Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shades of Adulthood

I have been thinking about sunglasses a lot recently. Specifically I have been thinking about investment sunglasses. This isn't anything particularly new, 'buy some proper sunglasses' has been on my 'To Do When I Have Some Money' list for at least three years. However, for various reasons, they have bobbed prominently back into my consciousness of late. Partially this is for practical reasons - after three years of being very time rich, cash poor the situation has, for the brief future at least, reversed itself and now would be a financially plausible time to make the commitment to real, long-term shades. And, now I am having to wear proper work make up every day (which I rather object to), I find that if I don't wear sunglasses on bright/windy mornings then all my eye make up has streamed down to my chin before I even get in to work. Not a good look. Also, [Warning - this is going to sound odd] I feel like now is a good time for sunglasses emotionally too. Although I will be clinging on to my technical student status and its consequent discounts (oh, how I will miss you) until they are they are clawed from my unwilling fingers at the end of July a little part of me realises that student life is over for me now. I don't know if I am willing to embrace this change but perhaps some sunglasses will soften the blow? Much as I have loved my £4.99 UO sale flimsy trend sunglasses perhaps some real sunglasses will help ease the step into so-called 'adulthood' (barf - hate the term applied to myself, sorry)?

The interwebz has been taunting me with lovely sunglasses recently too. Tricia and R A both have the fab Rodarte for OC sunnies. Luckily that particular shade of putty makes me look like the undead so they are not a direct temptation but they have my tastebuds tingling as it were. I'm sure a lot of you saw the Mister Spex 'Bloggers Say: Wear Sunglasses' campaign. Shini looked particularly gorgeous (unsurprisingly) and I loved Natalie's Tom Ford cats eye shades. It was also nice to see fashion bloggers promoting something more healthy and productive than, say, 'Bloggers Say: Wear Dalmatian Print'. Don't get me wrong, that is a campaign that I would love to see and I fully support dalmatian print in moderation but proper UV filters are something we really should support. Similarly, I always appreciate beauty bloggers drawing attention to products within built in sunscreens.

However, my perfect sunglasses had always eluded me until recently. Yes, I enjoy Prada's boiled sweets and baroque numbers, A. Wang's wingtips are hot and plaid prints suit my interest in Vassar girls and all things preppy. Personally though, I feel that if I am going to commit serious money to a pair of sunglasses I want something that is going to look great forever. I keep coming back to Ray-ban - their Clubmasters, their Wayfarers, even their aviators when I am in a Tomboy/Topgun mood. They are classic and I love them but I have always had an embarrassing problem with them... My big moonface. Sad truth. I have a giant head and clearly a proportionally large face because sunglasses often look too small or just plain wrong on me. It looks like my face is trying to eat standard Wayfarers. There is a mental image for you!

Hallelujah though, I have just discovered the Wayfarer Large (as seen above). They look like normal Wayfarers but they fit my face. They look awesome, if I do say so myself. No undignified struggle between shade and face, just perfectly proportioned classic cool. I'm kind of glad that Wayfarers are no longer really 'on trend' like they were a couple of years ago so they can go back to reveling in their historical awesomeness without being absolutely everywhere. Yes, Audrey Hepburn is the obvious Wayfarer icon and I do hope to channel her from time to time but, for me, it is really all about the Blues Brothers.

This is the summer. I am going to make grown up sunglasses happen. It is going to be great.

What about you? Trend or classic? Disposable or investment? Or both? Where from? What style? I want to know.

Chuck x

ps. In the interest of full disclosure, this is a partially sponsored post. The emotional incontinence and general verbosity are all mine though. Oh yeah.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Much Ado about Somethings

I'm going to keep this brief because it is late and I am sleepy and the working world is surprisingly unforgiving of my desire to sleep 14 hours a night... Weird that. Despite all these things I feel a real craving to blog though which is nice.

1) The Sunday Book: The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton

This book is wonderful and it deserves a post of its own but life is busy and complicated so it will have to make do with this. I had read a couple of Edith Wharton's short stories before but I had been meaning to buckle down to one of her novels for a long time. Partly because she is an important woman writer and I want to support the cause, partly because people whose excellent taste I trust have said how wonderful she is and partly because she was buddies with Henry James. Over the course of an English degree I have gone from loathing Henry James to really quite liking him. If you are a fan of the quiet beauty of his prose, his eye for subtle social nuances and his deft portraits of Americans at home and abroad then I would definitely recommend Wharton to you. I will be keeping my eye out for a copy of their letters because their correspondence is jumping to (near the) top of my Non-Fiction To Read list after The House of Mirth (nb. link to a particularly nice Penguin (Red) edition). I can't imagine how wonderful the letters must have been, there is such quiet humour in both of them.

