Friday, 18 November 2016

BODEN BASICS

 



 


I mean, I say basics but they're not really basics, they're classics, but I wanted a word that started with 'B' because, ALLITERATION.

I'm a quest shopper.  When I wanted sandals this summer I did extensive research (Googled and used Shopstyle, so hardcore) to see what my options were, then I bought lots of pairs of sandals and sat in sandal anticipation waiting for them to come.  Then when they arrived I made I spreadsheet (I know) to write down my thoughts and feelings, and then I sent back every pair but one.  Swedish Hasbeens in case you're wondering.  I've been doing the same thing with cropped black flares.  I wanted them high-waisted but with pockets so I could tuck in tops without feeling like I was wearing leggings.  I'm not very bum-confident.  I tried so many pairs.  I thought I'd nailed it with the Dorothy Perkins ones I bought at the beginning of the year - first time I've been in a DP since 1999 - but I was kidding myself.  They're too short.  I'm not particularly tall, but on this quest I've discovered my legs are too long for regular length cropped trousers - that sentence makes no sense.  I'd all but given up when I saw that Boden were selling some and you could get them LONG.  A fucking men.  The reviews were good - I love clothing sites that have reviews, and Boden is particularly good for this as their customers can be brutal, and surprisingly detailed.  A lot of people commented on how wonderfully thick and stretchy the fabric of the trousers are, and I concur.  I know that's maybe not something you think you want in trousers, but you do.  They feel sturdy.

The rest of my outfit is also Boden - these shoes are patent perfection; Boden have so many different iterations of a breton top it's quite astounding; the leather jacket is one of theirs I've had for ages, and their necklaces are always a good length.  Again, not something you think you want, but it matters.  It. 
Matters. 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE

 

The perfect chocolate chip cookie is extremely difficult to achieve.  There are a lot of different theories regarding the type of sugar you should use, whether or not to melt the butter, should you add baking powder?  I've made many batches of cookies and I've never been completely satisfied.  I think the best cookies in the world are the Kirkland ones you buy in big plastic trays from Costco.  And I know I'm not the only person to have this opinion.  Whenever I'm there and they bring out a fresh stack there's a scramble to get a pack of just the chocolate chip ones.  You don't want to get stuck with a pack of mixed cookies - white chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin squeezed alongside the immaculate chocolate chip ones.  There's nothing wrong with a bit of oats in your biscuit, and white chocolate can be incredible, but they're so disappointing in comparison to the genius of the plain chocolate ones.  

I've studied the ingredients list of the Kirkland cookies - nothing too special, no secret there.  And I've tried out some of the re-creation recipes people have posted online.  Meh.  Part of the problem is that classic chocolate chip cookies are an American product, so a lot of the ingredients are difficult to translate to a UK shopping list.  E.g. shortening.  And if I'm honest part of the appeal of the Kirkland cookies is that they use chocolate that's a bit plastic in texture.  There's something about its melting point means it always seems to be soft, even when you store them in the fridge.  But, long story short, after testing and tweaking some recipes I've found my perfect chocolate chip cookie.  They're big, soft, crisp and chewy.  Just how I like my men - what?  They might not be your ideal, but if that's the case I suggest you try tweaking this recipe till you get what suits you.


INGREDIENTS
  • 200g Plain flour
  • 200g Self-raising flour
  • Pinch of good quality sea salt
  • 170g Salted butter
  • 200g Light brown soft sugar
  • 100g Granulated sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 200g Dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%, despite what I said above about rubbery chocolate) whack the packets on the kitchen counter to get big chunks
  • OR 100g chocolate and 100g of something else you want to flavour them with e.g. salted peanuts.
Heat the oven.  See, this is where it could all fall apart.  My oven runs hot so I heat it to about 160 (centigrade), but if your oven always correlates with recipes I suggest 180.  If you're at all nervous err on the side of having it cooler, you can always cook them for a minute or two longer.

