Monday, 16 July 2012

What Would Twiggy Do?

My fashion dream when I became pregnant was to find some 1960s style dresses with empire waists, loud, colourful prints and bell sleeves, somewhat like the glorious dresses below.

Pattern available from

Unfortunately, they only existed in my imagination. However, I was lucky in that I found one sweet dress, which I call the Twiggy dress. It's a simple, cute, white summer dress.

(The dress demanded some mini daisies.)

Outfit: White Twiggy dress, Topshop maternity; yellow ballet flats, Clarks. 

And finally, a classic photo of the insouciant, Lolita-like Twiggy at her finest. Only Twiggy can make slightly frustrated boredom look this alluring. 

Image from

A white dress and some peaches evoke summer for me. What are your summer staples?

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

In the Fields of Barley

With less than three weeks until my due date, I almost feel a sort of responsibility to photograph the bump in a (hopefully) flattering way. Fortunately, the barley and wheat fields near my house have the look of being wonderfully soft and the sky was wonderfully dramatic. If the bump frightens you, focus on the scenery.

I went for a mini beehive and some crystal earrings. I like to think of this outfit as for someone called Joanne who was meant to go to a cocktail party on a summer night in Palm Springs in 1965. Poor Jo was transported to England and needed an extra layer, hence the black top.

Outfit: Earrings, Accessorise (in the sale); maternity dress, Topshop, scarf, Next (from about 3 years ago); black top; Winners (Canadian version of TKMaxx).

Wistfully dreaming of more sunshine. What are you looking forward to this summer? 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Olympic Survival

Do you like an overblown Bohemian Rhapsody style BIG SONG?

Welcome to England's best/worst Olympic effort.

It's a hilarious, dramatic, fascist-style marching song by Muse. It's complete with an operatic, dark monk chorus, a very high guitar solo (there's more than one actually), Matt Bellamy doing his best cod-Wagner, and some 1980s style synth drums from the Van Halen Jump era.

Depending on your sense of irony, you'll either think this might be the best thing about the Olympics, or perhaps a piece of terrible contemporary prog rock that needs to be put in the wastebin of joke songs quickly. I haven't quite decided where I stand. 

Apparently, this song will be played before the medal ceremony. I can't wait to see some awkward archers and fat weightlifters aproaching the podium, slightly taken aback by the melodramatic chorus provided as soundtrack. Inevitably, there will be a glorious moment when Bolt listens to the song, and gives us a lightning bolt. 

Here's the song. You must listen to it.

And as an added bonus, in tribute to the music of excess, here's another image of Van Halen in their finest hour.

Are you looking forward to the Olympics? Or are you like many cynical Brits and finding it all slightly ridiculous?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Prometheus Review

You gotta admire Ridley Scott. His work is full of chutzpah, philosophical ideas and is commandingly stylish. The last sentence sounds like a description I might read of Miuccia Prada or any other wannabe designer. Fortunately, Prometheus, lives up to Scott's reputation. Like a lot of supposedly conceptual fashion though, I would say it is more style than substance.

Prometheus asks the questions, what if we evolved from aliens, and what if, they were the more advanced life form? To write this makes the film sound completely ridiculous. It is science fiction, but it also has quite a sublime aesthetic. The aliens are visceral, slimy and dominating. I normally hate special effects, or at least the artificial look of CGI. But the aliens movement and appearance makes them creepy and captivating to watch.

Tensions abound between virtually all of the characters in the film. This is best personified by Charlize Theron's character, Meredith Vickers. She spends most of the film as an aggrieved daughter who is huffing her way through her father's desires (the father is played by the ancient looking Guy Pierce) to uncover the origins of life and alien existence. By the end of the film, I was really taken by her no-nonsense attitude. It's like she's irritated at other people's histrionics and just wants the sensible, simpler option. To do this though, she maintains a cold persona.

Meredith Vickers, looking unimpressed and steely as ever.