The House of Mirth tells the story of Lily Bart, a 29 year old American society beauty. She has been raised to act and to view herself as an aesthetic object and is beginning to realise the consequences of that. Having turned down offers of marriage in her youth she finds herself nearly thirty and still unwed and faced with the imminent risk of losing her looks. Her beauty and her charm being her only capital she is in a very difficult position - the book beautifully highlights the crazy standards, expectations and possibilities for women. Money  and a malleable husband are the prerequisites to even the most limited of freedoms. It is interesting to see how much Wharton clearly resents the society that she lived in.

Lily is torn between her practical needs, her aesthetic expectations and her fledgling moral conscience. This conscience is partially sparked by Lawrence Seldon, the 'hero' of the novel. I use the term loosely, he is probably the main male figure (lots and lots of female characters btw, very different from my male-dominated Literature course) but, to be honest with you, I hated him. I could also make a strong argument for him being the worst character in the novel. In my opinion he is weak and cruel and he cloaks these attributes in moral superiority and self-righteousness that is less forgivable than the transparent immorality of other characters. Lily might be flawed but at least she tries, she strains. Seldon never tries and I loathe him for it. Read it, I want your opinions! Also, the ending - it is perfect, yes? I think so. It is exactly what the book needs, not the final chapter so much as the climax. Not that it is a happy, fairy tale ending but that it is so perfectly appropriate, so exactly what suits the story and the style of the novel.

Verdict - gorgeous, thought-provoking, moving turn of the century novel. Try it if you like James, quiet but beautiful writing, women, New York.

2) Much Ado About Nothing

I saw the David Tennant/Catherine Tate production directed by Josie Rourke this evening.

There were lots of things I liked about it - the play itself, it is one of my absolute favourite Shakespeare's and I would enjoy any production to a greater or lesser degree; David Tennant, a very attractive, charismatic and funny man who really is a brilliant Shakespearean actor; both of the princes were good; the comic sparring and slapstick of Beatrice and Benedick in the first half; the set was very well designed and worked brilliantly.

There were things I didn't like - Catherine Tate, I'm just not keen and I don't think she is a very good actress, the comic bits were too conscious and overdone and the act-y bits felt like she was proclaiming in a school play; some of the direction choices, they played too much of it for gags for my taste, Beatrice and Benedick's interactions in the aftermath of Claudio's betrayal are not supposed to be funny haha; the audience, there were clearly a lot of people who were there simply to see David Tennant and who laughed indiscriminately every time he came on stage even during the truly tragic bits; Hero's return to Claudio, can't do anything about that though.

There were also elements of the production that I just didn't get - why is it set in 1980s Gibraltar?? What is the point of that? I guess that ra-ra skirts and Diana style wedding dresses are kind of funny and the men looked natty, in a homoerotic way, in their flying whites but seriously, huh? Just seemed an unnecessary distraction to me. I'm all for setting Shakes in modern scenarios but I don't see what was gained out of this one.

Verdict: despite my complaints I enjoyed myself, it is funny, David Tennant is delightful and you can't go far wrong with Much Ado. Go for it if you can get tickets.

3) Thank you for your sweet comments, it means a lot.

Chuck x

Sunday, June 26, 2011


It has been a rough week. Obviously in response to this I have baked. Some things have worked (flapjacks), somethings have not (today's cream puffs - below). It was my first attempt at choux and it faaaaailed. They looked beautiful when they came out of the oven but then they instantly sunk down to choux pancakes and I couldn't get thcrème pâtissière inside so I had to put it on top... Sad times. Does anyone know how you can avoid the post oven slump?

In case you were interested, my choux slump and pastry cream recipes where from Martha Stewart Weddings. I suspect that I can't blame the recipe. I suspect it was me. It is always rubbish when you can't blame someone else for your failures. Lesson of the week - sometimes life is shit and there is nothing you can do about it and you just have to try and keep going.

I might try cream puffs again another time.

