Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Aston Martin Cygnet

I love driving. It's up there on my list of favourite occupations. Whilst I was in California if I heard about a road with a mountain pass I was so there, even if it meant a massive detour. I like the feeling of being in control, I love the speed & the escapism, and I ended up covering over 4000 miles in the seven weeks I spent in California.(And no speeding tickets. Helps being English when you get stopped.)

Given my family's tastes, it's hardly surprising: my father is a complete petrolhead, who races classic cars, my sister bought herself a sports car when she was a banker & my mother drives something very fast and German.

My dream car has always been a 280SL, more for its gorgeous styling than its engineering and, although I don't want to drive anything that can't overtake a tractor, (although I would make an example for a Cinquecento or a 2CV), the way a car looks is important to me. Certainly as important as the marque.

Which brings me neatly to the just announced new addition to the Aston Martin stable.

The Cygnet.

Yup, joining the ranks of the ravishingly beautiful Vanquish and the Vantage is the Cygnet. Maybe they've called this staggeringly ugly car a Cygnet in the hope that it might grow up to be something more beautiful one day.

As the piece in today's Times points out, car companies can no longer afford to rest on their drooping laurels. They must innovate or wither away. But is this £20,000 ($35,000) entry level car that looks like a first cousin to the Ford Ka the way to go for a company known for luxury & speed?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Moonwalk for Michael June 09: the video

I don't think any of us expected to spend Friday afternoon organising an open air dance tribute to Michael Jackson in New York's Washington Square Park. Or that it would actually happen.

At 10.19am on Friday a group email arrived from S. As a fervent Michael Jackson fan he couldn't believe that no one had thought to organise a flash mob gathering in New York like the one at London's Liverpool Street.

We drew a blank on Twitter and on Google. And so our own NYC Mass Moonwalk was born.

With a hard core of maybe five of us, (French, Spanish, English & American in a staggering show of entente cordiale) we fixed on a location, Washington Square Park. But we still had the problem of how we were going to play music loud enough for a crowd to dance to. We didn't think a boom box was going to cut it,

Then T had a brainwave: the French Embassy's Cultural Services arm was organising an open air screening of The Big Blue at 8pm. Maybe, if he asked nicely, they would let us use their sound system for half an hour beforehand.

Astonishingly they agreed. (More entente cordiale.) So we started flooding Twitter & Facebook with updates, I blogged on here so it wld register on Google searches, and we all emailed friends, random acquaintances and various press to let them know of our plans.

Within half an hour it was obvious that we had struck a chord. So one of the girls designed & printed off 200 flyers, someone else printed up some T shirts, and we prayed for good weather.

Not hard enough. At 7pm the heavens opened and dumped a bucket of torrential rain over lower Manhattan. We were convinced no one would turn up. But apparently the French Embassy have their own weather sonar system and assured us that a) it would stop raining at 730pm &b) they had no intention of cancelling their screening.

Ambitious thinking as it was still raining at 7.25pm.

And then, miraculously, the sky started to clear from the west, and the rain stopped. We hung about, maybe fifteen of us, practically outnumbered by media & film crew wielding notebooks & cameras, as we thrust flyers at passers-by and wondered if we would be the only ones dancing.

We needn't have worried. By the time we played Thriller the Moonwalk had kicked off and we had a huge audience dancing, singing & laughing along. We even managed to find ourselves a choreographer, actor Matthew Chai who led the dancing for us.

RIP Michael Jackson

If you can't access YouTube, click here

My new abode

It's somewhat of a culture shock to go from this old tenement building in Chelsea:

NYC apt Seventh Avenuce Chelsea

To this:

Clapboard house American flag

It even has a mailbox for goodness' sake. (This is a novelty for an Englishwoman.)

American painted Mailbox

Fake tan: the horror edition

Dearest Belgian Waffling,

I have read your blog on Fake Tanning whilst drunk and all I have to say is that I raise you a mottled forearm
and two stained feet.

What is worse is that I PAID to have this done to me in a spray tan booth at Solar Salon in Chelsea on Friday. And that I am now living with a French man who exclaimed, 'putain' when he saw my arms. He & his husband then laughed at me for three blocks. And a large part of supper.

Love LLGxx

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The post where I arrive in New Jersey

Safely ensconced in what passes for countryside in New Jersey. There are deer in the cornfields and rabbits frolicking on the front lawn. The house is a clapboard neo-Colonial dream and I have a bed so large and so high that I feel like the princess in the fairy tale The Princess & the Pea.

The bed is wonderful but I am afraid that I was more than a little distracted by the Welcome LLG hamper on my bedside table:

Jammy Dodgers! Proper Baked Beans! Fruit Pastilles! Choccy Digestives! Toffee Crisp! (Okay that one's missing from the photograph. I ate it approx 5 secs after entering my room for the first time.)

If I was at all worried about being a burden or an awkward guest then this utterly brilliant & over the top gesture completely set my mind at rest. Bless the boys.

Cathartic clearing out

So it's all change today. I woke up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, am spending the day in Manhattan moving, and will go to sleep in Colts Neck, New Jersey. Not exactly what I had planned for the weekend.

But there's always a silver lining: I get to stay with two of my great friends from London and their dog Max. Their house is near the beach, they are letting me bring my bike, and I get to explore a different part of the East Coast. I just wish that moving house didn't always involve lugging cases up & down umpteen flights of stairs. This time tho, I have GG &Y who are arriving shortly to help move the heavy stuff into their SUV and thence to storage.

