Sunday, 27 December 2009

Turkey days

Trying out timeless recipes to use up leftovers can be fun – just imagine you’re on Masterchef, with a limited time-frame to create something exotic from the few bits of bird left on the bone. My father became expert at this – in around 20 minutes, he could create a really delicious meal from left-over turkey. It was probably the only cooking he ever did at the time – a once a year show-off dish for the one day when he wasn’t too busy working, or out playing sport, (or whatever else he got up to – probably best not to ask).

When queried about this recipe, which I recall was very tomatoey, (a vision of him standing with an upturned tomato ketchup bottle over a pan sticks in my mind) – he claimed that only fresh tomatoes were used for the dish, saying he never added any extra tomato sauce…

Dad's signature dish was adapated from a recipe for 'chicken pilaff' that he got from a rather funny old book called the Good Cook’s Encyclopedia by Pamela Fry. The sepia coloured, food stained pages of my parents’ original 1962 copy tell their own story.

According to my recollection, no doubt swayed by a large dose of nostalgia, Dad's post-Christmas turkey pilaf(f?) tasted utterly divine. It’s the best comfort food ever - and will definitely prevent you from getting scurvy, (especially if topped up with extra tomato paste and/or ketchup).

In the 1970s, pudding afterwards might have consisted of an ample slice of lemon meringue pie, (also packed with Vitamin C and great for keeping Winter colds at bay). I haven’t had lemon curd for years, but if you bought more lemons than were required over the holidays, why not transform them into a delicious lemon preserve? You could even show them off in an arty retro perspex preserve pot, like the one shown below, that’s available from ShopCurious.

Messing about in the kitchen can be curiously creative, and much more fulfilling than snoozing in front of the TV – especially when you get to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Will you?

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all our customers and everyone in the blogosphere a curiously cracking Christmas. Here’s a curious card I picked up at my local newsagents-cum-Post Office: Thought you might appreciate a rather quirky take on London in the snow - as it was a few days ago. Not sure if Chelsea has ever looked quite this pastoral, but its prettification has a certain quaint and timeless olde worlde seasonal charm... (by the way, that's not a fashion season I'm referring to and no, this isn't a blog about trends, though nostalgia is pretty big at the moment).

If you travel a little outside London (just 20 miles up the A41 will do) you can find the real thing – as I discovered last weekend when driving to a party in deepest Buckinghamshire. See the photo left (taken from a car window) of the English countryside looking peaceful and serenely beautiful - though it was actually fairly treacherous on the roads.

And now a selection of rather more stylish Christmas greetings from some very wonderful members of Are you ShopCurious? at Polyvore, who are all so creative, clever and inspiring – I’m totally in awe…


"Season Greetings"
"Season Greetings"

Meditation by alyssam88

For Shopcurious

For Shopcurious by caramilka

Thank you for being curious in 2009.

I’m really looking forward to another year of style with brains in 2010.

Are you?

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Curiously special cities

On Friday evening, I received an email from Eurostar entitled ‘Europe: the ideal Christmas gift’. It offered a ‘Christmas present to remember from £69’ and suggested it wasn’t a good idea to ‘traipse around the shops for days to find that perfect gift’, as “Eurostar has the perfect present for your nearest and dearest – an experience they’ll never forget."

Nightlife of Paris

I was curiously amused the following morning when I heard on the news that a couple of thousand people had been trapped in the Channel Tunnel, whilst trains were brought to a standstill by the freezing weather. Very shortly before I received the email, those who had just boarded trains in Paris at 7.0 pm weren't to know that they wouldn’t arrive back in London until 11.0 am the following morning. I’ve been stuck on trains myself and feel true pity for the poor souls caught up in this curious incident, which was tinged by the trademark incompetence that seems peculiar to the railways. Then, the next day, at the gym, someone complained that it had taken them 24 hours to get back from a trip to Cyprus – where the weather had been uncharacteristically stormy and generally pretty awful.

How glad I am to be staying in London this Christmas, where hopefully the streets will be traffic free, as those trying to escape our great city get stuck in snow drifts on the motorway, delayed at airports, or squeezed into overfull train carriages - though, wherever you are (or are aiming to be), I sincerely wish you a carefree, happy and healthy holiday...

And, I'm curious to know which city will you be spending the holiday season in – and why?

