Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The World's Easiest Strawberry Ice Cream

Okay, well that might be a teeny tiny untruth, because really the recipe that I adapted this from is the easiest recipe in the world. But I fiddled with it a little bit, because I am a fiddler, and also in honour of it being Julia Child's 100th birthday (thanks, Google!), to make it a bit more exciting, but still ridiculously easy. The original recipe is here if you really want it. You definitely want A recipe, because not only is this ice cream
from Good Housekeeping
the easiest ice cream in the world, it's also delicious AND you don't need an ice cream maker. It's like, 75% pure fruit so it's also (relatively) healthy (for ice cream).Trust me. Scroll down to see what you'll end up with, then go hull some strawberries.

You'll need:

  • 400g strawberries, hulled
  • 100g raspberries or other soft fruit or berries. I used 50g raspberries and 50g peach. You could just use 500g of strawberries if you want to.
  • A handful of extra berries (optional)
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 125ml double cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or seeds
  • 1 sprig roughly chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)
  • More fresh berries, to serve

Now let's dick around with nature's perfection.
Cut up your strawberries and other fruit into small pieces (remembering to keep back the extra handful). Put them into the freezer until frozen; it's probably easiest to flash freeze them spread on a baking tray, because you don't want to end up with one big solid lump of frozen berries.

While the berries are in the freezer, if you're using the mint, pour about a third of the cream into a little bowl or cup and put in the mint leaves. Leave to infuse. Obviously the longer you leave them in and the more finely you've chopped the leaves, the stronger the mint flavour will become. I'd recommend letting it infuse for one to two hours for just a hint of flavour, or overnight if you want something a bit more noticeable.

Get the berries you held back and, using a sharp knife, slice them into thin, pretty cross-sections. I used the top, larger half of three strawberries and four raspberries and ended up with about twenty small pieces of fruit, which was perfect.

Poor quality iPhone pictures will certainly
convince you to try this recipe!
When your berries are frozen through, strain the mint cream to get the leaves out and put it, the rest of the cream, the sugar, vanilla and a third of the berries into the food processor. Pulse until the berries are broken down, then add the next third, and repeat until all the ingredients are in the processor. Then blitz until mostly smooth (no one will object to a couple of leftover lumps of berry). Taste at this point to see if you want to add more sugar or cream (which I didn't). When you're happy, gently stir in the slices of fruit.

If your mixture is still firm enough, you can have at it right away. If not, pop it in a freezer-safe plastic tub and put it back in the freezer until it's hardened up/ you're ready for it. 

If you're feeling fancy and want to impress, try some or all of these serving ideas: Scoop the ice cream onto a meringue nest and add whipped or double cream, a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce and handfuls of fresh berries. A garnish of tiny mint leaves will look elegant and sophisticated.

If you don't feel fancy, eat it straight out the tub. I won't judge you.

The original recipe says this will do for 6 - I would say 4-6, depending on your portion sizes.

These gorgeous blue bowls, which are new, were £3 in the charity shop for
5 small ones and one large one. I KNOW, RIGHT
UPDATE: I made this into a froyo by swapping out the cream for low-fat plain natural yoghurt. It's a lot sharper, but instead of upping the sugar I stirred in two crushed up meringue nests (about 25g of meringue). Eton Mess frozen yoghurt! Is that a thing? It needs to be a thing. It's probably a thing, I'm not cool enough to have invented it first. Anyway, my calculations indicate that if you get 6 portions out of 1 batch, every portion will have 88 calories. EIGHTY. EIGHT. Best ice cream ever? Probably.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge - The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China

So, last week I went to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, to see this gorgeous exhibition, The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China. (The virtual exhibition at that link is well worth having a look at.) The Han Dynasty existed between 206BC and 220AD; the things in this exhibition were excavated from the tombs of the elite and royal classes, which were replicas of their own palaces complete with everything they could need in the afterlife, including their servants. The Han Emperors were buried in what is now Xi'an (the site of the Terracotta Army), but those tombs have been looted or lost (and the main tomb site in Xi'an, where the warriors are, can't be excavated because apparently it is protected by a lake of mercury.) The objects in the exhibition come from the tombs of the Kings and Queens of Chu, located in Xuzhou, the home of the Han family. They contained hundreds of intricate, decorated pieces of goldwork, jade, bronze, and pottery to prepare the body for the afterlife; these pieces have never been displayed all together before. It's astonishing and fascinating. It's also kind of heartbreaking to think of these beautiful things being jealously walled up in a grave, but at the same time, that's the only reason they've been preserved and not lost.

