Thursday, 31 May 2012

Tea, Bea's and me

I am of the strong opinion that most situations in life are greatly improved if you add cake. 

"I'm feeling sad today."
"Here's some cake."

"Come round for dinner."
"I'll bring a cake!"

"Shall we go for coffee?"
"Let's go for coffee and cake!"

If you've ever had glandular fever you will know that some days you wake up feeling like a Dementor (yes I've made a Harry Potter reference,) has sucked out your soul. Today was one of those days. 

I spent the day trying to find ways to make me feel like me again, feeling as though my cheerfulness was a balloon pulled out of my hand by a breeze, bobbing just out of reach as I chased behind.

When it came to deciding what to wear I ignored the voice in my head telling me to pull on a jumper over my pyjamas and leave the house like that. Instead I chose a dress, my favourite jacket, some blingtastic dangly earrings, a pink handbag and pink lippy. If I couldn't feel like me, I might as well look like me. 

The next step was heading to Holborn, where I had to hand in some uni work. 

This was easier said than done. The Dementor had also decided to suck out my sense of balance; it was only after yet ANOTHER person bumped into me that I realised that it wasn't so much them bumping into me as me bumping into them. 

The only thing making the experience worthwhile was the thought of what was waiting for me after my uni hand in. My friend Tasha, and a piece of cake. 

We had agreed to meet for coffee. 

"Coffee and cake?" 

Bea's of Bloomsbury is a lovely cake shop that just so happens to be ever so conveniently situated five minutes away from our college. It seemed meant to be.

 I had never been to Bea's before but had heard tales of their legendary afternoon teas and the teapot lamps that hang from their ceiling.

It was a good thing that it was only five minutes from college, as I was feeling steadily dizzier, was breaking out into a cake sweat and was starting to have cake hallucinations.

As soon as we sat down and I bit into my perfect red velvet cupcake I sighed a happy sigh and felt my mood rising with my sugar levels.

It turns out that a cupcake topped with cream cheese frosting is exactly what I needed.

 See, cake is practically a health food.

As we left I picked up one of Bea's of Bloomsbury's post-card sized business cards that made me smile. "I don't know about you but I only came to this wedding for the cake."

As I said - most situations in life are greatly improved by cake. Even the weddings of people you don't actually like.

"But their cake was so beautiful!"


Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Home is where your heart is happiest

 Happiness is a shining sun, the view from the top of Brockwell park and a good pair of shoes.

Today I headed back to London after a week of rest at home in Dorset (as demanded by glandular fever and my mum).

It obviously didn't take me long to start missing home and all its fields, as I was barely inside my door before I was out again and heading to Brockwell Park. I sat quietly and happily at the top of the hill, enjoying the weather and the view and feeling like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Living in a student house will never really feel quite like home. My room may be covered with my fingerprints: colourful bunting, posters, photographs and Clive my flamingo standing by my wardrobe, but it doesn't really feel like it is mine. I don't think anything really will until the day (here's hoping it arrives...) that I am living somewhere I have worked for, that isn't paid for by a student loan, and that (as much as I love my housemates) I don't share with 5 other people.

In the mean time, I have lots of other places that I think of as home instead; places that I love and that feel somehow like mine, even if they belong to me even less than my Brixton bedroom.

You may not know it just from looking at it, but the bench at the top of the hill in Brockwell Park has Libby Page's name on it. So does a table in a cosy café in Brixton Market. In the Breakfast Club in Hoxton there is always a table waiting for me like an old friend. The Primrose Bakery in Covent Garden has cupcakes especially set aside for me. Columbia Road greets me each time I visit with floral kisses that say: "You're back! You're home."

In reality I know that I share these places with hundreds, thousands, millions of other  people. But actually, that's what I love so much about London. It is anyone's, and everyone's.

And mine.


Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Who shall I be today?

What goes through your mind when you decide what to wear?

If you are anything like me, the answer will be lots of things, often far too many things to deal with in a morning. Particularly if that morning happens to be a Monday.

What will the weather do today? (Winter coat or maxi dress and suncream?) How far am I walking today? (Walking boots or stilletoes?) How much do I need to carry with me today? (Suitcase, rucksack, handbag or no bag?) What am I doing today? (If I plan on visiting a farm wellies might be appropriate, if I am off to a party, perhaps not so.) Who will I see today? (Will I see the friend who saw me in this same dress yesterday? Will they think I don't wash? Am I off to visit my grandparents or is there a chance of me bumping into an ex? Adjust skirt length and cleavage accordingly.)

