The author of the Maggie Hope Mystery series
writes about KBO, cocktails, code-breaking, and red lipstick.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mr. (and Mrs.) Churchill's Christmas Card

It's that most wonderful time of year again, but with everything going on, we probably won't get our cards out by Christmas — and so we're doing a New Year's "Happy 2010!" card.

However, I'm sure Mrs. Clementine Churchill was never late with her holiday cards. Above is one that Mr. and Mrs. Churchill sent, featuring one of Sir Winston's paintings.

It's now on exhibit at the Redbridge Museum, located in Ilford, just outside London. Their description reads as follows:

This Christmas card was donated to Redbridge Museum by Vera Wilson, who was for many years the Secretary of the Wanstead and Woodford Conservative Association. The card's cover is a reproduction of one Churchill's paintings. Churchill was an accomplished artist and took great pleasure in painting. It often helped to relieve the depression he suffered from, or as he termed it, the 'Black Dog'. He is best known for his impressionist scenes of landscape, many of which were painted on holiday in the South of France of Morocco. He continued throughout his life and there are around 500 paintings in existence, most of which belong to his family or at his home at Chartwell, Kent.

Production Date:

1945 - 1964

ID no:

REBMR_1997.1349 a-c

Object size:

W 12.5cms (a), L 17cms (a)


Churchill, Winston (paintings)


Redbridge Museum

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mr. Churchill's 2010 Golden Globe Nominations!

Congratulations, HBO/BBC's Into the Storm !

Nominees for the 67th Golden Globe Awards include HBO's Into the Storm for Best Television Miniseries or movie, Brenden Gleeson (Winston Churchill) for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, and Janet McTeer (Clementine Churchill) for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or movie.

The movie takes look at not only Winston Churchill's leadership during World War II, but why, after leading his country to victory, he was voted out of office in 1945 (losing the position of Prime Minister to the Labour Party's Clement Attlee).

Read the Washington Post's review here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mr. Churchill's Brandy

Hello kittens! One of my birthday presents to myself this year was the gorgeous book, MixShakeStir: Recipes from Danny Meyer's Acclaimed New York City Restaurants. It's the gift that keeps on giving, believe me.

I was looking for a good brandy to use in their recipe for a classic Brandy Crusta, when I came across Astor Wines & Spirits's  Eniseli Georgian Brandy. Their copy says it was a favorite of Winston Churchill's.


I was not convinced. First off, Churchill was a known Francophile — why would he favor a Russian brandy? And it's a clever marketing tactic, of course, linking a luxury good, such as a brandy, to Winston Churchill. But after a bit of research (all right, googling. But still....), it turns out to have a bit of evidence on its side. From Russian Cigar Clan Magazine:


The history has it that the first brandy distillery appeared in
Armenia in 1887. Then first-guildmerchant Nerses
Tairyan built on the territory of the ancient castle Sardar
Khana a smalldistillery and equipped it with devices for
creating brandy under classical French technology.

However, the enterprise reached its hey-day in 1898,
when it was acquired by Nikolay Shustov, well-known
in Russia vodka and liqueur producer and seller. Soon
“Shustov and Sons” partnership became appointed
supplier of His Imperial Majesty’s court. Although,
Shustov’s brandy was officially acknowledged not
only in Russia, but in France, too, when at the
International Exhibition in Paris in 1900 after a blind
tasting it got the Grand-Prix and the legal tight to be
called ‘cognac’, not ‘brandy’.

The brandy glory did not diminish in the Soviet time.
It was incredibly popular with statesmen. Winston
Churchill was known to be a great admirer of the
‘Armenian cognac’, he first tasted the drink at the
Yalta conference. The British Prime-Minister ordered
up to 400 bottles of brandy per year, stubbornly calling
it “Shustov’s”, which made Stalin hit the roof. Agatha
Christie and Frank Sinatra loved this brandy, too.

Love the image of Churchill calling it "Shustov's" — just to tick off Stalin.

