Guardian Girl

Wednesday 12 August

Posted in Fashion, Make-up, Recipes, The Measure by guardiangirl on August 13, 2009
Lady

Lady

 

...and the Tramp

...and the Tramp

First things first – sorry about the impenetrable block of text below. I’ve gone through putting returns in three times and it still doesn’t work, so will investigate further and sort it out soon.

On this day in history… a simple black dress, ballet pumps and an up-do. Mercy me.

I have no white stockings with origami-like ruffles up the back, but can I be expected to? It’s another case of getting the details wrong, I’m afraid. I might soon resubtitle this project ‘My failure to succeed at becoming a Guardian cliche’, which, for a twenty-something, white, middle-class media professional, is really saying something about my ability to fail.
For all my recent bosating about getting better at doing my hair thanks to Priscilla Kwateng, today’s effort was a bit of a shocker. I pinned the plaits messily to my head so there were frizzy ends and kirby grips sticking out all over the place, and the top knot was more of a top tangle.
Before going home for the evening I had another little Measure mission to fulfil, which was buying the Dallas box set. Or one of them. I planned to find a burgundy silk blouse to really get into the spirit but the only one I found, in M&S, had no shoulder pads. That must be the first time I rejected a possible purchase on the basis that it didn’t have shoulder pads.
I found a kind-of wicked blouse in River Island with crazily big, frouffy shoulders and a nice print and shape, but it wasn’t very silky and or very burgundy – plus, after looking at my reflection for a while and hearing that American baseball game countdown music ringing in my ears,  I wasn’t sure if I was ready for such big shoulder puffs.
I was also haunted by a premonition (if that’s possible) of being sniggered at by my colleagues. I guess around Dalston no one would bat an eyelid but I like to be able to go to work dressed as myself, unedited in the main, and this top would have to get the red pencil. So I didn’t buy it. Incidentally I can’t find the blouse in question on the River Island website but the fact that they classify garments under the heading ‘bar tops’ says a lot about what’s wrong with a) River Island and b) bars.
I resisted another tempting purchase in HMV when I realised there are about eleven Dallas box sets, all at the bargain price of £12 each. I’m not even sure I like Dallas. Apart from some atavistic knowledge of Sue Ellen, who shot JR, the dream thing and the playground version of the theme song, I don’t actually have any familiarity with this programme. I might hate it, although it seems unlikely. So I was good, listened to my retail palpitations and just bought the one box for now.
I also bore in mind the impression it might make on visitors to my small flat when they walked in to discover that the only DVDs I owned consituted the entire history of Dallas, taking up half the sitting room. Bit weird, no?
The one remaining obstacle to success on this matter was that I didn’t have a DVD player or a laptop. I went to Argos and discovered you can get a portable player for £60, with the screen built in, so I bought it. This might sseem a bit financially irresponsible if considered in the context of needing to be able to watch Dallas to comply with The Measure, but I think it’s actually quite a wise purchase. At the moment I survive on a cultural diet of the Guardian (which already pulls more than its weight of influence on my life these days, that is quite clear), my record collection and Resonance FM.
These things are all fantastic in their own ways but they lend an austere atmosphere to my life compared to the days of old when I lived with two boys and got addicted to Dog the Bounty Hunter (purely my own doing). The addition of a film or two in the evenings would be nice, I admit, even if I won’t let a telly through the door.
So I took the DVD player home in the faith it’d add a little technological luxury to my life and baked mysefl a celebratory yoghurt pie.
So far I’ve found Yotam’s recipes to work pretty well even when followed lackadaisically, and this one certainly didn’t taste horrible. But there were a few things I did – or didn’t do – that marred the end result a bit.
First, I forgot to soak the vine leaves and thought it wouldn’t matter too much. But actually without blanching they were a little tough and very salty, as I used the ones in brine. I also missed the part about cutting off the tough bit at the stem, which is a shame as they made the pie difficult to slice – and chew. It was no real obstacle for me but I’m glad I wasn’t cooking for guests that night, as a slightly more fussy eater would have found this texture offputting.
The filling was nice, although a bit thick, I think because  I put too little yogurt in (ate the rest with honey while pie was in oven, surprise surprise). I couldn’t find all the herbs I needed in Sainsbury’s and the filling could have been seasoned better.
Also I topped the pie with a whole packet of dried breadcrumbs rather than only a tablespoon or two, because I thought they’d go off if I didn’t use them, and I don’t like to waste. I guess they would’ve frozen OK in retrospect, as bread does. I thought they’d go all crispy-gooey and lovely but the pie was altogether too dry and it just went very crumbly and sandy, really. Not great.
On the plus side, Yotam’s tabbouleh from last week, which I’d blasphemously made using couscous, made a pretty nice hot dish to go alongside the pie.
Pie

