Saturday, 29 August 2009

Almonds, volcanoes and soap.

Despite being actually quite eager to step into autumn, I'm having to stave off the urge to start wrapping up and baking because today I'm heading to Sicily for a week.

A stop on Upper Street yesterday to see if I could sweep up any summer sales bargains for my trip revealed that the shops are full of the new season's clothes. I tried not to look too closely. I can't mentally prepare for autumn until I'm back from my jollies!

I did get a couple of bargains though. Noa Noa has 70% off, so some silk camisoles the colour of sugared almonds, and a long black dress from Oliver Bonas – who are also having a clearance sale – to see if I can pull off this long dress thing, being a midget and all.

Anyway, when I'm not climbing volcanoes and drinking icy almond drinks I'm going to be emptying out Sicily's apothecaries. And then when I get home we can get on with the business of enjoying the autumn. Can't wait!

[Top of my list is some Borsari Violetta di Parma perfume. This kicks out an old lady violet stink. But in a really nice way. And the packaging is so lovely. I'd also quite like some pomegranate soap from Farmacia di Santa Maria Novelli. Again, beautiful packaging. And Ortigia products are next level. Oh dear. Think I need to pack an extra bag to bring this stuff home.]

Friday, 28 August 2009

Spector and Cohen: another tale of two dudes.

I've tried and tried to listen to Leonard Cohen and always just given up. His work is poetry, not music. And I'm not really into listening to poetry recited in a droning voice. Like, Bob Dylan is a poet with a strange voice but I can happily listen to him because he has awesome backing music, like The Band. Cohen's music is not...engaging, to me.

However, at the urging of a pal – shout out to PG – I finally got around to listening to the album Cohen made with Phil Spector, Death of a Ladies Man. And it's brilliant. I picture Cohen and Spector spending long nights in the studio being bawdy, getting loaded and playing with guns, probably. Apparently Spector pointed a crossbow at Cohen during the sessions. And they fell out spectacularly, in classic Spector style.

The production has the same feel as the solo stuff Spector produced for John Lennon. Despite being recorded in LA, for me it conjures up a seventies New York vibe. Which in my book is a very, very good thing.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Shoe expenditure crisis averted.

I found something similar to the LD Tuttle shoes that Style Bubble had me drooling over. They're from Irregular Choice and cost £69.

They're basically pretty ugly, but the fact that I can reasonably buy them if I really, really need to has made me feel much better.

And with autumn comes... BOOTS.

Thanks to Style Bubble I am now drooling over these LD Tuttle boots. Wouldn't mind some of their shoes, too. But at between £300 - £500 per pair, I'll be lucky.

A table tennis tourney / fight to the death.

My workplace is holding a table tennis tournament.

This is something I need to win. Or at least do quite well at.

I work for a design agency that was founded by a group of men. Very manly men who love success, fast cars and beating each other at stuff. So it's a point of honour for me to do well at this tournament.

I've discovered a local bar in Shoreditch that has a table. Also, the awesome but seriously annoying to book Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre is nearby. And I've arranged my holiday to Sicily next week around availability of nearby ping pong tables. (It's possible that I'm taking it a bit too seriously.)

The tourney is on the 18th September. Let me know if you fancy a serious practice knockabout one night.

[Tables shown from a park in Berlin. The Germans sensibly take table tennis much more seriously than we Brits do.]

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Keeping it short and sweet.

It feels autumnal this evening and as autumn comes around I start to think about baking. I always make a pumpkin pie at this time of year because you can't buy it over here and I have to satisfy the craving at least a couple of times every twelve months.

But this year I also get to try out my new Baked cookbook. Baked is a cake shop in Brooklyn. At a friend's wedding in May they had four or five Baked cakes to choose from. I went for the Sweet & Salty and it was insane. I was keen to get in on the salty/sweet craze that has been sweeping America and which hasn't hit the UK in such a big way yet. Apparently salted caramels are Obama's favourite sweet, and after obsessively hunting them down I have to say that I'm liking his style. In London you can get them at Montezuma'sAmerican Idol is the name of the chocolate.

Anyway, I went to find Baked the day after the wedding to get one of their cookbooks. And have some more cake. I'm definitely going to make the Sweet & Salty, and maybe the Malted (pictured above). Have a look at their list of cakes here. You can buy the cookbook on Amazon if you feel a bit crazed after looking.

[Image used with thanks to Baked.]

Monday, 24 August 2009

Is it all in the name? A blogger's dilemma.

I can't think of a name for this blog.

I thought I'd had a eureka moment last night, when I came up with The Diary of a Nobody. Because my starting point for this blog is eh, who's interested in my gibberings? Which is exactly what George Grossmith wrote a hundred odd years ago, in Charles Pooter's fictional diary.

"Why should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see — because I do not happen to be a 'Somebody' — why my diary should not be interesting. My only regret is that I did not commence it when I was a youth."

(Seriously, this stuff is gold. Read his diaries transcribed as a blog, here. It fills my heart with joy that somebody is actually uploading this on a daily basis. Oh my god, I've just noticed you can get daily Pooter tweets on Twitter too! Follow pooter2009. God, I love the modern world.)

My fabulous mother was reading The Diary of a Nobody in hospital when she had yours truly. And Pooter lived in Tufnell Park, just as I do now. But hopefully the similarity ends there.

Unfortunately, someone already has a blog named Sketch Diary of a Nobody which is a bit too similar. And they live in Archway, so internet shit might get real and they might come and get me.

I also like Strawberry Letter 23, after the Shuggie Otis song, but I'm not sure about that. It sounds a bit twee.


(Illustration from Diary of a Nobody by Weedon Grossmith. What an ace name Weedon is!)