In the Museum Director Timothy Potts's very interesting podcast about this exhibition, he explains that they kept the exhibition rooms very dim on purpose and spotlighted the objects to create a tomblike feel and a "dramatic experience". It makes for a very beautiful and intriguing space.

Along with a bunch of postcards (below), I bought this little guy! It's a replica of a turtle seal from the exhibition, and way heavier than it looks. The name on it is Liu Zhu, who was the sixth king of Chu.

The exhibition is running until 11th November. Way more images below. Some are from the podcast and some are postcards from the museum shop. All images copyright the Fitzwilliam Museum, I guess?

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Maybelline Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner

I needed a new liquid eyeliner. So I bought one! Yaayy! It was 3 for 2 on Maybelline at Boots, so I got this one. It's £5.99-ish in the online shopping results.

It's a felt-tippy-style brush, which I like because it minimises wobbly hand issues. It goes on deep black and it's pretty easy to make thin lines and thick ones because it has the ultra-fine 0.4mm (!) tip, so good for versatility. It doesn't claim to be waterproof or long-lasting (boo) but I can live without that.

You want to see how it coped with my Exciting Day Out today? Of course you do. I hope you like eyeballs, because there's a lot of pictures of them coming right up.

Hello, world.
Me, today. Other make up:

Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse foundation, 004 Light Porcelain
Rimmel London Stay Matte Pressed Powder, 003 Peach Glow
A splooge of YSL Touche Eclat. Not sure what shade. Might be 1? Might be 2.5? Je ne sais pas.
The white colour from a Bourjois Smoky Eyes eyeshadow trio, 05 Rose Vintage
Maybelline Colossal Volum' Express Waterproof black mascara
Tiny smudge of Bourjois pencil liner in 06 Violet Artiste on my lower lash line
Rimmel Moisture Renew Lipstick, 160 Rose Passion

Yes, my hair is still wet. Don't judge me. I am anti-blow drying except in emergencies.


So this is how it looked when I first put it on. This is about 10.30 am, before I went out:

A giant close up of my eye! It's soooooo artistic!
So far, so good. Here we are 6-ish hours later, after I got home:


It's seriously good. Barely a smudge, except that patch on the inside left, and that is where I rubbed it really hard because it was itchy, right before I remembered I had to take another picture.

Bonus: It did not rub up onto the top of my eyelid at all, which is something I am constantly battling with, so extra points for that.

Even better: Right now, over twelve hours after I put it on, it's still holding up pretty well. No pictures though, you don't need to see me right now, no you do not.

EXTRA SUPER BONUS: I squirted some water on my eyelids to simulate crying or being caught in a light rainstorm. Even rubbing it gently while it was soaking wet, it barely smudged at all. Certainly no dripping down face issues. Miracle liner.

Final Verdict: It's the first time I've tried it but so far it's hitting 8/10. -2 for coming off where I rubbed at it, but then I wouldn't really expect a non-waterproof eyeliner to stand up to dry-contact-lens-eye itch.

Things I Am Doing Today

1. Wearing my new blue dress.
2. Wearing some new blue nail varnish.
3. Going into Cambridge for the day.
4. Going to the Fitzwilliam to see the Tomb Treasures of Han China, which was spectacular.

Gold seal
Jade dragon ornament

5. Having lunch with my mama and finding our waiter was the most beautiful man I've ever seen in real life. Seriously, he was so pretty I could barely stumble out "Bacon and brie panini and a Diet Coke, please" without bursting into tears when he looked me in the eye.
6. Going to the Anthropology and Archaeology museum, which is also an utter delight.

Can I move in here?
7. Listening to Paul Simon's Graceland for a World Music class and drowning in white guilt for enjoying it so much.
8. Having a barbecue and eating strawberries. Yeeerrrmmm.
9. Packing for a weekend trip to Scotland.
10. Reading Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. I'm on page 70. So far: intrigued. Reminds me of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

Sunglass Slut, Episode 3: Double Action Minty Freshness

Today's sunglasses (there was actual sun to wear them in, yesss) are a pretty mint green colour. They are cuuute. Guess how much they cost me. Go on, guess. Say a number. Got a number? Okay. I'll tell you.


Yep, £1. No, they weren't even on sale. Thank you, Primark!

