Thursday, 30 June 2011

Dog's Breakfast

Oh how we laughed our heads off at the cream of the country's up and coming business talent in The Apprentice last night as they were asked to dream up and market a luxury biscuit. The guillotine beckons....

Pass the Laduree darling!

                                                               That's more like it! 

These beautiful biccies were a gift from Gordon and Lee. The pretty macaroons are much copied now but no-one has managed to capture the perfectly lovely colours.... 

...or elegant powder-blue packaging.

Makes me long for Paris... ahhhh

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Nice work Mr Black

Harvey Nichols have been shooting fashion here for the last couple of days; very cool, stylish and friendly bunch. Darren Black was the photographer - this is an image from his website - nothing at all to do with what they were photographing here, promise, but it caught my eye and I thought I'd share it with you. (There's lots more where this came from if you're interested.)

'See you later Brian! Got your Lucozade Sport? And don't forget to warm up this time.'

Birthday Parade

Okay girls...

are you ready?

and... GO!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Top Tourist Tip - and it's free!

I like to think of the dazzling One New Change and all its shops and restaurants, slap bang next to St Paul's Cathedral as my local shopping centre. Its not really. Morrisons and CarpetLand at the end of the road are but I like to PRETEND that it is. If I had a flat in the Barbican it would be a pleasant stroll away but on Sunday morning you can fly there in ten minutes in the Volvo and nab the best parking space in town for free.

The gleaming escalators glide you down to a tranquil M & S food hall with more staff than customers. All the other shops are open too, but pretty much deserted on a Sunday; it feels like being a figure in an architects drawing. Ed and I took in some tennis on an enormous TV screen; dozens of pristine striped deck chairs laid out on an Astroturf lawn, we ate strawberries in the cool while centre court sweltered.  
Designed by French architects Jean Nouvel the building is a stunner. Nicknamed The Stealth and with 6,000 shaded, smokey glass panels set at different angles like a huge faceted crystal it almost disappears into the grey London sky and in my opinion (but not Prince Charles's) sits in perfect contrast beside the imposing dome of St Paul's (actually designed by Wren to appear even larger and more dominant than it actually is). 
A ride up to the 6th floor in the glass elevator is the most exciting trip I've made in a long time and on Friday evening, after dinner at Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa for Ed's birthday we had the entire roof to ourselves with the most incredible views over the cathedral and the whole of London. 
Highly recommended.

Friday, 24 June 2011

A Passion for Princi

After Monday's miserable shopping experience we went to Princi in Wardour Street for lunch. I love it there. It's big, it's noisy, you have to serve yourself.. then queue for a seat, but it has a great Milanese buzz and a perfect selection of Italian salads and cakes. The interior has been built to last with monumental hewn-stone counters and marble clad walls. There is a wood-fired oven for the bread and pizza in the bakery next door, with a roomful of logs stacked neatly to the ceiling. We took the boys there one evening and had a few glasses of Rose while they strolled up and down the lengthy cake display. Ed returned carrying a large square of cheesecake topped with a vivid, glassy layer of passion fruit jelly. I have never tasted anything like it! The zing of the passionfruit electrified those taste buds buried deep in your jaw that are only triggered by the most mouthwatering of flavours. It was so incredibly tangy that Brian thought it bordered on the painful, giving the boys another perfect opportunity to call him a gay pussy.

The cake counter at Princi London
The passionfruit cheesecake was just what we needed to bring us round after the comatose swimwear shopping experience, and it's exhilarating taste was undiminished the second time round. I had a go at making it last night. Here's how I got on.

