How topical, how appropriate! I'm sure there will be many flowers and much lace tomorrow. I also think that this River Island floral lace coat with a round collar and ballerina sleeves would be (Royal) wedding perfect. Mostly though I am interested in the reference to Dolce & Gabbana's SS11 show. I was looking through the slides again today and it really is a lovely collection. White crochet and lace and broderie anglaise, pale lace enmeshed florals, splashes of leopard, Sicilian sirens in black... Also, perfect gold hoops, relaxed make up, sexy ponytails and acres of tanned limbs. I am so up for my summer looking like that. On a slight aside, do anyone else's favoured summer 'looks' clash with their general style? My wardrobe is not high summer friendly. Maybe it is for the best that Great Britain averages about a week of high summer a year. Maybe...
Has anyone been watching Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets? If so, did you see the cakes and pastries episode? If so, do you remember the chocolate macaron cake? If your answer to the first two questions was yes then, undoubtedly, your third answer will also be yes because this cake was unforgettable.
For all my non-Brit, non-Raymond loving readers, let me fill you in. Raymond Blanc - hilarious French chef; latest love of my life; 65 if he's a day. His cake of dreams - imagine a cheesecake; a single giant chocolate macaron for the base; a chocolate delice (set chocolate custard); decorated in individual macarons and chocolate swirls. It was a thing of beauty. I was hypnotised. Rather optimistically I thought I could replicate it. To cut a very long (4 hrs maybe?) story short, I couldn't! I made a perfectly yummy chocolate almond custard cake but it was not Raymond's wonder cake. I am going to be a bad workman and blame my tools. A) I don't have the experience to guess boiling sugar temperature by eye and I lacked a sugar thermometer. B) Agas, much as I love them, do not give you enough temperature control to make macarons. I have made macarons successfully before in electric ovens, which I know a lot of people don't like, but they did go a bit weird in the Aga. Still edible but more like very slim brownies. This might also have been to do with the technique - previous macaron recipess have not involved italian meringue and have recquired standing and were generally easier and more effective. Raymond's is presumably the official French way though!
In the end, rather than decorate the cake with them, I made the individual macaron-brownies discs into individual macaron-brownies. I glued them together with the leftover delice rather than make any real ganche because I'm lazy and the delice was totally delice-ious (see what I did there!?). The delice is the only part I will make again, perhaps in its original context, but these poor bastardised macarons were actually rather irresistable in a gooey kind of a way...
The BBC doesn't have a recipe for the chocolate macaron cake of dreams which maybe I should have taken as a hint. Instead I patched together Raymond's chocolate macaron recipe and his chocolate delice recipe to create delicious chocolate-y messes. It was a lot of fun and the results were good but, note to self, am not Raymond. Remember this!
I'm not looking to buy a handbag at the moment but I stumbled across the one on the left and it made me think:
- I love the Céline original, I think it is a beautiful bag, I think it looks amazing on pretty much everyone who carries it.
- However, I cannot afford it. I cannot even nearly afford it. I can't, at the moment, imagine ever being able to afford it. The original is never going to happen for me.
- What do I love about the original? I assumed it was the design, I think it is beautiful after all, but if that was it I should love the ebay version just as much. It is an almost exact replica. It is real leather. The only notable difference is the absence of a tiny bit of gold lettering which is hardly the key design feature.
- And yet... I don't love it as much. I still like it but the passion has gone.
- Do I actually desire the Céline for the prestige? The label? The kudos? The status symbol?
- It seems ridiculous to scorn a bag I can afford (approximately) in a design I admittedly love for these reasons.
- I feel shallow.
What are your thoughts? I wouldn't be taking business away from Céline if I bought the replica because I could never afford the original... I'm sure there is a difference in quality but the ebay version looks like reasonably good quality for the price (£20 cheaper than the average Topshopleatherhandbag) and, again, I'm never going to be able to afford the original, no matter how great the quality is. Am I being a snob or should I be proudly wallowing in my own integrity? I'm fairly sure it's not the latter...
Am I thinking too much about handbags and not enough about binary models of gender? Undoubtedly yes!
I know! The Sunday Book on a Sunday - revolutionary! I thought I would mix things up and be punctual for once. When I say punctual I obviously mean that I read this two weeks ago in Bologna but today is still a Sunday so... Snaps for me, right?