True story about these sunglasses:

So, I'm on holiday in Italy. I'm getting off a train at Pisa rail station. These sunglasses are sitting on top of my head. The train pulls off and suddenly... SLIP! BANG! They slide out of my hair and off the back of my head and fall down, down, down onto the train tracks, where they lie, forlorn and alone like a single piece of fruit on a tree in autumn.

It was a bit of a tragedy. I had to take a couple of minutes to compose myself and say goodbye.

But! Don't despair! This story has a happy ending!

Because when I got home I went right back to Primark and bought another pair, the pair that you see adorning my face today. Yayyyy! Sunglasses! My broken heart was healed.


Monday, 6 August 2012

Album Review: Antony and the Johnsons, Cut the World

Cut the World, Rough Trade Records,
out now

          Cut the World is the newest album from Antony and the Johnsons, which really just means Antony Hegarty, a strange and wonderful man, accompanied by a live orchestra. This isn’t an album of new songs, though; there’s only one new track on it, the perfectly serviceable title song Cut the World, along with one spoken piece which… well, we’ll get to that later. The other ten tracks are old songs, reworked and set to new, orchestral arrangements.
2005's I Am A Bird Now
My favourite Antony and the Johnsons songs are all early, from their eponymous debut album and I Am A Bird Now-era. (Bird Gerhl is one of my all-time favourite songs.) The later albums, Swanlights and The Crying Light, are much less interesting and emotional. They had much less impact for me; I didn’t much like the words, the subject matter, the arranging or the way Antony used his voice. This made listening to this album kind of a weird experience; I was more excited to hear the older songs, like Cripple and the Starfish, I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy and Rapture, again, but they needed updating less, and had a pretty complex musical backing to start with, making the changes seem unnecessary. I was less interested for the newer songs, like Swanlights and Kiss My Name, since I didn’t enjoy them the first time round, but while they still don’t blow me away, the new arrangements have made them much more enjoyable and made a much bigger improvement. The orchestral arrangements really help the newer songs, recalling some of the power and depth that the classical instruments contrasting with Antony’s unique voice brought to the earliest songs, although Cripple and the Starfish really suffers from the buried string solo and the lack of the spectacular saxophone that really makes the original version.
As best I can tell, this is a picture of the Danish National
Chamber Orchestra, which plays the accompaniment
for Cut the World

Antony’s unusual voice is in great shape on this album. His heartbreaking falsetto wail is most effective in small doses, but on the last couple of albums it’s been overused. Here, if anything, it’s a little underdone, but an incredible instrument for conveying melancholy.

The songs on this album are good and worth listening to if you don’t already know them, but honestly, I don’t quite see what the point of the album is. The new arrangements don’t make a substantial difference to any of the songs, really; they aren’t transformed into anything new. It’s missing too many obviously better songs to serve as a Greatest Hits (Hope There’s Someone, anybody?), and feels pretty self-indulgent – the boring Swanlights meanders on for nearly 7 and a half minutes, which is 4 minutes too long. It’s enjoyable, but if you already have the original versions of the songs, just listen to those. In fact, it feels to me like the whole album is just a vehicle for the second track, a spoken recording called Future Feminism.

            Ugh, okay. I guess I can’t put it off any longer. Let’s talk about that mess.

            Future Feminism is a live recording of Antony speaking about… stuff. I read it described as his feminist, transgender, religious manifesto. You have no idea how hyped I got when I heard about it. Answer: really hyped. It sounded like brilliance that was going to be insightful, interesting, meaningful, important. But oh man was I wrong about that. Future Feminism is a barely coherent, badly thought out, rambling mess of New Age nonsense, gender absolutism, idolisation of ‘femininity’ and meaningless buzz phrases that should never have made it out into the public.

Antony: never going to
be a politician 
            For starters, Antony is apparently a horrible public speaker. The recording is full of nervous breaths, awkward pauses, uncomfortable laughing, and incessant uptalking. Barely a sentence escapes his lips without being turned into a question. Also, it sounds to me like he had planned out his speech in advance, but didn’t have it written it down in front of him. There are weird topic jumps and logic gaps. There’s no explanation of his buzz phrases like “feminine systems of governance”, and weirdly, no analysis or criticism of the system of absolute gender binaries. Antony seems keen to simply replace a patriarchal system with a matriarchal one, but gives no explanation to suggest what that means in terms of social and environmental relations. I’d hoped to use his speech to discuss my ideas of feminism and a feminist future, but although the track is called Future Feminism, the word "feminism" appears in it not once. Instead, there is a lot of use of "feminine" and "femininity", which is
not at all the same thing. Antony appears to be working from a misunderstanding of the notion of feminism; in my opinion, feminism does not mean trying to replace the “masculine” with the “feminine”, but actually means encouraging people to stop believing that there has to be a difference between what is “masculine” and what is “feminine”. In fact, the viewpoint from which Antony is working and my own are so at odds that I don’t really have a way to critique his points.

