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15 posts from November 2009

30 November 2009

Better Late Than Never - Hella Jongerius Jonsberg Vase

 

These Jonsberg vases by Dutch design legend Hella Jongerius for Ikea PS have been all over the design blogs for years, and though I’ve always loved them they never seemed to have them in stock when I’ve been to Ikea (and I really couldn’t be bothered to make a special trip).

 

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This past weekend we somehow found ourselves in Ikea and there was the pink one in stock, so I snaffled it up, all $39.99 of it. They also had the black one, but somehow I didn’t like it as much in person as I thought I would.  I still would love to get the white one and also the terracotta, though I’m not sure they’re producing that one any more.

But the pink one makes a cheerful addition to the fireplace.

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We are still in our pumpkin phase as you can see, though the Minx and I are making extensive preparations for the grand Christmas decorating day next Saturday.

The other two bits of incredibly thrillng house news (honestly how can you guys cope with the excitement?) are that  (i) we appear to have chosen a colour for the living room walls.  No more egg yolk yellow! (We will be discussing this more extensively later).  And (ii) this afternoon we have an appointment with the architects to talk about remodelling the basement and doing something about our two kitchen dilemma.  Will let you know what they have to say.

26 November 2009

Giving Thanks

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Just heading into the Thanksgiving weekend here – always a slightly strange for us as Thanksgiving still means diddley squat to us Brits (though the Minx is starting to get more enthusiastic about it); we don’t have family here to spend it with; and most of our friends are with their families.

I’ve been feeling strangely lacking in mojo over the last few days, so I’m going to spend to take a few days off, relax, exercise, sleep, knit and sort out some stuff.  I’ll be back on Monday, but in the meantime if anyone wants to stop by and tell me what your best methods are for the regaining of mojo, I’m all ears. 

In the meantime here’s a sneak peak of crochet project number three.  And for all my lovely peeps in the US, happy Thanksgiving!

(I’ve been knitting up a storm over the last month or so, just not photographed everything. And I was a bit worried that this was turning into a knitting blog behind my back. But I’ll have a knitting update soon, I promise I bet you can’t wait.)

Exercise, Schmexercise

I’m still plugging away at my new fitness regime and so far have managed to fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise every day (except for three or four days around that very special time of the month).

I’m not convinced it’s having much of an impact on weight loss as yet, but I am certainly feeling FABULOUS, fitter than I’ve been since before the Minx was born.

In preparation for next year’s triathlon, I’m focusing this month on upping my general fitness and will probably do this next month as well, before moving on to more focused running, cycling and swimming training in January.

I don’t have gym membership – there’s just no way I’d be bothered to make my way to a gym every day – but have set up a small home gym in our partially finished basement.  It’s not pretty, but it’s OK for 30 minutes a day.

Here’s a summary of the equipment I’ve been finding helpful so far.

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EA Sports Active for the Wii Fit  - fitness ‘games’ for the Wii Fit have come on in leaps and bounds (ha ha!) since the original Wii Fit game. This game doesn’t use the Wii Balance Board much but comes with an integral thigh holster for the Nunchuk, so it can measure running, jumping, squatting etc. It features a 30 Day Challenge – 20 workouts in 30 days -  which I’ve been using as the basis for my month of workouts.  Each workout includes lower body work – mostly lunges and squats, upper body work using the fit band that comes with the game, a few minutes of some fun activities such as boxing, dancing, inline skating, tennis, volleyball, basketball etc and a few minutes of running.  Each separate exercise is only a few minutes long and each session features 18-20 exercises, so you get to do a lot of different stuff in around 35 minutes. It’s not a terribly challenging cardio workout, and doesn’t include any core work, but it does give you a good all-body workout in 30 minutes.

Pros I love how it mixes up different exercises every day, so you end up doing a different workout every day. But each day is based on the same core exercises, so you don’t spend all your time looking at the demonstration videos. You workout alongside a trainer who demonstrates the moves with you, it shows you working out on the screen (although my avatar lady is a little frightening) and it precisely reads the positions of the Wii remote and Nunchuk. so you can’t cheat on form or timing.  The settings are nice and I really like music (but then I am cheesy dance music sort of person).

