Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Calming Quartz

I don't really buy into the healing properties of quartz and crystals but I do think they are very beautiful. Also, today has been frustrating enough for me to be almost willing to take a punt on a long shot! I have been craving a rough(ish) cut quartz necklace for a long time. They are slightly ubiquitous on the interwebz but they always look irresistibly lovely on the bloggers who own and wear them. I had seen a lot of very nice but very expensive (at least for me) quartz necklaces but not so many midrange ones. Luckily I have recently come across some more budget friendly but still beautiful alternatives. Sarah drew my attention to Stephanie Moreau's etsy shop Savage Salvage. As suggested in the shop name her necklaces have a tough, savage loveliness to them and my favourites are those where she combines the crystals with rough cuts and bullet casings. They are fairly chunky and generally gorgeous and with $5 UK shipping definitely a possibility...

As you can see, my affection for orange has struck again...

My very gorgeous friend Grace, who also has very gorgeous taste, alerted me to Stone & Honey, another US based jeweller/jewellery seller, that makes beautiful quartz pieces. These are much more delicate but still feature beautiful stones and crystals. Maybe I should get one of each so I can wear them dependent on my mood and toughness: delicacy ratios? International shipping costs are fairly prohibitive ($30!?) but these necklaces are lovely and I can imagine getting a lot of wear out of them...

 As ever, I want them all! So much loveliness. I'm not sure I feel much calmer - maybe fractionally? - but perhaps you need direct physical quartz contact. In the meantime maybe I need to go do some breathing exercises and think peaceful meditative thoughts.

Chuck x

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Yasmin Kianfar

I can't remember how I came across Yasmin Kianfar but I'm glad I did. She is only 23 but the CSM graduate is already creating beautiful, serene, mature clothes. Kianfar takes inspiration from 1920s erotica which is clearly an excellent starting point but her collection still feels very modern and not bound to any single period or obvious reference. She is currently being stocked exclusively at Browns and Opening Ceremony and I might try and make the pilgrimage to Browns to admire her work in person. Obviously it is difficult to judge over the interwebz but the quality looks beautiful. I think her lookbook is perfect too - I love the clothes, the model, the quiet atmosphere. I don't really need to explain the allure just enjoy for yourself...

(All images from Yasmin Kianfar)

Chuck x

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bad like Michael Jackson

I bought both... Guess that is my work wardrobe sorted for the next couple of months...

[Btw, all the Bruce Bogtrotter cake helped me to grow into the trousers in like three days - achievement!]

Chuck x

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Bruce Bogtrotter Cake

Man, I am reveling in my short window of free time. I have watched very many silly films, I have cooked some very delicious food. First up I made Joy the Baker's Chicken Pot Pie with Cream Cheese and Chive Biscuits which was divine. It was everything you could want from a meal - creamy, carby, comforting... And crammed with vegetables but not in an overly vegetable-y way. Completely recommend it. I think American biscuits might even ease me towards an appreciation of (some) dumplings, a food I had a hate-hate relationship with at school.

Then I made my Bruce Bogtrotter cake. This isn't the actual Bruce Bogtrotter cake from the Roald Dahl cookbook, which one of my flatmates owns, but I feel it has earned the title by way of its general overwhelming power and chocolatiness. I should preface this by saying that I never like chocolate cake - I always find it dry, bland and uninteresting. I never buy it in cafes or cook it at home because it is always a disappointment. However, some greedy little piglet has been pushing me to make the Baked Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cake for ages and I have a lot of faith in their recipes. I have made their brownies and their cookies and they have been totally delicious. Also, I love salt. Love it! Think it makes pretty much everything more delicious, inevitably including chocolate cake.

