Iris Apfel

Lessons From Iris Apfel

“You’re not pretty. You’ll never be pretty but that’s ok because you’ve got something that none of these other girls have. You’ve got style. And that’s better than pretty.”

Those are the slightly cutting words of one of Iris Apfel’s first bosses and have become somewhat of a mantra to the 93 year old fashion icon. I watched Iris, the documentary about her, at the Melbourne International Film Festival a couple of weeks ago and have been completely inspired ever since. I’ve been mulling over her words of wisdom and these are the lessons that have touched me the most.

Iris Apfel Dazed and Confused

True style is timeless…

With the rise of street style bloggers, it seems those “must-have” cult pieces are more abundant than ever. Iris says you should buy something because it speaks to you personally and because you’ll want to wear it forever, not because it happens to be on trend that season. I have been trying to take this approach to my wardrobe, selecting things of quality that I truly love and will last, rather than indulging in a fast fashion fix that I won’t want to wear next season.

Always be hustling…

Iris Apfel is 93 years old and must be one of the hardest working people in fashion. The documentary shows her flying around the country for interviews and appearances to promote her projects. Even before she became well-known for her style, she set up her own fabric business, where she learned to haggle with suppliers and market herself to magazines and wealthy clients. Iris shows that talent alone isn’t enough, you need to get yourself out there and hustle constantly to be a success. If she can work so hard in her nineties, what excuse do the rest of us have?

Iris Apfel

True inspiration comes from being yourself…

They say that all art is influenced by what came before but I think Iris has a true creativity. She trusts her own instincts and isn’t afraid to be a little out there. Who else would mix haute couture with plastic $5 jewellery from Harlem? As she says herself, “To me it’s not intellectual, it’s all gut”. Sometimes you just have to back yourself, the rest will follow.

Be curious and have a sense of humour…

It’s ironic how for a style icon, Iris doesn’t take fashion very seriously. As she says in the documentary, it’s better to be happy than well dressed. Some of the best moments were when she just plays with fashion, not using it to define her, but having fun and being silly. There’s so much to take from her attitude and not just for dressing. If accessories are a metaphor for life, Iris proves that you can never have too much of a good thing. And who cares what anyone else thinks anyway?

Life is short, buy the shoes

Do you think Iris sweats about wearing her Givenchy shoes out in the rain? Or eating off the fancy china? No, she fills her life with beautiful things and isn’t precious about them. I think the lesson is, if you work hard, you deserve to treat yourself. Leaving your favourite shoes in their box might mean they don’t get scuffed, but nothing can replace the joy of wearing them just because you feel like it.

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Healthy Banana Bread

Recipes: Healthy Banana Bread

To me, health is a balance; A little bit of exercise, a little bit of healthy eating and the occasional treat. That’s why I’m really excited to share my recipe for healthy banana bread. Free from refined sugar, butter and white flour, it’s perfect for a weekday afternoon snack. I like keeping some in my desk drawer at work to combat stress eating chocolate!

Ingredients:

4-5 very ripe bananas
1 cup brown flour or another flour substitute (rice, coconut etc.)
1/2 cup black chia seeds
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup coconut oil
grated zest of one orange
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 tsp ground ginger, nutmeg & cinnamon

Method

Heat oven to 140 degrees Celsius and line a bread tin. Add all the ingredients in a big bowl & mix. I like to use my Kitchen Aid but you can even mix by hand. Pour into tin, bake for just over an hour. Cool in tin for 5 minutes before tipping out onto a wire rack.

 

Healthy banana bread recipe

Travel: My Vietnam Travel Guide

I’d never really considered visiting Vietnam until a couple of friends suggested we meet them for part of their six month around-the-world honeymoon. There’s no particular reason for my lack on interest. I just didn’t know anything about this beautiful country until I started researching. And because it completely blew me away, I thought I’d share my favourite picks in case, like me, you’re still on the fence.

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Relax in paradise in Phu Quoc

I have to say, I am really not a beach holiday kind of person. Surfing and water sports, yes please! But laying around sunbathing just isn’t my idea of fun. Seeing as there’s not a hint of surf in Phu Quoc, I was a little worried I’d be climbing up the palm trees after the first day. I don’t know how, but this little island paradise has completely converted me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been working so hard lately but as soon as someone put a cocktail in my hand, I just didn’t want to move. I actually had to drag myself to the amazing beach-side yoga classes at Mango Bay Resort, which is so unlike me. We also stayed at Peppercorn Beach Resort and were unbelievably lucky to have the whole place to the four of us, including Auntie 7’s delicious cooking and the fantastic sunsets.

