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34 posts from March 2006

31 March 2006

Confession

Dear Reader,

I have been keeping something from you. Remember that we went on a crazy family trip to Seattle and California at the beginning of February? Well, there was method in our madness. The Husband was actually flying out for a job interview with MSN at Microsoft HQ in Redmond.

And they offered him a job. And they made him an offer it would be incredibly foolish to refuse. So yes, later this year we are moving to Seattle for a few years.

It was an extremely difficult decision for me. I just feel like I've settled into a great routine after the upheaval of having a baby last year, and in the last few months it seems that mirror mirror has really started to take off (we've had an awesome Mother's Day and March in general) after working so hard at it for over two years, right the way through pregnancy and the early months of motherhood.

But the role is a career-defining one for the Husband and the money will transform our family finances which have been looking a bit precarious since we've been investing so much in the business. So we don't really have a choice - I can't stand in his way on this.

I have, however, made two conditions. One, that we come back in time for the Minx to start full-time education in the UK. This opportunity has come at a perfect time, in that I think the Minx will be fairly portable until she is five or so. After that I really don't want to put her through the upheaval of moving school AND country, though obviously I might change my mind when the time comes and we're having too much fun. And of course there's going to be all the trauma of BEATING her American accent out of her.

My second condition is that at all costs I want to keep mirror mirror going. I actually think it's going to be excellent news for the business. We will be in a position to hire someone to take on the day-to-day running of the business out of the UK, which will leave me with more time to find new suppliers (can't wait to start buying from all those fabulous designers I keep reading about on the US design blogs) and expand our marketing.

The other good bit of good news is that by the time my husband has worked out his notice and he's got his working visa sorted out it looks like it's going to be October before we go out there, so, for any customers and suppliers who might be reading, it will be business as usual for the time being, and I get to enjoy one last summer in Notting Hill.

Because the truth is, dear reader, that I don't really want to go.

30 March 2006

Grendma Chic (sic)

He he! Does anyone out there speak Russian? Can you translate this page? Are they being rude? What is a grendma? Getting lots of traffic off this today, so I presume they're being complimentary.

Later....

Not to worry, I've found a online Russian translation site and this is apparently what the first paragraph says:

It can to you already lusciously, but me, at present, only and ???????. House. With ??????????. Slightly. With pink glaze. And native, as old cowards. Well all right, not cowards. But you have understood me.

Even later...

I've now found a website that will translate the whole page. Impeccably. (Am secretly very thrilled to have Russian fans - world domination can't be far off.)

Later still...

This is all getting a bit silly. We're now (courtesy of our Karin Eriksson beaker) apparently in the Russian Interior Design Handbook. Check out today's wonderful translation.

29 March 2006

The mind boggles

In pre-Minx days, the Husband and I would often unwind by taking ourselves on relaxing breaks to country cottages, where any unwinding would soon be undone by fiendishly-competitive and stressful games of Boggle. (For the uninitiated, in Boggle you have three minutes to find as many words of three letters or over hidden in a grid of 16 randomly chosen letters).

Since the arrival of the Minx I had thought my Boggling days were behind me, but no, toddlers are now going unfed, eggcups are going unsent and husbands are being ignored because I have discovered online Boggle ! Played against other people! Whose scores (if they are genuine) are ludicrously better than my own.

And to think I thought I didn't have an addictive personality.

Metro-politan

Finally got a copy of the Mother's Day coverage in Metro. I hadn't realised that two of our products were covered - the stacking egg cups and the aromatherapy bath melts. It seems that this time the celebrity inspiration behind the choice of products was Nigella Lawson, this time under the title 'Mother Hen'.

I'm finding it interesting to see which celebrities the magazines are associating with our products. I know it's basically a load of nonsense, but I would file both Nigella and Thandie Newton under 'intelligent and classy' which I think are pretty good brand values for mirror mirror to be associated with.

And at least they're both infinitely better than Jordan.

28 March 2006

Metal and graphics - part II

Today I am a little bit obsessed with this image from UK jeweller Abigail Percy's degree collection (found, like everything else at the moment, through Cally's wonderful blog). Apart from the glorious colour scheme (gold and aqua are my colours of the moment), it's that use of the two different but complementary media - the design in the metal completing and carrying through into the graphics - which is doing it for me again.