I've already done one trip this morning on my bike to the storage facility, narrowly escaping death on the mean streets of Chelsea when one of the several bags I suspended from the handlebars got caught in the wheel spokes & I came to an abrupt halt.

I spent an hour or so in the container, going through my cases & boxes, primarily hunting for my father's birthday present which seems to have escaped, but also going through everything.

One of the frustrations of living in New York is the sharp divide between the seasons. The winter is so wretched & cold, and the summer so steamy & hot that you require two completely separate wardrobes: furs, cashmere, scarves, boots as opposed to shorts, thin silk dresses & paperweight sandals. So I have two huge bags just filled with winter stuff in there as well as a case of winter shoes.

Or I did until this morning. There's stuff in those bags that's moved from London to New York, gets unpacked every September, hangs untouched in my wardrobe for six months and then gets packed up again. So I grabbed everything I haven't worn for two seasons and put it aside for The Salvation Army. As well as binning two bags of old underwear, & fifteen or so pairs of shoes that really were beyond the ministrations of a cobbler.

I cannot tell you the joy of getting rid of things. I am such a squirrel and I need to learn not to hoard unnecessarily. This was a very good step in the right direction.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Euphemism of the day

One of the things that I miss about England is the way we hide behind words. That's not to say that I don't like the American way of being direct, of having no social fear about asking how much? with who? or why?, but that there can be a beauty in euphemism.

I passed this sign on a pub on London's Shoreditch High Street, on the way to the epic six hour lunch on the Shoreditch House roof deck that I, Belgian Waffling, Mrs Trefusis, MTFF and India Knight indulged in back at the beginning of May.

(If you haven't seen one of these signs before, it means it's a strip bar.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

A CELEBRATION OF THE KING OF POP in NYC: Moonwalk in Washington Square Park, New York

UPDATE: The French Consulate have a weather sonar and the storm will be done shortly. Moonwalk still on and so is the screening!

MichaeJackson Moonwalk New York


Join us for the NYC MASS MOONWALK today at 730pm Washington Square Park, New York

Go here for a step by step guide on how to Moonwalk

RIP Michael and thank you for the music

It's amazing how some entente cordiale can something together in hours: A very big thank you to the organizers of the Films on the Green festival and the girls from the French Consulate for letting us use their sound system before the 8pm open air screening of Le Grand Bleu/ The Big Blue in the Square tonight

Building blocks for my summer wardrobe

I was whinging only a few weeks ago about having nothing to wear. So, having been utterly depressed by the scant nature of my summer wardrobe (worn out pieces, changing body shape), I finally took a step towards replacing the items I wear everyday (my bleach splashed shorts and crumpled tops).

After some thought, I've decided that this summer I will be wearing short-ish shorts with blousey tops and classic white shirts, with wedges for smart and strappy flat sandals for everyday, along with just above the knee Bermudas with stiletto strappy sandals for smart.

Hallelujah for the sales is all I can say. After scoping out & trying on all the pieces I wanted in Banana Republic & Old Navy, I took a squint on-line. I really do not understand this group's pricing. Old Navy white denim shorts that were $22.50 in store were $5 on-line, and the same at Banana: a cute cardigan that will work brilliantly in LA was originally $79, $41 in store & $27 on-line. And I'm thrilled that the Banana Martin shorts are suit cut, with a little stretch and twice the quality I'd expect at the price point.

Suffice to say that, with free shipping over $150, I bought everything on-line & got it delivered to New Jersey. This is what I got:
Old Navy
Blue-Gray Women's Cuffed Twill Shorts (5") $24.50 reduced to $5 (full price in store)
Bright White Women's Mid-Rise Denim Shorts (5")$19.50 reduced to $5 (FPIS)

Old Navy denim shorts

Women's Sheer Roll-Up Camp Shirts in bright blue & in white $24.50 each (FPIS)

Old Navy blue shirt

Women's Eyelet Sleeve Tops in navy, white & black $24.50 reduced to $15 each ((FPIS)

Old Navy eyelet top

White Women's Mid-Rise Embroidered-Eyelet Shorts (5")$24.50 reduced to $5 (FPIS)

Blue & white Martin 4-inch striped short $44 reduced to $16.99 ($25 in store)
Black Martin 4-inch short $44 reduced to $29.99 ($25 in store but sold out)

Banana Republic shorts -

Grey Heather Long 4-button cardigan $79 reduced to $29.99 ($41 in store)

Eleven pieces for $190. Not bad. (Plus I bought the Martin shorts in olive & in navy in store for $25 each as they are sold out on-line, & I know I will wear these everyday.)

Remember The Times

Michael JacksonHome video players were still not that widespread when Thriller was released, and the idea of showing a video at a birthday party was almost revolutionary. My best friend Claire Awcock's big sister had rented Thriller for us to watch at her party and we sat, mesmerised, and a little scared by the graveyard scenes, not really understanding what we were seeing, but loving the music all the same.

With hindsight we were a couple of years too young to really get Michael in all his magnificence but I remember that afternoon so, so clearly. I must have seen thousands of movies since then but no film from the first twenty years of my life has stuck in my mind the way Thriller did. The costumes, the make-up, the idea of a proper story set to music: it's hard to get across just how revolutionary this all was in 1983-4.

