Spent a sunny day strolling around Brighton and after wandering through the maze of The Lanes we treated ourselves to espressos and sweet treats at Angel Food Bakery. The queue snaked out the door (proof that the nation's cupcake obsession is still going strong) but we found a sunny spot in the window, next to a teapot filled with Sweet William. My beau scoffed red velvet and I went for lemon drizzle. Yum.
Sunday, 30 May 2010
More bikini temptation, this time from the chic catalogue Toast. I adore the soft hazy stripes on this cotton two-piece. It reminds me of a deck chair, faded by may years of sunshine and sea air. I also love that the fabric is a little slouchy and the bottoms are reminiscent of retro cotton bloomers with their elasticated waist and legs, more likely to be spotted on Brighton pier, circa 1950 - just like that deck chair.
I'm cuckoo for these cute greeting cards from Norwegian illustrators Darling Clementine. The set of Parisian screen prints are simple, witty and completely charming. Some of them can be sent to your beloved or to show your gratitude, others, just to say bonjour! I'll be snapping up a set from Etsy tout suite.
Friday, 28 May 2010
Nothing tastes more summery than a barbequed banquet, eaten alfresco. As the weather gets warmer I've already started stockpiling recipes for Jamie Oliver's whole salmon stuffed with herbs and grilled in newspaper and rosemary prune skewers. Then I spied these Fragrant Outdoor Firelighters from Cox & Cox, filled with bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and chilli. They create an aromatic smoke that enhances the flavour of your food and gives the summer air a heady fragrance. I'm snapping them up to take to Provence next month for a holiday with my foodie pals.
Picture: Red Moon
I know I'm late to the party, but how gorgeous is this Liberty for Target bike?? My beau is always trying to convince me to get a two-wheeler - maybe if it looked like this I'd succumb. This range has probably completely sold out in Target in the US, but there are still some pieces to snap up online in the UK.
Hold the front page! I have found the perfect topper for my wedding this weekend (actually any wedding, any weekend!). LOVE these headbands by Parisian Benoit Missolin, sold exclusively at Liberty. I want all of them. Showy and bold but edgy and original, they're the fashion girls antidote to a fascinator. The perfect accessory for any outfit (I actually think they'd be a hip alternative to a wedding veil/tiara too). Run, don't walk.
Thursday, 27 May 2010
If you want to feel fear, inadvertently stand at the wrong end of a Christian Louboutin sample sale queue. That’s what I did this morning and the wrath of forty pairs of ice queen eyes was enough to wish the ground would swallow me (and my Gap sandals) whole. Small sartorial faux pas aside, the sale was, as always, one of my favourite experiences. Okay we got up at an ungodly hour, queued for a comically long time under chilly grey skies and glared at the girls who had the nerve to push in front of us, but all that seemed insignificant compared to the promise of beautiful red-soled delights for a fraction of their retail price. Once inside, the atmosphere electrified as we were faced with piles of shoes in neat little plastic bags, stacked high on tables. Yet it's funny how all these £500 shoes lose a little of their allure when they’re not standing proudly on a shelf in a trendy boutique. Despite my initial feeding frenzy, during which I grabbed studded flats, patent wedges, striped Mary Janes and wedding-worthy satin peep toes, all at around £100 a pair, I actually managed to reign in my need to flex the credit card. I tried on about twenty pairs of beautiful shoes, but when I tried to justify their purchase, I couldn’t find a good enough reason to fork out (especially after my recent Chloe splurge). So I put them all back. Yes, all of them. And left sans shopping bag, but also sans guilt.
P.S If you’re interested, Corrie, my shopping cohort, bought black strappy stripper-chic platforms. £180, reduced from £685!
As a follower of GOOP, Gwyneth’s lifestyle website, I was delighted to get a chance to snoop inside the Nashville loft that the actress had transformed in just ten days so her family could move in whilst she filmed a new movie. Interior designer Annette Joseph renovated the light airy two-bedroom loft into a stylish industrial-meets-elegant abode. Although it was supposedly a budget makeover, the kitchen alone would make me forever happy.
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
This lunchtime I nipped to the opening of Louis Vuitton Maison on Bond Street. Wow. Razzy meets refined, it is a three-floor Mecca of gold, Corian, exotic woods and glass. With moving shelves that reveal hidden handbags, scarves displayed as artwork, avant garde installations and domes glittering with lights, the architecture is as impressive as the merchandise. While we nibbled wild miniature mushroom volovants and spoons of burrata with roasted tomatoes, I spied some one-day wedding shoes and my colleague Corrie fell in love with a monogrammed picnic trunk. But our favourite bit was the installation of incredibly dressed mannequins, with bags as heads, styled by Katie Grand. Brings a whole new meaning to the term bag lady. Love, love, love.
For years even the scent of dill made me nervous. It reminded me too much of visits to my Polish grandparents where it was a mainstay in the indeterminable soups and the key ingredient of the jars of unintelligible pickles. It used to float in the pan of melted butter that seemed forever on the stove waiting to ‘flavour’ the piles of potatoes and pierogi we were lovingly forced to eat. But age and nostalgia now makes me a huge fan of this delicate fragrant herb and I’ll take any excuse to swirl it into crème fraiche with a squeeze of lemon to accompany salmon. Last night I took a tip from Jamie Oliver (my culinary messiah) and made a Greek salad using dill instead of my go-to basil. I roughly chopped tomato, cucumber, slivers of red onion and kalamata olives, then drizzled over olive oil and red wine vinegar. I chopped bunches of fresh dill and mint, scattered them through and turned the salad with my hands so the dressing lightly covered everything. I finished it with a wedge of organic feta and a traditional scattering of dried oregano, and served alongside griddled chicken breasts (which had marinated in lemon, oil and garlic). Simple, pretty healthy and dillicious!
I hate fascinators – the net, spangle and feather creations that usually-stylish women insist on wearing to weddings. It’s as if a posh beribboned invite on the doormat is an excuse to throw good taste aside and indulge in the kind of gaudy get-up that would make a drag queen gasp with glee. Don’t get me wrong, I love head wear. Hats are heaven, a little well-placed birdcage net is a delight, an Alice Band is adorable. So here comes my current sartorial saga. I have a wedding this weekend and am debating: to headpiece or not to headpiece? I’m wearing a strapless red linen number, splashed with a rowdy hot pink print (on its second outing). Last time I wore my hair in a chignon and pinned fuchsia birdcage net, 40s style, over my face. This time I’m debating a big blousy blow-dry in lieu of hair adornment or perhaps a topper with taste. I love this bejewelled headband by Bijoux Heart (but not the price) – elegant but quirky with a side bun. But if I were wearing a simple nude shift dress, I’d opt for this Minnie Mouse-esque leather bow by Miu Miu. While I draw the line at drag queen, I’m happy to channel a cartoon mouse any day of the week.
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Robbie Storey is one of those set designers who imbues a fashion shoot with even more charm and character thanks to his clever props and inspired backdrops. Perhaps one day he'll be as grand and avant garde as Tim Walker and Shona Heath. until then, I have been adoring his quiet, elegant, witty additions for Stella (above) and Another Magazine.
Last night I went for dinner with lovely Georgina – my gorgeous, immeasurably talented ex-housemate and own personal style guru. It’s not that I wasn’t sartorially switched-on before I met her, but the 18 months we lived together gave me a whole new take on fashion. Whereas I’m a little prim, she’s laid-back and artsy. I don’t like to wear more than two colours at any one time while she combines stripes and prints with gay abandon. I’ll put on one fine necklace and she’ll wear a tangle of six, and whilst heels and pencil skirts are my default setting, slouchy pants and brogues are hers. She shook up my old staid style rules, so even though her culinary repertoire consisted of porridge and cabbage pasta, I will forever be indebted. Here are some of the things I learned from her:
Overtly sexy isn’t really overtly cool – sometimes jazz shoes or brogues look so much more stylish with a summer dress than four inch heels would.
Topknots rock – especially when your hair is piled up in a slapdash manner and tied with a vintage scarf.
Dressy + messy = undone chic – who knew my slouchy shorts were crying out for a silk camisole, or my elegant brocade skirt needed a t-shirt?
Colour is not the enemy – my navy skirt and peony pink blouse actually look even better with mustard and gold pumps.
PS This is a picture of us looking scrappy together last summer – and definitely not exhibiting her style ethos!
French designer Myriam Girard uses the same supplier as Christian Dior for the traditional French Leavers lace that adorns her subtly-hued slips, knickers and playsuits. Her new lingerie collection, known as House of Girard exudes that sort of glamour that makes you feel like you should buy it to wear while gliding around the house (when really you know that if your trackie bottoms are cashmere, you’re doing well). Still, I definitely think Marylin would approve…
Monday, 24 May 2010
Finally! This weekend, Britain basked in sunshine and we rolled the roof down on our old convertible MG. In the winter, a 30 year-old soft top motor is beyond miserable – I have icicles all over that my fleecy car blanket can’t shift. But come summer, there’s nothing more fabulous than whizzing through the country lanes in our little black roadster. Of course remaining chic when the wind is whipping your hair into a frenzy and the sun is beating down ain’t easy. My top-down survival kit consists of Ambre Solaire SPF 50 for the face (it contains Mexoryl, which is the only sun filter designed to protect against short UVA rays and is available in all L’Oreal sunscreens). I smother it on, because whilst freckles are adorable, sunspots aren’t and ever since turning 30, I couldn’t be more panicked about my complexion (P.S on the subject, my brilliant Beauty Director, Alessandra Steinherr suggests layering your anti-oxidant serum/lotion under sunscreen to maximise its anti-ageing potency). The other essentials: massive shades – my current faves are Marc by Marc Jacobs, and a vintage scarf to tie around your head, because feeling the breeze in your hair is amazing, but arriving looking like Bridget Jones isn’t.
