vendredi 21 décembre 2012

Films for the holidays

I hope you don't mind another list. Partly it's because I still haven't gotten around to sorting out my photos from Vienna or Kew Gardens (autumn colours for winter coming up) and partly because I feel a little sad thinking about my first Christmas without my Dad. The time between Christmas and New Year is so wonderful for watching films you wouldn't normally have time to see. The ones on my list (in no particular order) are sometimes based around Christmas but more often they just feature it in a few scenes. Others are not at all Christmassy but just feel right for this time of year. In any case, I hope you'll find a few ideas and also share your favourites with me.

It's a Wonderful Life

I think you know this one. It's special for me as it was the first film I ever saw at the Broadway cinema in Nottingham as a 17 year old. I can remember those luxurious armchair seats, the old fashioned clock next to the screen, the ruffled curtains which came up when the trailers started. We watch it every year on Christmas Eve.

Ma Nuit Chez Maud

I love it this film for the beautiful photography, the story which flows like a piece of music and the snow falling on Clermont Ferrand. So intelligent and fresh, plus it makes you want to read Pascal.

When Harry Met Sally

Christmas only features in a little scene but it's still a wonderful film for the holidays. I'm not normally a romcom person but this one manages to be funny and sweet without becoming sentimental.

Everyone Says I Love You

I know not all readers of this blog like Woody Allen but he's one of the few people who can make me laugh. This is a musical for people who don't normally like musicals if that makes sense. It was recommended to me by Abbie and I've seen it a few times. The locations are gorgeous (Paris, New York, Venice) and I can't resist the final scene on Christmas Eve down by the Seine.

Meet Me in St. Louis

I love a good musical at Christmas, especially this one for Judy Garland's perfect version of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' and because few people did set pieces as well as Vincent Minelli. Other choices could be 'Kiss Me Kate', 'Guys and Dolls', 'Singin' in the Rain' or 'Bugsy Malone'.


I'm probably one of the few people who saw this before 'In the Mood for Love'. In fact it was the first Wong Kar Wai film I ever saw, in a tiny arts cinema in the centre of Annecy. I found it so strange and beautiful that I came out exhilarated into the night air. It's less perfect than the first first with Tony Leung and Maggie Chung but I like it for that. Basically it's the story of a man and his relationships with women over various Christmas Eves, mainly in Hong Kong. Even if the sci-fi bit is kind of annoying, the photography is stunning and sensual and I'm in love with the music.

The Apartment

A bittersweet antidote for those who find festive films too saccharine. It's the story of Jack Lemmon's character who lends his apartment to work colleagues for rendezvous and how things get complicated when his boss asks to use it as well. It's touching, funny but also sad and you'll never think of straining spaghetti in the same way.

Fanny and Alexander

It's nice to watch longer films in different parts over the holidays. Bergman's film makes me imagine what it's like to be part of a large family which I often longed for. There's darkness and light but also magic in the story. The image I love the most is that of Alexander on a sleigh going to church with flaming torches in the snow filled streets.

The Best of Youth

This is another long one to be enjoyed in different stages. It's an epic following a group of young Italians from the 60s to the present day, taking in political and cultural changes but all done with the kind of warmth Italian cinema does best. Not always easy to get hold of with English subtitles. I have to tell you though that there's a heartbreaking part at the end of the first segment so be prepared.

The Bishop's Wife

I mentioned my crush on Cary Grant in the last post so of course there has be a film with him over the holidays. He plays an angel who comes a help a clergyman and his wife. I saw it just the other week and found it so charming and funny, especially the ice skating scene.


I think I have watched this every Christmas since I was a child. My grandmother used to visit us on Christmas Day for lunch and then watched this, complaining that it used to be a much better film when she was younger. I'm sure you know its many famous lines but you'd need a heart of stone to say it doesn't make you feel romantic at all. I love the sadness in the faces of Bogey and Bergman, although Claude Rains is my favourite.

