Thursday, 28 March 2013

And this is why...

I shouldn't be allowed anywhere near Target.

 Me + clearance aisle + seasonal aisle = insanity.

I'll be in San Francisco and Napa this weekend, doing some wine-tasting, possibly hanging out with some Tennesee Fainting Goats, and almost definitely eating myself into a hyperglycemic coma.

Happy Easter!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Pimms O'Clock

This was a good weekend.

Thursday, 21 March 2013


It was bound to happen at some point.

None of my recent baking efforts have been perfect, but none of them have been unqualified disasters either.

Until now. Behold, the world's most lopsided chocolate cake with fleur de sel caramel filling.

I found the recipe here and then decided to save some time and just use Trader Joe's fleur de sel caramel instead of making the filling myself. 

That part went fine. In fact, it all went pretty well to begin with...

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Graffiti Run: Glorious technicolour

If you're in England right now, suffering through what feels like an endless succession of grey, cold, dark, drab days, well, firstly you have my sympathy.

Secondly, I suggest you sit yourself next to one of those sun lamp thingummys, take a look at these pictures and remind yourself of the restorative power of colour.

I honestly don't know what to say about the Graffiti Run, except that it's a very long time indeed since I had that much fun. Having that much fun while running a 5k, or in fact taking any enjoyment at all in an activity involving a 6am wake-up call? Basically a miracle.

A very colourful miracle.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Los Angeles, I'm Yours

When I moved here, I didn't have a clue what to expect.

I uprooted myself and moved 5000 miles to a city (and a state, and a time zone) that I'd never even visited.

And to be frank, I don't think it's a move I would have ever considered if a specific job opportunity hadn't arisen. If you'd ask me where in America I'd like to live, I would definitely have picked New York. Maybe Portland. Or San Francisco. Chicago, at a push. Never the land of 'resting' actors, fake boobs, shallowness, smog and traffic.

And it definitely hasn't been easy to adjust to living here. Los Angeles can be insular. Working from home, living alone, and working odd, anti-social hours can make establishing a routine or a social life super tricky.

I got so homesick at times. I missed so many huge events in my friends' lives. I missed English humour, and English seasons.

And wow, there really are no shortage of fake-boobed, fake-smiling, yappy-dog owning girls in this city unable to talk about anything except their next audition, their BMI or how to hook a rich dude.

But the thing is, I've fallen absurdly, overwhelmingly in love with Los Angeles.

When people ask me why that is, I can give them a partial explanation. I can try and tell them about the quality of the light in the hour before sunset. Or the neon signs advertising weird retro motels. I can describe how, 15 minutes after I leave my house, I can be hiking up canyons, surrounded by birds and skunks and signs bearing warnings about mountain lions.

I could attempt to explain how incredible it feels to have the ocean in one direction and the mountains in another. To be able to head to Palm Springs for a weekend, or to hang out in Santa Barbara for the day. And I could tell them about the amazing group of friends I've gradually gotten to know, and how lucky I feel to have made those connections.

But that's the thing about love - however much you try and explain it, the whole is so much more than the constituent parts.

My time here has been perfect in so many ways. But I want to keep it that way. I want LA to be like that perfect, unforgettable summer romance.* I don't want to overstay my welcome. And right now, to stay here would involve making sacrifices in terms of my career that I'm not ready to make.

So next month I'll be heading back to London. And I'm really hoping I can rekindle the love affair I used to have with my historic, diverse, familiar old stomping ground.

But man, I'm going to miss this place.

*Feel free to start singing Summer Lovin' here. Like, really, feel free.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Baking spree: German chocolate cake

As you might have already read, it was my friend E's birthday the other day. And when I asked what cake she might want me to conjure up for her, she didn't even hesitate:

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Ladies who lunch

I'm feeling a little fragile today, so instead of bombarding you with words, here are a few pictures from a lunch in very windy, very beautiful Malibu to celebrate my friend E's birthday.

