Guardian Girl

Eggs, flour, crutches

Posted in Fashion, First impressions, Interiors, Recipes, The Measure by guardiangirl on November 23, 2009

A report on the end of last week, shortish on words and longish on pictures.

First, a miraculously tasty and mechanically successful two-course dinner that also provided Liv and I with a Eurostar picnic on Friday: Yotam’s delicious and not that tricky Crespéou omelette mountain followed by Dan Lepard’s bananarama tropicana cake, which was alive-tasting (not in a cannibalistic way), like a lardy version of a piña colada only less saccharine. Mine was a little uncooked in the middle and overcooked – perhaps even burnt – on the top, which I think means I need to get more involved with foil.

Crespeou

Crespeou

Crasspeou

Crasspeou

Tropicana banana cake

Tropicana banana cake

Botty-rama banana cake

Botty-rama banana cake (I despair of this caption as much as anyone, yet can't stop finding the word 'botty' funny)

Next: finally a fashion photo that reveals my new, cutting-edge space boot:

A walk on the wild side

A walk on the wild side

A limp on the mild side

A limp on the mild side

As I traversed Antwerp in this get-up, Liv consistently got the hysterics about how small my other foot looked compared to the hopalong foot. It made me know how the dog feels when the humans laugh at its ear, which has turned itself inside out.

And finally: the results of a tired, late-night interiors styling session. Check out my cosy open fireplace in particular.

Glass extension

Glass extension

Arse extension

Arse extension

Black interior

Black interior

Slack, inferior

Slack, inferior

Raising eyebrows

Raising eyebrows

Erasing eyebrows

Erasing eyebrows

Now a few boring sentences I feel obliged to write for the sake of structural consistency. I wouldn’t bother to read them if I were you.

This week’s first impressions are affected by two significant factors.

1) I was in Antwerp having a wonderful time all weekend so I didn’t buy the paper – Adam is saving me a copy and I checked it out online on Monday instead.

2) I have very little cash this week so I suspect that shipping actual tons of dried fruit and brandy into my flat to bake stuffy Christmas foods that nobody much likes anyway will be low on my agenda, as will buying £250 bottles of men’s fragrance. I’d like to try to make at least one xmas treat as it’s nice to turn up bearing foodie gifts for one’s family and take some of the culinary strain off the hosts, but we’ll have to see how practical it turns out to be this week. I wonder how many Guardian readers pulled their fingers out on Sunday and actually baked xmas cakes.

I notice that the Measure sends mulled wine and minced pies up the list this week so perhaps I’ll be more likely to get in some shopmade delights and eat them instead. Liv is taking me and my busted foot shopping at Tesco’s in her little blue van tonight so I’ll ask her hallowed advice on the matter.

The fashion spread on Hitchcock heroines is one of my favourite looks and I’d usually be in my element, but I imagine the spaceboot will undermine most of the glamour of a pencil skirt.

Conclusions:

  • I love Yotam, I do.
  • Cakes are just as good as they were last time I tried them.
  • Fashion is hard enough to achieve with an average paycheck and an average girth, but just you try adding a leg brace and crutches to the equation.
  • While we’re here, it’s amazing how many people stare at you when you’re in this condition, and even more amazing how many burst into laughter directly afterwards. You get used to it pretty quick. I have of course swiped at a few select people with my crutches in response, which is something I learned in an assertiveness workshop.
  • Interiors schminteriors. ‘Tis is the season of just trying to keep warm.
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Back to (un)reality

Posted in First impressions by guardiangirl on November 16, 2009

Well, I’ve spent a week at my new place of work and it all seems very great. Unfortunately I haven’t yet mustered the courage to ask my new colleagues to accompany me to the park and photograph me perched on a branch, which is top of my list of tasks this week since I’ve decided to return to Guardian Girl proper.

Let’s be honest about it – this blog became pretty sub-standard when I tried to get reborn as Independent Woman. It just ain’t me. And, as actual-genius Jesse said at at the weekend, The Independent isn’t the same – it doesn’t have a visible halo of sub-culture surrounding it. It just tells you the news, really. Even the recipe pages lack the secret whispers that if you only baked a potato cake on Wednesday you’d be part of This Crowd. The fashion doesn’t lure you in by repeating themes week in, week out until you find yourself wearing your hair in plaits or tucking your scarf into your belt because it suddenly feels like the obvious thing to do. All in all The Independent doesn’t boil down in the same way to a sort of politically conscious Grazia. I still haven’t managed to work out exactly how the Guardian manages it, but it does, and I’m back riding the bandwagon for the foreseeable future.

The other blogly misfortune of my present life situation, besides being the shy new kid on the work block, is that I’ve busted my foot proper. It’s been sore for a while but on Friday night I turned it over on a curb and spent the night causing mischief in A&E. My foot now looks like a hairy plum (sadly I can’t put my lycanthropic toes down to the injury – I have only my lax personal grooming to blame) and hurts a lot. I was given crutches, which made this week’s shopping quite a task, since they leave no hand space for baskets. Luckily my friend Tom was willing to help me out, so I managed to buy my crumpet and farl ingredients despite the gammy foot, but by the time we’d done the shopping and had a few pints of beer and a burger to celebrate, it was too late to rise crumpets. I’ll do my best to cook them tonight, although I must pop by Liv’s on my hobble home and ask her to take my day’s outfit photo. Every time I have a necessary holiday from this godforsaken experiment, I forget what a logistical nightmare it is.

On Saturday I took my crutches to the pub via the newsagent and had a look at what was on the cards for my first week back again, in the company of the as-ever-bemused-by-the-whole-concept Disco Dave. He just looked at me as if I was a complete idiot while I flicked through the fashion pages (“I know a few Mickey Mouses, you could cut their ears off and stick them to yer ‘ead”).

I tried to be patient looking at those ears (you’ll see the photos on here soon if you didn’t buy the paper) but I have to say I felt some degree of exasperation. I instantly knew I’d be substituting a headscarf – or an alice band at the very most.