My attempt at the cake looks like something a five year old might make and it has very little aesthetically in common with the Baked original but do not underestimate its heavenly goodness. It is three layers of chocolate cake, each layer sandwiched with a layer of salted caramel sauce, a layer of chocolate caramel ganache and a sprinkling of sea salt, all pasted in ganache and dusted with a pinch more sea salt. Despite a firm lecture on the value of independence and individuality all my layers merged into one sticky, gooey super layer. Not that this took away from the cake's charm, in my humble opinion... It was a thing of genius and, interestingly, a cake that matured really well (which was good because there is no way that this thing could be eaten in a single sitting unless you had 20+ guests). I normally only like cake hot out of the oven but this just kept getting better over two days. It just kept on knocking people's socks off...

i) This cake does take a loooong time. I mean a loooooooooooooong time.
ii) This cake requires crazy amounts of dairy product. One whole pot of sour cream, one whole pot of double cream, over a pack of butter in the cake... The recipe says TWO ENTIRE PACKS of butter in the icing. This is obviously crazy so I only used half a pack and I still had enough icing to thickly frost two layers of cake, the whole outside of the cake, the 9 cupcakes the remaining cake mixture made and quite a lot of myself with a fair bit left over.
iii) The quantities generally are a bit insane. I had left over everything.
iv) There is a lot of washing up!

Ingredients: (Makes large cake and a small batch of cupcakes)
Chocolate Cake:

  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups hot water
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 2/3 cups plain flour
  • 3 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups, 283g butter (they have some marg in there but I'm not a fan)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Salted Caramel Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup double cream
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Chocolate Caramel Ganache:

  • 1 pound, 450g dark chocolate - I used one standard 200g pack because I didn't check the conversion.
  • 1 1/2 cups double cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 cups, 450g butter - I used 125 g.

Chocolate Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160oC. Butter and grease three 8-inch cake tins.
  2. Medium bowl - combine the cocoa, sour cream and hot water and set aside to cool. This will look like weird brown water and taste gross but go with it.
  3. Medium bowl 2 - measure out your flour, baking powder and salt together.
  4. Big bowl - beat the butter until pale. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, beating them in one at a time. Add the vanilla and generally beat until everything is incorporated.
  5. Take it in turn to add the flour mixture and the cocoa water mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture.
  6. This should now be looking like a normal if slightly wet cake mixture. Divide among your tins and bake for 30-40 mins, or until cooked.
  7. Leave to cool on wire racks.

Salted Caramel Sauce:

  1. Small saucepan - combine the cream and salt. Bring to simmer over a low heat. Don't burn the cream.
  2. Medium saucepan - combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and golden syrup over a high-ish heat. Cook until a dark amber, Baked estimate this as 6-8 minutes. Don't burn yourself.
  3. Remove the caramel from the heat and cool for one minute. Add the cream mixture to the caramel and stir in. Then stir in the sour cream.
  4. Leave to cool ready for assembly.

Chocolate Caramel Ganache:

  1. Medium bowl - break your chocolate into.
  2. Small saucepan - bring cream to simmer over a low heat.
  3. Medium saucepan - combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and golden syrup as before. Cook until amber.
  4. Remove the caramel from the heat and cool for one minute. Add the cream to the caramel and stir slowly in.
  5. Pour the hot caramel mixture over the chocolate and leave for one minute. Then stir to combine.
  6. Now beat the mixture until quite cool and start adding the cubed butter. Continue to beat until fluffy.
Now combine. Cake layer, caramel layer, ganache layer, sprinkling of salt, cake layer, caramel layer, ganache layer, sprinkling of salt, cake layer, full cake frosting in chocolate ganache, decorative flourish of salt on top. Cue much gorging.

Go forth and prosper my morbidly obese but gloriously happy chocolate covered children!

Chuck x

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Moving on Out

A man with a van. He came, he saw, he removed. Now my beautiful room is sad and empty. After a year in truly grotty university accommodation and then a year in a cruddy, collapsing student flat I finally found my housing groove. Our house this year hasn't been perfect - I nearly got hypothermia during that hideously resilient cold streak before Christmas - but I have loved it despite its flaws. More specifically, I have loved my bedroom. My first nice student bedroom, my first double bed, all the wall space I could dream of, a beautiful fireplace with a mantel piece... Mantel pieces are the best. Fact. What better way to display all one's lovely, decorative crap? I shall miss it greatly. I'm going to miss being a student generally...

