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18 posts from September 2006

29 September 2006

Crash diet

All the controversy about skinny models will soon be old hat. HP have now developed a new 'slimming' feature for their digital cameras, which makes people thinner at the touch of a button (found via Seth's blog).

Which has left me rather confused. I hate to think of the sort of world I'm bringing my daughter up into and the images of 'beauty' with which she is already being bombarded.

But I know that if I had such a camera the temptation to use the slimming button would be utterly irresistible.

27 September 2006

Faith, Hope and Charity

If you look down the toolbar on the right hand side you'll see some stuff about  the freshly-fledged mirrormirror Charitable Foundation, together with a very tiny ad. (Someone's buying links to get themselves to the top of the search engines).

Since I am very occasionally asked to advertise things on the blog, I thought it might be a good idea to donate any advertising proceeds to charity.  In this way the mirrormirror Foundation will of course soon be rivalling The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in its philanthropic endeavours.

Seriously though, I thought it would be a good idea to donate to causes empowering women in the Third World.  The proceeds of the current tiny ad will be donated to the Campaign to End Fistula - an eminently curable condition where women are left horribly incontinent after a long and traumatic labour.  The sad part is that the smell of leaking urine and faeces means that these women are often ostracised by their communities and are left unable to lead a normal life.

If anyone else would like to advertise on the blog, please email me and we'll sort something out.  I'd be happy to accept bigger and gaudier ads than the one currently in place as long as you pay enough!  (Rates will, however, be very reasonable.)  I will of course reject any ads in questionable taste and, unfortunately, any submitted by people with shops similar to mirrormirror.

26 September 2006

The NHS Diet

A lesser woman sits before you today.

As of Saturday I am minus one of these, though I've been told that my own appendix  looked 'rather unhappy' and was surrounded by an abscess.

On Thursday morning I called my GP.  'Do you remember that pain we spoke about on Monday? Well, it's better, but not exactly gone. Just a dull ache in my right side. That hurts when I eat. Should I be worried?'

It turns out that I did indeed need to be worried.  Two hours after making the call I was in the Rapid Assessment Unit of St Mary's Hospital (the same hospital which had tortured me in all sorts of imaginative ways when my daughter was born.)

After lots of prodding and poking, ultrasounds, CAT scans and huge amounts of worrying on my part, as I thought of my friend Camilla, it was announced that I had acute appendicitis, with the further complication of an abscess on the appendix.  Though the pain was lessening and I was feeling better than I had in days,  I needed an immediate emergency appendectomy to lessen the risk of life-threatening peritonitis (or in layman's terms, the appendix or abscess exploding and leaking toxic pus everywhere).

So I was put on a drip and told that I'd be 'nil by mouth' until the operation had taken place.  At this point, you must bear in mind that I had eaten hardly anything since the Saturday night, had vomited or diarrhoeaed out everything else left in my system and was now RAVENOUS in a way that even I have never been ravenous before. 

Later that evening I was told that due to other more pressing emergency operations, my operation would now take place the following morning.  I could eat something very light, but would again be 'nil by mouth' from midnight onwards.

On Friday I lay in my bed with an extremely painful cannula delivering the IV fluids waiting for my op. And starving. And waiting.  And starving.  By lunchtime I could stand it no more and had to cause an almighty fuss in order to try and get some information.  After two and half hours of complaining (I was hungry, remember?) I ascertained that my operation would probably take place around 8pm.  So I waited.  And starved. And starved. And waited.  And at 8 pm I was told that my operation would now be postponed until the following day (Saturday).  I could eat something light, but would be 'nil by mouth' from midnight onwards.

It appears that one of London's premier teaching hospitals and flagship of the NHS only has one emergency surgery theatre.  I considered somehow puncturing the abscess in my abdomen to see if life-threatening peritonitis might make things move along more quickly, but decided not to take the risk - I'd probably end up being operated on by the tea-lady.

Finally, late on Saturday morning, I had the operation.  Only 44 hours after being admitted as an emergency patient. And on my seventh day of not eating.

I came back home yesterday and am currently feeling rather weak and feeble since I still can't eat very much.  The wound is like a one-sided caesarean, so I can still hardly walk, though I'm assured this will get better very soon.  And I have to wait six weeks before picking up the Minx to allow the section through my muscular wall to heal, which is going to be very easy. Not.