Image from 1OAK's e-flyer this evening celebrating Michael

Thursday, June 25, 2009

No more burgers

Oh God. I tried on some shorts today in glamorous Old Navy in my usual size and they were a little tight around my middle. So I hopped it across to banana Rpublic on Fifth Avenue. Same story.This is not good. I refuse to go up a size.

So, I did my usual act upon realising I need to stop eating: I walked up a couple of blocks to Madison Park where my beloved Shake Shack resides. As I sat there twittering about Michael Jackson (RIP), I shovelled in crinkle cut fries and a shroom burger. Strange to think that I will probably always remember eating that burger because of Michael Jackson.

It's all salad from now on.

Jersey Girl

Well, yesterday was quite something. After the morning’s broadside from my soon to be ex-flatmate & friend, I spent the day frantically emailing around Manhattan looking for somewhere else to live. Although my rent is paid up until next Tuesday, I’ve really no desire to stay here a moment longer. The irony is that she wants me out so that she can be ‘safe’ in her home, yet she’s made me feel so unsafe here that I am desperate to leave,

Because, believe me, what you read yesterday was the measured view. I laughed when I read the comment from one girl who thought I was harsh writing that entry. To her, I say, you can have no idea what really happened, and that what you read there is merely the tip of a very large iceberg. If she can accuse S of potential violence & stalking after one contact in two months, then I wanted a public record of what was happening.

Anyway, I have been inundated with offers of help for which I am very grateful. I have decided to stay with R tonight as we are going to a dinner party together, & then lovely F, talented designer & good friend has offered the keys to her Greenpoint, Brooklyn place until Sunday morning. Then les gars (GG&Y)

Exterior Soho Grand Hotel

>are leaving Max, their over sized Bassett hound behind,

and driving in from their Macmansion in the wilds of Jersey in their gas guzzling behemoth of a car to help me put my things into storage and take me back to their lair.

Yup, that’s right. I am to be a Jersey Girl for a while. GG had suggested I go stay with them this summer when he & I were propping up the bar at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco but I had already arranged to stay here. I didn’t want to let X down, so refused GG’s offer. (She laughs dryly.)

And, best of all, he & darling Y have been happily married for A Very Long Time, so no potential emotional warfare there. I don't think I can face any more of that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Someone find me a nice new place to live in Manhattan

Whilst I was in Los Angeles, one of the things that reassured me about returning to Manhattan was that back in March I had arranged my accommodation for the summer: I was to sublet a room in Chelsea until the middle of August. It was convenient, well-located and very inexpensive.

I based my plans, work, fiscal, social, around this, and arrived back in New York ten days ago. I unpacked, gradually removed my possessions from storage, settled in.

The fly in the ointment? My flatmate was the emotionally fragile ex-girlfriend of my best friend, S, & I had met her through him. Not an ideal situation; the breakup, two months ago whilst I was in LA, was complicated and messy, as most break ups are and there was a lot of emotional fallout. There is no right or wrong in a break up. S is no saint but then neither is she. They no longer speak.

But, we are all adults and I thought that, as I was just here for six-eight weeks, that we would be able to deal with this. On my first night back I told her that I was Switzerland, completely neutral. The problem, tho, was that she wanted to talk about it. A lot. Has been, frankly, unable to stop talking about it in the eleven days we have been here together. I do not wish to talk about it. Ever. I'm already dealing with my parents' breakup. But I listened, and nodded along as she was clearly distressed.

I am empathetic: as a single girl, I’ve had to be a shoulder for a lot of people, and one cannot fail to be sorry for anyone trying to come to terms with the end of a relationship that they thought might be The One. It’s miserable, throws one’s equilibrium out, and makes the world feel like a hostile place. However much I love my friend S, I can’t help but feel sorry for this girl & her emotional turmoil.

Hell, I’ve been there myself. After one heart wrenching break up I did all of the following: posted every photo I possessed of him though his letterbox, sent rambling letters, drove convoluted journeys home so that I could drive by his house, frantically Googled him to find out what he’d been doing, and basically acted like a nutcase.

But it passes. I look back now and cannot believe either that I even liked him, or that I would behave in such a way. And I hope that I am old & wise enough now not to fall for the kind of unfaithful cowards who would induce such behaviour.

Unfortunately, my flatmate is still in the throes of the nutcase stage. This morning she informed me that, as she had passed by S at the subway when he had come by to pick me up for dinner, it was no longer possible for me to live here & that I needed to move out by the 30th June. She was also considering a restraining order against S as he obviously can’t keep away from her.

I had promised her that I would never have S in the house which seemed fair enough to me (& he has zero desire to come in anyway) but, with hindsight, if I had realised it would distress her so much, it wld have been better not to have met S on the street outside the apartment last night.

But a restraining order? And evicting me? A normal person would have said, LLG you were a bit insensitive last night. Please don’t meet S where I might bump into him, not turn it into an accusation of stalking. The whole thing is utterly ludicrous: in two months he has got in touch with her once: on Monday he emailed, texted & then left her a missed call after he had found out a few things about her which upset him, and he has picked me up for dinner from my home once.

I’m aggrieved because, whilst I was inadvertently insensitive by allowing her ex to pick me up from my doorstep, I wld do anything to ensure a woman's safety. Regardless of my friendship with S, if I for a moment thought there might be even a scintilla of risk to her I would back her every step of the way.