Melt the butter in a pan or in the microwave.  Measure out the flours into one bowl (no need to sift) with the sea salt.  When the butter has melted add the sugars and the vanilla extract to it.  Leave the sugar/melted butter mix for half an hour so it cools down.

While it's cooling whack the packs of chocolate against the counter so they break up into chunks, then open the packs and snap the biggest chunks into smaller pieces.  Not too small though, bigger is better. When the half hour of cooling is up beat in the egg and egg yolk to the butter and sugar mix with an electric whisk.  Mix in the flours and chocolate chunks with a wooden spoon.

Roll the dough into balls - mine weighed about 75g.  Then flatten them so they're about 1.5cm thick.  Put them on a flat baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.  They will spread slightly.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  I like mine quite underdone, I would always recommend doing a test cookie to see if you want to cook them for longer.

Leave them to cool until the chocolate has set and you can easily lift them up.  Then fill them with ice cream and live the dream.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

HIGHBROW LOWBROW EP 2: IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT + POLDARK

 

Episode two of my podcast with the excellent Caspar Salmon.  This time he introduces me to the highbrow-ish-ness of It Happened One Night and I make him sit through an episode of Poldark.  Or should that be Podlark?  One of these two things we really love, one of them we really hate, can you guess which is which?


You can listen below, or download it here, and it should also be on iTunes soon I PROMISE.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

HIGHBROW LOWBROW EP 1: WAYNES WORLD + CAMERAPERSON


My great friend (and excellent writer) Caspar Salmon and I have started a podcast where we introduce each other to some of our favourite TV, films, books and possibly even music.   Only problem is Caspar is far more intelligent and cultured than I am, so you can imagine the japes that ensue!  In this first episode I force Caspar to watch Wayne's World, and he takes me to see Cameraperson, a documentary by Kirsten Johnson.  You can listen below, or download it here, and it should also be on iTunes in the next few days once they've sorted their shit out.  

Also, for Anne T. Donahue fans (I'm one) we will do another episode of Pilots Podcast at some point, but she's really busy and successful and I am happy basking in the glow of her female power.  

Enjoy!



Monday, 5 September 2016

MY SHOP


I'm doing a bloody massive wardrobe clear out and giving tonnes to charity, but some of the bits that I really love I'm selling at my shop here.  I'm going to keep adding to it as I sort, so you might want to check back in.  Also if there's anything you really want but it's too expensive, email me on summercampband@gmail.com and we might be able to sort something out!

There is a furry cape on there.  And glittery shoes.  And a dress I wore on stage a lot when we started the band, but I promise it's clean!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

APPLAUSE FOR NEW BODEN

 



 


Boden's new stuff is like Lily Savage meets Francoise Hardy, but, you know, in a good way.

My favourite bits include...

This excellent autumn coat which brightens up the horrible weather we're having.
These patent mary janes with a very walk-friendly heel.
A bloody marvellous linen t-shirt.  I know.  Linen.  I want it in every colour.
This striped shirt dress which is both excellent colours and looks supremely comfortable when you're having a bloated day.
This pencil skirt, I'm wearing it above in leopard print, but I'm a big fan of the gingham.
I also desperately want these high heel loafers, I'm worried I wouldn't be able to walk in them but also I don't really care?
And finally a necklace in csarite WHAT IS CSARITE?  I know it's a hue of green but it sounds a bit like some sort of cream you'd put on an icky rash.

That's all for now, more of my shopping lists as and when they happen. 

Thursday, 25 August 2016

HOLLYWOOD'S NEW UNHINGED WOMEN

 

Warning: contains spoilers for season two of Fargo, season one of Mr. Robot and the movie Gone Girl. 

In the history of TV and film, there is a short list of stereotypes to which female characters conform. Even in modern, critically acclaimed productions, women often end up playing supporting roles: either as a wife holding the family together while the flawed, nuanced and over-written male lead sucks up all the juicy stories, or as a love interest adding sex appeal and sensitivity as we once again witness the eternal struggle of being young, white and male in this world.