Chuck x

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One Bowl Baking: Halva Flapjacks

Gosh, it has been ages since I last did one of these. One bowl baking - an admirable school of casual yet delicious baking. A perfect work night bake. You know what isn't a perfect work night bake? Dulce de leche from scratch. Another time perhaps, one time when I have tin foil/adequate kitchen equipment. A conversation for another day... Anyway, flapjacks. I wouldn't just publish any old flapjack recipe, you all know how it goes - butter, oats, golden syrup, good times. Old news. But when I saw a keraaaaazy new recipe on Dan Lepard's wonderful How to Bake column on the I couldn't resist. It was the tahini, it hooked me in. I love classic recipes with weird ingredients. And I had a jar of tahini from an aborted attempt to make my own hummus (I only tried once but it just wasn't as good as shop bought, I know - fail) and I couldn't resist utilising it in this strange new way. According to DL the tahini cooks down to a dense, sweet, stickiness. As far as I'm concerned it made the flapjacks taste vaguely of peanut butter which is no bad thing. Replacing the golden syrup with a combination of condensed milk and honey did give these flapjacks a wonderful dense, chewy moistness too. They were perfect flapjacks really, I possibly added a bit too much tahini but they were gloriously chewy and they didn't do that thing of going slightly brittle once they had cooled. These aged really well and went down a treat at work.

My little changes:
Dried figs, walnuts and sesame seeds are all rather costly and I have no real interest in figs. I swapped the figs for dried apricots and ditched everything else. Customise the fillings however you like.


  • 100g butter (salted, as always, for me)
  • 75g of some kind of brown sugar
  • 200g sweet condensed milk
  • 75g tahini - I'm currently sans weighing equipment and decided to chance it with seven large tablespoons. This was arguably too much. In terms of tablespoons maybe try four generous tablespoons and let me know? Taste it!
  • Half a packet of chopped dried apricots
  • Rolled oats
  1. Preheat the oven to 180oC and line a tray with greaseproof paper. I used a medium tart tin, Dan uses a 20-25cm sq baking tin. Whatever you have.
  2. Heat the butter, sugar and condensed milk together over a medium heat until dissolved. Attempt not to burn but it isn't too serious.
  3. Remove from heat and add tahini, honey and dried fruit.
  4. Stir in oats until the mixture balls nice and taste like delicious flapjack mix (I know, devilishly specific).
  5. Squidge the mixture into your tin and bake for 15-20mins.
  6. If you wish for your flapjack to be conveniently slice-able then let it cool for a while, otherwise dig in to the delicious hot flapjack-y goodness.

Chuck x

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lightness and Air

My affection for Draw in Light does not wane. I just love their free-hand, painterly prints and the soft, fluid things they choose to do with them. There are new shapes, new colours, new techniques each season but their aesthetic is fairly consistent which I appreciate. Their Pre-SS12 collection has just come out and it is delightful, as ever. Some delicious candy colours and ombre and splatter effects. I want to wear everything everyday. I am slightly nervous about the fact that they now have me craving a tight blonde perm but I guess you can't have it all...

I really must head over to Liberty to try some of their stuff on although I imagine it would be hard to walk away from!

Chuck x

P.S. Had the most delicious meal tonight here. I could barely walk home. Pulled pork is going near the top of my 'Things to make for Dinner when I have some spare time' list. Thanks G, just what I needed!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Best of Liberty Sale - Prints

Gosh, Liberty has some beautiful print pieces in its sale. I wonder if they target them specifically given their print heritage? Probably. Maybe that is a daft question. These are particularly lovely - they make me feel very serene. There is something so wonderful about watercolours. I wonder if I could imitate something similar (on paper) for the flat? Worth a try possibly. Anyway, it is always nice to be reminded of old favourites like Draw in Light and new faces like Piazza Sempione.

Hope you made it through Monday ok.

Chuck x

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Shake Your Sparkles to the Ground

Damn, Rye Rye is so cute. Good to hear some new things from her recently (including Be Mine - featuring Robyn and her hilarious dancing). Apparently her album should finally be out this summer. I wouldn't have pegged her as a natural collaborator for Prabal Gurung, purveyor of pretty, glamorous red carpet dresses, but it does work. His resort collection is very upbeat and he is clearly pushing a youth message.

His work isn't really my style, often a bit too girly for me taste, but there are some nice pieces in his resort collection. Some smart prints, some Marc Jacobs/David Koma-esque polka dots, some excellent looking fabric mashups . Not too cloying. And I do really appreciate the unexpected Rye Rye luvvin'.

Hope everyone has had a good weekend. I can't wait to show you what I baked today. Craziness.

Chuck x

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Five Favourite Friday Fings

Clockwise from top left:

Penhaligons Lily & Spice EDP - 50% off at Brand Alley - I've been craving Penhaligon loveliness ever since reading Isabelle's post about the Penhaligon scent event. I haven't actually smelt this but the packaging is reliably beautiful.

So many gorgeous looks like this one from 11th Moon. I love these perfect, simple clothes and great styling - wish I had the teeny tiny waist to look this good in them. Seen on gorgeous tumblr sig et al.

