Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cupcake Attack

Personally, I'm not a fan of cupcakes. I've been vocal in the past about thinking they're stupid and inferior to real cake. Too often they taste of nothing. I had an emotional crisis a couple of weeks ago that necessitated chocolate and I was near the Primrose Bakery so I treated myself to one of their chocolate cupcakes. Bad plan. It just succeeded in making me more cross and upset. It was far from the worst cupcake I've ever had but it was insufficiently chocolate-y and tasted slightly stale (an almost unavoidable problem with cupcakes in my experience) and the stupid plastic-y sprinkles got stuck in my teeth. Also, I don't like icing (cream cheese icing and real chocolate ganache excepted) and so many cupcakes are 40% cake, 60% icing. They're a waste of space, all things considered.

That said, *HYPOCRITE ALERT* there is no arguing with their aesthetic impact. They can look great, particularly en masse. When my sister asked me to make cupcakes for her birthday I didn't argue - a cupcake for every year looks pretty special. I adapted the recipe of what I think of as my Bruce Bogtrotter cake (which is actually Baked's Sweet & Salty Chocolate Cake) and it worked pretty well. These are chocolate cupcakes infused with salted caramel and topped with a chocolate caramel ganache and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt. The original cake has three layers, each of which is spread with the salted caramel and ganache, so the whole cake is sodden and delicious. That was too fiddly to replicate with the cupcakes so I just stabbed them generously before pouring over the salted caramel which kind of worked (although it wasn't as effective as I would have liked). They looked great though.

Live action shot before singing.

Many jokes about how they looked like 'dog poo in a good way'. Who knew that was possible?

Utilising the patented anti-dog, balance on top of the toaster technique described here.

I don't understand why, even within three or four hours, cupcakes start to taste stale. Does anyone know? Is it something to do with the paper cases? Am I just being neurotic? I don't know. Thumbs up overall in a holy-crap-these-are-overwhelmingly-powerful kind of way. La soeur managed to eat two. We were very impressed. I had eaten so much of the cake mix, salted caramel and ganache during the making of that I couldn't actually face a cupcake come presentation time! That will teach me.

Ah, it felt good to bake again. You might have noticed a drop in baking content on here and that is because there has been a general drop in baking in my life. Sad times. When I'm simultaneously time and money poor it just seems frivolous. I find it so soothing and enjoyable though that I really should make the time/budget for butter.

Has anyone baked anything exciting recently?

Chuck x

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Get Sporty

Mmm... I'm loving these new Topshop looks a lot. I would never have expected that I'd be attracted to sportswear but I'm definitely interested. There are a lot of items in TS's new Off Track collection that leave me cold but the above are pretty perfect. Probably because they don't remind me of a wasted adolescence spent shivering through soggy, compulsory P. E. lessons...

I wonder if moving to London has provoked my new found love of urban streetwear? There are a lot of shellsuits in my endz. A year ago I probably wouldn't have predicted my desire for baseball caps and beanies, Nike and shellsuits, delicious grey luxe tracksuit bottoms. Now I'm gripped. I suppose it is natural to be influenced by your environment. I wonder what I will pick up on next.

What is your take on the sports look? Do you find yourself absorbing the visual culture around you?

Chuck x

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To Do List

Interview Russia - March 2012
Model: Lea Seydoux
Photography: Eric Guillemain
Styling: Donatella Musco
Makeup: Marie Duhart / Hair: Joseph Pujalte
via FGR

Make my own Jil Sander veiled beanie.

I still love it. The mixture of street casual and vintage elegance is perfection. If you needed further proof (as if) check out Hanne Gaby + veiled beanie + ice cream. All the good things.

Also, it would be as easy as pie. Just need to get round to it...

Chuck x

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Five Favourite Friday Fings

Closer to being on time this week...

Clockwise from top left:

1. Lola McClure's in depth article about IUDs on the Hairpin is KILLAH. I love a nice contraceptive chat. It's detailed and thoughtful and funny. It is also an excellent reminder off how wonderful the NHS is and how much we Brits should appreciate it. Everyone should read this.

2. Miss Representation has a lovely infographic about the media and women and leadership and self-image. Not ground breaking but sweet and well presented and with a little bit of uplifting to balance out the depressing. Found via the OC twitter.

3. Just perfect. Perfect girl, perfect Carven dress. Gorgeous. Womanly not girly. Everything anyone could want. Stockholm Streetstyle via That Kind of Woman (source of all things picturesque). 