P.S. Here's the recipe for Brandy Crusta:

1.5 oz Brandy
0.25 oz Maraschino liqueur
0.5 oz Cointreau
0.25 oz lemon juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lemon peel spiral and sugared rim for garnish

Cut a lemon in half and moisten the rim of the glass with the lemon. Then heavily coat the rim with sugar. Completely peel one of the lemon halfs in a ½ inch wide piece of lemon peel. Fill glass with ice leaving enough room to place the peel in glass. Cut one of the lemon halfs in half again in order to get a quarter of the lemon. Juice the lemon quarter and add the juice to the brandy, maraschino, Cointreau, and bitters. Shake with ice for 10 seconds and then strain into prepared glass.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Creed's Windsor

Recently we chatted about Lord Randolph and Sir Winston's fragrance, Bleinheim Bouquet (1902). This year, the venerable 250-year-old French perfume house, Creed, has introduced a new fragrance, albeit inspired by Great Britain of the past, called Windsor.

According to Creed, the Windsor fragrance was:

... created in 1936 for King Edward VIII of England from ingredients grown in the British Empire. Edward was the first air pilot to be king, and Windsor is presented in a shatterproof 1.7 oz. leather wrapped bottle ideal for aircraft carry-on (or in an 8.4 oz. flacon numbered by laser and signed by sixth-generation master perfumer Olivier CREED).

Edward made headlines when he quit the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. He wore Windsor as king and later when he and his wife began a new life in Paris as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, superstars of international society.

Classification: Citrus / Green. Windsor is as subtle as the Duke of Windsor’s hand-tailored suits, shirts and ties, following his philosophy, "Royalty need not shout"

  • Top Note: Windsor is a tour of the British Empire Edward once ruled. Its top note is British gin, Jamaican lime and a touch of Scottish highland pine.
  • Middle Note: "Duke of Windsor" roses, those he preferred in his own garden, the Nuits de Young variety.
  • Bottom Note: Bahamian orange, Canadian cedar and a dab of Australian eucalyptus.

So, now for my own snarky take.... First off, King Edward VIII, who was renamed the Duke of Windsor after he abdicated the throne (and his wife, Mrs. Simpson, for that matter), are on record as being admirers of Nazi Germany in the 1930s — note the lack of reference to that or any "German" fragrance notes. (Edelweiss? No, wait — that's Austrian.)

Second, Edward and Mrs. Simpson were ultimately banished to the Bahamas during World War II (the Duke of Windsor was the British Ambassador to the Bahamas), which makes the note of "Bahamian orange" all the more amusing. (The Bahamas post was considered to be a punishment for the couple's German involvement and a way to remove them from Europe.)

Third, "Royalty need not shout"? Oh, for pity's sake...

Still, I'd give it a sniff, maybe next time I'm at Aedes. The notes sound promising (gin, lime, pine and rose). However, at over $400 per bottle, it's a bit rich for my blood....

Personally, I like Demeter's Gin & Tonic — and for $20 per bottle, it's a steal.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon

Hello kittens! Today's post is a bit of a cheat, since I haven't actually read the novel.

Let me explain. Recently I had an editor question one of the codes I used in Mr. Churchill's Secretary. So I took said question to a group of "wicked smaaaat" friends, who happen to be MIT graduates. Many have a long-standing interest in codes and cryptography, including the multi-talented and all-around amazing Wes Carroll.

Thanks to their collective expertise, I solved the issue in the manuscript. They also (collectively!) recommended a book, Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. I'm a little busy with my own book at the moment, but I bought Cryptonomicon and am looking forward to reading it. (Until then, I'm using it as a doorstop, since it's — gasp! — 1168 pages.)

Here's Cryptonomicon's description (from HarperCollins):

With this extraordinary first volume in what promises to be an epoch-making masterpiece, Neal Stephenson hacks into the secret histories of nations and the private obsessions of men, decrypting with dazzling virtuosity the forces that shaped this century.

In 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse - mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy - is assigned to detachment 2702. It is an outfit so secret that only a handful of people know it exists, and some of those people have names like Churchill and Roosevelt. The mission of Watrehouse and Detatchment 2702-commanded by Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe-is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence has cracked the enemy's fabled Enigma code. It is a game, a cryptographic chess match between Waterhouse and his German counterpart, translated into action by the gung-ho Shaftoe and his forces.

