Monday, 29 August 2011

Catherine AD's music box

For a while now, more creative musicians have been luring their fans away from downloads with specially customised artwork, one-of-a-kind packaging and other extras alongside their CDs. Catherine AD's latest offering beats any I've seen so far, with her mini album Communion coming with a hand cranked mechanical music box. You get a one-off, hand punched section of music from the album - each one is unique. It also comes with one blank music scroll and a mechanical punch for you to create your own music box track. Plus Ltd Edition CD with order of service hymn sheet, limited postcards and 7 track CD. It's £30 or however much more you're happy to pay.I, for one, love having an excuse to actually order real life CDs, investing in limited edition artwork and supporting independent musicians at the same time.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Vintage Tea Party Book

There are few things more satisfying than seeing success come to people who really deserve it, case in point being Angel Adoree, whose Vintage Patisserie has served tea and cake to some of the fanciest crowds around.Now the secrets to hosting the perfect tea party can be ours, as Angel has written a truly inspiring book- much more than the average cupcake book, much more than a cook book actually, as it also features a style guide and numerous non-culinary projects. What has made Angel's business so successful is how hands-on she is, how she manages to be incredibly charming and approachable however busy she may be.The book is a success for the same reason in that is features so much of Angel's personality,giving it that autobiographical feel that makes you really warm to an author.

The introduction features old black and white photographs of Angel's family which gives you an idea of her background and where her vintage style has come from. The whole book is full of stunning illustrations by Adele Mildred, as well as some of the most beautiful food photography I've ever seen, by Yuki Sugiura. The edible delights are all set out with beautiful vintage props, as was the spread at the book launch on Wednesday night. Vintage chess boards were laid out with Angel's handmade chocolates, whilst cake stands were covered in sugared fruit and scones, and jasmine tea champagne was served in china teacups.

Amongst the illustrations are some beautiful templates you can photocopy as invitations- accompanied by a really thought provoking page by Angel about the number of friends one has on certain social networking sites, and how many of these so called friends would actually come to a party if you invited them. She appreciates real-life acts of friendship like the posting of an invitation as much as the hand-baking of cakes.

Margaret of Penny Dreadful Vintage and Lena of The Vintage Guide to London

There's much more to the book than food, with pieces on how to make a variety of vintage inspired aprons, how to source appropriate props, parlour games to play and grooming tips for women and men. Of course the recipes themselves are also divine-and not just for those with a sweet tooth;Angel covers brunch, afternoon tea and evening recipes, as well as drinks.I've already set my heart on making the chocolate coconut granola, spinach and parmesan muffins and rose pannacotta, pictured below.

There's even a stencil of the queen included so you can make your own bunting and flags.This is as much a coffee table book as it is a cookbook for the kitchen shelves, as well as the story of one woman's charismatic style and success.
You can buy it here, where you can also see some more of the gorgeous images from inside the book, published by Octopus Books.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Clean Up has just begun.

I'm not going to write much about the London riots as I think we need to move on, and there are people who are in a much better position than I am to discuss the issues- these are the two articles from The Independent and The Telegraph that sum up many of my own thoughts. I was in Hackney on Monday when everything started kicking of, and it was truly frightening.Over the past few days I've felt scared, saddened, angry, but most of all ashamed. Ashamed that the last few generations of society have let things get to this point, ashamed that its taken this for me to volunteer for an underprivileged kids' charity though I've known for ages that it's something I should do.
Before you start writing angry comments about how nothing justifies the behaviour we've seen, acknowledging that there are deep rooted reasons this has happened is NOT the same as excusing it.Obviously this is criminal behaviour, and yes I do agree that there is probably no more noble sentiment in most of the rioters' minds than greed, materialism and a lust for violence,but its our responsibility as the educated to look at WHY we have a whole sector of society that is inclined to behave in this way. The term 'sheer criminality' has been tossed around by politicians as if people are either born with this tendency or not, with David Cameron going as far as to say that this is 'sheer criminality, pure and simple'. This is ANYTHING but pure and simple, with a multitude of economic, racial, social and political reasons that this has happened.Hackney, particularly, is a part of town that is having money poured into the Olympics projects-but will any of these kids get be part of the games?Or even attend?Hell, even I can't afford tickets!People were surprised when the rioting spread to areas like Gloucester, but I have honestly never lived in any towns with greater social divides than Cheltenham and Oxford. Rioters there live just miles away from some of the most expensive schools in the country, and with the rise in tuition fees, we are only increasing the gap between those who can afford further education and those who cannot.
Another thing thats really bugged me over the last few days has been the placing of blame on social media, from both politicians and the media itself. I honestly think that a lot of the spokespeople genuinely don't understand the difference between blackberry messenger and twitter and probably think its all part of the same thing, but at the end of the day, twitter is not evil, neither are phones but both are tools with which the dark side of people can come out.They are also however, tools which can show people's good side too, as with the Riot clean-up efforts. I very nearly wrote a blog post about how the internet brings out the best and the worst in people during the couple of days of Amy Winehouse and Norway news; people jumping at the chance to make self righteous statements about how mourning one woman is inappropriate when so many were dead in the tragic incident in Norway.As usual people are massively simplifying things and insulting everyone's intelligence; we ARE able to care about more than one thing at once. I am able, right now, to be equally horrified by famine in Africa as I am by the riots in London. Sometimes these things are just too big for 140 characters.Or a blog post, really.So I'll stop now, I just wanted to put my thoughts down before this became a part of history.I sincerely hope you are all safe and well, please do think about volunteering for Kids Company or somewhere similar if you have any time to spare.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Kew Gardens