But in this case I am afraid that right now the only risk to her is her own imagination.

And evicting me because she needs her home to be a ‘safe’ environment (God I hate therapy speak) is patently absurd. But if it makes her feel more secure, then so be it. And maybe it is too much for her having one of S’s friends around her. That’s fine: I’m thoroughly bored with her games, accusations and character assassinations and with the whole situation. Clearly, I am much better off out of the apartment and out of her life.

Now I have six days to find a new place to live. Curses.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Object of desire

The Pashley Princess Sovereign $1195. Only to be ridden in Manhattan if you have an elevator or a garage to chain it up in. Waaay to heavy to carry upstairs, and a magnet for thievery. But, oh so beautiful.

Recipe: Cauliflower & mushroom soup with fried Halloumi cheese

Whenever I have deadlines to meet I cook incessantly. Every meal becomes an exercise in flashy knife skills & obscure ingredients. Although the latter is as much to do with the fact that I won’t allow myself to leave the house until the copy is filed and so must cook with whatever is in the cupboards.

In London that didn’t really present much of a challenge as I had a superb kitchen bursting with supplies. Here in New York it’s like playing Ready Steady Cook. I have a third of a kitchen cupboard for dry ingredients and a very small fridge & icebox, and that usually means that I eat everything before going shopping again. I have no room for the standard essentials: no flour, no sugar, and certainly none of the esoterica with which I filled my London shelves. And I never really plan what to eat in advance: I just buy what looks good in the markets.

Last night all I had left were some distressed looking mushrooms, a small cube of Halloumi cheese, an onion & a small head of cauliflower. To be completely honest, I do live opposite the Westside Market, a very good food store, but it was raining, the apartment is a fifth floor walk-up and I hadn’t brushed my hair since the day before.

So, I scratched my (unbrushed)head for a while. I’d run out of starches, milk, tinned tomatoes and coconut milk, so there were no sauce ingredients to bring it all together, and nothing to bulk it out. Then I remembered a meal I had thrown together for my mother last month in England: a cauliflower soup with fried mushrooms and Halloumi,

Fortunatley for this post, I photographed all the food I cooked in England, so I can give you a proper recipe below. I had chopped coriander there, so that's added too. It works like this:

Chop up the onion & a clove of garlic if you have it. Find a big saucepan (big is good, you’ll see why in a minute), put in a splash of whatever oil you have kicking around, & a knob of butter if you have it, turn the heat to medium and, when the oil is hot, add a tsp of ground cumin, a tsp of haldi (turmeric) & a tsp of garam masala. Cook the spices in the oil for 30 secs, and then throw in the onions.

Keep the heat at low-medium – you want the onions to cook slowly, without browning. Push them around in a desultory way with a spatula from time to time to check that they aren’t sticking. In between prodding the onions, chop up the cauliflower into pretty small pieces (removing the stalk & outer leaves) and rip up the coriander and, when the onions are translucently soft, throw in the cauliflower rubble & the chopped coriander.

Then you need a about a litre/ 1.5 pints of hot liquid. (It's going to depend on the size of your cauliflowers - you need the liquid to come just over the pieces.) Stock is best (I like using Marigold Vegetable Bouillon - it doesn’t taste too processed), but water wld do in a pinch. Pour this over the cauliflower and cook till the cauliflower is super soft. This can take about 10 minutes.

Whilst the cauliflower is cooking, chop up the Halloumi into teeny cubes, heat up a frying pan on the stove, with a tsp of oil and when it looks hot, throw in the cheese. After 10 secs, push them about a bit. The aim to get them nicely browned. (You don’t need much oil for this). When they are done, tip them out onto kitchen paper and try to resist eating them all. Good luck with that.

You also need to chop up the mushrooms into small pieces, and fry these in butter (preferably), or else olive oil, with a pinch of salt, over a medium heat until they are cooked. (It's good to not boil away all the juices.)

fried mushroomsThe fun part. And the reason why you need a big saucepan. Get out your stick blender and whizz that cauliflower to a soup consistency. It won’t form a puree, what you will get is a thin-ish liquid with teeny tiny pieces of cauliflower in it. If it looks too thin, bubble it up on the stove to reduce the liquid; equally, if too thick, add some more stock/hot water.

Season generously to taste with lots of black pepper & Maldon (kosher) salt.

To serve, ignore the dog who will have retired to the sofa in high dudgeon upon realisation that there is no meat in tonight's supper:

and put the Halloumi in the bottom of the soup bowls:

fried HalloumiPour over the cauliflower soup, and then spoon over the fried mushrooms. More chopped coriander looks & tastes good sprinkled over the top. Flat leaf parsley wld work too.

cauliflower soupEat, enjoying the contrast between the salty, crispy, melty cheese, the delicate cauliflower and the earthy mushrooms. (I do appear to be obsessed with cheese & mushrooms right now.)

Picture of the day: Posetta Baddog in the buttercups

Monday, June 22, 2009

Get Lashed London: Fake eyelash bars open

Get Lashed London

When I was at school I used to horrify my best friend Clare by rubbing off my mascara with my fingers when I was nervous, which frequently pulled my eyelashes out. I never listened to her and my once luxuriant eyelashes have never really grown back properly.

Around the same time our friend Caz introduced me to the brilliance of individual falsh eyelashes at a salon near Leicester, but we could only afford to get it done for really special occasions and, once I left school, I never found another salon that could apply them.

