Friday, 24 December 2010

Sugar in the Snow

And the cooking projects go on! Being snowed out of work for Ages, I have mostly been lurking in the kitchen, experimenting. Having finally cracked pastry and bread, I am moving on (increasing difficulty gradient) to sweet making. Two batches of Turkish Delight were a total failure for unknown reasons. The first one (veggie) was gritty and the second could have been the greatest adhesive yet known to humankind. (Not veggie, I must admit the thought of eating boiled hooves is very unappealing, if that's how they still make gelatine.) Mint fondants, however turned out well, and I am so chuffed with chocolates. Very satisfying dipping things in molten chocolate, although you have to be quick before the chocolate's inside melts too. Recommended books for inspiration: (Bought for me by my friend Sarah). And : (bought from the shop at my work).

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Making Books Book

I was very excited today to discover the book 'How to Make Books' by Esther K. Smith of Purgatory Pie Press, NY. (Book buyable here) Since spending a lot of time with historic libraries at my work, I have become more and more interested in the design and making of books, as well as the actual contents. It's one of those slighly off kilter, anarchic craft books that the Americans seem to do so well. How to make your own notebooks, cloth books, journals, you name it, using techniques used in ancient medieval, African Coptic and Japanese bookbinding. From an instant book made of one sheet of paper to carefully sewn and leather covered numbers. Even the book itself is lovely, with chapter headings printed from old printing blocks.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Pointless Ephemera

Link to my better half's excellent blog, Pointless Ephemera:


Sorry I have not blogged for so long. My current cooking project is to each week make a healthy soup for my lunch at work. Week 1 was Pumpkin (Halloween). Week 2 is Sweet Potato and Orange. I am using the fab New Covent Garden Soup Book which I got second hand in the Oxfam Bookshop. You can buy it here although I like the retro charm of my 1998 version. It is full of interesting soups like Aubergine, Kangaroo, Chocolate, Kohlrabi and Nettle, to name a few. The ones I fancy most though are Roasted Parsnip and Parmesan, Cream of Fennel and Red Pepper and Goat's cheese...mmmm.....

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Orkestra del Sol

Do go and see this if they are ever in your area. We saw them at The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen. Orkestra del Sol are a polka/brass/calypso band. The highlights of it for me were the huge brass tuba thing (sousaphone) taking out part of the ceiling, the 'Reverend' playing the ukulele while singing a very suggestive calypso song and the whole audience doing a conga around the venue!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Two retro discoveries

Please forgive the odd pairing of the sublime and the ridiculous. The sublime is a classic movie I have inexplicably never seen before, Sunset Boulevard. I don't know why I missed it, I had some idea it was going to be really dull and worthy. In fact it is a fantastic, dark, gothic thriller in a rather Hitchcockian vein, starring the amazing Gloria Swanson, herself of course, a great old Hollywood star. Most of all I loved her crumbling mansion and enigmatic manservant played by Erich von Stroheim. And of course, her spectacular car!

The ridiculous is a tin of Zam-buk ointment, which I bought purely because I loved the classic packaging. When I worked in museums we had some tins of this and I swear it is practically unchanged for a century. I didn't expect it to be a virulent green though. It has an interesting herbal smell. Zam-buk originated in South Africa in the Boer War and has been in mainstream production since 1903. It is an antiseptic pain reliever and was famed for its use in sport. Available in Boots and just about everywhere.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

So Bad It's Good

During my Apartment Therapy sessions, I have found, worryingly, that I am more and more drawn to bad taste things. In a world of samey neutral tastefulness in decor, why not embrace some kitsch, colour and scary patterns? Atom Age, Tiki, Space Age, you name it.

Here are some great bad taste books to get you started.....

'Dictator's Homes'. If you didn't laugh you'd cry. Leopard skin, marble, swastika throw cushions?

'Turned On, Decorative Lamps of the Fifties'. Hula girls, panthers, poodles. Beyond tasteless and fills you with that collecting urge.

'Inspiring Interiors from Armstrong'. 1950s conversion horrors by Armstrong, the lino people. There's a lot of lino featured, along with hideous colour combos, formica and decorative Spanish style metalwork.

