Friday, 30 July 2010
Gasp! Martha Stewart Living is launching in the UK in September! Since my stint in New York I have been a faithful devotee to the queen of domesticity. From her inspired crafts to her simple but stylish recipes, she manages to make everything seem do-able and has increased my own personal goddessness beyond belief (before discovering Martha I was way more Marilyn than Jackie!). In ten years time, this is the magazine I'd like to work at...
Picture: Martha's lemon meringue cupcakes. Yum.
My lovely friend Sophie bought some seeds from the Balcony Gardener for her boyfriend as a 1st Anniversary present (so cute!), all the packaging is gorgeous, but this sachet particularly appealed to me (couldn't you imagine a wedding invite designed like this?). I also adore the ideas of growing blooms that butterflies can't resist too...
Thursday, 29 July 2010
We're packing our wellies and plastic cutlery in anticipation for the summer's most enthralling event - The Big Camp. It's become a tradition for our gang to head to a campsite, a few hours from the city and spend the weekend getting friendly with the wilderness. To be fair we don't exactly rough it - ours is the smallest tent, yet we still bring a blow up mattress and a duvet in lieu of camping mats and sleeping bags (we don't have to forsake comfort!). We build firepits around which to drink brandy-laced hot chocolate and barbeques to griddle our organic sausages. I have already baked a mound of double choc and fruit & nut cookies so we have something to nibble with our sun-rise coffees. We are 16 adults and eight kids so there will never be a dull moment (and my beau and I are excited to ask two of the little girls if they will be bridesmaids - I've created a chain of paper dolls that will pop the question for us!) The most brilliant part of this weekend promises to be the Big Camp Champs - a school sports day-style tournament that pits us against each other (with team colours and everything!). Unfortunately I am a fairly comical combination of being absurdly competitive yet completely crap at sport, so I hope I don't let my team down! If nothing else it will be blissful to gulp fresh air, catch up properly with good, good friends and star gaze while the sausages sizzle...
Disclaimer: I imagine our campsite will look nothing like this!
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
It's my favourite day of the year.... The Stella McCartney sample sale! I count the sleeps to this momentous day because:
a) Her designs are always chic, cool, yet every-day-wearable
b) Everything is 75% off!
I still wear every carefully edited pick I've invested in over the years (yes, carefully edited - it's been a long time since I splurged on something avant garde and unwearable in the heat of the moment... I'm a seasoned pro!).
Here are my sample sale (or actually any sale) rules...
1) Get there early (I mean crack of dawn early). I have lots of friends who would rather wait for the initial crowds to die down but I know that when the steely shoppers go, the best stuff goes with them.
2) Don't bother pre-sale shopping on style.com - chances are all the key catwalk favourites are long gone anyway so you just end up disappointed.
3) Don't go because you need a specific item. Sample sales are the places you stumble across a gem, not the place to urgently find a dress for a party that night - don't add to the stress!
4) Dress the part - this means dress like you're supposed to be there (so the fashionistas don't give you snooty death stares) - I opted for Rag & Bone shorts and an American Apparel lace tank today. This also means wear the bare minimum so you can easily try on other clothes in the middle of the sale without exposing too many body parts!
5) Grab what you like the look of the moment you spy it - even if you're not sure you want it just yet (it won't be there when you go back).
6) Once you have your pile of finds, edit them ruthlessly - are you positive you'll wear it? you definitely don't have something similar at home already? will it work with your existing closet? Whittle your selection down to the absolute must-haves.
7) I veer towards wear-it-forever pieces (like a navy Stella dress I bought three seasons ago that's totally timeless) or current closet upgrades (I sent a cheap cardigan to the charity shop after I upgraded with a far better quailty and stylish cut Chloe version).
8) Set yourself a price limit in advance. Nothing ruins a sample sale high like shopping guilt.
9) Do one final recce before you leave - keep an eye out for other people's cast offs - one person's trash and all that...
10) If after all this, you still end up making a terrible purchase, eBay it!
Today I bought a tank in the same print as the dress above (to wear now with shorts and in winter with a blazer) and a blush ombre cardigan (my hue of the season and the kind of thing I live in. Although I fully expect my beau to flip out after he created the 'no more cardigan' rule about six months ago!). Colour me smug.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
This gorgeous stationery company send me their wares today... called Romeo & Jules, the bespoke cards, invites, gift tags and address labels are really stylish - think old vaudevillian fonts, geometric patterns, floral-but-not-flouncy prints. So nice to see the Brits doing something so well. I will naturally, be stocking up!
I stumbled across this retro picture of the lobby of the famous Greenbrier Hotel in Virginia, US, interior designed by the legendary Dorothy Draper (doyenne of big splashy florals, green & pink, prints & stripes, black & white and most importantly glamour). I'd still like to visit now (it's apparently a little lack lustre and the charm faded, but most of these original details still in tact). If nothing else it can inspire my own decor...
