Sunday, 26 September 2010

Despite the rain, despite the falling rain

On a gloomy, rainy Sunday afternoon I decided to kick the autumn blues and head for Brick Lane with my neighbours, Lucy and Miriam. I love Brick Lane for its eclectic street-side stalls and ramshackle vintage shops. Even in the grey drizzle it was the place to be.

After exploring the many stalls selling clothes and trinkets from scrabble piece rings, to lego necklaces to antique gold brooches, our noses led us to the the food stands where the smells of a hundred different foods left our mouths watering. With everything from curry to pizza and mexican food the difficulty was deciding what to have. I opted for a hot crepe with lemon and sugar; for Lucy it was a falafel and houmous wrap whilst Miriam chose spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce.

We sat and filled our stomachs whilst watching the crowds of people walking past, me unable to prevent myself from checking out the outfits. On Brick Lane fur was all the rage, as were flat, mannish shoes and chunky knits. After our food we stopped for a drink at café 1001, the hippest café / bar buzzing with all of Brick Lane's coolest chilling on huge leather sofas or reading books in cosy corners.
So all in all we beat the rain and had a great day despite the gloomy skies.

Now for snuggling up in the common room with friends to watch Notting Hill. Because despite my venture out today, when the weather's like this that's all I really want to do. :)


Saturday, 25 September 2010

Libby's Lovely Little Guide to London: Cupcake Bakeries

Today was a good day. Underneath a clear blue, sunny sky I wandered around London with my flatmate Daniel in search of cupcake bakeries. After finishing at Cosmo yesterday a luxuriously free weekend stretched ahead of me. It was a random flash of genius / madness that made me decide to set out on this cupcake adventure.
I was keen to explore London on foot after so many tube journeys cramped up in the stuffy darkness of the underground city. So this morning I headed to Oxford Street, and spent the afternoon wandering through Soho and Covent Garden, stopping at bakeries along the way.
To reach Soho we walked past Liberty, one of my favourite shops and to me on of London's most iconic landmarks, and then down the equally famous Carnaby Street.
As I set off down Carnaby Street on my search for cupcakes I felt more than a little happy. Libby Page: intrepid explorer, off to discover new sugary realms down unknown London streets.
First stop: the Hummingbird Bakery on Wardour Street. This Soho store is the newest of the three Hummingbird Bakeries (the others on Portobello road and in South Kensington) and although I had heard many things about it, I had never paid a visit before.
We were welcomed by colourful stands displaying picture perfect cupcakes, and an open door through which wafted the sound of happy chatter and the smell of sugar and butter.
The Hummingbird Bakery has been made famous by their beautiful cookbook (which has sold over 300,000 copies) and I was very happy when Daniel bought a copy for our flat.
Inside, the shop was Libby heaven. Pink cupboards, pink icing, pink everything, not to mention the tantalising smell of hundreds of cakes.
The shop and cakes reminded me of Minnie Mouse's kitchen; step inside the Hummingbird Bakery and you are transported to a rose-tinted world of sugary-scented perfection. As well as the rows and rows of cupcakes there were also moist-looking layer cakes displayed on cake stands, fruit pies and piles of brownies. A Hummingbird favourite is the Red Velvet Cake, a decadent chocolate and vanilla cake famous for its rich raspberry-red colour.

It was an effort to draw myself away from the Humminbird Bakery, but I'm sure I will be back. Besides, there were still many more places left to discover...
Next on the list was a new bakery I had read about in Vogue, and a bakery like no other. On Brewer street stood the black and neon facade of Cox Cookies and Cake, the brainchild of Patrick Cox, shoe designer turned baker.
With neon boxes in the window, an all black, sparkly interior and hunky men in studded leather aprons behind the counter, this isn't your average cupcake shop.
Never before have cupcakes looked so sexy, or has eating them seemed so glamorous.

Raspberry and white chocolate cakes sat next to gooey chocolate cupcakes with chocolate skulls balancing on thick red icing. But my favourites had to be the white chocolate and blueberry flavour, purely for the fabulous fact they had Marilyn Monroe on them.
You would be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled into a night club not a bakery if it weren't for the glass cabinets loaded with rows of cakes that stretched into the black glittery distance.