The recipes look kind of nice in a let’s-pretend-our-bedsit-is-a-cobhouse kind of way. My favourite fantasy, that is. I really like the look of the massive omelette extravaganza Yotam’s done this week, although buying the 15 eggs made my arteries demand I have a friend over that evening, and Dan Lepard excels himself once more by writing a nice cake recipe and then telling you to pour rum/melted chocolate/butter/evaporated milk/liquid calorie over the top of it for good measure. All right, I will.

The life, the universe and everything pages seem to make sense and I think I’m going to practice being angry and enjoying it all week. So watch out. Even the home pages look kind of nice and simple-ish.

Yeh, never mind the crutches, I’m going to do the best I can this week and we’ll see what happens. Photos to follow as soon as I can transport myself labouredly to some familiar photographers (oh Cari how I miss you!), crumpet-ring retailers and Jude-Law-trainer-replica shops.

I’m back, there’s just not much evidence of it yet. Wish me luck.

 

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Independent Girl

Posted in Fashion, First impressions by guardiangirl on October 26, 2009

I spent most of this weekend at a spa hotel with my Mum (my 30th birthday treat), sauna-ing, steaming, eating and chatting. I’d brought Saturday’s Guardian Weekend magazine with me, so after lunch we headed out into the grounds of the hotel to find something close to a beach in which to pose for that day’s photo. The landscape around the area looked lovely but Mum had the genius idea of photographing me in front of a puddle in the car park, with highly satisfactory results I’d say, wouldn’t you?

Men's knitwear

Men's knitwear

 

Men's twitwear

Men's twitwear

Since I started this project various onlookers have suggested I take the odd roadtrip through the publishing world to see what influence other newspapers and magazines might have to offer. Most people insisted that if I really wanted to challenge myself I ought to copy every snippet of lifestyle advice in the Sunday Sport or the Daily Mail. This seemed like a highly amusing idea until the realities of living even the Guardian way began to hit home. A slightly interrupted social life and dedication to a rather off-the-wall daily routine I can live with, having been strongly predisposed in this direction for most of my living memory. The thing that has unexpectedly crept up and haunted me, which I’ve mentioned several times before, is the disposable consumption involved.

Every issue Weekend magazine reels out a relentless ticker tape stream of clothes, music, celebrities, soft furnishings, make-up and recipes that clamour for attention, only to be gobbled up/worn once/googled and forgotten by the following Saturday. Apart from learning how to make a passable attempt at cooking most dishes under the sun, being Guardian Girl isn’t necessarily an enriching experience. The photoshoots are fun and I love the cooking but sometimes I feel like I do so much consuming, I barely have time to digest. And as for seeing my friends to do fun stuff, it’s worryingly one-sided. “I’d love to watch that film you’ve been waiting to see for months, but why don’t you come to mine instead? I’m cooking raspberry tarts.” Nice, but a little inflexible for friends who don’t live round the corner/like raspberries/enjoy sitting on a rock-hard sofa in a small flat with no heating being dribbled on by a cat while trying to make friendly conversation.

So to return to the weekend, my mum takes the Independent, which arrived outside our hotel room at her request on Sunday morning. While flicking through the IoS review I noticed its ‘On The Agenda’ section, which makes suggestions for not only clothes and food but also books, events, interesting adventures and so on that are coming up in the near future. Needless to say this caught my eye instantly and I wondered whether it mightn’t be a bad idea to take a holiday on another left-leaning newspaper to compare with the Guardian. It’s certainly one alternative to proving what I probably already know, which is that while I might spend less money and provide more amusement by following the News Of the World, I might also end up with hair extensions, a diet inspired by Cheryl Cole’s favourite healthy snacks and a wardrobe manufactured entirely by underpaid children. Let’s save that for later, I thought, and see whether I become a more useful member of society after a few weeks of Independent action.

In the name of entertainment I will continue to upload as much unselfconscious photographic evidence as possible. So please join me as I embark on the next chapter of Guardian Girl. Independent Girl is born!

(At least for a weeks until Guardian Girl is reborn, the pair of them don lycra outfits and pugil sticks to battle for ethical supremacy while readers watch on with increasing bafflement/boredom, and News of The World Girl rises from the ashes, grinding into oblivion with a Primark stiletto the last vestiges of the greying, powdery husk of my identity.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.)

Conclusions:

  • Here we go then, let’s see how long it takes before I’ve spent all my money on tickets to literary festivals and following every page of the Guardian to the letter seems like the best idea I ever had.

Banana caramel cream pie and a week off consuming

Posted in Fashion, First impressions, Recipes by guardiangirl on October 20, 2009

On Friday night I cooked the remaining recipe for last week: Dan Lepard’s banana caramel cream pie.

Sainsbury’s was out of bananas but for a load of very green ones or a massive multipack of fairtrade ones, which I bought. When I got them home I realised there was no weight on the packet so I had no idea how many to use. I plumped for one in the sauce and another sliced up under the meringue. I added a very, very liberal amount of rum and brandy, and used a mixture of thick chantilly cream and mascarpone. I made the meringue properly (good girl, no slacking) with my hand blender, which worked a treat.

Liv arrived a bit later, we finished off the labneh with celery sticks (and she pronounced it delicious), then we tucked into the pie in front of a DVD. After one slice each we were pretty tipsy – not sure if this could really have been the pie’s doing alone, as we were drinking the remaining brandy with 7up as an accompaniment. It was delicious anyway, however intoxicating, and a spoonful of mascarpone on top cut through the sweetness a bit. As much as I complained when I had to eat pie every day, you can’t really beat a good one, and this was that.