The one upside of all this is that I appear to have lost 8lbs in a week. I shall be releasing the best-selling diet book forthwith.

20 September 2006

Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

Feeling poor?  More month left than money?

I was too, until I discovered that this very blog is valued at a whopping $14,113.50.

My blog is worth $14,113.50.
How much is your blog worth?

Some person with too much time on their hands has analysed AOL's acquisition of the Weblogs Inc stable of blogs, worked out how much they paid per inbound link (according to Technorati) and then applies that formula to different blogs.

Sadly my new-found riches pale into insignificance beside the $230,332.32 which Petite Anglaise is sitting on, or the $582,605 asset of the Go Fug Yourself girls; and even they are as nothing against the awesome $1,907,580.66 that Pink Is The New Blog is supposedly worth. 

Thanks for all your kind comments. I'm feeling a bit better today - my temperature has gone down and the sharp pain in my side has turned into a dull ache. Still feeling wobbly though, mostly because I've had hardly anything to eat since Saturday night, but hoping that I've now turned the corner and will be able to start eating properly again.

Wish I knew what this thing was though, as I'm terrified it's going to strike again.

19 September 2006

Birthday blues

Am feeling VERY sorry for myself.  It was my birthday on Monday and I spent the whole day in bed with a terrible stomach pain, temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea, just like I had a month ago.

The doctor seems to think that it's most likely the recurrence of a stomach virus, but can't rule out something appendix-related, which is a bit scary.

So I'm feeling very miserable indeed, and it's just what we needed when our departure date for Seattle is now so close.

Normal blogging service will hopefully be resumed shortly.

16 September 2006

Dance as if no one were watching

Two videos. Both mesmerising. 

Look here.

And here.

From Amy Ruppel via Lola Is Beauty

Have a lovely weekend.

14 September 2006

Very Important Question

An awful thought has just occurred to me.

Is this stuff easily available in the States?  Specifically in Seattle?

Because if it isn't, I'm not going.

Legacy of 9/11

Off to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square today to finalize our visa application.

Grosvenor Square in the heart of Mayfair is one of London's largest and most beautiful squares. But now the area round the embassy is surrounded by a cordon of heavy concrete blocks, the embassy itself is surrounded by temporary and ugly metal fencing, and heavily armed police are patrolling in all directions. British police aren't usually armed, so it still comes as a shock to see policemen brandishing the latest in automatic weaponry. 

Armed with dozens of forms in triplicate, and photographs that made us look like the Baader-Meinhof gang (the Minx looks particularly evil), we presented ourselves at the end of the first queue outside the building. And were then led to another queue.  And then another queue. Only then were we allowed into the building via airport-like security, checking in laptops and mobile phones along the way.  No liquids or cosmetics are allowed.  

Once inside, the process was actually more efficient than we'd feared - a couple of hours waiting in a cavernous waiting room, fingerprints taken and re-taken, forms and photographs double and triple checked, followed by a rather cursory interview (am I being cynical in thinking that our skin colour might have had something to do with this?)

As we left the building we were directed for the first time past the imposing front staircase, and marvelled that once upon an innocent time, passers-by must have been able to walk up and down these stairs as they pleased.  Now no passer-by can get within 30 yards of the building, brooding behind its concrete and steel cordon. 

Isn't it sad to think that - according to this very interesting article -  the building was initially conceived as an embassy and cultural centre - with people popping into the library to learn more about American culture, attend a jazz concert or visit an art exhibition?

12 September 2006

Shopping Notting Hill - Part 2

So you've just been dragged kicking and screaming out of Diptyque and need some sort of addictive substance to calm your nerves. Your best bet is to turn the corner into Ledbury Road and pop into melt  - London's coolest chocolatier according to Time Out

The shop itself is white and cool, with shelves and tables groaning with handmade chocolates.  At the back is a shiny stainless steel kitchen where the chocolates are actually made.

