30 Days of Film: Lou's Day 30

| by Lou | 9.38pm UK time |

Your favourite film of all time

(Took me long enough! I've actually had this sitting in drafts almost finished for a month... New job, lovely man (Michelle did very well with that set-up) conspired to distract me from ever finishing this.)

At last. The final one. I've known all along what the film would be:

On the Waterfront

I fucking love this film. The main reason why can be summed up in two words: Marlon Brando.

I'm going to use an adjective I've never before had cause to put into a sentence:

His performance in this film is incandescent.

Of course in it he delivers one of the most famous pieces of acting ever - the "I coulda been a contender" speech. I knew this scene long before I saw it, and even with the high expectations and the foreknowledge it is still a stellar moment of acting.

But in this film he gives an overall performance of raw power and tender softness that transcends a single moment of celluloid legend. I love the swoon-worthy moments of delicacy and vulnerability:

When he picks up the girl's glove and sub-consciously puts it on his own hand.

When he pushes her against the wall and kisses her to the floor.

He is simply stunning across every frame, every line, every scene.

A film about a waterfront union dispute sounds rather bland and dry. But for me in Brando's performance* is a film about something (or someone) shaking up your life and leading to a catharthis where you find within yourself an integrity, a strength, a goodness and a sense of pride you didn't even know you were capable of.

Marlon Brando, Terry Malloy - I salute you.

*I say Brando's performance to try and detatch from the dodgy political context of the Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg McCarthyist thing - I choose to detatch this from my own experience of the film, having not known about it when I first saw and fell in love with it.

30 Days of Film: Bel's day 30

| by Bel | 3.35pm NZ time |

Your favourite film of all time

My favourite film? My favourite? Singular?? Choose just one?!
Yeah right.

Because then I'd have to decide whether I like Amelie better than The Philadelphia Story!

Or find some way of comparing Clueless with La Haine. Both of which are films I love, but for very different reasons.

And I just saw Drive on Sunday, and I easily think that could go onto the Best Movies Evaaaaaah list.

And most of all, I am always hoping that I am yet to see my favourite film.

Recipe: Kiwi Jaffa Tart

| by Lou | 4.10pm UK time |

Oh, hello blog. Sorry. We've been neglecting you. Um, how about some home baking to get things pumping again?

Earlier this year I had a wonderous Jaffa Tart in a restaurant in Te Anau and have been looking for an opportunity to make one myself. With a bag of jaffas sitting in my kitchen and my gentleman friend coming to stay it seemed the perfect excuse... but... there seems to be no recipe for a Kiwi Jaffa Tart on the internet.

Allow me to provide one, with credit to Mary Berry and Willie for the base and filling respectively.

I made two mini tarts, so double the recipe if you are making a big one.

Kiwi Jaffa Tart

85g flour
50g butter
1 tbsp icing sugar
Half an egg yolk
Half a tbsp cold water

Cut the cold butter into tiny cubes and rub through the flour (or use a food mixer if you have one). Rub through the icing sugar, then add the egg yolk and cold water. Use your hands to mix it into a nice consistent lump of dough and stick it in the fridge for half an hour.

Tip from Mary: Lay baking paper over your bench surface before the roll out phase - it's sooo much easier for clean up. Grease the tart tin's base and sprinkle with flour, then roll the dough out so that it exceeds the edges of the tin base by about an inch (or more if making one big one with higher sides).

Fold the sides in and delicately place it into the tin, then fold the sides back up and press them into the (greased) tin sides. There will be surplus hanging over the edge which Mary would leave, but as mine fell off the tin into the bottom of the oven and nearly set my kitchen on fire (leading to me burning my arm and the pastry in the panic...), I would actually recommend cutting the surplus edges off. Also check there isn't surplus flour on the bottom of the tin.

Cover with tin foil and weigh with baking beans (or actual little stones, or I used rice), and bake for 15 mins at 200C. Remove the foil and baking beans, then cook for a further 10 mins or so until it is dry.