Katie Rowland's Rose Lilith Fang Ring - just a fab piece of jewellery that I am really craving. Reminiscent of Dominic Jones in a great way. Also, Lilith is an interesting pre-Christian, daemonic female figure.

One of a beautiful set of new drawings from Ventricular Projects, a lovely blog I've recently discovered. I hope they'll print them for their shop.

How perfect is this cover of the Canadian zine L'Étranger by Erika Altosaar? Seen at ice floe - I totally agree about wanting to buy it and frame it! Such beautiful illustration.

I might try and make this a regular(ish) feature to pull together the little things I have seen over a busy week. Might have been a bit overambitious with my work/socialising balance this week and am subsequently knackered so apologies for the lack of in depth, coherent posts. Massive fail last night - tried to go to late night at London Zoo but the weather was against us. I keep thinking it is summer and going out without a coat or umbrella but it is NOT summer. Got soaked through to my skin just getting from the tube station to the zoo and couldn't face a couple of hours pottering around outside. Sad times. Went a dripped in a restaurant instead. Being in cold, soggy clothes for six hours is not fun. If you don't hear from me again I have probably gone down with influenza...

What are your plans for the weekend? If the rain lets up I might head to see Bad Teacher. There is just something so soothing about idiot comedy and I am a big fan of Cameron Diaz, I think she is charming. Might try and take the boat to get to the cinema too! Fun fun (weather dependent).

Chuck x

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June Blooms

I've walked past this Hobbs dress in their store window a bunch of times in the last week or so and, I have to say, I really like it. Yes, it is very strongly influenced by Stella MacCartney's botanical resort dresses but that was a gorgeous collection. I want to own every single botanical piece from it and wear them all at once - dress, jacket, bag... Perfick. The Hobbs version is much more achievable (although still out of my price range) and it isn't such a direct copy that it makes me feel uncomfortable. Mostly though I think it chimes with my current serious yearnings for flowers. Not florals, flowers. There are peonies everywhere and it makes me so happy. They are my favourite flowers but so tragically seasonal. I enjoy them all the more when they're out though, I guess. There are so many other lovely flowers out now too - I couldn't resist this gorgeous bunch of Sweet Williams (best named flowers?) for £1.99 when I was at the cinema. These glorious early summer blooms are making me want to wear big, bold, accurate flower printz, not small, abstract, chintzy florals and the Hobbs dress and the S Mac original are totally ticking my boxes. I am also now craving antique botanical prints - there is an etsy/ebay project. And I want to bedeck my flat in fresh flower, I want them flowing from every surface, glorious and gaudy...

A girl can dream anyway.

Chuck x

Monday, June 13, 2011

Books are Weapons

I don't really wear printed t shirts, too many dubious sartorial experiences in my childhood, but I have seen a couple of smart ones recently and I thought I would share. This natty OC number features two of my favourite things - books and grey marl. It is lovely enough to seriously undermine my print aversion. I also just noticed that on the OC site instead of having 'add to basket' they have 'add to tote'. Funny hipsters.

Chuck x

R. I. P. Paddy Leigh Fermor

Found out today that Paddy Leigh Fermor died on Friday aged 96. I have never read any of his work, only some of his letters to Debo Mitford, but I feel like I know him a little bit through them. DD's memoirs convey such affection - this must have been a blow. Jan Morris's quiet eulogy has made me want to learn more about this fascinating man. He just seems to have lead an enthralling, long life. PLF and DD's letters and his (apparently greatest) book A Time of Gifts are rocketing up my To Read list.

Best wishes to those who have loved him.

Chuck x

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pub Sign par Excellence

Just got back from a great weekend in Bristol. Exhausted but happy. Very pleased with this sign seen in a particularly fine pub garden on a very sunny day.

Chuck x

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dreams of Comfort

This is what I want to be wearing:

The allure of grown up office-y clothes has worn off very quickly. They're fitted, they crease, they don't appreciate wriggling or fidgeting. All I want to wear now (8 days in) is comfy, slouchy, casual clothes and Ashley Rowe's work fits the bill exactly. It is deliciously comfy-looking but still beautiful. I haven't hit straight Slanket quite yet - I'm fairly relaxed if quite tired. I love the colours here, individually and together, I love the dye patterns and the draping, I love the nonchalance combined with the perfect red lip...

It is perfect, is it not?

Btw, does anyone have any magic tips for looking smart/presentable on a daily basis that require zero effort from my lazy ass? The real world is tough!