Cons All the squats, lunges and upper body work get a bit samey after a while, though not enough to make me give it up. I think the squats and lunges in particular have done wonders for making me feel fitter.  There are some higher impact exercises (such as jump squats) which are not good for me as I have a bad knee.  You can avoid them in the workout if you want, but it would be nice to be able to choose a ‘low-impact’ version.  I usually end up doing those exercises on my little rebounding trampoline (also the running sections).

I also sometimes end up getting tangled in the wire between the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk.  Would definitely suggest getting a wireless Nunchuk for this game. Finally it’s sometimes difficult to get the machine to register that you’ve completed a move – the remote and Nunchuck have to be precisely aligned – this is frustrating at first and though I’ve learned how to do most movements so that they register, I can’t for the life of me get it to read my ‘Fast Kickbacks’ (but looking round the web, I’m not the only one).

Here’s what GeekSugar has to say about it.

 

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My Fitness Coach for the Wii

This is more like an interactive DVD than a true game. You don’t use the balance board at all or the Wii remote very much and there’s no way it can check your form or timing.  What you get is a very pleasant trainer who puts together a specific workout for you every time based on the equipment you have to hand (you can tell it if you have a step, hand weights, fit ball etc) and your previous feedback. You can also choose which areas to focus on and how long you want to work out for. I usually tell it to focus on cardio and core (to make up for the limitations of the EA SportsActive) and end up with a pretty strenuous step aerobic workout with lots of ab work – very similar to going to a step aerobics class.  (If you don’t have a step it will still devise a thorough aerobics programme for you).

Pros

It’s a good workout. I’ve been doing it once or twice a week and it’s like being able to pop into a class at the gym.  It definitely gets me sweating and my heart pumping.  Amazing really for a machine.  There are lots of different exercises built in so no two workouts are the same, though there are no fun little games.

Cons

I used to be a bit of a gym bunny so I can follow all the aerobics and step terminology, but I think you’d find this really difficult if you haven’t done step or normal aerobics before.  The machine doesn’t measure whether you’re doing the moves correctly though, so you can just bounce about if stuff gets too tricky.  It suffers from the same high impact issues as the EA Sports Active, but I get round those by doing some stuff on my rebounder or else just making the exercises low-impact. As I said the machine doesn’t check. Finally you need SPACE. Space to do all the grapevines etc, but also space to keep your step etc. close to hand.  There are no pauses in the cardio section, so you can’t keep pulling out your equipment.

Here’s what IGN has to say.

 

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My only piece of true gym equipment is my Concept 2 indoor rower, which I have used in a desultory fashion on and off over the last couple of years, mostly to row for 20mins while watching episodes of Sex and the City (which is about as much as my brain can get round while rowing). But basically I find cardio workouts both tedious and hard work.

Over the last week or so though I have been incorporating a Cardio Coach mp3 into my workout and my attitude is transformed. These are basically a series of mp3s for your Ipod where coach Sean O’Malley takes you through an interval workout set to music.  You can use them on any piece of cardio equipment or even when running outside. You exercise using a heartrate monitor to take yourself to four different levels of perceived exertion, so it doesn’t matter how fit or unfit you are, you can tailor your workout precisely to your needs. (For the record I do the warm-up at between 120–125 bpm, the level 2 ‘cruise control’ portion at around 140 bpm, the sprint intervals at around 155 bpm and then nearly kill myself going over 160 bpm in the short Level 4 section).

I currently have volume 1, but am going to download the rest. They are currently on special offer on the website.

Pros

It hurts.  This is a hardcore workout, but I feel a huge sense of achievement and really energetic afterwards.  The time also seems mysteriously to fly by – O’Malley talks just enough to keep you motivated and the music fits perfectly. I really can’t recommend these highly enough.

Cons

It hurts.