The Man Who Would be King

I don't think I've ever told you but John Huston is one of my all time favourite directors. We all watched this on Christmas Day a couple of years ago and it seemed like the perfect Christmas film, even though it doesn't feature Christmas at all. It's simply a grand adventure, beautifully told.

Lawrence of Arabia

Christmas surely deserves an epic watched on a large screen. My Dad loved this film and watched it every year. I must admit that T.E Lawrence is a hero of mine; while David Lean's version is certainly romanticised  I can't resist the music and those sweeping desert scenes.

La Grande Vadrouille

In Alsace I shared a flat with some French people who couldn't believe I had never heard of this film or André Bourvil. It was unavailable in Britain until a couple of years ago when we watched it at Christmas. Very few things makes me laugh but it's one of the funniest films ever. It's the story of some (very) British airmen who have to land in occupied Paris and the chaos that causes. All the nationalities are completely ridiculous but it keeps on getting funnier and crazier. I love the Turkish bath scene and the German chair game the best, I think

Peau d'âne (Donkey Skin)

When I was a member of the Broadway cinema in Nottingham a few years ago, I was invited just before Christmas for a free seasonal film, plus a mince pie and mulled wine. This film, based on a Perrault fairytale was one of them and it completely charmed me. Catherine Deneuve is the daughter of a widowed king whose wealth is generated by a donkey. When he decides to marry her, a fairy godmother (the wonderful Delphine Seyrig) appears to save her and she has to disguise herself with the skin of the donkey. The most memorable scene for me is the part where Catherine Deneuve makes a gâteau d'amour to win the heart of the handsome prince while singing a lovely song. I'd love the recipe.

mardi 4 décembre 2012

Berlin cheesecake 2012 Gift Guide

Friends, it's that time of year again! While I appreciate some of you might groan at the idea of the hearing the same old Christmas music everywhere and finding a suitable gift, I must admit to loving every minute of of it (OK, not the massive queues in shops). Christmas for me is a break from winter gloom, a season of lights, the smell of roast chestnuts and cinnamon and a chance to give something nice to others. I love looking through gift guides and also preparing this one, not because I necessarily expect to own everything in it but it's just nice picking out presents for those I care about or seeing pretty designs. A Cup of Jo is my favourite (and many people's too); but this post is rather an eclectic mix of stuff I like instead of something geared to a particular person. I've divided it into categories though in order to make it easier to follow. So let's put the kettle on and get started!

Fashion and accessories

Fairisle jumpers are still in fashion what with all the Scandi drama shown this past year on BBC4. Below you'll find one for every budget:

The ultimate cult jumper, brilliantly worn by Sarah Lund in the Killing III, and hand knitted in the Faeroe Islands. Gudrun og Gudrun, €280.

I got the beautiful Jaeger boutique fairisle jumper last year and love this season's design. So pretty and snug.  John Lewis, £120, but hurry, they're selling fast!

You can always rely on Asos to come up with some awesome designs. They tend to be popular though so don't leave it too long. Asos, £35.

Beautiful wrist worms handmade by Sandra in Berlin. I don't know what I'd do without mine, perfect for camera walks. Sandra Juto, about €35.

A pretty patterned scarf to go with your jumper, John Lewis, £28.

The lovely Susan introduced me to Toast earlier this year and I've been coveting these socks ever since. Perfect for the house but I also have it on good authority that they're the best Wellington boot socks ever. Toast, £29.

For those winter walks. Zeppo hand warmer, Amazon, £15.75.

Gorgeous iPhone cases from the wonderful Irene, £22 on Etsy.


A limited edition for Christmas of my favourite hot cloth cleanser. It's amazing. Cleanse and Polish, Liz Earle, £19.75.

Brilliant facial oils. Yes they're expensive but one bottle will last you ages. I bought one on an afternoon feeling miserable with red and dry skin and haven't looked back since. Use just a few drops at night with one for every skin type. Clarins, £29.

