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The Spike

Clothes, recipes, kids, interiors, London…

Month

June 2017

Edamame bean salad

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This doesn’t *sound* like it is going to amount to much, but it is totally delicious. Where is the umami in this edamame, you will think – well, it’s there, somehow.

You will need:

2 large handfuls of frozen edamame beans per person

1 bunch parsley

1 bunch mint

lemon juice

vinegar – any sort

some dried chilli flakes

olive oil

salt and pepper

a spring onion OR any old onion

1 small clove of garlic

 

1 In the bowl that you ultimately want to serve your beans in, blobble about 2 glugs of olive oil per serving.

2 Then finely chop in the parsley and mint and spring onion (if using). If you’re using onion, grate on the smallest grating setting a splodge of onion juice – about 1/2 a teaspoon.

3 If you’d like some garlic, again grate a tiny amount in, merely three or four strands. Too much garlic kills a thing stone dead, I find – and you only need a hint for something to benefit from it.

4 now add the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of whatever vinegar you’ve got

5 boil and drain the beans then add to the dressing and toss while still warm. Add salt and pepper and sprinkle over some chilli flakes.

You can have this alongside fish or fried halloumi, or sprinkle over some feta. Or, to be honest, it’s pretty nice on its own.

Sale advice

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I mean, who the hell am I to give advice about the sales, really? Nine times out of ten I go to the sales and then buy something not in the sale as I can’t bear that hellish sorting-though of shite trying to find something not weird that is your size.

But, if you have waited for the sales to buy a few things to modernise your summer wardrobe a bit, which is what I did, (and which is basically only sensible) – here is what I bought.

This looks minging on the model, but actually very nice on. I’m sure you’ve got peasant blouses aplenty, but this is a fresh take on it – more very specifically Bulgarian peasant blouse. Note the lack of neon. Neon is massively over.

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Zara embroidered blouse, £29.99 was 39.99. I got mine in an M. I am 5’6″ and a size 10/12.

If you haven’t got any blue stripe, check or gingham yet, the sale is a good place to find it. I got this from Next, (not in the sale, natch), for £24. It is very J Crew and nicer than it looks in the photo. It is also very long and flowy so you can easily tie the tails together if you don’t want to tuck it in but don’t want it hanging out quite so much. I got this in a size 10.

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Sleeveless gingham tiered shirt 

There is absolutely masses of gingham/check about, just pick something you like and don’t feel drawn into buying a giant gingham check skirt.

Also don’t worry if you don’t suit bardot tops or cold-shoulder tops (I certainly don’t) – dodge them and go for something you do like.

Ditto those deconstructed shirts, all cut-out and hanging off in places… the clock is really ticking on how much longer you can wear those for. If you don’t yet have an oversized, mannish pale blue or blue striped shirt, get one of those as that will last.

A thing which will update pretty much any outfit you have right now is a pair of giant, colourful earrings. Wear them with a white t-shirt, a jazzy skirt and your best sandals.

These from H&M (not on sale, but so cheap they might as well be) are good because they are quite an unusual colour, sort of mustardy. Unfortunately I can’t find them online but this is the kind of thing I mean.

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Yellow tassel earrings, £8.99.

Mind out, just by the way, if you’re looking at earrings with fabric tassels on them – a lot of the ones I saw in the shops were sort of bent out of shape and if you order these online and arrive all bent and wonky you’re a bit stuffed, I guess you could have a crack at ironing them, but, I dunno… best get ones made of chain or heavier cord.

And these are the best things I’ve ever seen, pretty  much – bright pink flowers from J Crew, down to £33 from £48.

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If I could justify a pair of new sandals, which I can’t, and I was looking to clean up in the sales I would get some black, chunky sandals like these:

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Frustratingly, I can’t find a good pair on sale to show you – and so many sizes online are out of stock (another reason online sales buying can be dodgy) – but if you grace the sales with your actual person, these are a very now thing to look out for to update your wardrobe generally.