I'm feeling a bit maudlin, so sorry about that! I have preserved fragments of my lovely room, now departed.
May my next nesting spot be half as nice.

R. I. P. Room. You shall be missed.

Chuck x

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tea Loving Blogger: Attic, Bristol

Hurrah, I'm finally beginning to feel relaxed post-dissertation! Sure, I'm still waking up in stress panics but other than that I'm feeling chipper. I partially attribute this to my tea tasting date at Attic on Saturday. R is considerably better at time and stress management than me so he took some time off from revision to accompany me to this specialist tea shop way on the other side of Bristol. Yes, it was a 45 minute walk but we had pre-booked so it wasn't closed like last time we tried to go... Fail. This time was a success though. We had bought a Groupon voucher for their 'tea tasting experience' on a whim and it was an excellent call.

We spent two hours drinking five teas and not talking about work and it was bliss. White tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea and pu'erh tea. I know it is a blogger cliché but I really do love tea. Not as much as the owners of Attic though - such expertise! There were multiple tea blends, tea timers and fun tea makers... The staff were very friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, talking us through each of the teas that we tried. I drink bucket loads of strong, milky, standard builders tea and then I drink quite a lot of herbal and fruit teas and I am partial to the occasional Lady/Earl Grey but I didn't actually, I realise in retrospect, know all that much about tea teas. Now I feel more informed as well as refreshed.

At Attic they talk a lot about the various health benefits of tea which is nice but not my main area of interest. I'm mostly in it for the taste which I think contributes to ambivalent feelings towards green tea. Attic green tea and oolong tea (which is very green - like spinach water!) was nicer than any green tea I have ever tasted, it was very soft and gentle and not harsh or acrid like lots of green tea. It was still quite vegetal though and not my favourite. That prestigious award goes to their black 'Tippy Yunnam' and white 'Silver Needle' tea. The black tea was totally delicious and the first black tea I have ever enjoyed without tea. I might even buy some online once I've left Bristol - it was that good. Warm, slightly peppery but comforting... What can I say, I am a classicist. The white tea (above) was beautifully subtle with a very gentle aftertaste. At first I found it a little bland but then I got into it. I'm still not an expert in tea description though so if you can you should try it out.

I suspect that the 'tea tasting experience' is a bit of a ripoff full price but it was a bargain with the voucher. I have never chain drunk so much tea and I'm a tea-aholic. I would really recommend Attic though for just a cup or two of really delicious, vaguely thought provoking tea if you are in the area. If you are a serious tea devotee who is not a Sou'Westerner maybe try their online shop, I think they have their full range and their fab tea makers. I don't know if it was something magic in the tea or just the relaxed atmosphere of the cafe but I practically floated home afterwards. Generally a delightful experience even though I did have to go to the loo every half hour for the rest of the day...

Chuck x

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shopping Montage

They are in! Strange sense of exhausted anti-climax... I did everything I could and now I just have to wait. Blargh. In the meantime I'm going to settle down for a very early night and some Grey's Anatomy. Ah, heaven.

Anyway, I popped down to Broadmead, the chain store capital of Bristol, after the hand-in to see what the shops had in stock. Quite feel like treating myself post deadline and I saw a couple of nice things but I couldn't decide - this is where you come in! I'm currently incapable of making decisions and I need your help. Yes, I mean you.