Hanoi, Vietnam DSC_0618

Vietnam in Focus, Hanoi

Crazy, loud, hot, humid and frenetic, arriving in Hanoi would shock even the most hardy traveller, not to mention two blissed out and relaxed arrivals from Phu Quoc. The honks of hundreds of motorbikes were enough to slam us back to reality in no time. Getting up for dawn was quite a struggle but I’m so glad I did so to take a photography tour with Vietnam in Focus. Colm, the fantastic tour guide, really gave me a lot to think about in terms of my technique and style. Leading us down tiny alleys and along railway tracks, he showed us a glimpse of this hectic city from an insider’s view point. Like any great city, sometimes you need to get off the beaten track to be rewarded with its true beauty.

DSC_0240 DSC_0257 Sunset, Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay

What can you say about Halong Bay? It’s just so incredibly beautiful and I feel so lucky I was able to see these beautiful islands under such great conditions. The thunder storm on our first night was a little bit scary, I have to admit, but what could be more romantic than laying on the top deck of a traditional junk boat and seeing flashes of lightening streak across the wide, open sky. We took A Class cruises if you’re looking for a recommendation but I think they’re all quite similar.

Ohdearism Tracking in Sapa, Vietnam DSC_0836 Trecking in Sapa, VietnamDSC_0797

Trecking in Sapa

Well as fitness lovers, me and the hubby had to do something to burn off all those cheap beers. Taking the night train to Sapa was so exciting and romantic and we were rewarded with these majestic mountain ranges and the beautiful smiles of the locals. We stayed in Topas Eco Lodge and would highly recommend shelling out the relatively high price to stay here. Compared to the rather touristy and busy town, the lodge is in the middle of nowhere and has completely unspoilt views. I can’t imagine a more peaceful, beautiful way to end what was really the trip of a lifetime.

Have you been to Vietnam, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Natalie x

Blog: How to make panna cotta

Who says desserts have to be heavy? Sweet, delicate and deliciously creamy, the panna cotta is my go-to solution for when I’m in the mood for something beautifully light and refreshing at the end of my meal. Easy-to-make and even easier to eat, it’s the perfect finishing touch for when you want an indulgent treat without the guilt-factor.

cocktail glass

The traditional Italian version uses a simple milk, cream and gelatine recipe; lightly baked, set, and then turned out on a plate with a tantalising wobble. To avoid extra stress in the kitchen, I prefer to set mine in pretty glassware and serve them straight from the fridge. I also commit another sacrilege to purists everywhere by incorporating whatever fruit I happen to have laying around, blending it into a puree or jelly for an extra hit of flavour to offset the cream.

For this version I also folded in a few dollops of strawberry and rhubarb yogurt. It’s a great way to add some instant intensity without compromising the fragile texture of the mixture.

Jars

 

Ingredients:

Panna Cotta

280ml Double Cream

100ml Milk

150ml Rachel’s Gourmet Low Fat Yoghurt

1 Sachet Gelatine

3-4 tbsp Icing Mixture

1 Vanilla Pod

Jelly

2-3tbsp Frozen Mixed Fruits

2tbsp Caster Sugar

1 Sachet Gelatine

 

Method

Begin by making up a batch of jelly. Using a blender, roughly blend the frozen fruits into a juice. Add one pack of gelatine to 400ml just-boiled water, whisking vigorously until granules have dissolved. Combine both mixtures and pour into the bottom of your containers, placing in the freezer to set quickly.

For the panna cotta, place the double cream and milk into a saucepan, bringing to the boil. Score open the vanilla pod and add to the mixture, leaving it to gently simmer for 5-6 minutes. Meanwhile, make up about 2 tablespoons of gelatine mixture using the same method as before.

Take the cream mixture off the heat and leave to cool down slightly for 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve to remove the vanilla pod, then mix in the gelatine and fold in the yoghurt.

Pour the mixture over the set jelly and leave to set for an hour or so in the fridge. Use fresh fruit to decorate the glasses when ready to serve.

Culture: The 24 Drinking Game

Before we had Breaking Bad; before we had Mad Men, we had The Sopranos. And while Tony and his dysfunctional gang of nodding hench men were busy changing the face of television as we know it, Jack Bauer was bringing us the perfect light-hearted, explosion-filled antithesis. While the revolutionary new gangster genre brought us things like meaningful layers, complex characters and hard-to-spot references, 24 brought us guns, explosions and more plot twists and changing baddies than could possibly fit into several years, let alone a mere 24 hours.

24

Yes, yes I’m sure my A-Level Media Studies teacher would have wanted to point out the contextual themes of a show that first aired in 2001 and is about good guys fighting terrorists. It’s always fun to note how the nationalities of the terrorists change from Russian to Middle Eastern over the seasons. Plus I’m sure there’s some kind parallel to be drawn to the Greek Tragedies in terms of a lone hero going up against both the bad guys and toxic power structures (Why are the politicians and agency heads always so misguided?! Why does no one trust a man that has saved America so many times?!) But the real fun in watching 24 is in not taking things to seriously, which is where the 24 Drinking Game comes in.

So grab some friends, fill up your booze cupboard and join me in drinking to the themes and tropes that make this show so great.