Banana caramel cream pie

Banana caramel cream pie

 

Rum and brandy pie

Rum and brandy pie

I woke up the next morning to discover that I was 30 years old, so the rest of the pie made a good celebratory breakfast before I popped out to buy the paper. To my delight I discovered the whole mag is given over to a retrospective of the noughties this week, which means no cooking and no shopping all week – just outfits. It was a much-appreciated birthday present. Off I trotted to the pub in my party dress, and there I stayed, with all my pals, for a very long time. What a brilliant night – I have yet to recover. Here follow this week’s outfits so far:

Carrie Bradshaw

Carrie Bradshaw

Barry Bradshaw

Barry Bradshaw

 

Skinny denim

Skinny denim

Chubber denim

Chubber denim

The It bag

The It bag

 

The nosebag

The nosebag

 

Bling is the thing

Bling is the thing

 

Grim is the bling

Grim is the bling

Conclusions:
  • Alco-pie: a grand foodstuff.
  • Labneh: gets nicer with time.
  • A week off cooking, reorganising furniture and searching for elusive garments: sublime.
  • Being 30: yes.

First impressions

Posted in First impressions, Uncategorized by guardiangirl on October 12, 2009

Crumbs, I have to learn to ride a horse.

And it looks like a very expensive week.

I sat down with a double helping of black pudding and made a list of everything I need to buy this week if i’m to be properly accurate.

For the Measure alone I need:

  1.  Some ’90s Madonna
  2. A conical bra
  3. Riding lessons
  4. Alexander Wang gear
  5. Turquoise jewellery
  6. To go and see the Aztec exhibition at the British Museum
  7. Barrettes
  8. Dishevelled hair
  9. Some Katie Grand/Katie Hillier-related stuff
  10. GQ Style
  11. A horse with Hermes accessories (I so wish I had the means to do this one)
  12. Grey Gap Crombie
  13. £140 over-the-knee boots
  14. A gold cuff
  15. A dress with “a rush of gold sparkle”

Good job I saved a bit of cash last week.

It was nice to see the Space special feature involving some rooms that looked like something I might want to have in my flat, although taking design inspiration from famous authors might run the risk of getting ideas above my station. If you visited my flat you’d see what I mean.

I opened Hugh’s cooking pages with my usual tired sigh. More potting this week. Potted crab, potted mackerel, potted cheese. It honestly makes me feel weary just looking at these recipes. I don’t mind putting a bit of work into cooking if the result is a delicious stew or a pie or a cake or a something. I don’t know what it is about the bloody River Cottage that gets right up my nose –  it might be the word “river” or the word “cottage” or more the combination of the two – but I just don’t want to pack a load of stuff into a pot only to fork it back out again. I grew up in a cottage – I’m not exactly an urban type – but even as a shire dweller I can’t imagine I’d have been very keen on potting stuff other than mud pies. Perhaps it’s more of a generational divide than a geographical one, as my dad is quite keen on preserves and terrines and so on. Chocolate pots could be an exception in my eyes as chocolate definitely benefits from being served whimsically. But as for a nice bit of fish or a good hunk of cheese – just put it in a sandwich for pete’s sake.

Yotam annoyed me too by requiring a day’s preparation to strain yoghurt. I’m becoming quite petulant about all this great fussing around food. My heart is with Mr Lepard this week. A bit of hard work begets a bit of nice pie. Seems fairer.

Fashion – happy to see the Guardian doing quite an unGuardiany shoot (even if they did feel obliged to go satirically haywire on the spray-tan and pink lipstick), although I’m pessimistic about the degree to which I’m going to be able to recreate this. The tall, skinny-legged, blonde and bronzed elements look kind of important, as does the supply of expensive-looking nude-shaded clothing.

Denim – easy-peasy. The high street looks are pretty much always simpler and therefore easier to replicate. It’s in copying the designer stories that I tend to end up looking like a total dimwit.

Conclusions:

  • I am twitching my purse strings with every page turn.
  • I just want to eat a sandwich.
  • I’m getting a bit bored,  over-tired and tantrummy, and I want Weekend to ring the changes more often. Life feels like one long recipe, one torturous shopping trip.The ennui, dahhhling, the tedium – how will I survive?
  • On Friday night I found my friend Richard reading Hesiod (Richard is way cleverer than me). Hesiod tells his readers what to do, including when to cut their fingernails, and he does it far more lyrically than the Guardian. If I don’t have a holiday as Daily Mail girl soon, I’ll be Hesiod Girl one week instead.

First impressions

Posted in First impressions by guardiangirl on October 5, 2009
  • Fashion – jumping good, leather and fur bad – not for ethical reasons but because I hardly have any.
  • The Measure: Eucalyptus, fine. I popped straight to Fresh ‘n’ Wild or Whole Foods or whatever it’s now called and got myself some appropriately fragranced shampoo and shower gel. I needed that stuff anyway and now I can be safe in the knowledge Burberry would approve of my washing habits.

The River Cafe Italian cookbook was nowhere to be seen in my local bookshop, which was a double good’un as it meant I didn’t have to spend extra cash or cook a risotto that night.

I did take terrine round to a mate’s house for the X-Factor though, which was made entirely worthwhile by the phenomenon that is Sinitta wearing only leaves. My vote would be with Miss Frank, if anyone cares.

The May Fair hotel sounds expensive, although I’m not savvy/sophisticated enough to know any more about it than that. I’m planning to go for a cocktail there with some mates on Thursday night so we’ll see how that pans out. Turn up, drink a £20 bevvy, walk home and eat plain rice for dinner.

Pretty much everything else in the Measure was stuff I hadn’t heard of ( so uncultured), so I’ll do a Googling session and report back after I’ve educated myself. This blog is turning into a sort of modern geisha training, which appeals enormously.

  • Lauren’s stopped doing her make-up masterclass, which permanently absolves me of the obligation to post four close-ups of my face every week, since I can’t afford to buy and try the products she recommends each week. I won’t deeply mourn the loss of this section.
  • The Space feature is all very well on the surface of things but I can’t see myself finding the time to get hold of a bit of plasterboard and cover it in fabric, or start a cork collection big enough to make a noticeboard, or even go begging for a rice sack to make into a chic cushion. I’ve written this bit off straight away – getting through my washing up and laundry backlogs is enough of a craft project for me.
  • Food: as usual Hugh is pansying about with preserving and pressing and bloody bottling things that ought to just be fried and eaten. I once lived in the iron age for two months and believe me, I appreciate the joy of skinning a rabbit as much as the next man, but we’re busy people Hugh. Yotam’s recipe looks as tempting as ever while Dan Lepard’s made me cry a bit by mentioning a small, deathly thing called an ‘anchovy’ . Would I be letting myself down if I left it out? I think not. He did say it was optional.

