Monthly Archives: September 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow: Notes From My Kitchen Table

Instead of endless insights into the author’s tedious dilemmas, some blogs provide useful information, such as recipes. I haven’t offered any recipes up here, largely because I’m a shit cook. And I’d only be lifting them from Jamie or Nigella’s websites anyway, which frankly you can do yourselves.

But recently I’ve been trying to address the whole being-a-crap-cook thing, because, like every other guilt-ridden mother, I feel bad stuffing Emilio’s face with fish fingers and baked beans and want to give him sepia-tinted memories of home-baked cookies and Sunday-morning pancakes.

So I’ve been buying cookbooks and following the recipes with my finger, like a remedial seven-year-old. But recently it struck me that the books I’ve been buying are not by professional chefs, but pretty celebrities. I’ve got Gwyneth Paltrow’s, Sophie Dahl’s and the other day nearly bought Fay Ripley’s (OK, not quite in their league looks-wise, but still attractive, and not best known as a cook.)

The Gwyneth Paltrow one I’m really into, actually. People give her stick about her aspirational and slightly wanky website, Goop, but I like that, too (except for the boring cod-spirituality section). When we moved to LA I tried all her restaurant recommendations in the low-to-mid price bracket and there was only one dud. So I knew I’d like her cookbook because we have a fairly similar approach to food: She is neurotic about white sugar and industrially produced meat; I am neurotic about white sugar and industrially produced meat. She has kids; I have a kid. I mean, it’s like we’re the same person.

I’ve now made her banana-walnut muffins and basic tomato sauce (I told you I was a shit cook) several times, and can confirm they were a hit. Her turkey ragu, chicken Milanese and take on crumble also worked for me.

In general the book isn’t as mental and health-obsessed as you might expect – there are recipes for French toast and fudgy chocolate brownies, along with a lengthy burger section – but let’s just say it helps if you’re the type inclined to spelt flour and agave nectar. If you’ve ever found yourself trawling the ‘free from’ section of the supermarket, this one’s for you.

Anyway, yesterday I saw it knocked down to £8 (from £20) in House of Books on Moorgate, which I think is a bit of a bargain. I suspect it’s floundering about in loads of discount shops, because people think that she’s a bit of a tosser and they’re better off buying recipe books written by, y’know, trained chefs. More fool them, I say! But seriously, her food is pretty good.


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Moving to the country?

So we made a lowball offer on the Sussex place, which has been accepted. You’d think this would be cause for celebration, but I’m now fretting about whether or not this is a terrible idea and I’m going to spend my life weeping into the laundry with only a two-year-old and the Archers for company.

The advantages are: it’s a proper, grown-up house, double-fronted and everything, with a massive garden and enough bedrooms that Misha and I can have an office, and we can invite friends (plural!) to come and stay for the weekend. Having spent about six months studying Rightmove, I know we’d never get anything like that in London for the price.

Emilio would have masses of room to play and do all the baking/art-type activities I currently pretend don’t exist because they’re too messy. And if we did stay down there, I could send him to the local school and know he’d get an education. No 13-grand-a-year fees, no renting an overpriced shoebox next door to the school, no pretending to find Jesus. Just sending him to the nearest school, like normal people.

BUT with the exception of my Mum, who is admittedly a draw, I don’t really know anyone in Sussex. And I don’t know if I can face hauling my arse around playgroups trying to latch onto other mothers. It all sounds a bit bleak, like the rural landscape in winter. And although the countryside boasts lots to do with kids on sunny days (petting zoos, steam railways, that kind of thing), I’m not sure what you do with them when it rains, when you don’t know anybody.

I don’t know *sigh*. I should probably mention that we’d be renting this place, not buying, and only for six months at that (the short lease is the reason it’s so cheap). Which makes it not so much moving to the country as taking a sabbatical there. An extended holiday, really. But just thinking about it makes me miss the Tube and Topshop and Ottolenghi and other people and…


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Leaving Shoreditch…

So it looks like we are finally – finally! – moving out of our one-bed into something a bit more family-friendly. Not sure where that’ll be yet, but we are trying to be open-minded, and yesterday I went to look at a place in the Sussex countryside, outside Lewes. It was beautiful, unnervingly big (where would we find the furniture to fill it?) and cheaper than anything we’d find in last week’s area of choice, Battersea.

But, like anyone who’s lived in London for a long time, I’m slightly terrified of living anywhere else, and assume the world outside to be a backward, parochial place where everything shuts at five o’clock and the food runs the gamut from pub grub to the Panda Chinese takeaway.

I know, I know, this is misguided prejudice and these days you country folk have Daylesford Organics and literary festivals and everything. And it would be nice to see the sky and the seasons. Plus there are other things to think about these days, boring things like schools, parks and sufficient bedrooms.

I’m still not sure where we’ll end up. But although there’s lots about Shoreditch I won’t miss – the dirty main roads, the pollution, the endless fucking scaffolding – having lived here for so long, there is loads I will. Such as:

The cinemas
We have three within easy walking distance: the Barbican, the Rich Mix and the Aubin. They are all great, the problem being that, once you factor in babysitting, the cinema becomes gob-smackingly expensive. Not so long ago, we went to see Attack the Block in Leicester Square, which ended up costing about 70 quid. I wouldn’t mind but it was crap.