And of course I had to buy a Marilyn Monroe cake. It's not often you see a cake with your icon's face on it.
After uber-cool, quirky Cox Cookies and Cake, Primrose Bakery in Covent Garden was your traditional cupcake bakery at its best. The primrose yellow shop front was like a ray of sunshine on the grey Tavistock Street. By this time the sun had decided to hide behind a cloud, but inside the Primrose Bakery it was a beautiful day.
Full of pastel shades and retro furnishings this was a place you wanted to hang out, sipping hot chocolate and eating cake.
The Primrose Bakery, from everything from its adorable name to the spring shade icing and pink sparkly sprinkles decorating the cakes, was the epitome of girliness.
Despite the several stops at cake shops I had already made, I was yet to eat a cupcake. (The Marilyn Monroe cake was too pretty to eat and is now sitting in my fridge awaiting a long day when all I need is cake) Therefore it was at the Primrose Bakery that the temptation became too great, and Daniel and I sat down on the vintage leather seats to eat our well-deserved cupcake.

We both opted for traditional vanilla despite the array of flavours (from traditional carrot cake to the less traditional Earl Grey flavour that was a beautiful lilac shade).

Daniel's cake was yellow with pink hundreds and thousands.
Mine was, of course, pink.

Eating the cupcake was like biting into heaven.
After the delightful Primrose Bakery we headed back to Oxford Street, but our search wasn't over just yet. On Lexington Street we passed the incredibly inviting Mrs Marengo's, a vegetarian coffee and cake shop filled with traditional furnishings (think paper doileys and lace table cloths) and buzzing with people.
The cakes are made using natural and mainly organic ingredients and come in a range of tempting flavours. Whilst we were there we were offered a taster of a lemon and pistachio cake that melted in the mouth. In this cake shop you can also stop for more than just a quick bite, as they also boast a delicious menu of breakfasts and lunches as well as traditional afternoon teas.
Our final destination, as we headed through Kingly Court and back to Oxford Street, was Candy Cakes, part of the buzzing brasserie 'C'est ici'. Candy Cakes have 5 stores throughout London and are famous for their kaleidoscope array of flavours.
This is one for a real sugar fix as each cupcake has just about as much icing as cake.

With the smell of cupcakes still in my mind I pulled myself away and headed for home. After so many glorious cake shops, tonight I will no doubt dream about mounds of pink icing and hundreds of thousands falling from the sky.

What a sweet day.

Here's where I went:

The Hummingbird Bakery
155a Wardour Street

Cox Cookies and Cake
13 Brewer Street

Primrose Bakery
42 Tavistock Street

Mrs Marengo's
53 Lexington Street

Candy Cakes
11 Kingly Court

Friday - bye bye Cosmo

Friday was the third time I had to say goodbye to the Cosmo team and walk out through the doors of National Magazine House.

It has been a great, if at times tiring, week.

The highlight of yesterday was being sent by the fashion director to collect some clothes from Orla Keily. I could have quite happily have spent my life in the Monmouth street shop; it was so beautiful, and above all, happy. I left laden with colourful bags bulging with clothes.

Today was hectic, but broken up by two very pleasant interludes. At lunch I met up with my dad and godfather for a delicious meal at rustic Italian restaurant Polpo on Bleak Street. I am loving living in London and haven't felt too homesick so far, but seeing my dad waiting for me in the reception made me let out a sigh of relief. I hadn't realised how much I had been needing a big hug.

It was so lovely to see two familiar faces, and the meal was gorgeous. Think lots of small dishes to share: roast pumpkin with proscuitto, runner beans, pecorino and red onion, calamari and bruschetta piled high with roasted vegetables. Over the meal we chatted away; they were both keen to hear about my London adventures.

As a gift Dad gave me a book called '1000 things to do in London for under £10' which I think is going to become my bible. The book is well-thumbed already as I flicked through ear-marking the things I want to do. Over the next 3 years here (and hopefully many more in the future) I plan to make the most of living in such a vibrant, lively city.

After filling myself with food, wine and laughter (and after a few more hugs) I headed back to the office.

This afternoon turned out to be far too hectic for a Friday afternoon. Everyone was stressed and tired when a very pleasant surpised came as a welcome distraction. We were all busy working away when there suddenly came the sound of voices. Singing voices. Singing male voices. The entire office got up from their desks and followed the music around the corner to where a group of 5 gorgeous men were singing. The Cosmo office is (naturally) female dominated so I don't know what got everyone more excited, the singing, or seeing men, real MEN in the office. I wasn't the only one going a little weak at the knees.

The singing men turned out to be 'The Overtones' an up and coming group who were paying visits to local offices to promote their new album. I think you can safely say that from the enthusiastic applause and all the swooning going on, they definitely won us over.

