress. It looks awesome on her. This is proof in a nutshell that works brilliantly on someone doesn't work brilliantly on everyone. Sadly, not good.

5. The One that I Really Liked. It wasn't perfect on the chest and I would prefer it to be longer but it is red, the crepe-y material is nice and the beading is surprisingly heavy and lovely. It is a sign how over-priced TS has become recently that I was pleasantly shocked that this was 'only' £85. Obviously I can't afford to buy it at £85 but I would have guessed £120 (which is ridiculous but hardly unheard of in TS). Hopeful.

6. The One that Made Me Feel like a Vamp. Very tight, black, thigh high split! I tried it on out of curiosity and actually quite enjoyed prancing around the changing room in it. I took a few profile pictures that were very bad on my poor tummy but that hasn't stopped me slyly liking it. It is just so excessive. Team with sexy heels and a strong lip/smokey eye and you would knock 'em dead! Leg-wear is tricky though, any normal tights expose what B calls your 'whore line' (as seen on me). Might have to be bare legs which isn't very winter-y. Even with a thigh split I can't quite resist the practical.

Also, do you like the way that I have 'modeled' all these dresses with my Vans? Very classy, I am. Have you seen any good dresses? I'm planning to max out the blogosphere for inspiration. Attractive, interesting and affordable - these are my watch word. What is your daily dress and your Christmas party dress?

Chuck x

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Five Favourite Friday Fings


1. I have had Azealia Banks' 212 stuck in my head on loop since I read Bethan Holt's post on FEAL on Thursday. Seriously, who would have thought that a very filthy song about the joys of oral sex could be so catchy? Gosh, she has an amazingly potty mouth. I love it. I have a little bit of a girl crush... Adorable musical theatre geek cum bad ass filthpot. A mass of contradictions and top choon(s - hopefully). 

2. Look, pretty. I want this to be my winter events outfit. It is from French label Gat Rimon who produce much relaxed loveliness. This is it though. Long sleeves, navy, unexpected skin, naked back, olive, leather opera gloves... My love of leather opera gloves seems to be fairly constant. Maybe I should invest? Seen at Greedy Girl.

3. Susie turned me on to the Because beauty videos. Super cute and super quick, full of great music and inspiring make up tips. I want to try Susie's metallic panda eyes. And Erin's tomato lip. And the Tina Chow look... Basically all of them.

4. Pizza sleeping bag! No elaboration needed. Fondly reminds me of the Great Sleeping Bear. Via Rachel at Fur Coat.

5. Making the most of my Elle UK Kurt Geiger voucher. I very nearly bought this for real money and now I have got it for freesies! Deeply satisfactory.

I hope y'all having great weekends!

Chuck x

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The New Ethical

Man, this week has been busier than I was expecting. I want to get some real content up on here but it will have to wait a little longer. In the meantime I will distract you with pretty pictures (again) - this is becoming a worrying, lazy habit of mine... Luckily, pretty ethics are involved here too. I recently discovered Maiyet; a new NY label with real ethical credentials. The founder is a human rights lawyer who is focused on creating a sustainable, socially responsible business. This isn't the standard hemp and recycled sacking you often see in eco/ethical clothing though, this is desirable, casual but glamorous high fashion. This is less surprising when you read about his fashion team who have worked for, among others, Boy by Band of Outsiders, Calvin Klein, Celine and The Row, according to Elle. Their website is very slick too and features the first collection beautifully shot on the beautiful Daria.



The founders of Maiyet have sourced craftsmen and artisans from all over the world to help produce their collection. These small teams and families will be helped to develop into sustainable businesses. Maiyet have committed to ploughing a share of profit back into training and growth. They are supporting positive projects - Style.com tells of 'an Ahmedabadi studio that stabilizes its community by employing both Hindus and Muslims'. I also wonder, because this is fashion/crafts (embroidery, beading, printing fabrics), whether there is a female bias to the people they are helping. There is lots of interesting information about on how, if you invest in women and small female businesses via things like micro loans, there is a comparatively large increase in standards of living. For more on micro loans see here.

