Tuesday, 29 March 2011

I've had a very productive day. I've created a lot of washing up, done a lot of washing up, done some baking, read a wee bit and read at least one text I'm planning to use for my essay. So much for having an essay plan done by the end of the day.

But the good thing about this day is the introduction of these French Muffins into my life.

But stop right there. Before you read any further, load up this song and have it playing while you continue reading. It's light, airy and springlike, just like these morning muffins.

I converted the recipe using Calculate Me, and changed a few things about it. I added a bit more nutmeg and cinnamon than the recipe stated, as I thought the flavour would be too light. I also added a small teaspoonful - or thereabouts - of olive oil, which I think gives it a more muffiny texture (rather than a cupcake... there's a difference, trust me). Furthermore, I saw the ingredients for the topping and mixed them all together, making a syrup, rather than dipping the muffins into the melted butter and then into the sugar/cinnamon mix. Then I added a few drops of lemon juice to the syrup, which was an inspired addition because the bitterness of the lemon combated somewhat the sugariness of the topping. Because I liked the look of the white sugar encrusting the golden muffins, I made a sugar/cinnamon mix anyway and sprinkled it over the syrupy tops, letting it stick to it and give a nice layer of crunchiness on top. These are best served warm.

Do you ever have it when you find yourself making something, absentmindedly pulling ingredients down from shelves, putting a pan on the hob, humming to yourself and suddenly realising you have chocolate all over your hands?

This afternoon I was reading for my essay (read: listening to Nouvelle Vague and reading Paris Weekends) when I just got up, wandered downstairs and started making things.

First, I grated milk chocolate and dark chocolate.

Heated some milk on the aga.

Added the grated chocolate.

I decided to add lumps of chocolate, to make the mixture creamier and thicker (also grating was taking ages and getting chocolate everywhere).

Then I added a pinch of nutmeg, of cinnamon and of ginger, and about 2 teaspoons of dark soft brown sugar.

 Now, this is real hot chocolate. And now I have melted chocolate all over my camera.

Monday, 28 March 2011


Watch that, and listen to this:

London today, for an interview at Pleasance Theatre. Took the camera, found a few London friends, had coffee, an Oreo milkshake, a cigarette. Got a number of interesting heckles throughout the day, including a marriage proposal from a schoolboy. Explorations: down Marylebone, the length and breadth of Angel, Islington, and some of Camden, Baker Street and a touch of Portobello.

This busker was in Liverpool Street, I think.

 What I liked about this guy was that he was dressed quite trampy - all dark hues, patchy, sort of grubby-looking coat, trousers too short (seemingly in an ill-fitting way, not as a style choice) -  but he was wearing these beautiful, brown, leather brogues. I got the brogues in a different picture but the quality was worse so I decided to put this one up. He seemed completely out of it; don't think he realised he was being photographed.

This guy, however, knew he was being photographed. Not sure he was too pleased about it. I just liked the jaunty way he sat on the rental bikes. Just opposite the street from this was a man doing some building work on the glass side of a tall building - or maybe he was window-washing?- and he was swinging on a plank, quite carefree. It was lovely. I have a photo but it's not zoomed in and I have yet to work out how to do that on my computer. It was fine just looking at it on the camera.

Friday, 25 March 2011

I've been so looking forward to going home for a long time now, but you do get attached to your university town, and by god, I'm going to miss my city in the holidays.

The other day I wandered around the town in the late afternoon sunlight, watching students fund-raising in fancy-dress, eavesdropping on French tourists and trying to get to grips with my camera.

Expect more touristy photos soon.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

This woman is beautiful.

I mean, come on. How is this fair? She fulfils just about every stereotype of a gorgeous French woman. I'm pleased to see her championing the use of hats. It's a shame that you don't see men donning their fedoras before they go out, or women in a sophisticated cloche as they walk down the street any more. Wearing a hat today is a definite style choice, one that marks you out. Wearing a hat is suddenly a very inventive fashion statement, but you have to be so careful, else it might seem like you just wandered out of the period costume shop. Millinery is so easy to get wrong. It can make or break an outfit just like that, but Lou Doillon has got it down.

