Friday, September 28, 2012

Read This: Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides

I know this book is not new - it was first published in 2002 - and 
it won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, so I think it's safe to assume
that the book has been widely read.  But it was new to me.
I just finished reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and loved it.

I read The Virgin Suicides years ago, when the film came out, 
and I only recently read The Marriage Plot, so I was already expecting 
good things from Middlesex, considering Eugenides had already entertained me,
and Middlesex was the Pulitzer Prize winner.  The book did not disappoint.

The book begins:
'I was born twice: first as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day
in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room 
near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.'

The story is narrated by Cal Stephanides, born as Calliope Stephanides,
and tells a tale of genetic inevitability.  Cal is a hermaphrodite.

The story, however, is not as much about Cal's sex/gender, as it is about family
and about the desperation and blindness of love.

Cal begins his story with his grandparents, and their escape from Turkey
as Greek immigrants to America in 1922.  A sizable portion of the book tells 
of Desdemona and Lefty Stephanides' emigration, and their trials in establishing
themselves in America.  Built into their story is the tale of industrial Detroit,
and the changes of the city from perspectives in the automobile industry,
bootlegging, race issues and the American Dream.

The next portion of the story tells of Cal's parents, Tessie and Milton Stephanides,
growing up as part of the WWII generation and as part of a first generation of 
Americans in an immigrant family.  The narrative is seamless from each generation
and member of the Stephanides family through Cal's ability to enter the bodies
of family members and have an omniscient presence.

When it comes to the telling of the narrator's story, the majority of the narrative 
centres on Calliope the girl, and her struggle to move from childhood to womanhood 
in those trying pre-teen and early teenage years.   It is a narrative that every person, 
and definitely every female, knows well.  It is familiar in its embarrassment and 
confusion and desire to be accepted by teenage peers.

The sense of inevitability is not only present due to the course of the narrative
over generations, but is also implemented by the occasional break in the story
by the adult Cal Stephanides showing glimpses of his current life.
It is not until the last one hundred-odd pages that the physical and genetic
condition of Calliope and her shift to Cal is discussed.
Eugenides approaches the topic with a light touch which leaves the reader
only a sense of further understanding and completely without judgment.

I would recommend this book to anyone.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Alexa Pulitzer Stationery

I met up with a friend for drinks and dinner near Carnaby Street on Tuesday,
which seemed like the perfect excuse to do a little shopping beforehand.
It seemed like a particularly good excuse to spend some of my dwindling
unemployed free time wandering around Liberty.

I entered the store via the stationery room, and it took me a good 
30 minutes to leave the small room without purchasing anything.  
I have a serious love for stationery. 

The first thing that caught my eye upon entering was the Alexa Pulitzer display
of notepads and cards featuring beautiful prints from this New Orleans designer.

Alexa Pulitzer
(Clockwise from top left: one|two|three|four|five|six|centre)

I pretty much want one of everything and think the stationery would make good gifts.
The entertaining supplies are great too.

She has done exclusive collections for Anthropologie, Bergdorf Goodman,
BHLDN and Tory Burch.  I wish these monogram calendar and whale notepads 
for Anthropologie were still available.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Forest Friends

Animals, particularly forest animals, seem to be appearing on everything this fall -
from home furnishings to clothing and accessories.
The two forest animals that seem to be most prevalent are the owl and the fox.

Trend: Owls

I'm less enamoured with the foxy trend, although I do love the cushion from SMUG
and the little foxes called Owen from Zeena.

Trend: Foxy

However, while I think it's fine to sport a forest friend here or there,
the line has to be drawn somewhere.  I mean, COME ON - what are these?!
And some of these are expensive and from reputable designers like Burberry.

(French ConnectionBurberry Prorsum | ASOS | Peter Jensen)

I think I'll stick to the cushions.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What Party? Etsy Shop by Stephanie Tillman

I came across the What Party? Etsy Shop on Decor8 in
Stephanie Tillman's embroideries made me laugh and led me to her Etsy profile 
(she's an American expat living in London, so I feel we have something in common),
which then led me to even more of her great creations on her website.
These are some of my favourites - enjoy!

(All images from

Monday, September 24, 2012

London Guide: Antico

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Antico with a few friends.
I've been there twice now and would definitely recommend it.
Down Bermondsey Street near London Bridge, Antico is a simply-styled,
well-priced Italian restaurant.  The restaurant opened toward the beginning of 2012,
and having been there in April and again in September, I can unfortunately say 
they've made a few menu changes that I wish they hadn't.  Oh well, it was still good.

I think that the best Italian food of this style is simply done, 
and they do that right at Antico.

Each time I've been, we've ordered the focaccia bread and Norcerella olives.
The olives are plump and almost sweet, and the bread is thick and oily - both perfect.

The only aperitivo I've tried is the Negroni (gin, Campari, sweet vermouth),
but it was really good (if you like Campari).  The rest of the aperitivi look tasty though.

The first time I went to Antico, I didn't know how good burrata is.
I split the burrata and some grilled squid with a friend.
Don't get me wrong, the squid was good (no longer on the menu), 
but the burrata was great. The large ball of mozzarella and cream was served
with prosciutto, rocket and red pepper,  and I probably would have been happy 
going home without the rest of the meal after eating it.

Unfortunately, when I returned to Antico a couple of weeks ago, 
I found this item on the menu had changed. I ordered the burrata again, 
but this time the ball of burrata itselfwas half the size. 
 This time, it was served with black figs and prosciutto - good in theory, 
but the figs were almost, if not completely, tasteless.  
Fortunately, the rest was still really good.