Finally, remember the golden questions you must ask yourself before every sale purchase.

1 Do I have something exactly or almost exactly like this at home?

2 Would any of my stylish friends wear this?

3 Can I think of at least 2 other items in my wardrobe this goes with?

4 Does it have anything in common with other items of clothing I own and like but mysteriously never wear?

Happy shopping or, if you just can’t face it, not. More sale finds and fun as I find them.

Granny trollies

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Do you dare?

I posted on Instagram a few days ago a picture of Soraya Khashoggi wheeling along one of those granny shopper trolleys covered in a cute pattern (it was dogs in all different colours). I said “Is it wrong to want one of these?” (If you missed it, hop over to my Instagram – @esthermcoren)

The response was huge! 44 comments I got! And counting! Everyone said “No, I want one, too” or “No, if you find a good one tell me.”

Ever since my kids were too old to go in a buggy I’ve been toying with the idea of getting one of these – as once you’re rid of the buggy you realised how insanely useful it is for piling all sorts of shit in. I was one of those mums at the playground whose buggy keeled over backwards when the kid got out.

My mum always had a granny trolley, well before she was an actual granny. It was a giant wicker thing with rumbly wheels and she wheeled it down to the shops when she wanted to walk rather than get in the car. Along with our hideous car and house covered in cat hair and her habit of skip-diving, it was the most embarrassing thing that she did.

Does it put me off? Hell no! Because whereas my mum would have just shrugged her shoulders and thought “Give a shit whether you’re embarrassed or not” I reckon there might be a way to make it “work”.

I’m torn – between getting one so insane and hideous while wearing it with reasonable clothes, so that it is so clearly ironic it raises my outfit to untold stratospheres of coolness. (See above.)

On the other hand, I could get this Smart Cart, which is an insulated box on wheels, in which you can fit the contents of a small flat, but which will elevate no outfit, or look cool even if Kate Moss was wheeling it to a party at John McEnroe’s house, while chatting to Huey from Fun Lovin Criminals (before he got fat).

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Oprah Winfrey – YES THAT OPRAH WINFREY – favours a brand called Rolser, and her favourite is this one. But Oprah Winfrey is the richest woman in the entire world and the things that would make me look like a dickhead of the first order on Oprah are simply charming eccentricities.

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I also find something extremely comforting and literal about this one, also from Rolsen, via Amazon:

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But listen if we all do this together, we can make it happen. Someone needs to send Rosie Huntingdon Whitely one. And Cara Delevigne. Joss Stone probably already has one.

Next stop: bumbags.

Why I’m not painting my toenails anymore

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These are not my feet 

It started at the end of the last hot spell we had (not as hot as this one). I took all the nail varnish on my toes off. And I just didn’t put it back on. And I think I’m probably not going to for the rest of the summer.

I don’t mean I’m going for Hobbit feet. I don’t mean that I’m just going to let my toenails grow yellow and curly, see how groady the rough bits of my feet can get, I just mean I’m not painting my toenails any more. Not sure how long for – maybe the rest of this summer, maybe the rest of my life?

I’ve always loved painting my toenails. Before I watched telly while messing about on my laptop, I watched telly while painting my toenails. The ritual of it… it would take ages. The soaking, the dabbing, the massage, the filing, the bottom coat – really letting it dry – and then the shiny laquer. The new toes, the new feet. The feeling that if your toes were twinkly, neat and lovely then life must be under control.

But now having to paint my toenails has become something else – a tedious chore for me or an hour sitting about while someone else does it when I could be doing other things.

I don’t want gel because that stuff is freaking monstrous – you basically have to hack your toes off to remove it – and a normal pedicure is just another ticking cosmetic time bomb, like fake tan (can I push it for another day??)