90g very dark chocolate (I used 85%)
25g butter
35g castor sugar
90ml maple syrup
1 and a half eggs (use the rest of the egg from the pastry for the half)

Chop the chocolate finely and melt with the butter over boiling water. Gently heat the syrup and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Whisk the eggs and then combine all three.

Great British Bake-Off tip: put the bases into the oven and then pour the filling in from a jug. It avoids spilling as you transfer from bench to oven.

Bake 10-15 minutes until it is firm.

The Kiwi Bit:
Crush a whole load of jaffas. This is not as easy as it sounds - I used a rolling pin and still found them to be ridiculously resiliant.

Sprinkle the crushed jaffas (or just halved, as the photo shows many of mine to have been) over the tart. I did it while it was still very hot so that the jaffas melted a tiny wee bit, helping them to adhere.

Once everything has cooled remove the tart from the tin, and voila:

Recipe: Lemon gin & tonic cake

| by Bel | 4.04pm NZ time |

UPDATE: Download the lemon gin & tonic cake recipe (1 page PDF 100KB via google docs) thoughtfully scanned by my colleague!

When life gives you lemons, make a G&T ... cake!!

To clarify, I have never actually made this cake, but I did eat a chunk of it for morning tea today:

It was delicious.

Here is an approximation of the recipe that I found on Google, which the lady in my office says is pretty much the same as the one she used:


200g Butter
1 1/2 cups Chelsea White Sugar
Zest of 2 Lemons
4 x Eggs
3 cups Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Salt
1 cup Milk (at room temperature)

1/2 cup Chelsea Caster Sugar
Juice of 2 Lemons
6 Tbsp gin


Preheat the oven to 160ÂșC (fan-bake). Prepare a 24cm loose-bottomed cake tin by lining the base with baking paper, brushing the sides with butter and dredging lightly with flour.

To make the cake, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time.Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, and fold carefully into the egg mixture.

Add the milk and stir in gently. Pile the mixture into the prepared cake tin.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the cake shrinks from the sides of the tin. This can also be made in 6 small loaf tins which would be baked for about 25 minutes.

While the cake is cooking, prepare the topping and the decoration. To make the topping, stir the caster sugar, lemon juice and gin together.When the cake is removed from the oven, pour topping mixture over the hot cake. Using a brulee torch, gently scortch the top of the cake.

From the Chelsea Sugar website.

Just to be specific, here are the instructions I got from the chef in my office:
The one I made was 2 cakes and then you iced it with white choc butter icing

I was confused initially as that recipe only mentions booze in the topping, and I was sure that the cake itself as soaking in ginly goodness, but apparently the topping makes its way down through the body of the cake, infusing flavour throughout.

Giant eagles, you guys!!

| by Bel | 2.13pm NZ time |

I've had this article open in a browser tab for the last week, so I can re-read it each day and be amazed.

Because I love shit like this:

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has raised concerns about whether sea eagles could differentiate between children and their natural prey.

The Scottish government said it was not aware of any attacks by sea eagles on children in other countries and did not think a public inquiry was necessary.

A Scottish sea eagle has a wing span of up to 8 feet, you guys! It's bigger than me! That is so kick ass! I totally think that could attack a small child if it wanted!! And the eagles are endangered so NO COMPLAINING.

(And did I nominate the Very Reverend Hunter Farquharson, attacked by a giant eagle whilst trying to defend a goose, for Name of the Year? Yes, yes I did.)

How to write a letter.

| by Bel | 10.59am NZ time |

Know that you need to write the letter.
Someone will tell you that you need to.
Spend five years not writing the letter.
You think that you will write the letter.
Someone will tell you that you need to.
Think about actually writing the letter.
Congratulate yourself for these thoughts.
Spend a week not writing the letter.
Write an outline of the letter’s structure in your journal.
Spend another week not writing the letter.
Write ‘write the letter’ in your to-do list on today’s page of your journal.
Find a refill pad like you used to have at school.
Rip one sheet off and fold it down and down.
You now have the same number of folds as there are sections in your outline.
Write the title of each section at each fold.
Fill in the sections titled ‘Greeting’ and ‘Ending’.
Take your pants off so you are more comfortable.
Now all you need to do is write the letter.
Write the letter.
It will only take you half an hour. It feels like five years.
Write out a second copy which doesn’t have the folds and the titles.
Show it to someone.
Someone who knew you needed to write it but didn’t tell you to.
Tell them you don’t want to know what they think.
They will read it and say a job’s not worth doing if you can’t do it with your pants off.
Put your pants back on.
Put the letter in its envelope.
Send it.

