Sunday, January 27

Red skirt

skirt - Uniqlo / jumper - H&M / watch - Swatch

Eek. First foray in front of the camera. New-found respect for all fashion bloggers; outfit photos are really hard! Especially when there's winter lighting issues and you don't like your hair and you don't have a camera remote control so getting a good shot is a long & slow process. I think it's good to see the person behind the blog once in a while though, so here I am.

This skirt was a sales purchase from Uniqlo and it fits like a dream. It moves nicely as well - all kind of floaty and puffing out when I spin around in a circle. Block colours are the best - I'd love to replicate the wardrobe of The Hour's Bel Rowley. After lazing around in trousers for far too long I'm trying to make an effort to get back into tights, dresses and skirts, which is great until my legs start quivering with the cold.

Proper winter weather is fun but I'm relieved to get the feeling in my toes back. This week's plans include baking one hundred brownies (another commission), sketching (the cold snap took away all motivation to do anything but huddle), practising calligraphy with my new nibs, booking tickets to see the Manet exhibition, making marmalade with Seville oranges, and celebrating the end of January. What will you be getting up to?

Thursday, January 24

New clothes

Cream shirt, Uniqlo, £14.90
Black & white Breton, H&M, £7.99
Shift dress, Gap via charity shop, £2.50
Woolly cardigan, Mango via charity shop, £2.00
Cable knit scarf, Uniqlo, £7.90
Grey cords, H&M, £7.00

Some high street buys & some charity shop buys. Charity shopping is infinitely more satisfying because if you find one lovely item amongst rails of tat, you appreciate that item so much more.

I'm trying to make my wardrobe grow up a little - classic pieces, simple colours, simple cuts. Not giving up the Breton stripes though.

Now the purse needs to go away until spring is here and I can buy summer dresses galore...

Sunday, January 20


I don't much like British winters, but I do like the snow.

I like snow because it makes us stop and look at everything. Because it's clean. Because it's simple. Because it muffles out the suburban drone, reinstates the silence of the countryside. Because I remember childhood snow days, snowmen and snowball fights. Because of snowy Dickensian footprints along pavements and pathways, icing sugared rooftops and how everything is given a rounded edge. Because of dogs and horses with furry snow beards. Because it creates the perfect excuse to hunker down with hot chocolate and watch the snow fall slowly past the window.

I took these photos on Friday afternoon when the snow came flurried and fast, and work closed halfway through the day. It meant a walk home in a blizzard with my hardy DSLR and frozen feet. Everywhere was deserted and I was alone with that eerie silence as the snow built up thickly and steadily around me. I felt like I was in a fairy tale. It was magical.

Sunday, January 13

A stylish lady

I was in John Lewis yesterday when I noticed a very stylish lady standing near me. She looked just how I hope to look when I'm older (and it was nice to be inspired by somebody who isn't in their twenties for once). Monochrome colours - sounds dull but it worked - sharp lines, a brilliant hairstyle and the most gorgeous glasses.

I am full of that annoying January spirit - the one that makes you want to start afresh, yet stay under your duvet all day. I keep beginning lists of things to change, and then giving up and crawling back into my pyjamas. I need focus and sunshine. Oh spring, where are you?

Hope you all have a lovely week ahead. Keep warm!

Tuesday, January 8

Moroccan lamb & chickpea stew

Sometimes when I'm cooking dinner it goes wrong. I'm not in the mood. It takes me too long to decide what to make, my timing's out or I rush it and get stressed. I've learnt that the key is to decide and plan what I'm going to make early on in the day, instead of opening and reopening cupboard doors in desperation at 18:00. Then the cooking will hopefully go right - the thing I make is just what everyone feels like eating, or it satisfyingly uses up leftover bits of things in the fridge.

Today it was grey and dull and damp. I found some lamb in the fridge which needed using up and a can of chickpeas that had been knocking about in the cupboard for months. Some brightly coloured spices and a bit of simmering later and there was a big pot of bubbling lamb & chickpea stew on the hob. Just what was needed to put some colour into January's cheeks.

I sort of made this up as I was going along, so I decided to paint and blog the recipe so I can make it again.

To make the stew (serves 4)

350-500g lamb, diced (I used diced lamb shoulder)
1 to 2 tbsp plain flour
2 onions, finely chopped
3 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 to 2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp wild thyme
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can chopped tomatoes
500 ml stock (chicken or vegetable stock is ok if you don't have lamb stock)
1 can chickpeas
Cous cous, to serve

Trim any excess fat off the pieces of lamb. Coat the pieces of lamb with the flour.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan and brown the meat on all sides.
Once the lamb's well on it's way to browning, add the garlic, onion and carrot with a little more oil if necessary.
Once the veg is browning & beginning to soften and the onion is turning translucent, add the herbs & spices and mix well.
Add the chopped tomatoes, and mix again. Then pour in the stock and bring to the boil.
Simmer for 75 minutes, then drain and add the chickpeas.
Simmer for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with cous cous and green beans or fresh sliced greens.

I hope you all have enough colour in your cheeks this January. I have to admit, I'm counting down the days til spring.