Sunday, 31 May 2009

Hot hot heat

This weekend the temperature in London rose to 25c. So for now it is goodbye to 40 denier tights and thick cotton leggings and hello to sandals, bikinis and sarongs.

It was finally hot enough to wear my new Insight panda print dress and on Saturday morning I sat on the balcony and devoured half of The Amber Spyglass, (although I am now dreading the end as it means saying goodbye to Lyra and Iorek and Serafina and Will and Lee forever).

Saturday afternoon was spent on my dear friend Katy's roof terrace in Covent Garden where we barbecued burgers and forgot to brainstorm business ideas.

Saturday night was the BIG FINAL and although I was bitterly disappointed that my much loved Stavros Flatley (a father and son dance team who made mum and I laugh until we cried) didn't win, I was most impressed by the dancers who did.

Sunday; more barbecue, more sun and the growth of a deep sense of relaxation which caused me much distress when the alarm went off at 7am this morning.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Humble abode

As discussed here, I think the a person's home - in my case bedroom - can reveal an awful lot about them.  

I took these pictures yesterday, after a quick cleanup and once I had unpacked the enormous suitcase brought home from Devon a week ago. I have also included a slightly older picture of my dressing table with some flowers (in case you're confused by the magical disappearance of them in later pics). 

My bedroom window doesn't have a particularly exciting view, but I can see trees and greenery and on a Sunday morning I hear the church bells. That, for me, is happiness and when you consider that previous London views have included a granite covered garden, a wall, and a main road, I feel I have earned it. 

I am hugely lucky to live in a flat owned by a friend of my mums, who has incredible taste and some beautiful antique furniture.  None of the furniture is mine, but the 2 pictures on the walls and the art on the dresser is. 

The tree collage was made by my mum, it hangs above the fireplace in my room and reminds me of the countryside and towering trees of the woodland at the bottom of my garden in Devon. The print of the birds was bought on my recent trip to Edinburgh. The message on the print reads "Sleep, we will wake you up to a new day" and it appealed to the sleepaholic in me, as well as being just the right side of whimsical. The fabric bird that sits on my dresser was a gift from my beloved, I like how silly it is, I call her Flora and for now I use the picture frame to hang jewellery on.
I have also included a staged photo of a few of my favourite items including a ceramic brown and polka dot cookie jar which I use as a piggy bank, a red and gold jewellery box gifted by my best friend and bought in India and a small black box decorated with a frog which I use to store my rings.
I am fortunate to have a large wardrobe, meaning that for first time in my adult life I haven't had endless Ikea boxes filled with clothes stored under my bed. The bookshelves are also a great treat, and one of my next tasks is to organise my collection of books by colour. I know it's sad, but it looks so good.  

The fabric covered pin board was an ebay purchase which is now part mood board and part memory board. It is covered in notes from friends, photos of loved ones and images that I find especially gorgeous. It is also home to my two favourite images that capture cross animal love, Themba the Sheep and Albert the Elephant along with Rex the dog with his rescued joey.  This is something I shall come to another day. 

I could go on for hours about my bed, more precisely about the time and money that has gone into picking just the right duvet covers and sheets which make it my favourite place in the world. I find Muji a great place for good quality, simple and beautifully designed linen. The sale is always good and on several occasions I have found the pieces I have been coveting all season in the end of line sale. I change my bedding weekly and always, always iron sheets, duvet covers and pillow cases. 

I am sure many of you will think this is an utter waste of time, but for me the joy of getting into a perfectly made and creaseless bed is sublime. A little taste of high end, boutique, indulgent comfort in your own home. 

Friday, 29 May 2009

Friday afternoon music part 2

Some friends and I like to challenge each other to create playlists themed around, for example, "women singing for other women" or "Friday afternoon, last few house dragging before the weekend".

The second of these has just been completed, and I leave you for the last few house of the working week with this, my new favourite Spotify playlist. Enjoy, and if you don't yet have Spotify then I advise you to make it the one thing you do this weekend.


Enjoy the weekend

Friday afternoon music

I stumbled upon this video today, at Rockstar Diaries, and it was just what I needed to snap out of the grump I have been in. It happens to combine two of my favourite tracks that have recently been in the popular charts (as we called them growing up) and is one of those swooping intstrumental pieces that makes your hairs stand on end.

This piece of music was created by musician Jon Schmidt when his daughter asked him to include her favourite song "Love Story" by Taylor Swift on his next album.

