Category Archives: me, myself & moi

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EVERGLADE: KATE MOSS SPEAKS THE LANGUAGE OF BEAUTY FOR BALMAIN

This is how INEZ VAN LAMSWEERDE & VINOODH MATADIN cast another pearl in the glowing star-struck sky of fashion film: In Everglade released today online, they spy on Kate Moss modeling for Balmain‘s 2011 campaign, creating yet again a poetic lexicon of beauty using the grammar of art, images and animation.

Everglade reminds more of the amazing work they did for Bjork in past years (like for instance Hidden Place), than their recent (more fashion-y) film-work for Yves Saint Laurent. (here)

Antony Hegarty‘s song gives the title to the film, but most importantly it gives voice to the notoriously “mute” Kate Moss, while Jo Ratcliffe‘s illustrations create a poetic and eerie landscape around the model, lost in the repetitive action of posing for the Balmain photoshoot, transforming the empty set in a lyrical land beyond the camera.

This is perhaps the first time Kate Moss really ‘speaks’ to her audience, eloquently engaged in the artists’ game of conjuring a spell of beauty around her.

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POWDER ROOM: FROM ZERO TO AMY WINEHOUSE HAIR-STYLE TWIN IN JUST 30 MINUTES!

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Strolling around some of my favorite alleys in east London last november I discovered this iper-pretty little place that looked like a miniature Bugsy Barkley film set from the 30s: The Powder Room. A place of glamour and pamper for girls with a taste for retro-beauty treatments.

As I peeked inside, behind the large glass window, I saw women wrapped in tight pink & black uniforms completed with lovely black pillow-hats trasforming other women from plain looking ladies to classical hollywood goddesses.

It was such a beautiful sight that on a recent lazy sunday I decided to get back to the Columbia Road address to try out the wonder on myself, but what I found out instead was that the prettiest beauty parlor in town was on its last opening day. I bought a gazillion products on sale and walked home with a little disappointment staining the glamour-spot in my little girly heart.

Thank god, even though the beauty parlor closed down, the work of the Powder Room staff did not end: in fact they continue helping beauty spread across the oceans not only as a glamour task force anyone can book for private events and parties, but also in a “pop-up store” kind of fashion, by regularly treating costumers to their magic at the Hoxton Hotel and every saturday at Paper Dress the vintage-shop/bar/live-music-joint on Curtain Road, right next to the London College of Fashion.

As I walked into Paper Dress I immediately noticed that this is definetively a place where I would want to go back to buy a piece or two for my ever-growing vintage dresses & accessories collection, since it is the ONLY vintage shop in London that clearly does not overprizes items. Rare habit in this days and age where even old label-ess crap gets a fat prize-tag, in order to cater the bulimic appetites of the average fashion-monkey.
The fun in vintage garnments’ hunting relies on the power of random discovery, knowledge & recognition of that one truly rare precious piece and, above all, on the power of the impossible bargain, which is that childish feeling of over-excitement of having been so immensively cool and smart to have stolen candies from a child who did not even imagine the value of what he gave away for a small bunch of pennies. Otherwise it’s just another way to throw money into the burning furnace of fashion industry without getting much in return, not even a little fun.
Well, at first sight, I reckon that one could easily walk out of Paper Dress with exactely that inebriating feeling and new dresses (and a taste of good coffie and cakes and live music) on top of it!

Sadly, I did not have enough time to explore the shop in depth. I went to Curtain Road with only half an hour free time and a mission: getting myself be transformed in the fine coiffing hands of the Powder Room lovely girls!

A quick glance at the look book, illustrating styles spanning from the 20s to the 70s, and I left the choice to the pretty girl in pink, also known as the stylist who was about to work a miracle on my thick mediterranean wild long hair. And indeed a miracle is what she worked on me!
I sat on the Powder Room‘s chair an overworked, always in a hurry, wild-haired girl and next thing I know, 30 minutes later, I was transformed into the hair-style-twin of late singing queen Amy Winehouse! Daring one might say. YES! But it came out so good I had to revise all my prejudices about back-combed 60s heavy hairdoes. Only half an hour of pamper and I walked out a good looking happy camper!

