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12 posts from February 2007

27 February 2007

Separated at birth

CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG                                  NICOLE KIDMAN

Architecture quiz

Here's one for all the Londoners out there.  Which area of West London was I visiting this weekend?

Actually you can stop guessing now because I wasn't in West London at all, but in Victoria, the capital of Vancouver Island, and also capital of British Columbia. 

It's about two and a half hours away by high-speed catamaran, so we popped over to visit my Canadian friend, who by an amazing coincidence lives there, and felt like we'd stepped onto another continent. Most of Victoria's downtown area was built by the British in the late Victorian era and the buildings could so easily be in Hammersmith or Shepherd's Bush. I never knew architecture could be so comforting.

The only difference is that they go in for picking out the details of the facades in  bright paint colours, which looked rather jolly and kitsch and might be a good fashion to adopt in London.

While Seattle still sometimes feels like the Wild West, Victoria felt as English as Wimbledon or Miss Marple.  The bookshops were filled with books by English authors, the supermarkets stocked such wondrous delicacies as Branston pickle and mushroom ketchup and we had a magnificent afternoon tea in a teashop decorated with portraits of the Royal Family past and present, which would have been perfectly at home in Henley-on-Thames. And all this with scarcely a hint of irony or theme parkishness.

The  only downside to a fab weekend was the journey out.  The winds whipped up a huge swell on the water and we had to take a very circuitous route to stay as long as possible within the protected waters of Puget Sound.  When finally we did reach the open the sea the boat was pitching up and down rather impressively.

At first the Minx found it very exciting but her shrieks of joy soon turned to howls of anguish and she started to throw up everywhere in most spectacular fashion. And of course the only place a miserable vomiting little girl wants to be is in her mother's arms. How nice.

22 February 2007

Cutie Pucci

Just saw this turquoise silk clutch bag on Net-a-Porter.  Just loving that clasp (minus the signature - I'm not really a labelhound).

Holy 'hardwood floors and timeless mouldings' Batman,

I think we're buying a house! 

My head is still spinning and I'm not quite sure whether to be happy or very, very scared, but the offer we made yesterday on the 'fixer-upper' (in Wallingford, for those of you in the Seattle area) has been accepted.

It's been a pretty strange week.  We started off on Monday ready to make an offer on one house and here we are on Thursday having bought an entirely different house altogether.  And I'd convinced myself that a 'fixer' would be far too much work, and now here I am with a fixer on my hands.

Would you like to have a look round?

On the plus side it's got a beautiful panelled dining room and living room which don't need a lot of work (will have to do something about the bright red fireplace though)  

and a funky roof terrace overlooking Lake Union with a 360 degree view of this and on a clear day the mountains to the east.


On the downside, the whole upper storey looks like a sauna with wood panelling all over the walls and ceilings, which we're going to have to rip out (do you Americans really like this sort of thing?).

The kitchens (yes, there's one on each floor, I think it used to be divided into flats) and bathrooms also need to be remodelled, and the basement needs to be finished and the small backyard needs to be landscaped. So there's plenty to do.  Oh and the outside of the house really needs to be painted because I really don't like this green AT ALL and there's an awful lot of it.

But all in all I'm getting very excited. Please continue keeping your fingers crossed that our inspection doesn't throw up all sorts of structural nasties which mean we'll have to pull out.  But if things go according to plan we're going to be moving on March 22nd.

21 February 2007

So, do you want the good news?

Or the bad news? 

The bad news is that, as suspected, our offer for the house we saw at the weekend was turned down.  It will be interesting to see what it goes for as I'm sure it will be way, way, way over the asking price.

The good, possibly, news  is that this very afternoon the house we'd offered on previously came back on the market. Apparently because the previous buyers had had some problems with raising the financing and not some structural problem.

And so we're going to make a renewed offer tomorrow morning.  And I am very, very scared because this one needs a ton of work doing to it and I had just been lazily thinking how nice it would be to move into a house that didn't need any work doing to it at all.

So, I will keep you posted.  It could be that I will be asking you all for lots of interior design advice over the next few months.

20 February 2007

Thoughts on American Life

THOUGHT 1: Having just about come to terms with the fact that Posh and Becks have followed me over here, imagine my horror when I turned on Good Morning America this morning to see Cat Deeley being all bouncy bouncy jolly jolly smiley smiley on my screen.

This clearly is too much.  Strangely she appears to have checked in her unpleasant Brummie accent on arriving at LAX and instead has acquired a generic vacuous blonde UK TV presenter Estuary accent (cf. Denise Van Outen, who is also here presenting on primetime, but that's OK because I quite like her).

THOUGHT 2: American Idol really gets going tonight as we're down to the last 24 and the live rounds. With the Seattle auditions being roundly panned in all the media here (including this very blog), it appears that 3 of the last 24 are from Seattle itself, by far the biggest representation from any city in the US.  From what we've seen so far I don't think any of them are my cup of tea music-wise, but I'm going to have to give them some sneaky support.  Am I becoming a Seattleite? I'll be cheering on the Seahawks and Mariners next.

THOUGHT 3:  I've been having an interesting discussion with Holly over on Decor8 about Jonathan Adler - who is an incredibly famous interior designer over here and chairman of the judges on my new favourite reality TV show Top Design

She just assumed that Adler was HUGE in the UK, and I had to tell her that i) not many people had heard of him ii) I thought his stuff was very 'American'. 

Which led me thinking about the differences between American and UK interior design.  Having now seen the insides of some 40+ American houses on our househunting search and looked at the details for probably hundreds more, I think there are some definite differences which I will blog about soon.  In the meantime I'd be interested to hear what other people think about UK vs. US interiors.

Keep your fingers crossed for us.  We've just put in an offer for a house we saw at the weekend.  We know that there are probably going to be at least three other offers on the table, so it looks like it's going to go for considerably more than the asking price, which will probably be a bridge too far for us. 

It doesn't have a view and it's for sale via a property developer, so there's not much scope for real 'fixing up' this time, but it's in a great location, has been beautifully renovated and has scope to be my 'SJP house'. But I'm trying not to get excited.

15 February 2007

My Valentine's Day In Pictures

I'm neglecting this blog again.  Have been having a making and posting frenzy over on Living Gorgeously and am still trying to fit in working and house hunting (very little progress has been made on that front unfortunately). 

Here's some Valentines day pictures.  Recipes etc. are available over on Gorgeously.  


07 February 2007

VIP Kids

Oh, now I'm really grumpy about losing that house.

One of the things I was most looking forward to was finally being able to create a bedroom for my little girl.  When we were in the UK her bedroom was also used as the mirrormirror stockroom and my poor baby had to sleep among heaps of cardboard boxes.

And now I've found out that Habitat in the UK has come out with a gorgeous collection of Very Important Products for children, ostensibly designed by celebrities.

I'd love to get the Minx this wonderful treasure toybox full of secret compartments designed by Kate Winslet


Or this sweet dressing table by Sophie Dahl

Or this gorgeous set of 'Matryoschka' boxes by maverick designer Marcel Wanders.

Or this 'Hollywood' mirror designed by one of my all time heroines Miss Piggy.


Come to think of it, forget the Minx, I'd love to have these myself. Bet the shipping costs to the US is extortionate as well. Grrrrr.

06 February 2007

Just plain

I was tagged ages ago by the lovely Ana over on fab, fab, fab design blog OhMyGooshness and I've finally got round to answering.  Apparently I've got to reveal six weird things about myself.  I must confess to finding this very difficult.  Surely I'm utterly normal? And it's everyone else who is weird? I was also tagged by Helen to reveal 5 secrets about myself.  I think these will have to do.

- I am totally addicted to email.  I get seriously agitated if I hear the little email noise and can't get to my computer.  Running a business online is a bit like playing a big computer game and email lets me know my 'score' in the form of orders.  Or, more likely, spam.

- I 'see' words as colours in my mind's eye.  For example the word 'banana' is sky blue and 'orange' a rich rust brown. I chose my baby's name partly on the basis of its colour (for the record it's a lovely French navy).  I used to think I was totally bananas but a few years ago I found out it's a condition called synesthesia. My sister has the same condition and I've met one other person who has it  - but they both get their colours all wrong, which is seriously weird.

- I am terrified of pigeons. ABSOLUTELY shit scared.  I once had to do a runner from a cafe in Piazza Navona in Rome because the pigeons wandering about under my chair were freaking me out so much.  In fact my skin is crawling just writing about it now. 

- Whenever I'm in the South of France - especially Provence -  I have a strange sensation of being at 'home'.  I don't feel it in other parts of France, or in Italy which is where my mother came from and where I have family, or even in London. 

- It's not that weird, but I don't think I've mentioned it before, so it probably counts as a secret. In 2002 I won the Evening Standard's  'Gourmet of the Year' competition.  Yep, I have actually won a prize for competitive eating but I don't like to tell people because then they never invite me for dinner.

See, I'm not weird AT ALL. 

Abigail, Leela, Kate and Michelle - you're tagged (if you can be bothered/haven't done it already).

05 February 2007

Mood Board

Images from the UK editions of Elle Deco, Vogue, House & Garden and Homes & Gardens with a few of my photos thrown in.

I don't normally like to blog about the same things on this blog and on Living Gorgeously but I thought readers here might like to see the 'mood board' I put together for February trends over on Gorgeously.

I used to put mood boards together the old-fashioned way - with scissors and glue or sticky tape - and found them invaluable in focusing and informing the buying process.

Unfortunately since she's been walking the Minx and scissors and glue don't really mix, so I haven't made a mood board for some time.

It then occurred to me to do it online (er doh!), so I spent a happy afternoon today cutting things out of magazines and choosing images that worked well together and illustrated the trends I was reading about.  I find it really fascinating how you can start doing this and realise that magazine after magazine and advert after advert is focusing on the same trends.

All I need to do now is find some money to buy more stock in.

Cake Wars - Revisited

Look what fell into my shopping trolley this weekend.

It was a completely necessary purchase, since all my cookbooks are still in storage together with our other possessions awaiting our new home (another thing I'm feeling grumpy about) and I really do need to practice using my Christmas Kitchen Aid. Also the pictures are divinely beautiful and the recipes looked fab. 

But mostly I was rather jealous of Helen's new book.

Today I made the Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip cupcakes. 

I ended up having to cook them 10 minutes more than the stated amount of time and I'm not sure they've risen enough. Are American cupcakes generally flat on top like this? I don't think I've ever seen a American cupcake 'naked' before and I'm used to the more domed appearance of an English fairy cake. I've subsequently read the customer comments on Amazon and it seems that people are having problems with some of the other recipes, so I'm now a bit wary of this book. Serves me right for buying on impulse.

Nevertheless these cakes did taste really good, though they did contain an obscene amount of chocolate chips - next time I think I'll cut that back.  And how anyone can actually eat them with frosting and not immediately die of a massive coronary is beyond me.

By the way, how sad am I to be desperately in love with a spatula?  

04 February 2007

This old house

Oh, but I've been neglecting this blog recently. 

Partly because I've just been really busy updating the site with new products and photos, partly because I'm in the midst of researching more new products for Spring and Summer, partly because Living Gorgeously has got off to a really successful start and has been keeping me busy cooking and making things, and mostly because I've been spending every other waking moment househunting - either searching for properties online or visiting them.

When we first came out to Seattle our intention was to rent, but after speaking to a few people it became clear that by remortgaging in the UK and taking out a new mortgage here in the US, we would be able to buy something here.  And I would be able to fulfil my dream of doing up a 'fixer'.

Well after a lot of looking it seemed like we'd found it.  The above image is of the main rooms which were loaded with beautiful original features.  But the upper storey was completely clad in pine and looked like a sauna, the kitchen needed replacing, the bathrooms needed updating, the basement needed finishing and the garden needed landscaping.  All in all perfectly habitable, but with the perfect amount of work I could do to turn it from something great into something spectacular. It even had a wonderful roof terrace with views out over the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat lake and the downtown area.

So we put in an offer and then hit a hitch in releasing the funds in the UK.  And so our offer wasn't accepted and they've now accepted an offer from someone else.

And I'm really, really gutted because I doubt very much that we're going to be able to find something that perfect again.

Unfortunately it seems like we're not the only people who have been househunting.  

Why oh why did the Beckhams have to follow me over here?  And how come there is so much hype surrounding an (admittedly handsome) bloke who plays a game that nobody here watches, a has-been popstar who can't sing and their Scientologist friends whom nobody likes?