4. Grace Kelly at the 1955 Cannes film festival with peony and sage c/o the serene Wilder Quarterly blog. I'd love to get my hands on a copy of the magazine, it looks blissful. I'd also love GK's bouquet, it must smell wonderful.

5. Pantone pop tarts! Err, yum. They're so cute and colourful and delicious lookingEmilie de Griottes created this pop tart (and many others) for French magazine Fricote and they're just adorable. I clearly need to start coordinating my food. As seen on Reanna Time.

I probably should have saved the IUD article for my article club (which I haven't forgotten about) but I got too excited and wanted to include it here. I haven't read so many articles in the last week because I have been busy reading other things, more on which soon, so if I've missed anything good do let me know.

Chuck x

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Victoria & Albert

A couple of weeks ago I went to the V&A's Bright Young Things Late Night. It was fab - we checked out the Cecil Beaton exhibition (quite small but delightful, nostalgic, Queenie only not Vogue, wonderful Technicolour coronation video), bopped to the jazz band in the main hall, swayed to the pianists in the cafe, admired everyone in their headbands, regretted the queue for the Beaton-esque portrait sessions and generally gallivanted around the museum after dark. Obviously I never got round to blogging about it because I'm useless...

The V&A is such a strange and magnificent place though, I forget sometimes. The internal geography is baffling and possibly magical. I don't think it obeys the laws of physics. How can there be a plaster cast of a cathedral in there? It is such a testament to our weird hoarding habits. So very many things. And I LOVE things. They're the best. Their jewellery collection is beyond brilliant. You can never go too many times. It is so sparkly. I hate being a stereotype but I can't help myself around beautiful jewellery - it is irresitible.

Plique-a-jour enamel orchid - this is backless enamel, it imitates stained glass, and is held together by gold wire. It is one of the most perfect things I've ever seen.

There are just so many things I could wear from the jewellery collection. Almost all of it. Jewellery from 3000 B.C. to the present. I like the way that if you get yourself in the right position you can see yourself reflected under the jewellery. I look goooood in the Londonderry tiara.

This robe is made from golden spider silk. Spiders! Tens of thousands of them spinning away, their silk being spun into threads and woven into this. I love the spiders embroidered on to it and the way the gold seems to glow from within.

Hey there Alexander McQueen and Giles Deacon dresses. Plato's Atlantis and crystal Pacmen. 

Rood screen - casual.

I've been to the V&A many times over the years but there are so many corners and rooms and displays that I've never seen before. I think it unfolds before you like... something in a children's book (which one?). The Late Night was a salient reminder that there is so still much more to see there. I'm already looking forward to the next event, the Night of Norouz to celebrate the Spring Equinox, and more exploring.

Have you been to the V&A? Which is your favourite room/collection? Are there any other museums that so perfectly mix art and history and miscellany?

Chuck x

Monday, March 12, 2012

Five Favourite Friday Fings

So this is either quite late or quite early but I will not bow down to the tyranny of the days of the week...

Clockwise from top left:

1. I want a Nike Destroyer jacket so bad. It looks fabulous but it also sounds deliciously practical - 'Thermore® fill for lightweight warmth' , 'water-repellant to help keep you dry', functioning pockets... These are the things dreams are made. That and burgundy and soft leather and a complete lack of ostentatious detailing. It is also half price. Not that it helps me much but it must be good news for somebody.

2. This J. W. Anderson jumper is up on ebay. It is from the collection he did with Topman a couple of seasons (?) ago. I just can't resist a botanical print.

3. Is this weird? I'm a little bit in love with this Asos tracksuit. It all started out so innocently as a crush on a grey marl polka dot jumper but then I saw the bottoms... So much grey marl. I feel hypnotised by it. I feel like I should hate it but my mind is too boggled by how comfortable and soft and warm it must be. And it looks pretty cool on the model. (Doesn't it? I don't know any more).

4. These Takemoto handmade wooden sunglasses are just straight up lovely. Easy.

5. This Barbour bird print shirt is so cloyingly sweet it almost makes my teeth hurt. But I also kind of love it. Normally I'm pretty anti-twee but there is something about this print I find charming. I think it is the detail and variety and loveliness of the individual birds. Oh yeah, and everything is better when you put a bird on it. I don't know if I could wear this but I would like to hang it on my wall.