Finally comes the most difficult question. The million dollar question that often ends up with a mountain of discarded clothes on my bed as I rush out the house, late, wearing the first outfit I put on.

Who do I want to be today?

This is where I get stuck. Do I want to be Libby the Student, Libby the Fashion Journalism Student, Libby the Writer, Libby the Pink-Lover, Libby the Baker or Libby the Aspiring Blue Peter Presenter? Do I want to look quirky or sophisticated, fun or hard-working, feisty or approachable, country girl or city chick, girly or serious? The trouble is that I want to look like all of these things, all at the same time. But this might involve wearing quite a lot of clothes.

I was doing some research today for my university dissertation, when I stumbled across something that hit the nail on the head (not something that happens often when wading through swamps of academic stodge).

" When I rummage through my wardrobe in the morning I am not merely faced with a choice of what to wear. I am faced with a choice of images: the difference between a smart suit and a pair of overalls, a leather skirt and a cotton dress, is not just one of the fabric and style, but one of identity. You know perfectly well that you will be seen differently for the whole day, depending on what you put on; you will appear as a particular kind of woman with one particular identity which excludes the others. The black leather skirt rules out girlish innocence, oily overalls tend to exclude sophistication, ditto smart suit and radical feminism. Often I have wished I could put them all on together, or appear simultaneously in every possible outfit, just to say, How dare you think any one of these is me. But also, See, I can be all of them.”  Judith Williamson: Consuming Passions, The Dynamics of Popular Culture

Despite the moments when I think it might be simpler to either wear no clothes at all (socially and thermologically awkward) or instead to wear every item in my wardrobe, there are really only so many clothes that you can wear at one time. 

But just because I'm wearing this pink skirt covered in polka dots, that doesn't mean I'm not serious. Just because I'm wearing this plain grey dress, that doesn't mean I'm not fun. 

So next time I look into my wardrobe as if it's a mirror and ask myself 'who shall I be today?', if the answer that comes to me is a jumper covered in love hearts, I shall put it on with pride, and with one hell of a sexy pair of underwear underneath. Sexy and cutesy librarian? 20 year old with a five-year old inside? Why not.

Even if you can't see, I can be all of them.



Monday, 28 May 2012

Raspberries and meringue clouds

Today I donned my pink polka dot apron and decided to attempt making two things I had never tried before: ice cream and meringues. 

The ice cream idea came first. Sunshine like this requires acknowledging with a good dollop of ice cream. I found the recipe in this month's BBC Good Food - Gennardo Contaldo's raspberry and lemon flavour. The recipe requires 3 egg yolks so I thought that instead of throwing away 3 perfectly good egg whites I should have a go at some meringues too.

 For the meringues I used the simplest recipe I could find, on the Channel 4 website (, but added a twist - a drop of pink food dye swirled through the meringue mounds with a skewer. The recipe really was simple, and, if I may say so myself, tasted delicious. Perfect crunch with a fluffy cloud of soft meringue inside.
 With a scoop of sweet and slightly tart ice cream and a handful of raspberries on the side, this very pink pudding tasted exactly like summer. Mission accomplished.


Saturday, 26 May 2012

Libby's Spring Has Sprung Cake

Some people go to the gym or for a run to relax. I like to bake.

Perhaps jogging would be kinder to my hips but it wouldn't be nearly as good for my soul. Yesterday I spent three hours completely absorbed in a world of butter and sugar, fondant flowers (my first attempt at making these) and the smell of orange zest and icing sugar. When my cake was finished and I resurfaced from my submersion in my own sugary world, I found that I had cake mix on my elbow and icing sugar on my nose. I hadn't noticed.
Libby's Spring Has Sprung Cake 
(Because spring really has sprung and what better occasion to bake a cake?)

8oz self-raising flour
8oz caster sugar
8oz butter / margarine
4 eggs from happy chickens
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
Drop of vanilla essence
Dollop of Greek yoghurt
Red and blue food colouring
Jam (about 1/3 of a jar) and butter icing (one large bowl) to sandwich

For the flowers:
Rollable fondant icing

Butter icing:
Lots of icing sugar
A large dollop of butter
A bit of water
A drop of vanilla essence

1) Open the windows to let a warm breeze into the kitchen. Tie up crazy long hair and put on a suitably pretty apron. Attach ipod to speakers and put on Jack Johnson. Preheat oven to 180C / 160C fan.