Resurrection

Posted in Fashion, First impressions, Recipes, The Measure by guardiangirl on September 28, 2009

When I started this blog I decided to pretty much keep the whole thing quiet, bar telling a few friends who helped me take photos or directly asked me what the hell I was doing after walking in on me photographing myself in a bikini with a walking stick between my thighs. Rather than fabricating some phoney story about Hannibal Lecter for the post-gendered/neo-hiking era (I don’t know at all what I mean by this but it sounds like a joke, which is half the battle)  I told them what I was doing and gradually developed a small but loyal following of regular readers with whom I enjoyed sharing my adventures in Guardianland. A few other people happened upon it while searching for Dan Lepard recipes (poor souls didn’t get much help here), Andy Pandy (again, sorry folks) and female humiliation (probably not what they had in mind) .  Some of them kept coming back, and I decided the rest of the world could do without seeing it really.

But a few weeks after I decided to jack the whole thing in I posted the link on Facebook, since it was sitting there all finished with, which then led to something to do with Twitter and something to do with Stumbleupon and some other things I can’t quite get a grip on, which then led to bemusing amounts of people actually asking me not to give it up, while on their knees with tears on their faces. I have always felt it was my calling in life to sacrifice my personal dignity, large amounts of cash, my physical health and all my spare time in order to provide mild entertainment to friends and acquaintances. So it is with a heavy heart, a light wallet and an ambivalent smile that I’m resurrecting Guardian Girl.

My first post back should really be an extra special one, but it isn’t. It’s not even spectacularly unsuccessful. Just an unflattering photo of me in a checked shirt and a fairly insipid but I suppose satisfying rice and meat dish.

On Saturday morning I went off to buy the paper, accompanied by the slightly jaded cousin of my old sense of trepidation.

I sat on a bench and cracked open a can of Special Brew followed by Weekend.

I thought:

Food: same old, same old.

Lauren Luke: Christ alive, no offence to her but she looks like a burns victim this week. Bronzing is supposed to be SAFE.

The interior design bit: hilarious for reasons I’ll elaborate on later.

Fashion: more shirts and trousers.

Not much had changed while I was away – except that they’ve started putting some of their fashion pictures online! Hooray! This makes life much easier as you can see in high-def the look I was aiming for. Maybe I’ll even be able to stop taking rubbish-quality photos of the magazine pages soon.

The Measure was more interesting. I instantly clocked that I wouldn’t be able to afford anything by Dries van Noten but that Topshop was on the list too. Astley Clark jewellery – possible. The Reiss belt is lovely, and in fact I packed myself off to Angel that very day and bought me one, which cost an eye-watering 60-odd quid and made me feel extremely guilty. It’s not that lovely after all – it looks a bit Dorothy Perkins when you combine it with most of my other clothes. That 1971 collection is very nice, a bit Dallasy and a bit Suzi Quatroey, but when I put that sort of jangling stuff on I just look like I’ve been doing guilty trolley dashes down Primark again (which I usually have).

On Sunday it was time to face reality and get back into the cookery properly again, so I tackled Hugh’s first recipe of the week, which was something called Maqluba.

My actual-genius friend Jesse came to dine and ate the food happily but seemed relieved when she found out it was a Guardian recipe, as it was licence to come clean with the truth – that it “could do with a bit more salt”. I quite agreed, especially eating it cold the next day when this kind of dish is usually extra tasty. I perhaps should have used more than one stock cube. Also I chopped my herbs way too big again – bad gal. I forgot to cut them with scissors like a helpful commenter on this blog told me to do months ago.

Coming up soon is the first photographic evidence in a long while. Hold your breath.

First of all a little bonus (I wouldn’t get too excited): the old piccies that damaged the camel’s back last time around in August before The Break.

Strike a pose

Strike a pose

 

Completely fail to strike the correct pose

Completely fail to strike the correct pose

 This makes me wonder about my brain functioning. You can imagine what I’m like in an aerobics class – windmilling around in Studio 2 while the rest of the class is doing press-ups in Studio 1. I think I just forgot to look at the original picture properly. Or at all.

I have also uncovered the last recipe I cooked, weeks ago, to say thanks to the cat godfathers for looking after My George while I was in Hamburg living the unfettered life. It was a lime pie, one of Dan Lepard’s, and it tasted kind of nice but I burned the pastry so it went black and crumbly. Also I made the tragic error of purchasing these squidgy golden kiwi things – a different type from the usuals. I really don’t recommend them. Luckily I also had a packet of bog-standard kiwi fruit (how globalised consumerism has moved on since the rationing era) and they turned out to be enough to cover the pie with.

Kiwi tart

Kiwi tart

It's a start

It's a start

 

Right then, with that out of the way, here’s last night’s dinner (and today’s lunch):

Maqluba

Maqluba

 

Maq-loser

Maq-loser

 

Mine lacks lustre doesn’t it. I overcooked the tomatoes intentionally to try to destroy some of their innate evil. It sort of worked. I also ate most of the delicious toasted flaked almonds I was supposed to scatter on the top before serving, as they were just too tempting and too close to hand to ignore. Altogether it was a pretty drab dish for something that involved so much preparation and so many flavourings. Where did they all go? Stolen by the force of heat.

So on to the moment I’ve been dreading – today’s outfit. I’ll be frank with you; the past six weeks have not been kind to me. I have reappeared in cyberworld looking like a shadow of my former self, if shadows were larger, paler and messier than the original, which would make the world a very different place wouldn’t it? I do hope to return to form at some unspecified point in the future. In the meantime please bear with me. I am ‘everywoman’ after all, it’s all in me.