It wouldn’t be a problem if I had darker colouring, but I have all the colour of an albino bunny: a natural blonde with skimmed milk skin, & taupe eyebrows and lashes. At university, Clare taught me how to apply liquid eyeliner to help minimize the pink-eyed bunny look, but my sparse lashes need more help than makeup & tinting can provide.

Fast forward ten years or so.

I was a beauty editor, dealing with the knee high piles of products in padded envelopes around my desk. Once morning I shook out the contents of a bag onto my desk. Out fell a giftcard for individual falsh eyelash applications from make up store Pout. I was down there quicker than winking, and back again & again when I discovered that for fifteen odd quid individual fake lashes were go.

And then they stopped their beauty services. I shed a tear when I discovered that the only people who offered individual lashes in Central London were the ultra expensive long lasting services which cost upwards of two hundred pounds. I've learnt to apply strip lashes since, but they aren't entirely reliable when applied by me(read my disasters with them here.)

So I am extremely happy to hear about Get Lashed, the eyelash service equivalent of a nail bar. Which isn’t surprising because the concept has been developed by Nails inc. They can apply sixteen different styles of strip lashes, (£7.00 to £12.00 each with free application) in a choice of 16 styles and, hurrah, false lash extensions, priced at £30.00 (full sets) or £18.00 (outer corners). AND they do tinting, and brow threading & waxing.

I so know where my first stop is next time I'm back in England. And could someone please open a Get Lashed on Manhattan?

Get Lashed now available at Debenhams, Oxford Street, London; House of Fraser Bluewater and nails inc. South Molton Street and Bishopsgate
Further Get Lashed sites are planned for Debenhams stores nationwide

Mushrooms & mozzarella: LLG's guide to putting on weight rapidly

I am currently on a reducing regimen. Over the two weeks I spent at my mother's house in the country I was face down in the trough for at least 50% of the time, and put on 6lbs/3kg. In two bloody weeks!

The sheer, unadulterated bliss of having all the ingredients on hand to cook whatever I felt like, in my mother's wonderful, fully equipped kitchen with her as an enthusiastic participant to boot all added up to avoirdupois overload.

So, it's with this in mind, that I share one of my all-time favourite recipes, which I cooked, er, three times whilst I was there. Dreamed up by myself one day in London when all I had in the fridge were mushrooms and a ball of mozzarella di bufala (random, I know), it's deliciously addictive and takes maybe ten minutes from prep to mouth. Sure, you can practically feel the fat cells multiplying on your thighs, but, sod it, we all need comfort food now & again.

It can be eaten with any starch. Basmati is good, mashed potato is other-worldly but turns it into a bit of a performance so I don't bother unless I have leftovers (or shhh M&S cook-chill), and I'm mainly using quinoa right now as it cooks so quickly. If using rice, put it on to cook before you start the main dish.

To start the journey to food heaven/hell (you decide), you need a couple of handfuls of as fresh as possible white mushrooms. (Look for mushrooms with gills as pink as possible, rather than dark brown: you want that lovely just yielding texture they get when cooked, as opposed to the sloppiness of week old ones.)

Then a ball of fresh mozzarella. It doesn't have to be buffalo:

buffalo mozzarella, mozzarella di bufalaBut it does taste magnificent. But, please, whatever you do, do not use a brick of mozzarella or grated mozzarella as it doesn't melt in the right way for this dish. Or, heaven forfend, 'domestic' or Danish mozzarella. That stuff is just plain wrong.

Add a tablespoon of butter to the frying pan. Once melted, add some chopped garlic, and tip your mushrooms and a generous scattering of Maldon Salt (or kosher salt). Turn the heat down a little to let them cook.

The point here is to get them to release all those lovely mushroom-y juices, so you need to avoid reducing the liquid comes off them. You can always cheat and pop a lid over the frying pan for a few minutes (but not for too long, as steamed mushrooms always taste a bit weird).

Then tear (do not chop) your ball of mozzarella into the frying pan. This was a very large ball (am pig), you could easily use half this amount for the mushrooms shown. Turn the heat to very, very low.

And put the lid on your frying pan for about 3-4 minutes, until the pan looks like this. DO NOT STIR. This breaks up the mozzarella and you end up with a pan of string. Whilst the cheese is melting, pour boiling water over some quinoa in a saucepan and place a lid over it so it cooks quickly.

Drain the quinoa and add to pretty soup bowl, check seasoning of mushrooms & cheese, add black pepper (you want freshly ground here for the texture and the same goes with the sea salt), spoon delectable mixture & cooking liquor over quinoa. Shovel into mouth.
How many does this feed? Well, one of the reasons I got so porky was that I ate all the above on my own. But less greedy piglets could probably make the amount of mushrooms shown above stretch between two if you made a simple lettuce salad to go with it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's day!

Suzannah: Vintage inspired design

Eighteen months ago I wrote enthusiastically of Suzannah's wonderful debut collection, and I've been a fan ever since of her thoughtful and chic, often vintage couture inspired designs which frequently use vintage textiles.

(Parisian Coat Dress £380)
Her label is appealing on so many levels. The price point, as I wrote about here, is sensible, and her service is so personal that she can offer different solutions to the pieces in her collection: a specific garment length, a simple sleeve added or removed, a bespoke wrap to match, a swatch service with other colour ideas or print variation for many of the looks.