27 March 2006

Labyrinth

Oh how I wanted to enjoy this book.

In my third year at university I spent an incredible year 'teaching' (I use this term loosely) English in Perpignan in South West France. A very good friend of mine from uni was doing the same thing in Carcassonne, about 70 km or a shortish train journey to the north east, so I spent many weekends visiting her there or touring the area.

In the 1200s the region around Carcassonne was the battleground of the Albigensian Crusade, as the Northern French attacked the 'heretic' Cathars of the Languedoc in a landgrab disguised as a religious crusade. The history of that time is one of sieges, massacres, burnings alive and a land lost - the whole intermingled with stories of hidden treasure, Templar knights and, of course, the Holy Grail.

Everywhere you go in the region there are echoes of this past - in the funny old bookshops where books on Rosicrucianism and Occitan share shelf space with Tarot cards and crystals; in the sounds of the tourist industry cashing in on the romantic splendour and isolation of the Cathar castles; in the eccentric treasure-seekers who still flock to Carcassonne and Rennes-le-Chateau in the belief that the Holy Grail is somehow hidden around the next corner; and yes, in a certain wistful melancholy that still clings to some of these castles if you visit early in the day before the tourist hordes arrive.

And so, years before Dan Brown made the Holy Grail sexy, I became completely besotted with the Cathars and the history of the crusade.

Kate Mosse (sic)'s book is a timeslip novel set in present-day Carcassonne and its 13th century parallel. Its central characters are, unusually, female; it is tolerably well-written and the bits set in 13th century Carcassonne are evocative and apparently well-researched. Unfortunately the plot also features people being banged on the head every other chapter; two female heroines, without an ounce of common sense between them doing everything they can to put themselves in danger; two comic-book style female villainesses and the most incredibly fantastical and lazily-written denouement.

But, most unforgivably of all, the book is deadly dull. I didn't care enough about the heroines, the tangled plot was far too knotty for me and I kept confusing the vast cast of characters and their similar-sounding French names (and I speak French). One day I'm going to analyse how Dan Brown can write shockingly bad novels which keep me turning pages faster than a windmill on acid, whereas I plodded through this one like a seaside donkey and can't now, two weeks after finishing it, tell you much about the plot. And, oh, I so wanted to love it.

By the way, the press reviews quoted in the first few pages are EXTREMELY kind (and one of the reasons why I decided to buy the book), far kinder indeed than the customer reviews on Amazon. Could it be anything to do with the fact that the author is the co-founder of the Orange Prize for Fiction and a big literary cheese?

25 March 2006

Metal and graphics - Part I

I just love the thinking behind the new Nokia L'Amour range (and what a gorgeous website as well).

For so long we have been conditioned to believe that technology should be sleek, spare, functional and modern, that it seems surprising to see technology decorated just for the sake of it.

Furthermore, I love the way the designers have worked with the media at their disposal - integrating the patterns on the screen graphics and the etched metal casing in a really pleasing way and going one step beyond just sticking a pattern on the box, as with the Limited Edition Sky+ boxes or the Cath Kidston radio (from Cally's blog). Even the advertising blends in and is part of the concept (thanks to Cally's blog for this link to the animated online ad ) - the print advertising is also pretty fabulous.

I think the Nokia screensaver is particularly lovely and original in the context of a mobile phone (the etched case is perhaps a bit ornate for my taste). By way of an experiment we resized the leaves from the mirror mirror website and added them to my phone as a wallpaper. Though it's not as striking as the Nokia design, I think it works pretty well and makes my rather boxy, clunky phone much easier on the eye and satisfying to the girly part of my soul. (I also hate to admit how much absurd girly pleasure I get from my Swarovski crystal phone charm).

24 March 2006

So, where do we stand on burning books?

One of the more unfortunate side effects of the Minx learning to walk is that she can now follow me round the house clutching her favourite book and gazing at me with a pleading expression (the child is the most unbelievable bookworm - I'm not sure whether to feel very proud or tell her go outside and go skateboarding or something).