Get shirty

Get shirty

 

Get surgery

Get surgery

 That really is a hideous return to the project. Nevermind.

My head is going the wrong way because I still have very fragile connections between brain and body even after that half a chapter of The Alexander Technique for Dummies I read seven years ago. And despite photographer-Cari shouting: “Spread your legs wider!” repeatedly at me as I slumped on the sink outside a cubicle in which another colleague was trying to do a quiet wee, I preserved my dignity over getting the picture right. Obviously if I’d been wearing white silk bloomers there wouldn’t have been a problem.

On a happy note, please admire the snazzy bathroom in which I pose for these photos. We moved offices at work, so it’s bye-bye tampon machine and hello clean grouting from now on.

Conclusions:

  • Hugh slacked off a bit on taste this week. Also did you know the recipe called for holding a plate over the pan of boiling meat and rice and turning it upside down? Have you seen the level of success with which I am able to copy a very simple seated pose? Put the two together and you’ll see why I didn’t attempt this – I just used a spoon.
  • Topshop sold out of that amazing UFO dress ages ago, apparently.
  • Reiss does do wonderful accessories but who’d pay £60 for a belt? Oh.
  • Lauren Luke’s make-up gives her the appearance of a Marbella-dwelling ex-pat and makes me look like a sweaty grub.
  • It’s good to be back.

Saturday 15 August

Posted in Fashion, First impressions, Recipes, The Measure by guardiangirl on August 17, 2009

First impressions:

Fashion

  • My lack of a large selection of gilets in differing fabrics is going to set me back a bit here – and finding grass long enough to stand in rather than on, let alone a wheatfield, is going to be quite a challenge in Hackney.
  • Plus another bunch of menswear that, when recreated with my own wardrobe, just means jeans and a shirt every day.

The Measure

  • I popped over to the home of my internet-connected friends to Google most of this stuff in order to gauge how attainable/affordable it was going to be. The French Connection blouse looks lovely and is even more affordable given that I get 50% discount there thanks to my wunder-0-chum Adam, but aside from that every single thing (trainers, jewellery, bag) costs way more than I could afford, even given my determination to follow this experiment faithfully. Disappointing. I wonder how much the average Guardian reader earns?

Recipes

Brain and heart

  • I’ve mostly been avoiding cataloging the more emotional side of the advice in the Weekend magazine because I intend this blog to be more of an experiment about the do-ability of cooking, dressing and shopping as the Guardian suggests than about my psychological welfare each week. After all, there’s narcissism and then there’s narcissism. There’s some very good advice in this bumper happiness issue, by the looks of things, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to use my blog as a gratitude diary. What happens on tour stays on tour (in this scenario the tour is my internal life, and be happy it’s staying that way, since my internal life would probably have at least one thing in common with Aerosmith’s Get a Grip tour of 1993-94).

Make-up

  • No Lauren Luke! I’m relieved to have a break from uploading four close-ups of my face shot in bad light, and it’ll be nice to wear make-up that goes with the clothes I’m in. Only it’s mostly menswear this week, so looks like I’ll be bare-faced this week.

So the outfit today was just shirt and jeans for me as I don’t have a wide range of trousers to get it right. The photo was a little tricky, but my friend Thomas managed to get a pretty good snap of me hanging backwards off a park bench in some undergrowth. You can’t really see the clothes but since they didn’t match very well anyway today, the photo is really just for keeping up appearances.

After summer

After summer

 

Dafter summer

Dafter summer

Dinner for the evening was a very nice chicken pie recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi standing in for Hugh FW. The logistics of shopping with friends on the way home from the pub meant we were limited to Tesco Metro’s selection of ingredients. I used curry paste instead of harissa, boned my own thighs (…), replaced the sour cream in the pastry with soured cream dip (which seemed to work well) and used lemon zest instead of preserved lemon. Because it was late and we were hungry, I skipped the stages that called for letting things cool down – never my strong point anyway. All in all it tasted good – although better cold for breakfast the next morning.
Chicken pie

Chicken pie

Don't judge a book by its cover

Don't judge a book by its cover

I can tell how successful a recipe was by how much I wish I still had a slice in my fridge when I upload the photo later. This one’s making me slaver.
Conclusions:
  • There’s not enough grass in London. Or wheatfields. Could Agnes Denes pay a visit? Perhaps I should’ve popped to Dalston Mill for a photoshoot.
  • There aren’t enough cooking ingredients in Tesco Metros. They’re for those times you just need beer and some filled pasta things aren’t they. Planning, planning, planning.

Saturday 8 August

Posted in Fashion, First impressions, Make-up, Recipes, The Measure by guardiangirl on August 10, 2009

This week I was in good company for the grand moment of opening the Weekend magazine to see what magic was on its way – my friend Adam was up from Brighton for a few days. He’d already read the magazine that morning, lending the event even more ceremonial weight as he knew what was coming and I didn’t.

However the suspense was mainly in vain as this looked to be a pretty unremarkable issue.

So…First impressions

Fashion

Where’s the usual fashion story? There’s only All Ages to be seen this week. It’s quite a relief as these outfits tend to be much more wearable – not to mention the poses being infinitely more poseable. Plus it’s all black this week. What could be easier for the average girl? Adam had also very thoughtfully brought me a belt and geek-chic glasses frames so I could more accurately follow the fashions later this week… watch this space.

The Measure

Wide, pale belts

No complaints – a nice Jigsaw belt by the looks of things, although doubtless not cheap.

Hiking…

…boots with heels? Insert retching noise here. I guess the ones in the picture aren’t that bad, maybe with pale-ish skinny jeans and a baggy vest or something. Oh, I dunno, I’m sure I’ll like them if I see them often enough, but whether these will ever make it to the high street is questionable.