Fast-forward to the present, where Waterhouse's crypto-hacker grandson, Randy, is attempting to create a "data haven" in Southeast Asia - a place where encrypted data can be stored and exchanged free of repression and scrutiny. As governments and multinationals attack the endeavor, Randy joins forces with Shaftoe's tough-as-nails granddaughter, Amy, to secretly salvage a sunken Nazi submarine that holds the key to keeping the dream of a data haven afloat. But soon their scheme brings to light a massive conspiracy with its roots in Detachment 2702 linked to an unbreakable Nazi code called Arethusa. And it will represent the path to unimaginable riches and a future of personal and digital liberty...or to universal totalitarianism reborn.

A breathtaking tour de force, and Neal Stephenson's most accomplished and affecting work to date, CRYPTONOMICON is profound and prophetic, hypnotic and hyper-driven, as it leaps forward and back between World War II and the World Wide Web, hinting all the while at a dark day-after-tomorrow. It is a work of great art, thought, and creative daring; the product of a truly icon

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Clover Club

So it was yet another birthday (they just keep coming, don't they?) and The Husband took me, as a surprise, to the swanky bar The Clover Club, for a little party.

The Clover Club is a Victorian-styled bar in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and makes some of the best, most sophisticated, most delicious cocktails in the city. Really superlative. (It's another cocktail joint from Julie Steiner, who also owns art-deco-themed Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan.) The food was excellent, too. And, best of all, there was live music! A group, performing mostly Cole Porter and Gershwin and the like was playing — wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Cheers to great friends, great cocktails and great music! What more could a birthday girl want?

The Clover Club's Creed:

“Who enters here leaves care behind, leaves sorrow behind, leaves petty envies and jealousies behind.”

So went the motto of the original Clover Club, a select group of Philadelphia journalists who, from 1882 until the 1920’s met once a month at the Bellevue Hotel to eat and drink and talk. The only people the above words didn’t necessarily apply to were their guests, celebrities of the day who were invited to address the club and were heckled relentlessly once they did—the more pretentious or self-important they were, the worse they got it. But they came anyway. Maybe it was because “Major” Moses P. Handy, the club’s president, knew everyone who was anyone and was liked by them all. Or maybe it was the challenge—if you could get over with the Clover Club, you could get over anywhere. Probably, though, they came and took their lumps because of George Boldt. Boldt, you see, was the Bellevue’s manager, and—in all matters pertaining to food and drink, anyway—he was a perfectionist.

To sit at his table was worth a little ribbing. Throw in a couple of the club’s famous cocktails, and you’d be singing along with the best of ‘em: “While we live we live in clover; When we die we die all over!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Blenheim Bouquet

Established in 1870, Penhaligon's is one of London's traditional perfumers, with a long-standing and august lineage.

In the late 1860's, William Henry Penhaligon left Cornwall and moved to London to establish himself as a barber. By 1870, he had a thriving business supplying perfume to the aristocracy, including Queen Victoria.

Hammam Bouquet was the brand's first offering, in 1872. Bleinheim Bouquet came next, in 1902. It was made for Lord Randolph, Winston Churchill's father, whose residence was Bleinheim Palace.

Sir Winston is reputed to have worn Bleinheim Bouquet as well, a lemon-scented men's cologne with a good dose of pine and some woody and lavender notes. It's really pretty darn fantastic, I have to say, and just as refreshing on a woman as a man.

Although the original Penhaligan's shop, on Jermyn Street in Mayfair, was destroyed in the Blitz, the line lives on after a renaissance in the 1970s. Today there's a flagship Penhaligon's in Covent Garden, plus all sorts of ritzy department stores and posh perfume boutiques carry the line as well.

A definitely different spin on the "celebrity fragrance" idea, indeed!

Foyle's War

Hello, Friends! Well, it's going to be a short post today (because of endless novel revisions...), but I hope it's still a good one.

One of the shows I'm currently obsessed with is Foyle's War. It was a British television series now available on disk. The acting and directing are first-rate and the attention to historical detail, of the south coast of England during the spring of 1940, is fantastic. Here's a description:

In early World War II Britain, as British soldiers and pilots valiantly resist the German forces on land and in the air, their kinsmen at home face head-on the effects of the awful war that has engulfed their nation. Food rationing, black-outs, German bombing raids, all these and more are daily reminders that no one is to be spared.

For Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle of the Hastings police department, a man who served his country in World War I and then rose through the ranks of the police force to his current position, sitting on the sidelines during this war is frustrating. Requesting more direct involvement but continually rebuffed by his superior officer, DCS Foyle is further frustrated by a shortage of manpower that impedes his powers of policing.

As Foyle quickly learns, however, the role he plays is in no way a small one, for the war has certainly not brought a cessation of crime. If anything, it has intensified the heinous nature of domestic crime when carried out against innocent people already suffering, sacrificing, and struggling to persevere in such a brutal time.

Each episode of Foyle's War, created by Anthony Horowitz (Midsomer Murders), blends real-life war stories with tales of treachery and suspense. Whether investigating sabotage, looting, stolen food or fuel supplies, police brutality of conscientious objectors, treason, or murder, Foyle and his colleagues must wage their own personal war amidst the tumult of a larger one. But more than a period whodunnit, Foyle's War is redolent with rich human drama subtly revealed through the lives of these main characters who make up the heart of the series. Steadfast and loyal to each other, they strive to uphold the values for which they and their countrymen - their loved ones - are fighting and dying.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mr. Churchill's Secretary's Jewelry

Etsy is a site dedicated to "buying and selling all things handmade" and vintage.

I was delighted to see that their current featured seller is Elizabeth of the Etsy shop, Keys and Memories — Vintage Typewriter Key Jewelry and Other Punky Stuff. (The "C" necklace above is only one of her gorgeous designs.)

I can't help thinking about all of the people who typed with those keys, before they were resurrected into jewelry.

What a perfect holiday gift!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Artist Mark Hearld

The art of British artist Mark Hearld was featured recently on a blog I adore, called Creature Comforts. I was instantly smitten with all his work, but especially this collage of St. Paul's Cathedral and pigeons.

His art will be on display in 2010 at St. Jude's Gallery, which specializes in British printmaking and design.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Libations

Each year, we like to greet our Thanksgiving guests with a special cocktail. 

This year's is going to be one part sparkling wine, one part cranberry juice, a splash of Calvados floated on top, plus a lemon twist. Calvados (a French apple-cider brandy) makes it seasonal (and ties in with the apple stuffing and apple pie to come), and the cranberry juice gives a lovely ruby color to the fizz.

It's my own creation (at least as far as I know), but it's an pretty obvious take on the classic Poinsettia Cocktail — which is also equal parts cranberry juice and champers, plus a healthy tablespoon of Gran Marnier (or instead try Rhum Clement's Creole Shrubb, a spiced orange rum from New Orleans).

I can't help but hope that Mr. Churchill (who was, after all, half-American on his mother's side and claimed Native American blood) would approve. 

We'll call it the Jennie Jerome, in her honor.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Just had the delightful experience of watching the film, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008), a gorgeous confection of a screwball comedy set in pre-war London. It stars Amy Adams as an ambitious torch singer juggling three men and Frances McDormand as a former governess fallen on hard times who becomes her "social secretary." Wacky hijinx, of course, ensue.

Miss P's day is never given an actual date, but as far as I can tell, it's set sometime in the spring of 1940. Neville Chamberlain is still Prime Minister, and while war with Germany has been officially declared, but Britain is still in the "Bore War" phase. Only a few months later, in May 1940, Mr. Churchill will become Prime Minister and in September the Blitz will start in earnest.

I  read many of the film's reviews, many of which revel in the film's froth, some of which criticize it for being too light.

Personally, I found the imminent Blitz to be a constant shadow. It's never overtly mentioned, but we see store mannequins modeling gas masks, British Spitfires flying God knows where (France, most likely) reflected in a building's windows, and the panic of a practice air raid drill.

Frances McDormand and amazing character actor Ciaran Hinds, as the older couple who've already lived through one war, add tremendous depth and gravity to what could be a throw-away film. McDormand's Miss Pettigrew still morns her lost love, killed in the last war. Hinds is a veteran who's the only one among his contemporaries still living. While Amy Adams and her beau gallivant off to New York on the Queen Mary, McDormand and Hinds are left behind, to face the Blitz we all know is coming.

Still, there's a feeling that they, of all people, will be strong enough to pull through and "do their bit."

Definitely recommended.

Fired Up

Yes, I've already blogged about Poppy King's Lipstick Queen, but this lipgloss is too good (and good for women) not to single out.