English men dressed in white throw balls and win some ashes.

Another reason why London is the best city in the world: you can go and watch England win the Ashes, surrounded by people wearing coronation crowns, knotted handkerchiefs, digging into Anya Hindmarch picnic hampers and getting drunk in the sun.* You have nowhere to go other than the bar and nothing to do but sit and watch the game unfold whilst listening to Aggers twitter away on Test Match Special. And it's legally required that you jeer at Australians.

Well done England!

*I'm on day eight of my two week drinking hiatus. Having got through two boozy days at the cricket without giving in, I'm feeling pretty, pretty good. Although I'm eating chocolate to reward myself, so I'm not losing any weight. And the chocolate is giving me spots. Oh well.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Jazzy violin shred at the Proms.

I went along to the Proms earlier this week and saw a performance of Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2. Bartók is quite jazzy really, very modal. The soloist absolutely shredded it. The first 16 bars of this piece are crying out to be sampled.

[You can listen to the actual perfomance I saw here. Prom 44.]

Tonight I'm seeing Daniel Barenboim conduct his son on violin with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra playing Mendelssohn. The orchestra is made up of young musicians from across the Middle East in an effort to bring about unity through music and Dazza Bazza is obviously a legend. Should be good.

Hurrah for the Proms. On Tuesday we had seats in the choir facing out to all the Prommers. It's such a brilliant tradition and another reason to add to the list of why London is definitely the best city in the world.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Harry Roy né Lipman

I decided to do a bit of family research recently. We've carelessly lost touch with my father's entire side of the family you see, so I called my fabulous mother to ask what she could remember. She said my father had uncles called Harry and Sid Lipman. A google search later and look what I found:

Harry Roy, born Harry Lipman (January 12, 1900, Stamford Hill, London – February 1, 1971, London) was a British dance band leader and clarinetist from the 1920s until the 1960s. Harry and his brother Syd formed a band which they called The Darnswells... [Read the rest here.]

Same part of London, same era, same name. And my father was a musician. I need to get down the Public Records Office and check the whole thing out. (This is probably never going to happen, in all likelihood.) Anyway, even if there's no family connection, this music is amazing. Jazzy big band with hilarious lyrics.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A sweet concrete treat

Buying a property swallows up so much money. In my case, it's mainly because as soon as I've finished one project (buying a piano, soundproofing a ceiling, fixing a wall) and thinking right, that's it for a while, I come up with the next thing I can't wait to do.

This time it's painting and finishing our concrete floors.

We have carpet over concrete throughout our flat. We put in carpet mainly for speed when we were moving in; we only had a couple of days to take out the old carpet, clean up, and lay new flooring. Of course, we went down the cream carpet route, just to annoy ourselves. And whilst it still looks nice, I've been wanting to replace it ever since.

As it's concrete underneath, I've often wondered if it was possible to finish and paint directly onto the concrete in some way.

It turns out it is possible! You: fill in any cracks with filler, coat the floor with UPVA, paint the desired colour, and then finish with an epoxy coating. (This technique gives a more polished look; really, you can just paint the concrete directly, but if I'm doing it I'd rather do it properly this time, and then leave it for the next ten years!)

If James (the other half) is reading this, he probably has his head in his hands right now. Don't worry J. We'll just do the kitchen first, we both hate the lino (another rush purchase before we moved in) and it seems like the perfect floor finish for a kitchen.

Yay! Another new expensive, messy project! Here are some photos of it lookin' good to inspire us.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Soda, milkshakes and fruity drinks

So, after a few fun but boozy days recently – a leaving do, a wedding, a day at the seaside drinking prosecco whilst bobbing in a rubber ring – I have decided not to drink for the next two weeks. (Two weeks of not drinking is a big deal to me, in case it sounds none too dramatic to you.)

I initially decided on a month of abstinence, but was reminded that I'm going to Sicily for a week's holiday in a fortnight where there will be many fine wines crying out to be sampled. So two weeks it is.

I'm actually looking forward to not having any hangovers, spending less money and hopefully losing some weight, having improved skin, and generally looking a few years younger.*

I'm planning on treating myself to icecreamy milkshakes from The Diner and a trip to one of the middle-eastern restaurants on Edgware Road, where they sell drinks that are so fruity they're basically fruit salad with a blob of cream on top.

I won't be going without.

Let's see if I stick to it.

*Well, a girl's gotta dream.

[Here are some photos of the wedding I went to. It was in a 16th century ferryman's inn in the Yorkshire Dales and there were morris dancers.]

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Keep rollin', rollin', rollin' ...

Ooh, I love a new hairstyle fad. Well, it's not strictly new, as it was first popularised in the 1940s, the awesomely titled Victory Roll.

I've suspected us ladies have been having it easy on the hairfront for a while, what with wavy hair being totes acceptable for the last couple of years. Well, after spying a guest at a lovely wedding I was at this weekend with gorgeous rolls in her hair, I suspect I'll be putting a few more hours in in front of the mirror in days to come, cursing and fiddling around with pins and hairspray.

Oh, I love it really.

Here's a picture of my grandma, sporting victory rolls.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Chair's a place I like to go...

I need to makeover my garden. We have a seating space roughly 10 metres by 3 metres which is crying out for some all weather garden furniture, so we can go and plop out there with our tea and papers.

I'd love some Adirondack chairs: traditional American chairs for relaxing with a beer on the porch, that are made entirely out of one piece of wood, and can be painted any colour.

However they probably wouldn't last so well left outside in English weather.

So, maybe something cast iron? Maybe an old sewing machine table with a slab of marble as a top?

I also want some of these multicoloured bulbs, just for the sake of it.