I find American Apparel very frustrating. Of course I dig all the cool 'no sweat shops' policy, and I'm seriously smitten with the styling (all the girls in the Covent Garden store swan around in high waisted shorts, little blouses, canvas pumps and messy hair - I wanna be in their gang!). I could take or leave the array of rainbow hued, shimmery Spandex unitards, but I want the round collared blouses, the lace camisoles, the cropped slacks, the striped tank tops. What bugs me most though is the price, unlike the States, where the pieces seem Gap equivalent, here, they are a good chunk more expensive and I find it brutally difficult to part with my pay cheque for what is ultimately a nicely styled basic. Despite all this, I still love this girlie lace chiffon dress (super cute with the mint socks too - but sadly not when you actually left school more than a decade ago!) .
Monday, 26 July 2010
It's Monday, yet I feel anything but sprightly. This is the moment when rested and revitalised, I should sashay into the new week as if nothing could stop me, but actually I'm feeling like a tower of mattresses and a sleep mask would be so much more appealing. It's been a busy weekend. Ascot on Saturday for Jane's hen party (I left with more money than I bet, but only because I cajoled a poor guy into giving me some of his winnings too!) and a mad fuzzy-headed sprint down to Kent the next morning to suss out wedding venues, only to be followed by the panic that we're blowing cash we don't have on too glitzier a venue (but people, it has a Victorian walled garden lined with peonies!).
Of course we're going with the venue, and I just have to be as savvy as possible elsewhere, but all the partying and planning (not to mention number crunching), has left me desperate for a nice long nap. Sadly I'm chained to my desk with a GLAMOUR deadline looming and caterers to butter up. Oh, my bed will be so irresistible tonight...
Picture: Tim Walker
I'm that girl who is always cold. On a summery night with a slight shiver in the air I'll be enveloped in cashmere and come winter there are not enough layers in the world to keep me toasty. This explains why even today, during a fairly muggy July, I have been lured in by this Missoni throw. Such a pretty colour (and the geometric design stops it being too cutesy), also available in black - which I might want even more.... Buy it here.
Friday, 23 July 2010
Top of my new-season shopping list? A blouse. Sheer, sexy, prim, proper, classic and chic. So Grace Kelly. I'll wear with a pencil skirt and ballet flats or skinny cigarette pants and heels. I heart these new pieces by Alberta Ferretti, Chloe and Marc Jacobs.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Adore this note card from Rifle Paper Co. The swirly font is delicious and the colours... yep, you guessed it... are the wedding shades. Bored yet?! Anyway, I'd snap these up even if I wasn't getting married, because they have a very sweet sentiment and because it's really rather lovely to know someone, anyone, is thinking of you.
My bridesmaid Lee just took me for an engagement picnic in Green Park! She brought smoked salmon, rose champagne and made scrumptious strawberry cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery Cookbook. We gossiped about the guest list, shared dress visions and she imparted her wedding wisdom. Her nuptials in Cornwall two years ago were so pretty and well thought out - from the afternoon tea on mismatched vintage crockery to the pastel hued streamers in the trees - I'll feel chuffed if we can achieve something half as special.
To continue the retro vibe of our nuptials, I like the idea of leaving for our honeymoon in a darling 'going away outfit' (do people still do this? any excuse to buy another frock!) and carrying one of these vintage suitcases... they're all from Etsy and I think they're quite delightful!
It's too soon to be thinking about bridesmaid dresses, but if I were I'd be seriously attempted to point my sartorially gifted duo in the direction of this little number from J.Crew. They'd have to fight over it as I definitely don't want them in the same dress (such a waste of their own vision, plus I am seriously not a fan of carbon copy bridemaids). This number echoes our colours but also feels fresh and distinctly unwedding, which suits me down to the ground!
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
Oh what to wear? We're off to the races for my lovely friend Jane's hen do on Saturday. A contingent of style savvy women we may be, but I still fear that this event could be our fashion pit-fall. Why? Because unlike any other day (or event for that matter), one can't help but feel like Ascot deserves a style extravaganza (even Eliza Dolittle would agree!). Should we wear ostentatious frocks in gaudy shades? Flying saucer-sized hats? Statement shoes? Will we end up looking a tiny bit trashy, no matter how elegantly we attempt to execute our ensembles?! I for one, am flitting between a babydoll inspired pleated dress by Day Birger with a black bow headpiece (a little Minnie Mouse) or a slinky cream and grey printed number by Alberta Ferretti (maybe with a beehive hairdo to complete the look!). Choices, choices...
To celebrate my pal's 30th birthday, I indulged him with wedge of his favourite cake, Victoria Sponge. It also happens to be my own absolute number one, ultimate, can't resist temptation. It's something about the light airy vanilla-ness of the sponge combined with the tart yet sugary jam and a good dollop of cream. I ramped up this version by sandwiching homemade cherry jam, from my Uncle's Provence garden, and extra thick clotted cream in between the two sponge slices. We had ours with a pot of earl grey and all professed it to be pretty damn delightful!
Irresistibly Good Victoria Sponge
225g of softened butter
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
225g self raising flour
1tsp vanilla extract
Splash of milk
Any delicious jam and clotted cream to smear between the slices!
