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17 posts categorized "Relocation, relocation"

05 November 2010

Remember, Remember the 5th November


I always do, and not just because it’s Guy Fawkes Night



Here’s a photo I apparently took on 7th November 2006.  The view had been even worse over the previous two days, and that chink of light in the distance was a new and welcome development.


Four years ago, me, the Husband and a very small Minx woke up (at 2.30 am I might add, due to the Minx’s jetlag) in an apartment overlooking Puget Sound, ready to begin our new adventure in Seattle.

Record-breaking (so we later found out) torrents of rain were sheeting down the big glass windows, we had no decent food in the apartment, the Minx was bored with the eight books we had brought in our carry on luggage (the rest of her toys were following with our stuff) and was letting us know in no uncertain terms and we were utterly exhausted through sleep deprivation and getting everything packed and organised for our move.

If I’d had a return ticket I would have been on the next flight back.

You too can reminisce by reading my blog entries back then.

We intended to be here for only three years, but yes. four years later we’re still here with no plans to return. Life is a funny thing.

29 October 2009

Vancouver and Visas and Wearstler and Wanders

Can you believe it’s been three years since we first got our visas for the US?

When we first came out to Seattle we assumed that definitely be back in the UK before our visas ran out. But here we are three years later, happily settled and with no return to Europe in prospect, needing new visas.  You have to leave the country to get them renewed so we’ve driven 150 miles up the freeway to spend a few days in Vancouver. 

Here are a few pics from a gorgeous autumnal walk we went on yesterday in Stanley Park.

Seattle July '092

And here are a couple of links which might be of interest until I’m back properly in front of a computer (on Friday).

First up Alexandra from A Bit Late is not impressed with Kelly Wearstler’s beach house. While I don’t think I hate it as much as her previous effort (she appears to have given up raiding the British Museum) I’m not sure it has a huge amount to commend it.  I haven’t yet seen the Metropolitan Home feature though.

Also our friend Marcel Wanders has apparently designed a range of Christmas decorations for Target here in the US.  I had high hopes for these as he’s done good stuff before for Habitat in the UK but really, with the exception of the big red, white and silver column candles which I may have to acquire, he was phoning this in without even bothering to switch on the phone. BO-RING.

12 March 2008

Cooking in Translation


It's funny the things you end up missing as an expat.  Who would have imagined that glace cherries would be among them? But I haven't been able to find those ridiculously sweet and sugary candied fruits in US supermarkets, until a few weeks ago when I found a pot in DeLaurenti, Seattle's legendary Italian deli.




So the Minx and I set to with a will to make Nigella's Cherry Almond Loaf Cake from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, mostly so that the Minx would get to experience that quintessentially British childhood cooking experience of shoving as many sickly sweet and sticky cherries into her gob as humanly possible.  It is no coincidence that Jane Brocket from Yarnstorm's new book on classic childhood cooking will be entitled Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer.




Note that my precious cherries were of the traditional lipstick scarlet variety and probably full of unmentionable additives.   Nigella suggests using the more natural dark red ones, and yes, Nigella, I would if I could.




Cooking from a UK book in the US is not without its challenges. You will notice that UK books use metric measurements instead of cup measures (to which I have become entirely converted since living here).  So I first had to fiddle with my scales to stop them weighing in pounds and ounces.  (The hyperlinked recipe above gives quantities in cup measures, presumably from the US version of HTBADG).

Self-raising flour also doesn't exist in the US, so I had to refer to the Internets to find out how to make it from plain flour (add 1tsp of baking powder to every 125g/4oz of flour according to Good Housekeeping). And then I had to use the Internets again to find out how to convert centigrade temperatures to Fahrenheits. Can someone somewhere please unify all these measures immediately? It really is doing my head in.

But the resulting cake is one of those quietly delicious cakes that you appreciate much more in adulthood.  I had to add a brown sugar crust (not exactly a hardship) to appease the Minx's disgust at the lack of 'sprinkles'. And yes, the cherries did sink towards the bottom of the cake, as is only traditional and right.



06 February 2008

Two Countries Separated by Common Bed Linen - Part 2

sheetsAs an amusing postscript to our previous discussion about the difference between a duvet and a comforter, Metafilter asks, 'Do British people use sheets?'.  Cue lots of Americans horrifed by insanitary British habits.