It is the best of both worlds really because I actively want to buy/wear these clothes. I particularly like their maxi silhouettes - great colours, simple, elegant, comfy, swooshy. I love this kind of thing. Also, a little bit of me totally thinks I'll look like Daria if I were to have these clothes. There is realistic for you. Obviously I can't buy these clothes because they are a whole bunch of ways out of my price range but it makes me happy that some people probably will buy them.

Snaps to Maiyet.

Chuck x

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dangerous Florals

I was vaguely surprised to see that I hadn't posted about Hermione de Paula before. I basically expect all the thoughts that flits through my brain to end up on here and then I'm baffled when they don't. Maybe they could but that would be a lot of work - my brain is a busy place (sometimes). Anyway, I'm a big fan of de Paula, hence the surprise. She is a print maestro and I do love a good print. They are more defined than most of the prints I have been fetishising recently but the detail is intriguing and there is a darkness to them that I find irresistible. Her SS12 collection 'Darlingtonia's Obsession' is named after the carnivorous Cobra Lily - flowers and death entwined. Exotic birds dart amongst the blooms and vines curl like bondage. At the same time there is a soft, floatiness to the fabrics and cuts... Something for everyone!




The above trouser/shirt combo is particularly amazing. It reminds me of the similar Celine Resort 2012 look. Matchy matchy floral goodness. It would look so bonkers in my real life but I want to recreate it! I want some thoughtful florals generally.



This is from an earlier collection but I had to include it because it is so lovely. Photo, dress, styling - love. I'll be interested to see where de Paula's designs go next. I'll be keeping better tabs on her this time. Brain/blog synch! Wouldn't that be excellent?

Chuck x

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Knock it Back

I was so overexcited to rediscover KnockBack recently. KnockBack, by the way, is the magazine for 'women who aren't silly bitches on diets'. They are the anti-Cosmo. You are sold already, right? I read the first issue a few years ago but then kind of lost touch with them. They don't have a particularly regular print schedule so that is quite easy to do. The upside of the irregular printing is that they only put out an issue when they have something to say. No filler here. After reading a copy of the Well Dressed issue I immediately rushed to their shop and ordered the latest issue - the Hardcore issue. This actually came out in June so any real (hardcore) KB fans will be disgusted at how behind the times I am but everyone else should go and buy their copies immediately because it doesn't age. It isn't like trying to read a Grazia from June, quality content doesn't age. Highlights include a seventeen year old's response to porn, an avoiding pregnancy snakes and ladders game and Marie Berry's great article about the Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (donate here). This issue is more grown up than earlier issues but it is still snort-tea-out-of-your-nose hilarious. Buy it now.





Ahaha, the 'Are you a dick?' quiz is so funny. Buy it already.

Chuck x

Friday, November 18, 2011

Five Favourite Friday Fings


1. How sweet are these mini light-bulb vases? I saw them on Tumblr, I'm not sure of the original source, but they are super cute. Part of me thinks they would be really easy to make. Quite a lot of me foresees shattered light-bulbs all over my carpet though... What do you think? Also, you would need old-fashioned light bulbs - mercury poisoning wouldn't be a good look. Beautiful, minimal flowers too.

2. I'm always on the lookout for great, affordable prints and this Random Objects lion poster ticks every box. $18! (I know). Gorgeous black and white photo. Of a yawning/yowling lion (zodiac affinity or just plain adorable?). Useful, affirming but not tacky-as-hell quote. Done. I know I saw this one over at Mallory's but I can't remember where - they are too many lovely things going on there!

3. Flying squirrel scarf? Yes, please. Charlotte Linton's prints are random and awesome. That is all.

4. Lady loving. I've only recently discovered Tiger Beatdown and I'm sad that I didn't know about it sooner. Sady Doyle is a big ol' piece of excellent - angry and eloquent. I've also rediscovered KnockBack (more on that later). It is so invigorating to read some kickass women's writing. Why not start with her recent post on gendered internet abuse...

5. Ally has great taste. Emma Gleason has mad skillz. The above is from her graduate collection! It is so simple but so right - casual but interesting, odd but not bizarre, simple but not bland. Great cuts, great styling, great model. Stripes and colours, berry and lemon. Yum. I can't wait to see what she does next. I already want to wear most of what she has made.