Lipstick Queen has partnered with Count Me In For Women’s Economic Independence to launch a sheer flame-red lipgloss – with the inspiring moniker, Fired Up.

One hundred percent of the profits from the sale of Fired Up will go to Count Me In, the leading national not-for-profit provider of resources, business education, and community for women entrepreneurs.

“The power of red and its mystique is already embedded in our culture," Poppy is quoted as saying. “From Rosie the Riveter’s trademark red lips during World War II, no cosmetic item has more power to get a woman FIRED UP about the task ahead.” 

Buy Fired Up here and look for it at stores near you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Savoy Cocktail Book

So I was browsing at Anthropologie  (a very, very, very naughty habit) when I caught sight of this absolute gem — The Savoy Cocktail Book, with a brand new and gorgeous Art Deco design on the cover. (Yes, I'm shallow. Also, just to tie all this into the blog, Winston Churchill is reputed have gone to the American Bar at the Savoy regularly, and the bartenders there created several cocktails in his honor.) 

According to the description copy:

Originally published in 1930, the book features 750 recipes, paired with Art Deco illustrations, from legendary barman Harry Craddock of London's Savoy Hotel. Perfect for budding mixologists or fans of 1930s-style decadence and sophistication, it's a fascinating record of the cocktails that set London alight at the time.

It's available at, et al. as well.

Yes. Oh, yes. It. Must. Be. Mine.

If anyone's curious, the terrific host of the of Underhill-Lounge blog has devoted himself to making all 750 cocktails from the Savoy Cocktail Book. His explanation, "Why the Savoy?" may be found here. Trace his progress through the recipes at Stomping Through the Savoy. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New York Sensation

Aymee G. and I decided to go to see the film, Precious. Which was powerful, harrowing, frightening, difficult and ultimately beautiful.

Not surprisingly, afterwards we decided we needed a drink.

It was a cold and drizzly grey day here in New York — and so I thought a cocktail with warming and reinvigorating port would be perfect.

We went home and I decided to go with Mr. Churchill's Sensation:

Sensation (also known as Brandied Port)

Shake well with cracked ice:

2 oz ruby port
1 oz brandy
Dash of fresh-squeezed orange juice

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of orange peel.

However, I didn't look up the recipe — and ended up doing my own version, which was (if I may say so myself) remarkably good. I've decided to call it the New York (as opposed to the original London) Sensation

New York Sensation 

Shake well with cracked ice:

2 oz ruby port
1 oz Cointreau (Grand Marnier, Creole Shrubb or anything orange would do)
1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.


P.S. Vintage port ad by the artist Leonetto Cappiello.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

It's Veterans Day here in the U.S. and Remembrance Day (or Poppy Day) in the U.K.

In Britain, a two-minute silence is traditionally observed. The First Two Minute Silence in London took place on November 11, 1919 — and was reported in the Manchester Guardian the following day:

The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect. The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition. Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of 'attention'. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still ... The hush deepened. It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain ... And the spirit of memory brooded over it all.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lipstick Queen

The only thing I love more than red lipstick is a successful female entrepreneur. Poppy King knows all about both.

Poppy's the creator of the brand Lipstick Queen, which specializes in 1940s-style lipsticks, glosses, lip liners — everything for the lips. And only for the lips.

Her story's pretty darned inspiring. In her own words:

Gosh... It is hard to know how to tell this without it sounding like I made it up... But I didn’t! I started my own lipstick brand in 1992 in Melbourne Australia when I was about 6 months out of high school and had just turned 18.

I did this not because I was a chemist, a make up artist, a designer or anything else (I was barely an adult and sometimes wonder if I am one yet!) I did this because I
couldn’t find any lipsticks I liked. They were all thin, slimy and too greasy feeling. Plus there were no deep colors or browns and most reds went pink. I wanted lipsticks that gave me the look of the 1940’s. Rich, opaque and filled with pigment.

Her lipsticks, available online and in stores around the country (and around the world), are fabulous. For the vintage 1940s look, try Red Sinner, a full-strength matte red that won't budge. For a more everyday version, try Medieval, a sheer red that looks gorgeous, moisturizes and stays on.