Pie

 

Dry

Dry

 

Mine actually looks kind of good in the comparison here, but only because I photographed my copy of the Weekend magazine so badly. I’m sure the favourable appearance wouldn’t stand up to a taste test.
And finally, this week’s Lauren Luke look.
I’ve really been enjoying this, actually. The photos don’t illustate what it actually looks like but I have some lovely purple Lancome eyeshadow and am finding for once that the primer Lauren suggests is really making a difference to how bright the colour looks and how long it stays on. I like wearing black eyeliner on just the lower lids – it makes me feel, if not look, a bit Bambi eyed. And the addition of some pink lipstick (in my case free lipgloss off the front of Zest magazine about five years ago) is making my face look like more of a sweet shop than a sweat shop for a change, rather than the usual pelted-by-tom-thumb-drops-travelling-at-high-speed look (see last week’s if you don’t know what I mean).
Violet

Violet

Violent

Violent

 

Special gratitude this week to Michelle, who did my photoshopping for me from all the way across the globe in Korea because my new design regular Jonny is poorly. AMAZing girl.
Conclusions:
  • Blanching vine leaves makes all the diffference, I imagine.
  • I’m getting a bit tired of the limited scope of the Sainsbury’s fresh herb selection. Isn’t everyone using them since Jamie Oliver started ripping them up and bunging them in everything? I’m sure they’d sell fine.
  • Experimentation with quantities isn’t always going to work – and with dry breadcrumb topping it didn’t.
  • River Island has the odd nice blouse. As always with that shop, though – stay away from naked flames.
  • Can’t wait to climb into bed early of an evening with that night’s recipe and a new episode of Dallas. Does this mean I’ve become old before my time? Undoubtably.
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Wednesday 5 August

Posted in Fashion, Recipes, The Measure by guardiangirl on August 6, 2009

I left the suggested hat and necklace at home today and went to work in a toned-down version of the  below outfit, then got dressed up in the right stuff for my photo later. I just would have felt too stupid in a train driver’s cap decorated with a brooch and my neck draped with a golden snake (my closest bit of jewellery to the picture), walking around the office like some kind of beefed-up Bubble out of Absolutely Fabulous. Some stuff translates fairly well into workwear and people in the office are used to me looking very slightly odd so it’s usually no big deal. But there have been days when I’ve been nervous just getting up to go to the vending machine, and today could’ve been one of them. Plus I think it’s kind of rude to wear a hat indoors, unless it’s a baseball cap.

The problem with the toned-down version is that I ended up looking like a cross between a Bulgarian office worker and a ’70s psychology student. Not that I have anything against Bulgarian office workers. Some of my best friends are Bulgarian office workers. Not actually best, best friends, but I’ve been over to  stay with them, had a wonderful time and loved everyone I met more than I do on the average trip. But you know that thing of wearing slightly odd, staid outfits like a pair of slacks with a matching turtleneck and then tying a scarf over the top? That’s what I looked like. But again, my workmate Cari liked it, curiously, so each to their own I suppose.

Here’s a photo of the proper attempt at copying the look, complete with hat blending into background. Witness the sweat patches, which I decided not to hide in the interests of documenting the realities of life. I was very hot walking home in the muggy air and I didn’t want to take off the jacket and scarf because tight grey jeans, a tight grey top and grey walking trainers? Bleurgh. I do sometimes bump into people I know on the way home from work. And buses filled with people I might half know from my area go past at a rate of about 20 per journey. Sorry, I realise I’m really waffling here so I’ll cut the crap and paste the photo.

Shoulders

Sweat it out

 

My brother came round for dinner, which was lovely, and on the menu for the evening was Yotam Ottolenghi’s tabbouleh. This led to my most rebellious act thus far, which was actually doing something I’d been told directly not to do. Terrible. I went looking for bulghur wheat in Sainsbury’s and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Maybe it’s hiding with the seeds. My brother was about to arrive and I had no time for trekking up to Fresh n Wild to look for the perfect grain so I started thinking what I could replace it with. And since Yotam had baulked at the idea of using couscous, of all things, I had couscous on the brain. It was like when someone tells you to Not Look Now when a very tall person walks past – perhaps taller than 6′ 7″ even. So I hit the big – shockingly big – couscous section of the supermarket and bought loads of Ainsley Harriot ready mixes and some cheap Sainsbury’s versions – plus a load of ready-made couscous salads, too. I wasn’t taking any risks as I’m traditionally very bad at cooking couscous (it has measuring in it), and I thought I’d rely on someone else’s abilities to make sure the whole meal wasn’t a damp, soggy, tasteless mush. Then I ate two of the salads on the way home. These are my problems, really. I’m so impatient and I have such an infinite appetite. But at least I wasn’t crotchety by the time Mark arrived and we had two other salads to serve up, plus a couscoused-up tabbouleh.