I say unfortunate because nine times out of ten that book is 'Miss Polly Had A Dolly' for which the Minx has conceived a passion bordering on obsession. This morning I had to go through it with her no less than eight times before she left for nursery. Is it very wrong of me to be currently plotting a particularly spectacular demise for both Miss Polly and her Dolly? The Oxfam shop is too good for them.

22 March 2006

Cracking PR

Mad day today.

A friend popped round for coffee this morning with her 3-month old baby boy (the Minx was beside herself as he has an extraordinary quantity of strokeable hair - I think she thought he was a kitten).

As we were chatting away about matters diverse, I realised that order after order for our Hannah Tofalos eggcups was popping into my inbox. Finally my brother called me to say that - unbeknownst to me or our PR company* - the eggcups had been featured in Metro - the freebie newspaper given out at Tube stations with a huge readership of London commuters.

The bad news is that we were quite low on stock so they sold out rather quickly - I'm sure I could have sold them ten times over. The good news is that as a direct result of that feature we took the biggest single order we've ever taken. So all-in-all a VERY satisfying mirror mirror day. But must fly now as it is 11.30 pm and I still have eggcups to pack.

*I haven't yet been able to get hold of the feature - the PR company is working on it - so instead here is a quite delightful picture of smooth blue eggs which I found in the Comments box on a Decor8 post.

21 March 2006

Revealing

A nice bit of coverage today in Reveal. Our Japanese print toilet bag and rose-topped aromatherapy bathmelts were shown on a page of Mother's Day gift ideas, apparently 'inspired' by Thandie Newton. I couldn't quite work out how exactly Ms Newton had inspired these products, except that her aqua gown is the same colour as the trim on the washbag. But Thandie Newton is just the sort of celebrity I'd like to have associated with mirror mirror so I'm not complaining.

Was amused to note that the stringy-haired, stringy-armed, one-eyed alien had - by virtue of wearing a pale pink dress and some diamond jewellery - 'inspired' a collection of oh-so-pretty rose pink, silver and glass objects which you could never in a million years imagine Madonna ever having in her house.

P&P

Well about a hundred years after the rest of the world (I have a little girl after all and the cinema is but a distant memory), I have finally managed to watch Pride & Prejudice on DVD.

And I wasn't terribly impressed.

First of all there was the not-insignificant matter of the spectacularly irritating Keira Knightley to contend with. The best I can say is that by the end of the film I was feeling less irritated by her than I was at the start (no mean feat when you consider that I couldn't watch the Oscars coverage without wanting to throw shoes at the screen). Also she is too thin to make it possible to eat a takeaway king prawn dhansak without feeling very guilty indeed.

Second of all was the not-insignificant matter of the unsexiness of Matthew Macfadyen. Yes, he was sweet and very likeable but also came across as being rather slow-witted and I just kept itching to comb his hair. And no, it's not because I'm in love with Colin Firth. Unlike every other woman in the UK I can categorically state that I have never been in love with Mr Firth - my ideal Darcy has not yet been cast. (I think Jennifer Ehle may well have been my ideal Lizzie B though).

Other quibbles. The short length meant that Messrs Wickham and Collins were reduced to bit parts - a great shame in the case of the former, since he was played by the not-unattractive Orlando Bloom-alike Rupert Friend; whereas the latter was not nearly as pompous and objectionable as he should have been, merely a bit short. Judi Dench just phoned in her rendition of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is obviously a very close relative of Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love, while Donald Sutherland played Mr Bennet as a kindly relative of Santa Claus. (I did like Brenda Blethyn's Mrs B though). The dialogue was, in parts, atrocious. No, you can't always use Jane Austen's exact words (interestingly in her books she describes dialogue more often than actually writing it) but you can at least employ a screenwriter who has a modicum of similar wit and sparkle.

Finally there was altogether too much sunshine. It felt like The Darling Buds of May.

19 March 2006

Tricolore

Today's post was supposed to be full of images of a gloriously sunny early Spring day at the Princess Diana playground in Kensington Gardens - cutesy photographs of the Minx as she giggled in her swing, or of a tiny little Minx toddling along next to her very tall father. Except I forgot to put the CF card back in the camera.