            I’ll give him this: I’m sure that Antony is a very intelligent and thoughtful man and that his views are the result of a long process of observation, refinement, self-understanding and trying to find a way to fit into a world in which he clearly feels an outsider. I saw a glimpse of some very interesting points in there, particular surrounding the transgender and the “patriarchal monotheistic” religion issues. But this was not the way to express them. If he truly wanted to create a manifesto for a “feminist” future, he needed to think this out and write it down clearly. It would probably be fascinating. This, though – over seven and a half minutes in which he says precisely nothing – is just an embarrassment. I’ll leave you some quotations and some thoughts of my own:

I’ve been thinking all day about the moon. Like, is it an accident that women menstruate once a month and the moon comes once a month?
Oh, great.

It’s a known fact in mental health that people are more excitable around the full moon. And what about the fact that we’re 70% made of water? And the whole ocean reacts to the full moon, right?... If we’re 70% water, I must be having some homeopathic relationship with the changing cycles of the moon.
I don’t think that homeopathic means what you think it means. Also. Gravity: it’s not magic.

In patriarchal monotheisms we all worship a god elsewhere, who has a plan for us in a paradise elsewhere after we die.

But I’m a witch? I actually de-baptised myself?

What’s great about being transgender is that you’re born with a natural religion… you’re almost automatically a witch. None of the patriarchal monotheisms will have you.
Transgender people are automatically witches. Um… okay. That actually sounds like something a conservative patriarchal monotheistic religion would say itself.

I’m worried that the ecology of the world is collapsing, and I won’t have anywhere to be reborn. Because I’m like, where are any of us going? Where have any of us ever gone?

Did you know that whales were once land-roaming mammals? And then they crawled back into the ocean, trying to find something to eat? And eventually they got rid of their hands and legs?
Uhh… I don’t think that that’s quite how it happened.

It’s a very indigenous idea that the earth is a female, that the earth menstruates, that the water of the world is the blood of the woman’s body, and that’s what we crawled out of, in the same way that we crawled out of our mother’s wombs.
Indigenous? Really? I’m not sure what he means by that. Either he means innate, like, we’re born thinking the earth is our mother, or indigenous as in that belief is common to the religions of indigenous peoples, which is kind of true, but it doesn’t really sound like he’s done his research and can provide thorough and culturally sensitive examples. Anthropology!

I truly believe that unless we move into feminine systems of governance, we don’t have a chance on this planet.
Feminine systems of governance. You want to tell us what those are like, Antony? No, he doesn’t. My question: what is wrong with just saying “better” systems of governance? More considerate of the environment, more people-focused, more caring, more thoughtful, more whatever the hell he means by “feminine”? Why does everything have to be broken down into meaningless arbitrary conservative absolute gender binaries? Just because he’s saying “feminine” is better doesn’t make it any less problematic.

            Here’s the thing: the idea that abstract things, like systems of government, character traits and activities can be somehow either “masculine” or “feminine” is a product of the patriarchy. Wanting to replace the “masculine” with the “feminine” is just another form of the same hegemonic system. (Cultural hegemony: roughly, it means the social system imposed by a dominating class that is bought into by the subjugated class willingly or without the use of force by the dominating class. In this case, the hegemony imposed by the patriarchy is the idea that “masculinity” and “femininity” are fundamentally different and belong in a dichotomous binary, and most people, including those in oppressed groups like women and trans people, pretty much believe this and don’t think about it too hard.) Moving beyond the gender hierarchy of the patriarchal system means accepting what to me appears to be the fundamental principle of feminism: not that “masculinity” and “femininity” or “male” and “female” are equal, but that, except for penises and vaginas, there is basically no difference at all between them.

Ugh, of course Sarah Palin exists, but don’t bother me with that. But Sarah Palin is working very much within patriarchal systems.
It is obligatory to mention Sarah Palin whenever you say anything about women in government.

