Monday, March 31, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside: Scones, Jam and Tea

I do not recall where this photo is from. Oooops.

Autumn is my favourite time of year, the sun is still out and shining but the air is crisp and cool, you can find a patch of light and lay on the grass on a Sunday afternoon and never get too hot. And then there's the clothes, oh the clothes! Thick chunky knits, scarves and gloves, hair tucked under woolen hats, socks and stockings and flushed pink cheeks. Heaven!
Autumn also heralds new rituals (pulling the heater out of the cupboard and dusting off a summers worth of dust is the first that comes to mind!). My favourite ritual is eating a warm scone, a glazing of jam and a cup of tea whilst wearing a great pair of warm pyjamas and reading Frankie magazine.

Scones, Jam and Tea→ I attribute this obsession to my Mum, we would arrive home on particularly cold winters days to a tray of warm scones and a jar of her homemade jam. Later on it became a Sunday afternoon suprise, with a cup of tea and a newspaper it was the perfect afternoon tea (and hangover cure!).
You can find a great recipe for scones here. (I like to sift the ingredients 3 or 4 times, it makes the dough lighter and fluffier). If you like a more savoury treat, add a cup of grated cheese and a couple of extra pinches of salt to the recipe.

I think making a cup of tea is similar to learning to drive from a parent. You pick up their particular method and take it as fact, never quite sure whether you're doing it as it should be done.
George Orwell (the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm) wrote an essay in 1946 called "A Nice Cup of Tea". I'm not entirely sure whether the knowledge that he took the time to write about making a cup of tea makes him a genius or completely mad. I've always wondered about tea etiquette and feel that his essay has answered many of my questions (and unfortunately bought up more questions, such as "Why do I spend so much time thinking about tea?")

Orwell's Eleven Rules:
1. Use tea from India or Ceylon (Sri Lanka), not China
2. Use a teapot, preferably ceramic
3. Warm the pot over direct heat
4. Tea should be strong - six spoons of leaves per 1 litre
5. Let the leaves move around the pot - no bags or strainers
6. Take the pot to the boiling kettle
7. Stir or shake the pot
8. Drink out of a tall, mug-shaped tea cup
9. Don't add creamy milk
10. Add milk to the tea, not vice versa
11. No sugar!

From the BBC article How to make a perfect cuppa. It includes a quiz about tea. I am obsessed.
A website devoted to having a cup of tea and a nice piece of cake or a biscuit. Suprisingly, it's called nicecupofteaandasitdown.
Wikihow article: How to Make a Good Cup of Tea

Next up, Knitting, Pink Cheeks and the Perfect Pyjamas!

Enjoy, stay sweet and lovely!

Klaus Kinski

Photo from Alannah Hill show
Put a bird cage near the window so that the bird can see the sky? It's much better to look than not to, even if it hurts.
-Klaus Kinski

To Bee Or Not To Bee

Screencaps from Marie Antoinette

I have a love/hate relationship with bees. I'm allergic to them (or I was when I was younger, I hear it's something you grow out of) and everytime I was stung I would have to take a wretched tasting pink syrup. Like mechanics always have faulty cars, I have found it most likely that allergic people will continuously get stung by bees.

I lived in the middle of the bush in New Zealand, we had a 10 acre block to run on and over and through, and was used to seeing my Dad disapear into the trees with a Coke bottle filled with petrol to get rid of bees nests. I think the bees knew that I was no match for their pointy, poisonous bottoms.

One summer we got a phone call from a neighbour where we were warned that "the bees are coming" and we had about 10 minutes before the swarm arrived. I thought it was fantastically exciting since my grandmother used to tell us about the bombings in London during the war and how she would run to the bomb shelter in the backyard. Actually, the bombing stories made me irrationally fearful of any aeroplane that flew over our house being a Nazi bomber which was not helped by the Airforce doing practice flights over our area. But I digress.