Michael Fassbender's performance is also notable. His perennially focused eyes are eerie and he convincingly plays the robotic character with a lack of humanity. His greater than human capabilities seem to have an underlying, twisted quality.

The lead character and Christian moral compass of the film, Dr Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace, is very much in the mould of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley. Her strength and determination (and her rather gorgeous partner, Charlie Holloway, played by Tom Hardy)  fuel her desire to uncover why the aliens are infecting and attacking the crew.

I've never actually seen the original Alien, though I gather it is markedly similar, but I would say this is more than worth watching in the cinema. I saw the regular version, but I do think the inevitable aliens coming out at you, would be huge fun in 3D.

Verdict: 3/5 stars.

4/5 stars, for an imaginative escape.

Look at the amazing sci-fi B movie style poster for Prometheus below. A fan apparently created it. If I was more of a sci-fi fan, I'd want to buy it. As it is, I''m still coveting its glory.

What summer films are you excited for? I'm very impressed with the trailer for Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. Could it ever possibly be the grand American romance tragedy as the book?

Monday, 28 May 2012

Mr Fabulous Mission's Summer Grill

Back when it was still horrible winter weather in summer, some food gave me the impression of summer. This summer grill, consisting of polenta, tomato and red pepper kebabs with a yogurt dressing and cucumbers allowed me to believe I was on a patio on the Med. You know the terrible cliche, "it's summer on a plate," well let me give it to you, as this is.

This looks more like the portions for a starter, and while I do think it would make a highly satisfying starter, I had a couple of the kebabs with a big salad, the cucumber tzatziki and some bread. If you know what's good for you, make it a meal. Grilling the polenta caramelizes it and crisps it up- put it on the BBQ if you prefer. The juice and sweetness from the tomato and pepper seep into the polenta. You could easily marinade the kebabs in an oil and herb dressing (I'm thinking of pesto) and obviously use whatever vegetables you like. Still, the cucumber, garlic, lemon and mint yogurt dressing is more than enough of a compliment and flavour to make you eager to eat.

Recipe for a Summer Meal for Two
1. Chop up a block of polenta, tomatoes (I quartered 3 Roma-sized tomatoes) and a red pepper into suitable sized chunks. Put onto kebabs to resemble the 1970s classic, pineapple and cheese on a stick.
2. For the tzatziki, finely chop 1/2 clove of garlic and 1/3 of a cucumber. Add to about a half a cup of yogurt (I used low fat Greek style), the juice of half of a lemon and a small handful of mint leaves (chop the bigger ones).

3. Grill/BBQ on each of the four sides. The first two sides take longer as they're getting everything cooking. The first side took me about 8 minutes; the second side about 5 minutes and the others about 3 minutes on a high grill. If you like more of a subtle golden colour, go for a medium or low grill. I was going for the BBQ effect. 

4. Serve with a salad.

Happy BBQ season.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Bruce Almighty

Bruce Springsteen, The Boss. I'd like to rename him, though he'd never accept my title. I'd rename him the Prophet, or The Wise Man, or The Voice of America. Superlatives don't quite touch Bruce Almighty. His latest album, Wrecking Ball, is a kind of clarion call to care. I'm inspired.

He declares in 'This Depression:'

     This is my confession
     I need your heart    
     In this depression

Sprinsteen seamlessly blends the personal with the political. His lyrics hint at a troubled, dying America that he wishes to be reconstructed, noting that 'we've been travelling around rocky ground' (in 'Rocky Ground'). The album's title track seems to invite a revolutionary (Obama? Civil society?) to destroy what has long been in shambles. He proposes: 'if you've got the guts and you've got the balls/bring on your wrecking ball.' Instead of this seeming dark and destructive the record has an uplifting, healing, optimistic  sound to it, with rousing choruses. If you're an adult rock radio listener you've probably heard the single 'Death to My Hometown.' On paper, this title sounds like an eerie terrorist cry to destroy New York City. As a song, it's like a traditional American march, demanding change for the right reasons.