I have a cake tin that's about 25cm square. I lined it with two plastic food bags laid across the bottom of the tin and overlapping the sides as I anticipated it might be tricky to remove the fragile cake from the tin once complete. (Ha, thinking ahead this time after the frozen solid lemon skin episode.) Then make a biscuit base by melting 100 grams of butter in the microwave and combining with about 10 crushed digestive biscuits. You can add the grated zest of an orange to this if you cba. Push the mixture flat into the tin. It should be about 0.5cm deep. Chill in the fridge. The next stage was experimental but it turned out OK: Pour 300ml of milk into a small saucepan stir in 150 grams of caster sugar. Sprinkle a teaspoon of vegetarian jelly crystals on to the milk and gently heat. Stir all the time. It goes gooey. Leave to cool off. Whisk a 227ml carton of double cream until it's almost stiff. Slowly beat the milk goo into the cream. Then fold in a 250 tub of mascapone. Flavour with the juice only of 2 or 3 passion fruit. Give the mixture a final whisk to make sure it's silky smooth. Pour onto the biscuit base and create a flat surface with a spatula. Refrigerate.
I didn't have a clue how to achieve the mirrored topping..... most passionfruit cheesecake recipes suggest simply spooning the contents of a passionfruit over the cheesecake. Where's the fun in that? I don't really like a mouthful of pips with a creamy desert anyway. So... buy as many passionfruit as you can afford. About 10 should do it. Cut them in half and spoon the insides into a sieve. With a wooden spoon push the seeds around letting the juice collect in a bowl. Gradually heat the juice with half a spoonful of the jelly crystals. Sieve about 6 raspberries in the same way and dribble into the passionfruit juice with out stirring to give a Tequila Sunrise colour combo. Gently spoon over the cheesecake. Now, unlike regular gelatine, the veggie version solidifies as soon as it touches the cool of the cheesecake, thus making a glass like finish quite tricky. I did my best. 


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Prada Catted My Style!

B is a bit vext today coz man has just seen the new Prada ting and feels like they had jacked his swag. Man has copped the double check look for time, init. Man has been wearin it round da hood, bare homies blessin him an shit for months. Moist Prada young buks!

'Joe! get off my computer and get to school! You'll be late for your English exam.'

Brian was congratulating himself on sporting the double-ckeck with silk scarf combo long before Prada thought of putting it on the catwalk for Spring/Summer 2012.
I say even a broken clock is right twice a day. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

It's All-White

I sometimes daydream about living in a simple, all-white space, maybe near the sea: wafting around the sun-filled rooms, fresh white flowers everywhere, I'm folding fluffy white towels and stacking them in my white armoire. Of course the reverie soon turns into a living nightmare. I spent last night guarding a couple of dreamily sumptuous, exquisitely dressed beds that The White Company had been prepping and preening all afternoon, ready to come in and shoot this morning. The snowy-white linen impeccably pressed, the bedspread draped just so, the Egyptian pillows plumped to perfection. I can read Enzo's mind and it said
'I'd like to make myself a nest in the middle of that lot.'
'Enzo! That's not the look they're going for - and remember what happened this morning in Dirty Blonde Boutique... I know you were bored with me searching for a vintage swimsuit but vomiting on the floor, twice, was uncalled for. They won't let you in there again.'
'Good' he replied telepathically. 'Anyway, Brian told me to vomit. It was his idea.'

As well as the impracticalities of an all-white home, (the only white furniture we have is wipe clean :)) I don't have the discipline to live in a pale, monochrome environment. Bits of colour would creep in and ruin it. And it would mean you couldn't have a go at this look - if the mood took you and you had a bit of time on your hands one weekend.

A house like our mates Jo and Graham's gaff requires just as much discipline to achieve as any blindingly white, minimal interior. It's my dream pad and is a haven of sophisticated, elegant style but still a fun family home. Have a look.

The White Company manage to make their lovely interior shots look effortlessly easy. They picked these few flowers from the rain soaked garden this morning - just the kind of bedside table arrangement we all have, non? 

Here are some pictures, shot here, from their last winter collection. I took the catalogue into my all-white with quite a lot of green, a bit of lilacy-blue and some yellow, (yes, yellow - Ed insisted on buying a tray of zingy-yellow antirrhinums) dripping wet garden to photograph this afternoon. I would have scanned the pages but John has erased the software for the scanner off the hard drive and Brian binned the disc so we can't reinstall it. Groan.

PS. Thank you to everyone that emailed me about the Cornflower Blue Vans. Your sympathy is appreciated. Thanks to all your hot leads I placed an order this afternoon. x

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Robespierre's Shoes

Oh Lordy!
Back in May...

                                   asked for a pair of these lovely, summery, cornflower blue Vans. 

                                                     said. 'You'll have to wait 'till your birthday.'