Final verdict: I’m gonna give this album a 5/10. It’s got some enjoyable updates of good songs and is pleasant to listen to. The musical accompaniments are stunning, his voice sounds great. I can’t forgive the problematic logicless disaster of Future Feminism though. I’m knocking off two full points for that, which is sad, because I would really want to give a spoken word feminist, transgender manifesto called Future Feminism like a billion extra points. But no. Seriously, if you get this album, just skip track 2. You will be much happier for it.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Poems in the Afternoon: Dickinson, 249 Wild Nights

c. 1861, first published 1891

            Confession: I can’t really get into Emily Dickinson, which seems weird somehow, because I feel like I ought to love her, and not just because she is a Great American Poet. Her writing just isn’t pleasurable to read for me; it’s too florid and breathless and purple, what with all the excessive dashes and Random Capitals and personifications of Truth and Beauty and Death. It’s possible that I missed the window of opportunity to get into it, being a bit too young when I first got this collection back in 2005, and a bit too old now (says the girl who still gets IDed for wine). Perhaps I would have loved it as an impressionable, Plath-reading 16 year old. And maybe I’ll come around someday, because I’d really like to like her work. But as it stands, this is the only Dickinson poem that I do love. It all just comes together – the hysterical excitability condenses into passion, the purpleness is cut off and transformed into romance, the dashes (perhaps because they don’t punctuate every word) become a force of emotion, shaping the poem into wildness on the page.

            This is a deceptively simple little poem. Its meaning is layered and elusive, because of the tangled longing expressed ambiguously for either – or both? – the Edenic tranquillity of a peaceful mooring, and for what I read to be a wild, dangerous sea. The vagueness is intriguing; when Dickinson writes “Futile – the Winds -/ To a Heart in port”, is she comforted by her protection from turbulence, or does she long to be tossed out of her calm port and into the rough seas of love? The “thee” of the final line refers back to the “thee” of the second line, but the structure of the stanza allows it to potentially also refer to Eden or the sea. She might long to moor in her lover (metaphorically, sexually?), in Eden, and/or in the wild sea. It’s hard to tell. In my opinion, the interpretations are all about equally plausible (although I might lean towards preferring the wild, rough sea – she does say she wants wild nights, after all – but I don’t insist on it). The ambiguity is part of what makes this a great, erotic and complex poem. I generally distrust interpretations and analyses of texts that want to come down definitively on one side or another of a purposely ambiguous point, since they so often are little more than personal preference dressed up as objectivity, and we all know how badly that can be misused (Ophelia as a big seductive slutty McSlut, sucking all of Hamlet’s manly energy away with her dirty sexy sexness, turn of the century writers about Shakespeare, hmmm?) The intensity of the desire expressed in this poem is amplified by its condensed nature; it’s a powerful and unusual (for Dickinson) jab of sexuality, emphasising the archaic double meaning of “luxury” (luuuust!).

            So, there we go. This is a great and striking little poem, and that rare thing, a Dickinson piece that makes me actually feel something, other than sore eyes from rolling them too hard.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Sunglass Slut, Episode 2: Like Taking Candy From A Baby

The adventures of a chirpy gal with more pairs of sunglasses than there are sunny days in an English summer.

Yes, these sunglasses are supposed to be for children. No, I don't really care. They are kitschy and delicious, like a 1970s sweetshop.

I like the way the pink and purple look against my minty green earrings. I'm Betty Draper-ing it up today, with a white shirtwaist dress, a vintage scarf and some pearls. I'm also wearing Chanel No 5, because I am a laydee. I went shopping, but I pretended I was going to a country club, and that my entire outfit cost more than like £25 altogether. 

Thanks, doll.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

One Dress, Four Outfits

Top of my ermahgerd-I-want-this-so-badly list for summer is this pretty, pretty blue floral dress from Topshop (£60).  It’s basically my dream outfit. Buuut living life as an unemployed undergrad student whose next loan instalment doesn’t come until mid-September, I have to justify it to myself. And I’m doing that the way I always do: by telling myself I can wear this dress for everything. But you know what? This time it’s actually true. This is the perfect dress for wearing to lots of different occasions in different ways. That makes it a brilliant investment and therefore a totally justifiable purchase, right? Right? Exactly.

Let me show you how.

You will need:

1. A dress sort of like this dress. It should probably fall somewhere between mid-thigh and mid-calf, in a colour or cute print. A top and pretty skirt would also work.
2. Some places to wear it to. This is actually the hard part for me.