P.S. Lipstick Queen lipsticks are vegan and there is no animal testing. (Thanks Danielle, for reminding me to check this out!) Lipsticks should be tested only on supermodels and not on animals, no?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

For Sentimental Reasons

For Sentimental Reasons: An Evening of 1940s Nostalgia is a Boston-based singing group devoted to performing the music of the early 1940s. In their own words:

The world is at war...Jitterbug, Rosie the Riveter, the Andrews Sisters, Dance Marathons, Ration Coupons, Betty Grable, Frank Swoonatra"...the list goes on and on. These images instantly take you back to a more innocent time, when Big Band music ruled the airwaves...and our hearts.

For Sentimental Reasons was created as a result of our affinity for the music and the nostalgia of the 1940s. So let us take you back--or introduce you--to these songs filled with bittersweet and melancholy lyrics and swing tunes that set your toes tapping and your spirits soaring.

Ok, disclaimer here — Bob De Vivo, the founder and lead singer of For Sentimental Reasons is a friend (we did musical theater at MIT together several lifetimes ago). But I just looooove this group and their music. They post their performance schedule on their web site and are also available for private gigs.

Coming to New York anytime soon, guys?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Chap

One of my male friends recently pointed out that while cocktails are gender-neutral, there's quite a lot about lipstick on this blog, without anything offered for the blokes.

Well, my friend, here you go: I recently discovered the web site for the U.K. magazine The Chap — and instantly fell in love.

The Chap is — well, I'll let the gentlemen describe themselves:

The Chap Manifesto

latest issue

Society has become sick with some nameless malady of the soul. We have become the playthings of corporations intent on converting our world into a gargantuan shopping precinct. Pleasantness and civility are being discarded as the worthless ephemera of a bygone age - an age when men doffed their hats to the ladies, and small children could be counted upon to mind one's Jack Russell while one took a mild and bitter in the local hostelry.

Instead, we live in a world where children are huge hooded creatures lurking in the shadows; the local hostelry has been taken over by a large chain that specialises in chilled lager, whose principal function is to aggravate the nervous system. Needless to say, the Jack Russell is no longer there upon one's return.

The Chap proposes to take a stand against this culture of vulgarity. We must show our children that the things worth fighting for are not the latest plastic plimsolls but a shiny pair of brogues. We must wean them off their alcopops and teach them how to mix martinis. Let the young not be ashamed of their flabby paunches, which they try to hide in their nylon tracksuits - we shall show them how a well-tailored suit can disguise the most ruined of bodies. Finally, let us capitalise on youth's love of peculiar argot Ð only replace their pidgin ghetto-speak with fruity bons mots and dry witticisms.

It is time for Chaps and Chapettes from all walks of life to stand up and be counted. But fear not, ye languid and ye plain idle: ours is a revolution based not on getting up early and exerting oneself - but a revolution that can be achieved by a single raised eyebrow over a monocle; the ordering of a glass of port in All Bar One; the wearing of a particularly fetching cardigan upon a visit to one's bookmaker. In other words: a revolution of panache. We shall bewilder the masses with seams in our trousers that could cut paper, trilbies angled so rakishly that traffic comes to a standstill; and by refusing the bland, watery substances that are foisted upon us by faceless corporations, we shall bring the establishment to its knees, begging for sartorial advice and a nip from our hip flasks.

I'll be getting a subscription post-haste.... (Santa, are you listening?) Just call me a Chapette!

P.S. If the chaps from The Chap and the broads (yes, their word) from Ladies for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails ever got together — oh my, what a party that would be!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Cambridge Five

One of the interesting things about writing is you often end up researching what may seem to be random topics. Sometimes the research done doesn't make it into the final draft, but it's always a weird and wonderful journey.

Doing some research for a character who may (or may not) have Soviet ties lead me to investigate the rise of the Communist movement during the Thirties among British university students (especially those at Trinity and King's Colleges at Cambridge University).

The Cambridge Five were the most infamous of the Cambridge students infatuated with Marxism. They became passionate believers in during their student years in the Thirties and ultimately became spies for Stalin, passing British state secrets to Russia.

Because of their education and high social class, they were able to not only keep their cover, but achieve prominent careers with MI-5 (oh, the irony), the BBC and the Royal Family.