It's his birthday on Friday and yep, you've guessed it, they've sold out EVERYWHERE. Please help me. He thinks he's getting a pair and keeps saying things like 'can't wait 'till I get my baby blue Vans.'
There is a conspiracy between the Vans shop in Carnaby Street and the one in Covent Garden to pretend that they never existed. Vans have removed all evidence of them from their website and all unsold pairs appear to have been destroyed. Brian, an artist :), says this reminds him of the huge painting by David of the leading figures of the French Revolution. A sizeable number of the heroes of 1789 had become the villains of 1792 and had to have their faces painted over. Whatever... Hang on, he's muttering something about 'The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.' 
' FFS - get on eBay and track some down.'
'They've got these brown ones, or these greyish-brown ones, or these browny-grey ones or these taupe ones.'
'He wants CORNFLOWER BLUE ones.'
There aren't any. All the pretty summer colours are gone, to be replaced by a dreary selection of puddle brown and snail grey shades. I don't have anything against those colours; they're fine for.... I don't know, a painting of grey and taupe whippets on a brown background. 

But not for a pair of summer shoes for padding around in Lanzarote.
                                                                     He likes blue.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Peak Times

It's the middle of June, the sky is blue, the birds are singing, the smell of jasmine fills the air and it's pissing down with rain. Where IS it coming from?
Never mind. Only a month to go 'till we head off for our week in Lanzarote. I wonder.... is it a bit previous to go shopping for a swimsuit so far in advance?... I might have lost two stone by mid-July! Oh well, I have a day off so will take my time, wandering around Selfridges swimwear department - they're bound to have a decent selection at this time of year. I have a sort of 1950s style in mind - quite structured and glamourous. Don't want black... or blue. Ooo, but maybe something with a Pucci print in pretty colours; that might be nice. Even a bikini if it's not too weeny. With a spring in my step I arrive at the third floor and glance about for some kind of beachy display. Perhaps a mannequin or two wearing floppy hats and floaty kaftans, a bit of sand, a beach ball? There is no obvious sign of any swimwear at all. Several acres of lingerie but no swimwear. The assistant waves me towards a couple of depleted rails by the toilets. It looks like what's left over from 1987. There is a just-about-passable black thing with a white trim - in a size 8 or a 14, and quite a few black draped arrangements that remind me of window treatments in a funeral parlour. Even Greek widows wouldn't be seen dead in them. Last summer the over 70s in Athens were sporting bright turquoise two-pieces teamed with day-glo orange toenails.

Fenwicks.... I think they have a swimwear department. Not so much a department, as it turns out, more a display up a corner. When I say 'display', there were some swimsuits there, on hangers. They had some Etre ones, simple and quite nice. Not what I had in mind but they had all the colours in all the sizes BECAUSE THEY'RE £299 EACH. We decide to leave Fenwicks to the tumbleweed and head to Liberty's. In womenswear the girl frowned and looked into the distance as if she was searching the darkest depths of her memory to actually remember what a swimsuit was. 'Oh yes' - it finally came to her. 'I think I saw one bikini left, down in the scarf department.'

John Lewis? 'Prepare to be depressed.' I say to Brian as we go up the escalator.
'I am already.' He replies. It was more ghastly than I feared and have wiped it from my memory.

We went to Topshop as a last resort. Only buy a swimsuit from Topshop if you are so perfectly happy with your body just the way it is that you would be only too keen to pose by the pool in the nude. I left with a pair of shop-soiled flip-flops for a fiver. They were the last pair and Brian thinks they will be fine after a light Cifing.

Who are these people that buy their swimsuits in March??
Not this lot

Oh, and another thing. John Lewis.That awful menswear department that takes up half the ground floor...
B wanted some summer socks, you know, something pale grey and cotton that would co-ordinate with his white linen suit. They only had thick brown or black wooly ones and were just putting out the thermals. Peak!!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Sausage Diet

'Seems like a hell of a lot of dog food for two whippets.’ John moans as we rope him into the human conveyor belt to ferry the slippery, plastic-covered sausages of meat from the delivery boxes into the kitchen.
‘Oh shush.’ I pass him a sausage and he passes it onto Brian who is stacking them neatly (rather anally actually) into the freezer.  ‘It’s all been worked out scientifically; they ask you loads of questions about your dog, like age, weight, how active they are and stuff like that, then they send you the EXACT right amount for a whole month.’

