Thursday, 31 December 2009

Otti Berger, The Bauhaus.

We went to the Bauhaus Archiv today and marvelled at the exhibits: Mies van der Rohe furniture (a sleek, rosewood lacquered desk seriously made me drool); Marcel Breuer tubular steel chairs; and a beautiful, shallow, brass and ebony teapot. But my favourite pieces were portraits of one of the students, Otti Berger, posing in outfits from her dressing up box. I fell in love with her!

(Otti Berger, by Gertrude Arndt, 1932.)

Monday, 28 December 2009

Berlin break.

We're in Berlin until New Year's Day now. I'll probably be back to post anything particularly exciting I come across. (Today, I found handmade wooden hula hoops, striped in illuminous colours. I'm trying to work out how to get one back to England on the plane.)

Until then, I hope you are having a peaceful break. I'm going for a currywurst!

(The picture above is the bookshop at the end of the film The Lives of Others, on Karl-Marx-Allee.)

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Awesome present alert.

We were absolutely spoiled to death this Christmas. Check out this awesome present James' brother Rod gave us: a ukelele from The Duke of Uke, a ukelele boutique in East London. Love it!

Other highlights included the giantly bobbled hat Mum knitted for me (picture to follow forthwith) and a Flip for the household. What was your favourite pressie? (You can tell me: your family will never find out!)

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas.

Well, it's time to sign off the blog and get ready for Christmas. Time to lie in, get up to my mother already having cooked half the lunch (despite it always being my turn), start drinking indecently early, argue over nothing, actually enjoy playing board games, go for a long walk on the heath, annoy the cats, shout at the TV after drinking too much whisky and eat far too much trifle.

I can't wait. Have a merry Christmas, dudes.

(This is a picture of my stepfather and his family circa 1964. I love how they're all wearing ties and even the cat is sitting up straight.)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

My year in pictures.

Inspired by What Katie Does, I've decided to show my year in pictures. And, looking back, it has been pretty awesome!

We woke up in Brooklyn on the first day of January. We stayed in the flat of some friends who were travelling and looked after their cats. It was the best holiday; lots of sleeping, seeing friends, exploring Brooklyn and eating the best Mexican food I've ever had, at the local bodega. And we went to see Liza Minnelli!

It was the year we claimed back our garden. The noisy Portuguese man who lived upstairs and terrorised us every time we stepped in the garden moved OUT. Yippee!

We adopted Hoops and Fred! I've been wanting to get cats for years, but after cat sitting in New York our minds were made up. And we now have two absolutely awesome cats. This was Fred when we went to see them in the rescue. I mean, honestly. Heartbreaker. She's climbing up the curtain as I type this, though. Little git.

I spent my birthday in Miami on a private island. We managed to swap our flat in Tufnell Park for an apartment on Fisher Island. Still not sure how we managed to pull it off, but it was amusing to sample a Miami blinger lifestyle for a couple of weeks!

We went back to New York for our friends' wedding. It was on a beach overlooked by the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, on a beautiful May day. With cakes from Baked. Totally awesome. (Congratulations again, dudes.)

I went up to Yorkshire for a wedding straight out of The Wicker Man. It was in an ancient coaching inn, next to a bridge over the River Wharfe where I used to go and play as a child. They had morris dancers. It was magical.

We went up to Edinburgh to see Crosby Stills & Nash play at the castle. It was a weekend of drinking whisky, eating surprisingly well (The Outsider was a particularly memorable restaurant) and climbing up Arthur's Seat, an ancient volcano with views over the whole city.

We visited Sicily. The beaches were stunning, and reached by private boats run by pretend pirates. We went to beaches overlooked by live volcanoes, with white sand, black volcanic sand, white fluffy pumice stones, shiny black was like holidaying on the moon.

I saw Steely Dan play! I was in the midst of a Steely Dan obsession when they announced the dates in London. And they did not disappoint. Those two dudes are the coolest. Best show I saw all year.

We went to Whitstable, blew up rubber rings, and floated out to sea with flutes of prosecco. The sunburn and hangover were no joke, but it was as good as British seaside fun gets.

England won the Ashes! Yeah! Screw you, Australia. We were there on the last two days.

Other than that, we spent hours and hours on the Heath.

