Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Year of Living Ugly

Sometimes all it takes is one person to give you a monumental reality check into how damned lucky you are.
I'm sat at home, mouth clamped firmly shut because my jaw aches when I talk and my swallow is painful, silently cursing the Boy and his best friend (my other housemate) for not vacuuming, taking out the remains of the weekend's curry or emptying bins and for leaving crap around the front room all of which is preventing me from idling the afternoon in a haze of icecream and magazines.
Then I read this and I realise:
  • I have survived the removal of a pound of flesh
  • I have survived two hours under general anaesthetic
  • I am wholly and earnestly in love with a man
  • A caring, thoughtful and continually tested and proven man is in love with me
  • I have the brain and the wherewithal (just about) to pass this year of study and go on to do great things
  • The world is peopled by interesting, engaging, considerate and tender individuals, all negotiating their own private tragedies and trying their very best to be good. *

I feel lucky, and chosen, and perfectly ordinary too.

*I feel I should put mostly or largely or something specific about proportion into that last statement, because, goodness, the world and its population are not all... well... goodness. But I don't think now is the time to dwell on that or even give them mention. I feel lucky, and chosen, and perfectly ordinary too.

Cupcakes Galore

The final belated Christmas present was bestowed last week over a scrumptious dinner.

This rather delightful book is guaranteed to inspire many entries to come and I'm sure I'll be able to sneak you a few of the recipes. The decorating of the cupcakes is rather brash for me (I'm more in the subtle Nigella school of decor, in theory if not quite capable in practice), but the variety of recipes is mind-boggling: Tiramisu, Hannukah or Summer Pudding cupcakes, anyone?!
This is my first attempt from the book: maple and walnut cupcakes, which as you can see, rose far more than I intended but certainly looked the part! The icing didn't work quite as I'd hoped (caramelized maple syrup stirred through whipped egg whites was a bit runny and didn't set as promised) so I left it off, but they were tasty and light without being too cloying. Perfect tea or breakfast muffin/cupcake style.
Watch this space for further try-and-testing - it's all in the name of blogland, after all.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bye bye tonsils

A preamble to warn that Beholden might undergo a slight change next week. I had my lovely large scratchy red tonsils nipped out of my throat yesterday.

I will of course let you know how it goes. I wasn't anxious until I saw Trauma Uncut on BBC3 the other night with a guy spitting blood into a kidney bowl for the third day since his un-healing tonsilectomy. Not looking forward to that.

I can't work out if this means that I'll be off Blogger for two weeks recovering and eating jelly and icecream or if that means my throat will be sore but I'll post five times a day cos I'll be so darned bored sitting around at home... Wait and see!

Bring on the jelly and icecream!!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Crafty Crafty thoughts...

Next weekend is Collection, a nationwide Craft Council-led festival (albeit very low key) of international craft and design. It is focused mainly on the V&A Collect exhibition, but there are also events around the country. Click here to open the PDF programe of events.

I'm currently trying to convince my conscience, and the Boy, that a trip northwards for a sibling's 30th birthday is not entirely necessary, because the beloved Ruth Singer is holding a cushion class at the Geffreye Museum. This combination is just too much to bear.

The Geffreye Museum is about an eighth of a minute away from my home, is the museum of the British Living Room and an ode to historical interior design and the domestic front room. The shop is just gorgeous and the 1910 Arts & Crafts room leaves me in raptures every time I drop by. It's free to get in. My dropping by is frequent and lengthy.

Ruth Singer is a disgustingly talented designer who combines fashion history with sumptuous and elegant interior design that's usable but informed. And she uses pretty colours. I'm hooked.

Fall in love with this. And then sign up to the class.

If I can't go, I want to hear from those who did and see their creations. Jealous, moi? You betcha.