When I got home I looked them up online, and fell in love with them even more when I heard their rag to riches story. The group used to be painters and decorators that sang on the side until a talent scout from Warner Bros overheard them singing during a tea break off Oxford Street, a chance encounter that ended up with the boys signing a deal with the record label. As a die-hard supporter of the underdog it was heart warming to discover that sometimes things can go unexpectedly, fantastically right.

It was sad to say goodbye to the Cosmo girls, but as the fashion assistants said to me as I left, I'm sure I'll be back soon. You just can't get rid of me that easily. :)


Wednesday, 22 September 2010


I told you the blues would only be temporary. A good night's sleep, several pages of Vogue, a few hours of Abba, Florence and The Beatles and one whole sunny day later and I'm back on form.

Today was another day at Cosmo towers, and thanks to my improved mood it was a much better day. I may just have been doing the usual chores, but there were a few excitements along the way. One such excitement came in the shape of a huge Mulberry paper bag that was delivered to the office, containing several spring/summer 2011 dresses and skirts straight from the catwalk. As I carefully took the clothes from the bag, admiring the mulberry tree motifs on the shiny gold buttons (and thinking of my friend Harriet who wants to get a mulberry tree tattoo she loves the brand so much) I imagined them waltzing down the runway on the models' slender figures. In another paper bag I plucked out some gorgeous D&G shoes that I could quite happily have trotted off in.

During the day the fashion assistants were busy on a shoot, and in my lunch break I got the chance to go down and visit the studio. Despite this being my third stint at Cosmo I have never managed to see a proper photo shoot before so as I walked into the brightly lit room I was more than a little excited. Natasha and Clare were styling themselves for the shoot, so they were busy deciding between several pairs of shoes when Robyn and I arrived. We sat and watched (and learnt) as they added the finishing touches to their make-up in the huge Hollywood style mirror and selected accessories from the table of jewellery.

As Natasha and Clare posed the photographer clicked away, and after each click and flash I watched as the image popped up on the computer screen on the other side of the room.

I really enjoyed just being in the studio and taking in the atmosphere. One of the things that appeals to me so much about fashion journalism is the creation of glamour - I love how magazines create this image of a beautiful, magical and highly aspirational world, whereas the reality is usually anything but glamorous. Today was a perfect example of this. Gorgeous, stylish photographs came out of hard work - and hard work isn't glamourous, but in this case its results definitely are.

I have just two days left at Cosmo, and will be sad to leave, but also excited to start my course and the next three years of my life.


Monday, 20 September 2010


I am now officially a student of the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts of London. Monday was my enrolment day, and a surprisingly emotional occasion considering all I was really doing was filling out paperwork. It felt so strange to be walking around the John Prince's Street site, remembering how I fell in love with it on the open day two years ago, and thinking to myself: I go here.

Perhaps that feeling should have brought me some relief, but in fact it left me more than a little intimidated. I met several people from my course, and it struck me how talented everyone here is. Lots of the other students are older than me, and everyone had done incredible things - work experience at every publication under the sun it seems. I couldn't help but feel myself shrink.

Despite how small I suddenly found myself feeling, it was still a good day. I finally got the chance to explore the library and could have spent all day walking amongst the aisles of fashion books. Each shelf was stacked with not one, but several copies of every art or fashion book you could possibly imagine. At the back of the room were DVDs, many fashion related but many not.

I am now eager to start my course. I have been given my timetable for the first term and it left me excited and desperate to get started. Rumours have been circulating that the fashion journalism course here is very intense, but I feel ready to get stuck in and work hard. Monday left me with the realisation that if I want to succeed I need to get a move on and get motivated. I have started re-writing my C.V and over this week will start applying for work experience for next year. Because although I may feel small right now, I am determined to grow.


Sunday - "Work hard, be nice to people"

Is it bad that I chose my halls of residence largely because of its proximity to the Columbia Road Flower Market? Perhaps, but it is nonetheless one of my favourite spots. After a hectic few days Sunday was the perfect lazy day. After a deliciously long (and well-needed) lie in I headed to Columbia Road with Angel, my flatmate, and Lucy who lives across the hall.