Nail polish question:

| by Bel | 11.35am NZ time |

Is this colour ugly-in-a-cool-way or just ugly?

It is Butter London Fash Pack. They says it's "putty meets mushroom" and in the bottle it has a golden sheen which doesn't really translate on the nail.

I did a top coat of Sally Hansen Anti-Chip after it was recommended on Jezebel. I'm getting my beauty advice pretty much exclusively from Jane Marie of the Hairpin these days, so we'll see how that goes.

And if you know of a nail polish colour that is a solid pastel pale cappuccino tan, please let me know and put me out of my misery!

Update: Hair crisis and make-up boredom

| by Lou | 12.04pm UK time |

In the aftermath of the hair crisis, KGB who I bought the voucher from have told me they will refund the money I paid. A strongly worded email to the hairdressing salon garnered an apology and an offer for free colour treatments (which I will not be taking up).

The colour is okay, but I don't particularly like it. It looks like a glowing beacon in daylight (though as London is plunged into typical overcast darkness that might not be a problem), and then looks okay in the evening time.

Excuse the terrible photo, but this best shows the luminous roots and also my all-important accessories (sparkly clutch from Bel, Diana F+ camera, glass of bubbly):

I reckon I'll leave it a couple of weeks to recover a little bit, then put a darker red through to try and tone it down a bit (though the roots coming through might do that anyway).

To liven up my extremely boring life of make-up I bought a blue colour palette and have gone back to liquid eye-liner (and found it's so much easier to use than on previous attempts).

I did feel a little bit more lively in the photos than my usual pale canvas, though that might have been the rosiness of high wine intake and a very successful matchmaking attempt by the bride:

Hair crisis: when ginger goes bad

| by Lou | 5.10pm UK time |

This is a story all about how AM Beauty Salon in Knightsbridge ruined my lovely hair. If you've stumbled upon this post via googling them, take my advice: DO NOT GO THERE. I have aged 10 years in the last 24 hours dealing with the catastrophic result of their absolute incompetence.

Let me set the scene. This is me on Sunday - dyed red hair, with a bit of regrowth. (And new £5 sunglasses, which I love - aren't they hilarious? I found them in an emo teen shop in Edinburgh.)

I had wanted to get my hair refreshed for The Wedding Of The Year on Saturday, so jumped at this voucher offer from kgb deals:

£29 for a half head of highlights or a full head of colour plus a wash, cut and blow dry worth £235 at A.M Beauty Salon - save 88%

I went in and said "I'd like to dye it ginger". The hair-dresser expressed some reservations. I said I would be fine to keep it red if it wasn't going to work. He brought out colour samples and pointed at the vibrant ginger. I said that was what I was thinking, but that I would be okay with the darker ginger if it wasn't going to work in my hair. He said he was going to give it a go.

Here is where is starts to get a bit fishy. He made up the dye and applied it to my roots. Just my roots. And left it for at least 45 minutes. It might have been an hour. Then put it through the rest of my hair and left it for at least another 45 minutes. It might have been another hour. By the time it was washed out I had read 100 pages of my book and my scalp was starting to go numb.

They rinsed it out and sat me down in front of the mirror. My roots were a luminous peroxide-orange colour. The rest was a dark ginger. I was stunned. Mortified.

He seemed to say something about the lightness being brought down through my hair "next time". I didn't really know what this meant as surely if it was a two-stage process you would tell the client that at the beginning. I said he needed to make the roots darker. He said wouldn't I want to make the rest lighter to get the colour I wanted? I said I didn't care, whichever was easiest, I just needed to have one single coloured hair as I have a wedding on Saturday.