And I know it works, as I was thrilled to discover on one of my trips home that a wonderful friend of one had bought some semi-bespoke pieces from Suzannah on my blog recommendation.

I have fallen in love with her Petal Sculpt Dress, which could have been designed for my figure (long thin legs, no waist, lots of bosom):

Suzannah Petal Scuplt DressAnd, I'm still lusting after the Future Tuck Jersey Dress, which has been reduced in the sale:

Suzannah Future Tuck Jersey DressI was reading her blog this morning and was blown away by the couture wedding dress she designed recently. If you are in the market for a personal wedding dress, then Suzannah could well be your saviour.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Eating & dating: My first week back in Manhattan

I’ve been back in New York for ten days, & it’s rained every one of those ten days. Fortunately, as wellies are obviously impermeable, they are one of things that weren’t ruined in the employee-caused flood at Manhattan Mini Storage in Chelsea, so I fished them out of my locker and have been wearing them every day to splash around the streets.

That said, I’ve also been dating and, whilst my wellies are certainly practical, I’m not wearing them to dinner. This has led to several near arse over tit, knickers in the air moments as I’ve picked my way Downtown over wet, slippery cobblestones in stilettos.

Date number 1 was through my online dating site, & was the first person who’d got in touch with me for several months that I wanted to meet. We’d arranged a drink in New York whilst I was in Lausanne, which I then promptly forgot.

Still, I’m glad that he reminded me on the day as we had a hilarious conversation, fuelled by rather too much Pinot Noir, and I actually lost track of time, so much so that I ended up dashing from our date at SHO Shaun Hergatt's bar at The Setai by Wall Street to Café Select on Lafayette to meet a charming & brilliant English architect friend of a friend for dinner. I arrived a shockingly rude 45minutes late. Fortunately he had a friend from London in tow, and managed to recognise me when I finally pitched (I didn’t have a clue what he looked like), and we ended up having a hilarious evening of beer, perfect rosti and god knows what else.

A group of girlfriends & I convened at Double Crown on the Bowery for dinner on Tuesday. I gave the restaurant a rave review for a US publication when it first opened but it’s gone steadily downhill since. Sometimes the food is good, but the service is execrable, which takes the shine off the whole experience. Notable ballsups have included a two course meal which took 2 ½ hours to be served and was cold when it did arrive last November, and the sloppy, graceless service and tasteless shredded green bean salad on Tuesday. The whole sorry affair was rounded off by this episode at the bar afterwards.

(I should add though that I still believe that Double Crown’s interior is one of the best in NY. The bar is great for drinks, as is its sister bar Madame Geneva next door. Just order carefully in the restaurant and maybe take a good book & a sense of humour for the longueurs in service.)

Wednesday had one of the few sunny interludes of the week, and was warm enough for Francoise & me to take to the roof deck at Soho House. I live two blocks away & there's wireless access, so we’ve decided that it will be our summer office, and, when it finally stops raining, will be found most days under the third umbrella from the left, by the pool, in our bikinis, with laptop (me) & sketchpad (F). Was also very pleased to bump into charming architect & friend from Monday on adjacent sun loungers.

Having spent a large part of the previous days dealing with the aftermath of the storage container flood, I spent Thursday & Friday writing like a fiend, and emerged, blinking, for al fresco drinks with JK on, yup, the roof at Soho House. I know this is getting repetitive, but it is lovely up there, the people watching is second to none, it’s practically next door to my apt, and they do a sublime chili cilantro margarita that knocks your socks off after a hard day. So much so that we ditched our smart dinner plans and retired to PopBurger for burgers & fries instead.

And that was my first week back in Manhattan.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Isabella Oliver 365

One of the thing I constantly bemoan about the fashion industry, as you all know, is the lack of clothing for women with lives in the real world. It's all very well me & a hundred other fashion editors writing about how marvellous Marni is for the quirky working woman, but it's not exactly realistic to spend £700 on a skirt.

But then neither do I want to wear Primark or Forever 21. What I want is to spend a reasonable amount on my clothes. Then I know they are ethical as possible, made from good fabrics, won't fall apart after one season and have some twist, so I don't look like everyone else.

And that's why Isabella Oliver 365 works so well. These are the pieces that may cost just a little more, but will be the mainstay of anyone's wardrobe. And I want the lot.

I've always liked Isabella Oliver's maternity clothing. Stylish, chic, definitive & worn by my best-dressed girlfriends. And, as it happens, they are based in London, just around the corner from my London flat. I discovered this when the lovely Baukjen de Swaan Arons, one of the joint founders, emailed me through the blog & we became friends.

I was beyond thrilled when she got in touch once I had stopped blogging last year to tell me she & her partner Vanessa Knox-Brien were in New York to show their new collection Isabella Oliver 365 and would I like to see it?

Would I heck?! I scrambled a town car after a long day at the coal face of fashion, slightly unsure as to what to expect from an Isabella Oliver non-maternity range. I needn't have worried: I loved it all.

I'm especially liking the Shirt Coat from the new Fall 09 collection in both pink & in black.($389, but there's 15% off all Fall pre-orders right now, so it's $330.)