‘A month! There’s enough here for a year.’

The dogs watch on in silent disbelief.

'Sarah!' Brian calls out, his head in the freezer. ‘We’re going to have to eat these fish fingers and ice cream tonight. And the ciabbatta and these burgers and whatever this is. There’s no more room in here.’

I counted, there were 62 of the fat sausages, each one is about a foot long and jam-packed with crushed chicken, beef or lamb – bones and all. Yuck! 

‘Sixty-two, I suppose that works out at one a day each for a month.’ I slit one open and the contents burst out and ooze all-over the work surface. I long for the days before we were educated about our pets needs and could guiltlessly shake a few dried biscuits into a bowl.

Needless to say the mutts can’t get enough of the stinky mush. We were just coming to the last few sausages when yesterday the charming man from Darlings Dog Food rang to see if I was ready to place another order. 

‘How are Enzo and Capri getting on with it?’ he enquires
'Great thanks. They love it.'
‘Same again then?’ he asks. ‘Next Friday OK for delivery?’
‘Yes, that’s fine. Thanks. Do you have my credit card details from last time?’
‘Yes Mrs Munro, all here on our encrypted system.’
‘Lovely, see you next week then. Bye. Thank you!’

‘They’re very nice there.’ I say to Brian. A few seconds later a copy of my order appears in my email. ‘And really efficient.’

Then the phone rings.
‘Mrs Munro? It’s Derek form Darlings dog food. I was just looking back at your first order, the one you placed last month, and there appears to be a typing error on it. Instead of 2.5 kilos of the chicken it says 25 kilos. The decimal point was in the wrong place. I don’t suppose the warehouse actually sent you 25 kilos did they?’
‘Or did they?’
‘I don’t, I don’t know. What does 25 kilos look like? How many ‘sausages’ would that be?' My mind’s racing.
‘Well, lets see. Each sausage is about 500 grams so that would be about an extra…what? Forty to fifty sausages on that order.’
‘Oh my God!’
‘Don’t worry Mrs Munro.’ He senses my panic. ‘It’s entirely our fault. How much have the dogs actually been eating a day?’
‘I’m not sure…. About one sausage.’
'Between them?' He asks, trying to sound casual.
'Ummmm, no.  More like one each. How much are they supposed to have a day then?'
‘Well… we normally suggest 3% of what they weigh and you said they weighed 12 kilos so, let me see, divided by 10 that would be about 1.2 divided by 3 that would be… between about a third to half a sausage a day.’

Oh dear. No wonder Capri can’t get off the sofa. She’s been eating her own bodyweight in food everyday for the last month.

Come on! Walkies!


Friday, 17 June 2011

Hound Asleep

                                   Well... what's a whippet supposed to do on a wet Friday in June?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Stokey Taverna

I'm feeling a bit more positive concerning the garden... I had it out with the garden centre about the copper strip snail deterrent.
'Yeah, it's useless' the bloke agreed with me. 'The snails parachute in from the trees' he added helpfully, slamming an £8.99 tub of organic, pet and wildlife friendly pest control pellets onto the counter.
'This is what you need; chuck a handful on the ground, then sit back and be amazed.'
I pictured myself sitting back and being not the least bit suprised at a daredevil troupe of performing slugs and snails tumbling and somersaulting into the garden; slithering along tightropes, walking on stilts or linking antenna and whizzing through the air on the flying trapeze - all to sound of rapturous applause.
I handed over a credit card unenthusiastically.

To further enhance my up-beat mood Brian has strung up some festoon lights over the seating area by the house. When I say 'strung up' I make it sound like a 5 minute job. It took all day, involved two ladders, a hammer, a drill, quite a bit of swearing, a lot of those plastic cable-tie things, a plaster and several hours of my help. It was getting dark as he screwed in the last of the forty light bulbs. One or two weren't working and a couple of others flickered on and off but that all added to the charming Greek Taverna feel.

I forced the kids to sit outside and we ate...
Sliced cucumber, with feta, mint and a squeeze of lemon juice....

...followed by moussaka...

... and flat peaches for desert.

This is my version of moussaka. I don't know if it's anything like authentic but it always gets a thumbs up.

