Wednesday, 24 February 2010

FOTD and NOTD: smokey purples



This was my face yesterday. I usually go for a flicked liner and lipgloss look but I haven't done a smoky eye for ages, plus I have FINALLY found the (near)perfect nude lipstick and wanted to try it out! 5N from MAC's All Ages, Races, Sexes is almost perfect for my pigmented lips, but it's a touch too blue. But I put MAC Jubilee over it which I never wear (an SA said it was a perfect nude for me but it's way too pale and peachy! grrr) and it becomes totally perfect. I just wish I could combine the two!

I can't really do a black smoky look because it makes my skin look ashen so I usually opt for purple or green. It doesn't look as dramatic here but it was pretty smokey for a day look!

What I wore:

Base:
MAC Moisturecover Select concealer
Urban Decay Primer Potion

Eyes:
MAC Nanogold eyeshadow over lids as wash (from Cult of Cherry quad)
Bobbi Brown plum shadow from a random smokey eye palette I got from the Bicester CCO ages ago in socket and on lashline
MAC Rave Pearlglide liner over the top of plum shadow
L'Oreal HIP cream liner in black over that
MAC Vanilla pigment in inner corner of eyes as highlighter and on browbone
YSL Faux Cils mascara

Face:
MAC MSF in Dark
MAC Breezy blush
MAC Spiked brow pencil




Lips:
MAC 5N lipstick with a bit of MAC Jubilee lipstick on top

Close-up:

And these were my nails, one of my favourite shades, OPI Siberian Nights, a cool toned deep purple:



Even with Seche Vite I always ruin at least two nails on application!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Three years ago yesterday, I read this poem to my dad in East Surrey Hospital. During his illness I had found it difficult to find things to occupy his bright, bright mind that didn't exhaust him. We tried a portable TV (no reception in the ward), short books (he couldn't sustain the effort of reading), and puzzles (too silly for my high-minded, cerebral father). 

But a day or so before my dad died, I was picking up things he needed before visiting the hospital and I came upon his battered copy of The Golden Treasury, the anthology of poetry he and so many of my father's generation were taught at school in the subcontinent, and which caused them to dream of an exotic, mysterious England. Naipaul says of this: "Wordsworth's notorious poem about the daffodil. A pretty little flower, no doubt; but we had never seen it. Could the poem have any meaning for us?" And yet the greats of English literature had a profound effect. My favourite Gias Uncle will quote Shakespeare with a reverence that he does not for Tagore. And my father would always go back to the Romantics. 

Ever-hungry for knowledge, my father would always squirrel away the books I read on my courses, including Benjamin, C. L. R. James, and Adorno. As a Maoist trained in economics, however, he'd always return my books on cultural Marxism to me with a dismissive, bemused shrug. My postcolonial literary works, he'd find too plaintive, and not "really literature." Duncan Wu's monumental Romanticism, on the other hand, was still on my dad's bookcase downstairs when I cleared it a few months ago, only for me to find receipts and other bits and pieces he used as bookmarks, underlinings and his beautiful, but generally illegible handwriting marking its pages.

And though by day I'm a postcolonial scholar with my head firmly in contemporary literature, the Romantics have been a source of joy my father and I always shared. As a pretentious undergraduate studying "Literature" I memorised Keats' odes, and after reading Tennyson aloud late at night, dreamt up an essay structure in fitful, hallucinatory sleep (I both cringe and am proud of this). I've a continuing affection for the poems, in whose lyrical beauty I can revel without deconstructing them for future articles.

So I read Keats, Shelley and Wordsworth to him that morning, with feeling, and I think, well. The words seem to transport him, away from the clinical room and the pain, if but for moments. Recalling it I feel so honoured that I was able to do this little little thing, when throughout his life he had done so many things for me. 

Wordworth's poem has an enduring, poignant significance.* We are experiencing a very cold start to spring this year, but three years ago it was mild and the green-yellow daffodil buds were already beginning to peep from their leaves in our garden. We had hoped that my dad's stay in hospital was going to be brief, and I told him after reading the poem that on his return he would see them in bloom. He didn't, and so I'm always filled with a mixture of sadness and joy when I first see them, and another spring begins, without him.

*It is also the logo for Marie Curie Cancer Care, who throughout my dad's illness provided us with a level of support we will never be able to repay. So if you meet me, and I'm wearing my coat, you'll notice a daffodil brooch on my lapel, and you'll know now the many reasons why I wear it.




Thursday, 18 February 2010

Valentine's Dinner

As promised, here's what I made for V Day. I can't bear restaurants on the ickiest day of the year, so I made this:



Crab linguine with cream and chilli

followed by




fluffy chocolate mousse and shortbread

(all of which are Bartimaeus faves)

I used tinned crab for the linguine because I couldn't find fresh. I've come across lots of recipes that use tinned crab (I think Nigella uses it) but I've always been quite sceptical - given fresh crab can be quite fishy-smelling I thought tinned would be way worse. It was much more reasonable (£2.09 a tin, which isn't sardine priced but not bad) and  was expecting a fishy, tuna-y mush. I was so surprised to see little claw-shaped whole white chunks when I opened my tins finally (I'm left handed in everything but writing and I really struggle opening tins!) which looked like pearls! Now I'd definitely recommend tinned crab as a cheap way to get more seafood in your diet.