After the ominous "the bees are coming" phone call we ran around the house, stuffing old towels up the chimney, closing every window and door and ushering the pets inside. Assuming the bees would move on, like drunks at the end of the night, we were fairly unconcerned. Only the bees decided to stay for the rest of the summer, hanging around like a carpet of angry, manic, yellow and black striped methamphetamine addicts.

Honey Bee Love→ If those bees were crystal meth addicts, then bumblebees are little men in adorable pyjama sets, lazing in opium dens in a Tintin comic (The Blue Lotus, if you're wondering!). I like bumblebees and their fuzzy coats, it's to keep them warm and you've got to respect an appropriately dressed animal.

Bumblebees are fairly interesting, as far as bees go. They leave their scent on the flowers they visit which wards off other bees and lets them know which flowers are worth their time. And they don't get too aggressive, unlike those wretched bees that kept me from cartwheeling across the lawn for an entire summer.

A Taste Of Honey→ My Dad was back in NZ recently and went to a really adorable cafe called BeesOnline and returned with a box of Organic Honey Snap Paks which are a single serve of organic honey equivelent to a serve of sugar. I used to despise honey, although I think it was hatred via association (because honey meant bees which meant stings which meant pain and swelling and nausea) but I'm starting to enjoy it. Alone it's just honey, but added to tea, on homemade banana bread (oh yum!) or added to cooking. My absolute favourite honey treat is baklava, a ridiculously sweet, addictive Arabic nut and honey pastry. Words do it no justice, you'll die of happiness and diabetes just by glancing at a piece.

Honey Doll→ Honey is also marvelous on the skin, I like to use a serve of honey with my usual cleanser, make a thick bubbly lather and leave it on my skin for a minute or two. It's moisturising, great dabbed on breakouts (it has anti-bacterial properties that work for all sorts of injuries) and tightens the skin.

Honey Hush→ And of course, there's the old honey/death link. The Egyptians, Romans, Eskimos, Chinese and oh just about every ancient culture known to man linked honey and death, placing jars of honey next to the dearly departed. Honey found in tombs of Egyptian royals is still preserved and there was a belief that if a body was immersed in honey the person would be revived. Personally, I can't think of a worse state to wake in that being covered in honey, although your skin would be magnificent.

Fiction: D.H Lawrence

Photo by Sarah Wilmer

“This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed.”
-D.H. Lawrence

Interior: Bryan Fuller Is Brilliant


Cours de Cours→ One of my favourite current shows is Pushing Daisies, created by Bryan Fuller who was also behind Dead Like Me (another one of my favourites!). He co-created Wonderfalls and wrote for Heroes and Star Trek but Pushing Daisies is my absolute, heart string pulling show. I love the sweet story lines, the quirky characters, the old timey vibe, the million and one visual delights in the costumes, the sets and the colours, oh the colours!

The Piemaker Maker→I was pleased tocome across an article on Bryan Fuller's home complete with pictures. What a geek I am, I immediately noticed the little monkeys from the pilot of Pushing Daisies and the little stack of Wonderfalls/Dead Like Me books or DVDs. His home is decorated with childlike glee, there is such a sense of fun and enjoyment in every object, piece of furniture, pattern and colour - "Zebra-print wallpaper and upholstery mixed with boldly colored chinoiserie furniture, lighting and window treatments exude Hollywood Regency glamour. A menagerie of animals and bugs in bronze, bone and ceramic scream neo-Victorian eccentricity, as does a bowl filled with lifelike glass eyes."

He has Eddie Munster's werewolf doll, a Gollum statue and an army of film paraphernalia, quite honestly I think this might be my new favourite interior inspiration!

Spot the golden monkey!^
The article

Fashion: I'm Too Fat To Be A Hipster - Interpreting Fashion For Your Figure

Inspired by the song 'I'm Too Fat To Be A Hipster' by Oh Snap!! I am going to admit something. I'm too fat to be a hipster, and like he says in the song "I don't look good in skinny jeans". With this in mind, here are some of my favourite ways to dress for a L+ (size large and up) body. (Want to listen and have a giggle? Go here)

There's no use in damning those cruel fashion goblins in their bell towers for skinny pencil leg jeans, despite the fact that they make women wish they could suck in their thighs and are possibly causing permanent damage to teenage boy's reproductive organs as we speak (the jeans, that is). As it says in the song, "I like to dress fly but f**k it I like food", so refuse to give up sushi, cashew nuts and croissants and find your own way to put a spin on fashion.

