May 21, 2010, 7:00 am
Filed under: home base

the box

the booty

the balcony

In a cute little book I picked up at the Oxford Street Borders’ going out of business sale last summer, I read about the joys of growing a window box garden when someone else has already done most of the hard work for you.  In other words, there is a company called Rocket Gardens that will start seeds for you, nurture them till they’ve just poked up out of the soil, and then pack them up and send them to you in the post.  Costs a wee bit more than a packet of seeds, but less than a summer’s worth of salad and herbs at the farmer’s market, and gives you a solid start on the way to remedying last summer’s spindly coriander and buggy chives.  Brilliant.

Once the postman brings them to your door all you have to do is pop them in the soil, water, and wait.  Well, if you are me, you also have to get a Zipcar, clench your fists through Saturday morning blear as your husband warms up his stick-shift skills (but really have to bite your tongue as you have zero stick-shift skills and even if you did aren’t very keen on using them in this lovely city), arrive at Homebase for an intense discussion on the downfalls of green plastic and the merits of being sure to have enough potting soil to finish the job all at once even if you have to give away a tiny bit on Freecycle after.  Oh, and then get it all up the three flights of stairs to your flat.

Also, once planted, don’t forget to water again in a day or so, and the day after that, and the day after that… that is my downfall, I am good at the setup but not so much the follow-through.  But don’t overwater either — that is my husband’s downfall, perhaps overcompensating for mine…

Any thrill you miss from watching the first sprouts boing up through the soil is more than compensated for, I think, by the satisfaction of seeing those lovely rows of green and purple lining the terrace straight away.  I am a sucker for instant gratification.  Now to go and check to see if they’ve reached salad size in the last hour since I took the picture…


April 26, 2010, 3:21 pm
Filed under: frocks + finery, inspiration, london lovin'

I went to see the Grace Kelly exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum on Friday, and came away inspired never to leave the house without makeup again.

Well, ok, not really, but what an extraordinarily beautiful woman, with, appropriately for her position, such an acute sense of image, and of how to wear clothes so that she is noticed well before and beyond what she is wearing.

And, she could wear white like no other.  By far my favourite image from the exhibit wasn’t from a display but rather a bit of silent film footage from a montage of Princess Grace and Prince Albert attending various balls, fancy dress events, etc.  The image was from Princess Grace at Le Bal de Petits Lits Blancs in the Ballroom of Powerscourt House, Co, Wicklow, July 1965.  She shimmered and sparkled in the subtlest, prettiest of ways, even on the grainy black and white footage.  You’ll have to imagine from the yellowed newspaper coverage…

A reasonable consolation for their only having her civil wedding dress and not the cathedral gown was that the exhibit did feature her real live Hermes handbag — the Kelly bag before it was a Kelly bag.  Sigh.

Speaking of namesakes, the friend that attended with me wondered if this suit — worn to the White House for lunch with Jack and Jackie and my favourite piece of daywear on display — inspired “Kelly Green”?

March 5, 2010, 9:53 am
Filed under: somewhere out there

My husband’s birthday weekend…

February 16, 2010, 12:01 pm
Filed under: yummy in the tummy

Happy Pancake Day!  AKA Shrove Tuesday, AKA Mardi Gras…  Apparently, the tradition comes from the need to use up yummy larder staples like butter, sugar and eggs before the ritual fasting associated with Lent.   Sort of like the homier (is that a word?) version of drinking yourself silly at a Mardi Gras celebration?  I’d never heard of this tradition at home in the States, but it’s big news here in the UK.  Which is ironic to me, because the way that pancakes are usually made here, they seem to me to be more crepes than pancakes.

Ergo, my pancake recipe, for PROPER American pancakes, albeit with a healthy/yummy twist of course.  Granted, some restaurants here — usually the ones that make an attempt at brunch rather than just a full English breakfast — do have “American style pancakes” on their menus.  But the ones I’ve tried are rather — hmm, how to put this nicely? — leaden.  I’m not sure why — too much flour?  too much mixing?

Ironically, I didn’t know much about making pancakes before moving here, since ours was a Bisquick kind of family.   But, as with ranch dressing and mac and cheese and sponge cake, I’ve learned that — despite a lifelong affinity for these pretty packages, which are next to impossible to find here — some many most everything is better if you make it yourself.   (OK, OK, I confess to little splurges at Partridges now and then, only for the sake of nostalgia of course.  And that I probably was marginally happier before I realized that homemade buttercream frosting was in fact just a lot of butter, and cream, and even more sugar.  But this is good for me right?  I mean to know, not to eat…sigh.)

Without further ado, here is my current go-to pancake recipe, adapted from the Blueberry Cornmeal pancakes recipe from the classic Better Homes & Gardens cookbook .

YIELD:  About nine 4-inch pancakes

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 T cornmeal
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1 beaten egg
1 cup buttermilk {or 1T lemon + milk to make 1 cup; stand 5 minutes before using}
2 T vegetable oil

Mix the dry ingredients and make a well in the centre.  Mix the wet ingredients and then add all at once to the dry ingredients; stir until *just* blended.  The batter will be lumpy — leave it this way because if you keep mixing your pancakes will be too heavy.

Heat a griddle or large, heavy nonstick pan on medium/medium low until a drop of water sizzles; melt a dab of butter to coat.  Pour batter into three- to four-inch pools on the griddle.  {Note, if you want to add blueberries or another fruit, now is the time — doing it now rather than adding to the main bowl of batter will keep your pancakes from turning completely blueberry-coloured.}  Cook gently until bubbles form and the surface of each pancake just lightly starts to glaze over, about 2-3 minutes.  Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes.

Serve warm with butter and REAL maple syrup (not the other kind — you know what I mean — which is not common here and is one thing I definitely don’t miss from home), and fruit, of course.

February 4, 2010, 9:35 am
Filed under: frocks + finery

I’m loving this new venture:  The London Frock Exchange.   Freepost them a dress you don’t want, choose a dress you do.  Pay the £30 administration fee and the new-to-you dress is yours.  I’m thinking the £30 is a wee bit steep for a fee, but it seems a good way to clear out dresses that had a bit too high of an investment-to-wallet ratio to just relegate to the charity bin.  Happy frock swapping!

January 25, 2010, 3:10 pm
Filed under: home base

I love this quote posted recently at one of the newest additions to my blogroll

OK, so the photo above is a bouquet of ranunculus, but that’s just the kind of girl I am, and the time of year it is.

January 13, 2010, 4:20 pm
Filed under: inspiration, yummy in the tummy

So, silly me, I’ve decided to try a detox to ring in the new year.  It’s not that bad, really, lots and lots of veggies and fruit.  And then more veggies and fruit — and no dairy, sugar, wheat or caffeine.  Thank goodness it’s only a week — deprivation is not really my style.  What I really really miss, though, is my morning coffee.  I don’t know if it’s the caffeine or the ritual (ok, ok, it’s probably the caffeine, says the raging headache I get every afternoon, but I do so love the scent of brewing coffee in the morning…).  An ode…

a long-ago morning chez moi