25 November 2009

Knitting for the Home – Part I

Flicking through some recent magazines, it seems that texture is making its way back into interiors with a vengeance.

I love the way that knitted or crocheted items add softness, comfort and intricate detail to a space. I seem to spend far more time than is good for me on Ravelry nowadays and here are some of the patterns and projects I’ve been ogling recently. If only I had more knitting time. (If you spent less time pissing about on Ravelry, you’d have more time to knit.  Just saying. – Ed )

Extreme Home Knitting

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- Crochet your own placemats.  Pattern here.

- Knit your own covers for paper lampshades. Info Interweave Knits.

- Knit a cute little teapot cosy (available as a free Ravelry download here).

- The pattern for the Jacquard cushion can be found in Glamour Knits At Home. Photo credit here.

- Blue and white Delft Pillow by Eunny Jang, also in Interweave Knits.

- The crocheted and starched lampshade is inspired by Marcel Wanders Crochet Chair.  The Ravelry project page is here, unfortunately there is no pattern.  I ADORE this project.

- Another paper lampshade cover from Interweave Knits.

A close-up of the crocheted lampshade above

- Cute and practical little coasters by the Purl Bee.

- The pattern for the Matryoschka cushion is available for download from elf518’s Etsy shop.

- The pattern for the Puff Daddy stool is available here. Also featured by Apartment Therapy.

- Pattern for this fabulously striking ‘Metafourmosis’ Afghan/wallhanging is here. Do it in colours to complement your decor.

- Another paper lampshade cover from Interweave Knits.

A really cute little ‘gingham’ dishcloth.  The Ravelry project page is here. Again there is no pattern available, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure it out.

- Striking retro potholders made based on this pattern. Photo credit and inspiration here.

- Lampshade from crocheted hexagons, which will apparently be published in a book called ‘Crochet Revolution’. I can’t find details on Amazon, though the Ravelry page is here.

- The pattern for this bathmat is from Knit 2 TogetherUK peeps, do you remember Tracey Ullman? She moved to the US and started writing knitting books.

- Minimalist crocheted lampshade from the same people who brought you the Puff Daddy footstool.

- If you’re feeling really bored, why not crochet your own lacy curtains? The pattern is here.

- The MOST amazing knitted bookcover.  Again there is no pattern, but go to the Ravelry project page here, marvel at the close-up pictures and see all the work involved.

 

 

 

 

19 November 2009

Fancy Hotel of the Week

 

I know, another one.

But I made the mistake this morning of flicking through a Maison Cote Sud which was lying around the house, which immediately made me long for the South of France in all its decadent beauty.  And if you could see how grey and wet and utterly MISERABLE the weather in Seattle is today you would understand why that was a mistake.

Parisian architect and designer India Mahdavi has recently completely the renovation of the iconic 80-year old Monte Carlo Beach.

I love how she has tipped her hat to the hotel’s heyday in the Thirties and kept it firmly rooted in  Provence and the Mediterranean, but made it resolutely modern in feel at the same time.  Very, very clever.

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That chair just sums it up really – 30s shape, beachy materials = something new and fresh.  And that boat in the distance is just perfect somehow. As are the icy glasses on the table.

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I want that lamp. Badly.

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I like how the lamp echoes the one above and how the prints – which are graphic and modern, but somehow deeply Provencal - work with the walls and lampshade. And the Matisse-like sketch on the wall and the 1930s B/W prints everywhere are cool touches. 

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All images from Maison Cote Sud and the hotel’s website.

New In Store – Cupcake Wrappers

 

Or, food styling is INCREDIBLY hard.

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Here’s one of my undoctored images before I attacked it with Photoshop

Remember these?  I got some for the store, but then needed to photograph them in all their glory, so I became a food stylist for the weekend.

In order to keep more control over colours and styling etc. I decided to make my own cupcakes (this was quite probably a mistake). So I baked a batch of these (my go to cupcake recipe) and mixed up several batches of standard buttercream in vanilla, chocolate, pink and extremely pink.