So here instead is a photograph of my lunch. One of the best things about La Dolce Vita was the charming Neapolitan fruttivendolo (greengrocer) whose stand was laden with all manner of new season fruit and veg from Naples and Sicily. I normally try to buy seasonal produce rather than tasteless green beans which have been flown half-way round the world from Kenya or Peru, so it was wonderful to buy a huge bag of ripely red cherry tomatoes, a bundle of perky asparagus and a succulent, creamy mozzarella di bufala, after a winter of Savoy cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli (much as I love them).

Today we made the first insalata tricolore* of the year. I cannot describe how sweet and fragrant those tomatoes were - a million times more delicious than the wildly expensive imported red bullets which masquerade as tomatoes in the UK.

*Slice up the tastiest tomatoes you can get your hands on (in the UK that usually means halved cherry tomatoes, in Naples they use huge tomatoes grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius which have the best flavour in the whole world.) Add slices of soft, ripe avocado - if you haven't got a decent avocado then don't bother and call it insalata caprese instead. Top with buffalo mozzarella or mozzarella fior di latte (just tear it up with your fingers) and scatter on some torn up basil leaves. Season with salt and drizzle with a good quality olive oil. I usually use O&Co's gorgeous basil oil to add more flavour to the tomatoes available in the UK, but all these tomatoes needed was a peppery extra virgin.

WTF?

I don't really like to Madonna-bash as I admire the woman, but I can't believe she let this photograph see the light of day, let alone make it onto the front cover of a magazine.

La Dolce Vita

I dragged the Minx and the Husband to the La DolceVita exhibition at Olympia today. Had never been before but fancied a fix of Italian culture and food (am half Italian, haven't been back in ages and am really missing it at the moment) and thought I might find a few suppliers. The minute we entered the lobby one could sense a subtle difference in atmosphere - the buzz of conversation was louder and more animated than outside, the atmosphere was smokier, the Great Hall was filled with people wearing dark brown padded jackets with faux fur trim and an air of gentle chaos reigned. Every Italian in London seemed to be there.

The exhibition itself was something of a disappointment. Lots of stands encouraging us to buy an Italian property, which is not exactly high on our list of priorities at present (for those who are in the market Puglia is clearly the new Umbria). Most of the other stands were piled high with little cubes of bread and saucers of olive oil for dipping - the attractiveness of which had palled by the time we'd passed the fiftieth such stall.

No useful suppliers either, and I was left to muse on the dichotomy at the heart of Italian design. Here in the UK we tend to think of Italian design as being super chic - all Pininfarina, B+B Italia, Alessi and Dolce e Gabbana - and at the top end it definitely is. But whereas in the UK shops like Habitat, Ikea and nowadays even M&S have taken good design onto the High Street, in Italy the average home is still furnished in what would seem to us to be a rather old-fashioned and even slightly naff way. So instead of the funky small designers using traditional techniques to make cool, contemporary products that I was hoping to find, there were loads of classic-but-boring leather handbags, classic-but-boring leather shoes, and tons of jolly-but-kitsch painted ceramics.

If anyone can recommend some interesting up-and-coming Italian homewares and accessories designers I'd love to know. In the meantime we did manage to score some exquisitely scrumptious truffled salami, so all was not entirely lost.

17 March 2006

Has Anna Wintour...

THIS IS NOT ANNA WINTOUR

...gone stark staring bonkers?

The X Factor

THE 'MIRROR MIRROR' WOMAN?

Two very thought-provoking articles. One on curated shopping (found via Rare Device) and one wondering what makes certain designers successful on the intelligent new design blog Designer's Library. The curated shopping article is talking about the rise of the indie shop - shops which carry a carefully edited collection of pieces which reflect a certain lifestyle aesthetic. The blog post on designer brands asks how some designers have successfully created a personality or culture around their business which can be translated across a wide range of products.

I suppose what both articles are talking about is branding.

I know that at mirror mirror I am trying to create a brand rather than just a collection of products. People might come to mirror mirror the first time because they've seen a particular product in the Press or something, but the only reason they'll keep coming back again and again and recommend us to their friends is because they like the personality of the brand and think they'll find more products they like in future.

