Friday, 28 May 2010

Feelin' Friday (and the Sex and the City debate.)

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Thanks for all your lovely birthday messages, dudes. Really sweet! I had several things that I meant to post today but my brain is candyfloss after a day of shopping and wine. Plus I got champagned at my first ever fashion show, the AIU graduate show, which I will hopefully write up today for Catwalk Genius, if I get my brain in gear.

I've got tickets to go and see the Sex and The City film this evening. Are you all going to see it? I love New York and I love fashion and grew up with the series throughout my twenties so I've got a certain fond attachment to it. It was always candid, clever and funny and I thought the girls were feminists, to some extent. But the reviews of this film suggest that they've relinquished all that and it's a howler. (This review in particular is hilarious.) I'm going to counter the obscene indulgence of going to see it by watching something really highbrow and intense over the weekend. Maybe a nice bit of Derek Jarman.

So yeah, I'm frankly claiming today as birthday, too, and going for a ginormous swim to swim off yesterday's excesses. Then a bit more shopping. Have a brilliant weekend, a long one if you're in the UK, wooooOOOOooooooot! (See. Brain. Candyfloss.) (And sorry for the second ME picture in a row. This is me blowing out my candles last night. The J stands for my middle name, Juliet.)

Psst: if you are in London on June 5th, there is a screening of Sex and The City 2 being shown at the Everyman Cinema in Hampstead to raise funds for the Great Ormond Street Hospital. Might be a good way to watch the film with conscience! Tickets £28.50, including bubbly, cake and amazing raffle prizes! Buy them here. GIRLS ONLY.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

It was 30 (something) years ago today...

It's my birthday! You don't need to know exactly which one, but I'm a bit older than I was in this picture, looking bog-eyed on my sixth birthday. I was thinking that after hearing so many stories from pals about giving birth I didn't actually know my own story, so I asked my Ma. Here it is.

My memories of 27th May 197*.
The day was a beautiful day - we were at the beginning of one of the hottest summers in living memory, a drought year*. I'd gone into hospital early as it was a planned caesarean birth and as I waited to go to theatre I read The Diary Of A Nobody. The vicar of St Mary's came in on one of his hospital visiting sessions and looked at my book and was astounded as it was his all time favourite book and he had never come across anyone else reading it in fifty years of visiting. He said that the new baby was bound to be a very bright baby with a good sense of humour!

The birth took place around lunchtime and was performed by a Dr Jolly! I was well out of things but we'd taken the precaution of leaving a card with the results of the birth within my eyesight so I woke to "Caroline is here" several hours later. I was beside myself with joy as I had always hoped for a girl but thought I was destined only to have boys. I was quite poorly after the birth, but I don't think anything could have taken the smile off my face.

You were a gorgeous little thing, initially covered in little red birthmarks that disappeared after a few days. I can remember being very proud when they lined you up on a bed with a group of other babies as you were well rounded and totally alert.

[*Bit of a giveaway clue, this. Not so much on the well-rounded and totally alert anymore, sorry Ma! Well done breeders, I don't know how you do it. ]

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Summer sandals.

I can't decide what kind of sandals to get for summer. I am over gladiators, clogs are great but I can't really wear them to ride my bike. I need something flat, practical and sturdy. Are these Clarks Originals really very wrong? I think they're kind of... awesome. (I remember having tantrums over being made to wear them as a kid, as my mother will no doubt remind me.)

Edit: I did not get the shoes. I went to try them on and they were all weirdly flimsy and not flattering. So I left 'em. You can breathe again, GSE.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Olympic Park.

I cycled past the site of the Olympic Park on my way home from mosaicing at the weekend. The River Lea and its network of adjoining canals runs alongside it and make a gorgeous cycle route, connecting East and North London.

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It was really lovely and tranquil along the river. It must be so annoying for all the residents to have this massive change going on around them.

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On one side of the river is high security fencing, behind which cranes swing and futuristic building work frantically takes place. On the other side are housing estates.

River Lea

It looks as though they're 'dealing with' the structures along the west side of the river that really have to go.

Building beside River Lea

Apparently there used to be great grafitti along this stretch. A little bit remains. I hope they don't just demolish everywhere with character.

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But seeing the structure of the Olympic Stadium itself softened this cynical Londoner; I've been dreading the disruption of the Games, really.