And the fun's not over yet! It's nearly Christmas! And we're going to Berlin the day after Boxing Day, to see in the new year with wurst and big beers. (See profile picture.) What are you all doing for New Year's Eve? And bloggers: get your year in pictures up, pronto!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas music.

I'm coming a bit unstuck trying to write a list of my favourite Christmas songs, and have concluded that it is impossible. But some essential music to be played over Christmas at my house will be Phil Spector's Christmas Album, to hear The Ronettes singing Frosty the Snowman; Rotary Connection's album Peace, inimitable, ethereal Christmas music; and the Motown Christmas Album, to have Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson wishing us a Merry Christmas.

And one of my absolute favourite Christmas songs is this; the beautiful voice of Donny Hathaway singing This Christmas.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Project bobble hat.

My friend was wearing an excellent, huge bobble hat on Saturday night and now, naturellement, I want one. We're going to Berlin the day after Boxing Day and it is going to be absolutely butt-freezing cold there. So I obviously really do need one.

Since it is the season to give other people things instead of buying them for yourself, and I have some gorgeous wool that I need to use (cream with gold speckles), I am going to attempt to make one between now and the 27th December. I am fairly confident that this should be doable, since I am going to be sitting down watching Christmas films for a large percentage of that time. Plus, my mother will be here so she can make it for me.

This is the pattern to make a giantly bobbled hat like the one above (which is lovely but £50). It can't be that hard, can it?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Geeking out: the Panasonic Lumix.

I love this shot of a Stockholm street, but even more so because it was taken on the same camera I have just ordered; a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. To paraphrase Britney, it's not a point and shoot, but not yet an SLR. But it gets results (check out this Flickr pool), is in my budget, has retro stylings to look like your Dad's camera from 1982 and gets great reviews. I'm really looking forward to trying it out!

Which camera are you using at the moment? Do you love it?

[Image by Ola Jacobson]

Boxing Day trifle.

Every year at Christmas, Grandma and I used to make a trifle. I still have the same huge bowl with white and orange floral print that we used, but as there are only four of us a giant trifle is sadly not required. I think I'll make mini trifles for Boxing Day in vintage champagne glasses, perhaps piña colada trifles as inspired by The Modern Pantry. With pineapple, Mum's plum jam, coconut rum and a super-snowy dusting of coconut.

Grandma also used to try to make us start Christmas dinner with half a grapefruit with a cherry on top. Who wants to eat that when there are roast potatoes and parsnips afoot? But I might reclaim the tradition in her honour.

I am so excited! Christmas dinner is definitely my favourite meal of the year. Which traditions will you be following in the kitchen this year?

[Picture of Lobster & Seashorses Grandma's trifle borrowed with thanks.] 

Thursday, 17 December 2009

White Christmas, the Charlotte Street Hotel.

For the perfect way to end a day of Christmas shopping in the West End this Sunday, mosey down to the Charlotte Street Hotel, have champagne afternoon tea and watch White Christmas in their plush private screening room. With the entrance lamps lit and (hopefully) fat snowflakes drifting by, it will get Christmas week off to a perfect start. I'm very tempted. Charlotte Street Hotel Film Club details here.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Christmas drinks.

I'm absolutely loving Luscombe drinks at the moment. They're made on a farm in Dorset from entirely natural, seasonal ingredients like organic cane sugar,  ginger and Sicilian lemons.

The hot ginger beer is spicy and warming and great to have around to grab instead of a glass of wine or, er, whisky. And the elderfIower bubbly is delicious! I find myself drinking so much in December that an elderflower bubbly or hot ginger beer is a great non-alcoholic treat, instead of that nightcap when you get home...

I'm having Christmas at my house this year and have been stockpiling bottles to try to keep alcohol consumption to a decent level. (Does anyone else tend to have a drink on hand from 11 o'clock on Christmas morning until bedtime?)

You can buy Luscombe drinks from Abel and Cole.

PS: It's snowing in London! Yippee! Only lightly. But it's freezing so I'm hoping for more!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Dear Santa...

It was my work Christmas party last night. It was on the rooftop at private members club Shoreditch House, which was sooo lovely; if I still lived in East London I'd deffo join. Unfinished brick walls, wall to wall plushness, rooftop swimming pool overlooking the City... I was home by 11pm like a good girl but am still horrendously hungover.

Unfortunately, my hangover is making me feel very wanty. I saw a girl with over-the-knee boots on the tube this morning, and it has sparked a desire for some urban waders of my own. What do you think? Feeling this look, or what?

