Friday, December 28, 2012

The Pleasures and Perils of Boxing Day

Or, a Story of Online Sales Shopping

Boxing Day; Happy Feet + Enchanted + How to Train your Dragon (the BBC really pulled it out the bag for the under 10s this year, I obviously include myself in this category, some great films); browsing the post-Christmas sales from the comfort of my sofa.

It was a heady combination and I possibly got a little overexcited... Also, as I get older and increasingly grouchy and misanthropic I can't be doing with the crowds and emotional stress of actual sales shopping. I would rather bring the shopping experience to me - order twenty things, try them all on with realistic lighting and the rest of my wardrobe, send back the nineteen things that look awful and keep the one thing I like. No cruel mirrors or screaming children, just fancy dress in the comfort of my own home and some precious extra free time.

Anyway, some lessons learnt and re-learnt:

1) The reason you place a big order is because there is a high chance that, at the very least, some of it will be unexpectedly bad. Often most of it will be bad. In this case I was quite lucky, lots of stuff didn't suit me but in predictable ways. Things to be wary of - fake pockets (THE WORST), poorly finished collars and hems, enormous clunky lumpeness not adequately displayed on the model, general feeling of cheapness.


2) Cheap shoes are always a false economy. This is one my mother will appreciate. These shoes look cute and it is hard to argue with £13.50 but you should argue. Five minutes of wearing these around the flat made it abundantly clearly that they would fall apart in under three months, giving me blisters in the short term and all sorts of podiatry problems in the long term.


3) Delightful as they are, cable knits and Aran jumpers are not for everyone. A tragic lesson that I apparently need to relearn every time it gets chilly. They just look so cute and snuggly. On a certain (admittedly slim) lady they even have a casual, nonchalant sexiness to them. These two charming numbers lured me in - navy cable knit for £14! and black/pink cable for £22. The navy jumper is a bit puffy at the back and the pink one is very cottony (which I like but isn't to all tastes) but generally they're sweet jumpers, particularly for the price. However, they make me look like a dumpling. Not even a delicious dumpling - a stodgy and round and lumpy and middle aged dumpling. Sad times.


4) Ditto, logo/slogan/image t-shirts. I know better. But it was grey and reminded me of my youth and was reduced to £10 (now out of stock) and I thought it might be different this time... Obviously it wasn't. My chest does not do the Nike logo any favours. There was warping, that's all I'm going to say. Also, are men's torsos really that long? Is this enabling them to wear their jeans too low? If we hemmed all of their t-shirts to the correct length one night would they be forced to pull their trousers up? Worth thinking about...


5) Just because you like something it doesn't mean you should buy it. Counter-intuitive but there you go. There are lots of things I like about this Bellfield coat which is currently reduced to a pretty reasonable £48. The blanket print is rather lovely, it looks warm and it actually is (unlike the almost entirely unlined coat above) and it has an olde worlde charm about it. Yet it did not really bond with my wardrobe... I am not a fan of organised or coordinated wardrobes in general but this is a coat. I am seduced by pictures of it but then I try it with things I actually own and it looks a little bit wrong with everything. In as far as a coherent concept of stylistic 'me-ness' exists it is not very 'me'.


 6) Resist the styling. Just because the model is wearing the burgundy New Balance kicks you really want it doesn't mean that buying the coat will magically endow you with the trainers. Disappointing truth.

7) Sales are an excellent time to re-buy. Newsflash, I know. The grey version of this shirt has already proved its worth. Not too sheer (seriously, why would I want to see my bellybutton through my clothes??Gross. Zara, I'm looking at you...), flattering drape, looks good tucked and untucked, suitable for work and home. I picked up the black version in the sale and I know I'll get loads of wear out of it. It's the only thing I'm definitely keeping! I would have picked up the Cerise and Rust colours too if they'd had my size.

Now I just need to decide what to do with these two. I want a more structured, non fluffy navy jumper so definite points to this ribbed number but structured is not 100% flattering and can I justify another jumper? Can you ever have enough jumpers? I'm picturing this with black bottoms and gold jewellery for work. I know it is supposed to be verboten but I have a soft spot for navy and black. I spend so much of my life in an office at the moment that it seems wanton and frivolous to buy anything that isn't work appropriate but these Nike tracksuit bottoms are calling to me at the moment. [N.B. I do have a bit of a Nike fixation at the moment - I need to check that they've improved their ethical practices. Anyone know?] With the correct accouterments they could be all cool and urban but they are walking a fine line. My concern is that they're so comfy I'll never take them off and I'll slowly slide into a haze of trackies, baggy, motheaten jumpers, dirty hair and no make up. It is a slippery slope and it would be so easy... No one would invite me to parties but I would be blissfully comfortable and warms. Choices choices.