Crab Linguine


The recipe was one I tweaked as I went along, and goes something like this. Can I just emphasise that the parsley is pretty much essential to this dish, as is the rocket - both lift the flavours and cut the richness. It tasted kinda bland and overrich until I added both - when suddenly it transformed to deliciousness.


Serves 4

Ingredients

8 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli or 1/2 tsp crushed chilli flakes
1 large glass of white wine
olive oil
2 tins of white crab meat, flaked
200ml double cream
juice and zest of half a lemon
1 large bunch of parsley, coarsely chopped
bag of rocket leaves

dried linguine

Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a pan and fry 1 clove of chopped garlic and the chilli over medium heat. Add the crab and mix through. Leave to one side.

Fry shallots in olive oil over low heat until softened. Add 1 clove of chopped garlic. Turn up heat and add glass of wine. Let it bubble, and smell it - when it doesn't smell of alcohol anymore, it's all evaporated. Turn the heat right down and stir in the cream. In another pot, ass linguine to boiling salted water (it cooks in 6 minutes so keep an eye out and drain when al dente!) Add the crab to the cream sauce and season to taste. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir well, and chuck in the parsley.

Plate up, and serve with generous amount of rocket leaves and a lemon wedge.


Shortbread

This is the easiest thing ever to bake, the only thing you have to do is make sure your butter is soft (I microwave mine on the lowest setting for 30 seconds at a time because our kitchen's so cold it'd stay rock hard even if it wasn't in the fridge!)

Ingredients

Makes about 15 small or 10 large biscuits

125g butter, softened (I used salted because I like my shortbread salty but it's up to you)
55g caster sugar
180g plain flour

Preheat oven to 190C (gas mark).

Beat the sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy. Stir in flour a bit at a time until it mixes to a crumbly dough.

Flour your work surface and roll out the dough gently. Cut into fingers, rounds or novelty heart and butterfly shapes depending on cutters available and how twee you are. Place on greaseproof paper, prick each shape with a fork a couple of times, and sprinkle with some more caster sugar. Chill in fridge for 20 minutes and then place in oven. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly golden.

Don't remove from paper until fully cooled or they'll crumble!


My Fluffy Chocolate Mousse

Now this is a Gordon Ramsey recipe I tweaked so much I feel no shame in claiming it as mine. Whilst I do like a dark, rich chocolate mousse sometimes, I much prefer a lighter fluffy creamier kind. Plus Bartimaeus' favourite pudding is dunking shortbread in mousse for which, obviousement, you need a dunkable mousse. A thick chocolate pot type isn't going to get you very far, and may result in broken shortbread (gasp).

Sooo this is my version. Some of the measurements (well, the cream) are approximate because I whisked, tasted, added until I was happy with it.

100g 70% dark chocolate, chopped
500ml double cream
2 large egg whites
50g caster sugar

Place chocolate into large bowl. Boil 150ml of the cream and pour over chocolate, stirring until it is all melted (if it doesn't all melt, put in microwave for 30 seconds at a time and stir every interval until it is). Cool chocolate cream over bowl of iced water.

Add rest of the cream and whisk to soft peaks (don't overwhisk or the next bit will be difficult!)

Whisk the egg whites, adding sugar, tablespoon at a time until you get stiff peaks. Fold this into the chocolate cream very carefully so as not to whip out any air.

Spoon into glasses or heart shaped ramekins, again depending on how twee you like to be with your special occasions (me, much!)

Et voila.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Ups and Downs

I'll post a foodie post tomorrow featuring the dinner I made at the weekend, but right now my life is rather polarised. Here's why...

Up

Conference funding

Which means I'll be going to Turin for a week in late August. My expenses will be covered and Bartimaeus is going to come with! There are some panels I'll have to attend but it'll be part-work part-holiday, in a place I wouldn't usually be able to afford to go to! Academic conferences should always be held in beautiful holiday locations (take note, Postcolonial Studies Association, who held theirs by an industrial park in a less than idyllic part of Ireland...)

The Brits

Had an exhausting day yesterday and have had another one today involving my 5 hour Kent commute and 2 meetings, so am very much looking forward to watching this later, reading my bumper fashion issue of Grazia and marking

Pancake Day

with Findus Crispy Pancakes! (Except they're made by Green Isle now). I usually make proper pancakes but tonight I'll be way too shattered so we're taking a trip down memory lane instead!

Pearl Encrusted Bow Earrings

I bought them from Miss Selfridge and love them! I can't really do the pastels and nudes that are in season, but these are perfect to sweeten my outfits (because they're, um, so tough and edgy otherwise). They're very flattering too.

Bollywood

I am taking my my mum to watch the Shah Rukh Khan blockbuster My Name Is Khan tomorrow. Shah Rukh + Kajol = best Bollywood couple ever, so stay posted for a review!