Some very creative members of Are you ShopCurious? at Polyvore have already provided stylish evidence and reasons as to why they love certain cities rather than others. Here are the winners from our Special Cities contest at Polyvore (click on the images to enlarge):

1st Place:
Seattle Dancer
Seattle Dancer by maia-arts

2nd Place:

Cairo Curious

3rd Place:

Tokyo by blubird ( out and about )

4th Place:

Even Angels get dizzy in LA
Even Angels get dizzy in LA by fandiane - writing away

5th Place:

Vem, meu amor!
Vem, meu amor! by Silencer

6th Place:

Norwich, a Fine City

There were 116 entries in total, so if you have time before you rush off for the holiday break, do take a look and judge for yourself, which of the cities are most special and stylish to you. Or perhaps you already have your own special city?

Do You?

PS As it was so difficult to choose the winners, here are a few more:

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Climate change style

As the global warming debate gets heated, it’s official – Winter has finally arrived the UK, with the first big freeze of the season. This week I’ve found myself searching through drawers for a warm scarf and some gloves. Understandably, I’m not going to wear any old scarf and gloves – they’ve got to be reasonably stylish … and, just because something’s quirky and individual, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s got style (see right).

Some people are considered cool enough to carry off any look, though you’ll probably find that a lot of work has gone into arranging David Beckham’s Chelsea knot. He’s possibly not so pleased in this weather, having recently had the sides of his hair shaved off – his ears must be freezing!

Men who are in touch with their feminine side are great with scarves. I reckon that Jude Law is a man of many scarves – he certainly seems to have one for every occasion.

Anyway, whether you’re looking to keep your neck warm during the day, or prevent yourself shivering during seasonal evening events, ShopCurious has a selection of stylish vintage men’s scarves - each with its own unique charm.

These one-off pieces are great as unusual gifts, yet curiously practical too… especially at this time of year. I’m sure any sophisticated man would love something timeless by Tootal or stylish by Sammy as a Christmas gift.

Of course, those who prefer the handmade variety might consider knitting their own – though I rather prefer the timeless classic scarf to the Timelord look. Unless you think we might be on the brink of a new Ice Age...

Do you?

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Christmas party cufflinks

Giving a man a nice pair of cufflinks is the equivalent of giving an expensive bottle of perfume to a woman. It's something you might not wear every day, but when you do, you feel really special – and everyone seems to notice.

These days, men tend not to dress up so much, but there are still some for whom the double cuff shirt is a daily uniform. In fact, I've noticed quite a bit of competition amongst men, over who's wearing the most quirky and unusual cufflinks.

These vintage silver and Lucite ‘pink rose’ cufflinks from ShopCurious will certainly get you noticed, as they’re totally unique and full of character. Perfect for special occasions, such as the office Christmas party – or, if you haven’t got your Christmas presents yet, they'd make a wonderfully original stocking filler.

Curiously cool, with timeless style – now that’s what I call a classy combination.

Do you?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Make a note in the diary

We’re all too busy to think at this time of year, which probably explains lots of things (yes, all those lost, missed, forgotten and overlooked ones...) Better write a list before you forget something.

If you’re curious to know how to save time wondering about what to buy for presents and shopping around to buy them, here’s a suggestion for some Christmas gifts that are very practical, reasonably priced and rather individual:

The item that always seems to get used is a notebook. Diaries are also useful, but best to buy the timeless variety (without dates), which can be used whenever and wherever you like.

You can find these curiously stylish, handy home accessories at ShopCurious – the covers are rather arty and the pages inside are illustrated with quirky designs, so each day is totally unique.

They’re perfect stocking fillers - and you know they’ll be appreciated, as they're great for all manner of jottings from writing a shopping list, outstanding tasks, projects, recording a New Year diet regime (heaven forbid), a daily schedule, notes for memoirs, memories, things to remember, friends to call, names, numbers, aspirations, dreams and doodlings…

Probably a good idea to buy one for yourself too - I’m sure you’re going to need it?

Are you?

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Festive pillow talk

I received this card today, from friends who are sensibly going somewhere sunny for Christmas. The hastily scrawled message inside reads, “sorry we will be away this year, but have one for us xxx”

Having narrowly escaped illness all year, despite being sneezed upon by everyone around me (babies in pushchairs in Post Office queues have been the worst offenders), I was happily in the midst of a frenzied whirl of work, present hunting and festive fun…but now I feel like I’m finally about to come down with a cold. So, I’m dosed up with Vitamin C - as the prospect of looking like a red-nosed reindeer in a party dress doesn’t really appeal.