  1. The first outfit is actually a trick - I LOVE this top (for some reason the website doesn't have the mustard/white combination I'm so delightfully modelling), the little detail, the colour, the stripes, the slightly thicker material etc. but even the L didn't quite fit my XL chest. Stupid chest. Please other people buy and appreciate how lovely and expensive it looks. I like the mauve (?) skirt but it is something crazy like £60 and I don't love it. 
  2. On to the first real competitor - the Zara hot pink trousers. They're gorgeous; again a nice thick-ish fabric, not lycra-y like many of Zara's trousers, flat front, sharp crease, natty turn ups, knock out colour... My only issue is that I'm kind of between sizes. Geez, Zara's sizing is inconsistent! [A complaint for another day.] One size was arguably too tight and the next size was kind of loose around the crotch. I might be willing to overlook this though because they are so smart. Also, I can totally envisage myself going to work in these. Another factor that I haven't mentioned - ideally whatever item I buy would fit into my home wardrobe and my upcoming office wardrobe. I'm willing to be a bit flamboyant at the office but this is still a men in suits kind of a place...
  3. The second contender - the Zara bright orange skirt. You may know by now that I am a big fan of orange and this would be a new height of orange for my wardrobe. I love the colour and the vaguely 60s shift shape and pockets. I LOVE a skirt/dress with pockets, they make me happy, they give my hands something to do. I think this may be the most flattering contender. Also, I really need some skirts. I am suffering a serious skirt draft at the moment.
  4. And finally - the UO silky sleeveless shirt (not online). More vibrant colour. Sense a theme? I know that colour blocking is old news by now but I'm still feeling deeply attracted to bright brights. They're so cheerful and I have so much neutral in my wardrobe for them to pop against. I have been looking for a sleeveless shirt for ages and this was actually my favourite item in the changing room. I very nearly bought it BUT there are some serious cons - it is quite cropped and there is a serious risk of my flashing people my stomach and no one is ready for that, there is also quite a lot of bra action going on which isn't really office suitable and the price! This a small top, you do not get much for your excessive amount of money. I'm not surprised UO are struggling financially, it is shockingly expensive in there... 

Sadly, I feel that the enthusiastic ebay-ing I have been doing recently has ruined the high street for me. Everything is just SO expensive. I actually think my two Zara pieces are quite reasonable but at the same time that money would just go so much further on ebay! It is a treat to have new new clothes though and I have worked wery wery hard... If I were to treat myself to one thing what should it be?

Chuck x

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Best. Tapestry. Animal. Loafers. EVER.

Not that there is much competition - I haven't seen many other tapestry animal loafers. But if I do I can't imagine they will ever be as good as these By Paige numbers...

For realsies! [N.B. due to my deadline tomorrow and the general lack of sleep this week I may sound a little hysterical, apologies. Normal mental health should resume next week. Hopefully.] I have been craving some of these slipper style loafers (do they have a more official name?) for ages. First it was just plain velvet or maybe a gold fleur de lys but then Leandra's amazing Stubbs & Wootton maracas loafers got me hooked on figures. And now these beauties...

Found, btw, via That Kind of Woman, a really beautiful tumblr that I suggest you check out if you don't know it already. She has something crazy like 13,000 followers though so chances are you do. I have a lot of love for her personal style and general aesthetic. Anyway, she has just become the proud possessor of the first pair of fox loafers.

They're just so gloriously mad! The serious risk though would be that come high stress times (like now, say) I would start talking to the animals on my shoes like Nietszche used to talk to his feet. You are really handsome, my foxy friends. I like your golden tawny fur. What are your thoughts on gender binaries? Ikr, super crap! ... *I am going to cut this short before I get seriously caught up in a chat with my theoretical loafer foxes*

Chuck x

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thinking Hats

My giant, ultimate, double deadline is on Friday - eek! I left the house today (to go to a tutorial - nothing cool or exciting, don't worry) and it felt like a whole new, unexplored world out there. You know things have got bad when not one, but two of your flatmates separately comment, with genuine surprise, on how great you look wearing clothes. My pyjamas are exhausted at the moment from over-wear. Luckily, while my body has been looking gross my head has been looking very natty...

Behold my thinking hat!