Interestingly, only two items on this list are explicitly women's wear; the Nike jacket and the Asos tracksuit. The glasses are unisex and both of the prints are menswear. I like the way the menswear cuts stop the prints from being too girly - they take the edge off it. I really also like the idea of being able to shop across store gender boundaries. Floral jumpers are for everyone and I can wear men's clothes if I want to.

Also, looking at this, how schizophrenic is my taste?? None of these things would go together. Is it bad that I like such a dissonant bunch of stuff? It can't be good for my wardrobe? I would love to be one of those people with a very distinct sense of style, who has no interest in clothing that falls outside of their genre, but I'm definitely not there yet. I want to play with everything and I'm drawn to so many different looks. I would need to pick one of these elements and focus in on it. But which should it be? Or maybe it should be a different element? Suggestions??

Chuck x

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Perfect Sunday Afternoon, Pt. II

Glorious March weather / Breaking out my deck shoes for the first time this year / A stroll with a loved one /  Pigs

It gives me a ridiculous amount of pleasure that I live within walking distance of pigs. And they are such handsome pigs too.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Night of Bliss

I got home last night to find a parcel on my doormat. It was Emma Thompson's diary from the filming of Sense & Sensibility which I had ordered immediately on hearing of its existence from Hila (knower of all things period drama). I gleefully ripped the package open and plonked down to read the introduction before cracking on with necessary chores. Except I didn't do any of my necessary chores nor did I get up again. I read it cover to cover. Oops! It was delightful though so I can't blame myself.

Things I love: Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility (the novel), Sense & Sensibility (the Ang Lee film), Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, being nosy. This little gem - 119 pages of large font and the occasional photo - gives you all those things. I think Emma Thompson is brilliant. She is a wonderful, sensitive actress, she even makes me cry in Love Actually, and she just gets Austen. I think her screenplay is an interesting and thoughtful take on the novel and clearly, from the diary and from interviews, she has a very strong conception of the author. The big JA is alive and well in her mind - mine too. Also, and I wasn't really aware of this, she is a very funny writer. Very dry, very deadpan, she had me giggling throughout the diary. She is also deeply scatological which I particularly enjoyed. We have so much in common, you guys! I just want to go out for a drink with her because she seems like an excellent drinking companion and talk about many things and maybe go dancing.

I love her.

There are some extracts here. If you enjoy those or, you know, Austen/Thompson/S&S/British films/Alan Rickman (dream man) then definitely grab this book. There are lots of super cheap copies around and it is a blissful way to wile away a couple of hours.

Chuck x

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Find out more on the John Frieda Facebook page and win the new range

After I dyed my hair with John Frieda Precision Foam Colour at the beginning of February, the lovely folk who do John Frieda's PR asked me if I wanted to try the new Full Repair range for overworked hair. Now, I don't really (ever) heat style my hair but I do like to dye it so I thought I would give my hair a treat. The range is full of Inchi oil which is from a strange looking South American plant and is full of Omega 6 among other things. It seems to be somewhere between almond oil and olive oil and argan oil. I can't resist oils. Also, I'm not in a position to be turning down free shampoo. [Free toothpaste and other groceries are also welcome here - bring it on!]. I've been using the products for a couple of weeks and *drumroll* I like them. Some of the products aren't for me and the shampoo doesn't live up to the John Frieda Root Awakening shampoo (one of my most favourites - mmm, eucalyptus) but, overall, I like the range. It left my hair soft and shiny and it smells pleasant and clean, shampoo-y, slightly sweet but not nauseating or fruity, and those are really my top priority.

So, I thought this would be a good opportunity to introduce you to my hair-care stash. I know that this is vaguely narcissistic, in the same way that 'What's in my Bag' posts are, but I would be genuinely to interested to hear what products you use and whether you like them/would use them again/have recommended them to anyone. Also, as with my handbag, this just makes me laugh. It certainly exposes my hoarding tendencies...