For those who'd prefer not to wade through all the reading, Cambridge Spies (2003) is a two-disk multi-part series dramatizing the lives of the five from 1934 through the Fifties. It was written by Peter Moffat and directed by Tim Fywell and produced and first shown on the BBC.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bésame Mucho

Bésame is a line of vintage-inspired cosmetics (Bésame meaning "kiss me" in Spanish) made in the United States and available online and in select stores.

The line, developed by Gabriela Hernandez (pictured above), is a 1940s-inspired collection of compacts and lipsticks and more. The original collection includes rouge, lipstick, powder, mascara and pencils, and has now expanded to include some Art Deco pieces as well as "Mad Men" 1960s-inspired shades.

All right, here comes the disclaimer: I've never even seen the Bésame line, let alone tried it. (Alas.) It's not readily available to test here in New York City (at least right now). And while it is available through various online retailers, I'm wary about purchasing cosmetics untested.

Still, when we next visit Southern California (and I'm hoping that'll be soon!), I'll be sure to scout out one of the the many stores that carry the line there and issue back a full report.....

In the meantime, I just love the fact that a woman (claro!) has created such an amazing-sounding business (and amazing-looking — check out all the shiny baubles and gorgeous reds on the site!). Also, her commitment to recreating the vintage formulations is admirable.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mr. C. and the FTC

Recently the Federal Trade Commission has updated its regulations regarding the product discussion, specifically on blogs.

In light of this, I would like to formally disclose that I receive no samples, free products or financial reimbursement for mentioning any products.

However, if anyone would like to send me things, particularly cases Pol Roget and fine claret, Shalimar and Chanel, Churchill biographies, and lots and lots of red lipstick, I'd be delighted! And, of course, I'd be upfront about anything I receive that I write about.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging....

Friday, October 30, 2009

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

In 2006, it was discovered that Nazi agents in England had, in fact, embedded Morse code in drawings of models wearing the latest fashions, in an attempt to outwit Allied censors.

According to the released British security service files, Nazi agents relayed sensitive military information using the dots and dashes of Morse code incorporated in the drawings. They posted the letters to their handlers, hoping that counterespionage experts would be fooled by the seemingly innocent pictures.

British secret service officials became aware of the ruse and issued censors with a code-breaking guide to intercept them. “Heavy reinforcements for the enemy expected hourly,” is the message disguised as a decorative pattern in the stitching of gowns, hats and blouses in the line drawing above.

This discovery of hidden code, and the fact that it was concealed in an ad for women's clothes of all places, was the catalyst for my heroine Maggie Hope's foray into the world of espionage.

Thank you Evay, for sending that clipping my way!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Patron Broads of Endangered Cocktails

Recently I came across a fabulous-sounding group, called "Ladies for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails."

(Just to bring this post back to Winston Churchill — I bought my bottle of yellow Chartreuse, used in a few of his cocktails, from Astor Wines & Spirits.)

Today, Astor sent me an email about a class they're doing with the Ladies for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC), called: "Cocktail Tweetup with Chartreuse and LUPEC NYC."

From Astor's web site:

Location: The Lounge
Price: $35.00
Date: Mon, Nov 2nd, 6:00 PM - 9:00

This fly-by-night bar is a triple threat: a tasting of Chartreuse and Chartreuse-inspired cocktails, a fundraiser for LUPEC, and an opportunity to meet some of the fixtures of the NYC cocktail twitteratti.

First, the broads: Chartreuse-inflected cocktails will be shaken and slung by Lynette Marerra and friends, working as members of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC). $5 of each ticket goes to help this new chapter get established. Their mission? * To create a secular "coven-like" atmosphere in which Classy Broads of today can invoke and honor the spirits of their Forebroads

* To continue the 150 year American tradition of dangerous women calling themselves Ladies and getting together in groups, clubs, and societies to work undercover while they chipped away at the patriarchy.

* To protect the collective Joie de Vivre of LUPEC members by assuring them at least one good party a month

* To encourage the accumulation and use of vintage serving and barware.

* And most importantly, to let LUPEC ladies use our skills to support women-based charitable organizations.

My feeling is that any group of women who call themselves "broads" and refer to "forebroads," who want to create a "coven-like atmosphere," "chip away at the Patriarchy," and shake vintage cocktails has got to be pretty cool.

Plus, they support women-centered charities. All this greatness, plus booze!

Maybe I'll see you there?