Which makes it rather scary for me, the shop 'curator'. I have a clear vision of the personality which I want the mirror mirror brand to project and to an extent that brand reflects my own personality. There's a little bit of me in everything we do - the product selection, packaging, customer service, blog-writing, website etc. etc. - which means I lay a little bit of me on the line everytime someone interacts with the company. What I don't know as yet is whether that brand personality resonates strongly enough with enough people, ie. has that brand 'X Factor', which will underpin a truly successful company.

In fact, dear reader, what sort of personality does the mirror mirror brand convey to you ? I'm really interested to find out.

15 March 2006

The street where I live

I am lucky enough to live just around the corner from Portobello Road - home of the world-famous Portobello Market and the heart of Notting Hill.

A good friend of mine edits a number of lifestyle magazines in the West of England and asked me to take some photos of the area for an article she is writing on weekend breaks to London. It was a glorious early-spring day and the colours were just zinging. I think I was having a Mario Testino day-glo moment...

VICTORIAN PUB

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE SHOPS

YUM YUM

STEEL DRUMMER

TOILET DOOR

ANTIQUE SHOPS

WINTER TREES

FLOWER STALL

THE WEDNESDAY MARKET DOESN'T SELL ANTIQUES

GRAFFITI ON THE RECORDING STUDIO ACROSS THE ROAD

Words

Have just skimmed through my most recent posts and realise that I use the words 'stunning' and 'beautiful' far too often. I need to find me some new adjectives...

Karin Eriksson

KARIN AT WORK

I loved the glimpse we got in the Decor8 article mentioned below of Atelier LZC's stunning design studio. At mirror mirror we get enormous pleasure from sourcing products from talented designers and craftspeople who make their products themselves, often fully by hand or finishing them by hand, rather than producing them by machine or in some vast sweatshop in China. It means that you won't see many of our products on your local High Street and that very often the product you end up buying will be completely unique.

One such supplier is Swedish ceramicist Karin Eriksson. Reading her beautiful and inspiring blog was one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place. She recently wrote a great post showing herself at work making her beautiful Signe vases. I knew that she made her things by hand, but I'd just never focused on just what that entailed (duh!) - the amount of skill and practice and time and patience and effort that has gone into and goes into creating each piece.

THE FINISHED ARTICLE

.

13 March 2006

Beautiful

I think this picture is quite stunning. It's by Tracy Silva-Barbosa (found via port2port which I found via Karin's blog) whose site is stuffed full of things I'd like on my wall. So if you fancy buying this for me then do, please, be my guest

Atelier LZC

A few new products from Atelier LZC added to the site this weekend - two stunning oval screen-printed mirrors and some cute little cut-steel hanging butterflies and flowers. Just festoon (isn't that a nice word?) them around the house for a bit of Springtime jollity.

I absolutely love Atelier LZC's stuff. They have an incredible colour-sense - using unusual colour combinations which always work together perfectly - and their designs are spare, modern and pretty, whilst never ever veering towards the sugary or twee. We've been stocking their things since mirror mirror started up 18 months ago and they've been going from strength to strength - appearing with great regularity in the design press and with more and more people looking for them on the search engines.

As well as the mirrors and hanging objects, we also stock teatowels and a wonderful cut-steel hanging Tree of Life which have always been amongst our most popular products.

I wanted to do a little piece on the company itself, but Holly at decor8 beat me to it and has written a fantastic article on them, including an interview and pictures of their glorious workspace.

12 March 2006

Bleak

Kensington Gardens looking bleak (who said winter is over?) on our weekend-ly 'giggie' hunt.

Nostalgia

Have just watched a documentary about the rise and fall of Smash Hits - the pop magazine to end all pop magazines - which closed last month.

Haven't looked at it in years of course, but read it religiously in ahem, the early 80s - when Neil Tennant was a journalist and not a Pet Shop Boy - when it was witty, irreverent, glamorous, trashy and exciting.

The programme was like an anthem for my lost youth and now I'm feeling sad, nostalgic, overweight and old. RIP.

11 March 2006

Vogue drops on my mat

I'm an absolute magazine junkie and keep thousands lying around, thinking that one day I'll cut lots of inspirational pictures out of them and create fabulous mood boards to inspire and focus the buying process (which to be fair I used to do pre-Minx).

