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