To a scary work meeting

Office, £60
Whistles, now £9
            You CAN wear adorable dresses and still look professional, you just have to accessorise them well, and probably also wear tights. Smart, understated earrings will draw attention to your competent, reassuring and beautiful face (yes, you have one of those). These silver and blue drops from Whistles will make you look tremendously grown up; matching tones (but not colours) between your outfit and jewellery is a fast way to seem put together (bonus: sale!).  Choose a blazer or suit jacket and a sensible but pretty mid-height heel like these from Office for a simple, stylish work look. Try either in a pinkish-nude or cream for a summery, slightly more casual look, or pick both in black to show you mean srs bsns.

To your cousin’s garden wedding

Nine West, £110
            This is a perfect summer wedding dress, because it sits neatly on the line between fancy and casual. To avoid heel sinking into grass issues, wear shoes with thicker heels. The cute yellow of this peeptoe pair will complement the blue dress (because I know you know your colour wheel) as well as holding up on damp grass. A set of pearl earrings, necklace and bracelet (real or fake) will say that you are classy and sophisticated. Take a cream or buttercup yellow cardigan or light jacket with you in case it gets cool. If you’re a nail painter, a contrasting shade like Lancome Vernis in Love Midnight Rose (a rich purple) or Rose Boudoir (a deep fuchsia) will add visual interest and keep the look young, while a fascinator or hat will make you look appropriately fancy. I love this one from Philip Treacy, and its colour picks up the secondary colour in the print perfectly, but I won’t even bother telling you how much it costs.

Oh, alright. It's £2,250 from Harrods. Perhaps you could make your own?

On a romantic picnic

Whimsy! ASOS, £20
Zara, £25.99
 A pretty floral dress is perfect for skipping merrily through a park in the sunshine, hand in hand with your best guy or gal. Go for a fun, whimsical look with a pair of eye-catching sunglasses and some studded flats like these Zara slippers. These brilliant, unique earrings from Asos will give you all the eccentric Manic Pixie Dream Girl charm you could wish for. Carry a holdall big enough for a blanket and a bottle of prosecco. Go light on make up; just wear enough mascara that you can bat your eyelashes at your lover effectively as you ask if you can have the last of the smoked salmon.

Bar crawl for your best friend's birthday

             Because the shape of this dress is pretty demure and the print is so light and pretty, you can sex it up infinitely and still look like a classy gal. A fitted little black leather (or leather-look) biker jacket will get you feeling like a Bad Grrrl and play off the good-girliness of the dress. Pick a bold contrasting shade like berry red for your accessories. Using only a few strong colours will keep your outfit looking clean and striking, not overdone. 
Topshop, £55
Mango, £59.99
Target, $29.99
ASOS, now £10.50
These Target heels have all the sexiness of red shoes, but the darker shade, curved heel shape and thin strap keep them sophisticated, not trashy. (Seriously, people of America, how do you not spend ALL your money in Target?) This Mango envelope clutch picks up the deep red;  if you hate carrying a bag in your hand and you’re crafty,

 you could MacGyver a strap from a long, sturdy necklace chain. Wear a dramatic cocktail ring and another pair of exciting jewelled Asos earrings, which pick up the colours of the outfit perfectly (on sale, too!). Finish with a vampy make up look of false eyelashes and an attention grabbing berry red lipstick like Too Faced Sex Kitten or Rimmel Diva Red, because you know, it’s not only ‘50s secretaries and housewives who get to match their lipstick to their accessories. 

The Natural History


your body
was a landscape of history –
I’d live inside its mountains
and declines, trace its steep and gentle
rise and fall.
the heat of the earth under your skin
warms your bones,
calcium carbonates –
you tell me
stories of your tectonic shifts,
the old grind,
the backbone of your country
those rocky hills.
those heights and endless depths
match you,
the dark scattering of life upon you –
the liquid core of you.


that breaking bone,
spine of my country.
his monstrous vertebrae
under the crust.
the arch of his back
and cave –

that geographer
shaped the land he walked on,


I am the god
of the wanderer river –
its feet
eat away at ancient rocks,
the endless cycle.
I am
the century’s daughter –
the steaming valley my descent
under the ground.
the tapping caverns
birth a wildness in my skin –
their limestone bones
are the calcium of oceans.
Where I break all things,
their component parts –
the god of the mountains where I grew –
that dominance of ages...
solid earth against my fingers.

Sunglass Slut, Episode 1: Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na

I luuuuurrbe sunglasses an unhealthy amount. I experience genuine feelings of bereavement whenever I break a pair, which is always.

These round, mirrored, tortoiseshell set might just be my all-time favourites. They're from Topshop a year or two ago. They were £22 (I've never spent more than like a fiver on sunglasses before).