Sometimes it is nice to take a step back. Get away from the internet, blogging and other blogs, as much as I love them. Away from TV and job hunting. Just take a little break and ignore it all for a while. It is so restful. I feel positively peaceful.

Chuck x

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November Style

I wonder who styles Zara's lookbooks. I wonder if it is an individual or a team, whether it is done in-house or out. Google isn't being particularly revealing. Not that it matters - I'm just curious. Whoever they are, they're doing an excellent job. 

Kasia Strauss looks beautiful, the clothes look beautiful, I have a bit of a problem with those naff biker boots but you can't have it all. There is some top print clashing and J. Crew-esque mixed up ladylike-ness. Also, I have been wanting an interestingly printed watercolour maxi for aaaages... If I had to pick just one look though it has to be the androgyny. That long coat, loose trousers and simple shirt are just perfick.

If my November looked like this I would be very happy.

Chuck x

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Sunday Book: Possession - A. S. Byatt

Brilliant and interesting fiction ahoy!

Any British readers here will be aware of the massive hoo-ha (now how do you spell that?) that kicked off over this year's Booker shortlist. Critics savaged the judges for favouring 'readability' over literary excellence. I haven't read any of the shortlist - oops - so I can't comment on them but it was interesting to read a previous Booker prize winner. The 1990 Booker prize winner in fact. [I just checked the archive and I have actually read the 2009 and 1989 winners as well - 2009 awesome, 1989 not my cup of tea.] I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this single book could kick the whole of the 2011 list's arse. It is stunning.


A. S. Byatt's Possession is a piece of brilliance. It is magnificently deep without being pretentious, academic without being dry, poetic without being impenetrable, theoretical without being plot-less... There is loads of lovely plot. I love plot. Some people believe that is philistine but I would raise them Shakespeare. Willy Shakes loves a nice bit of plot. So there. Anyway, Possession is a double story - the story of contemporary academics discovering the story of two Victorian poets. Byatt's Victorians are so rounded, such complete characters that I actually had to google them to check they weren't real. Not only has Byatt written back stories and dialogue for Christabel LaMotte and Randolph Henry Ash she has written dramatic monologues, poems, letters and short stories. She has even written modern academic essays on their work. It blows my mind.

It would be easy, given this, for the Victorians to be the dominant force within this novel or romance as Byatt very specifically terms it but she balances the stories expertly. I possibly even preferred the modern story line - the apparently useless Roland Michell and the glacially beautiful Maud Bailey. The competitive world of academia is unexpectedly gripping and suspense filled! Academics slugging it out for scraps of art and history, discovering new mysteries that overturn theory, secrets and scandal, literary detectives, sneaking around in the dead of night... It is awesome. I don't remember it being like that when I was dabbling in academia but then Byatt isn't talking undergraduates, these are professional academics. Clearly it gets more exciting.

I don't think that you need any marked interest in academia or Victorian literature but maybe it helps. I did really enjoy being briefly re-emerged in that world and reading what feels like very real Victorian poetry. I think the romance and adventure and unbelievable writing will grip everyone though. Did I mention that it is a brilliant book? You should definitely pick it up if you haven't read it. If you have read it, leave a comment or email me and we can get all excited about how great it is.

Chuck x

Friday, November 11, 2011

Struggling to Explain Irony

Isn't it excellent when, among all your many many repetitive promotional emails, you see something that actually makes you grin? The Net-a-Porter exclusive holiday jumper collection did that to me. I'm sure many of you got it too but I couldn't resist whacking it up here. I mean, look at all that crazily expensive, totally amazing, ugly crap!


The boyf came home the other day completely baffled. He had seen a guy in a reindeer sweater. He didn't get it. Levels of bafflement increased exponentially though when I tried to explain that ugly Christmas jumpers were actually so hot right now. He couldn't wrap his head around it at all. I don't blame him - fashion is so weird sometimes. Case in point:

  • A brilliant contemporary designer has made an ugly jumper.
  • That ugly jumper costs a mind bending £1040.
  • I want that jumper for it is amazing.
Where is the logic in that? This is such a great festive promotion though. I love it and I want to embrace it in all its snuggly, cuddly, ugly glory. Good stuff.

