Do or DIY

A PUN! Hooray. And also, sorry.

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In my last post, I talked about a general restlessness that had descended on me, and how taking a break had been what I needed to refocus a bit. While away, I decided to have a bit of a life clear-out, so this week I’ve been cleaning out my outrageously messy room. I’m generally pretty houseproud, but a lack of storage space and abundance of freebies from my fashion/beauty editing work (I’m not complaining!) left me Confucius-like, yelling at a tide of clothes to stay back.

Clothes to the left of me, clothes to the right of me, and hours later I found myself standing shell-shocked with a variety of huge bags around me. Some were destined for the charity shop, others for the textiles bin, others were tucked away until next Winter, which is probably a good two weeks away, based on my reckoning. I was left with one pile. I called it the ‘adapt or die’ pile. So, look here. I’m bored of most of my clothes, but I’m also poor. The solution? To get sewing, painting, and gluing.

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I started with two small projects last weekend, just to ease myself back into it. There’s a danger with DIY that you’ll go too far, customise a bit too enthusiastically, and end up looking like you covered yourself in E6000 glue and rolled around in a habadashery, then Claire’s Accessories, THEN ransacked the wardrobe of that ghastly Kirstie Allsopp. Tread carefully, is what I’m trying to say.

My two projects, then. I picked up a lovely cornflower blue man’s shirt from a charity shop for £3.30, and some non-roll elastic (AMAZING STUFF), and was inspired by Geneva Vanderzeil’s book to create a mini skirt from it. Seriously easy stuff, and perfect for first time sewers. I don’t want to write up the full instructions here, as I don’t think it’s fair to Geneva and her hard work, but I’d encourage you to grab her gorgeous book..Initially I tried the shirt as a dress, as you can see below – something I might explore another time, but it was VERY short. Sorry about the rubbish quality of pics in the post, was without my usual camera.

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The second project I can tell you exactly how to do, and it’s the easiest update for jewellery ever. I dug deep into my jewellery box and found a pair of very boring rhinestone earrings. Beyond boring, they looked cheap. A clear crystal rhinestone tends to look dull at night and strange during the day, so here’s what I did: I grabbed some nail varnish. And I painted over the crystals. I used jade and lavender for a colour blocked effect. I did three coats to get a decent coverage, and left them to dry overnight. Easiest thing ever. Bonus tip: my favourite leather jacket had zips that were starting to discolour, so I painted them over with a metallic nail varnish, and it looked brand new. SIMPLE.

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Sussex Style Beauty Editorial

I’ve been terribly quiet lately, and I thought it was finally time to explain why. A couple of weeks ago, I was appointed Beauty Editor for a new glossy magazine called Sussex Style. I won’t bombard you with info on it as most of you will have already heard about it, and I don’t want to be a walking, talking ad, so I’ll just say that it’s going to be high end, aesthetically driven, stocked all around the South East, and ultimately something that this county needs!

Anyway, with my deadline looming large like a…large loomy thing, I had to set to work quickly. I’d decided that I wanted to aim high with my beauty pages. Instead of featuring products alone, I chose to create an actual beauty editorial. Now, this was one of those cases where I’d blindly opted to do something without actually knowing whether or not it was feasible, but I’d set my bar and I was determined to reach it.

I soon realised just what I’d let myself in for. First, there were the creative decisions to be made: what kind of looks was I going to go for? I began to compile moodboards, both in real life and on the dreaded Pinterest (I continue to be the only girl in the world who despises the wretched thing). That was the easy bit. Next, I had to assemble a team to help me get my ideas from the ol’ noggin to the page. I have to thank the Twitter community here, because it just wouldn’t have been possible without them. Within a few hours of tweeting I was overwhelmed with talented photographers, makeup artists and hairstylists.

Next, I talked to the people who’d been suggested, and we started to work out teams, and dates. I was extremely lucky to snag a makeup artist called Marie-Isabel Kennedy, aka Maz. Not only a ridiculously talented young lady, but she also pulled a team together as she recommended a wonderful photographer called Parisa Walklett, and also an absolutely fantastic hairstylist called Stephanie Hayes. From there, it was all systems go – I put together a brief, we started to arrange dates, and then it was time to cast a model.

This actually turned out to be the most stressful part of the operation. Up until this point, things had gone alarmingly smoothly – the team had fallen into place, we had Parisa’s studio all sorted out, the looks were signed off on, and jewellery had been sorted (more on that shortly). As we were working on such a tight time scale, it was extremely difficult to sort out a model, so I spent a rather stressful day frantically emailing and phoning all the big agencies, throwing myself on their mercy. Tell you what, it’s no joke when they talk about how young models are; heaps of the girls I requested were at school on the day of the shoot!

On Friday afternoon at 5.25pm, with the shoot on Monday, Select Model Management came up trumps with a gorgeous girl called Hannah Murrell. Hannah had the most perfect face for the shoot, and we were delighted to book her. When the booking was confirmed, I’m not ashamed to say that I leapt out of my chair, punched the air a lot and ran backwards and forwards shouting ‘YES!!! YEEEEES!!!!’ like a fool. Because what good is a crack hair and makeup team, a brilliant photographer and gorgeous jewellery without a model?!