Everything about the experience has been pleasant, from the care they took in styling me to the lovely time I had conversating with the Powder Room founder, who told me how she went from being a Film and Tv hair & make-up expert to starting her own business, spreading fun, style and beauty into the world with her posse of great professional stylists, known as the Powderpuff Girls.

I am now convinced that these girls can do it all: from Downton Abbey to Mad Men, all it takes it’s only 30 minutes in their hands!

Being so close to the release of Baz Luhrmann‘s new film “The Great Gatsby” promising to scream roaring 20s’ grandeur in every single detail, there is only one number in town to call to get tuned to the coming style new age of bobs and waves, thin lips and smokey eyes, take note:
Powder Puff Girls +44 844 879 4928 …they’ll deliver the style & glam 100% with a touch of fun!

to get a little inspiration, here’s the trailer for Luhrmann’s “Great Gatsby”

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BIRTHDAY BREAKFAST IN LONDON, LOST IN LILY VANILLI’S LAND

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I started my tradition of Birthday Breakfasts over 10 years ago, when, being too busy to throw a big party, I thought It could be nice to start the day with a yummy breakfast surrounded by friends and loved ones… the tradition is based on the simple belief that nothing could go possibly wrong in a day built on such delicious and joyful foundations. So far my theory has proven 100% right!

So it goes that every year I start my birthday with the most amazing, often wonderfully random and yet perfect breakfast. Being on a warm African island in my bikini, or at the baker outside my office, the breakfasts are always unique and a first step on a path of love and discovery.

This year the birthday breakfast fairy brought me to find a little courtyard around the Columbia Flower Market in East London, where people flock by the thousands just to get a taste of Lily Jones‘ (aka Lily Vanilli) beautiful and delicious baking magic. Lily tip-toed her way in the cakes’ business a few years ago when, to make some extra bucks, she started selling her home-made cakes at Swanfield Market; she would pay 10£ for the pitch and go back home with 30-40£ earnings each week, until in 2009 a journalist from The Time wrote an article about her, and Lily Vanilli was born. Since then she has baked for the likes of Elton John, made a cake sculpture for V&A, created insect shaped candies for Alexander McQueen and the list could just keep on going. Every sunday Lily and her staff of 7 open their cake lab to the occasional Columbia Market’s visitors and tourists. It must be her way to inject good karma in this world, one tasty cake after another.

As far as my experience go, I have to admit, as I sat in the shop, it was not what I had expected to find. I was a bit put off by the amount of people crowding the place and the horrible paper cups, somehow I had imagined to get to a more private joint, with fine china tea-cups and grandmas’ type silver spoons to go with the freshly grinded coffies and fine teas. But As I gave a look at the Red Velvet Cake (my 1st birthday cake in a million years!), so luscious and beautiful, I understood that sometimes one should not pretend perfection in every detail, but just find that one fantabulous thing that would make the journey worthwhile. And – oh boy! – the Red Velvet sweetness of it, made it so worth it!

As a present to myself I bought the book Sweet Tooth where some of Lily’s recipes will be soon turned into Christmas presents to others…passing on the sweetness!

Big up for Lily Vanilli!

and now please meet Lily

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Marina is present. Ulay is with her.

ulay & marina meet after 26 years apart during her performance “The Artist is Present” at MOMA

And then, one morning, like any other morning, you wake up and browse through news updates on your FB feed. But this one morning, not like any other morning, you stumble upon Ulay & Marina meeting again, after 26 long years, and a warm tear flows out to mark your right cheek first and your left cheek next. Love is one word for it. But not enough telling to describe what we can only guess by watching at how loudly they speak to each other without telling a word nor making a sound… until they touch.

