I’m not sure if I’ve quite reached “mid life crisis” age yet, well not in years that is but I’ve started to notice some worrying signs when it comes to my fashion choices. That or I’m fighting so very hard not to become another Breton striped, Converse wearing mum in the school playground, that I’ve subconsciously taken it to the other extreme.
It started in the first week of 2012. Having travelled to London to recover from a horrid bout of flu and chest infection, I ventured (alone) to High Street Kensington. First stop was COS, obviously, which is perfectly safe and where I tried on a really rather nice pair of lace up black ankle boots. They were in the sale, nice and classic, just what I was looking for really, but something about the shape of the toe bothered me. It was just a little bit too square, and so I left them. I strolled hazily along the street popping in to various shoe shops, not really sure what I was looking for, until I reached Urban Outfitters. Straight upstairs I went to where it is always quiet and the best collections reside. And there they were, a pair of bright red Winklepicker boots by Underground. The very boots I’d been alerted too on this here blog through a brilliant Q&A with the super stylish photographer Kate Davis, and which I had been secretly coveting ever since.
They were half price, in my size and the last pair in the shop. So I bought them. They reminded me of a person I used to be – or think I used to be – the person who never wore black shoes, never ever ever wore trainers, would rather die than wear Uggs and strived to look as individual as possible….even if it meant being uncomfortable. Today and two children and a life in the countryside later, most of the shoes I own are black, I succumbed to a pair of “snow” Uggs whilst pregnant, and I wear trainers more than any other shoe. Converse still don’t feel quite right on me, but I do own a pair.
So now I have my bright red, very pointy Winklepickers and I have absolutely no idea how or where or when to wear them. They sit in my cupboard making me feel very old and boring indeed. I keep telling myself that as soon as I have the courage to wear them once, I’ll be in them all the time….I’m just not sure whether that first outing is actually going to happen.
So that was the first mid life crisis fashion purchase. The second was from COS. A pair of black ribbed leg warmers. LEG WARMERS??? I’m wearing them now, over leggings, with slippers whilst my 3 year old watches the video for Flashdance’s “What a Feeling” on my iPhone shouting excitedly, “look look it’s Mummy dancing!” and I’m not correcting him. This can only get worse. Bring on the 90s revival, I might get a shell suit.
The Old Pill Factory was a very exciting pre Christmas find. It opened a few months ago in Witney, Oxfordshire, which I suppose I can now call my local high street town. There’s not a great deal in Witney, there are all the necessary mainstream chains you need and expect and parking is free, everywhere, ALL THE TIME, but aside from that I wouldn’t necessarily have called it a shopping destination. Well not if you’re looking for something a bit different anyway. That was until I discovered The Pill Factory, which has now become my new favourite shop and from where I shall purchase all presents for myself and others from now on.
It’s essentially a vintage emporium comprising a number of different dealers all selling their wares and who, in their own words “are passionate about breathing new life in to antiques and vintage home ware”. My kind of shop. There are a few bits of lingering reproduction – especially in the smaller home ware sections – but if you steer clear of these, there are some real treasures to be found. My two very favourite Christmas presents were courtesy of The Old Pill Factory. This enamel storage tin was reclaimed from a barge and the enormous blue enamel kettle….well that’s just about the best thing in my kitchen.
So if you find yourself in West Oxfordshire, I highly recommend a visit to Witney. There are a whole host of fabulous little antique shops to discover in these parts but this is a very very good place to start.
I’m quite a fan of social media. I have a love / hate relationship with Facebook, think Twitter is a stroke of genius, am rather fond of blogging (although I don’t do it nearly enough) and now that I’ve discovered Pinterest I think it might just be the icing on the addiction.
I’d heard about it through various blogs and stylish friends but not really understood it. So I plucked up the courage to click a link and once I’d had a look around and “requested an invite” I was pretty much hooked. In short it’s an online pinboard. A place to share images from the web or your daily life which inspire, intrigue or interest you. It can be home ware, design, art, interiors, photography…..you get the idea…and you simply “pin it” to your “board” and share it with the Pinterest community – which is vast and growing by the minute it would seem.