Slice two aubergines into 1cm rounds. Lay on a baking tray and brush both sides with olive oil. Bake in a hot oven until soft and slightly brown. I don't like coming across an al dente bit of aubergine so overcook rather than under. You may have to do two batches. Once cooked, the aubergine can be left until you need it.
In a large pan fry one large, chopped onion. After a few minutes add a couple of teaspoons of ready chopped garlic from a jar. Stir around for another couple of minutes and then add 800grams of lean minced lamb, 2 tins of tomatoes, 2 chicken stock cubes and a glug of red wine. Once it's bubbling hot reduce to a simmer, put on the lid and leave for an hour or so.
Switch the heat off and leave until you're ready to assemble the moussaka. 
Make a bechamel sauce by melting 50grams of butter in a pan. Add 2 tablespoons of plain flour. Mix to a thick dough and then slowly add semi-skimmed milk, beating all the time to create a smooth sauce. Add 2 bay leaves and some salt and pepper. Leave to cool off before removing the leaves and adding a dollop of Greek yogurt and whisking in 2 eggs (the eggs make a lighter, more stable topping for the dish.
At this point I add as many herbs to the meat sauce as I have growing in the garden or lurking in the fridge. Yesterday it was a bunch of roughly chopped mint, some basil, parsley, thyme and rosemary. I like to romantically imagine that in Greece the sheep and lambs wander around the rocky terrain nibbling on any herbs and plants that take their fancy - so don't worry too much about what 'goes with' lamb - just as long as the sauce tastes aromatic.  
Then peel 3 large potatoes. Slice them thinly - about half a centimetre. Lay them at the bottom of a buttered oven-proof dish. I have a paella pan that works well but anything big and about 8 cm deep will do. On top of the potatoes ladle a layer of meat sauce followed by a layer of aubergines, then another layer of sauce, more aubergines, more sauce and finally the white sauce. 
Cook in a moderate oven for about an hour. Just check the potatoes at the bottom are cooked by inserting a knife to make sure they're soft. Once out of the oven the dish will keep hot for ages. The boys waited for about 30 seconds. Scoffed the lot, then went back indoors to watch The Apprentice, leaving Brian and I almost alone in the magical twilight garden. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Would you rather have a .....  a date with...

Okay, okay, I know. That's enough of that game.

Both these gents have been in the news this week; congrats to Prince Philip on his 90th birthday and commiserations to Hugh Hefner on the break-up with Crystal Harris.

Hugh's had a few ups and downs this year but surely one of the highs must have been the really classy shoot here last summer with Kelly Brook for the September issue of Playboy. 

Here she is posing on our bed.
Kelly Brook photographed at Lordship Park by Ellen Von Unwerth for Playboy

Boys were pleased! New screen savers all round. (But not for me though - I still have a whippet posing in front of some hydrangeas.)


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Again, again, again!


     would you rather drive one of these...

    or one of these...

My first car was a Ford Capri, a metallic green one. It was by far the nicest car I've ever had and I'd love to get hold of one now. We named the first whippet after my first car. When we went to collect her from a tiny terraced house, full of dogs, in the shadow of the North Sea ferry terminal in Lowestoft, the breeder, Eileen, asked (in a broad Suffolk accent)  
'So what are you going to call her then?'  
'Capri,' I replied, 'after my first car.'
'Ooo, that's nice. Capri.... that suits 'er lovely that does' said Eileen, approvingly. 
Then Brian pipes up in ridiculous toff accent ' We were going to call her after my first car but we thought Lamborghini would be a bit of a mouthful.'
Eileen wanders off.

In no time at all Capri settles into her new life in London.
Stephanie Beacham and Capri, photographed at Lordship Park by Oly Barnsley.

Ed wouldn't be seen dead in anything from the 70s and wants one of the cute Fiat 500s so he can be dropped off and collected from school everyday. (I'm not allowed to show up in the old Volvo, and anyway, there's no-way I'm prepared to pay £9 congestion charge every time I want to drive the half mile from Angel to the Barbican.) London's full of the little Fiats (probably because they're CC exempt) but that hasn't put me off. So, what's it to be...... sex on four wheels or something that's so sweet it's more like a pet? Think I'll stick with the Volvo.