Fact is that, a few years back I met Ulay, it was a beautiful crazy afternoon in De Pijp in Amsterdam spent with great friends drinking and talking and laughing and wandering around all allies of life until night falls and becomes so deep that one can no longer hide behind social mannerism, but only show itself bare and simple. He was not with Marina Abramovic for a very long time already, but somehow she was present, in the back of a casual conversation, in a story about the past, in a lest blink of eyelashes. She was there. The good and the bad. With the solemnity of a lifetime that seemed gone and yet to go by.

I was and am not a fan of Abramovic the artist, but after that first meeting with Ulay I grew curious about both of them, their work as a couple, their life exposed to the Art World appetites, their public exposure during a 12 years relationship. I looked into it and concluded that none of them made anything nearly as good and strong since their last performance in 1988 that marked their breakup, on China’s Great Wall, when they both started walking from opposite points of the wall, just to meet in the middle after 2500km hiking and say “good-bye”. Well, looking at them today, with eyes filled with tears, I thought that the walk they took was perhaps way longer than they planned in 1988 and so much bigger than China’s Great Wall. Their long farewell lasted 26 long years, they said goodbye, but never left, never stopped the walk. And finally they have met. The artist has disappeared. True Art arises: Life. Ulay & Marina have finally met right in the middle… and it’s not a “good-bye”.

Ulay+Abramovic meet @ MOMA
watch carefully, it might move you to tears

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Believing in Miracles (once again)

the shape of Miracles is red & marine blue

This is the answer “extraordinaire” Jamain Brigitha gave to my casual question on how to believe once again in miracles:

“admitting it’s not easy, sweetie… It’s a complex paradigm of being grateful for what is, knowing what you want – allowing your desires to be, and detaching yourself from the outcome and the “how”, serving others with your talents and love… (for the highest good of all concerned), having faith and believing in divine timing – letting God, The Universe or whatever great force you call it, to do the work, as this energy has been here for centuries and is much smarter than us mortal humans and immensely creative, beyond words…”

I believe this needed to be shared and the word to be spread.

Thanks my fantabulous friend!

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THINGS I MISS ABOUT NL episode 1: TAAI-TAAI PEPERNOTEN!

zwarte pieten bring pepernoten on bike

nos·tal·gia

[no-stal-juh, -jee-uh, nuh-]

–noun

1. a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time: a nostalgia for his college days.

2. something that elicits or displays nostalgia.

“Nostalgia” is also described as the feeling of being homesick, which I reckon goes pretty close to what I felt this morning, when my friend Patricia Pulles posted the following message on FB:

” folklore olandese…l’arrivo di San Niccola sulla nave a vapore al porto di Harderwijk per la sua festa il 5 dicembre…”

and posted a lovely video to go with it.

Hard to say the way I felt. A mixture of echoed laughs came to my ear, the image of zwarte pieten flocking around the white bearded Sinterklaas and his white horse came to mind, the Bijenkorf shopping windows dressed up for the occasion, the letter-shaped chocolate, the surprises (pronounced suur-pree-zes), the “Sinterklaasgedichten” (funny little poems going with the presents/surprises) and the Pepernoten, the spicey cookies typical for this festivity!!!

The aroma of anise and cinnamon coming out of each baker shop in town during this period use to dawn on me like a blessing; wrapped up in my coat, crossing town on my bike, the smell of fresh pepernoten hit me at each corner, and I could not help but stop for a moment to run in and buy kiloes of the delicious little cookies. I would happily live on pepernoten for weeks!
There are at least two variation of Pepernoten: the round stone-hard ones, which one can find also at Albert Hein (the dutch uber-supermarket); and those in the shape of little cubes, made by ducth bakers only during the Sinterklaas period, that is to say from now to the 6th of December. I personally prefer the latter, not only because of the home-made feel to it, but also because the flavour and the texture it’s very different, more interesting, kind of pleasently gummy and better spiced, where anise balances cinnamon in a much round and satisfying way.