The Rachel Zoe Project

I see, it’s a TV programme, which is why I knew nothing of it when it was mentioned before (no TV). While I think this woman is pretty and I sort of want to be her in the same unthinkingly ridiculous way I sort of want my bum to look how it did when I was seven years old, I fundamentally hate everything this woman stands for and think she usually looks like a doll in a dishcloth. I can’t imagine it being in any way healthy for me to watch this programme, so it’s a damn good job I don’t have a telly. And I think buying one for this purpose goes too much against my time-spending ethics. I’d far rather spend three hours baking the perfect meringue for my Cotswold Mess or chopping parsley into 3mm lengths than spend three hours sitting on my rump watching a shiny-haired vacuum in an off-the-shoulder dress parade up and down a shop floor, or whatever goes on in Rachel Zoe’s Polly Pocket world*.

*I’m sure she’s a really lovely person, though. I’m sure she is. Only slightly responsible for getting a generation of 14-year-olds hooked on laxatives. We all have our flaws, after all.

Brown legs in white dresses; sea views and bougainvillea

Enough! I used up all my holiday this year already so my forthcoming five-day break in Hamburg will have to do. But my god, those words, so evocative.

Dallas

I’ve only ever seen Dallas in 2-min clips on Youtube so I might actually break through the paper walls of my Amish lifestyle and buy a cheap DVD player with a screen inbuilt so I can watch this box-set in bed. Whoopeee – hairspray, lipstick, drama. Oh heck, maybe I should start watching Rachel Zoe after all.

Moaning

So from now on, each time someone asks me how I am, the answer has to be ‘AMAZING’. This will be interesting. I don’t mind losing a few pennies or my self-respect during the course of this experiment, but I hadn’t planned to lose all my friends…

“Overboard”

No worries  –  I don’t own no deck shoes.

Thigh boots. On men

Hooray for not having a penis – it would be impossible for me to get this one wrong.

Bulky rolled-up sleeves

Damn it. I have bulky rolled-up sleeves about 94% of the time as I’ve recently found myself to be  consistently too hot and inappropriately dressed. Anyway I like the Duran Duranity of rolled-up sleeves. But this Warehouse blazer sounds nice so I’m willing to buy it in and give it a go if the rest of the week is relatively cheap.

Lauren Luke’s purple eyes

Yay! Those readers of this blog who bought the paper itself will know that Lauren looked really pretty with her indigo peepers this week, and I already have a fair amount of midnight-purpley eye make-up that I love wearing. So this is the only make-up look so far other than the Dita von Teese one that I’d naturally choose for my face. Thank the lord, it’s going to be a good week on the cosmetics front if nothing else. And talking of nothing else…

Fruity little numbers

Hugh has aggravated me this week (boo hoo, I hear him sob) by spending far too much time boiling fruits and berries. I don’t like boiling fruit and berries for a long time! It makes me uneasy to leave an unwatched pot, plus it uses up lots of money on my pauper’s electricity meter. I predict from the off that I won’t be making proper preserves as they also involve sterilising jars and waiting months to eat things. If I can’t wait ten minutes for chocolate sauce to cool, do you think I can wait four months to taste a drop of homemade Ribena? Tsk.

The new vegetarian

Yum, yoghurt pie, mmmmmm.

Black olive gougeres

Looking like something I’d love to eat and hate to bake. Is that most things? Possibly, but I’ll give these a whirl. Maybe they’ll be one of those things that fall into the category apparently defined by souffles (Nigella says so), whereby they seem tricky and impressive yet are basic to do as long as you follow the… oh, wait, you have to follow the recipe. That is tricky.

Wine

Quite reasonable, cheapish and easy-to-get-hold-of suggestions here.

This column will change your life

Looks like another one where you read Oliver Burkeman’s article, think how very interesting it is, stare into space with a wry/wistful smile for a while and conclude that what you can best take away from it is to continue in exactly the same vein as you were before. The kind of advice I like, really. However I will try to put more into the practice the wisdom discussed here about the relative futility of turning over a new leaf – especially given that I am such an avid turner over of leaves I’m practically a strong breeze. Hmm, symbolic.

‘It was a bit of a pipe dream’

As interors features go, probably not much for me to do here but stand in a sleeping bag and have my photo taken.

 

So all in all, the conclusions are that the fashion and make-up will be much as I would usually go for, the cooking is largely going to irritate me and encourage me into improvisations so far from the original recipe as to be humorous, and I might get to buy a few nice bits of clothing. Pretty simple, pretty dull, pretty all right by me.

After first impressions had been harvested and shared with Adam, cider had been drunk and crosswords had been laboured over in the sunshine, we decided to get a few jobs out of the way so we could relax. The first tasks to tackle were a belt from Jigsaw, as seen in the Measure, above, and the commitment to start saying ‘AMAZING!’ whenever I’m asked how I am. I can tell you, as I’m writing this account on Monday, that it feels very much at odds with my character to gush in quite this way so early in a conversation, but the phrase sticks like mud on a wall or whatever the right phrase is. Adam and I ended up describing pretty much everything as AMAZING! all weekend, which was much less irritating for us than for anyone in our vicinity, expecially since the ‘joke’ increased in volume and horsiness as it did in frequency. My mum called up just now for our usual Monday chat and when she asked how I was, I told her I was ‘AMAAAAZING’ and she sounded so mum-pleased, which made me feel guilty as I don’t actually have much to report and am not particularly amazing after all.

But rewind to Saturday and the belt. We were in Dalston and Jigsaw was in Oxford Circus or Charing Cross. Neither shop was moving towards us at any great pace and we were unwilling to move towards the shops, so we went into an internet cafe and ordered a belt online instead. With P&P added I spent about 30-odd quid on this belt, and it was even in the sale, I think! I forget the original price. Nice, though. They only had a medium one left, which makes me nervous. Apparently the belt has been dispatched, so in a few days’ time we’ll discover whether it fits. I hope so.