Olympic Park

It seemed incongruous, lurking in the background on a quiet summer evening amid the smell of barbecue wafting off the houseboats. But I did get a little rush of excitement. And I'm always up for a bit of Russian male gymnasts action.
Olympic Park

Monday, 24 May 2010

Learning to mosaic.

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I spent the weekend at a mosaic workshop, run by a friend who is a master mosaicist. Along with seven others, I learnt how to cut, lay tiles and grout, got to know about the tools, methods and different styles of mosaic and how to deal with the materials. We were merrily cutting up broken plates as though they were pieces of paper after a couple of hours.

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We all produced something that we were proud of, nobody flunked out (although I was borderline at one point); probably due to Jo's saint-like patience as we badgered her every second for advice on what we were doing. It was interesting to learn a new skill and challenge my brain to think in a completely new way. It would be a great thing for teams of workmates or friends to bond, learn a new skill and have something to take away at the end of the two days. I'm absolutely dying to do another session now I've learned the skills, and produce something really mega. A December session would be a great way to make Christmas presents. Here are some of our finished pieces.

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Here is my masterful effort. Jo did try and warn me that typography was one of the hardest things to mosaic but I ignored her. Um, I can hear you laughing by the way.

My Hull mosaic

Contact Jo Thorpe Mosaic if you are interested in a quote for a class or workshop or would like to commission a piece or some restoration. Check out her incredible work here. She is East London based but can travel. Thanks again Jo, you've got the patience of a saint! It was a truly heavenly and relaxing weekend.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Going swimming.

I'm packing a picnic and spending the day at the lido. The sun is out in London and it's actually warm. This is an opportunity not to be missed. (I will take pen and paper with me and try to do some work. Honestly.)

I love this picture from The Sartorialist's vintage photo competition, of someone's grandmother on her honeymoon in 1956. How brilliant is that bathing suit?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Kindle for iPhone.

Kindle

Last night I was idly thinking about Kindles and how I would actually quite like to have one. You can download books cheaply and immediately from Amazon. The screen is not backlit, and is configured to look as much like the printed page as possible. You get to carry your whole library around with you and it weighs next to nothing. However, Kindles retail at $250 and, being the kind of person who waited a couple of years until iPhones were reasonably priced despite wanting one so much I nearly died, I'm not going to cough up for an electronic pretend book just yet.

So imagine my joy and delight to discover that there is a FREE Amazon Kindle app, to download books to read on your iPhone. I tried it last night, ordering a free sample of a book I want to read.* Minutes later, I was scanning the first chapter. If I want to buy the whole book it's only $3. And it is instantly downloaded onto your phone, to the home screen of the app.

I'm sure purists out there will stamp their feet at the thought of reading on an electronic device instead of holding a book and part of me does agree. It would be sad if book covers were reduced to digital art, there's no replacement for gorgeous thick paper between your fingers, and you can't spend rainy afternoons browsing through dusty Kindle shops. And you can't read in the bath! But maybe in fifty years time we will look back in disbelief at how we used to chop down forests, use factories to treat trees, print toxic ink on to them and then ship them over from China in giant boats.

But I digress. I'm interested to see how I get on reading on the iPhone. The tininess of the screen is obviously annoying, but it's easy enough to touch the screen to turn the page and I reckon having the option there will save my life on a bus or tube journey soon. Isn't technology brilliant?

*Can anyone tell which book I'm reading from the picture?

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Parliament Hill Lido.

Parliament Hill Lido

I went for my first lido swim of the year yesterday at Parliament Hill Lido on Hampstead Heath. It's my local lido and I do love it. But I wish it was heated. The water was 14˚ yesterday. Pretty cold, but warmer than Kenwood Ladies Pond where I did my first two outdoor swims of the year, thinking it would be warmer than the lido. It wasn't. It was 11˚ there at the weekend and so cold you couldn't breathe for the first few seconds after getting in.

Parliament Hill Lido

Still, I'm not complaining. Cold as it is, it's just lovely to swim in the fresh air, in a huge clean pool, with only a couple of other people in it. And I do love the 1930s design of the place.

Parliament Hill Lido

It doesn't have the facilities of other lidos such as London Fields, where not only is the water heated but they have fancy coffee on sale. But styrofoam cups of builders tea at my lido are only 60p, and you can't argue with that when your toes are freezing.