The other misbehaviours I did were a) not chop the herbs properly – again very much against the warnings of Yotam – and b) not wash the herbs properly enough. I thought I was thorough but I should know by now that my benchmarks for thoroughness are set at about half the strength of most people’s. I nearly broke a tooth on a bit of grit. Ech, I don’t even like to think back on it.

Luckily this was right at the end of the meal during second helpings, so it didn’t put us off. I think it was an isolated grit particle. Maybe it came out of Ainsley’s couscous. Better not say that; I’m sure it didn’t.

Again, I’m rambling like ze Wordsworth here so I’d better quit it and show you the pictures, then sign off.

Tabbouleh

 

Couscous

Not bad, eh, but you can see the poorly chopped herbs there, looking like trees. In a moment of horror I realised I’d forgotten to photograph the dish but luckily there was enough left over to get this shot. I put the rest of it in the freezer to languish with all the other probably unfreezeable leftovers I reheat for unsuspecting guests these days. It is working out to be much more economical than expected, making the effort to cook each evening.

To be true to The Measure I checked out Proenza Schouler stuff online and discovered my suspicions were not only true but exceeded – the cheapest leather thing on Net-a-Porter was a ‘pochette’ (a small bag in which posh women keep their doubloons) for about fifty million (660) pounds. So I didn’t get it. I keep my doubloons in a mouse’s stomach I stretched and cured at the orphanage, which has lasted me all this time.

Conclusions:

  • Take your hat off indoors, young lady.
  • Chop proper.
  • About seven promotions lie between me and the pochette.

Monday 4, sorry 3, August

Posted in Fashion, Recipes by guardiangirl on August 4, 2009

Today was the last day of my bikini wearing and I’m afraid I chickened out slightly and wore a vest for my photo. Mind you that’s pretty much the closest thing I have to the ridiculous garment the model’s wearing. I imagine most people would just be slightly irritated if you walked past them in that swimsuit by the pool at your average all-inclusive. There might be the odd cry of ‘Borat!’ as well. If I tried to wear it I’d look like a cross between Linda Lusardi and a trussed-up chicken, which is rarely the effect I’m looking for.  Never say never, though.

As a footnote, I didn’t go to work in this. I would be sent home and it’s a busy time. I put a little black dress and a jacket on. Know your limits.

Get a black swimsuit

Get a black swimsuit

Get a black cloak. Please.

Get a black cloak. Please.

 I wasn’t really into the pose but I did kind of try, a bit. You can’t see it properly in the photo but I was holding a wooden owl who’s made a previous appearance in this blog. He’s my one ornithological prop.

And that’s it! No more swimwear. For the time being, at least, and here’s hoping.

The photo was taken by dear Liv, who came over for dinner. We had another of Hugh’s marinades, with lamb (a combination of chops and kebabs to try out both his suggestions) served with green salad that tasted as if Sainsbury’s had washed it in mould, pitta bread, hummus and tzatziki. By the time I met Liv I’d already eaten most of a packet of pitta bread, I was so hungry. I bought that and some wooden skewers from the Turkish supermarket but it closed its shutters mid-shopping list, hence my escape to Sainsbury’s. Sadly this is the power of the global conglomerate. It can afford to stay open until I’ve walked home from Paddington to Dalston.

Once home I polished off most of the dips while Liv chatted to a bus tour guide on the phone. I did save her some though. The eating of the dips meant we were able to wait at least haf an hour for the lamb to marinate but we had to eat and digest before bed and couldn’t give it much more than that. I could make these marinades and add the meat in the morning before work, but we all know that time is for sleeping and plaiting one’s hair into complicated styles.

The lamb came put pretty nice, if a bit less tasty than his other recipes so far (see the previous few posts). Also not sure about grated onion. I think it gave the yoghurt a bitter taste. The lamb was tender though. Not bad; not the best.

Conclusions:

  • Thank the gods and goddesses for the end of beachwear week.
  • Marinades probably do work better if you have time to leave them a while.
  • Onions are made for chopping or slicing more than grating.