Grease and line two sandwich tins and heat the oven to 180 degrees or Gas Mark 4.
Cream together the sugar and butter until soft and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, while stirring continuously, then add the splash of vanilla.
Sieve in the flour and fold all the mixture together gently. If it seems a little thick, add the splash of milk until you have a batter-like consistency.
Bake for 20-25 mins until lightly browned and the centre is slightly springy.
Leave to cool, then layer with the jam and cream and sprinkle with icing sugar.
I have been planning some of our wedding details recently and one of the elements we'd like to incorporate is a typewriter (I'm a writer... right?!). On the shelf in our living room we proudly display the old typewriter that my parents used when they first got married. It's so much more elegant than a computer - but with a lot less room for error! Sometimes I kind of wish I could tap away my GLAMOUR articles on those keys, but my typing skills just aren't Joan Holloway enough.
I'm a big fan of the typewriter font too - it's immediately retro. I've been looking online for some inspiration. Love this old Etsy print (sadly sold now), and this cushion (which is still available!), and this handsome address stamp from Paperwink - a great addition for non brides too!
Monday, 19 July 2010
Sundays are made for friends and relaxing so I did a lot of both yesterday. A lazy afternoon in Holland Park with barbequed salmon and tomato cous cous, a walk in the sunshine and a lot of banter. I whipped up a pudding (it's become like my calling card!). This one was so simple I almost didn't notice I'd done it. I don't even have a proper recipe for it, but here's sort of description that should suffice - and then you can put your own spin on it too.
Did I Just Make That Lemon & Ginger Cheesecake?
1 packet of ginger nuts
A knob of butter
2 medium sized tubs of cream cheese
1 medium sized pot of double cream
A handful of crystalized ginger
Bash the ginger biscuits into crumbs (I did this inside a clean tea towel with a rolling pin - very therapeutic!)
Decant into a saucepan with the butter over a low heat. Stir as the butter melts and the crumbs start to stick together.
Pour the crumbs into the base of a tin (with a removable base), press down so they are compact and pop into the freezer for ten minutes.
Chuck the cream cheese and double cream into a bowl, add the juice and rind of the lemon and mix.
Add caster sugar, a dessert spoon full at a time and taste the mixture in between. I like mine to be more tart, but you might prefer it a little sweeter...
Chop 2/3 of the ginger into small pieces and stir in.
Spoon the mixture onto the ginger biscuit base and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
Before serving chop and scatter the rest of the ginger to decorate.
NB: Sorry for all the hydrangeas in these pics - I have a garden full!
Friday, 16 July 2010
Ever since her nuptials appeared in Martha Stewart Weddings, I have been wishing I could be-friend Eunice of Hello Lucky and tap her up for more of her brilliant ideas. It helps that her stationery was all created in her usual charming vintagey style - but it was the extra details like a vaudeville stage, carnival crowns and pom poms (incredible made by dying coffee filter papers), that made her day wonderfully unique. I'm not sure I'd want to be quite as fantastical and kitschy, but I do adore that retro fairground feel, which is why I was also excited to stumble across these pieces on Etsy that would give any day a carnival spirit.
Last night I was supposed to be resealing the bath tub and spring (summer) cleaning our bedroom. I didn't do either. Instead I pulled up my big fabric-covered A4 notebook, scissors, glue, a pile of Martha Stewart Weddings and the print-outs I'd collected from wedding blogs like Once Wed, Ritzy Bee and Snippet & Ink and started sticking.
This is such an exciting time. Precious moments where anything's possible, where budgets and time frames and logistics don't matter a hoot and we can let our imaginations run riot and create the most dreamy delightful wedding possible. It has been thrilling for my beau and me to throw about ostentatious or magical or downright absurd ideas. A marching band? Why not! Disco balls hanging from the trees? Certainly! A make-your-own pizza bar? Actually, no way. (That was his idea and vetoed from the off set!) All of our ideas, no matter how realistically unrealistic, have been cut and pasted into our notebook. Some things we are pretty sure about already (low-key but still elegant, casual in some places, grand and fanciful in others).
Next weekend we're off to see two manor houses with lovely gardens, where we can hopefully pitch a marquee (thereby combining grandeur and garden party). We're keen to get hitched in May - when the nights are longer and brighter and the weather isn't quite so treacherous , and the peonies are in full bloom. We've also pretty much decided on a colour scheme. Nothing too strict, but we love the hues in the picture above - from Snippet & Ink - (although we plan to replace that warm terracotta shade with French navy instead). It all starts here...
Thursday, 15 July 2010
Dear Peyton & Byrne,
My adoration for you is infinite. I find myself pondering whether it's your perfectly retro, sugar-almond hued packaging I love most, or your bold black, thoroughly British logo, or your elegantly tiled cafes and bakeries. Then I think, oh you silly fool! How can you possibly pine for anything more than those impossibly girly, sweet yet tart, fluffy cupcakes? Your coconut and raspberry number actually keeps me awake at night. Okay, that's a lie, but I still think you're pretty delightful.