Parliament Hill Lido

For anyone shivering whilst looking at these photos, yeah. This is why I'm always banging on about how I'd like to live somewhere like Los Angeles. Isn't being British and having to seek our pleasures in this way a bloody pain in the arse?*

Parliament Hill Lido

Cool changing rooms, though. All the details about visiting the lido are here.

*Actually, I am complaining, aren't I?

Monday, 17 May 2010

Studded brogues.

These shoes remind me of these Louboutins, which I will clearly never own. My option are from Kurt Geiger and are currently half price. I think I could wear them all through summer, with sugary-coloured silk, chinos, and pale faded denim. Especially if the miserable weather continues like this. Qu'est-ce que tu pense?

Bobbin bicycles.

I gave my bike a new basket and a wash and polish on Friday. So I feel a bit guilty for cheating on it and scanning the product page of Bobbin Bicycles, with its blissfully old-fashioned bikes. But ever since Sarah posted a picture of this shiny red bicycle she received as a surprise gift, I've been a'wantin' one. I have to say, I'm more than a little jealous. Hers came with a bow on the handlebar! Make sure to wear a helmet, lady.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Blue.



I felt a little bit blue this week. A combination of an argument with a friend, my cat apparently discovering a nest of fledgling blue tits (she's wearing an enormous bell, now), and the nostalgia trip of seeing Pavement play live. (Music really takes me back to the time and place where I used to listen to it and realising that I was sixteen when I was into that stuff and the fact that I'm now, um, nearly twice that age I found slightly depressing.)

A good sleep last night and I'm feeing a bit better. So I've cleaned and polished my bike, I'm going to buy a new basket (wire not wicker, sorry Sarah and Alice! I don't think wicker would suit my bike for some reason). And tonight I'm going to The Narrow Boat, a gorgeous pub next the Regent's Canal, to try and reconjure the Amsterdam vibe, watch the sun go down and have a good chat-up with a friend I've not seen in too long.

Here's a clip of the wonderful Joni. She really is one of my favourite artists. I used to listen to her in my mid-twenties when I was feeling blue. Her album Blue has got to be the all-time number one album of choice for a sad girl to listen to. Guess I've grown out of that too, so now I need new girly angstin' music. Sigh. What do you listen to if you feel blue?

Have a great weekend dudes. x

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Review: Pavement, Brixton Academy.

pavement

I finally saw Pavement last night on their reunion tour. Pavement were my favourite band in my mid-teens. Lackadaisical drums, drawled poetic Americana lyrics, slouchy guitars...what could be more perfect a soundtrack for a kid trying to look cool on the streets of Hull? I first saw them supporting Sonic Youth in Leeds when I was, ooh, sixteen? We snuck in and watched them soundchecking and couldn't believe our luck. (Looking back, it was probably fairly easy for a group of sixteen year old girls to sneak into bands soundchecking. Hm.)

So last night was very much a nostalgia thing for me. I hadn't bothered relistening to any of their albums; I rarely like to go back to that era, musically, because I listened those records to death. So I know every note anyway.

And they were just perfect! And when I say perfect, I mean, perfectly shambolic, as Pavement are. I've never seen a band actually nearly fall apart on stage and lose it in the middle of a song before. Which they did last night. So that was a first. But then they played Box Elder, which Steve Malkmus* introduced by saying, 'This was covered by a band from Yorkshire called The Wedding Present, which John Peel played. Without him we wouldn't be standing here now.' Gold Sounds sounded poignant and lovely, everyone shouted 'No Big Hair!' during Cut Your Hair, Range Life was the perfect encore.

It was great to see the characters back together. Bob Nastanovich racing around the stage screaming his lyrics like a devil dressed in bank manager civvies when not on second drums. Mark Ibold riffing with Steve Malkmus. (Mark Ibold it turns out is now a bartender at The Great Jones Café in NYC. I'm wondering if it was him who told me it was Fred Neil singing Dolphins, that time.)

I'm thinking of going again tonight and chancing it outside for a ticket. That's how much I enjoyed it. But perhaps one nostalgic trip down memory lane to a past that is now almost half of my lifetime away is enough.

*Much as it might compromise the integrity and quality of this review, I have to point out that Stephen Malkmus is definitely Still Fit. Despite that questionable low cut American Apparel tee. (I think they're all kinds of wrong on a man. But, in this instance, I will let it pass.)

malkmus

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Peanut sauce.

peanut sauce

I am addicted to peanut sauce at the moment, as I've already mentioned. My favourite meal recently has been golden tofu on a green salad with strips of crispy red pepper, topped with a generous dollop of coconutty peanut sauce.