I realised that I would have to improve on my usual rather haphazard cupcake icing methods and decided to get some proper equipment. An online search took me here – I can highly recommend this kit although it’s just a nice piping bag with four large nozzles.

Finally I needed a plain cupcake stand that wouldn’t detract from the cupcake wrappers themselves. Martha Stewart and Macy’s came to the rescue with the perfect stand which was even on sale.

Then followed several hours of icing and re-icing cupcakes, arranging them and rearranging them on the plate, cursing profusely when I got icing over everything and taking a million photos.

And then several more hours with Photoshop, cropping and brightening and lightening and blurring the background and eliminating icing smudges from everything.

Here are the results of literally hours of work.  It always looks so easy when you see it in the magazines.

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You can buy the cupcake wrappers here.  To get free shipping anywhere in the world on any order that includes cupcake wrappers, choose the ‘Free Shipping (with Offer Code)’ option and enter the code ‘MIRRORMIRROR BLOG’  in the ‘how did you hear about us’ box at checkout.  Please buy loads and make all the time and effort worthwhile. 

13 November 2009

So-Fantastic

This loveseat in a recent Elle Deco UK really caught my eye.

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Beirut-based brand Bokja specialises in taking vintage furniture pieces and re-vamping them with gorgeous and unique 60s and 70s textiles and tapestries.

Matthew Williamson is apparently a customer – I’m wondering whether Williamson’s tapestry sofa and mirrored armchair are from here.

Bokja’s one-off pieces are available from The Quirico Company. Here are some more stunning pics from their website.

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New In Store – Chick Stud Earrings

 

We’re starting to get some new things in store for Christmas.

First up we’ve now got stock of those cute Chick Stud Earrings from DesireLines in 24k gold-plated silver, sterling silver and oxidised sterling silver.  They’re only £27 and make gorgeous gifts, or else get a pair or two for yourself (they’re great fun to mix and match).

Buy some here, enter MIRRORMIRROR BLOG in the ‘how did you hear about us’ box, choose the Free Shipping (With Offer Code) option and you’ll get free shipping on your entire order, anywhere in the world.

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12 November 2009

Minimalist TV Posters

 

I think these are great.

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From here.

11 November 2009

Fancy Hotel of the Week

Actually it’s the fancy hotel of a couple of weeks ago, but hey, who’s counting…

On our recent trip to Vancouver we were lucky enough to be able to get a corporate rate to stay at the newly-opened Shangri-La via the Husband’s job.

Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver

The hotel was fantastically comfortable and luxurious, though to be honest the decor was not exactly my cup of tea – very luxe, very Eastern-influenced (which makes sense as it’s an Asian hotel chain) and very safe -  with lots of textured brown and beige, wood veneers everywhere and the very occasional pop of red.

The most special details were the utterly spectacular chandeliers sprinkled throughout the hotel with gay abandon.  There was even a chandelier in each cubicle in the bathroom next to the bar.

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The hotel has been opened ahead of the 2010 Olympics and occupies the first 15 floors of the tallest building in Vancouver (seen here on a typical Pacific Northwest autumn day. ie. pissing it down with rain).

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The rooms were large and filled with every technological device you could imagine, which thrilled the Husband no end.

See that slightly grey patch in the bathroom mirror (reflecting the marble shower)?

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Well, it’s actually a telly. So you can watch children’s programmes while brushing your teeth.  

09 November 2009

Not At All Authentic Thai Green Curry with Butternut Squash

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When I give recipes for Italian, French or British food you can assume that they’re at least somewhat authentic, as I’ve lived in all those countries and have some idea how their food is supposed to taste.

The closest I’ve been to Thailand though, is the Thai takeaway at the top of our road, so I make no claims for the authenticity of this dish.  I can however tell you that it is indescribably delicious and actually fits in pretty well with our recent health kick. If you’re actually Thai though, I suggest you turn away now.

I got that basics for this recipe from our favourite jeweller Abigail Percy via a Facebook conversation but have modified it using my own imagination and the instructions from the green curry paste bottle.