Unfortunately, my Christmas list already includes a return flight to New York, a nice deco diamond, a digital SLR camera (so that I can faire du Garance) and a Flip. Too much, Santa?

[Imagery from Vogue Paris, The Sartorialist]

Monday, 14 December 2009

Season's Beatings!

Every so often at this time of year I want to hear something other than Step into Christmas by Elton John. Rarely, mind. But when I do, I reach for Season's Beatings, a Christmas mix of hip hop, funk, soul and awesome, featuring Christmas songs by Jackson 5, James Brown, DMC, Kurtis Blow, Shonen Knife, Ray Charles and Rotary Connection.

In the spirit of the season, here it is to download. But it's also perfect as a stocking filler, to keep and play year after year, with wicked cover graphics. Buy it here. We play it every year in our house. (Nothing to do with the fact that it is the creation of James and his mate Hudson. It genuinely is awesome.) There are some bad words on it though, so be careful if you have youngsters.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Steppin' out.

We let Fred and Hoops out into the garden for the first time this weekend. They'd got to the point where our flat was not jungle enough for them, so it was time to turn them out.

We live on a street of high Victorian terraces with fifty foot long gardens, which backs onto a similar street, so we are buffered by a huge grid of gardens for them to play in. It was tense at first: we'd been so careful about making sure their fluffy little butts stayed in, and suddenly we were opening the French windows to let them out.

We put butter on their paws, as the old wives tale tells you to, and off they went. They were cautious at first, but have been frolicking out there for a couple of hours now. Hoops hooked himself on a rose bush, so it had to go; I dug it up. (Hated it anyway, vivid peach roses. Yuk.)

And we noticed the neighbour's dog, Boa, on the fire escape, licking his lips. (Bottom left in the pictures above. Click to enlarge to see the beasts in full glory.) He's a very mellow dog, they were leaping and skipping and he was just looking on. Possibly eying them for lunch, but after a while he turned the handle on his door and went back in with nary a woof.

I grew up with outdoor cats so I'm feeling pretty relaxed about it, but still keep having visions of a missing cat poster with their picture on it. At the end of the day, they're lively and need to hunt and chase, so I think the benefit exceeds the risk.

So hopefully the only casualty today has been a broken flowerpot. Although having said that Fred has just donked her head really hard on the window. I'm looking forward to snuggling up with the tuckered out little beasts later.

PS: Have you noticed it's snowing on my blog?

Friday, 11 December 2009

War Is Over! (If You Want It.)

'Henry Ford knew how to sell cars by advertising. I’m selling PEACE. And Yoko and I are just one big advertising campaign. It may make people laugh, but it may make them think, too. Really, we’re Mr and Mrs Peace.' John Lennon
Imagine Peace and Yoko Ono are producing WAR IS OVER! posters in every language for the 40th anniversary of John and Yoko's poster campaign that began on Monday 15 Dec, 1969: ‘WAR IS OVER!’

You can download the high res files from Flickr. One word, seven letters, begins in A. AWESOME.

[Spotted on On This Harvest Moon.]

A cycling tour through the Windy C.

I'm dreaming about Chicago and cycling through snow, this morning. This picture was taken last night and posted on this lovely cycling blog, written by two girls who 'practice city cycling with style'. I like the mission statement. And I really want to cycle down that frosty street! Apparently they use studded tyres to combat the ice and snow over there. Obviously, London just shuts down as soon as it starts snowing so I have no need for such a thing. I'm going to read their Chicago city guide now and have a little daydream tour through Chicago, on a vintage Schwinn bicycle, wearing some cute vintage dress I bought after a happy day of thrifting...anyone wanna meet up for a deep dish pizza?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

An open love letter to porridge.

I love porridge. I actually feel excited about getting up and choosing what to put on top of it. This week, porridge excitement reached fever pitch after I purchased a tin of créme de marrons. Unctuous, sweet and melty, this stuff was made to go on porridge. I nearly had it for dinner as well as breakfast yesterday.

Other favourite toppings include a layer of crunchy brown sugar, a dollop of treacle or maple syrup, or a pat of butter. (This was how my Grandma made it when I was young. I used to pick out the butter on my spoon and eat that first. Aren't kids disgusting?) I want to investigate the use of fruit, flaked almonds and cinnamon. And I was drooling at the description of Gleneagles' deluxe porridge in this porridge puff piece; it's made with cream and Drambuie-laced raspberries. Absolute porn.