The flavours can be exotic - truffles filled with passionfruit, raspberry or mango coulis or flavoured with green tea or coconut - or traditional with caramel, mint, nuts or marzipan.  By way of research I found myself buying an assortment for the Husband's birthday and can confirm that they are some of the most delicious chocolates I've ever tasted (and believe me that's saying something).



After you've staggered out of melt, the next thing to do is cross the road to Ottolenghi, yet another newish deli - which specialises in the most delicious pre-prepared food, breads and cakes to take away.  There are also a couple of tables at the back where you can eat in, but they are almost impossible to get hold of. 



A bit of retail therapy will soothe your disappointment at not getting a table, so pop round the corner to Brissi on the north side of Westbourne Grove - for very  chic and very French interiors accessories.  It's the sort of shop I'd love mirrormirror to be when it grows up and I'm a bit dismayed to see that it's going online too.  Don't make a note of the URL!

After pausing briefly to gaze at the gorgeous window display

in jewellers Dinny Hall the perfect choice for lunch is 202, designer Nicole Fahri's concept store which houses a chic cafe, and still has plenty of room to show off her elegant clothing and homewares collections.  It's also a great place for brunch, or just tea and cake, and has a very pretty little garden at the back which is a gorgeous place for a glass of rose on drowsy summer days.  Yet another inspirational shop for when mirrormirror grows up.

11 September 2006

New York State of Mind

My first job when I finished university was with an American investment bank.  I must have been mad going into banking, but the promise of a five month training programme in New York City was a big factor in my choice of job.

The night we arrived we were put up in The Vista Hotel (which became the Marriott) in the World Trade Center complex.  I remember clearly craning my neck to look up at the Twin Towers and thinking that I really had arrived.

The following day I was taken to my corporate apartment on 33rd and Third - with a fabulous view downtown - and thus began an intense but wonderful summer in New York.

I went back several times after that, but since that day five years ago (when the Marriott hotel was also completely destroyed) I haven't really had the heart to. 

But I still really 'heart' New York.

10 September 2006

Christening Day

In which the Minx is baptised, the  weather is absolutely glorious, much champagne is drunk, the Minx gets to open her first Tiffany box, and her mother - who is not normally particularly religious - is very moved indeed.

May you shine as a light in the world.

09 September 2006

Blog of the Week

Look!  The mirrormirror blog is Blog of the Week over on decor8!

Holly Becker is an interior designer from Boston, who also writes one of the most gorgeous design blogs on the web. (If you haven't come across it yet, you're in for a treat).

I read quite a few design blogs, but Holly is one of the people who comes closest to sharing my own taste and I'm always inspired after I've paid her a visit. I've no idea how, but she manages to post a prodigious number of posts every day, so there's always something new and interesting to read. 

Welcome to everyone popping over from 'decor8' - just kick off your shoes and make yourselves at home.  Cup of tea and a fairy cake?

08 September 2006

Shopping Notting Hill - Part 1

I thought we’d start our little trip round Notting Hill on the south side of Westbourne Grove, the beautiful street which winds through the heart of the area. It used to be full of antique shops and galleries, but now, while some of these remain, it has been overtaken by some very chi-chi shops indeed, including big designer brands such as Joseph, Mulberry, and Ted Baker.

However there are still some absolute gems to be found.

The first place to show you is Tavola - the Italian deli which is top chef Alastair Little’s (scroll down for biog) latest venture. Alastair runs a cookery school in Italy and clearly spends a lot of time out there sourcing wonderful products, though he can also often be seen in the deli preparing fabulous pre-cooked food to take away. It’s the deli I visit least as it’s furthest from my apartment, but, being half-Italian, the one I think I love most. The staff scrub up quite nicely too....

Just along from Tavola is the Tea Palace, another newish venture - a large and beautiful room dedicated to the great British tradition of afternoon tea (though you can get a light lunch there as well).

It feels like such a treat to go there - your cakes arrive on silver stands, the table linen is thick and luxurious and I love the wallpaper covered with cake doilies. The homemade crumpets with butter and honey are stratospherically good. The range of teas on the menu is quite breathtaking and are all for sale in elegant purple tea caddies, as well as a lot of other teamaking paraphernalia. The only downside is that they don’t take reservations, so sometimes it’s really difficult to get a table.


The final stop on our trip today is the Diptyque shop, which requires no introduction except to say that it’s scented candle heaven and they always have lovely window displays.

06 September 2006


I thought that regular readers might like an update on the temporary summer pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery - which this year basically comprises a round polycarbonate structure with a white balloon forming the roof.

To be honest I was a little disappointed when I saw the finished article. The initial artist's impression had suggested an ethereal transparent balloon which would, I think have been a lot more amazing than the opaque white which has been used in the final building.

From some perspectives it just looks rather ordinary - as ordinary as a white balloon in the middle of a London park can look. Occasionally though, as you catch glimpses of it through the trees, it looks like the aliens have landed, and from close up it does have a real sense of silent majesty and grandeur.

The Minx and I were most impressed by the 'furniture' inside. The pavilion functions as a cafe' by day and the 'tables' and 'chairs' are just very dense foam blocks - perfect for the Minx to climb all over and looking rather like an abstract art installation.

04 September 2006

Cotswold House Hotel

Click to enlarge

We left booking our Carnival weekend bolthole in the Cotwolds to the very last minute but were lucky enough to get a cancellation at the Cotswold House Hotel

From the outside it is a very traditional early 19th century house on Chipping Campden High Street, built of the ubiquitous golden stone of the Cotswolds which looks so lovely on a late summer's evening.

Inside they've kept the original features, including a swirling spiral staircase, and furnished it in a chic, elegant, contemporary style.  I have to say that I found the decor slightly unoriginal - lots of the dark purple which currently seems to be de rigueur for trendy bars and restaurants - but it was all extremely comfortable, the staff were exceptionally charming and the food was absolutely delicious.

We dined in Hicks Brasserie rather than the main restaurant as it was closer to the room (useful from a baby monitor point of view), from a menu of  exquisitely prepared old favourites with an up-to-date twist.  I surprised myself by choosing the wiener schnitzel (when was the last time you saw that on a menu?) and found it utterly melt-in-the-mouth delicious.

Equally amazing were the gardens - typically Cotswold blowsy but with modern, plantlike glass sculptures poking out of the flower beds to give them too a striking contemporary twist.

I was also amused to note that our bed was adorned with gorgeous cream merino wool cushions by Muskett & Mazzullo - available at an exceptionally reasonable price from mirrormirror.

03 September 2006


I had always thought that the Minx was quite indifferent to soft toys until one day some months ago she was introduced to Jessie Cat at our Sing and Sign class. 

And thus begun a love affair more extravagant and passionate than any Mills and Boon.  It's so nice to see that Jessie loves her back.

02 September 2006

Heaven on a plate

I love this time of year at the farmer's market, when there's still lots of fruit, all the late summer vegetables of the Mediterranean are in full swing and pumpkins and squashes are starting to make an appearance.

Today the mushroom man had oyster mushrooms of the most exquisite pink, which of course had to be sampled.

We fried them in a little oil and butter in which a halved clove of garlic had been softened. (Actually I accidentally made a 'beurre noisette' because the Minx was refusing to go down for her afternoon nap, but it worked really well.)

We then sprinkled them with chopped flat leaf parsley, added a little seasoning, squashed them between two wodges of ciabatta and stuffed our happy, smiling faces.  I think this might be why I have a weight problem.

For the curious amongst you, the mushrooms turn a beautiful salmon pink when cooked.

For the even more curious I am dithering between making courgette flower pasta or risotto for supper tonight.

01 September 2006

Commenter of the Week - Atelier 455

Go and say hello to the lovely Joanna at Atelier 455. Her blog is a treasure trove of design ideas with a vintage twist and she also sells her framed vintage ephemera through her Etsy shop. The rest of the time she is a freelance web consultant, who can be contacted here.

Example of Joanna's work from her Etsy shop

I've been particularly enjoying a series of blog posts she has written recently about Marylebone High Street and its truly wonderful shops. Last year I took myself down there to do my Christmas shopping and managed to do everything in a single afternoon which was gobsmackingly amazing. And it wasn't too crowded either. If ever we launch an offline version of mirrormirror then Marylebone High Street would be the perfect place for the flagship store.

Before I go to Seattle I think I'll depress myself entirely by doing a similar series on Notting Hill shops - watch this space.