And just for fun one of my favourite fashion books 'Off the Wall, Fashion from the DDR'. Soviet Bloc fashions from the 60s actually look surprisingly fresh and fun these days.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Scary tidy

Following my endless grousing about the chaos of our flat, a friend lent me this excellent book

a sort of self-help book for the interior. I am following-ish (cos I'm not a great one for structured programmes) the programme of tidying, redecorating and er 'energising' the home. So far I have purged three loads of stuff to Oxfam, including my technologically defunct VHS and audio tape collections. I have bought three new cushions, a plant pot, PC speakers and have ordered a coat hook for the hall (pictured). I have found out where to dispose of old paint tins too. I even bought flowers which is a sign of 'care for your home' and although that sounds a bit drippy they are actually very nice...sweet williams. I am still trying not to think about our study which is really heaving with stuff, if not up to the standards of some guy I saw on TV who had fifty old bikes in his living room. I will update on how I am progressing, if at all...

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Rhubarb rhubarb

I was really chuffed today when someone I work with, apropos of nothing in particular, gave me a bag of homegrown rhubarb. I think rhubarb is a love/hate thing, but I really like it. I even like seeing it growing with its huge, exotic, poisonous leaves. Incidentally, if the leaves are poisonous, how come you can eat the stems? In the winter I like rhubarb crumble but that is a bit unseasonal with the nice weather we are miraculously enjoying. So I thought I would try something from my fab new cookbook The Delicious Miss Dahl (by Sophie Dahl, ex supermodel) which actually has lots of interesting, healthy and simple recipes as well as the chosen Rhubarb Eton Mess with Rosewater. Eton mess sounds weirdly upper crust and school dinnery but is actually just any fruit mixed with meringue bits and whipped cream. Hmm think I might have a relaxing cooking weekend this weekend. And drink beer in the promised sunshine. And wear suncream cos I am burned again from sitting outside the castle eating my packed lunch.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Americans call it thrifting

Certainly thrifting sounds more glamourous, but I'd call it charity shop shopping. Yes, I can afford to buy new stuff but I like the thrill of the chase and not wearing what everyone else is. In 'The Glass of Fashion' by Cecil Beaton (top book btw, full of inspiring anecdotes about great fashion eccentrics from the 1900s to 1960s.) there is a great story of two ladies who turned up at a party in identical black dresses trimmed with ostrich feathers. One, in an act of very expensive panache, nipped into the toilet with some scissors and came out waving the fathers like a fan. Anyway, my latest buy was a 60s style shift dress in bright pink silk by LK Bennett for £15. Only problem is, I always buy dresses and coats cos they are the only things that usually aren't totally trashed by the time people give them away. I must admit, I am a bit leery of buying second hand shoes, hats and night/underwear for hygiene reasons. Who buys second hand underwear, really?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Wandering around

On my way back from paying in a cheque (is it just me who finds banks stressful and frustrating) the sun was shining so I thought I would randomly wander. I popped into an interesting shop I am always passing where I found a girl making handbags ( The shop sold many gorgeous things, all fiendlishly expensive. It was fascinating to watch her cutting the leather etc though. Then I wandered through the Victorian Nellfield Graveyard, very peaceful in the middle of the city bettp:// I nipped into a small gift shop on my way back where I bought a bizzarre necklace with my birthday money ( It looks like blobs of coloured plasticine in glass beads if that makes any sense.

Saturday, 20 March 2010


Just got back from a fantastic trip to Newcastle, which is an amazing place to spend a long weekend. We stayed in the Malmaison hotel which overlooks the millennium bridge (left). One night in the bar we saw it being raised and illuminated in rainbow colours which was a wonderful moment. Recommended things include: just walking around the river and town centre area which boast buildings from the 1200s to 1900s and dramatic multi-level streetscapes of bridges, stairs etc. Shopping: especially independent department store Fenwicks and Attica Vintage which sells gorgeous vintage clothes, homewares and furniture mainly from the 50s and 60s. Attica is on Old George Yard, a Ripper-ish set of brick back lanes full of groovy record shops etc. Culture-wise: the Laing Art gallery is Ok but was mostly closed when we went, fun exhibition on photographs of British pop bands of the 60s though. The Baltic Gallery has challenging art installations and a very nice shop. The Discovery museum was fun too. An unexpected highlight was Maker Faire at the science centre, with inventors, geeks, crafters with robots, gadgets and techy art things. The crafters had placed knitted graffiti around the city on trees, railings, parking meters etc.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Fridge related Dessert Malfunction

(Not actually my fridge, some fridge in Tel-Aviv brought to you by the wonder of the internet...)