I've been meaning to read The Secret Historyfor a couple of years but the 'rents had lost their copy, I didn't get around to buying one, I forgot, blah blah blah. Then I saw a copy when browsing in my local Oxfam bookshop (heart) and I actively slotted it into my diary and waited excitedly. It is on a lot of people's 'My Favourite Books' list, notably Reese Witherspoon and Christina's, and one of my flatmates has just loved it. I *drumroll* enjoyed it. I realise that sounds a bit understated but murder mysteries aren't really my thing so that is a positive review. Obviously it is something of an oversimplification to call this a murder mystery but that is basically the genre. It is less of a whodunnit, more of a how and whydunnit and an interesting look at the moral and personal consequences of murder. The basic plot is revealed in the first couple of pages - a group of college students feel prompted to murder one of their friend. You have to read on to discover the before and after.
The murder was engaging as these things go (that sounds weird) but I really loved the setting, the characters and the look at academia. I want to go to New England! It all sounds so preppy and delightful, except for the whole murder thing. I don't know whether it is parody or reality but it makes me want to visit! There is also something purposefully clichéd about the narrator Richard's fellow classics students. Certainly I recognise some of my peers straining at similar eccentricities. In the book though the effect is charming for the most part, although occasionally frustrating. Most interesting though is Tartt's ambiguous take on the dangers of academia. The characters seem to lose touch with their modern moral compasses as they become more engrossed in ancient history, literature and myth. I don't think the book is intended as an inditement of these things but possibly as a warning? I am going to stop trying to be clever because my dissertation has sucked all my words and intelligent thoughts out of me...
Definitely read this if you like (unusual) murder mysteries, I'm sure you'll love it.
Probably read this anyway because everyone seems to have an opinion on it and it is nice to be able to contribute.
Personally - liked it even if I didn't love it (not my genre of choice); well written; thought the ending re: Henry was a bit of a cop out; generally enjoyed it anyway though.
Apologies for the incoherence. Has anyone read it?
Makes me feel fine... Check out my new floral denim jacket (oh yeah) from The Sweetest Vintage. Great price, great service and it is spring-tastic! Sure, some people think it makes me look deranged a la 90s nursery assistants but they are wrong. I've been wearing it in the garden under the cherry blossom. Long may the good weather last especially for those of you who have the bank holiday off work.
Honey, I (Easter) baked! We baked, I should say. I've been visiting the boyf and his fam and we spent a delightful afternoon making hot cross buns. I do mean a whole afternoon - these beasties do take some time... One of those occasions where we should have read through the recipe properly before we started. 1 hr rising + 30 mins rising + 10 mins rising + 40 mins rising = a long time. The kneading and knocking back was fun though, it has made me think that maybe I should reconsider my relationship with breadmaking. We haven't previously been on the best of terms but maybe things could be about to change. Admittedly these hot cross buns aren't as good as the supermarket versions but it was my first time and they had their own charm. They were quite firm but they toasted well and, boy, did they hold a lot of butter (which is obviously the point of hot cross buns).
I used the BBC Food recipe and didn't really alter it so I won't repeat it here. I suspect the slight solidity was my own fault and I was too lazy to put the crosses on but I will be making these again.
Happy Easter Bank Holiday y'all! Hope there is sunshine everywhere.
I haven't seen these floating around online yet so I couldn't resist sharing them. They're from the FT's How to Spend it which I love for its ridiculous, borderline-obscene decadence. They aren't technically 'fashion', they are, in fact, made of wallpaper! The wonderful Damian Foxe styles, 'crafts and photographs' these chameleon creations. I know that Susie is a big fan of paper fashion and clearly she is onto something. Wallpaper has the prints! I would love to wear these dresses or paper my room in them.
Dreamy and vaguely hallucinogenic. Perfect for a Monday!
Inspired by Rachel's post about the new Vans x A.P.C collaboration (they're awesome) I pottered over to A.P.C. to re-familiarise myself with their current collection. Phwoar! I'd half-forgotten how much I love their aesthetic. So nonchalant and quiet and European. Their lookbooks are so effortless. Sure, the A.P.C. woman looks great but she doesn't want to talk to you about clothes, she would rather talk to you about Sartre or the latest art show. Naif cuts, slightly unexpected colour combinations, a kind of louche clunkiness. Intelligent, gamine Parisians' clothes. I have a bit of a crush.