Chuck x

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Loaf 3


Check out that strata! Sexy, yes? Managed to do away with the giant cavern hole this time round - added more flour and it totally worked. Weirdly, the mixture seemed wetter and more difficult to work with. No idea why. Anyone know? I slightly under-cooked Loaf 2 so the crust wasn't all that it could be and the centre was slightly too moist. Overcompensated this time by over-cooking it and slightly burning the outside but I think I'd rather err on that side. Things I have learnt about sourdough - you can't really judge whether it is sufficiently cooked by crust colour. It may look golden and delicious but it could be a big sloppy mess in the middle. Listen to your cookbook, it knows better than you, and over-bake. Next thing I need to learn - how to make my sourdough taller. Just because I'm curious. I wonder if Albert (my starter) isn't energetic enough. Might try and perk him up by force of will. Did any of you start a starter?

N.B. Loaf 3 is seen styled (ha!) with Courgette and Fennel soup made by loverly boyf. Soup/stew/pie season is upon us. Possibly the best thing about winter, along with knitwear.

Chuck x

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Misdirection

I learnt a lot from 10 Things I Hate about You...

Look at all these pretty pictures. They were taken by Rockie Nolan, the beautiful Texan lady in the third picture, and can be further admired on her lovely blog and flickr. I'm having a bit of a flickr moment right now. Aren't they gorgeous and feminine? I want to drift around in them.





And what do you know? You didn't even notice that I don't have anything to say for myself! And I didn't have to flash my boobs or anything...

Chuck x

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Five Favourite Friday Fings

(a little bit late)

1. How amazing are Elizabeth's latest Stella McCartney nails? She has crazy nail skillz. Also of note are her recent Christopher Kane aqua gel nails, her Versus and her Miu Miu inspired nails - see them all here. I definitely need to make more of an effort with my nails. She also makes fab Proenza Schouler inspired bracelets. Some people have all the talent.

2. I can't remember whose blog I saw this cuff on (sorry) but I love it. So simple and unisex but still beautiful. This, among a couple of hundred other favourites, is definitely going on my To Buy When I Have A Proper Paid Job list. I could happily wear it every day.

3. This was definitely Mallory. Seriously, eek! I LOVE this chocolate duvet set. R has banned it from our bed (I know, no taste) which is a tragedy but also possibly for the best since it would set my poor, beleaguered bank account back $265 AUD. Darn...

4. I know this COS collar is everywhere at the moment but, particularly after seeing it on Rachel, I just can't resist re-posting it. It is so perfect. Look at that lovely bib. Reminds me of the father in the Disney Peter Pan. Anyone else see that? I really think this would be a useful addition to my wardrobe - I do have a fine jumper collection - but €35 isn't really an option at the mo. I do have Christmas on the brain though so perhaps this could go on my gift list?

5. Occasionally I get sucked back into the glamorous world of Lisa Eldridge. This is one of those times. I watched a whole bunch this weekend but the one that struck me most was this beautiful liquid liner look. I'm planning on trying it in purple but I am blatantly just going to make a big mess. That should be fun though!

Hope y'all had a great weekend.

Chuck x 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Love, Cake and Heston

I have always enjoyed Heston Blumenthal's flights of fancy on the tellybox. Sometimes they look delicious, mostly they look bizarre but they always look intriguing. Now, though, he has gained my love! Or rather the solicitous staff at his new restaurant Dinner have gained my love. They are so delightful... Vaguely intimidating, sure, but delightful. R and I went to Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental yesterday for our anniversary and they wow-ed us. For an extra special occasion we treated ourselves to the set price lunch, which is just about affordable, and spent a few hours enjoying the park side view and eating lovely food. I had a lemon and goat's curd salad, ham hock with the most delicious cabbage and popcorn crackling and caramel coated, light-as-air, raspberry and coconut cake with raspberry and coconut sorbet. Nothing scandalous, simply excellent. Deliciousness levels climbed throughout the meal - the starter (imo) was a bit hit and miss but the pudding was sublime. I couldn't stop oohing and aahing at it. I managed to make it last about half an hour.

And then, after pudding, look what we were presented with...