At the beginning of the 'summer' I was sent some tickets to Kew Gardens by their team with a view to visiting and writing up my trip,but its taken until this last weekend for there to be decent enough weather to go!I finally made it to Kew on Sunday in the glorious sunshine-looking forward to seeing the glasshouses where the Downtown Abbey stars were photographed for last month's Vogue. My co-stars were Sabrina,Mariana and Akeela, who all looked gorgeous.

Look!A picture of me!That hardly ever happens.

Ironically after waiting ages for good weather to visit Kew, it was actually a bit too warm to spend much time in the beautiful greenhouses- I'd definitely like to visit in the winter when the warmth would be welcome.

I've been trying to teach myself how to draw recently, largely inspired by old botanical illustrations like these (as well as golden age children's illustrators like Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac)

Kew was a wonderful place to photograph lots of flowers for drawing practice. Of course I also wish I could do a photoshoot there to take some shots like these. I did a few with my baby sister back at our garden at home earlier this year.

Having lived in London for years and yet somehow having never visited Kew, I really enjoyed my trip and would definitely go back again. However, I would definitely recommend you take your own food and drink- I wasn't sure if we were allowed to bring our own picnics into the grounds and didn't get a reply from Kew's twitter account (it was the weekend so there was only an automated phone service when I called) so we ended up buying our food at the cafe there which was very pricey. But like I said, I'll be visiting again for sure; I'd like to see the gardens in other seasons- Autumn for example, and especially Christmas if we have snow again this year.Mmmmm Christmas... *sits with ice-bucket down pants*....

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Kate Nash at The Industry London

I was thrilled to be invited to The Industry London's first event under their new name (they were formerly Fashion Business Club) to celebrate the launch of their new website. Courtney Blackman-one of the most charismatic people in fashion PR, is the managing director and my old school friend Penelope (founder of Fox and Squirrel) handles their press. There were plenty of other familiar faces there too-Rivkie Baum, editor of Slink magazine (I'm just finishing writing up a couple of great interviews for the next issue-Mad Men fans,stay tuned!), Cate Sevilla of Bitch Buzz, Nicola Woods of Beautiful Soul, Sabina Emrit of Access Fashion and Matthew Zorpas of PR Wonderland. Events like this are a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues in real life- as a freelancer you can sometimes feel a bit isolated working from home and only chatting via twitter.
I was particularly interested in the theme of this talk too- Kate Nash discussing fashion, style and women in the music industry with her stylist Rebekah Roy. If you read my blog regularly you'll know that I also work as stylist to singer Gabby Young, so it was great to hear how another stylist and singer work together. The most interesting topic we broached was the sexualisation of women in the music industry, which is a subject I'm actually currently pitching to SXSW as a panel discussion for their festival next year.Kate was speaking about the work she's done with young girls, promoting healthy body image and building confidence, which is something thats being discussed a lot at the moment by the likes of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk. I think young girls- and those of us who are fully grown!- can find it very confusing that supposed feminists like Beyonce are singing songs about Girls Ruling the World but are also spending most of their music videos and on stage shows strutting around in their pants.Is this a feminist statement?Or is it the overpowering influence of all the men in the music industry? Kate herself acknowledges that she'd probably sell more records if she did a lads' mag shoot. But she' lucky enough to work with a team who respects her style and image as it is and isn't going to try and change her.The issue of songwriting itself and the messages female performers give out to girls was also touched upon, with Kate referring to the lyrics of the travesty that is 'Don't Cha' by the Pussycat Dolls as an example of songs encouraging bitchiness amongst women.Kate wrote an article for The Independent on this sort of thing which you can read here, talking about how 'real sexiness is about art,mystery and intelligence'.Well said.
Photo from The Industry London, Rebekah Roy, Kate Nash and Courtney Blackman
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