Culture Shock

Busy week coming to a close. Considering I twisted my back while getting ice cream from the freezer on Sunday evening (New Year detox karma), hobbling around to this lot was more effort than I had intended my good intentions to require!!
Monday: Perfume at Rich Mix Cultural Foundation: good costumes, intriguing Ben Wishaw, but sadly, just as unintriguing as I found the book.
Tuesdsay: £5 tickets to see Happy Days at National Theatre: considering it was one woman in a pile of sand for 90 minutes - utterly captivating.
Wednesday: Menage a Trois in Stoke Newington, three courses catered by my fabulous foodie friends:
Smoked Salmon on soda bread, coq au vin and tiramisu. Heaven on three plates.

Thursday: Scenes from an Execution at Hackney Empire Studio Theatre to see an actor who I dressed at the Globe strip off in the name of art. Didn't find the play as powerful as the reviewers, but did enjoy seeing Ian McKellen in the foyer, sat in my row and then muttering about taxis outside.
Friday (plans): Ugly Betty on the sofa, homemade wonton soup and Maple and Walnut Cupcakes.*
*Will blog these later - the smell coming from the oven is glorious.
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Blogger Pictures Finally Working

After more than two months of navigating Blogger's less than intuitive Helpdesk system (lots of clueless people trying to assist one another - genius for keeping staff costs down, not so great on actually providing answers), Blogger is finally able to provide enlargeable pictures.

It has really annoyed me that pictures inserted into posts cannot be clicked on to bring up the original, large image in a new window. Maybe hasn't bothered you, but then I'm quite pernickity on little things like this.

Anyway, it's finally up and working. Now I shall blog all those fantastic pictures that I've been dying to share with you but thought the little image would be dull.

Brace yourselves....Lord Snowdon I ain't. This may not be pretty!!

Upping the Five a Day Part 2

Fresh Spinach from the Bethnal Green Market. Looks like just the stuff so beloved of Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh.

Made into Spinach, Bacon and Brie Savoury Bread Pudding. Looks a disaster, tastes like comfort on a plate.
As I said to the Boy: perfect for weeknight supper, but I think I'd cry, or hide in the corner if I served this up at a dinner party. Blob on plate of stodge. Not cool!!
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Tea and Sympathy

London Coffee Houses at their utter best: The Market Coffee House at Spitalfields is from another century, though thankfully their cakes are freshly baked each morning. Just the place to catch up with the Sis and hanker after 'days of yore'...
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ode to Puffed Sleeves

Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was--a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves--they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon.
"That's a Christmas present for you, Anne," said Matthew shyly. "Why--why--Anne, don't you like it? Well now--well now."

For Anne's eyes had suddenly filled with tears.

"Like it! Oh, Matthew!" Anne laid the dress over a chair and clasped her hands. "Matthew, it's perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me this must be a happy dream."
Dress: Stella McCartney SS07
Quotation: Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 25: Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves

Monday, January 22, 2007

One in fifty-two weekends...

Naff Karaoke in an awful bar in Clerkenwell accompanied by some of the most musical people I know....
Skating at Somerset House on one of the brightest days yet
Loving the Southbank more by the moment
Fearing that the boy's job will take us far far away before we're ready to leave this beautiful, crazy, wonderful city.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Gift Finder Extraordinaire

Never again do you need to panic on holidays, birthdays and bar mitzvahs... I just ran this amazing Gift Finder software and the first three things it suggested for me were

1. A sewing kit
2. A scented candle
3. Theatre Tokens

The page was full of a hundred and one things that I didn't know I wanted and would be utterly chuffed to receive.

Send it to your friends, or perhaps even just your results page. Do you think they'll get the hint?!

Globular Gowns Part II

As promised, the bad and the ugly....*

In Third Place:
Jennifer Garner's dress is delicate, elegant and props for pulling off white and silver without looking like a chandilier. Unfortunately, I think the bagged top half and her lack of curves bottom half make her look likely to keel over at any point. I'll believe just this once that it's the way she's standing that reduce her hips and ass to a continuous line from her abdoment to her ankles. And will someone please sew up her hem? The poor girl's about to trip over?