I hate to throw them away knowing that they are full of incredibly important information which will no doubt come in useful one day, but which I just don't quite know how to use at present. (The fact that when I do find myself needing information I invariably look for it online is by-the-by).

But today marks a new beginning. As each magazine arrives in the house I'm going to scan in the things I like and then THROW IT AWAY. (The very thought is making me feel quite peculiar).

So, April's Vogue. The whole world is clearly having Rachel Weisz moment. Vogue has a big interview and fabulous photoshoot where she is looking quite ridiculously beautiful (whereas normally she doesn't do much for me).

Not sure about the sequins though

She's also starring in this ad for Burberry which I rather like (though obviously not the fact that it's Burberry.) Rather twee - for content I preferred the edginess of the Kate Moss days - but I do like the effect of photographs layered on top of each other and was thinking it would be fun to do a catalogue like that.

It's funny that Rachel is supposed to be this classic English rose, when I think she's the daughter of Eastern European immigrants.

Also really loved these pictures though wasn't sure why - definitely not the clothes. Then saw that they were taken by Mario Testino which explains a lot. I like their dayglo perfection juxtaposed with the raw, blurred black and white and he makes the model seem so appealing.

Finally was rather taken with this lovely picture of beauty packaging which reminded me of these gorgeous soaps on the Decor8 blog and also our own candles from Sage Jewelry.

Oh and I found this picture rather inspirational.

10 March 2006

Daffodils

Steely skies, bitter winds, driving rain, bare trees. But today I saw the first daffodils of Spring. Winter is over.

Taken with my phone in Battersea Park

09 March 2006

Make Mother’s Day

In between all the gadding about we've just managed to add some new bits and pieces to the site - kitsch but gorgeous Swarovski crystal mobile phone charms; a new fragrance of Mathias candles and bath confetti ; a lovely white beaded lariat necklace (perfect for this season's white mania), a small butterfly bowl by Mizuyo Yamashita, a new tea towel design from Atelier LZC and the crystal Peacock bracelet by Darling It's Perfect.

We've also set up a page of Mother's Day gift ideas (so now there's no excuse to get her a boring old bunch of daffs) including three new themed gift sets - Yummy Mummy (for the mummy who loves to cook), Mamma Mia (for the mummy who loves to garden) and Groovy Mama (for the mummy who loves to shop).

Hope these help you all spoil your mothers rotten. (Now that I am one, I have finally realised that mothers are indeed HEROINES).

08 March 2006

Yo ho ho and a bottle of ... milk

Fancy dress day at the Minx's Sing and Sign class. The theme was 'the sea' so we thought we'd be original and go as pirates - the Minx as the captain and Mummy as the mate.

Daddy duly manufactured a sparkly pirate hat and off we went, to find that every single other person in the class had also turned up as a pirate (AND made a lot more effort than we had). Still a lot of fun was had by all. The hat was, of course, not worn at all, though we much enjoyed torturing her with it.

(In answer to your inevitable questions - no the Minx is nothing like the baby in 'Meet the Fockers'. She only knows one sign, and since that is the sign for 'hat' I doubt very much that it is going to be much use.)

Have just seen Cally talking about the incredible costumes for her 'Under the Sea' party on her beautiful new blog and I am further shamed.

Cultural afternoon

Six mummies, six babies and six buggies (and NO lift, thanks V&A) finally made it to Fashion-ology - the V&A exhibit on Anna Piaggi, the legendary writer for Vogue Italia and designers' friend and muse.

The exhibition was interesting but ultimately slightly disappointing - too many display cabinets showing back copies of Vogue and not enough of her fabulously eccentric clothes. I must confess that I also didn't really know enough about her to understand exactly what I was seeing at the time - now that I've had a chance to read the excellent mini-catalogue, I'd like to go back and see the exhibit again.

To me there was also an element of 'The Emperor's New Clothes' about it all. It can't be denied that her clothes, while undeniably striking, eccentric and most beautifully made, are often completely ridiculous. Still it must be nice to be able to just phone up one of your designer friends, tell them that you want to look like a magazine or such like and have them run up a little number for you.

We also applauded the fact that Anna checks out the location of a soiree or reception ahead of time, to ensure that her costume is appropriate.