Please note the giant cake. This is how all restaurants should behave when you mention the word 'birthday', in my humble opinion...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

What happens in Vegas: the neon boneyard

OK people, keep up now. I went to Vegas. I still don't entirely understand Vegas. I did some work. I marvelled at the magical powers of David Copperfield. I did some more work. I marvelled at people's capacity to consume enormous frozen beverages.

And then I found myself with a little window between finishing work and heading to the airport. So I decided to pay a little visit to pretty much the only Vegas tourist attraction I've ever been interested in: the Neon Museum.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

What happens in Vegas

I just got back from a short work trip to Las Vegas.

I'm not going to lie - I remain unconvinced. This is my second visit and I just can't seem to get over my impression that the city is overrun by people in bad t-shirts drinking giant slushees.

I stayed at the Paris.

It's like you're in France! Except not.

Things that surprised me about the hotel:

:: The half-hour queue for check-in. I mean, I get it, it's a big hotel. But half an hour? In a 4-star hotel? 

:: The French staff. I can only imagine they were chosen because their general rudeness seemed very stereotypically Parisian...

:: The room. I was in a Premier room - not the cheapest, apparently. The TV didn't turn on (not that I wanted to watch it, but I wanted to check out that way and couldn't), it had a fine view of a parking lot, and well, it was kind of old and tatty.

Not that I'm really in a position to complain about any of this. I wasn't actually paying, the bed was comfortable and I spent approximately zero time in my room or in the casino, so none of it mattered that much.

What would improve the Arc de Triomphe? I know. Gordon Ramsay's head. 

The main reason I spent no time in my room (apart from the whole work thing) was that a big group of us spent our Friday night at the MGM Grand.

First, a big group of Aussies and I grabbed dinner at the hotel's Nobhill Tavern, which was all fine and dandy. 

Then we went, en masse, to see David Copperfield's show. 

I have no pictures of this, sadly. You're not allowed to take them.*

The best thing about the performance? When Steve Carrell came out on stage half-way through. The majority of the audience totally failed to realise it was really him, politely but unenthusiastically applauded, and he ambled off again looking dejected.

Actually, the whole show was pretty interesting. For a few of the tricks I could see that logically, there was only one way to do them. But others? I was baffled. He disappeared a few audience members, magicked a few vehicles on stage and predicted the future. Oh, and he popped some balloons with the power of his mind. As you do.

Then, because I have no idea how to gamble, I had hours of work ahead of me and I was stupidly tired, I left the Aussies at the blackjack tables to gamble the night away, and retreated to my comfortable bed.

So maybe that's the secret to Vegas? The shows are pretty cool (Elton! Seriously. I'm not joking. I would pay good money to see Elton...), there are some great restaurants, and if you've never seen the Eiffel Tower, well. This is a mock-up of it on the Vegas strip. Enjoy.

*I do actually have one picture of me posing with David Copperfield post-show, but I look utterly insane in it, so I feel you can live without that.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Recent reads

I picked up Suite Francaise in my favourite second hand bookstore a few months ago without knowing anything about it. I tend to allow a couple of hours on a day off to browse, drink coffee and forage in the $1 section, and come away with anything between half a dozen and 15 books, varying from battered Agatha Christie to hard-back new-ish releases, the occasional classic and pretty much anything in between. 

And then, to be honest, I read the books I was most excited about, and kind of forgot about the others. Until I was prepping for an interview with Michelle Williams a couple of weeks ago and I found it she was kind of-sort of-maybe-possibly attached to a film adaptation of Suite Francaise. 

So I started to read. And lo and behold, it's beautiful. Written and set during 1940 and 1941, it's an often unsympathetic portrayal of a country still traumatised by the First World War, but forced to adapt to being occupied by Germans. It's about class and greed and family and religion, national identity and what survival instincts come to the fore when the things you care about are threatened.