A genooine panama purloined from my father, it is my new favourite thing. I like to think that it helps me concentrate on my work. This is possibly a sign of my impending mental breakdown but let's not focus on that. Let us focus on the lovely hat.

I have a massive head. Plenty of people say they have big heads but mostly only those people who have never got into a head measuring competition with me. This is a large panama - it comes down over half of R's face, right down to the nose, it is like seeing a small child wear a saucepan for a hat - but I can only just cram it on. I love hats but because of my freakish head sizing issue they are very rarely an option. Hence why I was so excited when I realised I could jam on the above panama.

I'm crushing on hats quite hard at the moment. Obviously there is the beautiful Maison Michel hat which is properly rooting it self down in my subconscious and now these gorgeous bec & bridge RAFW 11 pieces of pastel perfection.

I could not love these anymore. They are perfect hats. They are a collaboration between bec & bridge and Australian heritage-y brand Akubra (who have some very covet-able hats of their own). I want them in my life.

Sadly, that seems unlikely. So many obstacles. A) I don't even know if these are going into general production (!). B) Akubra doesn't have any UK stockists. C) bec & bridge seems to have fairly limited UK availability. D) I maybe couldn't afford them. E) I have a ginormous head so they wouldn't fit anyway. Mega sad face.

A more realistic replacement for that dream might be something from Christys' Hats. They've been on my radar for a while as somewhere that does XL hats as opposed to 'one size fits my ear'. I've checked their measurements and I think their XL might just be big enough for me. As well as their generous sizing they have an impressive array of lovely hats made in Britain. I'm particularly taken with the Knightsbridge...

It's going on my 'When/If I have a bit of money in the summer' shopping list. Also on there, a set of What Katie Did undies - been on my theoretical lists forever. I can't remember what else. I need to start writing actual list not just in my head lists because clearly those aren't reliable. Because clearly I'm beginning to lose the plot just a little.

Chuck x

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why I am a Dog Person

Not that my dog could ever do that...

Chuck x

Friday, May 13, 2011

Oh My Knuckledusting Days

It has been tooooo long since I've last browsed the Bordello shoe selection. Luckily Fritha reminded me to check back in. 'Cos otherwise I might have missed these...

I know that everyone has had occasions where they just want to punch someone in the face with their shoe. Don't tell me you haven't, I won't believe it for a second. Now you can take that longing to a whole new level. And you thought you could do some damage with a bog standard shoe... The mind boggles.

I am in love with these. Such a mad idea. Leg Avenue, I salute you. Kudos.

Chuck x

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ice Cream Trousers

Oh, the cruel irony.

R and I decided to take a break from revision/dissertations on Sunday and go on a wee ice cream date. There is an actual (well, as actual as possible in Britain) gelateria we have been meaning to try fo' eva. It is a bit of a trek, 35 mins each way, but the sun was shining and we were feeling kerazy. I was particularly satisfied that I could wear my new ice cream coloured trousers to go and have ice cream in. They were an impulse budget purchase in Bologna from a chain store I've never heard of and the colour is spring-tastic and much more flattering on me than the Isabel Marant-esque pink pastel version that they were also selling. As far as ice cream goes I would compare them to a plastic-y mint chocolate chip. Very jolly.

Anyway. Problem the first - the finishing on the troos isn't very good and it turns out that the inside seams rub when you try and walk any real distance, they also don't stay up very well because they are quite low cut. Problem the second - the gelateria was closed! No warning or nuffin. Grumpily we stropped into a local supermarket and bought some boring supermarket ice cream instead.

And then... I dropped boring supermarket chocolate ice cream on my ice cream trousers! The ice cream adventure went wrong in pretty much every possible way. And I have the added bonus of feeling about five again. I had forgotten the dangers of a) pale clothes and b) chocolate ice cream and c) the combination of the two. Better hope it comes out in the wash...