Spring

It's getting light so much earlier in the mornings and I no longer have to force my eyes open! My energy levels are increasing noticeably with it. Looking forward to seeing daffodils soon.

Down

Driving

Failed my umpteenth test last week and really getting fed up of the whole thing. Plus it's leaving me completely brassic this month. I'm a good driver in my lessons but get so so nervous under test conditions, and Rescue Remedy's not helping. I seem to be

Three Years

it shall be, next Monday, since my dad passed away. They say it gets easier with time, but in some ways it also makes it more painful when marking anniversaries, because of all the things they've not been there to share.



Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Alexander McQueen, RIP

Such a loss for fashion. One of the most original talents of his generation, whose clothes were both beautiful and innovative. I've posted about his collections before, but he really managed to combine the things I love about fashion: fantasy, gothic, femme fatale, magic. I thought his last collection, inspired by evolution, was astounding in its ambition, originality and courage.

I'm saddened that we'll see no more.

Rest in peace, Lee McQueen.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Particuliere Woes (or, NOTD)

Despite having been fixated on Chanel's Particuliere since before it had a name, and was simply the nail polish I saw on Lily Allen's talons in a picture from the Chanel SS10 shows, I failed to get myself a bottle.

I've been telling myself it looks better on lighter skins, that on me the brown tone wouldn't look as good. I'm only half convinced.

So, to console myself I've worn the closest thing I have to it, which isn't that close, but is my favourite nail polish: OPI Parlez Vous OPI. It's a lovely smoked lavender and so flattering on my skintone. And I'm now contemplating You Don't Know Jacques, Over the Taupe and Lenny Deighton's Supermodel as Particuliere alternatives.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

It's the little things....


but best of all, lunch with best friends, one of whom is mummy to this little lady, who was wearing this dress I bought her:

Friday, 5 February 2010

Polyvore

Polyvore is a strange web phenomenon - a place where people virtually collage away, mostly in terms of fashion or interior design. It's a very busy, creative community, based on nothing but the desire to copy, paste and put stuff together.

I love it because one of my favourite things to do it put my clothes together in new and different ways, and try out unpredictable combinations. Polyvore is a much tidier way for me to do this! I find I've been using it to "test" out things that have caught my eye - putting the item with different colours and accessories to see if it is versatile. You can't really do that in a changing room, so I believe it's helping with the shopping curb too!

Anyway, this smock dress really caught my eye in New Look but I looked terrible in it, so I virtually "wore" it instead in the way I envisioned. And it seems my preoccupation with Edwardian fashion continues, as the first thing that came to my mind when I saw this dress with its petticoats was "The Railway Children."


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Burnt Shadows, Kamila Shamsie

I have seven books I consider to be my desert island, holy grail, favourite books of all time. I define them by the quality of writing: where one sentence after another leaves you so breathless with its beauty and brilliance, that you want to underline the whole darn thing (I'm an underliner). The books that you carry around with you for some time after you've finished them, simply because you can't bear to part with them just yet. (Mine are: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, Amitav Ghosh's Shadow Lines, Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. And yes, there's a lot of American fiction in there, I know.)

Burnt Shadows, a novel that traces the interconnected lives of two families, and in doing so encompasses Nagasaki, partition, and the Afghan war, had moments of that kind of brilliance and beauty, moments that had me scrabbling for a pen and ruler (I always use a ruler). But at the same time, there were the kinds of sentences that are very obviously designed to get a reader scrabbling for a pen - over-written, with unnecessarily extended images, nestling uncomfortably with the rest of the prose and dialogue. Ones where you can visualise the author sitting back with a smug satisfied air, thinking, ah yes, that'll get them. There's a fine line between the two, and it's a subjective one. But when I come across these latter sentences, I just bristle with irritation (I did a lot of this whilst reading God of Small Things. Heck, I was just one irritated bristling thing throughout). And the spell is broken.

So I can't quite join in the critical frenzy that has occurred over this novel. This isn't to say it's not good - it really is, and at points I was moved to tears, hissed with anger, and at several points, really physically wanted to shake one of the characters. I'm also intellectually intrigued by it: it's a fascinating tale of migrations - but unlike some postcolonial texts, Shamsie's rendition of migration is the very opposite of celebratory. Her characters are forced to move, and hate doing so. They adapt, for sure, but she demonstrates how adaption exists alongside sadness and loss that do not dissipate with time. She also sets up an international network of people that span India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Japan and New York, but again, at no point does this seem a joyous example of globalisation, but is fraught and tragic, resulting in as many misunderstandings as insights into cultural difference. And the novel's denouement is devastating, and politically savage.

But it's just not quite brilliant. I'm a hard reader to please, perhaps, but there's just too much uninspired dialogue, with the odd overwritten sentence thrown in to pep it up. It's a shame, because the novel's vision is really quite ambitious, and Shamsie obviously has the skill to have written the entirety of it very well. So I bristle as much in irritation about what this novel could have been as I do over its odd overwritten sentence.