He took me back to the sink and spent approx 20-30 mins rubbing the hair dye in to the next section of hair. During this time I had rising panic that nearly led to tears. I can't go to the wedding looking like a clown! But I reassured myself that of course he would sort it out. He's an expert! He knows what he's doing!

He rinsed it out and took me back to the chair. And commenced with the cut (a bit of a trim really - I think it took all of 15 minutes). And then blow dried it.

The roots were still a luminous orange. The next section was just a little bit lighter to slightly mask the difference. He insisted that the salon lights were emphasising it, and that it really wouldn't be noticeable in all other lighting. And that next time the light colour would be pulled through the rest of the hair.

I was so convinced (or so wanting to convinced) that, having been there for 4 hours by this stage, I tipped him. £10.

This morning I woke up to this:

Not so bad, you're thinking.

But allow me to emphasise the difference in colours:


How did this happen?

How does an "expert" do this?

How does a salon let a client leave looking like this?

And how could this possibly be worth £235?!

Suddenly everything he did became clearly inept in retrospect:

  • Putting the colour into the roots so much longer before the rest of the hair. What the fuck! I'm no hair expert (hence trusting him), but even I know that untreated hair (ie the roots) reacts more strongly to colour than treated hair. When I or a hair-dresser has ever dyed my hair in the past the roots are done, and very swiftly followed by the rest. No 45+ minute gap. WHAT THE FUCK.
  • Telling me that in the "next stage" the lighter ginger would be brought through the rest of my hair. What the fuck! I asked for ginger hair, not an inch of ginger hair. Who in their right mind thinks that someone asking for ginger hair is saying "I want an inch of ginger hair"? And why on earth act as though it needs more time for the colour to work in the rest of my hair when he himself was the one who put it on the roots for so much longer? WHAT THE FUCK.

He had become progressively quieter during the time I was there. I realise now that he was probably panicking. He had been scratching at my hair when the dye was in to see how it was working. He really scrubbed that dye through the second time round after I'd expressed discontent. He knew that it was awful.

In blind panic I got two boxes of my trusty usual hair dye, thinking that even if it dyed my roots a bright red they would at least be the same colour as the rest of my hair. I enlisted a friend to put it through and she says that the "expert" hadn't even evenly fucked my hair - some roots were lighter than others, some bits at the back had been missed.

Thank god for Schwarzkopf Live Colour XXL Red Passion. I shall go to the ball.

Shame that even after five (5!) conditioning treatments my hair still feels like straw, and my scalp is very irritated.

I have sent a Very Strongly Worded email to the salon with a photo, have requested my money back from kgb, and am never trusting a British hairdresser ever again.

Cheeky make-up: the why & wherefore of blusher

| by Bel | 11.30am NZ time |

An example of my varied style inspiration. Source

Blusher is a quick fix. It brightens you up literally and somehow figuratively too.

Even if you're in a super hurry, slathing on facial moisturiser and then a quick brush of blush will stave off comments such as, "You look tired, dear. Are you doing too much?". (I hate people who tell you you look tired, neglecting to follow it up with "Here is a voucher for a massage, I'll complete your tax return while you're gone".)

Sometimes after I've carefully applied non-wobbly eyeliner, coated my lashes in goop, and puckered up for lipstick, I wonder why I'm still looking wan after all that effort. A swish of blusher does the trick.

Powder blush in 'Sweetness' by MAC

Absurdly bright and lasting, this is my favourite. I've already blogged about how economical it is to use and the dollface look it brings.

I dab a little on the apples of my cheek and sweep it back a little for a retro pin-up girl look. It's easy to go overboard but I imagine that if you chose a more neutral shade, that would be less of a risk!

I have brushed this on in the morning and then rubbed it off at the end of the day after having sweated for an hour at the gym and everything. It's a real trooper!

Shisedo Colour Stick in 'Bronze' (cream blush)

A cream blusher is a bit quicker and easier to apply and less risky to carry around than a powder. I never would have chosen a shade called Bronze if it hadn't been recommended by the make-up counter lady, but this one really does work on those of us with darker eyes and hair.

I apply the stick directly to my face, making a dot on each cheek. Often I am tempted to stop right there and spend the day looking like an over-excited anime character:

But I resist that urge and instead use my fingertips to blend the colour high along my cheekbone.