Unfortunately, I totally lack the sartorial (and otherwise) self-restraint to pull this off. I want to put on necklaces and belts and layers and jackets. Too much stuff! And then I want to do interesting make up and quirky lipstick. A.P.C. women don't really wear lipstick or if they do it is a subtle rose or nude. Definitely not day-glo pink or orange. And my wardrobe is too inconsistent - leather! 50s vintage sundresses! Marty McFly! Not Parisian at all... Also, the look isn't really designed for my body type, it is designed for whispy, boyish gamines. Sizable breasts and smock dresses are not friends!
Luckily there is a way in. Gosh, I love accessories! It's a cliché but they do always fit... A dash of French nonchalance into my chaotic British wardrobe. I particularly love the tiger brooch. If it is still around for the brief period over the summer when I have a paying job I might treat myself.
Obviously I can work a bit of A.P.C. into my real life, Elisabeth and Fleurette do it particularly well, and one day I will own their striped cashmere but I know that sadly I will probably never be the A.P.C. woman. I'll still be hanging out at the art gallery though, probably wearing something ridiculous. Maybe something like my new floral denim jacket... (preview soon - v mad!).
Love you A.P.C.
Am I the only one who has unrealistic style fantasies?
I saw a woman wearing a variant of this outfit today and I thought, yes, this is the kind of coordination I can get on board with! I don't want my toes and fingernails or my handbag and my shoes to match but this is interesting. Mostly though, I would just love a pair of DM 1461s. Other favourites are the pastel versions. Lush stuff.
BEWARE: high calorie food deliciousness ahead. Those of you wanting to fit into sample sizes look away now. Those of you who embrace a bit of double cream revel in the wanton yumminess. I love Portugese custard tarts, I love everything about them. I love their buttery puff pastry, I love their sweet creaminess, I love their soft custard centres. I'm generally rather ambivalent to French custard tarts (short, flat, uniform, shortcrust pastry, set custard) but these soft, gooey, crumbly affairs are a whole different matter. I was inspired to make them after a particularly delicious example sampled at Zazu's Kitchen at the end of term. An excellent brunch treat! If you are in Bristol you should go, it is lovely. Anyway, after admiring different incarnations of these tarts I thought I would give them a go myself.
And they turned out really well! They're a bit scruffy around the edges but that was the look I was going for - I don't think they should be neat. These are little morsels of goodness that you eat with your fingers. Also, the custard sunk a bit and I didn't have quite enough of it. I would possibly recommend using a cupcake tray as opposed to a muffin tray so your tarts aren't quite as deep as mine. Generally though, mega thumbs up - sweet, creamy, crumbly.
For the recipe I used a combination of the BBC version for technique and the Jamie Oliver cheat version for flavour. Jamie just whacks in an uncooked yoghurty filling which I might try in future but I wanted to make the original proper custard versions first time round.
Ingredients: (Makes 12)
4 egg yolks
~ 167g golden caster sugar (numbers look a bit messy because I increased the original quantity)
1 tsp vanilla extract
~ 273 ml milk (not skimmed)
300 ml double cream
pinch of cinnamon
zest of 1 clementine/satsuma/orange/whatever you can get hold of...
400g puff pastry (shop bought)
butter for greasing
plain flour and icing sugar for dusting
Preheat your oven to 180oC. Grease your cupcake/muffin tray.
Heat your yolks and sugar (with a pinch of flour if you feel the need) over a low-medium heat. Don't worry if it looks a bit solid/scrappy to start with, it will become surprisingly smooth and liquid-y. Stir continuously until the mixture begins to thicken.
Add the vanilla. Gradually whisk in the cream and milk. Grate in your zest. Keep whisking continuously. The custard should be slowly thickening.
Bring to the boil - more of the continuous stirring. Traditionally you should be able to draw a clear line over the back of your custardy spoon to check that it is cooked.
Remove from the heat, put somewhere safe to cool. Strange BBC tip - cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming. I tried this, it does work but I'm not sure it is worth it. Since you are going to be in the kitchen anyway I would just stir it occasionally.