On the subject of my fascination with florals, I have to share another of my favourite artists, Angie Lewin. Her linocuts, wood engravings, lithographs and screen prints are all inspired by nature (she lived on the Norfolk coast and in the Scottish Highlands). Their colours and the sometimes simplistic geometric quality to her pieces have a very vintage feel and seem to take some inspiration by Lucienne Day or Sanderson patterns from the 1950s. Her designs can be seen everywhere from fabrics to book covers to notecards, to most excitingly, the range of dress fabrics she's just created for the Liberty Autumn Winter 2010 collection (I can wait for a sneak preview!). The prints available to buy on her website make a statement, but don't cost the earth. Definitely worth the investment.
Most of my china is vintage, but if I needed to buy something new, I'd opt for these Dandelion Clocks pieces from Sanderson. The pattern is from the 1950s archive and also comes in shades of blue. I love these line drawn blooms that feel retro but not too chintzy. Just my cup of tea.
Friday, 21 May 2010
This weekend I am going to a hen do… in the Peak District… with walking and sailing. I must admit, most of the last hurrah’s I usually attend involve Gucci, Grey Goose and guest lists, so the idea of going to a little cottage in the depths of the Northern wilderness and filling my weekend with outdoor pursuits is a little alien to me. But two days with my old school pals, gallons of fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine could be just the weekend I need. So I’m leaving the skimpy shift dress and skyscraper stilettos at home and instead my weekend bag is crammed with nautical stripes, linen shorts, vintage-inspired swimsuits and canvas plimsolls – oh and vodka. Some things are indispensible.
Thursday, 20 May 2010
I love the idea of recycling paper and creating something new - like Su Blackwell's beautiful art work, these paper butterflies have been reinvented from the pages of old books and music scores. I'm thinking of using them as inspiration for some of my own homemade birthday cards. I'll post them here when they're done. Such a pretty and personal way to send your salutations.
Woke up late today, fuzzy-headed from too much champagne and dessert wine. No time to wash my hair. Hallelujah for the messy side bun - this season's hot style and the perfect way to disguise last night's degenerate behaviour. I started with yesterday's slept-in side braid (I'm not proud), wound into a bun and pinned into place. The straggly bits look artfully mussed and I've mastered that catwalk insouciance just from being, well, too hungover to care really.
My colleague Scarlett is the goddaughter of Radio Four's legendary Women's Hour presenter Jenni Murray. She told me that today Jenni has a column in the Daily Mail commenting on the fact that life won't change now she's turned 60. Of using her new 'Freedom bus pass' she says, “I have no intention of using a bus unless it’s taking me from Fortnum’s to Harrods.” Love that.
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Just bought my cinema ticket for the opening night of Sex and the City 2. I've said thanks-but-no-thanks to the press pre-screening a few days earlier because I think it's a moment to be enjoyed with your best girlfriends, not a room full of addled hacks. I have a secret adulation for Carrie Bradshaw. Yes, I know she's self-absorbed, overly-angsty and decidedly vacuous at times. And her outfits are often too ridiculous for words. And the plots preposterous. But New York... and the glamour... and the story of a sassy writer finding her way in the world... in Manolos. Well, it was enough to make me pack a suitcase, head to the Big Apple and become my own version of Carrie (in a bigger dress size with a smaller closet). I was 24 and easily impressed but even now I'm only slightly embarrassed to hold my hands up to you and admit she was my inspiration. I ran into Sarah Jessica Parker while I lived in Manhattan. We were both waiting for a table at the same little neighbourhood Thai restaurant in the West Village. I debated going over to tell her she was the reason I'd upped sticks to the city that never sleeps. But then I wondered if that happened to her alot... and if she'd be annoyed at being disturbed on this hot and hazy Thursday night... and I got a bit shy... and the people I was with told me I was crazy. So I didn't. And I still sort of regret it. But even though she doesn't know she's the catalyst for my biggest career step, I'll always be grateful, so I'm happy to pay £10 for my movie ticket.