I'm sure if I had a bit more skill, I could somehow use it for contouring highlights in that way the magazines all talk about, promising us that dramatic bone structure is just a trick of the light. But thus far it has just been used to create a healthy glow, bringing colour to my face which is sometimes without tinted moisturiser and always without foundation.

The Body Shop in 'Raspberry Pink' (cream blush)

This isn't on The Body Shop website and perhaps isn't available any longer. Probably a good thing, because it is more of a vanishing cream than anything else. On application, you get nice rosy cheeks, but within even an hour, there is not a trace of colour to be seen.

I would recommend instead The Body Shop 'Brush With Fashion' Cheek Tint. I don't own this, but have seen it in action on the lovely Steph's face as part of a demo of the limited edition release:

Grabbing the hot pink Tailored Cheek Tint (RRP $30.00), Derbhal explains to us, her eager pupils, that it changes colour by reacting to body temperature. She also recommends its versatility as a lip stain: “And better yet, it doesn’t budge, no matter what you eat.”

I squeeze a little from the tube – it comes out completely clear, but within a minute or less, I have a rosy daub of striking pink on the back of my hand. I think this was my favourite of the lot – a magical process and staying power.

I'm not sure if that range is still in store or not, but its definitely worth keep an eye out for!

Blue eyes

| by Lou | 2.20pm UK time |

Every time I see photos of myself from a social function I think "gosh I'm boring" as I never really move beyond eye-liner as my one and only "look". With a wedding coming up and Bel selfishly living on the otherside of the world so unavailable to do my make-up for me I've been doing some googling and trying to come up with some variety. (I swear this has nothing to do with the bride seating me next to that single heterosexual guy she's been wanting to set me up with for yonks.)

The interweb is telling me that for blue eyes I should be wearing browns (reiterated by Bel once putting some copper on me to great effect, but I can't track down that specific shade and am pretty sure I wouldn't be able to imitate her application). However I personally always prefer my trusty black-and-silver (which I have jazzed up by applying over a base of light blue). But then I wonder if I'm just really boring and don't like trying new things?

So dear readers, I ask you for your opinion - browns or black-and-silver?

I'm pointing at the black-and-silver

Further information: I will be wearing a royal blue dress, and my hair will probably be a lighter auburn colour.

Because I am taking this very seriously, here is a closer up shot. Which begs the question that has haunted my life - why do my teeth look so yellow in photos? I swear they're not yellow in real-life. And I don't smoke, and certainly haven't had enough cups of tea in my life to warrant it. Hmph.

Also why does it look like I have very little eye shadow on
when to me while applying it is practically bucketed on?

(I also don't yet have any shoes to wear, but that's not as easily solved via the interweb.)

30 Days of Film: Lou's Day 29

| by Lou | 11.33am UK time |

A film from your childhood

My earliest film memories are:

The Goonies

imdb tells me that it would have been 1985/86. My family and I were on holiday with friends of mum and dad's who lived in a small Canterbury town called Geraldine. I thought they were funny as we all had the Southland rrrrrrr and they had a seeming inability to pronounce an r - therefore my brother Kirrrrrk became Kik.

During the holiday it was one of the Canterbury kids' birthdays and they made her a witch birthday cake from the Australian Woman's Weekly Birthday Cake Book, using those chip sticks you used to get as the broom bristles. The weather was really hot so we celebrated outside in a yard of brown fried grass.

Us kids were allowed to go to the cinema to see The Goonies. One of the Canterbury kids had to come late as she had a doctor's appointment due to having arthritis-like symptoms in her hands. The seven of us sat along the front row armed with popcorn and lollies and feeling like kings and queens of the world.

The film was awesome. I have always dreamed of finding a cave waterslide that leads into a hidden lagoon.

The Princess Bride

It would have been 1988. I had watched The Princess Bride on television and was so overwhelmed by its wonderousness that I promptly wrote all about it in my dinky diary. (It was a purple one that a friend had given me for my birthday.)