When I wear them I like to pretend that I'm a bitchin' retro Batman villain. My name would be Dr Steam and Batman and Robin would have to foil my dastardly plan to plunge all of Gotham City into shiny darkness. There would be lots of campy WHOOOOSH!, CLANG! and HISSSS! speech bubbles as my clockwork anti-sun-mirror machinery powered into action.

Lemon Roast Vegetable Pasta

How to eat vegetables when you only really like carbs

I do not like vegetables. Like, at all. I don’t like tomatoes, I don’t like carrots, I don’t like courgettes, broccoli, cucumbers, artichokes, parsnips or green beans. (Please still like me.) When I moved away from home for uni and started feeding myself all the time, though, I realised that unless I was going to live off nothing but pasta, risotto, apples and ice cream (horror!), I was going to have to learn to eat vegetables voluntarily. Fast forward two years, and while I still don’t enjoy eating vegetables, I know a ton of easy, interesting meals which incorporate them into meals I do like, and I can proudly say that several times in the last year I’ve managed to take in the recommended five pieces of fruit and veg a day. Several times! This is a colourful, low-effort, summery pasta dish that you can make with whatever you happen to have in the fridge. Measurements are pretty approximate.

Per person, you will need:

  • 75 - 100g pasta, dry. (Spiral shapes like fusilli work best for this. You can use less than you usually would because you’ll be adding bulk from the vegetables.)
  • Juice and zest of ½ - 1 lemon, or to taste
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary (optional)
  • 50-100g chopped vegetables, depending on your desired pasta:veg ratio. Any kind of mix will work; you could use red and yellow peppers, mushrooms, red onion, courgette, cherry tomatoes or aubergine.
  • A handful of sugar snap pea pods (optional)
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon soft goats’ cheese, crumbled
  • Rock salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Baby leaf salad (spinach, rocket, lettuce, etc)

Preheat your oven to 180C. Spread the vegetables on a baking tray with a lip and drizzle over half the olive oil. Sprinkle over the lemon zest, half a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Cut your lemon into quarters and squeeze on the juice, then toss the quarters in with the vegetables (you’ll get more juice from them when they’re cooked). Strip the leaves from the rosemary. Toss it all around and pop the tray in the oven for between 20 and 35 minutes, depending on if you’d prefer your vegetables still a little crunchy or cooked through.

Cook your pasta, strain it and toss it back in the saucepan. Take the vegetables out of the oven. Squeeze out the last of the juice from the lemon and throw the pieces away. Stir the rest of the vegetables into the pasta along with the parmesan and the rest of the oil. Taste and add extra seasoning. If it’s too sharp and lemony, try adding a little sugar or a spoonful of crème fraiche for a creamier taste. At the last minute before you serve the pasta into bowls, stir through the crumbled goats’ cheese, the pea pods and a handful of baby leaf salad.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Totally Awesome Women in Fiction

            It’s hard to find novels with female characters who read like actual women. In this list, I’ve tried to present women who lead their own lives, who aren’t sidelined for men, whose stories don’t revolve around other people. That meant I had to cut some obvious candidates (sorry, Hermione).
This cover is ugly, but come on, that is one
 memorable flying corset lady

1. Fevvers – Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter.
Carter’s novels are glorious messes of womanliness, sexuality, hope, magic and delight. Sophie/Fevvers is a big, tall, cheerily vulgar and secretly revolutionary aerialiste with a pair of enormous wings growing from her shoulders. The star of a very strange circus, Fevvers knows the value of her body and with astonishing agency is prepared to milk it for all that it’s worth.
Fave moment: The spot-on description of her as a “celestial fishwife”.

2. Jo March – Little Women, Louisa May Alcott.
Confession: my favourite was always Amy, because she was arty and a bit of a princess. I might be the only person ever to have been pleased when she married Laurie. However, Jo is clearly the feminist hero of the book, questioning and challenging the expectations of gender in society. Tomboy Jo longs to run away and be a drummer in the army, and goes merrily through life whistling, running around and burning the backs of her dresses. She cuts off all her hair midway through the novel. By the end, though, she’s matured and adapted into a woman and a writer, without losing the wilful temperament and questioning personality which make her unique.
Fave moment: When Jo marches into a newspaper office and has some short stories secretly published in the paper.