2) Weigh sugar and butter (in pink scales) and bung in a large bowl. Weigh and seive flour and add to mix. Add eggs.
3) Beat ingredients together with a wooden spoon until smooth or until your arm starts to ache and you have to finish off with an electric mixer.
4) Zest the orange and lemon and stir into the cake mix, along with the vanilla essence and the dollop of yoghurt (this will make the cake nice and moist and not too heavy. If you want an even lighter cake, substitute some of the butter for some more yoghurt).
5) Separate the mix evenly into three bowls. Leave one bowl of mix plain and stir in a small drop of red food colouring into one bowl and a large drop of blue food colouring into the other.
6) Grease 3 round tins and distribute the cake mix into each tin. Shake the tin gently to even out the mix.
7) Put the tins in the oven. After 15 minutes, check the cakes. If a knife come out clean they are ready, if not, leave for another 5 minutes or so.
8) Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack and start working on the fondant flowers. I vaguely followed these instructions: but improvised slightly (I used a small, sharp knife instead of leaf and petal cutters and water rather than vegetable fat). I also went for slightly fatter flowers as I thought they looked friendlier. I also made leaves for the flowers and to scatter over the cake.

9) Leave the flowers and leaves to dry.

10) Mix together the butter icing and stir in the vanilla essence. I make butter icing by eye / feel / taste - adding a bit more butter / water / icing sugar where needed.
11) Transfer the green cake to a cake stand / plate and smooth jam on top. Smooth butter icing onto the bottom of the plain cake and sandwich the two together. Repeat this process of jam and butter icing sandwiching with the pink cake.
12) Smooth the butter icing over the sides and top of the cake using a spatula.
13) Add the fondant roses and leaves to the cake.

And finally and perhaps most importantly:

14) Cut yourself a big, multi-coloured slice of cake and marvel at your tasty work.


Monday, 14 May 2012

Good Enough to Eat: Victoria Sponge Outfit

Dress, £89 Vivien of Holloway, Top, £8 Topshop, Collar, £12 Accessorize, Shoes, £94.99 Liberty for Nike at Office
A Victoria Sponge outfit: British summer dressing with a twist.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Birthday Baking

 Today is my 20th birthday. My teenage years are officially behind me. What better way to celebrate than with a Cosmo in one hand and a pink champagne in the other. 

I joke of course. Sadly alcohol is off-limits to glandular fever patients. Instead, I decided to mark the occasion with the next best thing: cake. Maybe it is somewhat unconventional to bake your own birthday cake, but on your birthday you are allowed to do what you like, even be unconventional.

With my London birthday plans with my friends disrupted by 'the fever' I had to choose what I wanted to do with the day. Something that involved calm, sober fun and not leaving the house. I decided to bake.

I didn't just want to bake a Victoria Sponge. My 20th birthday required something special. And that is how I came to bake a family of pandas and a pile of chocolate butterfly covered cupcakes. Just because... Happy birthday to me.
A very fitting birthday card from my friend Harriet. My friends know me well. Or maybe it's just obvious.

Another very fitting birthday card...
Make a wish... I would tell you what I wished for. But then I would have to kill you.
After all that baking I then proceeded to collapse on the sofa where I fell asleep in front of the TV. When I woke up a terrifying thought struck me: maybe now that I am no longer a teenager I have turned into a grown up and the kind of sad grown up who falls asleep in front of the TV (and snores) on their birthday.

But then I had another thought: maybe it's just because I've got glandular fever.

P.S The panda family is now a family of three, not four. He was very tasty.


Thursday, 10 May 2012

Good Enough to Eat: Outfit 1

Today I spent my morning sorting through photographs on my computer, and I came to a startling realisation. The majority of the photos I have taken over the past few years have been of either flowers or cakes.

Perhaps that is not particularly surprising.

Either way, the abundance of pretty cupcakes and petals that look good enough to eat gave me an idea: to put together some outfit posts every now and then inspired by flowers and cakes that I have photographed. Blooms, cupcakes and clothes - three of my favourite things.

