Wednesday, 31 December 2008


New year's eve run

A dusky run that revealed a tree limb masquerading as some sort of many-horned animal dipping down to drink

Boxing Day walk, with a stop for tea by the playground and a grey-filtered view on our way back to the river

New year's day, bathroom ledge (I'm a little hungover)

Typical twilit view from the bedroom, with mysterious purplish office building peeking through


Here it is: the macadamia-toffee-vanilla cheesecake my man Dan promised and prepared – in three stages, no less – for my b-day. Every part of this massive confection is a treat in itself: the firm but creamy real-vanilla-bean base; the roasty macadamia nut-brittle; the exquisitely fudgy caramel spilling over the sides. Sure, you can have the recipe.

And the presentation on Christmas nite wasn't bad, either. Dan's mum had also made a pavlova (right) in belated celebration of Dan's brother's b-day. After spooning up the two puddings and draining several cups of tea, we were all a bit twitchy.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Your video xmas pressie

Quite simply the best Christmas carol ever. My Brit pals will be sick to the teeth of it by now, but many of my US of A compadres may only have a passing acquaintance with it. You can watch the high quality version if you like, too – just be sure to click that option once you get to YouPube.

Not that I'm so cynical about the holidays. It's my birthday tomorrow - 37, nosy rosies - and I'm quite looking forward to it, as Dan is even now putting the finishing touches on my (deep breath) toffee-macadamia-nut-vanilla cheesecake he baked all by hisself. No lie. Pics tomorrow or thereabouts.

Joyeux Noël, dollinks!

Monday, 13 October 2008

I'm in the New York Times!

Well, I'm quoted in this article, anyway. Right in the beginning, too. Shame they thought I was a guy, based on my name, but still. Thanks to my pal Alicia for the heads-up, b/c I didn't know my email response would be quoted, and I was in Austria on the company weekend holiday when the story was published last Friday.

Shoo, already. Go see!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Go on, make me feel good. I dare you.

Sunday lunch...

...with Dan.
My weekend reading and knitting chair with ubiquitous cardigan.

Gorgeous chilies and food-grade rose petals...

...whizzed up into harissa (rose and regular batches).

The Teddington Library garden around the corner from work...

...where I can hide during lunch, b/c almost no-one from work bothers with the little liberry.

Coffee on the balcony our first morning in Lisbon, at our fab little hotel, Costta Rooms.

Finding a giant passionflower vine on a walk back from Richmond, and wondering if they really always grow as well here as they do in New Orleans. Then, later, spying one on a run near the river, and feeling reassured it's not a fluke thanks to some fantastic gardener.

Amazing brekky from a weekend a while back.

Yep. that all makes me feel better.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Hello sunshine

Just a reminder on a grey day of how the light in London can look when it wants to.

Marble Hill Park often makes me stop mid-jog and dig my cameraphone out of its cosy little arm-pocket...

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Upmarket Bliss

Above is my favourite result of a glorious trawl through the Sunday Upmarket and various Brick Lane-area shops two weeks ago. This little number came from The Lazy Ones, and I see from their blog that I lucked into their one-off sample sale (my frock was only £20, about 60% off, woo-hoo!). The material is a sort of crepe...I love the big buttons and grey lace detail.

But before that, we oohed and ahhed over Dan Hillier's altered engravings and came periously close to buying a small woodblock featuring this image, Lovers:

We decided to wait. But we shouldn't wait too long, it's all limited ed. Another close call was a £40 cloche with clever folds in pretty blue-grey felt. (No pic to be found, sadly.) Then there was the world's priciest cat t-shirt, which I always fondle, then drop in disgust at the price. I mean, it's a cool graphic, but really, £25 for a flimsy tee? (I guess I top out at about £17. Maybe it's the dollar-conversion that gets to me.) Still, may give in sometime b/c it always makes me laugh.