(I am busting a pretty sweet move, ey?)
((I am also impressed by the way that I am wearing almost straight ebay))

Chuck x

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Sunday Book: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Possibly my longest post title? Also, possibly the first book that I have featured here that could be described as 'chick lit'. Yes, the term is frustrating and arguably destructive but sometimes shorthands can be useful. Basically, this probably isn't one for the chaps. Blah blah blah, gender stereotyping, I know, I know, I am up to my eyeballs in 'gender' at the moment but still, I know plenty of girls that I would recommend this book to and not a single boy off the top of my head. The (fairly minimal) historical detail piqued my interest and I now want to learn more about the German occupation of the Channel Islands in the Second World War but this little novel is predominantly about the romance. And we're talking small 'r', modern misinterpretation romance - the warm and smushy, heart-melting kind.

By the way, none of this is a criticism, I really enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It has all the hallmarks of a nice read - funny, gutsy heroine; quaint historical details; strong, silent hero; quirky minor characters; love, misunderstandings, reconciliation, happy ending. All good stuff even if 'nice', 'gutsy', 'quaint' and 'quirky' don't normally feature highly in my critical repartee. It is gloriously straightforward and childhood reading habits (A Little Love Song and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit were BIG favourites) mean I struggle to resist a WW2 setting. It was a lovely and very brief distraction from current academic pressures - not so many of the warm and fuzzies there and it took me three, maybe four hours to read. It is very light. Because it is epistolary lots of space is wasted with tos/froms, dates, addresses etc. and there just isn't very much content. Luckily though, the letters aren't annoying! Personal bugbear - I HATE epistolary novels. Thank god Austen dropped the letters from the original draft of P&P!

Re-reading this I know I sound like a bit of a snob. I don't mean to be. I just mean to convey that this a lovely, enjoyable, slightly insubstantial way to while away a couple of hours. Don't expect - to come out knowing much more about Guernsey or its occupation. Do expect - a nice bit of atmosphere, the odd giggle, that joyous hit of romantic adrenalin at the end. If that sounds like your cup of tea (and I would highly recommend reading this with a large mug of tea) then knock yourself out! I'm sure you'll like it.

Chuck x

Friday, May 6, 2011

Candy Stripes

Two of my favourite things: Jil Sander SS11 + sweets! I'm getting all Fashematics on yo asses.

I remember gazing longingly at Natthakur's original marketplace bags (holler, more Jil Sander) back in the day but they were, and still are, rather out of my price range. Luckily, Natalie Thakur has since started making these sweet sweetshop purse/makeup bags. They are taking me right back to my childhood. I still mourn the double closure of the sweetshops in mine and my Grandmere's villages when I was about six. Village sweetshops were the greatest. I can't wait until I own my own sweetshop! It is definitely going to happen...

Chuck x

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Look! Chucs Dive & Mountain Shop. That is almost my name. That t-shirt and I are clearly meant to be. Love the clean, fresh look of the website and the general Tomboy Style aesthetic. And they have a Giles Deacon bikini and some Cate Blanchett shorts.

And they have espadrilles and I love espadrilles. And they have them in orange and I LOVE orange. Would so be there if it wasn't for the crazy price. £120?? For espadrilles? Sure they are handmade in el Pais Vasco but my pair last summer were handmade by a sweet little Spanish cordelier and they were
€10. £110 extra won't buy them any greater shelflife - they're still going to fall apart after 3-4 months of hard wear. Just bonkers. (Still fancy an orange pair - summer checklist!).

Chuck x

Monday, May 2, 2011

Blogger Rite of Passage

My blogging mojo has absented itself. There is a first time for everything and I guess this was fairly inevitable. Life is busy and rather nervous making at the moment but I'm not sure if that is it. We shall see, I suppose...

On an aside, since the 1990s are so 'in' at the moment, why isn't anyone talking about Alanis Morissette?? I was re-listening to Jagged Little Pill the other day and it is SUCH a good album!

Chuck x