"I did a slight rhythm variation on Taylor Swift's melody, [and] it turned into the exact rhythm of the Coldplay song," Schmidt said. As a result he mixed the two, and after spending 100 hours working on it posted it on YouTube to see what people though.

A million views later, it is now the second highest rated song on YouTube.

Coldplay's attorney has already given permission for him to use it on the next album, and he says Taylor Swift's attorneys are close to doing the same.


Summer has arrived in London today, which of course means that tomorrow it will pour down with rain. But for now the sun is bright, the sky is blue and the weekend is just hours away.

As ever, Toast have delivered to my inbox a little slice of joy. This picture makes me long for my holiday (in T-6 weeks I shall be sunning myself in Rimini, Italy). It also takes me back to last year's jaunt to Sardinia where the water was cystal clear and the sand on the beach was a yellowy pink I had never seen before.
I sit now in a silent office with air conditioning, white walls, cheap faux wooden desks and strip lighting. On a day like today, I long to be anywhere but here. On a boat in the Mediterranean with my toe dipped in the sea seems as good an option as any.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Woody's women

It may well be that I need to widen my group of friends and welcome more gentiles to my inner circle, but as it stands everyone I know seems to have a very strong opinion on Woody Allen.

They hate his films or worship them, his recent work is fresh and modern showing he can change with the times or he is an aging director well past his prime and, most contentiously. he gives hope to small, odd looking Jewish men the world over by seducing women like Mia Farrow or he is just a dirty old man.

Whatever your view on him, mine is this.

Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters and Manhattan are wonderful films. I didn't enjoy Match Point one bit but that may have been more to do with me, I felt that it took a tragic view on the world and relationships and one that wasn't realistic. It felt forced. Woody Allen makes me laugh, through his writing, his stand up and his acting. I also think he is a brilliant director, and when I was looking for pictures for this post I realised how many iconic images he has created.

I don't have much of a view on his relationship with his girlfriend's adopted daughter, Soon-Yi, although I think it must have been tragic for Mia Farrow to be betrayed in this way (do I have to say allegedly in blog world?) However the fact that he is still close friends with Diane Keaton re-assures me he is not a bad man, which is important of course!

The fall out from the American Apparel court case has, in my view, reflected very poorly on Dov Charney (founder of American Apparel) and I will certainly think twice before buying his clothes again. I don't claim to be an ethical shopper, but I think he acted poorly and dragging someone else's personal life into a case like this is bad form. Particularly when your own name is not exactly untarnished.

It is his biting wit and capacity to articulate so simply the misery at the mundane I love most about Woody Allen. Add that to the bevy of beautiful and talented women he has seduced, the seminal films he has written, the catalogue of memorable scenes he has directed, the storm of rumours and gossip that surround him and you get a character who will always divide a room.

While researching this post I discovered some things I did not know...
Diane Keaton dated Al Pacino and Warren Beatty, as well as Woody, and I found this great quote:
"Al was simply the most entertaining man... To me, that's, that is the most beautiful face. I think Warren was gorgeous, very pretty, but Al's face is like whoa. Killer, killer face."
Woody Allen was born Allen Stewart Konigsberg. He chose his stage name from an idol, famed clarinetist Woody Herman.

Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band play every Monday evening at Manhattan's Carlyle Hotel, specializing in New Orleans jazz from the early twentieth century.

Barbara Hershey (middle sister in the famous Hannah and Her Sisters picture at the top) is the much referenced, much older and much envied (by me) lover of Naveen Andrews who plays Sayid Jarrah in Lost (picture below).

Picture Credits:

Early days stand up
Woody and Mariel Hemingway on the set of Manhattan
Woody and Diane Keaton in Love and Death
Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest and Barbara Hershey in Hannah and her Sisters
Stacey Nelkin
Woody and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall
Mia Farrow (and more below because I couldn't do a Mia Farrow post without showing you some more of her)
Finally, how could I post about Woody's women without including the most controversial of all - Soon-Yi Previn

Last 4: Naveen and Barbara, and 3 gorgeous Mia Farrow images I found. I could, and most likely will, do a whole post on her.

A piece of me

Since the age of 5 right up until this very day there has been one hobby, habit, time-passing exercise (call it what you will) that has given me more pleasure than most.
It can take a few minutes or several days, and by the end of it you might not notice anything much has changed or you will be in awe of the catastrophic differences you see.
I remember when I was at school and I would spend whole weekends hidden behind my bedroom door getting on with my favourite task, that of re-arranging my bedroom.