I spent most of saturday in my weekend slobbing clothes but changed into the Guardian outfit ready to go out later. We decided I looked like Sharon out of EastEnders in this get-up. Witness:

Sloane Square

Sloane Square

Albert Square

Albert Square

We were planning to go out to meet my bro at a night at which this outfit would, I reckon, have been very poorly received. Perhaps even dangerously poorly received. Luckily (although sadly in terms of not seeing my brother), Adam and I decided to lie on the bed and ask each other questions  from my Brainbox quiz (recommended for ages 12-13) before we went out, which sent us to sleep, and the outfit never made it further than the corner shop to buy gin for that night’s recipe….

…which was blackcurrant liqueur. Adam, usually a confirmed follower of rules with exactitude, was having a mini-break in Reckless World, so we decided we’d simply empty a bottle of vodka, a bottle of red wine, some sugar and two jars of blueberry jam (high fruit content stuff, mind) into a massive pan and heat it up for a while. Then we poured it over gin and ice and got pretty drunk. It was delicious, but it was like drinking jam, I warn you, in case you should decide to do the same thing yourself.
Blackcurrant liqueur

Blackcurrant

Abhorrent

Abhorrent

Conclusions:
  • Bit of an unexciting but restful-looking week – or is it just that I’ve been doing this experiment more than a month now and it’s wearing a bit thin?
  • Black outfits are easy to copy.
  • Purple make-up wins easily against green or blue.
  • Liqueur is fun to make in terms of mixing, but the sieving and cooling and sterilising sound more like vet training vocab than cooking words to me. Stay out of my kitchen, vet training!

Saturday 1 August

Posted in Fashion, First impressions, Make-up, Recipes, The Measure by guardiangirl on August 3, 2009

First impressions

It’s a good job I made it to the pub before opening the Weekend magazine this week because my worst fear had come true remarkably early in the experiment. The fashion shoot this week is swimwear.  I instantly thought of doing some Photoshopping in the name of magazine authenticity but I’m just going to shut up and get on with it. I’m here to represent those of us with meaty, meety thighs and no time to bake meringues for their Cotswold mess, and I ain’t going to abandon the cause now.

The All Ages fashion looks much the same as the past few weeks, as my Guardian-reading friend Shirley pointed out. Very grey, with lots of plaits and layered up garments. I guess the stylist, Priscilla Kwateng, has her aesthetic and that’s that. The shoulders are the main event this week – luckily we’ve been primed for this by The Measure. I wonder how carefully they plan all this. I don’t have many shoulder pads in my wardrobe – yet – but I’m sure I’ll be able to manage some weak version of these outfits by relying on the greyness and the plaitedness and the bunched-upness.

The Measure

Paper planes bag looks nice and I have a holiday booked later this month, so I’ll have a chance to test how much more vacational the whole experience feels with the officially appropriate product on my arm.

Zoe report, Jimmy Choo boots and men’s Louboutins are all future releases rather than current, for which I’m grateful. The likelihood of me being able to afford anything leather by Proenza Schouler is very small, so I’m not counting on this working out either.

Hilfiger slim leg jeans – finally I’ll be able to buy some jeans in my new size.

I’m glad I don’t have to wear the two-sided leggings and I can’t even discuss the office air-con in the public domain as it’s too politically controversial, and I risk having my head price-tagged by a shivering colleague.

Lauren Luke’s make-up

That eyeshadow looks hideous but I’m a rehead at the moment (a result of my failed attempt to become a blonette) so at least this make-up look is aimed specifically at me. I feel special.

Hugh’s recipes look good, simple and tasty this week. Marinating stuff is usually a problem for me by the time I get home from work, but even cooking meat using these ingredients should be nice and at least I have two weekend days to spend macerating food.

Yotam does tabbouleh this issue, which is usually a problem for me due to the presence of the Evil Ones but as usual I’ll substitute sunblush.

How to bake: yum yum yum.

Wine. I won’t make it to Berry Bros but at least there’s a bottle here from Waitrose. Oh wait, it costs £55. Get lost then.

Oliver Burkeman. The advice I’m taking from this article is to continue with whatever I was doing previously and not give a damn whether or not anyone finds it interesting.

Aspects of love. Aww, reading about the sibling bond makes me miss my brother loads. I’ll arrange to see him this week.

Space. In theory I could probably copy this a bit, if the theory was quite a generous one that is. But hang on, what’s that, a cactus room? I don’t think I have a cactus room but I’ll ask my butler to check.

So enough of my first impressions and on to what I actually had to do today. The first thing was to wear a checkerboard-style swimsuit contraption. Luckily I was out for the day so had no opportunity to change into my bikini until that night, when the sun was as set as Angel Delight and I was as drunk as my house guests. I waited until two had gone home and one was asleep before getting my kit off for the photo.

I’d like to add a disclaimer here (and to each post about swimwear). The purpose of this blog is not that I find pictures of bikini models and paste them next to photos of myself copying their poses. What kind of masochist would do that? Not this kind of masochist. There’s a wider context (see What is the point of this blog?, right). I find the whole thing thoroughly embarrassing but if you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound. I believe that’s the right idiom for the situation.

So, here goes…

Maximum exposure

Maximum exposure

 

Maximum humiliation

Maximum humiliation

Unlike most people I don’t own a chessboard swimsuit like the one the model’s wearing. I’ll have to join the crowd soon though, as that tan would be to die for with a nice set of lace undies on the first night with a new lover. Marriage proposals here we come!

Anyway let’s move on pretty quickly from that episode – only two more swimwear shots to get through before I can return to the suddenly reassuring task of being photographed in harem pants for the world wide web.

Next task for the day was to get me something from the paper planes collection by cloth-ears, mentioned in The Measure/above. I chose the travel charm because it was the cheapest thing and it’s pretty nice, although I can’t imagine attaching it to my phone, in all honesty. I usually recognise my luggage on the carousel anyway because it’s a ratty, falling-apart free gift from a conference held together with safety pins and tied with a yellow rag, among a sea of neat wheely cases from Debenhams or wherever you buy those things. I suspect most of them probably come from Beelzebub’s market stall. My mum always tells me how useful they are and I can believe it, but after a few years of following them down London escalators I have such negative associations I can’t even touch one without gagging. Anyway, my luggage charm is due to arrive at work this week, so that’s something to look forward to.

