Guardian Girl

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.
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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.