INGREDIENTS

(Enough for 2 greedy people + leftovers)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 medium red onion (sliced)

2 cloves garlic (pressed)

1-2 tbsps Thai green curry paste (or to taste)

1 x 14oz can coconut milk (I used low-fat)

1 x handful cherry tomatoes (halved)

1tbsp brown sugar

1tbsp Thai fish sauce (or to taste)

1/2  a butternut squash peeled and chunked (I used nearly half a large squash and roasted the rest to make BNS risotto later this week – you could also use sweet potato/yams or pumpkin)

1/2 pound peeled uncooked prawns/shrimp

Any other vegetables (I added some mange tout – French beans or baby corn would work well)

1 x bag spinach

Big squeeze of lime juice

Chopped spring onions/scallions and coriander/cilantro to garnish

 

METHOD

Heat the oil in a wok and then gently saute the onion until soft but still retaining some shape.  Add the garlic and curry paste and swoosh around the wok a bit to release the flavours. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until softened (you may need to turn down the heat for this, so that the curry paste and onions don’t burn).

Add the coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce, bring the broth to the boil and add the butternut squash. Turn down to a simmer (I covered it with a lid) and cook gently until the BNS is softened, about 10 minutes. If you need to add extra liquid you could use chicken stock/broth or water.

When the BNS is cooked through, stir the prawns and the other vegetables (but not the spinach) into the broth. Cover the curry with a thick layer of spinach and top with a generous squeeze of lime. Steam the spinach over the curry for around 3 minutes and then stir it into the sauce.

Garnish with chopped coriander and spring onions.

We ate ours with brown rice (Trader Joe’s does microwaveable pre-cooked brown rice in vacuum packs, which is SO convenient).

And it was incredible.

06 November 2009

Wrist Worms

Aren’t these great?  I so need a pair as I get cold sitting at my glass desk (who on earth thought a glass desk would be a good idea?) in winter.  And yes, I should be able to crochet some myself but can’t find a pattern this cute anywhere.

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Wrist Worms by Sandra Juto are available here

A New Me

Or a post full of SOMETHING. MUST. BE. DONE.

We’ve talked a bit about weight loss before but this time I’m serious. I’ve had enough of being fat and unfit and I want to embarrass myself into doing something about it by blogging about it.

As of this morning I weigh 172lbs (12stone 3lbs)  which is NOT GOOD for someone who’s only 5ft 1ins tall. In fact, as my Wii Fit never fails to delight in reminding me, I am obese.

Here I am this morning in my work out clothes

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I could win the Olympics for yo-yo dieting and have tried every regime under the sun.  Last year I had some success with Weight Watchers, but have managed to put most of that back on again.  In fact I’m currently nearly at my heaviest weight ever.

This time though I don’t want to count points, or calories or carbs or avoid certain foods. I LOVE food (as you’ve probably worked out) and restricting my eating in any meaningful way always ends up in a big fat fail for me.  I also don’t think I eat that badly – we cook a lot at home, so most of our food isn’t processed; I eat plenty of fruit and veg; and I don’t like the taste of soda or really junky foods.  But I do know I eat too much, and have been known to binge if there’s a pot of ice cream in the house.

Over the last month or so though, I’ve been reading a lot about the science and psychology of overeating (particularly white carbohydrate addiction), so this time I’m going to approach things in a slightly different way.

Based on my reading here are my new weight loss rules.

Paola’s 5 Rules of Weight Loss

1. Do a bit of exercise EVERY day

2. Cut right back on/avoid refined white carbohydrates, fats, salt and artificial crap

3. Eat as much fruit & veg as possible

4. Try to eat slowly and meaningfully

5. Cut back on portion size

We’ll be talking a bit more about each of these elements over the next few weeks and what is working/isn’t working  for me and I might refine these rules along the way. On the 6th of each month I will weigh myself and post up photos so you can see any progress.