Isabella Oliver shirt coat

Isabella Oliver shirt coat pink

I'm suspecting that this cape will be a best seller too come Fall($389, now $330 on pre-order):

Isabella Oliver cape. jpg

For now tho, I'm loving these crepe de chine shorts which are just perfect for a hot & humid Manhattan summer ($145):

Isabella Oliver white shorts

But the piece I really, really like is the Multiway Maxi Dress that caught my eye at their SS09 press show. Everything about it appeals: the fabric which is light enough to drape beautifully, but heavy enough to skim the body, the versatility of a piece that can be worn so many different ways, and which can easily take you from a lazy brunch to a black tie dinner and the very attractive price point ($325).

NB Someone asked in the comments about workwear of the pants/skirts variety and so I wanted to make clear: I have picked the pieces here from 365 (not maternity!) that I am thinking of buying (I never wear trousers & rarely skirts. Of course they make trousers, skirts etc. Go check it out at Isabella Oliver 365

Violet RIP

whippetI didn’t really want to post this as I am trying very, very hard not to think about this, but you have all been so wonderful and your comments, emails & tweets have been so lovely in asking for updates that I felt I should say something.

Our darling whippet Violet was put to sleep yesterday morning after a three week battle following a car accident on the road outside our house.

She had a massive heart attack at the vet hospital two days ago which damaged her heart sufficiently that there really was no hope left for her continued survival.
Muv emailed me from home today :

“Violet wasn't going to get better and her heart was struggling. She was so pleased to see me and I cradled her in my arms and it was very peaceful. They buried Violet under one of the willow trees by the stream, and Molly put a posy of roses, pinks, Canterbury bells and alchemilla on the grave. Violet looked so peaceful and I couldn't believe that she had been so ill. I loved Violet so much - she was the sweetest, gentlest dog, and had three weeks of misery. A chain of events that could have all been avoided. It is an absolute tragedy.”

It’s been a bad year for my family with my parent’s ongoing divorce, and Violet was Muv’s salvation. I wish I could vault the Atlantic to give Muv an enormous hug right now. Our animals are so very important to our family.

I shall remember how she tried to crawl out of her vets bed, whilst attached to a drip to climb into Muv's and then my lap, and how she & Billy would jump on my head in the mornings to wake me and try to sneak down under the duvet when Muv wasn't looking, and how she woke me in the middle of the night last week trying to get on my bed to go under the duvet, even though her operation scar meant she couldn't leap up.

We will miss her very, very much. (Violet with Billy her son)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Inshriach House: The perfect Scottish getaway

In our twenties, various of us who had been at university together frequently barrelled up to the very, very north west of the Scottish Highlands to a beautiful coastal village called Scourie, where we would set up camp in the tiny stalking cottage which had been left to our partners in crime Nick & Susie by their father.

Arkle Scotland

(Arkle seen from Scourie Beach)

There was lots of fly fishing (or, if you were me, lots of watching fly fishing, sitting disconsolate in a damp boat in the August drizzle, smoking pot to ward off the midges & watching the rain on the loch); mountain goat activity of the running up hills before breakfast kind (or, if you were me, cooking of gargantuan breakfasts), and long walks through the heather (or, if you were me, ceaseless whinging about the mud, the midges & the rain).

highland cattle

I was at my happiest when the others were playing at being mountain goats, & I was left to my own devices. I would cook huge meals for their return, and then curl up in a faded floral armchair in the sitting room next to the fire and the oak bookcase, working my way through old paperbacked Agatha Christie & Georgette Heyers, with the aid of a packet of Garibaldi biscuits and endless cups of tea. I do so love the great outdoors when I have to wipe the fug off a window to see it.

I spent Millenium New Year in Scourie with five of my closest friends, having stipulated I would only go if we dressed up properly. (My silver & green 50’s brocade & tulle number from Cornucopia cost £15 & was so poofy it had to have its own seat on the plane up to Inverness.) On the night we pulled layers of fleece & Gore Tex over our Black Tie and climbed a mountain to set off exhibition fireworks & drink Champagne at midnight, before rolling back down the mountain to the village cèilidh. (If you happen to have architects as friends, then you’ll know that this combination of outdoors & insanity is perfectly normal in their eyes.)

It was on the drive back down to England from one of these trips that we stopped off to pick up our friend Walter from his grandmother’s extraordinary - & enormous - Edwardian country house set in 200 glorious acres near the banks of the River Spey, in the Cairngorms National Park just outside Aviemore.

Inshriach House exterior

Untouched by the hand of post-modernism, Inshriach still has open fires, panelled rooms, lots of faded chintz, antlers aplenty, claw footed baths, and shooting prints in the loos. The house has always stuck in my memory as a wonderful escaping place, just as Scourie is, where you can fish, walk, stalk & mountain goat, or do as I do and curl up by the fire to read, so I was particularly pleased when Walter wrote to say that he & his mother Lucy had turned Inshriach into an extremely reasonably priceda fully functioning rental property for groups & location shoots. (It’s just been reviewed (well) by The Guardian.)

Inshriach House interior

This summer, Walter had planned to run the bars, food & a stage at The Outsider Festival in Aviemore. After he had built most of the stage & bar, struck deals with brewers & distilleries, made friends with lots of musicians and invited lots of friends, The Outsider was cancelled. Not being one to give up, he decided to hold an alternative festival in the grounds at Inshriach, catering for a maximum of 400 people.

So, The Insider was born.