Layering the Basics→ Simple pieces are available in every size under the sun hanging in neat little rows at department store like my personal favourite, Target, with it's revamped clothing lines and limited edition Designers For Target(next up, Zac Posen). They're cheap, easy to wear and great for building your wardrobe from the ground up.
Don't fall into the all black trap, every single day in black clothing is not the best way to boost your mood! You may be a rabid fan of black t-shirts but the addition of a long tank or tunic in a colour out of the navy/black family adds a great colour pop, underneath a tee or sleeved shirt.
Looks like....
An American Apparel Sheer Rib Sleeveless V-Neck Tank Top underneath a Sheer Jersey Short Sleeve Deep V-Neck. A multitude of colours and great foundation pieces!
A Topshop Roll Back Crew Tee underneath a Frill Flower Cami, a delicious spearmint green floral with pretty frilled straps.

Divert Attention→ Play with necklines and sleeves to draw attention to your neckline and beautiful face. Statement necklaces like a gorgeous Zoemou water flower necklace (which is in fact a leather cut out, genius!) add quirk and curiosity to your basic layers. Also try a great patterned scarf like the Sunny Girl Floral and Paisley Scarf looped around your neck.

Alternative Pieces→ Thankfully, skinny jeans are not the only option. Fashion is a democracy, not a dictatorship! I love wide legged, man style trousers a la Katherine Hepburn. A little masculine, a little feminine, a lot flattering and incredibly comfortable. Look for shades of fawn, grey and charcoal.
Looks like....
Topshop Stripe Linen Trouser. Great shape with slim vertical stripes. Lovely.
Free People Linen Wideleg Pant from Urban Outfitters.

Alternatively, wide leg jeans with a slim fit around the hips are fab for dressing down and can go very "Bianca Jagger, Studio 54 androgyny" or "cute old time sailor girl" depending on how you style them. Then there's boyfriend jeans, a little slouchy, a little relaxed fit, the kind of jeans that look amazing with clean, wavy hair and glowing skin.
Looks like....
Dorothy Perkins Blue Wide Leg Jeans
Jeanswest Kissa Boyfriend jeans

Interpretation→ This applies most directly to those slippery dippery wet look leggings and trousers that look so clean and sexy on Kate Moss, Ashley Olsen and lucky living dolls but make the majority of us look, well, not so doll like.
Instead, look for accessories in the same fabric. The clever folks at American Apparel make Vinyl Laptop Bags, super roomy and incapable of cruelty to a girls figure. Ruby&Crickette are responsible for a gorgeous, glossy, ink black Alligator Cuff that sends shivers down my spine (in a good way!) and long (slightly fetishistic) Lycra/spandex opera gloves peeking out from underneath a full sleeved jacket looks gorge!
Looks like....
A rainbow of coloured Long Lycra/Spandex gloves on Ebay
Glove Love on Flickr at the DecentGloveGroup

Enjoy, stay sweet and lovely!

Fashion: Trench Coats - Jackie O, Audrey, Miss Moss and B

Ahhh, to have the funds to afford a classic Burberry trench; the shiny buttons, the crisp stoney beige fabric, the belt knotted oh so casually at the waist and that iconic plaid lining. Talk about an investment piece, every few years there seems to be a trench coat redux and they look sleeker and sexier.Unfortunately they cost $1000 us+ and at that point, a girl without the suitable bank balance must look for more afforable options.

Luckily for us mere mortals chainstores just keep getting kinder and kinder, the slightest glimpse of a trend on the horizon and we're given racks of garments, in every colour and variation. And of course, op shops/thrift stores are always brimming with a collection of macs, raincoats and trenches (soak your new coat in a bucket of water with a few dissolved tablespoons of bicarbonate soda and napisan over night to remove the mothball smell).