06 November 2007

A Year Ago

Here are some, completely irrelevant to this post, New York pics.  One of the (only) benefits of having two year old in tow while visiting the city, is that it is perfectly acceptable to go on a horse-drawn carriage ride round Central Park.









It seems deeply inappropriate to be writing this from a desk in New York City,  but today we are celebrating our one year anniversary of being in Seattle.

I remember those first few days so well.  

The Minx (and consequently the whole family) was deeply jetlagged.  The only toys we had were those we had brought in our suitcase and the Minx (and consequently the whole family) soon became very bored. And the rain was running in torrents outside, during what was to become the wettest November period in Seattle's history.

I really was *this* close to taking the next flight home.

But I'm so glad we hung around. We've got to know an unbelievably beautiful part of the world and met some of the very nicest and friendliest people ever.  I love our house - despite the green and orange and purple and red paint - with a passion and can't wait to see the seasons roll round again in this landscape.  The Minx is having an absolute ball. 

Thank you Seattle for making us feel so very much at home it's scary.

I meant to post this up yesterday, but computer problems intervened.

22 September 2007

Two Countries Separated by a Common Language - Part I

Or, what is the American for duvet?

Up until now I have been an extremely cruel mother and confined my little, exceedingly wriggly, girl to a Grobag sleeping bag and cot (quite a big one as it has potential to be converted to a toddler bed).

The extent of my cruelty was brought home to me when we were staying at the very new and very swish Hotel du Vin in Cambridge and the Minx's cot came equipped with a zoo-print toddler duvet.  Never have you seen a more delighted girl.  And never have you seen a more shamefaced mummy, when on the next few nights, the Minx proceeded to unzip herself from her Grobag and wear it 'like a duvet'. 

So a toddler duvet must be procured, and it is yet one more thing where I don't have a clue where to begin here in the US. 

I was quite young when the so-called 'continental quilt' took the UK by storm and became the very thing for the well-dressed bed.  Somewhere along the line we adopted the French word 'duvet' and now I think there is hardly a bed in the UK where they aren't used.  After all, who would want to go to all the trouble of fussing with sheets and blankets?

The Americans, that's who.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but from experience of staying in US hotels and from searching for duvets online just now, it would seem that most Americans are still in thrall to traditional bedding with sheets and blankets and quilts and things called shams. 

Do you guys know what duvets are?  Are 'down comforters' the same thing?  Is this a toddler duvet? Can you suggest anywhere where I might get a funky toddler duvet cover in pink and green which is not as wishy-washy as the Pottery Barn ones (we  - by which I mean I, because the Minx would probably love one - would also prefer not to go the Dora the Explorer duvet route either).  Any advice on American bedding etiquette would be much appreciated, because I really have no idea where to begin.

10 September 2007

A Strange Thing Has Happened

We're going back to the UK tomorrow - just for a week.  And I don't particularly want to go. Which is something I never thought I'd say. 

Maybe it's the wonderful Indian summer we're having here.  Or maybe just the thought of dealing with a jetlagged Minx again.  Or just the fact that is is mostly going to be work.  But even so Seattle is really starting to feel like home.

View from the 520 floating bridge over Lake Washington this weekend.  This is the view the Husband gets on his commute every day if the 'Mountain' is 'out'.


Here is a photo I took back in March of the shops on Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill's premier shopping street which is full of gorgeous boutiques and cafes.


Create polls and vote for free.

We're going back because mirrormirror is on the move again.  Last year the wonderful Helen stepped into the breach when I was desperately looking for someone to take over the UK end of operations prior to our move out to Seattle, and it's been huge amounts of fun working with her over the last year.  I can never thank her and my lucky stars enough for popping into my inbox at just the right time.

Unfortunately over the past few months the silly girl has gone and got herself a fabulously glamorous and interesting-sounding job at the Design Museum, moved to a new house outside of London and become engaged, so mirrormirror doesn't exactly fit into her life any more.  We always knew this was going to happen though I can't believe a year has flown by so quickly. 

Extremely fortunately my lovely friend Diane is going to be taking over.  I'm really looking forward to working with her as she's got a ton of marketing and marcomms experience and has just gone freelance, so we're hoping that mirrormirror will fit in with her nicely.  So next weekend, we'll be moving everything up to Cambridge.  Do wish us luck driving a van full of ceramics up the motorway.

28 March 2007

The street where we live

 was looking quite insanely pretty the day we moved in.