3. Precious Ramotswe – The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith.
The beautiful Jill Scott being Precious
in the pretty good TV adaptation
            Mma Ramotswe is a badass small business owner in Botswana, a self-declared detective relying solely on one stiff textbook, one secretary, red bush tea and her own intuition. She has a sharp mind, a kind and forgiving heart and a core of steel, and builds up her business with her honesty, love and intelligence, finding missing husbands, dogs and children. When she gets married  and adopts some children, it is on her own terms. Mma Ramotswe carries her traditional build with a sense of her own worth, and backs down to nobody.
Fave moment: When she shoots a crocodile dead, then cuts it open to rummage through the contents of its stomach.

4. Elizabeth Bennet – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
            What many readers of this text (and many modern romance writers) miss is that this is not a novel about Mr Darcy. It’s barely even about their relationship. It’s a novel about Lizzie Bennet, who is spirited, observant and independent, and spends approximately zero time moping around pining over Darcy.
Fave moment: The pages which detail Lizzie’s thoughts after she reads Darcy’s letter in the grove of Charlotte’s house. It’s a triumph of realistic thinking, honesty and self-criticism. She cries, “Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly… Till this moment I never knew myself.”

5. Orlando – Orlando, Virginia Woolf
            Okay, it’s a bit iffy having Orlando on the list since she starts the novel as a man, but there can be no denying that once she transforms into a woman, her life becomes a rigorous examination of sex and gender, so she counts. Based on Virginia’s bisexual, cross-dressing lover Vita Sackville-West, Orlando skirts around and occasionally smashes through gender boundaries across several centuries, accompanied by her biographer’s ironic notes on gender and society.
Vita Sackville West
Fave moment: On the ship on her way back from Turkey, when Orlando stretches out her legs and consequently a sailor falls off the mast, causing her to realise that she must learn how to ‘be’ a woman acceptably in society: “She remembered how, as a young man, she had insisted that women must be obedient, chaste, scented and exquisitely apparelled. ‘Now I shall have to pay in my own person for those desires’, she reflected; ‘for women are not (judging from my own short experience) obedient, chaste, scented and exquisitely apparelled by nature. They can only attain these graces, without which they may enjoy none of the delights of life, by the most tedious discipline.’” Also, to get in the spirit of being a woman properly, she bangs the ship’s captain. Ahhhh yeahhhh.

6. Moll Flanders – The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe.
            How many novels with whores in do you know that are written from the whore’s own perspective? What about one of the earliest modern novels ever written? Like Carter’s Fevvers, Defoe’s Moll Flanders is an excellently vulgar indomitable spirit, “Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu’d Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, as last grew Rich, liv’d Honest, and died a Penitent.” How can you argue with that?
Fave moment: Moll’s low, low point of robbing a family as their house burns down. Dastardly genius.

7. Offred – The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood.
            Offred, faced with an unimaginably bleak situation, refuses to become what Marcuse called “one-dimensional” – someone who cannot imagine society being any different from the way that it is. Unlike Ofglen 2, Offred never stops dreaming of another, free life.
Fave moment: When Offred steals pats of butter to moisturise with. So small and so heartbreaking, and explains so much about the world in which she lives.

8. Matilda – Matilda, Roald Dahl.
The Terrifying Trunch. Srsly you guys, look at
those arms.
            I wanted Matilda to be my best friend as a child. Hell, I still do. Matilda is a smart, bookish little girl whose brain is so highly developed that having her creativity stifled means she gains actual magic powers that let her move things around without touching them. Matilda is perky and hilarious and she likes going to the library, and she knows how to get the better of her horrible parents and Miss Trunchbull with a series of ingenious tricks, like supergluing her dad’s hat to his head. Matilda is my hero.
Fave moment: When the newt in the jug of water falls onto Miss Trunchbull and she goes flailing around the classroom. Also, when Matilda gets to move in with the delightful Miss Honey. Also, when the children recite the Mrs Difficulty rhyme and Miss Trunchbull says “Why are all these women married!?” This is all-round an incredibly satisfying book.

Thoughts, kittens? Who are your favourite women in fiction? For discussion purposes, here are some of the other ideas I had:
Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Fermina Daza (Love in the Time of Cholera), Clare DeTamble (The Time Traveler’s Wife), Winnie Louie (The Kitchen God’s Wife), Dora and Nora Chance (Wise Children), Sonmi-451, Luisa Rey (Cloud Atlas), Cordelia (This is All), Molly Bloom (Ulysses), Sophie (Sophie’s World), Rosemary Hoyt (Tender is the Night).