To make peanut sauce I fry 3 finely chopped garlic cloves in a tablespoon of butter until golden then quickly add a tin of coconut milk, mixing in several very large tablespoons of chunky peanut butter,  a tablespoon each of lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and a sprinkle of chilli flakes, using more or less of each ingredient to taste.

To make golden tofu I place a block of firm tofu in a bowl and place another bowl on top of the block for 30 minutes to press out any extra liquid. Pat the tofu dry with tissue paper, cut into small rectangular panels, sieve cornflour to coat all over and place in a frying pan hot with peanut oil. Fry until golden, turning carefully once (this is hard!) to crisp both sides. (Thanks to What Katie Does for the cornflour tip! It really is the key to making the tofu golden.)

I also want to try Gado-gado, an Indonesian dish I tried in Amsterdam which is a vegetable and egg salad topped with peanut sauce. I made a big batch of sauce last night so I'm going to freeze it into portions to defrost whenever I need my peanut fix.

(I clearly need to practise photographing food. Obviously I chose the most difficult to look tasty dish imaginable for my inaugural food post. Just how I roll.)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Treme.

Did you all watch The Wire? If so, are you as excited about Treme – David Simon's new show set around music in post-Katrina New Orleans – as I am? Named after the district in New Orleans that has historically been the centre of jazz in the city, the show incorporates some of the same actors as The Wire. Wendell Pierce, who played Bunk in The Wire, is now Antoine Baptiste, a brilliant trombonist with an eye for the ladies. Clarke Peters, who played miniature-carving detective Lester Freamon, is now a Mardi Gras Indian chief. This brilliant article from The Observer, written on set at recent filming, tells us that the show is optimistic and celebratory, which is a change of direction from Simon's depictions of futility in the Wire. (I love how, in the piece, one critic describes compares watching the Wire with reading Dante in 14th-century Italian.) Having recently started showing in the US and immediately been granted the go-ahead to film a second series, there is no set date for the show to come to the UK, yet. Sort it out, programmers!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Amsterdam.

So, here is the report of our trip to Amsterdam! Thank you so much for all your recommendations, they were awesome and really helped us out! Our main reason for going was to see a couple of gigs (LCD Soundsystem and Mayer Hawthorne: 8/10 and 6/10, respectively). Seeing the city was just an added bonus. I did enjoy soaking up the vibe of the place but it didn't have the immediate impact of say, Rome or Berlin. It was very pretty and lovely to cycle along the canals in the sunshine and drink beer. (I drank a lot of Heineken, I will admit. Well, when in Amsterdam...) Here are some photos. To start off with: the standard canal shot. It was nice to find a café at a quiet corner next to a bridge like this and people watch.

Canal

As I love water what captured me was how lucky people were to live alongside the canals. This was a houseboat with adirondack chairs on the roof for settling in to canal gaze.

Houseboat

Imagine living in one of these houses overlooking in the canal and settling in by one of the huge windows. All the buildings have furniture hooks on the eaves to swing in furniture, because the staircases are so high and narrow.

By the canal

More chairs overlooking the canal.

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OK, Dutch food wasn't the best. Our nicest meal was Indonesian; these Dutch pancakes looked promising but they were seasoning-free and greasy.

Dutch pancakes

This classic Dutch apple cake with whipped cream was OK but I felt sick after eating it.

Apple pie with whipped cream

Plenty of beer made up for it, though. We drank these beers at Café de Doffer. You know that place when you're holiday that you accidentally find yourself in about three times? This was our place. It was a really nice bar. With extremely basic food. (I had a toastie the like of which I haven't had since I had a Breville as a student.)

Witte beer

The Jordaan district was our favourite hood. It was probably the most characterful, artistic hood we found.

Studio in Jordaan

Jordaan

I could just imagine a mouse in clogs standing on the stairs in this house. (I had that song stuck in my head the whole fricking trip.)

Jordaan

I have to shout out our hotel, CitizenM. It's a concept hotel where the rooms are small but very well-designed with everything you need (and for free - free wifi and films, etc.), with the lobby acting as a living area with bookshelves stuffed with interesting books, TVs, Macs with huge screens and gorgeous modern furniture dotted all over the place, such as this Vitra Marshmellow sofa.