As soon as we stepped onto the street we all agreed how happy we felt. The atmosphere there is thick and sweet with happiness, laughter and the aroma of more flowers than you could ever imagine. And oh, the flowers...
Columbia Road may be famous for its floral market, but it's not just about flowers. The whole street is lined with quirky galleries, pretty cafés and beautiful shops. I was so happy to see that the gorgeous Jessie Chorley & Buddug Humphreys shop (that I have blogged about before) has moved from a small dark room upstairs to a new, street-level location. Their things look even lovelier in their new, light and airy surroundings.
Inside the shop is an Aladdin's cave of handmade treasures that are heart-achingly sentimental and appeal to an old softy like me. I wanted to buy everything. More than that even, I wanted to live inside the dreamy, softly lit interior of the shop where vintage trinkets hang next to carefully crafted gems, and where love and nostalgia are the ruling forces.
"Love is the flower you've got to let grow", reads the inscription on this vintage brooch. I can't decide which was my favourite, this one or another that read: "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life".
In one corner of the tightly-packed room stood an old dress-maker's mannequin with these handmade rosettes pinned to its chest. "Once upon a time..." read one velvet trimmed version.

Just down the street and tucked into a tiny courtyard were piles of vintage quilts and rolls of fabrics. One shop was alive with vivid colours and 60s style prints, and a rack of rainbow threads hung on the wall.
We were even provided with entertainment as we wandered down the street. Flitting between chat and song they made a charming pair, and I couldn't help but fall slightly in love with the smiley double bass player.
As we continued down the street there were constant feasts for the eyes.
And of course, no trip to Columbia Road would be complete without a visit to my hero's gorgeous shop. Rob Ryan: my love will never die.
I already had 3 of Rob Ryan's laser cut cards attached proudly to my pin board, but I thought it was only right to complete the set. Therefore it was only natural that I bought the one I had been missing, a cute blue card which now tells me each day to "Believe in people".
If your walk down Columbia Road leaves you in need of a sugar break, then head to 'Treacle', where the cupcakes look as beautiful as they smell.
The cupcakes are displayed in an old-fashioned glass cabinet for you to choose. What will it be, gooey chocolate, pink and sparkly, or perhaps one of the desperately cute minature cakey morsels?
In the Nelly Duff poster shop I could have parted with considerable cash. I loved the mottos and the bold designs and could have quite happily brought home several of them to hang on my walls.

There was one, however, that stood out. Printed boldly in one particular frame were the words "Work hard, be nice to people". Now that, to me, sums up succinctly what it is all about.

Perhaps instead of posters, however, I could opt for wall stickers. This shop sold a huge array of fun designs to brighten up your wall and make you smile.
On the way back this sign caught my eye "What you need is love. And coffee, tea, food, oysters..."
If the cupcake hasn't sustained you and you are still in need of refreshment, head to this green gated courtyard for a salmon and cream cheese bagel, or fresh oysters served to you buy the 'oyster man' as my friends named him.
I'm not an oyster fan, but Angel couldn't resist and told me they were delicious.
As Angel enjoyed her oysters we enjoyed the square, with the old shop that looked as though it had stood there forever...
and music from this unlikely yet brilliant trio.
On the way back from the market we stopped off at Hackney City Farm. Now I grew up in Dorset, and by the time I came to leave I was so sick of the countryside I never wanted to see another field again, let alone a farm animal. However after just one week in the big city I was back on a farm, this time rejoicing over the sight of chickens and hay.
It felt so surreal to wander off a busy central London street into a haven of rural calm. We had lunch in the busy restaurant, and my salad (filled with homegrown ingredients) tasted like heaven on a plate. In the room next door pottery classes were taking place, whilst outside arts and crafts stalls were set up on wood chippings under tents.

"Samba classes in the hay barn" announced a loudspeaker as Lucy and I tucked into the homemade chilli and chocolate brownie we had just bought.
For me a farm is nothing new and all in all I much prefer London life, but to see the faces of city children light up as they petted what was probably the first donkey they'd seen in their lives made me appreciate the quirky perks of rural life.
My friends loved the novelty of the farm. I loved it because it felt like home.
Angel and Lucy were quite tempted to take this sleepy pig home and keep him as our flat pet. I, on the other hand, didn't think his belly would fit through our door.
Friday and Saturday: London Fashion Week. Sunday: there I was, back climbing stiles like a pro.
In the field we watched as a calf and a sheep had a headbutting contest. The sheep won. The calf ran back to mum and hid behind a fence as the sheep looked on, victorious. If a sheep could possibly look smug, this one did.
And finally I couldn't help but smile as dad explained to son how to use the gears on a tractor. He may have been a fully-grown man, butyou could tell that deep down he wanted a ride too.

So there you have it, the perfect lazy Sunday in Hackney. I rather like living here. :)