You can certainly interpret this as a protest record. Bruce rails at the fat-cat bankers, sympathises with  honest employment and the underclasses and tries to suggest that the land of hope and dreams needs to stop punishing the innocent. Even though this isn't an E-street record, the instrumentation is lush and full of empowering rhythms. You'll hear the last notes from sax stunner Clarence Clemons completing the sound of loveliness on a couple songs too. Without exception, the songs are singable and memorable.     

In short, this is perfect father's day gift for your Dad. The brothers/boyfriends/classic rockers you know would be equally thrilled with your most excellent taste.

The best album I've heard in years. 5/5.

Albums seem to have died with itunes. Do you have any album recommendations? (I love most things with some catchy rhythms, so don't think it has to be too 'worthy' or 'deep.')

Monday, 30 April 2012

Frolicks In the Bluebell Wood

While Canada has intense red, orange and gold autumn leaves and France has fields of lavender and sunflowers to beautify its landscape, England can claim spring as its season of loveliness. An English spring has chartreuse green and glorious bluebell woods. When in a bluebell wood, you have to imagine yourself as a lover of Keats, fresh and flushed under the verdant green of Hampstead Heath.

Keats describes the petite, unfurling bluebells the way that you could describe many English flowers, gardens and girls: 'sweet buds...with a modest pride.'  

The new beech leaves were at the point before they've gained strength and still have their protective baby hairs on.

Very, very occasionally, laziness is rewarded. I bought this suede skirt at a charity shop months ago (when it was too big for me), intending to take a few inches off the waist. I never did and it has served my pregnancy waist wonderfully. I thought the belt made it a bit like a holster; I was certainly ready for a showdown in the Bluebell Wood.

Outfit: Blazer from Korea; tie blouse, Warehouse; suede skirt, charity shop in the fascinating Coventry (if you like 1950s and 60s architecture you must go); sunshine yellow ballet flats, Clarks.

What do you love about spring? If you live in the U.K., how have you been coping with the rain?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Coleslaw for People Who Don't Like Coleslaw

Coleslaw is a perfect accompaniment to anything barbequed or grilled-- burgers, ribs, chicken, corn, potato wedges. Generally though, I find coleslaw contaminated. Whether it's with onions, too much cabbage, too much mayonnaise, or too little something; I feel like coleslaw should be good, but generally isn't. Then I discovered celeriac. 

So, how does cabbage become glorious? My recipe is basically like a celeriac remoulade with a Waldorf salad. I really think this is especially good for kids and vegetarians as there's sweetness, crunch and nuttiness. Pretty much any of the ingredients can be omitted (apart from the dressing), but together they really are insanely addictive. 

Celeriac Coleslaw Recipe:

Adjust the quantities according to what you have and like. This is what I love.

1 SMALL celeriac (the smaller they are the sweeter they are, and the smallest in the shop is enough for 6 decent portions)
About 4 cabbage leaves- savoy cabbage is my favourite.
2 celery stalks
1 apple- I'm a fan of the Pink Lady.
2 handfuls of pecans

Juice of 1 lemon/lime
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons half fat creme fraiche/thick yogurt (I use these to cut the fat a bit, but you could use all mayonnaise)
2 tablespoons dijon mustard (Go for English mustard if you like it hot, but still in slightly smaller quantities).

1. Cut cabbage into strips. Chop celery into bite size pieces.
2. Quarter apple and slice thinly. Grate celeriac. Add lemon juice (like apples, the celeriac will discolour slightly without the acid).

 3. Spoon mayonnaise, yogurt and mustard on top and mix into the coleslaw. Add any more ingredients according to your taste.
4. Toast pecans and add to coleslaw. 

Makes 6 decent portions. The coleslaw will stay fresh in the fridge for about 2 days. I love it as leftovers in my lunch.

I'm always trying (and usually ignoring) to eat more salad and vegetables. Do you have any tasty salad/vegetable dish recommendations?