One thing we didn't hold back on was the excellent vittles to be had at the market! I think the veg pattie below is the best market food I've ever had, and that's saying sumpin'.
The main bulk of the pattie was shredded cabbage, with some juicy sweetcorn kernels thrown in. I don't know what the cheese was, but it was very mild and soft. The seaweed flakes entered into some kind of foodie chemical reaction with the yummilicious mayo to give it all a smoky, silky taste. That half-eaten parcel upper left is the other offering from same stall, a sort of sesame rice cake that was very sticky and not terribly tasty - just a hint of sesame going on - but good filler.

You can kind of see the pattie ingredients and a hardworking prep guy below. I would beeline for this stall next time too, it's a welcome alternative to all the wraps and pastry-packaged stuff that dominates the scene. (I love me some oh-so-tasty pastry, but I try to limit wheat intake b/c more than, say, a bagel's worth a day and I get a tight, poky tummy for hours. No fun.)

Saying that, I think Dan chose a very decent plate as well, from the Rainforest Salad operation next to the stall of Japanese vegetarian delights. The orangey couscous was v spicy and interesting - my fork kept travelling over that way...

Could not resist a passionfruit panna cotta from a Brazilian stall...tangy, soothing and refreshing.

The day was gloriously sunny, Dan scored a parking spot just a block from the market (unheard of), and I only wish we'd mobilised a little sooner in the day to take in more of it all.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Button Bright

Vintage buttons sewn onto old cards. If ever there was something that makes me itch to part with my hard-earned least I restricted myself to these, because at one point I had £40 worth in my hands! Twee local shop Parici is responsible.

The black concave discs on either end are competing for the honour of fastening my current project, the Buttony jumper/cardi (thanx to Kittee for the knitalong idea). Those delicate moonstoney ones have the slightest whisper of a ridge to them and a striated pearliness I couldn't quite capture. The remaining black buttons brought gothic, cobwebby shawls to mind.

I hate to put them away...

PS: Does Button Bright ring a bell? Think Oz books...

A Hint from Heloise: Smoothy ribbons

Okay. So you need to wrap a fancy gift, and, being the savvy collector of gift-wrap fixings that you are, you confidently plunder your stash instead of running out to the store. (Stick with me, this is based on a true story.)

You're especially certain you have a nice silky ribbon to give your offering that special sumpin' sumpin'. But what's this? All your long, silky, perfectly appropriate ribbons are wrinkly (and obviously being re-used since the deepest wrinkles are located at strategic tying points).

Now. You have no time to run out to aforementioned store. (It's closed, anyway.) You either use what you have, or go without. But you can't go without. Your reputation is at stake. People know you do nice wrapping. And this is a wedding gift. You gotta have the bow!

That's when you spy with your little eye...the perfect tool.

Who among us does not have, deep down in the back of a bathroom closet if not right at hand, a straightening or curling iron? You all but do a little dance of joy and inspiration, complete with handclaps.

You'd briefly considered ironing the ribbon, but the thought of dragging out the icky-foam ironing board and sputtering domestic appliance gave you the willies. But the hair iron! Oh baby. How easy is that?

You put it on the lowest setting. You figure, if it burns the ribbon, no matter - you were about to go without, anyway. You press down and slide it through...then again...maybe once more...

And voila! A silky-smoothy ribbon is reborn. Sling it on, sista, and hold your head up high: a crisis of gift-givin' etiquette has been narrowly averted. Til next time...

PS: Remember the smoo?

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Potato buddies?

Two carefully placed potatoes nestled at the base of a tree near the river. Enh?

Is this part of some Wiccan ritual? That's my best guess after coming upon this strange little twosome at the end of a good run (first really good one I've had since getting back on track after a three-week cold/flu/misery). They don't look like they fell out of a bag, they were definitely arranged this way.

Maybe some kids happened to have two nice Maris Pipers on them and thought, 'Hey, let's give the tree some balls, henh-henh!' (My second-best guess, but since when are spuds the must-have accessory for today's randy teen?)

Just another reason why it's fun to have a decent cameraphone...

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Cherry, cherry...she got the way to move me, yeh

Never mind that on Good Friday when we were in town, it rained, sleeted, and hailed in between sunbursts - at Minamoto Kitchoan, my favourite gourmet Japanese sweetshop, it was spring, and that means seasonal cherry sweets.