With such an iconic garment, there is a million and one ways to wear it and some wonderful places to draw inspiration.

Jackie O

+ Think Jackie Onassis, clasping the collar of her trench, gigantic sunglasses covering half her face and a beautiful colourful scarf tied around her hair. It's the casual trench coat, an after thought thrown on over a great fitting tshirt, jeans and (if you're channeling her Greek Island hopping years) a fab pair of gladiator sandals.

Audrey Hepburn/Holly Golightly

+ A classic: Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany's, quirky, adorable and feminine. A girl can't help but love the final scene, Holly Golightly searching for her cat in the rain, perfectly coiffed hair, kitten heels and her trench knotted at the waist, worn almost like a dress. Add a little costume jewellery (because you might be mad about Tiffany's but can't afford real diamonds), an adorable wicker bag (Audrey was photographed carrying one along with her trusty trench many times) and a sweet pink glow on your cheeks.

Gossip Girl/Blair Waldorf does Breakfast At Tiffany's

The final scene of Breakfast at Tiffany's is so iconic that Gossip Girl is doing their own interpretation (and I say interpretation because you know Holly isn't nearly as venemous as Blair Waldorf!), including Blair and Nate in matching trenchcoats and pouring (fake) rain. I've lived in Australia for far too long because my immediate thought was "What a waste of water, we're in a drought!". More pictures here

Kate Moss

+ The thoroughly modern Miss Moss (Kate that is). Not only has she had countless campaigns with Burberry but she wears their trenches frequently in that "Oh this old thing? I just threw it on when I fell out of bed and look absolutely stunning, what a surprise" way that only Kate can do. The key to her trench style is neutral colours, letting the shape and fit of the garment speak for itself, the trench coat is the centrepiece and perhaps an interesting neckline or a big vintage diamond on a finger catches the eye but it's all about the coat. Well, she is English after all!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fact: Fixing a Bad Dye Job

I was cursed (although my Grandmother says blessed) with glow-in-the-dark ginger hair, making the concept of hair dye a thrilling grown up ritual that I dreamed about every birthday until I turned 15. First stop after a night of testing my alcohol tolerance with straight vodka (including a run in with the police and subsequent hours spent huddled beside a friend’s toilet being violently ill) was a chemist to buy the darkest, deepest black hair dye I could find. Thankfully all I could afford was a temporary, "8 washes and you’re done" dye which sufficiently darkened my hair enough to feel less like a comic book character and more like a real, normal, non-ginger girl.

The only problem is that once you experience life without dyed hair, you get hooked. After that first $5 sachet of Napro came a glorious shade of (semi-permanent) purple, Feria’s chocolate cherry, a brief stint with green hair (which I still can’t explain) and finally permanent jet black. I felt it made me look edgy, moody, and rebellious and my skin porcelain perfect. However I neglected to include my pale eyebrows in the transformation, forgot that black hair turns fair skin sallow and that I looked like Wednesday Adams. If she was dead.

You would assume a person would learn their lesson and stick to a more natural palette. Not I! I tend to go through the following cycle. Close to natural colour, just a little more pigmented. Slightly more red, like burning hot embers. Chocolate brown with a tinge of red. Black. Then regret.

As a result I have spent countless hours working my way through various products and old wives tales, attempting to locate the holy grail of hair dye removal. I don’t believe in hair dressers (or more accurately, my bank account and intense stinginess doesn’t believe in hair dressers) so all attempts are home grown.
And so we begin.