Take a sip every time:

  • Jack says, “Dammit’
  • Jack says, ‘Right now you don’t have any other choice!’
  • Jack says, ‘Like it or not, you’re going to have to trust me.’
  • Jack says, ‘Cover me I’m going in’
  • Jack yells at his boss, ‘You don’t have time!’
  • Someone gets tortured
  • Jack gets tortured
  • Someone gets shot
  • A terrorist gets offered an immunity deal
  • The Justice Department investigates Jack
  • Jack gets arrested
  • Kim or another woman needs saving
  • Chloe rolls her eyes
  • Someone says, ‘CTU has a mole’
  • Anyone else says, ‘Dammit’

 

Finish your drink every time:

  • Jack whisper shouts, ‘You’ve read my file. You’ve seen what I can do’
  • Jack yells at the president/anyone, ‘Millions of innocent lives are at stake!’
  • There’s an explosion
  • Someone underestimates Jack or makes a fate provoking comment like, ‘They’ll never find us.’ (Oh you silly, silly terrorists)

I’ve just realised that based on past seasons, you’ll probably be drinking a lot. I take no responsibility for what happens!

If you have any 24 Drinking Game suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

Natalie x

 

 

 

 

Society: Happy International Women’s Day

Lewis Caroll

Today is the day to celebrate being rad ladies. It’s a day to be sisters and think about how far we’ve come and how much further there is to go; for us and for everyone around the world.

It’s quite easy to become frustrated when debating feminist issues. Why can’t everyone just agree that all people are equal and demand respect? I was thinking this when I read Sarah Ditum‘s intelligent rebuttal to Pairs Lees on Hollaring Back to Street Harassment. The horrendous Paris Lees piece on Vice (I won’t link) angered me to see so many young male commenters sneering at the women who spoke up to say street harassment made them uncomfortable.

Lees writes, “I love catcalls. I love car toots. I love random men smiling “Hello beautiful!” like my mere presence just made their day. I like being called “princess” and ignoring them as I giggle inside. I like being eye-fucked on the escalator and wondering if I’ve just made him spring a boner.”

It’s disappointing to me, although not surprising considering she is writing for Vice, that Lees has fallen down on thinking about this issue critically or from another person’s viewpoint. Just because she enjoys the attention, that doesn’t mean that all women do or that there aren’t sinister undertones to this type of catcalling. Indeed later in the post she goes on to recount more aggressive and upsetting instances without examining the relationship between these and more harmless “compliments”.

Others have pointed out that as a trans-gender woman, perhaps Lees might find this kind of attention to be more of a reassurance of her femininity than a cis woman. I don’t know Lees’ motivations, nor do I suppose she speaks for every trans woman. What I do know is that every woman has the right to be able to walk down the street and feel safe and equal, and this will never happen while she is being blatantly “eye fucked” or tooted at.

So my feminist (and not feminist) sisters and brothers, for this International Women’s Day, let’s all try and do one thing: let’s just listen to each other. Because no matter how far we’ve come, we’ll always have further to go and that’s ok.

Natalie x

 

 

 

Woman in traditional African dress shopping for fruit in Brixton Market

Blog: I walked through Brixton today

Woman in traditional African dress shopping for fruit in Brixton MarketI walked through Brixton market today.

I do this most days, but today was different. I paused and took in every sound, every smell.

I haven’t walked down Electric Avenue in the sunshine for months.

Most days on my way home i’ll stop off at Nour, the cash and carry that i’ve been loyal to for years, to buy supplies for that night’s dinner. I’ll walk fast, with my head down, between tall trollies, cardboard boxes and detritus from the day’s trade. It’s always dark, 6pm, and there’s always wind i’m running from. The slow shoppers are all gone and the market is filled with working people, trying to get things done quickly so they can get home and warm.

But today it’s 3.30pm on a Friday. Nour is filled with old women studying plantain and taking their time. Today I have all the patience in the world to wait for these women to pass in the narrow corridor. I nod and smile as I wait for one and she calls me blessed.

As I leave Nour with vegetables, picked with care, since I have the time today, I browse the other stalls I usually ignore. I’m looking for hass avocados, since they’re sweeter, and Nour doesn’t stock them today. I find 4 for £1 and silently bless Brixton as I hand over the coin.

I walk slowly back down Electric Avenue and I feel sure in the sense that I love this place i’ve made my home. It’s hard to love Brixton sometimes, when the journey from the tube is just too long in the wind and rain and the bus is too full.

I open my ears to every sound. Wet fish slapped on ice. Tuts. Clicks. Teeth kisses. Hoots. A “hey gov’na!”. I recognise familiar faces. I see new ones. It feels like I haven’t looked at it in this light for so long.

On the journey home the bus is too full of school kids. I lift up my shopping bags to let a small child pass and a woman shouts “get ya bag off meh leg, cha!” A dark cloud threatens to blacken my mood but I let it pass. This is Brixton. Thorny.

[Image from www.london-attractions.info]