For the main course, the first time I visited, I had the slow-roasted 
pork shoulder tortelloni with sage butter.  The pasta was perfect and fresh, 
and the pork had so much flavour that the simple butter was enough 
to accompany it - it definitely did not need tomato sauce. 
I would get this again.

The second time, I decided to try something new. The "special shot" that came with 
the venison and pancetta ragu fazzoletti sealed the deal.  I don't know what the
shot was comprised of, except to say that it definitely contained Sambuca, which I'm
not a huge fan of.  Otherwise, I probably would have sipped the shot instead of shooting it,
because the flavour actually did complement the taste of the ragu - quite a fun little game.
The ragu was rich and the fresh pasta, again, was perfect.

I think at this point, I've tried all the desserts on the menu due to sharing,
and they've all been really rich and delicious.  I can't lie though,
my favourite part of the meal always seems to be the cheese board.
The menu now states the board contains "regional cheeses," which 
includes 4-5 cheeses (all very good - especially the gorgonzola),
crispy bread sticks and some kind of garlic jam that's amazing.
I would skip the sweets and just go for the cheese.

Overall, Antico is great for simply-done, fresh Italian food,
for a reasonable price, on a trendy street in SE1.

(All images from Antico)

Ratings: (numbers out of 10, £ out of 4)
Food: 8
Atmosphere: 8
Service: 8
Price: £
Overall experience: 8

Friday, September 21, 2012

Penguin Drop Caps

I have a thing for books - especially books with well-designed covers.
This fall, Penguin is introducing its Drop Caps series, and I can't wait.
The Penguin Drop Caps series will consist of 26 Penguin Classics with
each cover featuring a specially commissioned illustrated letter of the alphabet
designed by Jessica Hische, the designer behind the blog Daily Drop Cap.
Each letter represents the surname of an author.

The series is kicking off with letters A through F for the following titles:
A - Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
B - Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre
C - Willa Cather's My Antonia
D - Charles Dickens' Great Expectations
E - George Elliot's Middlemarch
F - Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovery

As you can see, the covers are absolutely beautiful...

I am intrigued by the colour spectrum and how it will continue through the alphabet.

After reading Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot, I have been wanting
to read some classic literature with a renewed vigour.
I definitely have my eyes on "A," "B" and "D," and maybe "E" and "F" too
(I'll be honest, I'm only leaving "C" out because I'm unfamiliar with it!).
So I'm pretty sure that if I start buying a couple, I might end up with all 26.

The first six books in the series are available on Amazon at the 
end of the November in the UK.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fall Kitchen

While I'm always reluctant to give in to fall,
this year, I'm actually enjoying the cooling of the weather
and the falling of the leaves. I am now willing to admit that
London is just as lovely in the fall as it is in the spring.
The turn in the weather is putting me in the mood to wear sweaters 
and sip hot drinks, curl up with a book and go for crisp walks around the city.

Right now, what fall is doing most is putting me in the mood to start 
trying new fall recipes. The following are certainly on my to-cook list:

(Braised lamb ravioli with shitake parsley broth - Tartelette) 

(Tomato cobbler with blue cheese biscuits - Joy the Baker) 

(Apple muffins with brown sugar and hazelnut crumb topping - Wayfare Magazine) 

(Mick's easy peasy pumpkin soup with jamon iberico and rosemary oil - What Kate Ate) 

(Harvest cake with vanilla cream - Roost) 

(Grilled summer squash and peach salad with manchego and white truffle - Roost)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wish List: New Job

I have been on vacation for four months, and I start a new job on October 1st.
As a lawyer, I am excited about having to wear a uniform
of dark suits and white or light coloured shirts, paired with 
equally conservative accessories.
However, I am not entirely prepared to retire everything else
to the strictly-weekend wardrobe.

You'd also be surprised how difficult it is to find a conservatively
suited and booted wardrobe when you're a 20-something woman
with a limited budget.  That is, of course, unless you're willing to look 
either like you should never be taken seriously or are, in fact, middle-aged.

I went shopping today with my working wardrobe in mind,
and I returned exhausted and frustrated,
albeit with a new bag and new suit in tow.

(Bag: Zara)

I'm having a slight buyer's remorse about the suit - I can't decide 
if I actually like it or not.  An example of the minefield that is women's suits,
I was looking for a black suit dress and after trying on about 30, 
I ended up with a navy skirt suit.

(Suit: Hobbs - jacket and skirt)

So now for a bit of a therapeutic new job wish list...

1. This is the kind of suit dress a girl needs. I tried on this Theory
sheath dress with its matching jacket at Bloomingdale's
when I was in New York back in August, and it fit perfectly.
Unfortunately, the whole suit was a bit pricey for my
then unemployed pocket.

(Dress: Theory)

2. I've been needing a bag to stash my laptop in on my commute
(hence the Zara tote above), and would love to be carrying this 
Marc by Marc Jacobs hobo around.

(Soft hobo: Marc by Marc Jacobs)

3. I would definitely then need something smaller for the weekend,
like the Michael Kors Middleton bag.

(Navy and Crimson Middleton Square Flap Stripe Bag: Michael Kors)

4. It's almost officially fall and the weather in London is definitely
aware of that, so I'll be needing a coat to keep me warm.
I think either this one from Alexander McQueen,

or this one from Vivienne Westwood. 

5. Finally, this watch will keep me from being late for anything.

(Metro watch: kate spade)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thornback & Peel

British design team Thornback & Peel (Juliet Thornback and Delia Peel)
have recently opened a shop in Bloomsbury, and I can't wait to visit it.

Thornback & Peel's screen-printed textiles are simple and lovely.
Several items have been added to my wish list.

Thornback & Peel Linen Napkins

Thornback & Peel Tea Towels and Cushions

(All images from Thornback & Peel)
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