Left to right:
  • L'Oreal Préférence Conditioning Shampoo: Didn't buy this. Left over from PB dying her hair here. Keep trying to finish this off so it can go in the bin but don't like the feel/effect on my hair. Sure it would be effective if I had a head full of dye but I don't... Feels to extravagant to just throw it out.
  • JF Perfect Ends Sheer Mist: I didn't really like this spray. It doesn't 'mist'; it squirts rather messily. Also, it made my hair feel quite sticky rather than repaired. I can imagine that it would be useful pre-straightening though.
  • Sunsilk Anti-drop Targeting Hairspray: This must be five years old. I have used it maybe three times. It might be a perfectly effective, nay excellent, hairspray but it turns out that I don't use hairspray. Do you? I'm keeping it for when I eventually get round to trying a proper beehive.
  • Dark and Lovely Beautiful Beginnings Kids Softening Oil Moisturiser: Ahaha, so this one was an accident. I was looking for hair oil and this had the word 'oil' in and was very cheap. Yeah, it turns out that black hair products are not compatible with floppy Caucasian hair. I only tried it once and it did very strange things to my hair. It is now used as an emergency shave gel substitute.
  • JF Root Awakening Strength Infusing Shampoo: As discussed, one of my top shampoos. Smells wonderful and leaves your hair feeling lovely and clean. Recommend.
  • JF conditioner from Precision Foam Colour.
  • Pantene Pro-V Classic Shampoo and Conditioner: I'm not a hair snob, I love Pantene and won't here a bad word said against it. I've used it consistently for at least 10 years and it does the job nicely. One of my favourite 'clean' smells and solid results. My only comment, for other Pantene lovers out there, it does make your hair greasy a bit more quickly than some more expensive products (having now tried said posh products).
  • Umberto Giannini Glam Hair Morning After Dry Shampoo: Slightly overwhelming sweet smell but less likely to leave you with white patches than Batiste. Does the job.
  • JF Deep Conditioner: Mmm, love a good conditioner. This is actually quite light and sloppy for a 'deep conditioner' but it is richer than a standard conditioner and left my hair nice and shiny.
  • Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Luscious Long Deep Treatment: Now this is a 'deep treatment'. I love the thick, almost waxy pastiness and the way you need to work it into your hair like a hybrid of Vaseline and candle wax (in a good way). It feels like you're showing you hair a good time. Good smell too. Clearly I favour either 'clean' smells or herbal smells. Fruit and sugar are bad. Recommend.
  • Macadamia Natural Oil Healing Oil Treatment: Ooh, I love this too. It was a prize in a giveaway and it is fab. Again, great smell and perfect texture. I love oil for hair and skin. Just sweep it through wet hair for delicious softness and shine. Recommend.
  • JF Full Body Shampoo and Conditioner: Nice combo. Classic shampoo smell. Did actually leave my hair feeling fuller but at the cost of having to wash it more often.
  • Label.M Curl Spray: Another giveaway prize.I have never ever used since I don't have naturally curly hair or a curling iron. Will probably put it on my next ebay listing (unless anyone fancies it?).
  • Fish Fixer Natural Hold Hairspray: Picked this up as a freebie because I almost never turn down freebies. Never been used because I don't use hairspray (see above). Smells of coconut.
  • JF Root Lift Foam: This stuff is amazing. It is genuinely gravity defying. Even when you are as cackhanded as I am the results are impressive. I decided to try this before work one morning (bad idea) without a hairdryer (bad idea) and it was a striking look - the sections that I had foamed and managed to hastily finger dry towered above the rest of my hair. Ultimately I had to tie it back because it looked too mad but even my ponytail was bouffant! Clearly with spare time and a hairdryer  you could achieve true greatness with this. Recommend.
  • JF Heat Activated Styling Spray: Untested because I have no heat styling apparatus.
Mostly, what I have learned from this is that it is probably time to buy a hairdryer. Ironic really since the range is designed to combat the damages caused by excessive heat styling. I'm clearly not getting the most out of my products though and maybe it is something I need to own as an adult woman. It was certainly annoying not having one when we needed to defrost the freezer a few months ago!

Now, recommendations? What hair-care do you like?And advice - what should I do to my hair to make it better? It should be 'one of my best features' (blah blah blah) and I feel like I'm squandering it.

Chuck x

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Some Clothes I've Worn

Clockwise from top left:
Parka : Asos (ebay) / Snood : Accessorize / Dress : UO / Converses
Scarf : H&M / Cardi : Asos / Belt : Uniqlo / Skirt : AA / Shoes : Bronx
Leather jacket : TS / Scarf : ebay / Cashmere jumper : Tesco / Vest : Cos (ebay) / Jeans : Levi's / Brogues : Asos
Cardi : Land's End / Shirt : TS (ebay) / Trousers : Cos (ebay) / Boots : TS

Look! More pictures of me pulling stupid faces in front of my ever filthier mirror. You are lucky people. Much as I want to wear more colour, a la Hockney, it is a struggle in this weather. Black and grey are so easy and you have to take your comfort where you can find it. I must admit that I've been having serious cravings recently for a really luxe pair of tracksuit bottoms - narrow, marl grey, leather and silver tipped toggles... I think they can look great but, admittedly, it is a slippery slope. If I put them on I might never take them off and I might regress into some kind of inescapable lounge state. Sure, that sounds awesome but right now, shit needs to get done.