What else is fabulous about Lou Doillon? Her half-sister is Charlotte Gainsbourg. These French family trees!

Please can I be in this family? It's the pouty jawline, the oh-so-French middle partings and shiny, shiny dark hair. Understated glamour. I love the trench coat shoot she did for Harpers Bazaar.

Watch her in I'm Not There, the Dylan biopic. She's breathtakingly beautiful, in all the post-coital shots of her and Heath Ledger, or when they're driving the car or riding the motorbike together. Such a beautiful film.

And the symbol of the modern, laidback, urban and androgynous Frenchwoman is their mother: Jane Birkin. Now that's what people in the horse world call good stock.

(Maybe the secret is a heavy fringe under which to pout seductively and blink your big, dark eyes?)

Monday, 21 March 2011

Not long until Paris. I'm counting down the days.

Staying in an apartment off the Blvd. Saint Marcel, Les Gobelins mètro.

I'm going by myself for 4 days and then my mother is joining me for about 3.

I'm going back to that one patisserie by St Paul, and the tapas bar San Pablo near it.
What else? Trying to find that lingerie shop in the Odéon quartier, taking a cheap bottle of wine to the parc Belleville, watching the guys playing basketball and the sun set over  the city while sitting on the walls.  Shakespeare and Co.

And I'm going to try and find a few new things - after all, I already know my favourite spots in Paris. Let's explore further. Else I'm missing out on a huge range of new favourite spots.

I've already got a list sorted (yes, yes, I know - my penchant for lists is bordering on obsessive).

I'm taking my camera - a Nikon d40 - and my diary, and recording it every step of the way.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

I love this Stella McCartney print; it's popping up everywhere. This picture is where it was featured on the Sartorialist, although he didn't mention the label. I think it's so lively, but it's not just the colours - there's a clear picture on the fabric. I think I love it so much because it ought to be a pattern on a tablecloth. And it's not. It's on a skirt. And that's just awesome.

Got a big fascination with royal colours at the moment - forest green, a deep velvety purple... All this King's Speech mania, I suppose.

What am I giving up for Lent? Nothing, but I am trying to re-instil discipline into my life. This time last year, I was obsessive, and very unhappy: I had huge food-guilt constantly, hated the way I looked (completely unnecessarily) and was obsessive over exercise. Now, it's completely the other way, which is a very good thing, don't get me wrong. I love the way I look and I'm very comfortable with myself, and most of all, I'm happy. But it does mean that I've lost any discipline I used to have. If someone offered me 'bad' food last year, I could turn it down easily. Now, I'll take it gladly, whether I'm hungry or not.

So I'm not giving anything up directly, nothing so hard-and-fast as that. But I'm reintroducing some parameters into my life:

  • Don't eat unless you're hungry.
  • Alcohol in moderation.
  • No second helpings.
  • Eat more slowly, so you can tell when you're full.
  • Try, try, and please try to do a little bit of exercise every day. Even if it's just yoga.
  • DRINK MORE WATER. (I tend to subsist until evening on the litre of coffee I have every morning, barely drinking other liquids during the day. This is baaaaad).
  • Lunch is a small meal, which will make dinner earlier, which is better for you. (I have a European habit of eating dinner at 9pm, or even later).
  • You can have as much junk food as you like - if you make it yourself. This means I won't be buying any croissants, muffins, or Millie's cookies when I'm out and about. But when I get home, I'll be baking Oreo muffins (http://www.handletheheat.com/2010/02/cookies-cream-cheesecake-cupcakes.html), Florentines (http://www.foodbuzz.com/blogs/3337097-florentine-cookies), and delicious Orange Drizzle Cake (http://ginandcrumpets.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/orange-drizzle-cake/) to my heart's content. 

I'll tell you how it goes. So far, I've come to realise that I have lost any semblance of self-control I once had, so even simple parameters are going to be harder than I thought.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Wore sunglasses yesterday.

It's always momentous, the first time in the year that you get to dust them off. And, darn it, I'm always hopeful about the smell of summer in the air, but spring is at least on its way now (you can see crocuses popping up everywhere), so summer ain't too far behind.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Important post by Alexander Wright of Belt Up theatre - take a look here: