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15 posts from July 2006

28 July 2006

Delightful, delicious, delovely

As Seen on DelightfulBlogs.com

Look! The mirrormirror blog can now be found on the Delightful Blogs directory (look here under Personal Journals - you'll need to scroll down a bit). I'm really pleased because every blog on this directory is hand-vetted for delightfulness, so I'm glad we made the grade.

Readers are also invited to rate and comment on the individual blogs, so I'd be quite nausea-inducingly appreciative if you fancied popping along and giving the mirrormirror blog a really high score.

(By the way, the blogs are indeed delightful, so it's well worth having a browse, and if you've got a blog why don't you submit yours too?)

27 July 2006

The new economy

This made me laugh. I have trouble enough finding a babysitter! But maybe I shall employ them next time I go on holiday. (Found via SwissMiss's wonderful blog).

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26 July 2006

E&O (OR reasons I will be devastated to leave Notting Hill - part II)

Was childishly excited yesterday. Not only had I secured an evening pass to go out for dinner with a girlfriend, but I'd managed to get a last-minute 8.30 pm cancellation at E&O.

Now, ever since it opened in 2002, E&O has been phenomenally busy and getting a table there at a time when a sensible person might be feeling hungry is well-nigh impossible, even if you only live three minutes round the corner as I do.

E&O is a 'see and be seen' sort of trendy West London media place - the sort of place you have to pretend to be slightly disdainful of whereas in reality you really want to join in.

And yes, it is full to bursting with beautiful people (particularly beautiful men dining in pairs), the decor (though not really my taste) is coolly minimalist, featuring lots of black wooden slats, and the cocktails are New York excellent. However I suspect the real reason why it has been so consistently popular is that the pan-Asian food is beautifully presented, reasonably priced for the area, healthy enough for the thinnest supermodel to tuck into and uniformly delicious.

My friend and I shared the edamame, steamed prawn and chive dumplings and the famous chili-salt squid from the dim sum menu - all superb - followed by the mixed vegetable tempura, duck and watermelon salad and peppered tuna sashimi. Everything was perfectly cooked and the flavours crisp and clean and perfectly combined. We finished our meal with a selection of sorbets - mixed berry, melon and coconut.

I hadn't seen my friend for over a year, so we had a good old gossip and left feeling relaxed and beautiful - and you can't say fairer than that about a restaurant.

24 July 2006

Glassybaby

Last week Typepad featured the company blog for Glassbaby as its Blog of the Day.

Glassybaby produces these beautiful handblown glass vases/votives/glasses whatevers. They come in 53 gorgeous colours (check out the website because I like some of the other colours much better than those above - but this was the best group picture they had) and I am aching to stock them.

Unfortunately I think they might be too expensive. They retail at $40 each, and by the time we've paid for shipping and import duties I'm sure they'll cost a fortune. However, the good news is that the company is based in Seattle (interestingly there seemed to be loads of funky glassware producers in Seattle for some reason, so I will definitely check them out when we get there.

22 July 2006

Commenter of the Week - Lottie

Photo by Lottie

This week's top banana is Lottie - she of the fabulously cool ancestor and the beautifully-written blog about life in London.

From what I can gather she lives close to proper, grown-up London, historic London - the London of monuments and landmarks, palaces and skyscrapers, bridges and tunnels - and the Thames, the real Thames of docks and embankments, not the Thames of mudflats and rowers as it is near here. This is the London I used to work in until I started working from home, had a baby and my landscape shrank.

Our Lottie is, moreover, an ace photographer. I love the way she plays with light and captures her river in all its different moods and incarnations. Her amazing Flickr album is already making me nostalgic and I haven't even moved yet.

Check it out now because, come October, it will be damp with my tears and the pages will be stuck together.

Photos by Lottie

20 July 2006

Not all traffic is created equal

Much excitement in mirrormirror land over the last couple of days, as the worldwide exposure gained by Petite Anglaise (check out her press page now), and thus for mirrormirror's clumsy blogad, has resulted in traffic to the mirrormirror site going through the roof.

Visitor-wise yesterday was our best day ever, yes, even better than the 14th December last year, when we were mentioned by the Times as one of the best places to shop online, and it's looking like today will be equally as good.

The interesting thing though is that, to date, the Petite Anglaise-related traffic has not generated a single additional order. Yep, that's right - nothing, zip, zilch, nada. Probably because many of these visitors will be from overseas and/or incandescent with indignation and hence not in the mood to buy fancy embroidered cushions from an online store in the UK.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, as I'm sure this sort of exposure can only be good for the business and it will be interesting to see whether it bears fruit in future months.

However, it has been useful to observe how little impact on the bottom line traffic which does not derive from our target demographic is having . The message both for bloggers trying to monetize their blogs and people advertising on blogs is that while traffic is important, you should focus squarely on the number of conversions in order to get a real picture of how well that ad is doing.

And yes, it does help that I'm married to someone in the web analytics industry who can provide me with the software tools to measure such things.

19 July 2006

Petite Anglaise

I first started reading Petite Anglaise at the beginning of the year. I can't remember now how I came across her but I was captivated from the minute I started reading.

I could identify with her blog on so many levels. An English ex-pat living in Paris, she is currently living the life of a single girl, having left a long-term relationship in her early thirties - as I did. I too was a 'petite anglaise' many moons ago when I spent a year in Perpignan as part of my university course. She even has a little girl who sounds not unlike a slightly more grown-up version of the Minx.

The other thing that attracted me was the elegance, wit and intelligence of her prose (something I could never hope to emulate) and the way she cleverly uses allusions, cliffhangers and cryptic asides to build up the suspense. It's as good as a novel and I read her entire blog in one weekend.

We emailed each other a couple of times and she invited me to place an ad on her site. Said ad has since delivered a small but consistent stream of traffic and a few orders - until today when this happened.

Petite was fired by her English employers, who thought that her blog was bringing their firm into disrepute - despite the fact that the blog was anonymous and the firm unrecognisable and scarcely mentioned. Petite is now taking the case to a French industrial tribunal in a test case which will have important ramifications for the relationship between bloggers and their employers (how grateful am I that I don't have one of those). Her case has been taken up by the Daily Telegraph and she has been interviewed on Radio 5 Live. The story has now appeared in newspapers and on news websites around the world (editing to say that as of this morning there are stories in the Daily Mail, Independent and Times- check out Petite's press page) and the blogosphere (how I hate that term) is aflame. It's fascinating to watch a story go global like this, in a way that would never have happened even five years ago. (It's also amusing to note that her employers, previously anonymous, were named in the Telegraph interview and are now being engulfed by a tidal wave of bad publicity).

I just hope things work out for Petite and that she'll come out of this with the book or film deal (and the compensation) which she so richly deserves.

mirrormirror is currently running two blog ads. As well as the one on Petite Anglaise, we have an ad on Guido Fawkes' Blog of Parliament. Mr Fawkes, too, has been all over the papers recently as the blogger on the case of John Prescott and Lord Levy. The message is clear. If you want unimaginable fame and notoriety as a blogger then sell adspace to 'mirrormirror'. Do you dare?

17 July 2006

Reasons I will be devastated to leave Notting Hill - part I

Yesterday the Minx and I were making our way along Portobello Road on our way to feed the ducks in the park, when we came across a car with a band playing on the roof.

Soon a crowd started to gather.

And one of the shopkeepers brought out a tambourine.

The stuff they were playing had a really cool summery vibe which somehow reminded me a bit of the Avalanches, so we bought a CD (which is really rather good), and then moved on since we had urgent business with ducks. So we didn't see whether it all turned into the Kids from Fame or not.

Thanks to Summer Holiday for making us smile and thanks to Notting Hill for its essential nuttiness.

16 July 2006

Single mum

The countdown to Seattle has really begun.

On Friday a letting agent came round to talk about renting out our flat here in London, and today the Husband flew out to Seattle to start his new job at MSN. He's going to be away for a week being 'inducted' and I'm feeling rather apprehensive.

Not so much for him you understand, but because this is the first week ever that there won't be anyone available if necessary to pick up the pieces at the end of a long day. For the last eighteen months I've been able to hand over the Minx to her father as soon as he comes through the door every evening and he has fed her her supper, supervised her bath and put her to bed while I gently recover in a corner.

On top of that he's had the last month off work altogether and we've all got used to having him around the place. I'm just hoping that the cries of 'Dad-dy back?' don't become too insistent as I have a feeling that a certain little person is going to miss him very much. Wish me luck.

15 July 2006

In the swim

I am beside myself with admiration after watching a documentary about UK cult comedian David Walliams and his incredible cross-channel swim in aid of Sport Relief.

In the summer of 2003 I was feeling at a very low physical ebb after my most nasty miscarriage and a bad dose of anaemia. By chance I came across an article in the Times entitled 'Ferries are for wimps, let's swim', about a new travel company called Swimtrek, which was organising island-hopping trips to Greece where you swam from island to island.

I've always enjoyed swimming in the sea (well the Med, I don't really do the sea in Britain) - I love the invigorating coolness and clarity of the water and find it really relaxing to watch the fish and the rocks below. So, in a moment of utter madness the Husband and I signed up for the six-day trip.

I trained somewhat halfheartedly in the 20 metre pool at my local gym and got the shock of my life when it actually came to doing the first swims.

Firstly, we were expected to swim when it was choppy, or once indeed when there was quite a big swell on the water. This is akin to trying to swim in a tumble dryer and is highly unpleasant, particularly when the Antiparos-Paros ferry cuts across your path and adds its wash to the party.

Secondly, the bottom disappears very quickly, so you can no longer amuse your brain by looking for fish. Instead you are trapped in a world of blue with a shaft of sunlight to your left, your hands passing before your eyes and your thoughts. Which is a very tedious place to be after twenty minutes or so.

Thirdly, swimming is slow. You can swim towards an island for what seems like forever and a day and it never seems to get any closer. It doesn't help that I tend to swim round in circles unless I'm being shouted at almost constantly by the people in the support boat.

We did our longest swim (5km) between two islands of the Little Cyclades towards the end of the week, when conditions were perfect and the sea was warm and smooth. Nevertheless it took well over two hours, was bloody hard work and was really quite boring, though a sort spaced-feeling takes over around the halfway point when your position relative to the land on either side doesn't seem to change and all you can do is surrender to the blue.

As a result, I admire David Walliams' mental strength and physical endurance all the more. The fact that he trained for hours every day on his UK tour while still finding the energy to perform. The fact that he trained and swam in the cold of an English sea, while I could only just about cope with the Aegean. The fact that he had to deal with the wake of over 200 ships crossing his path, when I was freaked out by one small ferry. And the fact that he completed his swim in the astonishing time of 10 1/2 hours making him one of the fifty fastest cross channel swimmers of all time.

It truly was a great achievement. I'm glad that he's managed to raise so much money for charity (well worth a donation, don't you think?). But also a bit sad when I look down at my overweight, post-pregnancy body and realise that at the moment swimming even 5km would be totally impossible.

14 July 2006

La Coluccia

Click to enlarge

For the second week of our trip to Sardinia we were lucky enough to stay in a gorgeous hotel called La Coluccia on the northern tip of the island.

It is apparently a member of Design Hotels (which looks like it has loads of other funky hotels to choose from) and the architecture and interiors really were absolutely stunning.

I love contemporary hotel design. You can go a bit over the top in a hotel, in a way which might not work in a residential setting, and there is something very satisfying about staying somewhere full of little details which look like they've just stepped out of the pages of Elle Deco. And of course hotels are never full of all the clutter and detritus of normal family life.

The architecture of La Coluccia could best be described as 'contemporary Mediterranean' - with terracotta rooftiles, bougainvillea-covered pergolas, whitewashed walls, a mosaiced roof which glinted pink and gold in the sun, and undulating gables, terraces and steps in every direction.

The outside spaces were also really well done - a wonderful pool which curved around an outside dining pavilion where we had lunch and dinner. Beyond the pool was a garden full of pine trees and sun loungers and beyond that a small sandy beach. Tethered just offshore were some very tantalising-looking speed boats with which to explore the tiny islands in the distance. They looked so tempting, but we thought it might be a trip too far with a wriggly 17-month old.

Inside there are touches of restrained glamour here and there - a gorgeous glass chandelier with black lampshades in the gym toilet (not that I ever went to the gym), giant wineglasses filled with roses in the reception area (which the Minx just about avoided crashing into), huge floor-to-ceiling mirrors propped up against the walls in the bar, restaurant and on the landings, and a collection of ornate picture frames on the reception area's deep red walls. The lighting was magical - particularly at night when then poolside bar and the pine trees were all illuminated - but I forgot to take pictures. (Call yourself a design blogger? Ed.)

The hotel even had its very own celebrity in the shape of Doctor Who, who was there with a pretty blonde, who, I was reliably informed, had played Madame Pompadour in the last series. He was surprisingly tall and excessively skinny in real life, dressed like a student and was usually to be found huddled up with Madame P in a quiet corner of the dining room. (By the way, it wasn't me who spoke to the Daily Mail in that link - and the sea wasn't cold, it was gorgeous.)

Only our room was rather disappointing, being small and cramped (especially with a large cot squeezed into one corner) though we really didn't spend very much time there.

That one gripe aside, it was a really lovely place to stay, and it was so nice to stay somewhere grown-up that wasn't completely dedicated to being 'child friendly'.

12 July 2006

Eighteen months

This time eighteen months ago I was lying utterly exhausted in a hospital bed after a long and incredibly painful labour and an emergency caesarean after my tiny little baby became distressed in the womb.

I had a horrific reaction to the drugs used and for a few hours after the birth I was throwing up everywhere and drifting in and out of consciousness. I only vaguely remember a little scrap of a thing being waved at me as I lay on the operating table feeling so awful I thought I was going to die. It was not until around 10 pm (four hours after the birth) that I was first able to hold my little girl, although it was very difficult as I was hooked up to so many different wires.