Home Hair Dye Removal Kits→
If your hair is in good condition minus the bad dye job, these work a treat, smell bizarre and cost slightly more than a box of permanent hair dye. Don’t mess around with halving the measurements, even if you end up with too much for your hair length it’s not worth ruining possible good results with the wrong proportions of the chemicals.
Many of these kits advise that your hair will be lightened by a shade or two. I find that they make your original colour slightly wishy washy but there won’t be any drastic changes. It’s nothing a more subtle, less permanent dye can’t fix.
Use a good conditioner afterwards and lots of it. Rinse/shampoo out the dye removal mixture, put VO5 Hot Oil in your hair for a minute, shampoo out the hot oil, cover every tiny strand of hair with the most intense conditioner you can find and whack on your shower cap. (Intensive conditioning should be used after any of these processes.)
Exposing your hair to hot oil treatments and everyday hair conditioner will also help very slowly fade the colour.
Try L'Oreal Colour Zap (US)
MyHD Permanent Hair Colour Remover (Available in Australia)

If your hair can handle it and is fairly healthy, you can try straight peroxide. I recommend buying an all in one kit, where the measurements are simple (usually mixing together some powder and some liquid in a bowl) rather than the powder and liquid separately. New hair will lighten faster than old hair so start applying at the ends and carefully work your way to the root. Follow the directions. Seriously. The box directions know best! Careful of your scalp, you don't want to burn it with peroxide. You might need to apply a temporary dye afterwards, to even everything out and use the conditioner that comes with the kit. And your normal conditioner. And every other conditioner in the house.
You may need to put some toner through your hair (use after shampooing, lather up, leave it in for 5 minutes and rinse) to remove any brassy tones.
Try Decore Blonde No:2 Naturally Blonde which lightens (a nice way of saying 'bleaches') hair 2-3 shades. I definitely recommend going easy on the bleach, if it doesn't lighten your hair enough, try dandruff shampoo for a few days.
Also, Decore Blonde Hair Toner

Bleach/Shampoo Mix→
Almost like bleaching without the pesky scalp burning, watering eyes and fried hair. Dandruff shampoo is fairly well known for sapping hair colour, which in this case is exactly what you want, the more colour sapping the better! Mix 2 table spoons of bleach powder with enough shampoo to create a paste to cover your hair. Apply to damp hair (wear gloves, bleach powder will make your skin dry and flaky) and put on a shower cap.
This is the hard part; since everybody’s hair takes to colour and bleach differently you’ll need to keep an eye on the results. Take a peek at your hair every 5-10 minutes or so. My hair took about 30 minutes before it was a colour I was comfortable with.
Rinse out the mixture, shampoo, condition, condition, CONDITION. And remember that you’ve used bleach; your hair is going to be need some care and attention to get it back to a healthy state.

Bicarbonate Soda/Shampoo→
An Internet discovery, I saw this recommended and figured if bicarb is good enough for my face (more on that later), then it’s good enough for my hair.
Using about 2 tablespoons of Bicarb, a generous squirt of dandruff shampoo and a little bit of water, I massaged the mixture into my hair, donned my trusty shower cap and waited for half an hour. To be perfectly honest, this removed a small amount of colour, taking my hair from jet black to dark, dark brown, but it gave my hair the most amazing shine, like freshly cleaned glass. For a good hour I forgot that I had intended for the mixture to do anything other than blind people on sunny days with its astounding amount of shine.
This is a great method for slowly removing colour, gradually lightening it rather than removing colour all in one go.

Conditioner and hot oil treatments are a very slow way to fade colour, but probably the kindest way to treat your hair. Sleeping with your hair slathered in conditioner with cling wrap or a shower cap will lightly remove colour. Follow up your conditioned sleep with a thorough wash with Head and Shoulders or a medicinal dandruff shampoo; make sure you get rid of all the conditioner or you'll feel like one of those poor penguins covered in oil after a tanker crashes.

Dandruff Shampoo→
The gentlest option of all, although you will work your way through a hefty amount of shampoo. Wash your hair with your dandruff shampoo of choice, leave the suds in your hair for 3-5 minutes (enough time to shave your legs or stare dreamily at the water running down the shower door), rinse and repeat. And repeat again. This will slowly fade the colour and following up each wash-a-thon should be a hefty deep conditioner.

If all else fails, it's time to pack it in and get to a hairdresser, pronto!