Earl-grey infused chocolate fondant with a carraway biscuit

AWW!! The maitre d' also congratulated us on our anniversary. So sweet. This is all because one of the waiters, when accompanying me to the loo (weird, right? or is that just me?), was making small talk about whether we were here for an occasion and I casually mentioned our anniversary. Ah, the attention to detail. It melts my heart! I'm fairly sure I blushed. It is these little things that really make a meal. It was so adorable. We had a fab time although that could have been the excellent company...


Have a great Bonfire Night.

Chuck x

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Dream Coat


I saw this coat in Topman today and tried it on and it is so lovely. It is made from this beautiful, colour flecked Harris tweed. It has such a sweet little collar, hidden buttons and huge, deep pockets. Proper man pockets, not like those decorative ones you get on women's coats or, god forbid, pocket-less jackets! You can fit stuff in them and everything. I tried a Medium and it was just the right size over a jumper with the sleeves rolled up. It also reminded me of this A.P.C. number. Maybe it was because my hair was looking particularly ginger today and I was wearing a classic red lipstick but it looked mega awesome. Ladylike but masculine, elegant but comfortable - perfectly balanced. The only problem? It is £250...

Also, what do you think about this being menswear? The collar is as girly as anything I own but I guess there isn't anything wrong with men in girly clothes. Or maybe the material of the coat overrides the collar? Whatever. Love.

Chuck x

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tea I've Tried

I've read some really good stuff on the internet in the last few days. New blogs and new writers (new to me anyway) who are doing excellent things. Lapin de Lune's aesthetic is lovely and Chelsea Fagan's writing is hilarious. Bit of a girl crush on both the quality and the quantity of her content. The obvious response to this is write a slightly random, short and frivolous review of my new favourite teas. I know, I know, but the heart wants to write what the heart wants to write. What can I do? My heart is full of tea...


PG Tips - the Fresh One / Pukka - Morning Time
The London Tea Company - White tea, elderflower and apricot

First up, PG Tips, for some reason I have a bag full of samples of this. Don't know why. They have a new range of teas - the Fresh one, the Strong one and the Delicate one. The names walk the fine line between informative and annoying, personally I think they veer towards the annoying but that is just me. The blurb says, 'Pressed within hours of picking to give a uniquely clean, smooth, golden and fresh-tasting tea'. I think smooth and golden may be a bit of a stretch but actually... *drum roll* ...they do make a really good cup of tea. Not the ground breaking conclusion you were expecting? Tough luck. This is nice tea. It doesn't taste substantially different from any other cup of builder's tea, it just tastes better. You can make a good, strong cup of tea without any bitterness or unpleasant after taste. I had four or five cups yesterday and enjoyed them all a great deal. I think I'm actually going to buy some of this, with my money and everything (this may also be influenced by the fact that I have, approximately, 19 vouchers for it, anyone want one?).


Next stop, Pukka. I have a fond place in my heart for Pukka because, despite the slightly silly name, they make interesting but delicious herbal teas and they started in Bristol. Excuse me while I wallow briefly in nostalgia... There we go, shook it off. Morning Time tea contains 'Fairtrade superior rooibos leaf (70%), honeybush leaf (10%), licorice root, red ginseng (whole root) (5%), roasted black maca root'. Don't know what that last thing is but it tastes nice. One to try if you are a redbush fan like myself. Gentle, slightly sweet, won't strip paint. Just what you need sometimes. Warning - for some reason I found the last mouthful of each cup a bit gross. Possibly this tea doesn't work on a slightly cooler level, possibly it is too strong down there. I don't know. Chuck it.


And finally, the London Tea Company. The place that I've just finished interning at had a killer tea cupboard and that is where I first tried this. Realistically it isn't something I'm going to be buying for myself anytime soon because it is (just looked it up) £3.99 for 15 teabags and that feels pretty steep to me. It is delicious though. I get very, perhaps unreasonably, angry at herbal and fruit teas that don't taste of anything/don't taste of what they claim too. It is no good looking and smelling all delicious, stoopid tea, you won't fool me! I know that really you just taste of warm wee. Not this one though. Blissfully fragrant and apricot-y. And apparently it is 'created for your skin' which is a positive sounding but miraculously unspecific claim. Warning - because this has tea proper in it beware overbrewing. Do not leave the tea bag in, it will ruin your expensive tea.