Babies are a test to one’s sanity and exercise is how I preserved mine. Namely at this place, which considerately runs a crèche on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. They do fun classes, like ballet to rock music, and tribute Jane Fonda aerobics, and Joan and Pip, the girls who run it, are lovely.

The markets
Columbia Road, Brick Lane and Spitalfields. On Sundays there’s no better place in London to be.

The transport
My friends in other parts of London often comment that they rarely leave their West/East/South/North comfort zone, which always strikes me as a shame because no one part of London is so uniformly great there’s no reason to go elsewhere: to West London for its schmancy boutiques and rich-person people-watching; North London for Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill and gastropubs; East London for creative edge and comedy hipsters; South London for…

Anyway, what’s great about living where I do is that, with three walkable Tube stations, it’s easy to get anywhere else (except Fulham). And in 2017 there’ll be Crossrail, which means it’ll take six minutes to get to Bond Street and 30 to get to Heathrow. Only six more years to go…

Having proper bars/pubs/cafes/restaurants
Lots of people think that the cafes/pubs/restaurants where they live are nice. They are wrong. They’ve just lowered their standards. Shoreditch has no shortage of rank venues popular with the skirt-n-shirt brigade, but there are still some goodies if you know where to look (and don’t come on a Friday night). The Albion, for instance, or Bottega Prelibato, or the Princess for Sunday lunch.

So – sniff – Shoreditch I will miss you. Thanks for the memories. But I’ve a boy who needs a bedroom, and room to run.

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Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2011

Oooh. I seem to have been shortlisted for Cosmopolitan’s Blog Awards. Will you vote for me? Please? Oh, go on. The other nominees don’t need you. They’re all teenagers with ten billion followers and a neverending supply of clothes worth photographing. I’m an ageing mother who’s still scared of Twitter.

Just click here, enter your email address and go to page six. It’s the “Lifestyle Blogger with Handpicked Media” category – and vote for Squeezed of Shoreditch. It takes two minutes, max.

Thank you. You’ll be making an old-lady blogger very happy.

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The benefits of bb creams

One of the perks about working on magazines was the truckloads of beauty products that would arrive each day. These were piled in a cupboard until it reached bursting point, when they’d be sold off for a pound apiece in aid of charity.

When you’ve paid £1 for something, you don’t show it the same reverence you would if you’d spent eighty times that. You can slather it on like Baby Oil and get a truer picture of whether it really works, rather than simply willing it to because you forked out all that cash.

This was how I found out that Crème de la Mer gives me spots, and that posh moisturisers don’t do very much. But you knew that anyway. After all, if they did, no one would have facelifts, would they?

I know this, and yet still I’m a sucker for a marketing campaign. Like the kid waiting at the window for the dad who never shows, I hope that this time, this time, it will be different. Which is how I found myself buying Garnier’s BB Miracle Skin Perfector cream.

BB (or blemish balm) creams are the latest wheeze innovation from the big beauty brands. I’ve read two articles about them and am still no wiser as to what they actually do, but the companies make vague claims about flawless finishes and ‘all-in-one’ qualities. You can buy pricey versions from Dior, Estee Lauder, MAC and Clinique, or the Garnier cream, which is about eight quid from Boots.

And you know what? It works. ‘Miracle’ is overstating it, obviously. That’s annoying bullshit, just as it’s annoying bullshit when supermodels claim their good looks are the result of ‘drinking loads of water’. But after using it my skin definitely looked better – shinier (in a good way), dewier, less knackered. Which isn’t a bad return on eight quid, I think.

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Ogilvy on Advertising

I’m reading David Ogilvy’s book about advertising. Published in 1983, it’s about as current as Beowulf, but interesting if only as a reminder of how many tits used to appear on billboards. In France and Germany, they were everywhere (and maybe still are? I’m not sure.) Being an advertising creative must have been so easy in those days. Trying to flog a moisturiser? Let’s see… How about a picture of a pretty lady with no top on? Want to sell more deodorant? Let’s see…

This one’s my personal favourite. The strapline translates as, ‘On 2 September, I will take off the top.’

The second reads, ‘On 4 September I’ll take off the bottom.’

And as the third says, she keeps her promises. I’ve no idea what it’s selling.


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I Don’t Know How She Does It…

I’ve mixed feelings about SJP’s latest vehicle, I Don’t Know How She Does It. Part of me knows it will be another lame rom-com, full of unfunny lines and fake-snow scenes. The other part of me is desperately flattered that here is a huge-budget, hyper-marketed Hollywood movie and it’s aimed at me!

Lacking a whiz financial job, I don’t live a Kate Reddy life, of course. But that doesn’t matter. With stories like this, the audience tends to clutch to the features they identify with and ignore any dissimilarities. Hence all those women who thought, I’m single! I like wine! I’m Bridget Jones!! overlooking her £500k flat in London Bridge, Notting Hill lifestyle, etc.

I tell you what I do like though, and that’s the pyjamas SJP’s character’s son is wearing in one of the publicity stills. Annoyingly, I can’t find it on Google Images, but they look to me like Hatley, which is one of the few brands that bothers making cute boys’ clothes. They’re a variation on this pair, which are £19.80 on Amazon:

Hatley also makes extremely cute wellies and raincoats. Emilio has this one (£27.50, Amazon), which he gets LOADS of wear out of:

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