Chuck x

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mac Attack

I can't for the life of me remember whose blog I saw this on - apologies if it was your's - but I had to spread the love a little further. I'm having a major Fleetwood Mac moment and this Christine McVie t-shirt is, like the lady herself, rather lovely. I definitely need to check out her amazingly named solo album, 'The Legend of Christine Perfect'. Does anybody know/love it?

For more lovin' check her out on Tomboy Style and Fuck Yeah Christine McVie.

Chuck x

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sunday Book: Wait for Me! Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford Sister - Deborah Devonshire

Yey, internet in the new abode! A relatively painless process in the end. So far so impressed by TalkTalk... Not that I want to jinx myself. Too late. Anyway, I'm going to keep this short and sweet because A) I am those things (that is a lie - I am neither of those things, I don't know who I am trying to kid), B) it is late and I have to be up in approximately 11 minutes (also a lie - the new commute is much more hospitable but I am suffering from general student-worker jetlag) and, most importantly, C) the lovely Rachel has already done a stellar job of reviewing Wait for Me! already. Like many people I am intrigued by the Mitfords and have read and loved the Mary Lovell biography, The Mitford Girls, and most of Nancy's novels and have been meaning to read Baby Debo's memoirs since they came out last year. I also managed to pick up a copy of Hons and Rebels in a charity shop the other week but Rachel's review swung me towards the youngest sister.

I am sure that I will enjoy Decca's memoirs but, for now at least, I can't imagine liking them as much as Debo's. The Duchess of Devonshire has (surprisingly) been a rather overlooked sister, primarily because she has never been involved in extremist politics. Yet she is hardly apolitical and she has known EVERYONE. Caps locks, italics and everything - I am fo' real. She has had tea with Hitler, danced with JFK, visited the Rio carnival with Prince Aly Khan and Rita Hayworth... Her own disinterest in fundamentalism, I think, has allowed her to remain wonderfully open-minded too. While Decca and Unity's beliefs alienated them from their family Debo accepts all her sisters and their decisions (for the most part - shocking, saddening revelations about Nancy and her behaviour towards Diana) and the many people she has encountered in her long long life. I don't know if it is an age thing, one of my grandmothers has it too, but DD's writing just evinces this amazing unfaze-ability. It isn't blasé, it is more that she has (literally) seen it all and she accepts people and life's oddities. I can't imagine who her grandchildren or great-grandchildren could bring home who could shock her.

Rachel comments on the way that DD's language isn't explicitly emotive or melodramatic and I agree with this but I also found her quiet, understated writing very moving in parts, particularly the loss of many of her closest friends in the Second World War, the struggle of her husband's alcoholism, the grief for her stillborn children and the death of one after another of her siblings. I absolutely loosed a tear or two although DD is never self-pitying. I just loved this book - really, really enjoyed it. There has been so much more to her life than just being 'the youngest Mitford sister', which is obviously something in itself. Duchess, diplomat, farmer, preserver of the gorgeous Chatsworth (appreciate it on the new Pride & Prejudice if you can't make it in person), traveller, matriarch... She is just such a wonderful woman and she has had such a far reaching life, it is incredible. You have to read it just to find out little things about all the famous people she has known. Evelyn Waugh, Elizabeth Bowen, Lucian Freud, the Queen Mother (who she calls Cake in her journals), Churchill... Unbelievable.

I feel like I know her a little bit. I want to write her a letter saying how much I enjoyed her book. I want to write my aforementioned grandmother a letter telling her to get cracking on her memoirs. Old people have done shit! It is crazy. Such lives. Inspiring and delightful. A must read, Mitford enthusiasm or otherwise.

(I love you DD. I know you regret never having cracked the internet but I'm putting it out there anyway. Good vibes heading your way).

Chuck x

Friday, June 3, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

I'm back home in the country for the weekend. It is lovely. I enjoy cities but I am a country bumpkin at heart. Maybe that is why I am so attracted to these Yunus & Eliza leaf brooches. 'Favourite tree' is a difficult contest but I think oaks might be a winner. One of them anyway. We have a lot of history. Does it make me a nerd that I have a mental 'favourite tree' competition? Nah, it clearly makes me awesome!

Horse chestnuts are pretty great too. So green and springy.

And whitebeams...

And gnarly apple trees...

Chuck x

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Money Savers

Just think about it - if you buy yourself these three pairs of amazing Marni shoes on Yoox now you will save yourself €242! And then think of all the treats you could buy yourself with that money you have saved. Flawless logic, yes?

Carolina knows what I'm talking about - gorgeous.

Chuck x