The Spike


March 2016

Happy Easter!

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Don’t forget: Hot Cross Buns today, Easter hunt on Sunday and then, I don’t know, 12 hrs of telly and chocolate on Monday?

Anyway it’s goodbye from me for a bit, as it’s the Easter holidays and, err, no childcare.

See you on the other side, Spikers!

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In moments of stress squeeze the fleshy bit between your thumb and forefinger while looking at this photo


Tricks to fool the eye

There are certain items you can wear – if I were writing a magazine piece right now, I would call them “hero” items – which make whatever else you’re wearing look okay, because you’ve added that item. Doesn’t matter if you’ve got on literally a random collection of things you found at the end of your bed: add any of these on top and you immediately look as though the whole thing is on purpose. Don’t ask me why! I don’t make the rules.

But don’t do all of these at once. You will look like a mental Instagram fashion looney.


1 Nike Air Force 1s. They are the ugliest and clunkiest of all the white trainers around right now, and therefore the coolest.

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2 This pair of Illesteva leopard print blue mirrored sunglasses. So hot right now.

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3 Multiple piercings up one or both ears. At least 3 on one side. You don’t have to go mental and have the top bit or the little inner nubbin thingy pierced (shudder).

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4 Extremely cool bag, like the puzzle bag from Loewe or anything Fendi, Chloe, Chanel, Celine.

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5 Mad nail varnish in neon or turquoise. Even better if a bit chipped.

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6 A lot of rings on all your fingers, particularly the forefingers. Perhaps not so much the thumbs.

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7 Any sort of smart town coat with the collar turned up. Extra points if its camel.

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April Vogue

Following on from the success of our last bitch through an issue of Vogue I thought I would fill some space  do another ace and constructive post on April’s Vogue.

Slimmer pickings this time, just between you and me. Or rather so much that was so irritating that I can’t go into it here for fear that someone important might read it and strike me off some kind of waiting list for acceptance.

Anyway here are the things that struck me as interesting.


Oh now this is fun – literally my 5 year old daughter has been “doing” this for the last few months: a sweater, trainers, a smart skirt? Come ON. Sometimes Vogue is entirely prescient and at other times like a bit of a batty old granny asking you if you “do” the “interweb”.


I hate this backwards shirt thing so much I can’t even really begin to express it. It reminds me a lot of being a teenager and doing insane things like using a tie as a belt or wearing a wool snood as a mini skit out of sheer poverty. It’s really not stylish. Or Vogue.


Hurray! Something useful – a piece on geek beauty. Or Nodic beauty, which is to say, not much make-up.

Sometimes when we take the kids to the zoo on the weekend and I get, really for the only time, to see girls of about 16-23 wandering about on ill-advised dates with short-lived boyfriends.

And my god their FACES!!! Fackin ell – literally just drawn on, with eyebrows like EEHRHRHRHRHRH and lips like CLUNK and hair like SCHOOOOM. It’s mental and horrible and ugly and I wish they wouldn’t do it. We all need a bit of help, amirite?, but this thing of like artificially pasting on definition and cheekbones is so grotesque.

Geek or Nordic beauty only means going a bit easy on the bloody slap, but not stepping out bare-faced. I don’t think I really need to expand on this to you, I think we are of one mind. But at least now we’re in fashion.


More actually useful stuff – crazy nail colours are IN. Neon green, here I come!

NOT. Although an easy way to achieve a slightly off-beat look with your nails if you are not especially into this kind of thing and would no more wear fake nails or even get a manicure than you would wear a pair of Louboutin heels on the school run: paint all over your nails a light colour, add a single stripe down the middle (actually quite easy) of a contrasting colour. I’ve seen this done and it looks grand: very Mad Max.

There you go, April’s Vogue: done.


Easter tree

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When on earth did Easter “trees’ become a thing? We certainly never had one when I was growing up – but then we didn’t have stockings at Christmas either. My mother was never one for making extra work for herself: four children will do that to a person. Sorry, any person except Jools Oliver obviously. I think women are divided into 2 sorts – the sort who love doing an Easter tree, and the sort who looks at you like: are you high?

It’s a big ask, merely four months after putting up and decorating a Christmas tree, to put up and decorate an Easter tree. I, of course, fucking love it and for the last 3 years have painstakingly blown and painted eggs to hang from branches of blossom stuck in a tall vase. Only because I enjoy it, you understand, I am not some crushed hausfrau – despite what my husband would dearly like to believe.

But I’m not doing that this year because every single year I’ve done the egg thing my children have been so overwhelmed with the awesome dinky-ness and pastel beauty of blown eggs painted and tied up with ribbon that they’ve demanded to play with them and I’ve allowed them to, thinking “Who am I doing this for, if not them” and they’ve ended up smashing every one to smithereens.

Easter tree egg detail 2013 – that was such a cold Spring that I could only get half-dead branches of blossom

So I’m not bothering with any hand-made element until my children are either old enough not to break them or old enough to join in and enjoy it.

Anyway if you are up for this sort of thing but don’t know where to start, you just find some big branches of blossom, or just big branches, or even sprays of catkin – most florists have blossom branches this time of year – and put them in a massive vase and hang decorations off them.

I like the Gisela Graham decorations available on Ocado, or there’s some very cute stuff available here.

Hemsley sesame kale salad


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I did not take this photo. Annoying that there are clearly hot chillies in this dish above, but none specified in the recipe. 

Look try not to go mental because I’ve mentioned the Hemsleys and use the comments box to slag them off. Not cool. They’re just trying to earn a living and they look alright in photos.