So there you go. No minimal beauty, comedy or social commentary but some very sound tea suggestions. Also, while I've got you here, has anyone tried the truly disgusting sounding Twinings Cherry & Cinnamon tea?? I'm intrigued because it sounds so awful but there is absolutely no way that I'm buying it. Instead I am going to go make myself a cup of tea. Have worked up quite an appetite...


Chuck x

Monday, October 31, 2011

Wooooooo


Now I'm not really a Halloween gal but this is both cute and edible - i.e. two of my favourite things. I still think iced biscuits are massively overrated as a baked good but I'll eat most things given the opportunity and this wasn't bad. And it is all festive. Major seasonal props. I hope all the Halloween fans out there have had lots of spooky fun.

Boo!

Chuck x

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some Clothes I've Worn

Yeah, black trousers are definitely my safe place. They are just so blissfully versatile and they remove the whole colour coordination thing (more or less). It is difficult to find the perfect pair though. In terms of jeans types, my Levi's are a little too low cut (my kidneys like to be lovely and warm), my Uniqlo jeans are falling apart after less than a year and my new Uniqlo cords, which are lovely, do rule out a lot of textural combos. I'm nowhere on smart black trousers. The material needs to be right (not itchy, not stretchy, not shiny), the cut needs to be right (slim, not skinny), the details need to be right (proper pockets, ankle hems, ideally cuffed). I just haven't found anything suitable on the high street. One of my lovely lady friends has a great pair from the Kooples but that isn't really an option right now...

Anyone seen anything?

Chuck x

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Recent Eats

The pearl barley + good stuff is actually a loose variation one of Joy's recipes for farro salad. Farro is sadly not so supermarket available but pearl barley is one of my favourite things so I wacked it in there. Also, my new favourite thing to do with pearl barley is to cook a bunch of it and pop it in some tupperware in the fridge for whenever I need it. I Heart Easy Fridge Food. The above is quick and comforting and sweet and carby and relatively healthy - just what I need when I'm eating alone.

The most delicious thing in this post is the least appetising looking though. The mega awesome leftovers tagine was frickin' awesome. I haven't given up meat completely yet - my new stance is that when I eat it I will eat it as respectfully as possible. We bought the best quality/welfare lamb joint we could afford for Sunday lunch with friends (which was totally delicious, thanks Chef R) and relished it and then maximised the leftovers. I don't like cold, leftover lamb but smother it in spice and stew it for a few hours and it is excellent. The lamb fed six on Sunday and then with a lot of padding out (hey there chickpeas and sweet potatoes) the tagine did four more servings.  And every single meal that bit of lamb made was scrumptious. In my books that is respect. Thanks lambikin.

I made up the recipe from an amalgam of about eight internet sources and my personal inclinations and it was so good that I wrote it down to share with y'awl. Notes - every tagine recipe I read is all like blah blah blah apricots but I'm not crazy about big ole chunks of fruit in my savory food so I substituted sweet potato for sweetness. If are a fruit/meat pervert then knock yourself out but maybe scale back to standard potatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1-2 onions, chopped finely
  • 1 thumb (the weird standard measurement) of ginger, grated
  • Coriander seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Cinnamon
  • Turmeric
  • Paprika
  • Harissa
  • Honey
  • 1 generous squirt tomato puree
  • 1 can tinned tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 can chickpeas (400g), drained
  • 2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into medium sized pieces
  • Roasted lamb shoulder, cut into bite size chunks
I don't think this recipe is particularly pedantic - spice it however you fancy with any appropriate spices you can get your grubby little mitts on.

Recipe:
  1. Heat some oil in a large saucepan or cassoulet and cook the onion, garlic, ginger and spices until soft.
  2. Add the lamb, potato, tomato, puree and honey.
  3. Stew for a while, say an hour and a half. If it is looking thin then you can take the lid off for a while but otherwise leave it to do its bidnez.
  4. Stir in the chickpeas a couple of minutes before serving.
  5. Bam! Sweet, sticky, spicy tagine with lots of melty lamb and chickpea goodness.
This was one of those times where winging it worked - yey for those times!

What good things have you eaten recently? Do you have a favourite leftovers recipe? I'm always intrigued to hear new ones although I have a substantial pile of cookbooks to browse through at the moment... Weekend bliss here I come.

Chuck x