I actually much preferred the second fashion exhibit currently on at the V&A - Popaganda: The Fashion and Style of Jean Charles de Castelbajac . This was much more about the clothes, cabinets full of crazy, experimental, humorous Pop Art clothes, which, with the benefit of hindsight, one could tell had been both hugely influential on recent fashion trends and occasionally looked surprisingly wearable.

I loved the iconic fur coat made of teddy bears, the 'Tribute to Jimi Hendrix' mini dress with afro hair tutu and the parachute ballgown, though I must confess to having a soft spot for de Castelbajac ever since someone gave me his perfume when I lived in France twenty years ago, which I wore all the time until I ran out and couldn't find it in England.

Interestingly the Minx was also completely captivated - though I think mostly by the accompanying pounding music and the great lighting. She did however stare long and hard at this outfit before looking away rather bewildered. Surrealism is clearly wasted on the young.

We repaired afterwards to Patisserie Valerie on the Brompton Road, which was VERY child-friendly, with handsome waiters for the Minx to flirt with and the best 'pain au raisin' this side of of the Channel and agreed that our cultural afternoon had been a roaring success.

06 March 2006

Oscars

REESE WITHERSPOON

TOILET ROLL HOLDER

If truth be told, I found the Oscar frocks very disappointing this year.

Thought all the black was extraordinarily boring. These women can choose any dress in the world and have armies of stylists and yet all they can come up with is a Big Black Dress? (Only Rachel Weisz had any sort of an excuse).

There were no real drop-dead gorgeous frocks either this year. Controversially (since a lot of commentators seem to think it's too busy) the mirror mirror 2006 frock Oscar goes to Naomi Watts' pale frothy Givenchy confection. I am sure she will be thrilled.

Other random observations. Thought Reese Witherspoon looked like a loo-roll cover; liked Keira Knightley's aubergine Vera Wang number, but not on her (anyway she is too unspeakably irritating for further comment, except to say, what's with all the mascara love? Her eyelashes must be dreadfully tired by the end of an evening.). Does Helena Bonham Carter possess a hairbrush? Why does J-Lo persist with the Croydon facelift? Is Charlize Theron blind? Who told Michelle Wotsit that canary yellow was elegant and glamorous? When will someone tell Nicole Kidman that she looks absolutely dreadful in white?

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO

05 March 2006

Perfect Sunday

Take one stunning springtime walk in Richmond Park.

Add a delicious roast lunch cooked by lovely friends.

And garnish with your favourite chocolate labrador.

.

Darren Gough pays for dinner

I think I have alluded elsewhere to the unhealthy obsession I conceived for Strictly Come Dancing (the UK version of Dancing with the Stars). Hey, I'm a mother - reality TV and a takeaway is my idea of a fun evening. Halfway through the series I also conceived an unhealthy obsession for the cricketer Darren Gough. I have to say that he'd never appeared remotely near my radar before - I was aware of who he is, as I quite like cricket on a good day, but he'd always seemed to me to be a bit of a Yorkshire dolt (apologies if you're reading Darren).

But as the series went on his sheer enjoyment of the dancing, his infectious enthusiasm, his 100% commitment and the way he was turning into a pretty nifty dancer despite having a totally un-dancerlike physique (and, if I may say so, turning into a pretty fit guy as he lost weight through the dancing) completely won me over. With a few rounds of the competition to go I was having a quick look at Digital Spy (the equivalent of the water cooler for people working from home) and realised I wasn't the only one. We're not usually betting people, but I persuaded the Husband that the Dazzler was worth a flutter at 6-1.

There are few things more satisfying in life (yes, I know this makes me sadder than sad) than to have your favourite win a reality TV show while you end up £120 richer.

So, last night Darren treated us to a belated Valentines dinner at the Notting Hill Brasserie. The 'brasserie' bit is a bit of a misnomer - this is a serious grown-up restaurant with food (and prices) to match, though the impeccably friendly service, live jazz music and glamorous clientele means that it feels buzzy and intimate rather than serious and stuffy. The food was absolutely to die for - if I told you I had scallops with herbed gnocchi and shallots, followed by chicken with wild mushrooms, roasted garlic, truffled mashed potatoes and spinach, it wouldn't begin to describe how perfectly cooked, melt-in-the-mouth and absolutely delicious each element was. So Darren, if you're reading, thanks a bundle.