In the last few years we've seen that start to change. Shows like Orange Is the New Black and Broad City have women acting mean, failing and doing poos. Women who have issues, but issues that don't mean they show up at their ex's house in the rain, sobbing uncontrollably while holding out a photo of what their baby would look like, snottily singing Adele. These new TV women are messy and chaotic, and they only seem manic and pixie-like when they're really, really high. 

The thirst for these kinds of character is growing with each TV season, and comedy actresses, in particular, have broken down the door to allow darker and more morally ambiguous characters in drama. In particular, a new type of female character has emerged, made up of glamour, instability and eyeshadow. These are women who are unmerciful in their actions and unbalanced in their temperament, but always look like they just stepped out of the salon.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

"DUNGAREE DRESS" OR "PINAFORE"?


 




A pinafore, like the green and white check one I'm wearing here, (which I got in the Urban Outfitters sale.  Similar here) is actually an apron, according to Wikipedia.  And it's supposed to be "protective".  In America they're actually called jumper dresses (is that correct American friends?!)  This is already far too confusing.  

Meanwhile the dungaree, or overall, or over all, or overalls, or bib-and-brace overalls, or party bibs - my new favourite name for them - are also supposed to be something you wear to shield the clothing underneath.   Ideal for people who do work that might mess up their nice white shirts, or are like me and find chocolate marks all over their tops.  Even when I haven't eaten any chocolate.  Since the 1960s cool people of the world have worn them to be cool because that is what cool people do.  Some of my favourite overall/dungaree wearers in pop culture are listed below.

1. Lake Bell's character Donna in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp
2. Sasha Jenson's character Don (wait, Don, Donna?!) in Dazed And Confused 
3. Heather O'Rouke as Carol in Poltergeist 
4. Larisa Oleynik as Alex in The Secret World Of Alex Mack 
5. Mary Louise Parker as Ruth and Mary Stuart Masterson as Idgie in Fried Green Tomatoes

By the way if you have Netflix I recommend the behind the scenes mini doc made when they filmed the original Wet Hot American Summer in 2001.  It's called Hurricane of Fun: The Making of Wet Hot and is worth it if only to see a youthful Bradley Cooper talking about the role - his first out of acting school. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

STYLE DISSECTION - THE SHINING


There isn't much I can say about The Shining which hasn't already been said.  It has been dissected so many times, and from so many different angles, that it's almost surprising the film hasn't been reduced to chunks of orange carpet and splinters of wood from hacked up doors.  And what's most intriguing, and equally frustrating, is that most of these discussions about Kubrick's masterpiece are open-ended and unverified.  How long did shooting take?  How many times did Shelley Duvall do the scene on the stairs with the baseball bat?  Did the author of the book it's based on, Stephen King, hate it and then change his mind?  Or did he just have to say he changed his mind because of a legal clause and then when Kubrick died he ignored that and went back to bad-mouthing it?  Why is Danny in two different positions in the same scene on *that* carpet?  Surely someone as notoriously meticulous as Kubrick wouldn't do that as a mistake?  So what does it mean?  Why does Jack's typewriter change from white to blue?  Or is it blue to white?

And that's not even scratching the surface.

There are a few things we do know for certain.  Shooting was arduous, with endless script changes.  Shelley Duvall was pushed to her emotional limits by Kubrick.  Jack Nicholson shouted and jumped around with his axe to get into character before filming the "here's Johnny!" scene.  And the set of the hotel is purposefully designed to not make any sense - ballrooms too big for that building, corridors that lead nowhere, fridge doors that open both ways.

If you feel like there's more you want to explore about Kubrick's masterpiece then I recommend the documentary Room 237.  Well, I say recommend - personally I found it completely bonkers and disagreed with most of the content.  But I think I'm in the minority.  However there is one theory presented in that film which I kept thinking about when I saw The Shining again recently - the Native American connection.  There are references in the film that the hotel is built on an Indian burial ground, and the hotel itself is decorated with lots of Native American motifs.  For example in this room.