Thursday, 30 September 2010

Hidden Madrid - Calling all Goya fans

Last weekend I was introduced to the little-known (at least little-known by me) chapel where Goya is buried in Madrid; Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida, near Metro Moncloa. Not only is the great maestro buried there, but he is responsible for the wonderfully vibrant and dynamic frescoes adorning the ceiling. Entry is free and it's pretty much free of crowds.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Been away

I have only just realised that I haven't posted in over a week - very unlike me. The reason is I've been pretty much mega-busy, though in the good sense of the word - interesting stuff has been happening in my life which I can't really talk about just yet ;-) All I can say is I've been taken to some very nice places around Madrid which I'll be updating you on asap!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Tea at the Santo Maura

A friend and I stopped by at the gorgeous Hotel Santo Mauro today for a nice cup of Earl Gray. I'd heard of this swish former palace on C/Zurbano before but had never seen it in person. Gorgeous!

Saturday, 18 September 2010


Isn't this bath for two, by Thun and Rodriguez, just lovely? One of my gripes with my apartment is that it doesn't even have a bath for one, let alone for two... and there's little I love more on a Friday evening, after a long week at work, than to put on some soothing music, pick up a magazine and have a hot bath. So relaxing. But alas, with no bath, the sofa and a bar of chocolate have to suffice. What's your favourite way of winding down at the end of the week?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

I'm talking to you 3b

This mat made me laugh, it really could have been made for me. And as for 3b, there is no 3b, but these sentiments could apply to pretty much the entire population of my Madrid neighbourhood, Lavapies...
From the Onion Store

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A cheery song for back to school

I've been back at work for a couple for weeks now and the dreaded sindrome post vacacional so common in Spain as we tend to get THE WHOLE MONTH OF AUGUST OFF seems to be lifting a little :-) Although I left school more years ago than I care to remember, September for me is still when the 'real year' begins rather than January, and is a good opportunity to sneakily start working on those dreaded New Year's resolutions and get a little head start. Anyway, thought I'd share my cheery mood with this song I like from Florence and the Machine. And yes indeed, for now at least, it would seem like the dog days are over.

Celebitchy plastic surgery - have they or haven't they?

About 2 years ago I did a little post on this topic, and suprisingly (or not) it turned out to be one of the most- read items on my blog (according to google :-)) despite not drawing many comments. Anyway, here's another batch. What's the verdict? Have they gone under the knife/or are they simply wearing better, ahem, make up?

Blake Lively

Danni Minogue

Elsa Pataky

Jennifer Garner

Jordan aka Katie Price (ok, this it a trick question)

Kate Winslet

Salma Hayek

And again...

It's easy to sneer at those who've had work done...but, honestly, would you really never, ever, have anything done if you knew it would look natural, had the cash, and there would be no complications? Impossible guarantees of course but I know I personally couldn't promise to NEVER have anything done if it was really getting me down. Deeta Von Teese, who is famously open about her surgery seems to think these procedures are just a more extreme form of make up. Hmm, not sure about that, you're unlikely to kill yourself using make up - then again I did once almost poke my out trying to apply eyeliner while driving (I'm such a bad driver that the possibility of multitasking is a complete no-no).

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Autumnal inspiration

I know it’s a bit early for this, but as I seem to be in such a hibernating sort of mood this September, I thought I’d do a post to provide a bit of autumnal inspiration. In this old post from Apartment Therapy they talk about the best autumn rituals; the readers mention cosy socks and a good book curled up on the sofa, hot bubble baths (I’m so mad that my apartment only has a shower), drinking cocoa and snuggling up with kittens, pumpkin pie scented candles and more.

And here are a few things which might be catching my fancy as October comes in :-)

Autumnal jewellery, like this delicate leaf necklace from Etsy seller BeadinBabe, made from a real leaf plated in silver.

Another thing on my mind is the prospect of taking up knitting again, bored of making scarves but daunted by jumpers, how about a snuggly blanket for the sofa? I found the lovely free pattern pictured below on the Rowan wool site and wonder if I could manage it? By the way, if you want to buy wool in Madrid, try the wonderfully retro Lanas Gato Negro near Plaza Mayor where they sell wool by the hank rather than by ball!

Another thing I'm looking forward to is making bacon and butternut squash soup topped with a little yoghurt and parsley. I found this recipe years ago and have made it ever since. Delicous. The only thing that always puts me off is the painful task of peeling the squash. But my colleague R has recently informed me that there's not need to peel it at all. Did you know that? I certainly didn't. She says that if you chop it up then boil or roast it, the skin can easily be pulled off afterwards. What a good idea.

For a bit of autumnal decadence, I'm really taken with this gold Morroccan pouffe from Graham&Green. It's kind of pricey and I really wish that I'd picked one up in Marrakech earlier this year where they cost the equivalent of about 30 euros.

