Some intelligent words on writing by Hari Kunzru

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“I get great pleasure from writing, but not always, or even usually. Writing a novel is largely an exercise in psychological discipline – trying to balance your project on your chin while negotiating a minefield of depression and freak-out. Beginning is daunting; being in the middle makes you feel like Sisyphus; ending sometimes comes with the disappointment that this finite collection of words is all that remains of your infinitely rich idea. Along the way there are the pitfalls of self-disgust, boredom, disorientation and a lingering sense of inadequacy, occasionally alternating with episodes of hysterical self-congratulation as you fleetingly believe you’ve nailed that particular sentence and are destined to join the ranks of the immortals, only to be confronted the next morning with an appalling farrago of cliches that no sane human could read without vomiting.”

PREACH.

[via @Sathnam]

Small pleasures: The thing about baking

pin up cooking
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If you’ve spent some time with me (and that includes on Twitter) you’ll know that I’m a bit brownie-obsessed. Not so much with eating them, although that affords a pleasure of its own, but with finding the perfect recipe.

I won’t go all Nigella and use terms like unctuous or elven foodstuff, but brownies really are incredible. It still blows my mind that mixing various powders from the kitchen cupboard with butter and a few eggs produces something so delicious it makes your toes twitch.

Consequently, whenever I eat a brownie my thoughts are “hrrrrrngh” followed by “but how can I make it better?” This leads to thinking it’s okay to spend nearly a fiver on TWO vanilla pods and getting angry when Asda Charlton doesn’t stock chocolate with the cocoa percentage I need.

But a pleasant side effect of all this baking is sharing. More for the sake of my thighs than out of altruism, if I’m being honest. But seriously – bring French Toast Cupcakes or Cocoa Brownies into the office and you’ll make a tonne of new friends. One or two might insist on giving you a nickname (“How’s it going, Al?”) but karma will take care of them.

Obviously there are better things I could be doing with my time. Like visiting London’s best small museums, trying a new cheese or finishing that book I’m supposed to be writing.

But there are few greater pleasures than coming home on a Friday, switching the radio to Heart FM and baking some shit. And your housemates aren’t allowed to get annoyed at the disco tunes because 1) they’re stone cold classics and I’ll personally nut anyone who disagrees, and 2) you’re making a cake. Nothing ever goes wrong when you’re baking a cake*.

*Apart from this

Dear Internet: P.S, I miss you

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Mmm, internet.

I had a MacBook once. It had a cool, shiny lid that barely clicked when shut, and the jet keyboard contrasted beautifully with the chrome-coloured edges. We had four blissful months together before we parted ways. It was followed by a three-week affair with a clunky Compaq, but that wasn’t meant to be. And now I am alone again.

Life without a laptop is, to quote Lady Jesus, “the worst”.

Sure, I have a bit more spare time in the evenings. Time that I would’ve frittered away updating Tumblr or watching retro hair tutorials on YouTube or googling Jon Hamm. I’m also reading more.

But it’s only when you have to go through evenings and weekends without a computer that you realise how much it was a part of your life. I’ve had to make the following adjustments to my lifestyle, sans-lappy:

No more Spotify. Now this has hit me the hardest. I’ve gone from having a music catalogue of gajillions at my Mint Green fingertips to relying on my skeletal CD collection.

As I stopped regularly buying CDs when I was 15, my musical consumption at home is all Alicia Keys, Maroon 5 and Avril “I’m a bit too old for this emo lark” Lavigne (although I will happily take on anyone who doesn’t believe that Sk8er Boi is a choon. A CHOON).

No more writing. Ever tried writing by hand? No, not like a shopping list or passive-aggressive sticky note. I mean proper paragraphs on lined paper. That ish is rough. You can’t copy and paste, there’s no spell-check and you can forget about an anthropomorphic paperclip dispensing handy tips.

No more cooking from American food blogs. I like baking as it combines two of my favourite things – lightly salted Lurpak and following rules. And food blogs across the pond are the best places to find butteriffic recipes like Cinnamon Rolls Drowned In Goo or Banana Butterscotch Pudding.

So if you were wondering why my little corner of internet has been so slack on the update, it isn’t because I’m out having a life or something. I’m suffering from the cruellest fate that could ever befall a 20-something social media addict attempting to write a book – I don’t have a laptop.

I know. I’m so brave.

Flickr image from timjoyfamily

Frugal February: Week One

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No fudge for me :-(

Wondering what on this earth Frugal February is? Don’t fret, it’s all explained here.