While I was using the internet at my friends’ flat to order the charm (I live in the Amish style with no computer, television, kettle, toaster, microwave or CD player)  I also took the opportunity to order some Hilfiger jeans, as I didn’t fancy making the mission into town to buy them on a saturday. I highly unrecommened the experience. I found the Victoria jeans mentioned in The Measure and thought they looked pretty horrible but I’m fast learning to suspend my disbelief in the name of compliance with the mass media. I then discovered they were only available up to a 32in waist, which isn’t big enough for me. My waist is considerably smaller than 32in but the bum, thighs and associated body parts (not quite sure what I mean by that but I’ll leave it in just in case anyone else does) that cause the problem, so I have to buy at least a size 14 or sometimes 34in waist men’s jeans in order to get a fit I can breathe in. This always does my head in. I mean, look at the picture of me in my bikini above (hard to believe I’m encouraging this but I have an important point to make and will always sacrifice my dignity to make a point). Fair enough I have a double chin and substantial thighs and all that, but all in all I’m no great chubber, am I. I’m a fairly normal-looking, well-rounded, healthy girl. I eat a lot of pastry and so on, but then I walk about 11 miles most days and I’m not a fool – I know roughly when to stop. So is it right that I’m considered too big for most designer jeans? I think it’s preposterous.

The skanky black colourway of Victoria jeans comes in a 33in waist though, so I decided to take the risk on those even though £80 is an expensive gamble. I was sure I could send them back if needs be.

The stupid online form and password system confused me and meant I had to re-enter my information FOUR times, after already having been made to feel like an ungodly whale. I tried to process the whole thing twice before i realised they only accept American Express, Visa and Mastercard or something anyway. So not only does this company penalise you for having good, strong, warrior’s thighs, it also penalises you for not being in enormous amounts of debt. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit now. In fact it was a happy outcome because I didn’t much want the jeans anyway – check out the unpleasant distressed effect at the ankles. But really, freedom of choice!

Another task for the day was attempting the green eyeshadow monstrosity of a look recommended for redheads by Lauren Luke this week. I so want to like Lauren Luke as she’s a ‘normal girl’ and she obviously knows her stuff, but some of the make-up just doesn’t look too nice to my eyes.

I copied it the best I coud anyway, using the usual eyeshadow primer to be really diligent about it. I don’t have any very bright green eyeshadow, for perfectly good reasons. If you have reddish skin, the last thing you ought to be doing is splashing the complementary colour of  red all over your face. I know it works if you use it as a cover up, but this is different.

It would be impertinent not to mention at this point an incident that happened when I was a teenager under the influence of magic mushrooms (sorry Mum). I’d been laughing so much at nothing much (tall people, fences, people of a normal height who somehow appeared very tall, etc) that I’d gone very flushed. I looked at my face in the pub mirror and saw red, red, red. At home I had one of those green colour-corrective primers to cover up my spots but I’d forgotten it that night, so i took out my Collection 2000 eyeshadow palette and spread my whole face with pearlised green powder, thinking it’d do the same job.  My best mate then came into the loo and found me standing there gazing at the mirror with a full-on, glinting layer of glittery green all over my face. Infinite hilarity ensued – so much so that the next woman to walk into the bathroom thought I was crying hysterically in distress and that my friend was bent over comforting me. She fussed over for us for god knows how long before realising the sad truth of our state. We later spotted a stray piece of toilet roll on a doorframe, which caused another hour or so of unbridled hysteria, but that’s another thrilling story for another thrilling post. All in all the point is this: I don’t tend to use pearly green eyeshadow much anymore.

Here are the pics:

 

Redhead

Redhead

And my greasy offering for this week:
Blackheads

Blackheads

Glamorous stuff. Gawd I need some decent concealer.
After all this tramatic photography I needed a good meal, as I’m sure you can imagine. I’d spent all day in the pub with my friends so I invited them back to sample the delights of Hugh’s marinade recipes. But I was hungry and drunk, and you know how it goes. What start off as the best marinating intentions soon turn into the irresistible compulsion to fry whatever it is you’re supposed to be marinating as quickly as is humanly possible and shovel it down the gullet. So that’s what I did. I served up some seafood mix first (couldn’t get fresh squid) and as I fried the second course (same ‘marinade’ but used to fry chicken) i could hear a lot of coughing coming from the other room. I say coughing, I mean choking, followed by inadequately stifled giggling and the sort of stage silences that come in between whispers. Instead of using a couple of chillies (too drunk to see them in the shop) I used half a tube of that fresh crushed chilli stuff and i think it nearly killed most of my guests. Being an accommodating host, I put less in the chicken, and people seemed to like it. In fact they seemed to like the seafood too. I suppose it was a sort of poor man’s sauna in a way.
I was a little too inebriated to remember to photograph the seafood to match Hugh’s picture, so took a photo of the chicken instead. It looks not completely dissimilar.
Marinated squid

Marinated squid

Fried chicken

Fried chicken

This is another vaguely Herschell Gordon Lewis-looking photo but again, the food was really tasty.
Conclusions:
  • Where do I even start today? First, denim companies need to design jeans for women who are bigger than a 32in waist. Evans and all that novelty fat-people’s clothes stuff just doesn’t do – it needs to be normal clothes in bigger sizes. Or else.
  • Cloth-ears has great customer service. Hilfiger ought to take a leaf out of that book and throw away its copy of Thin in A Fortnight or whatever it reads at the moment.
  • Green eyeshadow gets the thumbs down, just like blue eyeshadow did.
  • Marinating stuff may be great, but almost as great and much quicker is simply frying food in the marinade.
  • The quicker this swimwear phase is over, the better – and may it never return.