I know we’ve been here before, but this time I’m really determined to keep going with it. I also have an added incentive.  Last week week I signed up to do a triathlon at Lake Chelan on July 18th 2010. Since at the moment I can barely run, I am rather daunted by this prospect at the moment, but it really is focusing my mind. And hopefully the long deadline means that I will be a completely different person come July.

Wish me luck!

Oh and coincidentally (since I’ve been planning this post/new regime for quite some time now) Megan Not Martha has just written up a long post on how she managed to lose 25lbs this year using a similar regime. We meet up occasionally to knit, and I can testify that she really does look amazing.

05 November 2009

Go Fug Your Room - is this right for Elle Deco?

I don’t usually like to use unknown people for ‘Go Fug Your Room’ – it’s generally far more satisfying to diss celebrities and famous designers - but I have to admit this recent photoshoot in Elle Deco UK  of the New York apartment belonging to Leif Sigersen, a Danish set designer, left me rather befuddled and confused.

Sigersen is described as a collector of ‘weathered vintage pieces and quirky accessories’  who has turned his home into a ‘showcase of stunning displays’.

Or has he?

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This looks like a particularly squalid student bedsit. 

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Since when does a pile of leather sandals piled up on a rusty radiator equal either interior design or a ‘collection’?

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Aren’t kitchens meant to be for cooking? And isn’t this all a little unhygienic?

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And who does all the dusting?

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I think the plants must have died of depression.

So, I can just about get on board with the restrained colour palette and use of texture, though it’s not exactly my cup of tea; and there are probably some very interesting vintage pieces in with all the old junk and I genuinely think the photography (by Ditte Isager) is delicious and redolent with atmosphere.

I could probably be persuaded to classify this as conceptual art if you asked me nicely, but seriously, does it count as interior design and decor? And if it does would Elle Deco like to come and photograph our basement?

Really interested to hear your thoughts.

03 November 2009

Back with a BANG – on the cover of Ideal Home!

I bet you’re all chewing your nails with anxiety wondering what has happened to mirrormirror recently given that I’ve hardly mentioned it at all over the last few months. (Actually the way sales have been going I reckon you’ve even forgotten it exists).  I’ve hinted at stuff going on behind the scenes but haven’t been able to tell you the full story until now, when I can REVEAL. EVERYTHING. Aren’t you excited?

As you may know I have been running mirrormirror from Seattle with the help of someone back in the UK, who sends out all the orders, deals with customer and journalist queries and generally keeps the show on the road.

At the beginning of the summer my colleague Diane decided that she could no longer fit mirrormirror into a hectic freelancing schedule which increasingly involved lots of week-long business trips to the US (and who can blame her?) so I was casting around to find someone else.

To be perfectly honest I thought the chances of finding a replacement were slim to non-existent.  Most of my friends back in the UK either don’t have the space or have too many work or other commitments to fit mirrormirror in and I was in no position to interview someone I’d never met before for the role.

A vague and sad plan crystallised, involving me running the shop down over the summer, hoping Diane could manage one last Christmas and then transferring everything to the US in the hopes that we’d get our green cards through quick and I could open in the US early in 2010.  And after struggling so hard to keep the shop going through the Minx’s babyhood and our move to Seattle I bet you can imagine how happy this plan made me feel.

Now, I am not a believer in anything very much, but sometimes the world really does move in mysterious ways.  In August this year I hooked up, through the magic of Facebook, with an old college friend and his wife who we’d lost touch with a bit following our move to Seattle.  And it just transpired that said friends had moved to a big house very close to Cambridge where the mirrormirror stock was living, and my friend’s wife was casting around for something to do now that the youngest of her FOUR kids (yes, she is also crazy) is going to pre-school, and said friend’s wife is one of the nicest, most efficient and well-organised people you could ever meet. And bingo! mirrormirror is BACK.

Which is fortunate as today we just got our best bit of press coverage ever.

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The Cut Steel Garland by Atelier LZC is featured prominently on the front cover of December’s Ideal Home magazine (see it on the back of the chair in front)

  and also inside

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while the Tree of Life is also featured in the same article

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