Thanks for rubbing it in guys – I’ve taken on board the curiously cool dark glasses idea… I'll probably need them more than you!

Anyway, I was briefly on the sofa, propped up with a selection of my favourite cushions, in front of the TV. In fact, I was just thinking about making a honey and lemon drink, when I started to panic about Christmas Day. It’s hardly surprising that the festive season is a time of undue stresses and strains – not just on the waistline, but the temper can get terribly frayed too. According to research by Jarlsberg cheese, statistics show that families will have their first argument at 9.58am on Christmas Day.

Apparently, the order of play on the average Christmas day goes something like this:

Get up: 7.55am
Open presents: 8.19am
Eat breakfast: 9.02am
First chocolate is eaten: 8.39am
Family argument: 9.58am
Tell off the kids at: 11.07am
Time of first alcoholic drink: 11.49am
Sit down to Christmas dinner: 3.24pm
First person falls asleep: 4.59pm
Play board game at: 5.46pm
Time for bed: 11.39pm

The survey concludes that, due to the high level of excitement and expectations, as well as so many things going on, “it's important to remember that Christmas can't always be perfect - not everything may run to plan."

As I dozed in and out of slumber on the sofa (no I wasn’t dribbling, honest), I suddenly thought that a few extra cushions might also be rather useful on Christmas day – and we've got plenty to choose from at ShopCurious.

There are so many advantages of giving and receiving cushions as Christmas gifts:

1) Cushions are great if you’re indisposed with seasonal flu, you need a little lie down after lunch, or find yourself curiously crashed out after a tad too much of the old liqueur;

2) They’re suitable for gents and ladies alike – (though it’s always a good idea to consider the recipient’s style and taste when choosing a design);

3) Parents love cushions too – especially the type that bring back memories of places you've visited together... and a cheesy message always goes down well;

4) They can make a very romantic present too;

5) Cushions are timeless gifts that can be used all year round - and they should last for many years to come, if you treat them with love and respect;

6) Best of all, they can be used for pillow fights on Christmas day.

Do let us know if your cushions come in handy over the holiday break.

Will you?

PS Oops, I forgot to mention that cushions can be fabulously decorative too - and they make a home feel really cosy....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, 4 December 2009

The timeless tradition of the tree

As they turned on the lights on the Christmas tree in London’s Trafalgar Square last night, I had my own little ceremony – switching on the twinklers that adorn my alternative Trithrinax Brasiliensis (Brazilian Needle Palm).

Traditional Christmas trees cause me a great deal of stress. Firstly, finding a tree that fits the height of the room – preferably one with branches in all the right places, is not always a simple task. Then locating the Christmas decorations can be somewhat bothersome, as I’m never quite sure where I put them after last year’s festivities. I know some people love decorating their tree, but I personally find this rather an annual chore. The biggest challenge of all, is keeping the damned thing alive until after the event - by which time, almost all the tree's needles are deposited over the floor, leaving a huge mess to be cleared up (don't even think of going away!) Oh, and there’s the added awkwardness of disposing of an enormous tree trunk from a seventh floor apartment…

It's hardly surprising that others seem to share my mixed feelings - as illustrated by these photos of even more unconventional Christmas trees posted on the internet (click on the pics to enlarge):

I’m not sure this inflatable tree (left) has quite the aesthetic appeal of a real one – and those kitty Santas are a decidedly odd addition... even the cat looks curious.

However, this multi-functional tree of beer bottles solves the problem of where to store your Christmas booze… and you can consume the contents over the Xmas break, hmmm.

An upside down tree is certainly an original idea, but what about the effect of gravity on the needles? This one’s probably best reserved for the artificial variety.

Talking of which, I also spotted some high-tech, designer versions that are most unusual. How about a spinning tree?

Or what about this flat-packed, eco-friendly affair by Australian design team, Buro North? I'm not certain this is quite so timeless in its appeal - and minimalism doesn't come cheap - apparently, this costs nigh on two thousand dollars.

A less costly solution might be to grab a few blocks of wood and add some household candles for decoration (see right).

Or better still, omit the wood and invest in some exquisitiely scented curiosity candles by Mad et Len, from ShopCurious - to ensure that your home smells simply divine over the festive break. By the way, these make affordably luxurious Christmas gifts too.

In any event, although I’m impressed with the innovative array of curious Christmas trees featured on the net, I tend to agree with Amy Jorgensen that, “no matter how a tree is decorated it still symboliszes the timeless Christmas tradition of families gathered together exchanging presents and love”.

Do you?