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Cake To Impress a Mother-In-Law

Unlike most bloggers, I do not create perfectly pretty cupcakes. If you're one of those people, I'm jealous. I've only really gotten into domestic goddressry since I've wanted to impress my husband and his family. Easter was one of the those occasions. Being Easter and not going for the chocolate option, yellow became the obvious choice. I pimped this fine recipe from the warm yet no-nonsense Mary Berry; here is her recipe for lemon yogurt cake (link here). I really think this lemon cake will impress girlfriends, men, colleagues or whomever. It's easy, not too sweet but still intensely flavoured.

How I Pimped the Mary Berry Lemon Yogurt Cake:
1. Use more lemon zest. Whether vanilla, cinnamon, lemon or any flavouring I almost always double what the recipe advises. I zested a LARGE lemon and another half. If you're going for an impress the foodies option, grapefruit might grab their attention more; if I were making it for my Mum it would be a lime cake. For the mother-in-law and the three men, I went classic.

2. When the cake is cooked, poke some holes in it with a skewer the way you would for a lemon drizzle cake. I drizzled the juice from a lemon and a couple capfuls of limoncello I still have (limoncello recipe here) .

3. Use a more interesting cake mould, if you have one. A plain loaf is harder to make look elegant. I juiced a second lemon when I turned the mould over (make sure the cake's cool before turning it out) and added some more limoncello.

4. The quantities recommended for the icing produce a very firm, seriously sweet, royal icing. I added more lemon juice to make it more of a drizzle and iced the cake by making diagonal stripes. Add the zest from another lemon on top of the icing.

5. Add a sauce. Lemon goes wonderfully with berries, so this was my effort- raspberries and tayberries from the freezer. Blueberries would also look and taste fresh. I cooked the berries down with a bit of raspberry wine that I had; any red juice or water would be fine though. 

The cake did indeed impress. Impress the in-laws mission accomplished.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Wedding circa 1965

It's 1965- you're invited to an April wedding in England. What do you wear? In England, you're still definitely wearing a hat. Your hair hasn't quite grown to the dream of straight Michelle Phillips California hair. Swirls and flower power haven't quite hit. The reception is in the local pub. Your journey brings you to a butter yellow shift with puffy chiffon sleeves.

A pale blue veil gives you the something blue, even though you don't need it, as you're just a guest. You flip out the ends of your hair.

Stepping outside for a bit of fresh air, your date takes these photos.

Outfit: The dress and top were my Easter outfit, but it just felt so 1960s wedding that I thought I'd add a ridiculous/wonderful hat to it.
Hat- local charity shop.

Yellow shift dress stolen from my sister's old closet- last seen last summer, here:

Chiffon top, Forever 21- last seen at New Year's Eve here: 

Black and white brogues, Asos. They're falling apart right now as they're my work shoes that I wear to tromp around at the weekend too. Still, I think they've been good value.

I've been stalking the patent Topshop pastel brogues since the new year as their sweeter replacement.  Irritatingly, they're also twice the price of my original spats. Are they worth it?
Are you embracing spring colours? Has anyone found some reasonably priced pastel clothing that might be work appropriate? After February, shops don't seem to sell sleeves or anything with much material, never mind length. Let me know if you have any underground tips.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Sun Will Shine on the Oxford Blues

                                         The Boat Race. "Terrible loss," you might say, if you're a supporter of the Oxford Blues. Even if you're like my sister and think you don't like sports, watch it. It'll certainly leave you with a grand game of "What If...?". Mega-aggressive Cox, Zoe De Toledo, was being cautioned constantly. As the wife of a Thames rower I've learned that this is a normal strategy for any cox-- the idea is to intimidate your opponents off the fastest water that you want for yourself.

Image of the intense Zoe de Toledo and her cox adversary Ed Bosson from

I dressed in Oxford blue to show my support, finding solace in a field of lurid yellow rapeseed in the Oxfordshire countryside. I was pleased that an Oxonian noticed the matching of the polka dots and the dot-like quality of the pearls.