delicious pepernoten

(little less)delicious pepernoten

As a matter of fact, my favourite pepernoten are made with a dough that is very similar to another lovely dutch cookie called Taai-Taai, which industrial version is shaped in the guise of a fat brown Sinterklaas and it is to find typically in every supermarket. Although at this time of the year one can also find them (along with all other kind of breads and pepernoten) every saturday at the Organic Farmers’ market on the Noordermarkt, or the “Hippie Market”, as my dear friend Debra Solomon of Culiblog likes to call it.

taai taai cookies (approved by Sint & Piet)

Baker's stand on the Noordermarkt

Being away from Amsterdam for a while now, I cannot help thinking that perhaps I will never stop missing all the wonderful little things my life revolved around in the city that fathered me for such a long time. Some of these things are hard or impossible to replicate now that I am in another time and another place, but others, such as the yammy little cubes called Pepernoten can be easily be made over and over and over. So here is the recipe, make & enjoy!

Ingredients Edit  href=

  • 200 grams self raising flour
  • pinch salt
  • 150 grams Dutch syrup (stroop) or honey
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp ground coriander (seeds)
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • pinch of ground anise seed

Directions

– Preheat the oven to 160 °C.

– Sift the flour with the salt and spices into a bowl. Make a hollow in the top of the mound and pour in the syrup.

– Mix everything from the centre and knead into thick dough. Place in the fridge for an hour.

– Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/2 cm, and make into small, marble-sized balls, or better little cubes.

– Grease a cookie sheet – or use a non-stick one – and put the ‘marbles/cubes’ on it. Press them down slightly. Put in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until done and golden brown. For the cube version, please note that the result should not be a hard little cookie, but a nice semi-soft gummy one.

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POTENZA, CITTA’ DI CARTAPESTA

ultima chiamata. LP Potenza, città infelice, non si distingue quasi per niente. Non per la qualità della vita, non per la bellezza urbanistica, tanto meno per lo scoppiettante scenario culturale; questo per dire che, una “città qualunque” va bene per molte cose, ma non per istigare la propria curiosità e nemmeno per solleticare l’ispirazione di una mente mediamente creativa. Pasolini diceva Potenza è come New York. Ma l’aveva vista da lontano, con quei suoi palazzoni di 30 piani, abbarbicati sulla montagna, novecento e passa metri sul livello del mare. Contro ogni logica.

Potenza offre poco e quel poco che offre, non lo dà mica per niente. Poca curiosità intellettuale, giusto quanto basta per darsi un contegno nella “buona società”. Poche illusioni, Poche ambizioni, Poca umiltà. Ed è così che tutti, dal garzone del fornaio ai “signori” dallo sbandierato pedigree, si trovano ad inventarsi un ruolo, ad interpretare un mestiere, ad improvvisarsi qualcuno. Potenza è (quasi) come Montecarlo. Una facciata.

Eppure guardando abbastanza a lungo questa facciata, con i suoi abbozzi di cartapesta, se ne cominciano a scorgere i dettagli, se ne cominciano a percepire le sotterranee correnti, e di tanto in tanto, anche da qui, mi coglie qualche occasionale illuminazione. Uno squarcio nel cielo di carta, un’intuizione di cose più vere.

prima illuminazione: FAMILISMO AMORALE. Banfield. Chiaromonte 1958. E di colpo capisco cosa muove i discorsi politici gettati lì, tra via pretoria e il gran caffè. Capisco i sorrisi scambiati a ripetizione, i bagni di folla alle noiose manifestazioni, le proteste surreali lanciate da timidi banchetti allestiti all’ombra dei palazzi del potere. Capisco la metrica locale della parola “amico”. Capisco la frustrazione di un popolo che mai ha saputo alzare la testa e ponderare il colore del cielo.

seconda illuminazione: ANCHE LA PROTESTA (in Italia) E’ UNA COSA D’ELITE. La fanno gli attori e i musicisti, gli vale fama e successo. Il “popolo” ammutolito, portato lì per “creanza”, ascolta e guarda, ma non sente. Per questo tutto qui cambia senza mai cambiare. L’intenzione c’è, manca il fine.   

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