Chuck x

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Perfect Sunday Afternoon

Grey days / Jane Austen / Dark chocolate digestives / Stacks of magazines / The faint scent of my new Greek basil
(Not shown - gallons of tea)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

AW/12 Favourites

Went to see the Hockney exhibition yesterday night. Phew! It is wonderful. Charming, vibrant, life affirming. If you have access to London I would strongly suggest you make the trip. You'll walk out with a smile on your face and a reinvigorated love for the English landscape. Also, if you're anything like me, you'll come away from the exhibition wanting to wear colour. A lot of colour. You'll want to roll around in colour and wear it all. Hockney's colours are so beautiful and so vivid - the pinks, the greens, the oranges, the yellows... 

In honour of that, here are some of my favourite colours of AW/12 so far (not that my catwalk surveillance has been very thorough).

Left column: Lanvin; Vionnet; Nina Ricci
Centre column: Erdem; Christopher Kane; Lanvin; Erdem
Right column: Marc by Marc Jacobs; Carven; Lanvin

Has anyone seen the Hockney? Did you enjoy it? I can't see how anyone wouldn't - it is pretty much enjoyable by definition. Next stop Freud.

Chuck x

P.S. Don't forget to check out my ebay auctions which end tomorrow. Vanessa Bruno, Topshop Unique, Kurt Geiger, all the fun things.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Le Chien

They say that dog owners come to resemble their pets and vice versa. I don’t think that I look like my dog, not yet, anyway. We do share a defining characteristic though – greed. I have to admit that I was greedy prior to her arrival so either she learnt it from me or she was born greedy and fate brought us together.

Plenty of dogs are greedy, obviously, but most of them are dopey and/or obedient. Not mine. She combines her already impressive greed with smarts. I’m perversely proud of her food cunning. Over the years she has consumed all manner of wild and wonderful edibles when our backs have been turned. As a puppy her tastes were wide ranging and eclectic. No one was surprised by her demolishing three quarters of an unsupervised lasagne but eyebrows were raised at the whole pack of butter and tube of hand-cream. Food Protection has since become a full time pursuit in our house.

Christmas is still a fruitful time for her given the abundance of food and tipsiness of friends and family. Yuletides past have seen the loss of meaty leftovers, a whole bag of grapes and half a raw cabbage. Cabbage is a consistent favourite. Similarly guests are dangerous because they don’t understand The Rules. Family friends who were house-sitting memorably lost a complete iced Victoria sponge due to poor canine/food management. One minute it was there, the next minute it was gone. They momentarily questioned whether they had even made a cake. Amateurs.

What you need to listen out for is the silence. Silence is dangerous. It means she is trying to get away with something wicked. It was the silence that alerted us to the Great Soup Disaster of ’07. My grandmother had come bearing a bucket of unidentifiable soup (don’t ask) and, unversed in the ways of Greedy Dog, she had left the loose-lidded Tupperware on the side while we caught up on local gossip. It took us a while to notice the uncanny quiet. ‘Dog…?’ we called warily. She wandered sheepishly into the room and there was momentary relief before we noticed the soup stains on her whiskers and her chin and her eyebrows…

We have come to a mutual understanding. All food must be inaccessible. If she can reach it then it is fair game – just punishment for our foolishness and just reward for her wiles. We can’t get mad at her for following an instinct that we are so intimately familiar with.

Our mutual greeds enthusiastically compete in the scramble for floor food – the true arena of greed. I am a firm believer in the five second rule but you don’t get five seconds in my house. You’re lucky if you get two. She can hear the rattle of a crisp hitting the floor from half a mile. She will materialise almost instantly. There will be a minute of calm and our eyes will meet. In each other we recognise worthy adversaries. Then it is on. Part speed, part skill and part luck, we scrabble and shove until someone or something emerges victorious. As I sulk on the floor and she licks cheese & onion flavouring off her whiskers and seems to grin triumphantly at me I wonder if we don’t look more alike than I first thought.