On Monday morning I headed up to London to pick up the jewellery. I was incredibly happy with how lucky we’d been on the jewellery front. I’d put out a twitter call for some high end, quirky pieces, and while I had a good response, nothing quite fitted the bill until I got a tweet from the lovely folks behind Jolita Jewellery. Founded by Algis Abromaitis (the designer) and his sister Jolita (the marketing/press/PR guru), their pieces fit my brief perfectly, and I spent a happy hour browsing their site and pulling options out. Jolita was delightful to deal with and made my job extremely easy, and was hugely accommodating; I’d recommend them strongly to any stylists or anyone putting shoots together.

I picked up my precious cargo from the lovely Jolita, and headed out to Finsbury Park to Paris’ studio, where I met Hannah, Maz, Steph, Paris, and the adorable Henry, a French Bulldog/shih tzu cross. I’ll leave you all to put those two breeds together…We listened to a lot of music, ate a LOT of biscuits, fawned over Henry, drooled over the jewellery, and I got to watch some extremely talented people in action. The whole thing was a dream come true, and I genuinely kept expecting to wake up at any point.

I’d like to take this chance to thank my MD at Sussex Style, Sean, for giving me free rein; my amazing team of Paris, Maz and Steph, the wonderful Jolita Jewellery, the awesome Hannah, and all the tweeters who helped me out on a VERY tight deadline. That photoshoot was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I feel so proud of it. Not to get all soppy, but the whole thing meant so much to me, and I feel like I’m finally doing the things that I dreamed of doing as a teenager. I still can’t quite believe it’s all happened!

Sussex Style magazine will be coming out in November, and in the meantime hop over to the Facebook page or the Twitter account @SussexStyleMag to keep up to date with the latest news!

Vegan Challenge: Spaghetti and Ice Cream?

I’m in two minds about vegan ‘interpretations’ of what I could insultingly call ‘normal food’. Here are my two conflicting thoughts:

Love: t’s a very clever and fun thing to do to reimagine a dish within strict vegan limitations. If you’re an adventurous cook with a good palate, picking out flavours and textures that define a dish and applying them to something new can be fantastic. I truly believe that you don’t need to overload your cooking with oil, butter, cheese etc for it to taste good, although I do very much enjoy all those things. If you can come up with a version of something that stands alone as a delicious meal, then that’s fantastic.

Hate: But on the other hand…you set yourself up for disappointment. Veganism should be about enjoying and appreciating what good food is, as opposed to measuring it against what it’s not. Anyone who has ever tried to make a vegan macaroni cheese knows what I’m talking about. No combination of soy ‘dairy’, nutritional yeast and whole wheat pasta is EVER going to taste like proper mac and cheese, so what’s the point in imitating old recipes when you could focus on new, amazing recipes?

Anyway, I decided to set myself ANOTHER challenge and try to make a meal that borrowed some elements of my favourite foods, but wasn’t a pale, soggy imitation of them. I settled on courgette spaghetti with pesto, followed by banana and raspberry ice cream for my supper. Because I’m being extremely strict with myself, I’ve banned pasta from my diet for these two weeks. You have no idea what this is doing to me. I’m an absolute pasta fiend. It must be my Mediterranean heritage or something, but I’d happily eat it twice, three times a day. But eating that much pasta, plus a load of cheese and butter, is not doing me any favours, and is zapping away my energy. Courgette spaghetti seemed like a good way of creating the effect of pasta, along with a similar texture. By lightly pan-frying it in a little oil and garlic, then combining with pesto, I got a lot of my favourite bits of the pasta experience with none of the unhealthy downsides.

Courgette Spaghetti

2 medium sized courgettes
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

I shaved the courgettes with a julienne grater, and set them aside on paper towels to absorb some of the water. I lightly salted them, because otherwise courgette can be a little flavourless. I then heated the garlic on a moderate heat with the oil – I used lots of garlic because I love it so much. I lightly pan fried them until they’d absorbed the flavours without going to soft. I seasoned to taste. If I’d been doing this dish without the pesto, I’d have used a little nutmeg, or some cayenne, or red chilli to add another flavour.

Lemon & Basil Pesto

1 cup fresh basil
1 big clove of garlic (more if you’re a garlic fiend like me)
3/4 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp cashew nuts
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp sea salt

Quite frankly, you can do whatever you like with the pesto. I’ve used cashews because I had cashews, but pine nuts would be a more ‘traditional’ pesto taste. You can omit the lemon, use sage instead of basil, use almonds, use Parmesan…anything you like. I’d say just judge this one by eye/taste. If it’s dry, use more oil, if it’s dull, use more lemon. Essentially, just plonk all your ingredients in the food processor and whiz them up until you’re happy. I then tossed my courgette spaghetti in the pesto, and served it with a side of tomato salad.

Banana & Raspberry Ice Cream

2 frozen bananas
1 cup frozen raspberries

This is insultingly easy. I peeled some bananas, put them in a freezer bag, and froze them at lunch. At dinner time, I simply blended them in my food processor with a cup of frozen raspberries, and BINGO – a creamy, pretty looking, perfectly textured ‘ice cream’. You could also use a little vanilla if you like. I feel like I’m really late to this whole frozen banana party, but they are SO GOOD. I mean, this? This blew my mind. It tasted exactly like proper ice cream. And I’ve been known to make ice cream featuring clotted cream and white chocolate. I will seriously keep on eating this even if I stop being vegan. The last time I made one was when I got inspired because of Arrested Development…

So that was my supper!