There’s something else going on, too. When I was about 27 I decided for a while to stop wearing eye make-up because I realised that I hadn’t actually seen myself without my eyeliner and mascara on for about 10 years. I had grown to assume without questioning it that I was a hideous monster without my eyes done and that felt wrong and frightening. Was it possible to feel pretty without effectively drawing a face on?

It was time to get to know my own face again. So I went without eye liner or mascara for a few weeks – I did the rest of my face as normal, just no eye make-up. And it was incredibly freeing. And, yes, I felt pretty enough.

And I think recently the same is true of my feet. I’m not kidding myself that I have these beautiful feet but I have not let them see the light of day without nail varnish for years. And in fact, if you look after your feet properly – they actually look rather sweet and appealing unpainted.

But you do have to look after them. That means a light brush with a foot file once a day – not too hard because that encourages cracks – and keeping nails neat and tidy.

I also use Vaseline intensive care hand and nail cream on my feet at night – it absorbs in really well so that you don’t have infuriatingly slimy feet all night. I find that most for-feet creams are hellishly thick and horrible, as if your feet were some kind of vile medical anomaly for which only goose fat will do as an emollient.

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Sally Hansen’s cuticle oil stops emergent Hobbit feet.

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If I’m actually invited to a very smart party I will concede to paint my toenails with clear varnish, but that will be it.

The revolution starts here ladies.

NEW ESPADRILLES!

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Contrasting tied wedges £29.99 – search 3523/201

I went insane last week during the fourth consecutive 6am wake-up with Sam and went on an online shopping spree in Warehouse and Zara.

Actually this is a lie, I didn’t go insane – I coldly went online to spend money because I was pissed off about being awake. It was the opposite of insane. I was the sanest moment of the day.

I found I’d lost my touch, though – and genuinely sort of couldn’t find anything to buy. Normally in any shop you put me in I can find something fabulous – Homebase, Poundland, Oasis … but even on the Zara website I was a bit lost.

I am actually now really quite into dragging things out of my wardrobe that I haven’t worn for a while and trying to make them work. I look at these things and think “I loved you once. How can I love you again?”

But I just wanted to BUY SOMETHING. I’m sure you are sympathetic. So I got two tops that turned up and were a bit disappointing but then I also got these lace-up espadrilles and they were really very good. They are a beautiful colour, they are comfortable ***double triple win*** with a perfect heel height and the lace-up element is so inescapably now that I could wear it with an old H&M slip dress, some gypsy earrings and a scarf in my hair and look as though the whole thing was completely on purpose (as opposed to accidentally-on-purpose.)

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For more fun and games join me over on Instagram @esthermcoren

Squash and spinach bake

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This is before it’s cooked obviously… 

Here’s a great one for meat-free Monday. A *little* bit of a hassle, but not much and everyone loves this.

For 4 with a side salad

1 butternut squash (I have started using pre-sliced butternut squash from Waitrose! I KNOW, it’s the end of days…)

2  x 200g bags spinach

1 large ball mozzarella (doesn’t have to be amazing quality, whatever Sainsburys have got is fine.)

2 small onions

small bunch sage

50g butter

1 tablespoon flour

about 150ml milk

grated gruyere, cheddar or parmesan – or all three!

1 Peel and chop your squash (or just tip it out of the bag – ha ha!) into a roasting tin, then slice the onion and tear up the sage leaves and scatter them evenly among the squash. Season generously and douse in olive oil. Bake this at 200C for 30 min. Check at 20min that it’s not burning. (Your oven is different from mine.)

2 Meanwhile wilt the spinach in a pan with some water. Drain it well in a sieve afterwards because spinach doesn’t half like to leak a lot of purplish water everywhere for ages.

3 Put the roasted squash in a serving dish, (don’t include the considerable pool of olive oil at the bottom of the roasting pan, but do put in all the burntish onion bits), scatter over the spinach and tear up the mozzarella and place evenly over the top.

4 You could now, I guess, just bake or grill all this together for a bit and then serve? I usually do a white sauce, but this is a hassle.

Anyway you all know how to do this by now: melt butter in a pan, take pan off heat, add plain flour until you get a sort of paste.

With pan still off heat, pour in 2 glugs milk and whisk until you get a thick sauce. Then add rest of milk, put back over a medium heat and stir until thicker.

Season and add cheese until you have a lip-smacking cheesy sauce. Then pour that over the squash and spinach and finish off under a grill.

5 I have in the past toasted some bread, rubbed with a garlic clove, whizzed up in a whizzer and scattered over the top before baking – but that all seems a bit much in this heat, doesn’t it?

Please stop asking me if I’m watching the Handmaid’s Tale.

 

Salmon and spicy lentils

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Where are we with lentils? I mean I lose track of whether they are good or not good. Are they a legume? Do they have lectins which will make you shrivel up and die like the baddie in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when he picks the wrong holy grail? If you get them out of a can are they processed? Are they going to bloat me up, make me fat, give me cancer?? And what about onions? Where are we with those?

Anyway look don’t tell me actually. It’s not like I eat them every day, only on special occasions and I always take my vitamins and go spinning to offset the potentially deadly effects of lentils.

I’m being silly! *Drops dead*.

This is a great midweek dinner, if you can get hold of some nice salmon. The lentils don’t sound that promising, but they are very good. You can skip out the cucumber yoghurt if you came back from the shops without the necessary stuff.

Salmon and spicy lentils

for 2

2 Salmon fillets

1 400g can cooked brown lentils, rinsed

1 onion – any shape or size, finely chopped

1 tsp each of cumin, garam marsala, turmeric

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

small knob ginger, chopped (this is not essential)

salt and pepper

olive oil

lemon

cucumber – about 2 inches in one piece

about 10 mint leaves

yoghurt, a couple of big spoonfuls

Pre-heat the oven to 220C

1 Fry the onion gently in some olive oil for 15 minutes then add the ginger and spices and continue to cook for another few minutes. Add the lentils and heat through.

2 Put the salmon fillets on some tin foil on a baking tray, season with salt and pepper and lay a lemon slice over each fillet – again, if you’ve run out lemons don’t freak out and throw the whole lot away.

3 Put salmon in the oven for 23 minutes

4 Meanwhile grate the cucumber into a bowl, spoon over the yoghurt, chop in the cucumber, season and give it a stir.

Beauty giveaway news! I have in fact slightly miscalculated and out of beauty prizes so there is no competition today. You don’t need to tell me how embarrassing this is! All I have left is slightly broken, missing its lid or a weird colour.

But thank you to every who entered and donated; it went so well I hope to have plenty more giveaways in the future because it’s actually really fun.

 

Thursday giveaway… Grenfell Tower

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Okay we’ve raised a super duper amount of money for Save The Children this week, but now I think it’s time to turn our attention to the Grenfell Tower fire.

So please, go to the Evening Standard’s fund-raising page, donate, email me at esther.walker@gmail.com, cross your fingers and later you might win!

The Lollies

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Every year Scholastic run a competition called the Lollies (the Laugh Out Loud awards) to reward the funniest kids book of the year. Scholastic sent me the shortlist and of them my kids picked out Danny McGee Drinks the Sea – an alarming tale about a boy with a very flexible gullet getting carried away… and the lengths that siblings will go not to be outdone.

Anyone interested in the new and exciting books in this award and wanting to buy them out to visit www.scholastic.co.uk/lollies.

All the books on there are discounted  (you can buy all 4 in each shortlist age category for £9.99); Scholastic also give back 20% of any order to a school or nursery of the shopper’s choice in free books or resources (see: https://shop.scholastic.co.uk/free-books.) 

Funnily enough though I was also sent another load of books not on the shortlist and I actually found more gems in there than on the official shortlist.

Particularly I personally liked:

Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross

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Three Little Monkeys by Quentin Blake and Emma Chichester Clark

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Hello Mr Dodo by Nicholas John Frith

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