Looking out of the window at endless snow and not wanting to cave and put the heating on=cooking session. Techical fail yesterday though. Following the excellent chocolate mousse I made I moved on to lemon. It all looked good until I put it in the fridge, where it slowly sank and re-liquified itself in an entropic manner (all things return to the chaos from whence they came). This follows the Creme Brulee failure where it completely re-liquified as I grilled the sugar topping under the grill. Must get more gas for my kitchen blowtorch my bro gave me. Desserts are very tricky but I keep trying.
Speaking of I really enjoyed this top programme on cooking with chocolate:
Raymond's pretty scary, with kitchen staff cowering in fear, but the food looked fantastic. I was most impressed by the chocolate coffeecup and saucer full of coffee ice-cream: genius!

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Knitting Projects

Back on the knitting again! Just completed fingerless gloves in Rowan Tapestry (made in flat pieces so easypeasy). Blue stitching was replaced with pink to tone in as I was feeling fussy. Now started chunky scarf in Rowan Big Wool for better half. Scarf is recycled from my first ever project, a shapeless, lumpy and functionless knitted 'rug'.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Cooking Book Heaven

The first of a series of lists, (I am slightly obsessed by lists). Best and most favourite cookery books. I buy a lot of cookery books and then only use a few, I'm afraid.
Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier and How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot. French cooking is much simpler and healthier than most people think. It's all about good ingredients.
How to Eat by Nigella Lawson and The Action Cookbook by Len Deighton. Both of these are fun and inspiring and have food you really want to eat in them.
How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson and Exceptional Cakes by Dan Lepard. Nigella's baking tastes great but often looks weird, Dan's is tricky but surpassingly delicious.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Hooray for Bollywood!

I've always wanted to watch more Bollywood films, even after being mystified by some interminable historical epic as a child. All I remember from it was a song called 'You're beautiful when you're angry' sung by a man clinging to a fast moving chariot being whipped by the girl on the moving vehicle...bizarre. I've recently seen and enjoyed some of the more European/ised films such as Bride and Prejudice (really fun), Monsoon Wedding (grittier) and the brilliant Slumdog Millionare. But now I am totally blown away by real full on Bollywood in the glorious form of Om Shanti Om, a three hour extravaganza or murder, reincarnation, revenge and jaw dropping musical numbers set in the world What shall I watch now? How much hot pink can you really wear and where do you learn that dancing?

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Home Sweet Home

Ok, so I trained as an Interior Designer, but you don't always want to Live with the more wacky interiors ideas. Following years of experimentation/living in complete pits I bring you my guide to liveable interiors. (I also ought to warn you I am very much of the 70s Habitat generation rather than the 80s pink bathroom suite, festoon blind generation). First bit is boring...go for neutrals like beige/brown/cream in carpets, walls and big items like sofas (btw I HATE leather sofas they are so cold and sticky, buy a comfy sofa for God's sake). Bright or dark coloured walls will make the rooms seem poky and dim, low key colours like soft aquas, yellows, beiges, pinks are nice. Avoid light blue and green as they will give you a cold, institutional vibe. Go groovy with fun lighting and cushions, pictures and lots of plants for a relaxed 70s type feel. My favourite interors inspiartion books are the Terence Conran House Books, one 70s, one 80s which analyse different styles and looks from International Glamour to Moroccan Bohemian so you can get a feel for what you like. Most magazines are either naff or tacky but old copies of Wallpaper are fun and outrageous if you can find them. The only good places to buy interiors stuff seem to be John Lewis, Habitat and Ikea. If you are brave, charity shops sometimes have unusual furniture and are great for bizarre knick-knacks.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Fashion thoughts 2010

By the way, what ARE we calling this decade, is it the Noughties? Fashion trends I would like to continue are: purple, chunky knitwear, knitted dresses and bright nailvarnish (I just bought Opi's Purple with a Purpose) . Opi also offers 'match your nails and your emails' co-ordinated lap-tops!

Trends I would like to die a long and horrible death include hair straighteners, spike heeled shoes and shoe-boots, micro-minis and fake tan. I have a strange craving for silver eyeshadow also. My random predictions/hopes for '10, assuming the 80s revival continues, are for lots of red and pink, metallic make-up, big hair and patent. I'm wondering with a new decade if we should be going with a 60s Courreges futuristic space girl type look...