In Second Place:
Nicolette Sheridan is apparently trying to resist looking like her strumpet onscreen personality and is instead going for the funerial upended Martini glass look. I've yet to see an example (except possibly on Shirley Bassey) of this shape of dress doing anything for anyone. And I've never been a fan of this kind of black/white detailing. That only works if you're in My Fair Lady.

To fix: expand the line of the skirt from hip to ankle in a simple A-line and superimpose a large black and white graphic print or applique around the bottom to make more of the monochrome detail than some small child with a reel of black ribbon.

And the Award goes to:

Beyonce, it's not big and it's not clever. Well, your much-lauded bum may be, and I know you're from the street and it's all bling and that, but put away your breasts, put away the sun-ray pleated lame and stop standing like a six year old trying to be 'beeyotifool'. You're much much better than that. I've seen you becoiffed, poised and much more becoming than this. Come back!!

This is the most bitchy that I can be. Fugly it ain't, but then I just want people to up the gorgeous and downplay the sexy strumpet. Is that ok?!?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Globular Gowns

Had to join in the internet frenzy that is slagging off other people's eveningwear...
But first, a ray of sunshine in the form of these lovely ladies...

Am so far loving Kate Winslet for always looking so damned fabulous, elegant and sexy without looking like a toothpick. English rosy curves at their very best.

America Ferrerra ruined it for British audiences to prove that she certainly ain't Ugly, but then we all knew that would happen. Looking forward to seeing the reveal even more now! (The Boy scoffs and usually tries to storm out the room when it comes on, proclaiming it 'vapid cack', then I remind him that Friday nights are our time together after a long and stressful week, so will he please sit down in silence next to me while I watch escapist drama that he doesn't like. He usually obliges....!)

Oh Cate, you make me love you even more. I know I would fall into the Gwyneth trap if I were to go to one of these ceremonies and pretend to be a princess on prom night. You are offbeat, interesting, alluring, sexy, striking and good lord, even the shoes are fabulous. These gowns are so hard to wear without looking like you got half of it caught in a closing bus door. Alexander McQ, I take the rest of my skirt off to you in salute.

Baddies to come.... I'm off to college (late). How does it happen when I get up extra early to get jobs done that I always end up leaving the house late?!

Sunday, January 14, 2007


If only digital cameras made such a satisfying sound. I had the good fortune to borrow the Boy's Grandma's camera over the Christmas period and boyo, the noises and grindings it made. Proper, press, wait for the flash to load up, with the zoooooom and then the little green light, *clunk* when you depress the button, then the whirring of the film around to the next exposure, a pause, and a lighter click to confirm the camera is prepared for the next snap.

Not so for now. Here is my offering to the land of photography competitions, running at my & Paola's blog, Living Gorgeously.

Twas taken from a moving bus outside St Paul's Cathedral and then zoomed in on to demonstrate an arty photographic side I didn't know I had.

I'm quite proud. Though i doubt I'll win, as that would be cheating! And not a little bit biased...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ebay to the Moon

Who knew I had so much stuff?! Consider it a garden fete: come join the tombola!

As I mentioned before, having a clearout for my trek. So much stuff, so little time.

Etsy fees not so great unless I can get together a shopful so at the moment pinning some of my hopes on Ebay. Have to see if bidders are ready for crafts and vintagewear. Fingers crossed!

Will of course report back in 9 days time. Best of British to you all.

If you Call Me Madam, I may hit you

After three years on a jab that stopped my 'monthly events', I thought I would give my body a break and relent. They can't have been that bad, surely? I'm a grownup now, I can stick it. Better to rest my poor addled hormones and let mother nature run her course, right?


After cursing London air for an unusually spot-ridden face, an evening of crying, chocolate and going to bed at 7.30pm two nights ago and a day out shopping that left my legs aching more than usual, my little visitor arrived this morning. It's good to know things never change.