As gorgeous as the jellied ones were, I thought they'd be a letdown - cherries in gelatine? enh. - so I chose some other cherry-flavoured confection, only to be told I was pointing at an expertly modelled display fake, and the guy who had swaggered up in front of me had bought the last two. Hmph. So I nosed around a little more...oh, no, don't make me browse the artisanal imported sweets, anything but that...

...and I finally settled on the Hakuun-no-Hotori: milky flavored white bean paste wrapped in Japanese cake. Somehow I exercised the self-control to keep them til Easter Sunday for us to have with tea while watching The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency debut on telly.

They were luxurious and vanilla-sweet, executing a soft, smooth crumble on the tongue. Not a dipping kind of sweet, but excellent with tea. I would have liked another, but they were pricey.

Also caught up with lechatlunatique for mezze and craft- and girltalk that day, and she later led me to Lovejoys, a gem of a bookstore that sells bargain editions of literary classics, cookbooks, obscure old flms on dvd, and other assorted goodies. Thing is, it has a dirty bottom (porn in the basement), which accounts for the name, I s'pose. I could not resist The Golden Bough (abridged) for £3. How could anyone?

I reunited with Dan for the Minamoto expedition, then we headed to the Mayfair Curzon to see Love in the Time of Cholera. Nope, not linking to it, because it was bloody awful! It's my favourite Gabriel Garcia-Marquez novel, and I didn't even recognise the story on the screen.

I knew we were in trouble from the first word, as it was in English. And sure enough, it's an American production. Doomed from the get-go, with vertiginous plot-hopping and total lack of grace. Except...well, maybe except....
Javier Bardem as Florentino was outstanding. But one well-cast actor does not a good film make. Not even a passable one.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Eek! The giant papaya!

Being from New Orleans, I was stopped cold by the word Formosa, which I've only ever heard in association with termites. Formosan termites can eat through a whole house in very short order, and the Southern US is badly afflicted with 'em; you really really really hope your house doesn't get them, and you shell out many a dollar for a comprehensive prevention contract...

But. That has nothing to do with this hefty hula gal of a tropical fruit.

It was perfectly ripe: soft but not mushy, intensely fragrant, and generous in quanitity - it may have cost £2.99, but it yielded at least four normal fruits' worth. O heavenly cereal topping! O delectable yoghurt mixer! Not to mention, sensational scoop-straight-from-the-bowl snack. Dan and I had some right away with an improvised lunch of Dr. Karg spelt emmenthal cheese and pumpkin seed crackers spread with leftover black bnz. I added this little find below...

Yes, I fell for the packaging. Especially since you could choose from three goats: Flo, Ethel and Eva. Flo was a little too naive and relaxed for me; Eva struck me as somewhat vainglorious. But Ethel, with her skeptical, flat-eared tilt of the head struck me as the conscientious kind of gal goat I could trust to make me a fine bit o' cheese. And anyway, I'm a Capricorn.

I was not disappointed. The little round of goodness was crumbly in the middle, gooey near the rind, and oh-so-goaty with a touch of tang, just like chevre should be. Paired with my fine-tuned herby black bnz on the crackers, it was a divine little number for lunch.

When I snapped the pic above, Dan suggested, rather uncharitably, that I keep the camera poised for my next bowel movement as well, since surely my gentle readers for whom I was capturing every phase of Saturday lunch would like to know the 'end result'. But he doesn't even like the goaty goodness of chevre, so how can we possibly trust his observations? Indeed, we cannot.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Ivywood Productions, doll

And now for a word from our sponsors.

Okay, Ivywood Productions is not an official sponsor of my ephemeral endeavours, but I'd be popping buttons with pride if it were. Ivywood is the newly launched website of Sam Szczepanski - friend, cosmic advisor, music industry maven and back-catalogue consultant extraordinaire. The site itself is a treat; the inspirations are a must-see, with vintage Hollywood glam delivered beautifully through Sam's inimitable exposition and visual style.

To carry on with our sponsorship theme just a moment longer, you can also see some of Dan's work in the Ivywood gallery - Eddie Cochran, Diana Dors, and The Lewis Three are recent projects he completed in harmonious, tea-fuelled partnership with our Samski.