So below is what I would wear whilst eating this lemon cupcake and carrying a heavy bunch full of daisies.
Jacket, £55 River Island, Dress, £35 River Island, Shoes, £55 Office, Bag £15.99 New Look, Earrings £13.50 Eclectic Eccentricity, Posie Tint Lip and Cheek Stain, £24.50 Benefit, Nail Varnish in Daydream, £5 Topshop

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Come Fly With Me


It was as I lay on the floor in Singapore airport with my legs in the air that I vowed not to get into an aeroplane again for a very, very long time.

I was stretching after six hours of economy-induced agony. Feet above my head, I attempted to shake off the invisible boa constrictor that had wrapped itself around my calves during the flight and to deflate the balloons now attached to my ankles. “Never again”, I thought to myself as I kicked my legs back and forwards, catching the (bemused) attention of the elderly couple sat opposite me.

Sadly, I was about to board a 14-hour flight. Even more tragically, I hadn’t been upgraded to First Class.

Australia is a wonderful country and I feel incredibly lucky to have spent two weeks there visiting family recently. But long distance air travel is the disappointment to an ended birthday party, the hangover to a good night out and the pain after a won race. You aren’t allowed to complain, but it sucks.

It started at security with a beep and the ensuing invasion of my personal space. I think it was my bunny rabbit pendant that set off the alarm. Not exactly the talisman of a terrorist, but I suppose when safety is at stake one mustn’t make a fuss.

After passing the security test, it was through to the gate. We sat and waited, until that magic moment when, like dolphins detecting sonar rays, a silent, invisible signal told one passenger to stand up. A Mexican wave spread around the departure gate and a queue suddenly trailed around the chairs where the passengers had just been sat. There is just something about a gathering of people that makes you feel like the child left out of the party unless you join in.

“We will shortly be boarding the plane by seat numbers, will you please return to your seats,” said the overhead announcement. Everyone sat down.

“May passengers with young children please begin boarding at gate 22.”

Everyone stood up. (“Your young children either don’t exist or are locked in your hand luggage. Either way you are not convincing parents.” I thought to myself.)

After the passengers with young children came the row numbers. If your seat is at the front of the plane, chances are they will start calling from the back. And vice versa. Naturally.

Once I had eventually been herded onto the plane, it was time for the real fun to start. My favourite part of any long-haul journey is the humiliation of walking through First Class. I feel somewhat like a circus act arranged for the amusement of the champagne-sipping First Classers. “Look at the poor people, how quaint,” their faces say as they gobble their Beluga caviar and stretch back in their seats/beds. OK, perhaps that is an exaggeration. Maybe they don’t serve caviar.

On the other side of the economy-curtain (in case we steal any champagne) I found my seat. I was sat in the middle seat, which meant being chained there until it was absolutely necessary to go to the toilet. This happened when the woman next to me was rather inconveniently asleep. I managed (rather athletically, I might add) to climb onto my seat and leap over her and into the aisle without her batting an eyelid. On the way back I was not so successful. The poor woman woke to find me hovering over her – one leg in my chair and one leg in the aisle, true splits style and nearly sat on her. To make matters worse she didn’t speak English so my ensuing apologies didn’t go down too well. I think I frightened her.

I then pulled my eye-mask over my face and pretended to be asleep for the rest of the journey.

When I arrived in London my hair was aeroplane static, my face bore the signs of 24 hours without washing or reapplying my make-up, my ears were popping and I was temporarily deaf, my feet looked like puffer fish and I felt exhausted and disoriented. Rather as if I had just spent the last few hours in a large tumble dryer.

Never again, I thought to myself.

I am writing this sat on my bed after several weeks trapped here by glandular fever. Outside the sky is the colour of a sigh and it is raining. I watch a plane rip through a particularly grey cloud. And suddenly I would give anything to be sat in it on my way to somewhere sunny. I would even risk a pair of puffy feet. Because do you know what? I think my feet just look like that anyway.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down...
 I am stranded in bed with glandular fever, trapped inside a fortress of tissues, watched DVDs and finished books. I have been ill for the past few weeks and it is rubbish. With no energy to do much else, one of the things that has been keeping me sane has been looking at beautiful things on my favourite blogs and websites. Here is a selection....
Gavin Hammond, London in puddles:

Gavin Hammond, London in puddles:

Gavin Hammond, London in puddles:
Max Wanger Photography:

Max Wanger Photography:

Max Wanger Photography:

Max Wanger Photography: