Royally Good Advice

As I’m sure everybody is aware by now, I am incredibly classy. Therefore it will come as no surprise to anybody that I spent the first evening of the week kickin’ it with my friends in the royal box at the opening night of a new production by the Royal Ballet. My ticket sources must be kept top secret, because the secrets of my high-flying lifestyle (*cough*I won a competition*cough*) are all part of the mystique.

The scene of my pacing and snarling, only this time seen from above through a haze of house wine and appreciation at the punctuality of my cohort.

The scene of my pacing and snarling, only this time seen from above through a haze of house wine and appreciation at the punctuality of my cohort. Sidebar: All London views are improved by a white van in one corner, and portaloos in the other.

It began in classic ‘evening out with Nicola’ style. I was over keen – dragging myself and Fiancé to Covent Garden miles too early – and then pacing up and down outside the front door, snarling about how all of my friends are useless and never arrive anywhere on time. ‘On Time’ in my vocabulary meaning half an hour before the actual time we agreed on. But I was dressed for the ballet, so at least I was pacing and snarling stylishly.

I was pleasantly surprised when everybody arrived on time (which they pretty much always do – I don’t know why I have such a complex about punctuality) and the evening went off without a hitch. And now, as an experienced person, I present to you my newly-tested advice for how to behave at an incredibly posh event:

1) Realise immediately that if it’s a nice place you won’t be able to afford to eat, so find a restaurant nearby that sells £4.50 burgers and £4.50 cocktails in a rainbow of unnatural colours, and can have you in and out in 45 minutes. Not only will this mean you can finally untwist your knickers about being on time for the show, but you will achieve a record for completing the full ‘restaurant activity’ checklist. For the uninitiated, that’s basically a sly perve on at least three waiters, and being a bit mean about the people at tables around yours. Because you are classy.

2) Upon arrival at the ballet, saunter through the building to the royal box, flashing your tickets to every single person at every possible opportunity, while loudly complaining that you’d never be able to afford to pay £7 for a programme.

3) Stop dead in the corridor outside the door to the royal box in order to Instagram the sign on the door that says ‘royal box’. Yes, it is just a piece of paper that’s been jaggedly cut out and framed, but it’s also so much more than that. It is a way to declare your status to strangers on the internet and that cannot be undervalued.

What? IT@S BECAUSE I'M FANCY.

What? IT@S BECAUSE I’M FANCY.

4) Enter the royal box (smutty) and immediately demand that somebody take a photo of you doing a royal wave in the general direction of the serfs who had to pay for their tickets.

5) Get told off by your friends several times for not keeping your voice down when describing everybody in the stalls as ‘peasants’. Apparently it’s not so noisy in the auditorium that they can’t hear you. Feel surprised at the breadth of your own vocabulary – it turns out you know a lot of different ways of calling people poor.

6) After the first act of the ballet, leave a respectable gap after the applause stops and the lights come up (probably three seconds or so) before you say ‘well, I had no idea what was going on. Did you?’ Repeat after second and third acts. Other acceptable topics of conversation include ‘I can’t believe how muscly those women are, they look amazing’, ‘If I could get my leg up that high I’d be so much more popular’, and ‘Is that Angela Rippon?’.

Fancy people take pictures of fancy windows. I don't know why, we just do.

Fancy people take pictures of fancy windows. I don’t know why, we just do.

You are so lucky to have me to guide you through these precarious social situations. Now, go forth and impress.

How to choose a wedding reading that isn’t terrible

Ah, weddings. The bigger, the better. The grander, the greater. The more heartfelt, the hotter.

I am, of course, kidding. I am the world’s worst future bride, and I’m truly bored of all things wedding. And with such enthusiasm for the topic, it seemed only natural that I’d write at least a couple of posts about weddings at some point. I’ve already done one, now here is another. Get me.

So. What should you use as a wedding reading? It’s a thorny issue. The thorniness mainly stems from the fact that nobody really wants you to have any readings in the first place. Actual wedding ceremonies are dull, and the sooner they’re over with and the drinking starts, the better. All I ever wanted as a guest was to get through a ceremony without having to listen to a Shakespeare sonnet which the bride and groom picked from  ‘100 Romantic Readings For Your Wedding’ without really understanding it, and chose to just hope that all of the language was complimentary (it wasn’t) and the overall tone was positive (wrong again).

But if you do insist on dragging the thing out longer than strictly necessary, here are a few suggestions for some alternative wedding readings that might just make everything a little more interesting. Or might at least mean that your nan dozes off maybe five minutes later. And really, those five minutes are precious. Five minutes might be the difference between your uncle’s nice suit getting covered in old lady drool and, well, not.

Books: The refuge of desperate nearly-weds. The curse of their wedding guests.

Idea #1: A kid’s story.

Not completely original, of course. I think I went to a wedding once where there was a reading about a dinosaur looking for a friend. It was all very twee, and cute, and lovely, and I only threw up in my mouth a tiny bit. But what about a reading from a good kid’s book that people actually like? Sleepover Club? A cheeky bit of Harry Potter? Maybe even a section from the Very Hungry Caterpillar to (wrongly) raise people’s hopes about the reception food? These are all good ideas. You pick your favourite.

Idea #2: Sales blurb from Match.com (Replace with online dating service of choice)

There’s no shame in online dating. I’ve dabbled in it myself on occasion (What, just because I met my fiancé 3 years ago before apps were such a huge thing I have to miss out on the Tinder train? I don’t think so. At this point in my life I basically live for charms on Happn.) It’s fun and convenient. And what better advert than if you meet someone on a dating site and end up marrying them? You could probably try and claim a sponsorship deal. I’m not saying it’d work, but you could try. And this would be a huge step in the right direction.

Idea #3: Song Lyrics.

Again, not super original. A lot of people choose to have song lyrics read out like a poem these days. It’s artsy and just the right level of hipster. Not so hipster it’s obnoxious, and not so not-hipster it’s everybody’s doing it. But what I’m proposing is that you get, like, The Macarena read out in a super-serious way. Tell your friends and family it was the song that was playing when you met and dare them to laugh. Get it all on tape and have your own laugh later.

Idea #4: Hello Magazine.

Your wedding is not as interesting, or as luxurious as that of some obscure member of the Spanish Royal Family. So let’s have a look at what you could have won!

Idea #5: The Newspaper.

Election promises and failing NHS Trusts are romantic, right? Thought so.

This is, of course, just a small selection of ideas that you are free to use. If anybody does decide to do the song thing, and needs somebody to do a heartfelt reading of Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’, I am 100% available. I often publicly do such readings anyway, and it would be lovely for it to have a purpose and not be on the street.

So, how about you? What food do you daydream about when you’re stuck in the world’s most uncomfortable chair and have to pretend to be interested in listening to a wedding reading? Or, you know, another question…

This Is Snow Joke!

Important news: It is winter. I know this will come as a shock to the three hermits left in the UK who haven’t been outside and frozen a few minor parts of their anatomy off. But it is winter.

I’m actually going to go out on a limb and claim that it really hasn’t been that cold this year. And, as a person who has a certain amount of prestige gained by living on the East Coast of the USA last year (hello, Polar Vortexes. Plural.) I am allowed to make such claims. You weren’t there, man. It was minus double figures for weeks.

This really gets me to the crux of the matter for today. It’s high time we all started our seasonal one-upmanship for the year. Christmas is over, so we can no longer passive-aggressively compete to decide who ate the most. New Years is over so ‘who’s the biggest alcoholic?’ is out of the window too. So, who is coldest? And who can go on and on about the weather without being completely objectionable to everybody around them. Honestly? None of us. But that’s never stopped anyone.

With yellow snow warnings (snigger) all over the place at the moment, it seems like the perfect time to stretch that all-important attention-seeking muscle. Because, let’s be very honest with ourselves, that’s what we are doing. Everybody knows it’s winter because we have eyes and nerve endings, so it doesn’t technically need to be mentioned at all.

However, if you do insist on mentioning it anyway, just remember to follow these three tips in the two hours and thirty seven minutes between the snow falling and it all disappearing again:

1. Add inches. This is the one time nobody can ever really measure. If you get a tiny sprinkling on the roof of your car, that can easily be upgraded to an inch. A light dusting all over is probably nearly two inches anyway, so you might as well tell people that’s how much you had. An actual couple of inches anywhere is truly dramatic and can easily be bumped up to a foot. And don’t forget that drifts count. If you ’embellish’ the amount of snow to people who do not live where you live, they can never prove if you’re lying. Which, of course you aren’t, because you’re embellishing. And if you accidentally embellish to somebody who lives close by and knows exactly what you’re doing, they’re quite likely to keep schtum and thank you for making their life sound that bit more dramatic for once. Embellishments FTW.

2. Stockpile essentials. And yes, I do mean alcohol and takeaway menus. You might be dramatically snowed in, but the Dominoes up the road is probably, conveniently, not.

3. Engage whinging mode. Why does the country shut down the second it gets cold? ‘The wrong kind of snow’ – what does that mean, National Rail? Why are they not able to grit my tiny, insignificant cul-de-sac with five houses at 3am? Grumble grumble grumble. However, know in your heart of hearts that you are going to claim that getting into work on Monday is simply impossible and positively unsafe. Because that tenth of an inch inch of snow on the ground might be fuckin’ slippy.

And, if all else fails, take a tip from these fine gentlemen:

You’re so welcome for all of these very useful tips – make sure you send me photos of all of the wintery fun you have. Except please don’t, because I have SO MUCH MORE SNOW THAN YOU and it’ll just embarrass us both.

Throwing out old clothes? Cushion the Blow!

I am in the process of trying to get rid of most of my wardrobe. I have a tendency to dress like a homeless person because those are just the clothes I have, and I need to stop because even I’m tired of looking at myself. But it occurred to me that what I’m actually throwing away is a huge load of fabric, and it upset the ‘hoarder’ side of my personality (In case anyone hadn’t noticed thus far, I am a huge catch) and I just couldn’t throw them. And so, here follows my easy step list for how to make a cardigan cushion cover…

You will need:

Mickey, I'm so sorry.

Mickey, I’m so sorry.

1 Cushion that’s seen better days, and 1 Cardigan that has also seen better days.

Step 1: Place the cushion on top of the cardigan. Enjoy visions of what your finished cushion cover will look like. Maybe fantasise a little bit about when you open an Etsy shop selling these, because that’s the next logical step, and plan what you’re going to say in your interviews with craft magazines when you’re a super-famous craft-monger. That’s a thing, right?

Mmmm... Measure-y goodness.

Mmmm… Measure-y goodness.

Step 2: Realise you should probably measure all of this. You’re not sure why, but, um, measure some stuff. Because that’s what Kirstie Allsopp would do.

Middle calss-ness can be measured by how much Cath Kidston stuff one owns.

Middle calss-ness can be measured by how much Cath Kidston stuff one owns.

Step 3: Get out sewing equipment. Smile inwardly at the fact that you own sewing equipment, and are therefore probably better than 80% of people because you are self sufficient and no, you don’t know what every item in there is for, but you still own it, and that’s what counts.

This problem is needling me.

This problem is needling me.

Step 4: Realise that there is no way in hell you can make an entire cushion using the teeny needle that comes in your sewing kit. I mean, you technically can, and that’s what they used to do in the wartime, but this isn’t the wartime and people have really high-tech sewing machines now that do a whole load of stuff you don’t understand. This is probably more a job for one of them, Maybe they have an Etsy shop or something. You probably would, if you had a really high-tech sewing machine.

Like woollen origami

Like woollen origami

Step 5: Fold cardigan around cushion.

Nobody will ever know...

Nobody will ever know…

Step 6: Nestle cardigan-wrapped cushion among other cushions and pray nobody ever tries to touch it, move it, or sit on it. What are they? Animals? Everyone knows cushions are for display only.

And there you have it! Enjoy your new life of domestic goddessery, and I’ll see you around. Since I’m in the club too…

Happy Monday!

A Pizza The Action

 

From Fitsugar, via Pinterest

Healthy pizza. The holy grail. The comfort-food equivalent of the fountain of youth. Someone with too much time on their hands and horrifically little respect for the gastronomic value of refined carbohydrates actually figured out how to make a pizza out of cauliflower, essentially getting rid of the need for one to stuff oneself with bready goodness. Which, for the record, is a notion I do not support at all.

The cauliflower pizza’s been floating around in internet-land for a while now, and I’ve even seen it made on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen (invoking the ire of James Martin in the process because he is a fine, upstanding citizen who knows whassup), which makes it practically mainstream. So, basically, I’m not saying there are any new ideas here. I’d hate for people to think I was amazing at cooking and also full of original ideas…

So, without further ado, here are the steps to making your very own healthy pizza, for days when you’re depressed, but not quite depressed enough.

Ingredients:

For the crust: 2.5 cups of grated Cauliflower, 1 large beaten egg, 1.25 cups grated mozarella cheese.

For the toppings: All the fun things (But choose the un-fun diet versions if you want to keep the health value and lose my respect).

Step 1: Visit one shop in order to buy ingredients you don’t have. Because, seriously, who keeps their home supplied with a healthy stock of cauliflower in the middle of summer?

What the what?

What the what?

 Step 2: Find no cauliflower in the section which seems to have all of the other boring vegetables. You know the section. It has potatoes and stuff. Nothing sexy, like chillies.  It’s like the bookish section that always has its homework in on time. Find the above weirdness, which kind of looks like a cauliflower, but the whole idea of cauliflower pizza is bizarre enough, so put it down, because you don’t want to rock the boat any further.

 Step 3: Leave the shop feeling disappointed, but secretly thrilled. Consider the fact that if you were any kind of decent, committed human being you would go to the one next door, or the one next door to that, and try again. Dismiss this immediately because it is hot and if your only reward for the extra effort is going to be below-par pizza that takes twice as long then what is the point?

It's cool. Like, really cool. Like, literally.

It’s cool. Like, really cool. Like, literally.

 Step 4: When you get home, open freezer. Remove frozen pizza. Unwrap and bake to delicious, greasy perfection. If you’re feeling like a big spender, or just think you’re better than the rest of us, order one. It’s probably worth it, and you’ll probably find me pressed against your window, fogging up the glass. But don’t let that put you off. Ooh, look at the dipping sauce. None of that fancy shit on my frozen one…

It's just not the same if there's not at least 3 different animals on it.

It’s just not the same if there’s not at least 3 different animals on it.

 Step 5: Enjoy pizza. With every mouthful, enjoy the flavour of delicious not-vegetable. Mmm.

Best served with alcohol. Because life is unfair, but wine is delicious.

 Happy Friday!

Lip-stick Your Neck Out

"That's right, Nicola. If you pull this face nobody will notice that you applied it unevenly..."

“That’s right, Nicola. If you pull this face nobody will notice that you applied it unevenly…”

Red lipstick is tricky.

This is a lie we’re all told, all the time. ‘We’ being people like me who spend way too long reading magazines and staring at Pinterest. The human race as a whole may not be being told this all the time. I mean, there are children starving in Africa, so for them it’s probably only the fourth or fifth most frequent thing they’re hearing. If that.

But on the whole it seems like red lipstick is a pretty big deal when, in fact, if you want to put red lipstick on your face then put red lipstick on your face. All over it. It’s your face.

The difficulty isn’t in the wearing of red lipstick, it’s in the fact that if you haven’t done it every day since birth (and if you have you’re awesome and your parents are weird) then people are going to notice the change. And at our age people feel the need to comment on changes. Not in a bad way, just in an ‘ooh, you look nice’ kind of a way. But it’s still enough to make you aware that you’ve made a noticeable change, which is not what people necessarily want. And it also brings you to the horrible realisation that the person who now thinks you look nice may not have done so before, because they’re awful.

So I’ve come up with a couple of suggestions as to how you can wear red lipstick and avoid that awkward ‘ooh, you look nice’ phase, before everyone just gets bored with your stupid face again only, this time, with the regular application of lipstick.

Ninja lipstick.

Ninja lipstick.

1. Apply it in sections. If you add a little bit every time you disappear to the loo/have a cigarette/just wander around aimlessly nobody will ever even notice. That’s a guarantee. Stealth.

2. Adopt the practice of wearing a surgical mask to work. This will be easier if you are a surgeon by trade. If not, you may find you have to then find ways of hiding the surgical mask to avoid similar comments about that. But I cannot so everything to help you, so please feel free to come up with your own solutions for that one.

3. Go full-on ‘Will from The Inbetweeners at 1:17 in the above video’ every time someone asks you about it. It will also be excellent scat singing practice, so you’ll be a multitasker!

Anyway, full disclosure, I have not yet gone a full day wearing red lipstick. I took the top picture on my lunch break, and I hid behind a tree to put the stuff on, and had also squirrelled away a wipe so I could immediately remove it to save question/comment time when I went back to my desk. But do as I say, not as I do!

Happy Monday!

10 Easy Ways to Always Be On Time

As an organised and put-together adult person I’m often asked how I manage to get everywhere I have to be, and how I manage to be fashionably early, looking completely sussed and stylish, and not at all red-faced and sweaty. Let me tell you, it is tough. But it’s not impossible. Have a look at the steps I put together below, and you too can be the very model of savvy, sophisticated ladydom.

Step 1: If you have nothing to do before your event, get dressed in the clothes you’re planning on wearing immediately, thereby saving yourself time later on because you won’t have to scrabble through your floordrobe on your hands and knees smell testing everything to see what you have that’s acceptable to humankind. Once you have the only thing that fits that description, chillax. Go about your day. Get sucked into a youtube black hole of snoring ducks and giggling kittens. Do whatever it is that you do.

Five Minutes

Step 2: Look at the clock and realise it’s only five minutes before you have to leave.

Step 3: Look down at your outfit, thanking your lucky stars that you were organised enough to put it on in advance. Notice, with dismay, that it’s now saturated with tea stains, toast crumbs and any and all other snacks you enjoyed while enjoying our free ‘chillaxing’ time.

Floordrobe

Step 4: Scrabble through your floordrobe on your hands and knees smell testing everything to see what you have that’s acceptable to humankind.

Step 5: Pull on something super-sexy and awesome looking which is definitely appropriate for what it is you’re going to. It might be those wet-look leggings, that bodycon dress, those skyscraper heels… You were saving it for an occasion and this one’s perfect. People wear this kind of stuff all the time and it’s not like people ever raise their eyebrows.

Step 6: Okay, people do wear this kind of stuff all the time, and nobody ever raises their eyebrows, and you do look good, but maybe just a bit… unexpected? You don’t want your friends not to recognise you; or your new networking contacts to have an unrealistic idea of what you might look like if they come to work with you again; or for people to keep going on about how nice you look but with that tone of surprise, like it’s unexpected, which is, frankly, insulting. Opt to change into one of your old faithful outfits. At least this way the fancy stuff will still be waiting for the next occasion at which you can wear it in public. And you’re totally going to wear it in public…

Step 7: In the light of your recent failure to choose an outfit that in any way stands out or makes you look like the diva you know you are on the inside, try to switch up your look just enough to appear noticeably better. A statement necklace, supercool hairdo, no vest under that super cool sheer top.

Step 8: Go back and forth several times, removing said necklace, taking out said hairdo, changing said top, and then putting it all back again. After several attempts and multiple unnatural poses in the mirror, give up and go with Old Faithful, Classic version.

Step 9: OK, makeup. Wouldn’t this be the perfect moment to try facial contouring for the first time?

Contouring

Step 10: Look at the clock, realise you were supposed to leave half an hour ago and, um, run. My bad.

Happy Monday!