Regular readers of this blog may be familiar with my love of all things fragrant and the French brand L'Occitane. The other day I came accross this gorgeous smelling cinnamon scented candle which reminds me of autumn, baking and all things wholesome.

Well, that's enough autumn for today. It's late summer in Madrid and I guess I should go out and enjoy it. A glass of white wine on a terraza, hopefully followed by the latest offering from Woody Allen.

What are your favourite things about Autumn?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Blablabla - my temporary state as a couch potato

This is kind of a post for post's sake. I don't have much interesting to report I'm afraid but my sister Sayda has been hassling me about my sporadic posts lately and has guilted me into writing even though I have nothing that special to share. Fact is, since returning from Bali, all I want to do is curl up at home with a good book/my favourite series - at the moment Masterchef and Top Chef reruns - which while pretty meaningless at least provide me with the motivation to walk up the hill to my local market for some fresh produce to make a nice meal - like the pan fried perch I did today. It's like I'm slipping into winter mode even though it's still 26 degrees out there. Before the summer I was all about forcing myself to go out and have fun, whereas the past few weeks I seem to get a disproportionate amount of satisfaction from just eating a ripe peach or lighting an insence stick on my tiny balcony and noting how it rids the air of all the smells of boiled lentils with chunks of lard that my neighbours seem to cook first thing on a saturday morning... I really am miss boring, and secretly feel pleased when plans to go out fall through. Not like me at all! I promise myself that I will get out there again; I'll be back at yoga, back at French, and running, and writing a novel, and setting up an online business and God knows what. But for now, for the next couple of weeks, I'm happy just to take it easy. I can see now that I was doing too much before the summer, as I think I mentioned in a previous post, my self-diagnosed superwoman syndrome was perhaps causing me a bit of anxiety, so maybe that's where this need to do nothing (apart from my physio which I can't give up) comes from. Or maybe it's just laziness or a sympton of what the Spanish call syndrome post vacacional? Whatever it is, I'm quite enjoying it :-)

Friday, 10 September 2010

New favourite fashion blog - Love Meagan

Apart from the Sartorialist, which I love (oh, and cupcakes and cashmere), I'm pretty fickle about fashion blogs. I love to have an occasional nose at other people's style, but tend to find that fashion bloggers either have 'girl next door' style which is lovely but which I could do myself at home so tend to tire of after a while, or, they are a lot more fashion-forward and nice for a browse but perhaps not wearable for me on a regular basis. So I've been on the lookout for a fashion blog with a real woman wearing wearable stuff that above all fits in with my own ethos of keeping things a bit glam and sexy without going over the top (ok, maybe just a little bit over the top). Enter Love Meagan. I love this LA blogger's clothes, big hair and slightly in-your-face style. If you screw your eyes up small she's kind of got a touch of Kim Basinger. Refreshingly she sometimes gets it wrong, but don't we all? Compared to style Europe-side she could be accused of over matching her accessories (I'm guilty on that charge too) but these minor mishaps are forgiven as she actually manages to look good in fit flops which she assures us she's wearing due to a foot injury but completely gets away with nevertheless. In addition to wearing fab clothes she also does great hair and cute craft project tutorials.

P.s. she has also confirmed the validity of my desparate need for a Louis Vuitton Speedy bag ;P

Meagan's DIY pearl and ribbon concertina necklace

Rocking fit flops

Monday, 6 September 2010

Fellini in Madrid

If you’re in the city and fancy a bit of film culture then check out the free Fellini exhibition at Madrid’s CaixaForum I popped in by chance yesterday and it’s definitely worth stopping by; includes some great photography, stills, sketches and film extracts – with a special focus on the saucy fountain scene with Anita Eckberg in La Dolce Vita and some of the curious fetishes of this Italian director. On till December 26th.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Talk to the hand - feeling silly taking hand photos

Why I feel like a fool I'm not quite sure, 000's of fashion bloggers take photos of their hands, feet and more on a daily basis. But, then again, I'm not a fashion blogger, I'm actually quite camera shy, and the lens only emphasises the fact I've got spider-woman fingers! Speaking of fashion blogs, I've got a new one which I'm going to share with you when I get a moment between the unpacking and hand photography :P Anyway, back to the case in hand (excuse the pun), I'm taking photos of my hand because after much deliberation and blathering on about 'only wearing natural toned nail polishes' I decided to try pale gray polish. I'm not an early adopter when it comes to fashion, I tend to wait and see how everyone else looks in stuff then decide, so about 2 years after it became popular, here I am sporting it! So what's my verdict? I like it but think a paler grey would suit my skintone more... in the photo below I use flash which makes the grey seem lighter, and more attractive I think (it's a Rimmel 60second nail varnish - not very long lasting, but cheap for make up experiments like this). What's your favourite nail colour?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Eat, pray, love - which of these 2 things did I do in Bali?