So I’ve started to share my pins and I’m now constantly thinking of what I can pin next. You can have a look here and even follow me if you like, although please remember I only started this morning. Soon my boards will be pinned to bursting with wonderful things which people will be fighting to “re pin” and “like”. You see, the social media competitive side has started already, it’s impossible to contain. Watch this space, it could get Pinteresting….sorry.
On a dark, blustery winter’s day when you burst into the warm house after school, grabbing off your satchel and kicking off your boots in the hallway with a trickle of wet snot running to your lip, all you want is to feel like you’ve come home — and the best way to do that is with a belly full of cake.
A traditional jelly roll is just such a cake. A long spiral of Génoise sponge, red jam and whipped cream, it practically oozes love, each slice a big, wet kiss.
The only real secret to success is in the fat-free batter, which gives the sponge just the right flexibility to stay curled up without cracking. It tastes like sweet, moist air. I made this one with half a jar of leftover cherry jam I’d made the day before, so it also gave one the sensation of being able to eat Kirsch, though any jam will do.
Pre-heat oven to 350. Line a 10 X 15 inch baking tin with parchment paper.
Separate 4 eggs.
Whip the whites with 6 tablespoons of sugar until they refuse to slide when the bowl is tipped.
Whip the yolks with 4 tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla until it folds in on itself in big fat pale ripples.
Sieve together ½ cup of cake flour with ¼ cup of cornstarch and a pinch of salt.
Carefully fold some whites into the yolks, then some flour, then some whites, then some flour, etc., until you have incorporated them all together in a silky, voluminous batter.
Gently spread the batter out on the baking pan and bake on a low shelf for just 10 minutes. The cake should be just starting to turn golden, and feel springy to the touch.
As soon as you take it out of the oven, turn the cake out onto a tea towel dredged with sugar. Peel the parchment off. Slice off one of the short ends, and use the tea towel to roll it up. Leave to cool rolled up.
Once cooled, unroll, spread with jam and cream, and roll back up.
Every Christmas we are given a Panettone by our neighbours. It usually arrives around the 4th January. It sits on the kitchen shelf looking lonely and a little unloved, knowing that it has gone from fabulous Italian bowed gift to being just another unwanted Panettone. We always put it to good use – bread and butter pudding is amazing when made with this fruity loaf and it’s also delicious toasted with a bit of butter for breakfast – but it has become the sign that Christmas is over and that the regifting has begun.
There’s nothing wrong with re-gifting. In fact, it’s much better to recycle any unwanted or replicated gifts than to hide them away and let them gather dust. And I know that Id be much happier thinking that gifts I’d bought had eventually ended up in a good home even if it wasn’t with the intended recipient. But not everything is ripe for a re-gift so you have to be careful and only pass on those things which are either edible or easy to remember / replace if needed.
Books, like Panettone, are always good to recycle and pass on. If you receive a book you’ve already read and enjoyed, it would be madness not to share the delight. My husband was given the same book by 3 different people this year, a book he was also given on his birthday last year. Luckily he’d given away his original copy already so he’s now managed to replace that for himself and stock up on presents for like minded friends. Chocolates are a good gift to pass on too….if you have simply too many, rest assured there’s someone out there who will happily take them off your hands. Or you can freeze them, something we did last year, we had lots of little bags of ice hard chocolates which we’d melt down for various recipes or occassions.
There’s simply no point having more than one of the same thing. No one wants that. Neither does anyone want to ask for the receipt in order to make an exchange. Regifting and recycling is the only way forward. It’s the right thing to do. So pass the Panettone and get on with the New Year.
Recipe for Panettone Pudding from Good Food Magazine :
- 50g butter , softened (optional)
- 250g panettone (about 5 medium slices)
- 2 eggs
- 142ml carton double cream
- 225ml milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- icing sugar , for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 160C/gas 3/fan 140C and grease a 850ml/1½ pint shallow baking dish with a little butter. Cut the panettone into wedges, leaving the crusts on. Butter the slices lightly with the rest of the butter. Cut the slices in half and arrange them in the dish, buttered side up.
- In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, vanilla extract and sugar and pour evenly over the panettone.
- Put the dish in a roasting tin and pour hot water around it to a depth of about 2.5cm/1in. Bake for 35 minutes until the pudding is just set – it should be yellow inside and nicely browned on top. Dust with icing sugar and serve.