I'm currently in the loosest trousers I can find, with no makeup, hair pinned back (in the pretty vintage-esque slide purchased yesterday - some solace) eating pasta and drinking cups of tea, bracing myself for an afternoon watching James Cagney crime and an Ethel Merman musical on the sofa. God love Film Four.
So much for the decisive *MAKE NEW DRESS* instructed by myself in my diary for today and tomorrow. The bending and scraping required to lay and cutout the fabric, not to mention the shortfuse that will undoubtedly end in low-flying sleeves across the roomm, makes me think that now may not be my most creative time.
Mother Nature is a harpy. Bring on the drugs.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Just keep trekking!

As you will see from the thermometer to the right, things are warming up for Mum's and my fundraising efforts. We are a quarter of the way there, which is just as well: we're going in 10 months!!I've been having something of a cull. One of my resolutions is to have less things in this flat when the year is out than when it began. I am so far doing quite well, via the beautiful wonders of Ebay! So far made £60 from 'regifting' some beautiful but not-quite-my-taste Winnie the Pooh mugs (only 4 - there must be some real Eeyore fanatics out there!)Sellers are being given a listing discount tomorrow, so posting of goods will start afresh tomorrow, and I'm cleansing a few vintage clothes, patterns and accessories. It breaks my heart, but I have had most of these in my possession for over a year and usually put them on, sigh, take them off and wear something else. Someone must be able to do better than that.

Here is a sneak preview. Bid happy folks!xx

Cake, Salad and Ming

My first attempt at Madeira Cake, taken 40 minutes after removing from the oven. After last time, what happens when the Boy is given strict instructions...

And then follows with his interpretation of 'something for dessert'...

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Voice of the City

From Overheard in New York

Guy #1: Dude, are you okay? You look exhausted.
Guy #2: I am. My life is so weird right now.
Guy #1: Still working on the divorce?
Guy #2: That's pretty much finalized, actually. It's this girl I started seeing last week.
Guy #1: Wait, you're dating that hot Russian chick?
Guy #2: Yeah, Svetlana*. She's a total nympho -- I haven't slept in days. She won't leave my crotch alone. Plus, whenever we're going at it she keeps calling me 'Master.' It's fucked up.
Guy #1: You just lost any chance at sympathy, asshole.

Absolutely spectacular. Just been added to My Favourites. After of course.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Design Museum, Shad Thames

I had finished my essay, London was damp to say the least, and I had a sudden urge to seek culture.

I got me to Bermondsey to see the much hallowed but horrendously, never visited (by me) Design Museum.

Poised outside the museum on the phone for ten minutes, I was cheerfully amazed by the hordes queueing outside. It shamed me to realise that this museum is clearly on a list somewhere as a must-visit. The entry fee of £7 (£4 concessions) was a little steep considering the limited permanent collection on display, but the temporary exhibition on Alan Fletcher was fantastic.

I must admit to not knowing of this man's existence until Friday, when I was taught the length and breadth of his design talent: the V&A symbol, the ART lettering on the front of THE ART BOOK (surely owned by every thinking person in the world... except me), the Pirelli calendar and about a thousand typefaces and imaging that has changed the face of advertising and signage. Very informative and visually stimulating, I thoroughly enjoyed being taught about a subject that I knew precious little.

And then upstairs to the permanent collection. Lit all the way with these...

The evolution of the chair, the Tube map, the Penguin book, John Nash's stage design, and National Theatre poster style. All British Institutions in their own way and all fascinating and shiver-inducing to see caged up for display. Makes you realise that one day the things we take for granted will be relics of a bygone age. I've saved this little delight until the end. Pure beauty.

Grey London Day

This weekend, it mostly il pleut. Plenty.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Upping the 5 a day Part 1

I give you:

Woodland fruits and homemade lime sorbet smoothie with greek yoghurt

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Calm returns to the land of the Beholder

Ding Dong the essay's done, the essay's done, the essay's done, Ding Dong the wicked essay's done!!

4,000 words. I even manged up to 4,434, not including footnotes. God I'm brilliant! And modest.

I have discovered that I am now incapable of working seriously at a computer that is connected to the internet as I cannot pause for consideration and contemplation of just the right adverb to describe Ken Livingstone's cultural prowess without *just* popping onto a blog or two. I had to resort to printing and taking to the dining room table with tea and fountain pen in hand as I'm not man enough to resist the temptations of my *friends*....