CitizenM lobby

And stumbling into the lobby one evening I realised I was staring at an original Warhol screenprint of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

Warhol Princess Beatrix

Plus there was a tram stop directly outside the hotel which had you in the Grachtengordel (the medieval canal district) within ten minutes. Only a 45 minute flight from London, Amsterdam was definitely a great place to just get away for a few days.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Back and bonkers.

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We got back from Amsterdam yesterday evening, shattered as usual after a few days in a different city. (We never like to waste any time so go out all day and then stay up all night, too. Makes for an interesting feeling of exhaustion when you get home.) Then, after going out to vote, I got caught up in the election hoo-ha and stayed up late. (What is going on? All I know is that I want Gordon Brown to remain as Head of Maths.) Anyway, after a quick lunch at Daylesford Organic today with the ever lovely Passementerie, including a small glass of prosecco, I'm knackered and feeling as bonkers as the lady in this picture's pink tights. (They like a bike over there, don't they?)

I'll write my Amsterdam report up over the weekend!  I hope you all had great weeks and I'm looking forward to catching up with what those of you who blog have been up to. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Sneaky Magpie.

I love food (I really am greedy*) so love blogs that have food peppered throughout them. The Sneaky Magpie always includes delicious-looking dishes that I immediately want to cook, bakes her own bread, and always seems to find the best sneaky little restaurants and places to go for a cake or an ice-cream. Which is a useful skill to have.

Quaint Living also always makes me hungry, with pictures of the small feasts she makes, lovely cakes and bread making, but I'm always shouting her out, she's going to think I'm stalking her.

*Wondering why I never include food on this blog. I think mainly because it is hard to photograph and make it look tasty, but I may have to give it a go.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Afternoon Tea Total.

Afternoon Tea Total is written by Natalie, a Londoner who splits her time between London and Berlin and is obsessed by afternoon tea. Luckily both cities have a strong tradition of afternoon tea (or Kaffee und Kuchen) so Natalie gives us the lowdown on their best tearooms. She's just back from a long trip to Japan as well, so check out her experiences of traditional Japanese tea rooms. (Beware. You will be absolutely gagging for tea and cake after a visit to her blog.)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

From Chile to Chocolate.

A lot of Londoners are obsessed with Mexican food. Mainly because it's quite hard to get hold of decent stuff here. Luardos food van do the best burritos and carnitas I've found and Wahaca is a good sit-down restaurant but expensive. (I keep meaning to get a copy of Mexican Food Made Simple by Wahaca's owner, Thomasina Miers.)

From Chile to Chocolate is a blog written by a man obsessed by Mexican food and is an invaluable resource for Londoners, with tips to help source Mexican ingredients plus ideas and inspiration. Mr Chile to Chocolate is currently in Mexico barbecuing cactus, so reading about his adventures provides even better inspiration. Drool warning. I need to order that book!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Clogs, tulips, cheese, windmills.


Can you guess from the post title where I'm going this week? Indeed, I'm going to Holland, the land of cheese. We're going to Amsterdam until Thursday to check out a couple of gigs (Mayer Hawthorne and LCD Soundsystem, whose new album you can listen to here), ride bikes and chill out. We're staying at a concept hotel called citizenM, which should be interesting; they have mood pads in the rooms that you use to adjust the room's ambience to your mood. It has great reviews on TripAdvisor, so I'm happy.

I've not been before and was wary that the food in Amsterdam might be awful but, after doing a bit of research, I am really excited for my belly! Apparently there are big Asian and Surinamese communities who have created a kind of fusion cuisine. I'm obsessed with peanut sauce at the moment and it's apparently a big speciality over there. You can even get peanut sauce with your frites. And the sweet stuff sounds awesome too: apple pie with whipped cream, dutch pancakes and stroopwafels: thin wafers sandwiched together with hot syrup.

I'll report back! And please let me know if you have any Amsterdam recommendations, I've not had the chance to do much research! I'll check in whilst I'm away but as I'm obviously in a greedy mood (or maybe just hungry), I'm going to write a few advance posts for the week ahead about some of my favourite British foodie blogs. In case I don't get the chance to blog. So do check back. Back Friday. Have a good week! Tot!

[Image by Mogh.]