Roll out your pastry on a dusted board. Dust the pastry with a little pinch of cinnamon. Divide the pastry in two, placing one piece on top of the other. Roll this double layered pastry up like a Swiss roll. Cut into twelve slices.
Roll these slices, spiral up, into round, flat discs about 10cm wide. Press these discs into your muffin tray. Pour in the custard - I sieved mine to make sure it was smooth but that is probably unnecessary, I was just being a tad OCD.
Bake for 18-20 mins, until lovely and golden. I think mine took a bit longer because of their depth.
Do try and let them cool down at least a bit because they are better cooler. They're also excellent cold the next day *munch munch munch*...
There are lots of recipes around, you can fiddle about with them, but definitely do give these a try because they are so good! I'll definitely be making them again. They're also pretty straightforward to make as long as you give the custard the full attention it desires. I love you Portugese custard tarts.
Sexual confusion, drug abuse, Aids related death... you know, just a bit of light holiday reading. Not that those are really Patti Smith's focus in Just Kids although they are obviously present. Her extended elegy for Robert Mapplethorpe and their love and youth has received a lot of great press so I am sure a lot of you will have read it or will know about it. I have had it sitting mournfully on my bedside table waiting to be read for months. I was drawn to it partially by the good reviews but primarily by my affection for the protagonists. Not that I'm an expert on either but Horsesis such a great album (and £3.99 on Amazon!) and Patti is so strong and beautiful and Robert's photos are so beautiful. The hardcore S&M stuff isn't so much my thing but I was lucky enough to see an exhibition of his at the Accademia in Florence where his work was displayed around the David and there was just so much perfect male beauty that I nearly swooned!
And it is a lovely book, if Patti's prose occasionally strains towards the purple there is at least the sense that it isn't strained or put on, that is simply how her brain works. It was interesting to find out that she had never intended to be a singer/rock star, she struggled for a long time to become a painter and poet. Rimbaud was one of her greatest influences and though I don't know enough (anything) about 19th century French literature I am sure it comes through in her style. The real pleasure of the book is its atmosphere - New York in the late 60s and early 70s. So exciting and new and fresh. Artists everywhere, sleeping in parks, beautiful struggle... And the people they come into contact with; Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol, so many more. She makes living in squalor and suffering for your art as beautiful as any poet before her.
Because she is chronicling real life there isn't much of a plot but that doesn't seem to matter. From an outsider's perspective she seems to have done a great job of capturing a magical time and a gorgeous if sometimes difficult man. She isn't squeamish and Robert's death made me weep - I got mascara all over the hotel pillow. Also, as you can see above, loads of beautiful photos and drawings throughout. They have done a really nice job on the presentation of the book. And, seriously, two very attractive people!
A moving tribute to an age and an individual. Picturesque.
I know right, how exciting are other people's holiday pictures?? Bologna was lovely. There was real sun and everything! Beautiful, atmospheric city, lots of gorgeous Italian art and architecture, MUCH ice cream. Also, interestingly, it has the oldest university in Europe and it must be pretty huge because there are loads of young people. It just feels like a really young, fun, vibrant city - lots of attractive people out laughing and drinking and socialising in the evenings. 1, 3 and 6 are actually Parma which was a beautiful day trip but the last photo is of the hilarious statue in Bologna's main square which I love!
More Polyvore - woop! Told you I was hooked... This would be my wardrobe for going yachting (which is obviously something I do a lot of). And we're not just talking amateur yachts here, we're talking big, pimped out yachts. That or Swallows & Amazons style miniature sailing boats. Not that I can sail...
My new yacht fantasy has been inspired by my new deck shoes. I bought them on ebay and I love them a lot. Unfortunately they are too big. They are a UK 7 and I'm between a 6 and a 7. It is always a bit of a gamble buying shoes online and this time I lost. Will try them with insoles but I'm not hopeful. If that doesn't work I will have to sell them because I can't keep them, no matter how much I love them, if they'll never fit. Would anyone be interested? Chatham deck shoes, RRP £75, UK size 7, £10ish + packaging. Email me if you are.
Damn you, inbetweeny feet! I love these shoes. Maybe I can will them half a size smaller?