I'm not much of a magpie. Sparkly, glitzy, gaudy gems are all very fun, but I'm much more of the Coco Chanel "take one thing off before you leave the house" philosophy. In fact, as I write I am completely spangle-free. Some of my gem-fear stems from the fact that my part-Jayne Mansfield, part-Miss Piggy blond locks and generous décolletage don't need any more adornments. The rest of it is that I'm simply not drawn to big showy pieces. This chain and glass necklace is making me rethink though. It's from J.Crew, which is finally available to us Brits on Net-A-Porter, and it's a nice combination of being statementy and chunky but quite simple too. I'd wear it with a Breton top (what else?) because I definitely think it needs dressing down, but I wouldn't be opposed to pairing it with a simple bandeau top, to show off a swathe of shoulder blade too.
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
I'm a sucker for a pattern and anything in a vintage vein, so I am completely in love with the new book I scooped up at the V&A. It's an array of original 1950s prints that have been collated for the museum. Best of all, it comes with a disc with jpegs of all the patterns at the back, so you can play with them to your hearts desire. I already have a few craft projects in mind (paper napkin rings, notecards, mini giftboxes, envelope liners... I worship at the altar of Martha Stewart!), so I'll share them here when I've managed to whip something up!
Monday, 17 May 2010
When these cute silicone teacups from World Wide Fred landed on my desk, I decided they needed to be filled with something suitably apt, hence I baked a batch of cappuccino cupcakes, complete with mascarpone frosting and a sprinkling of cocoa powder. My mum has just given me a bag of French walnuts fresh from her own tree in the Dordogne, so I chopped some of these and added them for good measure.
250g butter, softened
250g light brown sugar
300g self-raising flour
4 eggs, beaten
50g toasted, chopped walnuts
200ml very strong coffeee (strangely, instant works best)
2tsp light brown sugar
Heat the oven to gas mark 4 or 160 degrees, lay out 12 cupcake cases.
Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the flour and eggs in one go and keep beating until evenly mixed. Fold in the walnuts and half the coffee.
Pour into cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 mins.
Leave to cook while making topping. Beat the mascarpone with sugar and coffee then swirl on to the top of the cakes and sprinkle with cocoa powder.
Because I'm no trust-funder, socialite or it girl, many of my designer splurges have to be savvily scoured. I spied this Marc Jacobs number on The Outnet. It's perfect for this season's lingerie trend, crying out for a girl with curves and is a whopping 70% off...
I wear the trousers in my house. My beau, male housemate and always-around brother are happy to humour my whims and adhere to my orders. On top of this, I’m a little slutty when it comes to cleanliness. I leave the hoovering, scrubbing and polishing to my far more house-proud (and thoroughly modern) men. I’m telling you all this so I don’t sound horribly out-dated when I admit: I like to cook for the boys. I take pleasure in winning their hearts through their stomachs. My boys (and this seems to be a theme) like simple food that’s hearty, meaty and just a little bit retro. So this weekend I spoilt them. It all started with the FA cup final, a mound of pork pies, chutney and a pot of Yorkshire tea. Later I rustled up a lasagne, rich with beef and red wine, oozing with béchamel sauce and mature cheddar. The following day I treated them to maple-glazed gammon, mustard mash, spring greens and parsley sauce, made with herbs picked from the garden. Plates were licked clean. I was worshipped. I don’t have to touch a mop for another week. Job done.
Saturday, 15 May 2010
I've been trying to find a reason to buy one of Dominic Wilcox's Honesty Stamps for a while now. I love the old fashion type-writer font and the very modern messages like "What do you mean I'm always too busy?" But the one above is my favourite... who wouldn't want to be told that?
Some magazines are so utterly inspiring that they never stop feeling relevant. Lula is like this for me. Not much writing but lots and lots of beautiful pictures. My beau bought me a subscription and it really is the gift that keeps on giving. Today I am inspired by more kitschy grandeur, pearls and pussycats from the current issue.
Friday, 14 May 2010
This weekend is gloriously commitment-free, which seems the perfect excuse for a long lazy brunch at somewhere special. One of my favourite haunts is Bob Bob Ricard in Soho. For a start the decor is beyond fabulous - a glitzy, glossy art deco mix of walnut, marble, peacock blue, candy pink and gold accents (the booths have 'press for champagne here' buzzers!). Secondly the staff is equally as snazzy in their posh pink ensembles. Thirdly (and most importantly) the food is fabulous. Breakfast is everything from cornflakes to crumpets but best is their fry-up (so not fried), which comes with a pile of freshly cut bread and a toaster that plugs in at your table, so you can pop at your own leisure. PS The basement members' bar is equally as cool with it's unmissable signature pink rhubarb gin and tonic. Yum.
Whenever I drift past the GLAMOUR beauty department I attempt to sneak a spritz of Jeanne La Rose by Lanvin. The fragrance launched two months ago and is a blissful blend of raspberry, rose, red currant, white musk, vetiver and cedar. The bottle, with its itsy pom-poms is totally dressing table-worthy too.