Plus, listen to me, Spikers: white carbs and refined sugar are terrible. They’ll rot your teeth and make a mess of your digestion. I’m not being some sort of evangelical nutcase, I’ve always known this. Any old schoolers over here from Recipe Rifle will recall I rarely posted a recipe that called for pasta, potatoes, rice or sugar.

But I used to eat a fair amount of all those things because I was young and so it didn’t matter. But after 35 if you want to achieve any sort of ideal weight or shape you have to eat fish and greens. That’s it. No red meat. Vegetables, fish and greens and not much of it.

And we all need fresh ideas of what to do with greens, right? RIGHT??

I had this the other night at dinner and it was absolutely terrific. There is a clever breaking-down of the kale that goes on with the acidic dressing that renders the kale not a chewy, spiky, potentially hazardous chokable foodstuff, but more like very interesting salad leaves.

I am grateful to Petra Teacher for alerting me to and supplying me with this recipe.

Sesame Kale salad

Serves 4 as a side

250g kale, thick stems removed and leaves finely sliced

1 large red pepper, deseeded and diced

2 large carrots, spiralized, julienned or peeled into ribbons

4 spring onions or 1 small onion, finely sliced

A handful of sesame (white or black), pumpkin, sunflower or chia seeds (optional)

A large handful of fresh coriander (leaves and stalks) or coriander and mint leaves, chopped

For the dressing

3cm piece of fresh root ginger (unpeeled if organic), finely grated

3 garlic cloves, finely grated – personally I think you only need one clove of raw garlic in any recipe

4 tbsp lime or lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp sesame oil (non-toasted)

4 tsp tamari

2 tsp raw honey or maple syrup

A pinch of finely diced fresh red chilli or chilli flakes/powder, to taste

Black pepper

1 Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl with a fork.

2 Add the kale and toss together using your hands before leaving to marinate, covered, for a few hours in the fridge. If you’re making it in a rush, massage the leaves for 1 minute with the dressing as this will speed up the softening process.

3 When the kale has finished marinating, add the red pepper, carrots and spring onions or onion to the bowl.

4 Toast the seeds (if using) in a dry pan on a medium-low heat for 30 seconds. Serve the salad with the fresh herbs and the toasted seeds sprinkled on top.

Army jacket

If you haven’t got your bit of khaki yet consider this beauty from Zara, which is a normal dark green army-style jacket with an amazing bit of gold embroidery on it. Gorgeous.

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Gold embroidered overshirt, Zara, £39.99


Design workshop with Rita Konig

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It’s my birthday soon and I do so like to buttrape my husband’s wallet on birthdays and at Christmas because I don’t feel like I ask for that much the rest of the year. She said defensively.

So if I don’t ask for a wide-angle lens for my camera, I will ask for this, which is a spot on Rita Konig’s 1-day interior design course.

Don’t laugh at me! I’m not a cliche, you can all fuck off.

I was given some years ago a small red book called Domestic Bliss, by Rita Konig – who is an interior designer and also the daughter of Nina Campbell – and it was life-changing. A sort of Interior Design for Idiots book. I cherish my copy.

Generally, in life, I hate feeling like other people know things that I don’t. I spend most of my time wondering what it is that thin people know that I don’t, or what good cooks know that I don’t, or what well-dressed people know that I don’t, or what people with beautiful houses know that I don’t.

If Domestic Bliss was a glimpse into the interior life of the interior designer, surely this one-day course will be a key to the inner sanctum. Konig runs it from her house, her actual house. I could be inside her HOUSE! Not to sound insane or anything… But I could be in her house.

Spaces are limited – at £312.50 per spot I can see why – but she promises to de-mystify everything! Colour, lighting, room layout, electrics, bathrooms, kitchens. These are all things that bother me. Not you, perhaps – but they bother me. And with only and handful of other participants you can ask some really obsessive questions, bring fabric swatches, ask advice. It would be like the best university seminar ever – and actually useful!

If you are not in a position to ask for this for your birthday or even attend a design seminar in London because you don’t live there, but you are interested in the subject, you could do much worse than read Domestic Bliss, which you can buy here.

Best Breton

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Madeline Breton top, £45, Iris & Ink by The Outnet

I’ve got a bit of a thing about breton tops – a bad thing – I had one that I wore all the time with grey skinny jeans and Converse after I had Kitty and it became a sort of totem of, I don’t know, miserable postpartum frumpiness.

So for a long time I didn’t have one, even though they are one of the cornerstones of a wardrobe, let’s face it. You just mustn’t wear it like every single fucking day, with the grey skinnies and the leaky Converse.

But now can I find a good Breton? No, I cannot. They are all too wide at the neck, which doesn’t work on me as my shoulders are weirdly uneven and one side will slop off one shoulder and make me look a mess – and also expose a bra strap: grim. All the others have mad modernising detail, laces, embellishments or other strangeness.

I did in fact get a good plain one from Zara, and it was happy days until it shrank dramatically in the wash and is now only good for layering under a longer top.

Then I came across this one from Iris & Ink, which if you don’t know, is The Outnet’s original clothing line. Iris & Ink is very good; the clothes are plain and inexpensive – they will give you a completely palatable version of whatever mad main trend is, so right now a wearable ruffle blouse, a wearable twist-front dress and so on.

And then this completely standard-issue, stretch cotton Breton in a good colour, nice thick fabric with decent stretch and a generous length, so wearable for me with my long back disease. It’s also only £45. Now to see how it holds up in the wash…


Blue nails

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This comes in one of those WEENY bottles 

This is a very jolly nail varnish – only £1 from MUA via Superdrug. This is not the baby blue of the Nineties, nor the dark blue of AW15 but a sort of holiday blue called, appropriately, Ocean Blue.

I am not going to post a picture of my nails in this colour because to say that my hands are not photogenic is putting it mildly.

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