Note to self.  Don't ever, ever, ever move house and pack to go away on the same weekend. (Written sitting in the bathroom in the middle of the night at our hotel in London. I love jetlag.)

22 March 2007

House proud

So today we closed on the house purchase. 

I can't quite believe it's happened.  You have no idea how many phone calls at 1 am we've had to make, chivvying up mortgage brokers, solicitors and bankers.  In fact it was touch and go until this morning whether the money would make it into our US bank account in time.

Tomorrow all the stuff which we last saw way back when will be unpacked, leaving us to gently move from our apartment to the new house on Saturday and Sunday.

Which is just as well, as then we're flying out to the UK on Monday for a week or so.

Great timing, n'est-ce pas? 

And I'm so itching to get a paintbrush out and go shopping and start lining up contractors and making plans etc. Still, it will be nice to have something to look forward to when we get back from the UK.


For those of you who have enquired whether the upstairs panelling was as bad as I was making out, here is a picture of the upstairs 'party kitchen'. Note too the worktops/countertops which are the same delightful green as the exterior of the house. Pleasedon't tell me you like them.

15 March 2007

Pimp My Filing Cabinet

A blog I'm really enjoying at the moment is Casapinka. 'Pink' in the US is re-designing her home with the help of an interior designer who lives in Australia, whom she met on line, but has no plans to meet in person.

Pink says she's only recently discovered that she's a creative person, but reading her blog you would beg to differ.

I'm particularly liking her decoupage filing cabinet and the cherry blossoms she painted freestyle in her entrance hall.

I'm finding the idea of an online interior designer intriguing.  I'm sort of wondering whether to get a designer in to help with the new house.  In many ways I'm looking forward to doing it myself, but I'm slightly intimidated about doing up a home here as I have no clue about the best local suppliers - oh for access to a Seattle designer's little black book! - and am concerned that I'll create something which is too 'European' and won't resell well in the American market (still can't get over the fact that you guys like the dark green exterior paint!).  And it would be good to bounce ideas about with someone else.

Unfortunately I doubt very much that our budget will stretch that far, though I might see if I can find someone who will act as a ongoing consultant.

As for the actual move, the remortgage funds have been released in the UK, the mortgage in the US is sorted (are you getting some idea of the moutain of debt we're taking on here?) and all systems are go for completion on the 22nd and moving in over the weekend of the 24th/25th. Which, scarily, is in just over a week's time. A small added detail is the fact that we're then flying back to London on the 27th for a week or so (the Husband has managed to wangle himself a business trip and we're tagging along for the ride). 

Is life always meant to be quite this complicated?

01 March 2007


The house inspection happened this morning and no major problems were uncovered.  So it looks like we really are moving! Gulp.

22 February 2007

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.

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?

07 November 2006

Sleepless in Seattle

We made it.

2.30 am on Sunday morning and the jetlagged Minx is full of beans and ready to begin her 'day'.  Her mother is not quite so full of beans and is languishing exhausted on the sofa.


Note superb view of Seattle's Space Needle from our apartment window (and the reflection of a somewhat dubious light fitting).

30 October 2006

Moving On

I am writing this surrounded by packed up boxes, trying to steel myself for yet another evening of sorting and packing.

Tonight is our last night in the flat.  In every direction all I can see are boxes and memories.


This is the flat I bought eleven years ago as a single girl, though my boyfriend at the time I was buying it soon became my fiance and then my husband.

This is the flat where I spent the night before my wedding and to which I came back as a new bride.

This is the flat which has seen me return late and leave early for four different jobs and it was at this desk overlooking the street that I decided to start mirrormirror.

This is the flat which has been stuffed full of cushions, candles and packing boxes for the best part of the last two years.

This is the flat where I suffered through four miscarriages and where I discovered I was pregnant with the Minx.

This is the flat where I had a terrible bleeding episode while pregnant and was convinced I was miscarrying, only to find that the baby was still safe and sound.

This is the flat which we brought our baby home to after a worrying week in the Special Baby Unit, where we tiptoed around introducing her to every room.

This is the flat where I sat breastfeeding for hours at a time feeling depressed and miserable.

This is the flat where my baby learned to walk and learned to talk.

This is the flat where we decided to go to Seattle. 

This is the flat where I've spent the happiest years of my life so far.

The photos are not very good, being quickly taken one evening to send to a journalist.  You must also remember that normally the flat is covered with a thick layer of bright plastic toys.

14 September 2006

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?

31 March 2006


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.