So far, this February has remained frugal. I’m quite proud of myself, mostly because this week involved an afternoon trip spent in the shops of Wonderful Brighton. And I didn’t buy anything! Not a bag of fudge from The Lanes, not a vintage milk bottle (been after one of those for ages) from the cavernous Snooper’s Paradise and not a Rob Ryan mug.

Actually, if it wasn’t for Frugal Feb, goodness knows what useless tat I would’ve picked up in Brighton. I try to think that every cute poster or packet of artisan fudge I deny myself is another dollar in the pot for my trip to NYC this summer.

Not to sound like a total alcoholic, but I’m also finding that using holiday cocktails as currency is more effective than boring old pounds and pence. For example, a Sunday newspaper or pot of Barry M nail polish is about half a cocktail. A dress in the sale that I don’t really need? 3-4 cocktails. Season 3 of ER on DVD? Well that’s my bar tab for the evening covered. Unorthodox yes, but it’s a technique that has worked out so far.

That said, there have been a few things that I’ve had to buy that don’t strictly fall under the label of Essential (as in, I could just about survive without them):

  • Scrivener (£25ish). I’m writing a book at the minute and this web app is about as indispensable as my laptop. It’s a tool of immense beauty and I love love love it.
  • Spotify Premium (£10). If I’m awake then there’s an 85% chance I’m using Spotify. For ten English pounds, I get to avoid having my playlists interrupted by poorly-targeted adverts. The Spotify subscription stays.
  • Hairdresser appointment (Undisclosed amount). Sorry, did you say something? I was too busy sniffing my delicious hair. Money well spent.
  • Replacement Kettle (£15). Boiling water for tea on the stove seems quaint for a while (“It’s just like in the olden days!”) but soon becomes tiresome.

Are you taking part in Frugal Feb? How are you finding it so far?

Flickr image from biscuitsmlp’s photostream

Chanel Iman: My Latest Girl Crush

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It’s rare that I find myself flicking through a copy of Elle but, seeing as I was at the hairdresser’s yesterday, I thought I’d go along with the whole Being A Girl thing. The highlight? Chanel Iman modelling the latest pretty bits and bobs:

You can see the whole editorial here and I highly recommend that you take a peek – Chanel Iman looks heartbreakingly beautiful. The clothes aren’t too bad either.

[via MsFashinista]

Frugal February: Introduction

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Piggy bank awaits March

Because I’m a challenge-loving masochist, this month I’ll be taking part in Frugal February with a few other bloggers. As Gemma outlines in her post on Big Girls Browse, we vow to avoid shopping for anything other than essentials.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what I’ll not be buying in February:

  • Books – this includes the books I’ve been buying as research for my novel. I’ll have to use the internet or (gasp!) join the library.
  • DVDs – TV boxsets are my weakness but perving on Noah Wyle in ER season three will just have to wait until March.
  • Cosmetics – No buying a new Barry M nail polish just because they’ve introduced a new ice-cream shade. Even if they are only £2.99 a pop.
  • Hair – I have a hairdressers appointment on Saturday which I’ve had booked for three weeks. And it won’t be cheap. I’m not cancelling but I can vow not to be seduced by a £18 tub of wonder conditioner.
  • Clothes/Shoes/Accessories – None at all, except for this one dress I’ve had my eye on. And I’m buying it on eBay for under £15 so it barely counts. As for everything else, I’ll have to make do with what I have.
  • Magazines/Newspapers – This means no weekend papers, which I can cope with really as I can find everything online. But I’ll miss Black Hair & Beauty :-(
  • Eating Out - None, apart from plans I’ve made well before February. And absolutely no buying lunch from sandwich shops because I couldn’t be bothered to make one the night before.
  • Food – I’m not going to stop eating obvs, but I will make an effort to buy less meat and avoid silly ingredients. Nobody needs avocado pesto.
  • Home Things – New bedding, curtains and a rug will just have to wait until after Frugal February. Sigh.
  • Fun Stuff – No booking tickets for concerts, exhibitions, shows, the cinema or the theatre.

So why am I doing this to myself? Well, frankly I could do with the extra cash. My trip to New York isn’t going to pay for itself, and I don’t mind going without a few little luxuries in order to have more fun in what is my spiritual home (no, I haven’t been before).

I can’t imagine I’ll save a great deal of money anyway – it’s not as though I live decadently in the first place. I pride myself on the fact I don’t buy random shit and I abhor waste to a psychotic degree. Chucking away food causes me a little bit of pain (in short, I’d have been an excellent housewife during WWII).

But I suck at keeping track of what I buy and where my money goes. And that isn’t a good habit.

Expect updates over the next 28 days. I think I’ll do okay, but we’ll see – not being able to buy vanilla pods for my latest culinary experiment might just tip me over the edge…

Flickr image from bradipo’s photostream