Insider Festival

It promises to be a magical weekend, not least because it's the Summer Solstice. There’s a fabulous musical line-up including Lau, twice named 'Group of the Year' at the BBC Radio2 Folk Awards, burlesque performances and children’s workshops. There are yurts for rental for sleeping in, & the catering by Ord Ban restaurant is reason alone to turn up, with Walter promising local beef and venison, trout, scallops, curry, stews & cakes. As he says, ‘That's what happens when you organise a festival with a lot of foodies.’

There are still a few tickets left, so do go to www.insiderweekend.co.uk (All tickets are advance sales only.) There are a BARGAIN £40 each, a fraction of what festivals usually cost.

In addition to yurt rental, there's plenty of camping space, but if that's not your thing, then Suie Hotel in Kincraig (about 4 miles away) have offered 10% off their already very reasonable £35 a night rate for anyone who doesn't fancy camping.

Bruce Weber for Moncler

Hello there! If you are coming here from US Glamour in December 2011, this site moved home over two years ago! Please head to www.libertylondongirl.com, and specifically here to see the Bruce Weber Moncler story to which they linked.

It's not the models, stoopid. A guest post from my Deep Throat correspondent

You may remember that back in February, I ran a series of pieces about what it is really like to attend the Milan fashion collections. I had a huge response, including a spirited email riposte from an old colleague on the other side of the fence. This resulted in my running a series of posts from my Deep throat correspondent called Through The Looking Glass: The Horror of the Milan shows, on what it was really like to be at the shows as a fashion publicist.

This time my secret correspondent read both the editor of British Vogue, Alex Shulman's letter to the fashion industry pleading for larger samples so that they could use bigger (relatively) models and, today, Carol Midgely's column in The Times about "scraggy models and emaciated celebrities", and was fired up enough to email me about her experiences with slim models but even skinnier celebrities. Her email:

"In contrast to Alex Shulman's letter to the industry, I have very rarely experienced situations in which the samples are too small for the models (once or twice, mostly things with corsets) but have lost count of the number of times I have had to send a tailor to a celebrity's house to take in a sample I have lent them.

My theory about magazines making people thin is a bit more personal, and is along the lines of “If I have worked in this biz for 10+ years and have yet to lose any weight at all, it can’t be the fashion industry that is making young women thin, so it must be something else”.

Sample sizes got tiny about the same time celebrity magazines started to multiply like those weird mushrooms that grow under the trees that dogs like. Up to that point there just were not that many ‘red carpet’ opportunities that it was worth schlepping samples around for.

Now, almost immediately a sample walks off the runway it is on the back of a celebrity at some gala or other, and they are so teeny that the samples are shrinking. When you factor in the huge celebrity magazine market in Asia, and the even smaller size of celebrities in that region, tiny samples start to look inevitable. And when you look at the sales of celebrity magazines vs.the sales of Vogue, Bazaar etc, it is clear that a typical reader will be exposed to many more images of tiny celebrities than they will of tiny models and haute couture.

Given that it would be bad form for an editor-in-chief to take a whole other category of magazines to task for existing, Alex Shulman has probably focused on the nearest available target. Whilst it is admirable that she has such strong feelings, it puts the fashion houses in a very difficult position as the value of celebrity coverage, particularly to beauty sales, is so high there is little they can do to back away from lending to x-ray thin celebrities.

If I am right, once the public stops being interested in thinness, sample sizes will revert to their pre-Heat(magazine) dimensions."

LLG: I also wanted to add one of the basic truths about skinny models versus skinny celebs which doesn't seem to have been pointed out in the media so far, which relates to simple anatomy. Models are very tall, the majority over 5'10", (and much taller than the average lollipop-headed celeb) so it's physically impossible for most of them to get down beyond a size 2 because of the size of their skeleton, regardless of how much flesh is wasted off them....many female celebs, on the other hand, being generally somewhat vertically challenged, can feasibly get down to double zero, their skeletons being that much smaller in the first place.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Obie Accessories: How to make your hair the star of the show

Obie Accessories

Breaking into the fashion industry is almost impossible. It takes not just talent but guts, tenacity, exposure and a healthy dose of luck. This makes it extremely important for fashion editors to support new & upcoming designers, not just the advertiser brands, by writing, shooting and, hopefully, wearing their collections.

Of course I don't want to wear a lot of the collections I support, so it’s immensely satisfying when I do find something I really love AND that I want to order. And that was the case when I met Honor & Natasha, the charming girls behind new hair accessories label Obie Accessories.

Obie Natasha & Honor

Based in Los Angeles, their fledgling business is based around handmade bejeweled, feathered and flower adorned clips and bands. Sure, I see plenty of pieces like these, but what drew me to Obie was their attention to detail, (even the backs of the clips are jewelled),

Obie Accessories hair slide

and that I can see a gap in the market for what they do at their price point, which is less than say Tarina Tarantino’s. And, of course, there’s the Gossip Girl effect. Blair’s penchant for Brooklyn based Jennifer Behr’s hair bands has seen hair accessories take an enormous rise in popularity over the past couple of seasons.

We met at Honor’s home in Laurel Canyon, as she & Natasha were shooting the images for their first look book.

Obie Accessories
Obie Accessories

My magpie eye caught their blue crystal clips, and they sent me one in New York. It makes such a difference when postal orders arrive in pretty packages, and Obie go the extra mile, with a crystal securing the carton in which their clips are packed, and a little handwritten tag swinging from the handle.

Obie Accessories packaging

Obie Accessories hair slide

Thank you girls: I shall look forward to wearing it.