03 March 2006

Me me me and more me

S o, the next question that the rich gypsy asked was as follows....

You have 2 minutes and a mover with you if you need heavy lifting help, to grab 5 things from your home before it morphs into a polka dotted hobgoblin and hops away. What will you take? (Food/drink/family/friends excluded ...)

I thought this would be easy as I'm not a particularly sentimental person and I don't particularly collect old things, so I don't have much which is completely irreplaceable, and I looked around me and thought, 'well yes, I hope the house does morph into a hobgoblin, as those sofas are definitely looking more shabby than chic,' but then I thought about it some more and it became more and more difficult...

  • My computer (or more accurately, my hard disk)
It is quite incredible to think how much of my life is now stored in this machine. It contains my whole business - all the financial records, product photographs, supplier contact details, business plan etc. It contains literally thousands of photos and videos of my baby, very few of which have made it into oldfashioned print form. It contains all the contact details of all my friends, together with reams and reams of email correspondence which I carefully save in readiness for the day when someone wants to write my biography. It contains all my recent notes and thoughts and plans and wishes and dreams.

I think I will back it up tonight.. (Now I think about it, I'm going to have to sneak my Ipod into my back pocket at the same time).

  • The family archive
My parents both died when I was quite young and most of what I have left of them is a huge box of photos and family documents, including albums my mother made when she was a young girl/woman in Italy, precious snippets of my parents on old cine films (now transferred to video), my father's school reports, their wedding photos and all the photos of me, my brother and my sister growing up. I was devastated a few years ago when the cardboard box I was storing everything in got damp and many irreplaceable photos were ruined (yes, you don't have to tell me). So now everything is unglamorously stored in a big plastic crate from Muji (though very practical for hobgoblin-related emergencies)

I'd also throw my wedding album into the box. We got married a couple of years before digital photography really took off so if we wanted to replace any photos we'd still be in the realms of negatives and reprints. It also contains the only extant (I believe) copies of the wedding invitations and orders of service we painstakingly made by hand....

  • The mosaic in the bathroom

You did say it would be possible to remove walls didn't you? In the early days of our marriage I was transferred to Rome to work for a few months. The Husband was casting around for a project to while away the long lonely evenings without me and decided to mosaic the bathroom (!)

We designed it ourselves (I was in charge of concept and colours, the Husband was in charge of meticulous sketching, and planning it out on large sheets of brown paper). When I got back from Rome the mosaic was still only a quarter finished so we spent the next few months working on it nearly every evening until our fingers were sore from cutting up millions of tiles. We nearly divorced many times over the bloody thing. But it still gives me huge pride and pleasure every time I look at it and is one of the reasons I absolutely do not want to move. (Just the thought of the new owners smashing it off the walls makes me quite ill).

  • My chandelier

For a recent rather important birthday, the Husband enquired what to buy me. I wanted to something really special and frivolous and long-lasting and unusual. So in the end we settled for 'jewellery for the home' in the shape of a funky modern chandelier, which I'd seen in some interiors mag or other.

It is the real deal, imported from Germany via mint, and unpacking and arranging each one of its 36 different Swarovski crystal charms was just so exciting. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to see Heal's doing a knock-off version only a few months later....

  • My 1901 cast-iron roll top bath OR my set of little spindly dining room chairs OR my new mattress
Can't decide. The bath came with the flat and me and the Husband have shared many happy moments within it....

My six little spindly chairs were found in a junk shop on Portobello. I have no idea how old they are or where they come from (I fondly imagine they look French) but I love them dearly....

My new mattress means that I sleep like a whole forest full of logs and wake up every morning feeling like I've had a holiday. I don't know how I lived without it.

01 March 2006

I have just fallen in love...

... with some bars of chocolate. Found through Karin's Style Blog. I may have to look into buying some in for the shop - they are just SO mirror mirror, darling!

Yummy mummy?

Afternoon tea. In the Orangery. We wrestle with our babies while tourists watch disapprovingly (the place is full of mothers, babies and Americans). A few tables along, Claudia Schiffer. Also wrestling with her babies. And her roots needed doing. Nice to know that motherhood is no respecter of persons.