I have, however, under the guise of research found this tool for hours of procrastination...This might be my favourite game ever. Even after Scrabble and Pictionary. And that's saying something. I fear I may have gone from sublime intelligence to complete frivolity and ridiculous dedication to the cause of sharing my masterpiece with the entirety of creation.

Appreciation, my humble audience, so that my endeavours are not in vain?!?!

She was so much better when grooving to the Beach Boys Fun Fun Fun

Vanity is the spice of life...Secrets of Beholden

What can I say? I was mentioned by name in a lovely little blog I frequent painfully often (well those essays aren't going to write themselves are they?) and will therefore do as I'm told.

5 Secrets for the Land of Blog...

1. I have too many names and don't like any of them. Helen Oliva Joy. Helen = librarians and housewives. Watch the films. It's all there. Olivia = (sorry Toast & Honey) a fat prig from my primary school, forever to provide snivelling associations. Joy = because my mother was joyous when she had me - a much wanted daughter. Cute sentiment, name from the WI. Sorry Mum. I used to wish to be called Samantha (love the 80s), but now I think Helena is just the right bit more interesting.

2. Not allergic to penicillin but ibruprofen. Lumpy thigh rash. Not pretty. Also, and more wierdly, food colouring. No Coke or luminous candy for me. Helps me feel worthy and also encourages the making of excessive numbers of cakes as most shop bought ones are full to bursting with the stuff.

3. I grew up in America, on the east coast. This translates itself into a impossible to pin down accent and an emphasis on the ends of words, especially computerrrrrr. Oh, and a LOVE of peanut butter.

4. I dream of (and yearn for) the concept of marriage and babies but find it absolutely impossible to picture myself physically at the altar or with a bump below my breasts. I wonder what will happen if and when they happen and there won't be any more yearning to do.

5. I'm riding the storm of a love affair with theatre costume that has so far bestowed two years of troubled, though frequently exhilerating, employment and a resolve to never go back. I'm vying for a career I'll love as much, but will pay me more consistently and not be full of so much bitterness and acidic networking. I live in hope that this exists.

What this list basically boils down to is that I think too much, and my blogging world has on the whole caused me to focus on the delightfulness of daily life (much to the good) and wait for the big stuff to work itself out.

I now tag Cally and Paola to share secrets in the spirit of detox. Think of it as cleansing for the soul...

When the Boy is left to his own devices....

Chaos reigns...

I hasten to add that I played no part in this monstrosity....
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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Come Live Gorgeously With Me

Look what we made!! Our spanking new blog is up and chatting at It's all very exciting and seasonal and will have more detailed tutorials of our little projects, more pictures of ideas and inspirations and all with a month by month slant to keep you on top of the seasons.

Come and say hello and join in. We'll be running photo competitions and projects for you to join in on, and with guest bloggers and discounts at online boutiques, it really is the place to play in 2007.

Hope to see you soon!!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Brighton Montages

Have been investigating various ways to show a number of similar photos at once, rather than plastering the blog with columns of pictures. I've always admired Paola's technique, and these are my first efforts. Something tells me restricting the block size and keeping them all the same size works better...

I got very excited about the huts along the promenade between Brighton and Hove. I'm sure that's a craft project (quilt? cushion? scarf?) just waiting to happen...
The Boy's inlaws live in this rather fabulous block of flats in Hove. The interior is too modern hippy for me, but it's probably just as well I don't live there or I would be trapped in an endless attempt to recreate an exact period scheme. I think when your home is so exactly pinpointed in time, it would be impossible to avoid it, don't you?
The bottom left window is the inside image of the sunray stained glass above the main entrance doors. Do you follow?! Isn't it fabulous?!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Sunset strips

Brighton sunset, with old pier and new pier in the distance....
Sunset over the Blackwall tunnel on the way home...
Sunset over Hackney...