Finally, I must add that Sam's cv is the most entertaining and compelling I've ever read (click on her name once you arrive to view the pdf). Sure, a music industry career is bound to be more intriguing than most, but I think it's Sam's tiki-tinged panache that makes it such a good read.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Once upon a Saturday...

...I was feeling mighty stressed, two weeks of nonstop insanity at work being the main (but not only) culprit. Then, on the relatively unscheduled Saturday that capped the stressfest, the boiler broke. And I fled. I looked up train times, checked shop hours, and swept out the door to Stash, Southwest London's cosiest yarn mecca.

I'd been there once before with lechatlunatique, and while we had a pleasant knit 'n' natter there some months ago, I wasn't hugely motivated to make Stash a regular stop. But I suddenly felt strongly drawn to it, for the easy escape and (if I'm honest) a little retail therapy.

On the walk from Putney train station to the shop, I began craving a coffee, and I couldn't resist the unlikely boast of this Persian deli: 'best coffee in town'. (In my blurry photo there, you can just make it out above the door.) Well, the nice old gent behind the counter made a fine cappucino, but it was the treasure on the shelves that had me swooning:

Food-grade rose petals; whole dried limes for superb stews; lemon salt - have you ever seen lemon salt?? - and sour little barberries for saffron rice. And there was so much more, all of it cheap at the price. While I was paying, I couldn't help but say, 'This is so wonderful.' My counterman nodded, smiling, then asked if I knew how to use the limes...

So I was already feeling my spirits lift as I entered Stash a block or so away, where one chick was engaged in finishing her first sock and the two shop ladies were deciding what to have for lunch. As I settled in, a couple of other ladies arrived, one to work on an intricate lace top, another bursting to tell of her new adventure with rag yarn. It was perfect.

I stayed for at least 3 hours, not quite believing how easy it was to distract myself by asking about their projects, petting fancy wool, and just chatting amiably, not to mention making some progress on the eternal Big Wool jumper. I even found some incredibly soft and not pricey baby llama wool to make a wrap to go with the dress I'm wearing to lechatlunatique's wedding in a couple of weeks. (
When I got home I was relieved to find that the indigo colour matched my dress perfectly...I have a good eye for colour, but you never know, if the light is funny...)

And I finally splashed out on Selvedge, a bi-monthly textiles journal I often flip thru but have never allowed myself to have. I think it is now a must. How gorgeous is that image? How could I resist for so long?

And there was more in the way of handcrafted beauty yet to come.

This pastel cupcake and lolly display got me in the door of Mei cafe, but the paninis and salads had me reaching for my wallet.

Unusual goodies like the blackcurrant oat squares and big pistachio meringues made me linger, but I walked out with the maple sweet potato and goat cheese salad to share with Dan as part of dinner. He liked the sweet potats but thought the cheese too goaty. I like goaty. I helped him out with his share of the chevre.

Now, would you believe my super Saturday was not yet finished? I spied a small cemetery next to Stash, which turned out to be the prosaically named Putney Old Burial Ground. Some of the tombs had glorious gothic detail...

That shrouded skull motif was repeated on another panel of the tomb, and alternated with a cherub on the remaining two ghastly, yet compelling!

This was the most magnificent tomb on the grounds, and certainly rivals the graveyard masonry that we took for granted in New Orleans...

I think the procession of trees cut the grandest figure within the grounds, though...

This one is surely a warrior Ent, with arms upraised, head held proudly, and a bulging hip thrust out...

At first I thought these were just flagstones, and ended up walking on someone's grave...

This is my favourite image of the day. The partially obscured stone slab immediately put me in mind of a ripped page, the green against the grey hums with blue and yellow brilliance, and the path curving behind made me feel oddly hopeful.

Had to have a close-up, for the textures...

Much as I admire all this stonework, the only memorial I want is a bench. Let my figurative resting place be one for others as well, preferably by a river or in a library garden.

I can't say I gained any perma-cheer to erase my daily cynicism, but this one Saturday did me a lot of good and made me feel more myself...good mental prep for our trip to Berlin, which post will have to wait a little while so I can do it justice...