I'm back in Madrid again after 2 weeks in Bali and a week in the UK, and I have to say, for the moment at least, I feel like a new woman :-)  Re this post title, for those of you who haven't read the book, Eat, pray, love is a book the true story of a woman who goes on a year-long journey of self-discovery after the dissolution of her marriage and a harrowing rebound relationship. Following this ordeal she ate in Italy, prayed in India and loved in Bali, once again finding her footing in life. It is hugely popular but has also been much-maligned as the self indulgent ramblings of a middle class woman who 'had it all'. In any case, I really liked it. Unlike Elizabth Gilbert, I didn't love in Bali - at least not in that way - but I did eat and pray/meditate an awful lot! I have so much to say about that wonderful island that I don't know quite where to begin. Perhaps in a homage to the book that confirmed I should book my trip to Bali it is fitting to do a little eat, pray, love of my own...

I have great food memories of Bali - delicious banana pancakes for breakfast, made of tiny sweet Balinese bananas. There were also many quick and economical lunches of Nasi Goreng (fried rice with chicken and vegetables) scooped up with prawn crackers that actually taste of prawn and sloshed with the sweet soy sauce known as kecap manis. Delicious satays, fire-hot salads, and black rice pudding with coconut milk were also abound. At the yoga retreat there were carefully prepared organic meals - curried prawns baked in banana leaves, fresh papaya for breakfast and ginger tea on tap. But it wasn't all local fayre and granola - to end the vacation in style my new-found yoga buddies and I dined in Asia's number 7 restaurant - Mosaik - 6 courses of gorgeous food in gorgeous surroundings.

My solo breakfast on my verandah on the 'silent day' at the retreat (the rest of the days we all ate together).
Nasi Goreng and Bintang beer
Banana pancakes at my simple but homely guest house the first 2 nights


I have never been blessed by 'men of the cloth' so many times in my life. There were visits to temples rarely frequented by westerners with my Madrid yoga friends. Decked out in full Balinese lady gear of a sarong, sash and a slightly sexy lacy tops (not the one in the photo below!) we knelt and prayed; a curious ritual involving the smoking of ones hands with insence, placing coloured flowers behind the ears, and pressing of rice into ones forehead and temples (this is unfortunately a bit of a crude and inaccurate description of this delicate process). We were then blessed by mangkus who anointed us with holy water, which we accepted with upturned palms and even drank (I didn't get Bali belly after consuming this local water - but seeing as it was holy that should come as no surprise :-)). After the trip with my Madrileño friends, I went on a wonderfully restorative yoga retreat in Ubud in central Bali. My week here started with a 2 hour ayurvedic massage, and just got better and better: yoga twice a day, great food, cycling, beauty treatments, meditation and making some great new freinds - all in lush surroundings.  We visited a sacred temple by night where we walked throught deep ancient stone pools dunking our heads under 'purifying' fountains as we went along and were blessed again by a local mangku. Much of the time in a Balinese household is devoted to making elaborate little offerings to the gods comprising of flowers, rice and on ocassion even cigarettes! The streets of Bali are literally paved with these offerings and I did a class on how to make them. In a fitting end to the more spiritual part of my holiday, on the final morning of the retreat we were invited to burn little bits of paper onto which we had written negative thoughts on a pyre of fragrant flower petals then throw them into the river. Adios silly preocupations (for now at least).
Monasteries and ceremonies
Making offerings from coconut leaves and filling them with flowers - each flower has a different significance

I certainly didn't go to Bali to work on my love life - fact is for the past months I have pretty much shunned love as something that was 'for other people' (though my big-mouth bravado may have suggested otherwise). Now I feel that I may be just a little more ready to meet someone, but only just a little, so we'll see. To be honest I found that Bali, for all it's sensuality felt pretty chaste - even the cat calls seem harmless - at least compared to the obscenities I am used to hearing in Lavapies. It was only when I travelled to neighbouring island Nusa Lembongan that I suddenly felt a bit harangued as a woman - luckily I had a male friend accompanying me on this isle which we came to name la isla de los salidos - pervy/horny guy island. So, as I said, Bali was not really about amore for me - though permit me to get a little cheesy and say it was all about self-love and the love of friends.

The princess treatment
My own private beach

Looking back at what I've written here, it really doesn't capture the essence of the island, the things that really struck me. Things like waking up to the smell of frangipani flowers, the way strangers went out of their way to help me, sweet Ketut at the retreat who nervously smiled as he explained to us the ingredients of the latest organic meal to come from his kitchen, spooky tales of black magic, the toothless smile of an old mangku, new friends in far off places, my first time snorkeling, villagers greeting us with om swastiastu, funny lady market vendors claiming they were giving you a good price because you have nice body or insisting that buying this or that sarong bring good luck for you, crazy rides on the back of all manner of motorbikes, trucks and boats. Thank you for the memories Bali :-)

For those of you who I'm friends with on Facebook, sorry that you've seen these pics already! I'll be posting more on the blog soon.
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