Living in London and now having inhabited 4 shared flats, a bedroom is that little piece of solace that you can make your own. Often in rented flats there isn't a huge amount you can do to the decor and I fantasise to an unhealthy level about the little home I will one day have, and all the wonderful ways I will decorate it.

But, mainly to keep my scrap booking and the time I spend surfing interior blogs and websites in check, I have tried to keep focused on the bedroom. The oasis that you return to at the end of a long day or a big night, the space that is entirely yours and yours alone, the few metres square that show those lucky enough to be invited in a little bit of what you love. I believe a home, or in my case a room, can reveal so much about the person who inhabits it.

I will post pictures of my little London home later, but for now take a look at some other rooms that I love and which I can't wait to take take inspiration from when I have a home of my own.

I don't have credits for these pictures, as they have been saved in my "Room makeover" folder for so long. But I believe some came from TinyK and Loveology which are both fantastic sources of design inspiration. If you know who took them please let me know and I will credit.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

He aint heavy...

This is my brother, William, one of my best friends and the person I am most proud to know. 

My beloved boy always liked to embarrass me by reminding me that on our first date, 5 years ago, I announced loudly and obnoxiously to him (and, I imagine, the majority of diners at the restaurant) "My brother knows far more than you do about politics and probably everything else".

I stand by this comment, although I admit to being blinded by sisterly love. My brother really is one of the most intelligent people I know, always anxious to listen to people's stories, give advice,  learn more about everything he stumbles across and constantly hunting out new and interesting that music, art, comedy or writing. 

I am embarrassed to admit that growing up I was not quite so enamoured.  I was a girl who liked things my own way, and am still the same today. Two year's into my peaceful life of parks and parties and play dates and parents who showered me with their love exclusively I was less than pleased to be joined by a wailing, screaming, permanently awake baby who - for some reason incomprehensible to me - my parents seemed to love just as much. 

Our childish squabbling and mutual dissaproval of each other progressed to physical fights and the type of nasty that only teenage siblings can be. My dad found the capacity William and I had to be truly cruel to each other most upsetting, and I hope our close friendship in adulthood goes some way to making up for the pain it caused.  

Now we find ourselves as grownups, something that becomes most comical when we enter our parents home and revert to 15 year olds...sitting on the sofa demanding cups of tea with Aga fried pitta bread and hummus. The only difference being this time our arguments revolve around which Arrested Development character is our favourite..and there's far less kicking.

William has travelled the world, lived last Summer in Berlin, is in a fantastic band, has made wonderful short films, won an award for his comedy writing, hitchhiked to Morocco for charity and can currently be seen (for one second, taking a photo and wearing a hat) in the latest Sainsburys advert. He strives to live his life doing something he enjoys, and I respect him so much for that. 

Sometimes it can be very, very hard but I know he is going to be a huge success. And I will always be his loudest, proudest supporter. 

Dressing like a French Woman

Last night I found one of the resolution lists that litter the boxes. drawers and stowed away bags in my bedroom.

I have hundreds, all detailing the ways in which I will be a better, kinder, more elegant woman living a simple life without a focus on material things, yet one who dresses in the most stylish way and is always groomed to perfection (hmmm). These are generally made when I have a hangover, have chipped or chewed my fingernails to the quick and have done something horribly shameful the night before. As such I am counting down the seconds until home time, a chance to clear up the mess of the night before and going to bed to awaken to the new day - and my new self. 

Of course 3 nights later the same pattern repeats itself. I am painfully aware of the contrasting sides of my personality - one of which wants to live by the sea, grow vegetables, drink jasmine tea and be a teacher just like Miss Honey and the other who likes nothing more than a large glass of wine, making a spectacle of herself, shopping until she drops and dreams of running her own magazine. 

I digress, because the point of this post is that the one thing that is consistent across all these lists is the promise to myself that I will "learn to dress like a French woman", also known as "create a tailor made wardrobe of simple and classic pieces - inspired by Vanessa Paridis" or "Be more French".