Were it not for the distraction of some Kinder chocolate and notice-me yellow blooms, the blues may have dominated.

What did you think of the Boat race?

What cheers you up? Found any lovely Easter sights lately?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Weekend Away in Torquay?

In 1955 Torquay was a wonderful weekend away- a romantic weekend, a family trip to the seaside, a place to lap up the English Riviera and get an ice cream and fish n' chips to enjoy on a pretty pier. Easily since the 1970s and Faulty Towers, Torquay has become a bit of a joke. It shouldn't be. All its charm remains.

If you like Edwardian prettiness, you'll find it. If you like 1920s and 1930s elegance, you'll be struck by it. If you like 1950s and 1960s slightly Californian beachsides, you'll be in heaven. Nonetheless, Torquay is quintessentially English, pretty, kitch and delightfully sunny. And I was there in February. Now and any time in the summer, it would be the wonderful English weekend away.

Mr Fabulous Mission and I stayed at Trafalgar House Bed and Breakfast for two nights using a Groupon deal for £99. Trafalgar House (pictured below) seems to regularly have deals on, and I would recommend it highly.

The rooms are tastefully decorated, there is a choice of breakfast (Full English with local ingredients, Continental, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, poached eggs and soldiers, whatever you could want essentially) with cereals, and ripe fruit salads.  The deal also included a decadent high tea that will leave you fine for supper.

 Meringue Mont Blancs followed for dessert- they were divine.

Where have you gone that you've loved? Any places that people often forget or disregard worth a visit?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

What do you think of when you think of ribs?

Burley men with beer bellies, wearing wife beaters, and listening to Ted Nugent? A Southern barbecue with corn and Budweiser?

While these images may have some truth to them, ribs aren't just for rednecks or fat people.

Ribs aren't feminine or pretty, but let's face it, your taste in style and fashion is not necessarily your taste in food. Still, ribs are sweet, hard to ignore, delicious and one of the cheapest meats you can buy. I'm a fan.

The formula for flavour is simple: sweet, sour and hot.

The recipe I take pride in making is as follows. It serves four (1/2 rack/person) or 2 meals for 2. Buy the ribs with the most meat on them.

Ribs Recipe:
2 Racks of ribs

Sauce for Ribs
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of ketchup
6 chopped pepper rings or 1 small chili chopped
2 tablespoons of ginger
2 tablespoons of honey
Tabasco to taste (I'm not a person who likes it too spicy and I find 8 drops sufficient)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse ribs in hot water. Boil in water for an hour. Sometimes, ribs will release a great deal of fat in the form of cloudy white bits. Skim these off. I sometimes do this half a dozen times. Cooking the ribs in water will render the fat, cook them and make them moist.

2. Make sauce for ribs as the ribs are cooking in the water. Combine all ingredients and make to your desired hotness. The flavour will mellow significantly in cooking so make it hotter than you think you like it.

3. Preheat oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Cooking them in the hot oven will give them the smoky flavour and 'set' the sauce into them.

4. After the ribs are boiled, baste them in sauce.

5. Cook in hot oven for 10 minutes. Turn over, baste and cook for a further 10 minutes. Obviously, the bbq could be instead of the oven to finish them off.

5. Add the remainder of the sauce to your cooked, great ribs.

Serve with coleslaw and corn on the cob in the summer. My favourite cole slaw recipe is on the way. The one pictured was tasty (cabbage, carrot, apple and pecan), but it's not The One. 

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Overshadowed by Accessories

Those of you in the U.K., did you celebrate the first no long sleeves Saturday? I did.

I thought the idea of a maxi dress was that it provided maximum length and maximum impact? I also thought black dresses were synonmous with elegance, instantly dressed-up sexy, strong womanliness. Angelina Jolie I'm not, evidently.

In person, I really do love this dress and feel some sort of statue-esque beauty in it. However, my camera was obviously infinitely more attracted to the pink and blue print and silver chandelier earrings that I wore as an afterthought. They were supposed to be like a bonus shot; something to improve an already great dress. Alas, the black dress seems to have been overshadowed to a dull, plain Jane dress. David Bailey's trademark white walls made his subjects all the more in-your-face fascinating and attractive.