So, what do you put on top of yours?

(Oh, and Americans: I love you and wish I could come and live in your land of plenty for a while. And thanks for Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. But can you stop calling porridge 'oatmeal' please. It's 'porridge'. Thanks.)

[Photography by My Breakfast Blog. I really respect your love of the best meal of the day.] 

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

My tips for safe cycling in London.

If you're getting a bike for Christmas or are going to start cycling to work as your New Year resolution, do what I did when I started commuting seriously in London a few years ago and look up a few safety tips. The roads here are narrow and chaotic, with their own harum-scarum rules. Black cab drivers often seem as though they'd prefer you dead than in their way. A few near misses later, I'm still alive. Here is what I've learnt over the years.

Stop at red lights.
You may think that you are not hurting anyone by jumping the red light. Many times you're not. But you might be leaving other traffic and pedestrians in a dangerous situation: unable to make turns, or cross the road, stranded in the middle of traffic. Is it really worth those extra 30 seconds you gain? Also, breaking the rules makes everyone else more antagonistic towards cyclists. Start playing by the rules and stop giving cyclists a bad name.

Mind the gap.
Do not squeeze through that tempting gap between a bus and the kerb, or a lorry and a lane of traffic. Just don't do it. The big vehicles can't see you, and they will squash you like the filling in a custard cream. Basically, never go down the left hand side of a big vehicle. This has sadly been the cause of death in a few cycling accidents in London recently.

Stay in line at the lights.
Known as shoaling in the States, this is the practice of overtaking the line of cyclists at the traffic light and parking your butt right in front of them. Stay where you are in the line. The process of cycling natural selection has placed you at the back and there is no shame in that. Stay where you are, take your time and set off safely when it's your turn. That way, speedier cyclists don't have to put themselves at danger to manoeuvre around you again.

Keep your eyes on the road.
Sounds simple, but two friends of mine have ridden into the back of cars because they've drifted off. Schoolboy error. I often find myself drifting. Concentrate and keep your eyes on the road.

Expect the unexpected.
Watch out for drivers nipping into bus lanes, passenger doors opening in the traffic light queues, gaps in traffic where drivers are letting oncoming traffic through, motorcyclists zipping past you in the bus lane. Also look out for drunk Polish plumbers who step into the road in front of you and knock you off. (This happened to me.)

Get involved in the traffic.
I find that hanging back and being cautious is actually more dangerous. Take your place in the traffic, be confident, let people know you're there, take your time and don't be rushed. Ignore impatient white van men and taxi drivers: you have as much right as they do to be on the road and you are more vulnerable. Get in front of the traffic, signal properly and regularly, even make eye contact with drivers at the lights to let them know you're there. Then you're good to go.

Basic housekeeping.
ALWAYS wear a helmet, bright (ideally reflective) clothing and have lights with powerful batteries. Make sure your bags are tightly closed, strapped in, your basket or pannier is securely attached, you don't have dangly laces or scarves, that there's air in your tyres. Carry a lock (Abus make good locks) but don't expect your bike to be there when you get back if you leave it in a London street.

May the force be with you.
As hard as you may try, the unexpected will happen. Some idiot will do a U-turn and speed straight towards you, or someone will start reversing at high speed through a quiet square. (Both of these have happened to me.) All you can do is keep your wits about you.

Good luck, and don't forget to enjoy yourself. I find whizzing past bus stops packed with bored commuters to be the best reminder that cycling rocks. The mornings when you see a baby fox, spot a wading bird in a river, or freewheel downhill with the sun shining in your face more than make up for the frustrations. It's scary at first, but I can honestly say I no longer feel nervous on my bike. It just takes practice. And good luck. And more good luck. Go safe, dudes!

[Photo by Kevin Meredith]

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Oh no she didn't! (A post about UNIQLO.)

Uh oh, I've done it! I've become one of those bloggers who post pictures of their outfits. Obviously, I'm not in the same league (shout out to What Katie Wore and Love Maegan). Although I will say that this picture was taken after a tube journey that contained a nervous breakdown (yes, that was me shouting, 'Morons!' getting off the Northern Line this morning), a long hard day at the coalface, and a drizzly cycle ride home. Bearing all that in mind, I am actually totally rating myself.