The Minx was only 5lbs 10 oz when she was born, and looked thin and wasted as if she had been starving in the womb. The hospital suggested that there had been problems with the placenta caused by the blood clotting problems which had previously been responsible for several early miscarriages. Neither of us were very good at breastfeeding, and her weight dropped to 5lbs and she was packed off to the Special Baby Unit for round-theclock monitoring until we were able to establish a good breastfeeding regime. We were only able to take her home a week after she was born.

My most overwhelming memory of the first few months is of endless hours sitting breastfeeding as she tried to make up her weight. One day I calculated that I had spent nine hours with her at the breast as my frail baby spent over an hour on each feed and the rest of the time crying because she never seemed to be satisfied. After three months I was utterly exhausted and depressed and convinced I had made the biggest mistake of my life.

Today, at eighteen months, my little girl is above the 50th centile for both height and weight and is a bundle of fun and energy. She has white blonde hair, a peaches and cream complexion and denim blue eyes. She runs and (more worryingly) climbs everywhere and chats almost constantly. Her vocabulary of about twenty words is growing daily, supplemented by around twenty 'signs'. I was very sceptical about babysigning to start with but am now a huge fan. Apart from very useful concepts such as 'more' 'all gone' 'change my nappy' 'hungry' 'ow' 'where' and 'hot', she can tell us when she sees things like birds, trees, aeroplanes and dogs, so we can really communicate. Reading books is much more interesting when we can sign the pictures together and we know lots of songs full of signs and actions.

The Minx loves to sing (she carries a tune really well, but the lyrics are somewhat approximate) and dance, adores animals of any description, cars and babies and is very adventurous and gregarious. She can be both unspeakably cute and charming and unspeakably pesky - usually both at the same time. She can be both immensely exasperating and immensely fascinating - usually both at the same time. I'm very often bored when I'm with her, as she repeats some mundane thing or word for the umpteenth time, but always miss her immensely when she's not around. I hate the way she always wakes up around 7.15 (I'm not a morning person) but look forward to seeing her every day. Every day she makes me laugh and she makes me proud. Her hugs are the nicest things in the world.

Motherhood has been without question the most difficult thing I've ever had to do, but now every day I'm enjoying it more and more.

All my love and a happy un-birthday little one.

So, what do Ideal Home, Guy Fawkes and John Prescott have in common?

Poor Siobhan had a bit of a baptism of fire while we were away.

I thought things would be quite quiet in mirrormirror land since it was the summer, but we had a great piece of coverage in Ideal Home, which featured both the Atelier LZC Butterfly mirror and the Lace Mirror, so it all went a bit nutty, particularly when she managed to break her laptop screen in spectacular fashion. But we sorted everything out over the weekend and July is turning into a pretty good month for us already, which is very unexpectedly pleasant.

Speaking of great coverage, mirrormirror's slightly saucy ad on Guido Fawkes' political blog was mentioned yesterday in the MediaGuardian diary.

Tuesday July 11

The blog with more bling

Never let it be said that Guido Fawkes, the "attack blog" that is making life difficult for John Prescott, doesn't know when it is on to a good thing. An advert on its homepage asks readers, "Caught with your pants down? Need jewellery fast?" Who can it possibly be referring to? "Mirrormirror is the online store for all the women in your life." That's ALL the women in your life. Further down, a banner ad reminds advertisers: "Nick Robinson reads Guido's blog. An advert here will reach more opinion formers than an advert in Private Eye." Who said bloggers weren't commercially minded?

Traffic from the ad to the mirrormirror site has ballooned recently as Guido has been revealing more interesting John Prescott gossip, so let's hope there are loads more revelations to come. Cheers Mr P!

(Editing to say that the arrest of Lord Levy - also trailed on Guido's blog - will do nicely for starters).

11 July 2006

Back

I'm back. 'Twas fab.

Much to tell you, if any of you are still around.

Normal blogging service will now resume, just as soon as I've done the washing and made sure mirrormirror doesn't explode.

Campioni del Mondo!

I've decided that there are very few greater pleasures then seeing the team you support win the World Cup. Especially when it's been totally unexpected and said team have played with style and courage (and look just so damn cute - though I wish Cannavaro hadn't cut his hair). The semi-final against Germany was absolutely unbelievable - end-to-end stuff, loads of agonising near misses and then finished off with two quite spectacular goals at the end - can't remember the last time I was so excited.

We had such fun in Sardinia watching the games in the hotel bar and bantering with the waiters and the other guests, or else making the Minx stay up way past her bed time so we could watch the Italy games on the big screen in the piazza in Santa Teresa Gallura. The Minx much enjoyed shouting 'yay' every time the crowd cheered, though that usually meant she ended up cheering on the opposition (though she didn't enjoy it quite as much as Wimbledon, where she loves clapping enthusiastically at the end of rallies).

I just wish I were still living in Rome (I spent five months out there a few summers back) and could have joined the party in the Circus Maximus. My brother's living room - where we watched the match - is somehow not quite the same.