Mick Jagger "Fur Hood" by David Bailey. 

The white backdrop has made my dress into a dark night, without much allure.

Alas, it is still spring and the white snowdrops and yellow aconites weren't afflicted by the same disease called light that seems to have spoiled the photos of my favourite dress. Maybe it is like an old-fashioned vampire, overwhelmed by light.

Outfit: Black maxi dress, Marks and Spencer; printed scarf, Oxfam; earrings, Accesorise. 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Andre 3000 meets a Regular Girl at the English Seaside, in Winter

Remember when Andre 3000 rocked bow ties with loud coloured shirts and mismatched trousers. Imagine Andre 3000 became a real person, by the English seaside, in late winter/early spring.  My look seems a bit in that spirit- it's geeky, it's odd and slightly show-off-y, but still feminine.

What do you wear to the seaside? A polka dot bikini? A sundress? What do you wear on a late winter/early spring day? A shirt might not be the most obvious choice, but it was mine.

Requisite shot on the pier with the sea and windswept hair? Check.

Outfit: Hot pink shirt, Joe (a Canadian clothing line, similar to Sainsbury's); tassle earrings, Tallulah Tu; hair clip worn like a flower bow tie, Accesorise; dress, Warehouse (5 years ago).

I wore my brogues all weekend and felt the polka dots and blues were a little nod to the sea.

Outfit: Blue shirt, Mark's Work Warehouse (Canadian shop); polka dot skirt from a wicked Oxfam in Torquay; shoes, Asos.

Do your clothes celebrate spring yet? I'd love to be wearing pastel prom dresses, but alas, the temperature and my pregnancy may yet prevent this.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Lana Del Ray Album Review

Critics often like a subtle record. Lana Del Ray's 'Born to Die' is the opposite. It is operatically dramatic in a kind of 'Notice me, I'm an inch from your face,' sort of way. It tells the story of the kind of love that will either tragically kill you and immortalise you, or bring you redemptive, everlasting life. The love she writes about will be familiar to any 15-25 year old feeling like their love is simultaneously the most intensely wonderful and painful experience of their life.

Appropriately, my copy of 'Born to Die' cracked only two days after purchase.

In my head, in an interview, Lana Del Ray would come across as some sort of contemporary hybrid of Jane Birkin and Edie Sedgwick: enigmatic, tortured and knowingly sexy. I'm sure Lana Del Ray (or Lizzie Grant) would be pleased with this vision, working hard to craft her own contemporary Lolita. Unfortunately, when I actually heard her in interview, she had little of this fascinating ambiguity. She sounded Taylor Swift-like: having that all too positive, no sense of irony, young female popstar quality: niceness. Fortunately, her music is far more alluring.

'Video Games' is representative of the rest of the album, lyrically and sonically. The album is dominated by her forlorn, stylised voice over top of lush orchestration and darkened electronic production. Half of the songs, like 'Video Games,' are slower numbers, reminiscent of Portishead or Goldrfrapp. The other half are more dance-y club tracks, ready for remixing by Samantha Ronson in an L.A. club.

At times, her 'I would do anything for love' persona is grating, insofar as the man she seems willing to do whatever for, seems largely undeserving. However, ignore the lyrics or just accept that they're pop melodrama that conveniently rhymes ('You were sorta punk rock, I grew up on hip hop/But you fit me better than my/favourite sweater' is a particularly terrible example), and you'll be devoured by her sumptuous sing-along melodies.
Summary: Lana Del Ray has received so much hype, you might wish to ignore her album, assuming it's just another unjustified media explosion. However, you would miss what is an incredibly catchy album that will result in numerous other girls trying to copy her style, and fail miserably.

4/5 Stars. It's memorable and striking.

Have you heard her album or any of her other songs? Do you believe the hype, like I do?