Every winter I suffer with eczema and cracked fingertips. This is about the only thing that helps. Shea butter hand cream, L'Occitane, £18.

I'd love to wear lipstick but find my lips are too dry but sometimes just plain gloss is boring. These chubby sticks combining colour with lip balm sound wonderful, £16 from Clinique.

House and garden  

Kneeling pad for those hours in the garden, £8.00, National Trust.

Bulb planter to save your back planting alium and tulips for next spring, £24.50.

Talking beanstalk seeds to bring some colour to a windowsill and send your friends a message. From Not on the high street, £3.

Latin for Gardeners, to make sense of all those names, The Book People, £4.99.

I can't wait to get the latest edition of this, Amazon, £21.70.

I'm so in love with this tea set, even though it's pricey and rather tricky to find, $52.

The Moomin limited edition winter mugs are always gorgeous and I'm looking forward to a Christmas Day cuppa in this one, Cloudberry Living, £15.95.

I was overjoyed to get this exquisite cake stand as a present last year. The perfect centrepiece to show off your baking skills, Lakeland, £25.99.

Manhattan tea towel if you can't make Christmas in New York, Famille Summerbelle, £10.00

Iittala tealights to make your home festive and pretty through the dark nights. The red is my favourite but I can never bring myself to spend that much money so getting it as a gift would be wonderful, Iittala, from £16.

Chinatown poster, still the best film noir ever, Amazon, £13.18


Squirrel tape dispenser, How Kapow, £14

Eiffel tower eraser to brighten up your day, None Such Things, £2.95.

Vintage milk bottles which I found just after I returned to the UK this summer. They remind me of free milk at infants' school. None Such Things, £3.95.

The most beautiful diary, RHS, Amazon, £8.39

Pretty pens to inspire you to write something handwritten to your friends, Poketo, $4.50


A Cary Grant box set because too much of a good thing can be wonderful as Mae West once said, Amazon, £42.79.

Classic film set with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy because there's nothing like old movies over the holidays. Amazon, £10.25.

I'm just dying to see this new Woody Allen documentary, Amazon, £10.

Two of my favourite films from this year which I saw in Berlin with my Mum. The Artist (£7.01) and Moonrise Kingdom (£11.99), both from Amazon.

Two more brilliant Scandi series you may have missed, The Bridge, £24.29 and Borgen, £22, both from Amazon.


My favourite cookbooks of the year, Scandilicious Baking, £16, The Kitchen Diaries II, £12 and the Great British Bake Off book, £8.86, all from Amazon.

Richard Burton's diaries to enjoy alone or read aloud together, £18.75, Amazon.

A set with the Etymologicon and the Horologicon to understand hidden connections in the English language and rediscover forgotten words so you can impress your friends by talking about rumpeepers (mirrors) and snollygosters (smug, dishonest people, generally politicians). Fantastic stuff. £15 from Amazon.

I've always loved writing things by hand and receiving handwritten messages but it doesn't happen often enough. I hope Philip Hensher's new book will inspire me to do more. The Missing Ink, £6 from Amazon.

For men 

The Hymie Joke Book by Michael Winner. My Dad loved the jokes that Sunday Times readers sent in every week about the rather sexist Hymie and his wife. Some are better than others but in this collection you're bound to find something to make you (and the men in your life) laugh. £8.96 from Amazon.

Men's grooming products by Liz Earle in Try-Me sets (£16.75) or full size sets (£38).

My favourite men's fragrance, £50.

Edible gifts

Delish lemon cake from Peyton and Byrne, a company with fabulous bakeries in London, £10.

Don't forget, to make a really special and personal gift, you could also bake all or some of my Christmas cookies to put in a tin or pretty wrapper or how about some orangettes? You'll find the links below:

Vanilla crescents
Linzer Augen
Cinnamon stars
Mini stollen