But anyway, I just wanted to shout about this dress. Old news, but I am loving UNIQLO at the moment. This dress is £25, 100% merino wool, comes in awesome colours and is very flattering. (Not judging by that picture, you may be thinking. But I am curvier than a stout little teapot, so this is flattering in my world!) I've ordered another one in black. And yes, they are my Clarks Wallabee abominations. And no, I don't care if they make my legs look short. My legs are short.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Channeling Costanza.

I probably shouldn't admit this, but I've been having a total George Costanza moment lately, on Monday mornings. A couple of weekends ago when I was rushing out of the door to get to work, I had the genius idea of wearing the same clothes as the day before. Because no-one at work would know, right? (Well, except for the couple of workmates who read this blog. Sorry to drop his bombshell on you, dudes.) It saves a precious few Monday morning minutes!

I totally Costanzaed this morning, and it feels good!

(For those who don't know who Costanza is...go. Learn. You too can experience these simple joys.) And is anyone watching the latest series of Curb? The Larry / George juxtaposition is too genius.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Hampstead Heath action.

It actually stopped raining in London this weekend. So we headed to the Heath to frolic in the veritably tropical weather. Hampstead Heath is so funny: people get dressed up to go for a walk, in their best Hunter wellies, Miu Miu bags and Raybans. It is completely, utterly gorgeous though, you can always wander and feel as though you're lost. And we actually found Kenwood House today. (After years of wandering on the Heath, even going to concerts in the grounds, but somehow never actually making it to Kenwood.) We stopped for lunch at the Kalendar Café – smoked haddock with hollandaise, asparagus and colcannon, OH YEAH – then hit Corks and Forks, the awesome deli next door, to stock up on Christmas hamper fillers. And now I'm going to have chestnut purée on toast. A perfect December Sunday.

Friday, 4 December 2009

The Pixies - so 1992...

Sorry to go all 1992 on you, but I saw the film LOUDquietLOUD last night, about The Pixies reforming in 2004. It was brilliant: kind've fascinating to see what happens to those in the music industry when their light dies down. (Kim Deal lives with her parents in Ohio and sleeps all day and the drummer took up metal detecting and magic.) It was fascinating to see the dysfunctionality reuniting, but then creating magic on stage again. They were really good, weren't they? I'm going on a Pixies re-listen today.

The Pixies – Here Comes Your Man

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Red Shoes.

There's something so Christmassy about ballet. It probably stems from the traditional outing to see The Nutcracker as a child, but watching the English National Ballet live from the Royal Opera House on Boxing Day has also become tradition in our house in recent years: on the sofa, under a blanket, sleepy from over-indulgence whilst watching the lithe ballerinas twinkling around.

This year, just in time for Christmas, we get to go and see The Red Shoes on the big screen. Released next Friday, and restored by Martin Scorsese, it's going to make the perfect wintery girls' day out before Christmas. Hot chocolate, fur coats, daydreaming about snow-swept Russian squares: all obligatory. I can't wait. See a sneak peek here. Read an awesome interview with Scorsese about the film here.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Give praise to modernism.

I was just scrolling this rather awesome page of Brazilian modernist architecture when I saw the Cathedral of Brasilia, designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1970.

Isn't it uncannily similar to the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral? (Designed by Frederick Gibberd in 1962.)

[Photography: Julian Weyer and Creative Commons/Chowells]

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Deck the halls with boughs of holly.

In case you hadn't noticed, 'tis the season to be jolly and therefore time to deck the halls with boughs of holly.

I'll be going to pillage holly from the heath forthwith, but as I'm hosting Christmas this year I need to get festive.  I've just snapped up these gorgeous snowflake garlands from Lobster and Swan. And Wee Birdy reminded me of these vintage fifties glass ornaments: my absolute favourites. (Wee Birdy tells you where to buy them, along with other genius Christmas shopping tips.) I'm also going to get a beautiful wreath from my friend Gypsy Rose's pop-up flower shop, which she's running every weekend until Christmas from her London cab at the Bluebird - how cool?

With some fallen branches gathered from the heath, I think that will be me done. I'd love a tree and some twinkling lights, but the kittens would destroy them. The kittens will be wearing bells, though, as they're going outside for the first time soon. Are miniature Christmas hats a step too far?

[Pictures from Lobster and Swan, Wee Birdy and Gypsy Rose Writes.]