I wrote with breathless excitement about a film I had seen that was so great and I might never see it again so needed to get the plot down on paper lest I forget. At the time my brother and sister and I were big fans of wrestling, so Andre the Giant's role in the film just made it even better.

Years later I saw the film again and was absolutely delighted to recognise it as the film I had so loved when a child. Rewatching it as an adult I can't argue with the judgement of my 7-or-8-year-old self - it's a glorious film that captures adventure and romance in a way that nothing else has.

In praise of the Moon Cup

| by Lou | 2.52pm UK time |

Join the revolution: the Moon Cup is awesome. Honestly. From first try you'll wonder how you ever thought it was okay to wad yourself with cotton.

I bought one 6 weeks ago on a whim, mostly motivated by environmental reasons and a dodgy tampon experience. (Dodgy in this case being the mildly disturbing incidence of the cotton not all staying in one piece. One tiny little loose tuft is quite wrong when it comes to internal useage.)

First impressions: it's smaller than I expected, and seeing it in person made it seem so much more logical than thinking about it in the abstract. After reading the instructions about a thousand times I waited for the time to come to try it feeling still rather skeptical.

First time round I found it quite difficult to get out (as in ten minutes of OH MY GOD IT'S NEVER COMING OUT - but hey, now I'm much better aquainted with my vagina!), but after a couple of goes (and a lot of googling) I've now found a technique that's quick and easy. It is extremely comfortable, in that I didn't feel it at all. And while obviously for the first two goes I didn't trust it to not leak, having now used it a few times I feel 99.9% secure.

I felt so secure that I took it on a beach holiday. This is the ultimate test. And five days in a bikini/ retro one-piece using solely the moon cup has me totally and utterly convinced that it is the best option.

(It's an especially great option if you're irrationally afraid of sharks like I am. As it actually creates a barrier there is much less chance of releasing that miniscule amount of blood that will send every shark within a thousand mile radius heading your way.)

Here are my reasons why you should give it a go:

  • Environmentally there is no question that a single reusable cup is a gazillion times better than constant disposal of wads of cotton.

  • Economically it is way cheaper, with the bonus that you'll no longer be supporting corporations to make dodgy products and market them patronisingly ("Have a happy period!" FUCK OFF!).

  • In terms of convenience, once the entry-and-exit technique is mastered it is an easy solution that cuts out that fricking irritating scenario of realising you don't have any tampons with you (and doesn't involve desperately looking around wondering where the fuck you're going to dispose of the used product because your old workplace only has open bins in the unisex toilets basically forcing you into the flush option which is soooooo bad for the poor waterways and sewage workers, but that's another story). However the only catch is that if you work somewhere that does not have a sink in the cubicle you'll need a bottle of water to give it a rinse. But having said that, I found that I could easily go 8 hours without having to empty it. And drinking lots of water is good for you anyway.

  • It just feels so much healthier. Honestly - I was sticking wads of cotton inside myself? Seriously?? And especially when you get to that end phase where it's sort of tailing off but not completely so you sort of still need to use a tampon but at the same time it feels wrong because there isn't quite enough there... Yeah, none of that.

  • It is thought that it reduces cramping, and based on my two months of useage I would agree. The theory is that it is allowing the body to shed the uterine lining in its natural way because it is falling down into the cup rather than immediately hitting a cotton barrier. I can't state it as a fact due to not having been using it longer, but usually for me at least one out of two times would involve horrific unbearable cramping and I have had none of that.

  • Lastly, it's actually kind of interesting and makes the whole experience of menstruation feel like a natural thing rather than some female defect that needs to be mopped up with branded cotton wads.

Colour me converted.

EDIT TO ADD: I forgot to mention that it requires some heavy duty thigh strength to do an empty out in aeroplane toilets. But it is possible.

101 things 1001 days: #75 Whale watching

| by Bel | 4.12pm NZ time |

A sperm whale, a humpback whale, a second, larger, sperm whale, and a pod of 200 or so dolphins. All hanging out in the Pacific Ocean just off Kaikoura in the South Island. Yes, this can most definitely be ticked off the list!

Completed on July 22nd, with 878 days left of my Day Zero Project