I spend hours poring over pictures on Garance Dore and loved the interview that Joanna Goddard did with her, asking how she could add a French touch to her wardrobe

Although I have been honing my style as best as can I do seem to turn to one fail safe French look, that of the stripe. I think of Carrie standing in front of the Eiffel tower in her striped ensemble and I yearn to channel that look (I know that citing an American woman as an example is sacrilege but I care not). But being neither a size 6, or a yogi, the striped look just doesn't work for me. It took me a while to realise this, and I now have almost as many striped pieces as Garance Dore - 4 jumpers, 3 t-shirts and one pair of ill
-advised leggings. 

So it is that I turn to the striped bag, and on Friday when I arrived at Paddington Station to the sight of a board announcing every train was delayed I dived straight into the shops only to re-emerge with the slouchy Accessorise sailor bag which is just the right size for either day bag, beach bag or overnight carrier. I also like the Fora III featured on Etsy. 

For now I will stick with the sailor bag to add a touch of French to my wardrobe. And will channel this stylish lady, who does chic and simple without the stripe. 

I think the reality is that I must learn to find a happy balance between the 2 sides of my personality before I can dream of really emulating the mystique and elegance of a French woman. 
Because, in the words of the inimitable Garance Dore..
"The French woman is like Alain Delon**. The French woman doesn’t take any resolutions. The French woman is. The present is her sole religion. In fact, Joanna, the mystery behind the French woman is that she has confidence in herself, despite all the nonsense she says.
There’s the secret to her indestructible Frenchitude."

And I can't imagine the woman she describes making daily lists of how to change perhaps the first step shall be a happy acceptance of who I am.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Oh, to be beside the seaside

These pictures were taken in Whistand Bay, Cornwall, one of my favourite places in the world. The beach is reached by driving along steep cliffs and along windy Cornish roads and then by an almost diagonal slope down to the sand. 

If you're lucky enough to have grown up near to this beach then you will also know about the amazing path that creeps along beside the hidden beach huts - some of the only residential beach huts in the UK. They are like something about of a dream, or the lovely shire of the Hobbits in the Lord of the Rings.  

When I was working as a researcher for a TV company, I had to hunt out some of the owners of these huts for a feature on waterside living. One day I knocked on the door of a couple who had just come home with their day old baby. They welcomed me with open arms (we'd never met!) and we all sat shellshocked, chatting together and watching the sun setting over the sea. I made tea, heating water in a black pot on top of their little stove and drinking sweet tea out of white tin mugs. 

I dream of living in one of these huts, waking with the rising sun and spending my day tending to the fuchsias and sweet williams in the garden. 

Yet I would miss the busy pulse of London..the traffic of Old St, the smells of the market on Whitecross St, the aggressive elbows that greet me on Oxford Circus, the rainbow of colours on Colombia Rd, the coffee on Monmouth St, the luscious greens and community of strangers in Queens Park and most of all the friends who have foolishly chosen to allow me to adopt them as my surrogate family in this foreign city. 

Must do better

We ate amazing food throughout our stay in Devon over the May bank holiday weekend. From the bowl of freshly made baba ghanoush that greeted us on our arrival to the rich fried tomatoes that we squashed onto buttered toast at breakfast to the breadcrumbed pork we ate with piles of creamed sweet potatoes in front of Britain's Got Talent - every bit of it was divine.

My beloved mother, as fantastic as she is in most ways, has always been very territorial (to say the least) when it comes to her kitchen. So it is from the sidelines that I have tried to absorb her culinary skills, to replicate at a later date in a kitchen of my own. 

I don't know why but I have always been one of those irritating tricky eaters...and before you shut down this page in horror please read on.

A few teenage years as a vegetarian (how original) and a lack of experience actually handling raw meat has made me a little uneasy about being adventurous with the old dead animals! It is not handling meat that's the challenge, just that I've got into the habit of cooking without meat and as such stick to one type when I am feeling carnivorous.

I stick to my old friend Mrs chicken most of the time, needing simply to dice or slice and chuck in the pan or baking dish. And even typing these words I feel the vegetarian in me stomping her feet. See, in all things I am indecisive. At least I can rely on that,

The point is that I am going to start pushing myself to be more adventurous. I live in a beautiful flat with a wonderful large and well stocked kitchen. And I am resolving to use it more, and in new ways. As easy as it is to come home to my stable dinner of bulgur wheat salad with roast tomatoes and (surprise, surprise) chicken, I am going to book in some dinner parties and try a few new dishes. 

Of course I will keep you updated on my successes and failures...and for now here are my mother's glorious creations.

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