This is going to be the last of these for a while. I did not pack well for Easter; was very lazy and just threw a bunch of stuff in a bag. Got home, unpacked, realised that all I had managed to pack for a month was two pairs of black jeans, a pair of denim short shorts (optimistic much?), two t-shirts, two shirts, nine jumpers. No skirts, dresses or variety of trousers and very little by way of top halves. Why nine jumpers?? No idea. Perfectly functional but not thrilling for you lot! I am also planning to spend quite a lot of time in my pyjamas writing my dissertation - not glamorous...
This is my perfect comfort outfit. Soft, snuggly, easy, thoughtless dressing. Especially good when you need to be brave. Moth-eaten cashmere makes everything better.
In my sock drawer it is Christmas time ALL the time... I love exposed socks, even if they are a bit creepy.
Hey new hair. I'm not really used to you yet. I do appreciate that you are much quicker to wash and comb though. Why did Topshop stop making their Pippa jeans? They were the best. Sad face.
Chronicling my outfits like this it is really brought home to me how schizophrenic and inconsistent my personal style is. I knew this, I am too indecisive to focus intently on a single look, but it is painfully obvious here. I will never make an internationally acclaimed personal style blog - no USP (apart from unpredictability)! What do you think? Do you have a 'look'? Should I? Is it the grown up thing to do?
Ok, it's not Sunday but time is an illusion, lunch time doubly so. Roll with it and bonus points to everyone who gets the reference. I started The Story of Edgar Sawtelleages ago, when I went up to Edinburgh at the end of January, but had to put it down when academic pressures mounted. Luckily it was very easy to come back to and I finally finished it last week. I know that books don't appreciate being abandoned like that but sometimes it is unavoidable.
I am going to keep this brief... It is ok. I would recommend it if you are a dog lover because there are lots of lovely puppy dogs. I Heart Puppies. There are many charming dogs charmingly portrayed and that is nice. If you are a cat person though I would say step away now. The dogs are the redeeming feature in the novel. The book is quite engagingly written and the plot is occasionally gripping but it is deeply flawed and the dogs are its real saviours. The flaw is, in a single word, Hamlet. There is no reference in the blurb to the Danish Prince but I was most unimpressed to realise 250 pages in that this is just another re-writing of the big H. It took me 250 pages to notice because Hamlet fades in and out of the novel. The bits without Hamlet are good, the bits with Hamlet are annoying, heavy-handed and generally a bit crap. Don't get me wrong, I love Shakespeare and Hamlet is an incredibly deep and psychologically interesting play, but I do not wish to be force fed Willy Shakes against my will! I study English Literature, I did not want my one non-course book of the term to try and clumsily sneak the Bard into my reading. Aside from my personal resentment the whole thing is just done quite badly. Hamlet just doesn't really suit the plot or style of this novel about dog-breeders and family resentments in the 20th century American hinterland. Yes, the novel and the play both feature family resentments but that doesn't necessarily make them a natural fit. The ending doesn't work at all and lots of the comparisons just feel very forced which is a pity because a) there are lots of nice dogs and b) there are the makings of a good book underneath the giant Bardic failure. Frustrating stuff.
Conclusion: Lovely dogs and novelistic potential overwhelmed by clumsy and unsuccessful use of Hamlet. Potentially some curiosity value but generally frustrating. Nice dogs though.
Off today for a mini adventure to Bologna. Will be back on Saturday but I am going to try and cleverly schedule some posts in the meantime. Either this will work seamlessly or there will be quite a few posts on Saturday! Has anyone been to Bologna btw? If you have any recommendations do leave a comment/email me on the off chance that I stumble across some internet. Mostly I'm just planning to stuff myself full of ice cream. Yeah...
This is the extent of my luggage plus what I'm wearing on the plane + the boring stuff (toiletries and clean pants and socks!) + the contents of my handbag. Am thrilled to be reading some books of my choice. I've been looking forward to these for months. Maybe there will even be some sunshine - eek!
My First Polyvore. I'd long avoided Polyvore on the basis that it would be far too complicated for me. I have much of the parentals' Ludditism about me afterall. Just wrote an article thingy about 'librarian chic' though and thought I would go and have a little fiddle and, as I imagine most of you know, it is ridiculously easy and potentially addictive! The above was achieved in under five minutes and I am now hooked. Expect many more...