 Anyway, not that I need encouragement but has anyone seen anything good in the sales? Did anyone get anything good for Christmas? I got a festival of cookbooks and a beautiful YSL lipstick that I'll try and share at some point. I just need to work out how to get this lot to the post office to return it all...

Chuck x

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Some Toons




Crazy catchy. Read - We Invented Swag: NYC's Queer Rap. Dance hard.



Unexpected but perfect. Diplo vs. the Dirty Projectors (kind of) just works. I've listened to this 3-5 times a day for the last month. It hasn't got old yet.



Rich but floating; sultry but pure; rather lovely.

Chuck x

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hot Mess Cookies


I've done quite a lot of attractive baking recently - Baked brownies, Guardian perfect chocolate cake, Jamie Oliver carrot cake with lime mascarpone icing. However, instead of sharing those (because I completely forgot to document them), you are going to get these odd looking but rather excellent car crash cookies. They don't look like much and they have almost no structural integrity but they are surprisingly moreish and addictive and interesting. They are very loosely inspired by Momofuku's compost and cornflake cookies and by the large quantity of stale chocolate cake I had sitting in the fridge.

Let me say, on the chocolate cake front, the Guardian recipe is very chocolate cake-y; it is light sponge but it is packed full of cocoa and melted chocolate and chocolate chips and then there is all the chocolate buttercream and an Oreo crumb (which is genius). I'm not a chocolate cake fan and found the whole thing a bit overwhelming but the boys at work assured me it was great if you liked that kind of thing. Even they couldn't finish it though, hence all the leftover cake I couldn't bear to throw out. The internet is surprisingly unhelpful when it comes to what to do with stale cake - it's all microwave it, put alcohol on it, add custard, blah blah blah... Not convinced. Someone somewhere mentioned putting it in cookies with no recipe or context and I decided to roll with it.

I've never been to Momofuku milk bar or even had one of their cookies so apologies if I am slightly bastardising their philosophy but, from what I've gathered from the internet, they take shit they like and throw it at a cookie and see what happens. That seems like solid reasoning to me so I did the same. The results weren't very presentable but I think they prove that experimenting is good and fun and you can't ruin a cookie just by putting more delicious things in it...

Ingredients

  • 250 g butter (salted)
  • 100 g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt (table & sea)
  • 100 g plain flour
  • 200 g roughly blitzed chocolate cake
  • 2 cups roughly crushed cornflakes
  • 60 g roughly chopped dark chocolate
  • 2 handfuls roughly chopped marshmellows

Recipe

  1. Preheat the over to 180oC.
  2. Whip butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
  3. Add egg and continue to whip for another 5 mins until glossy.
  4. Fold in all the remaining ingredients. 
  5. Shape out large golfballs of cookie dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  6. Cook the well spaced cookies on a lined baking sheet for about 8-10 mins.
  7. Allow to cool completely - this is your best shot of getting them of the baking paper whole!
  8. Eat with cold milk/mug of tea/mulled wine and a plate for tidiness.

If you wanted to improve the cookies stability you could probably start by cutting down the butter but any plans that start with 'cut down the butter' make me sad so I'll leave that up to you. Definitely an interesting way to reinvigorate cake at the least.

Chuck x

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Different Festive Jumper




I want to wear this jumper EVERY DAY FOREVER. It is my Christmas jumper of choice. It is part of Lisa Anne Auerbach's glorious sweater art collection so tragically it isn't available to buy but I wish it were. I would also like a customised British version - Make Abortion Legal Across the UK. It would look amazing by the Christmas tree...

Chuck x

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Random Sunday Thought


As a generation of writers mature who have been plugged into iPods and phones since childhood are we going to lose the sounds in fiction? Is the cost of almost unlimited access to music that we are losing touch with one of our senses and condemning our selves to an incomplete understanding of our environments?

Just something I've been pondering in a possibly pretentious but nonetheless heartfelt way...

Chuck x

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

G P B, Pt. II



Because who could resist them?

Chuck x

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sacré-Cœur Sunset



36 whirlwind hours in Paris and I am awed afresh at the city's beauty and just how much you can do in a weekend when you really put your mind to it. Nap now.

Chuck x