Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sequins for the winter party season

A few of my favourite sequined pieces from Shikasuki to cheer up a rainy Sunday afternoon...

All images by Shikasuki
Prices start at £45 for tops & £85 for dresses

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The wedding: any questions?


I know that I never finished my wedding recaps. Somewhere between returning from the honeymoon and trying to find a job I started to find it hard to write about the wedding. That chapter of my life seemed to have been closed when we returned from the honeymoon.

But now, almost 6 months on, I've started to think about the wedding again. I have printed a wedding photograph and put it in a photo frame. I have started to think about compiling an album from the day & another from the honeymoon.

So I thought I'd turn to you, readers longtime and readers new. What would you like to know about the wedding, the planning or the honeymoon? I will answer all questions (within reason!), so post your requests in the comments and later on in the week I will post the answers.

{Image by KT Photos}

Happy Thanksgiving

Leaves, originally uploaded by richarddigitalphotos.

22 and 21 years ago today I had the privilge of celebrating Thanksgiving with families who opened the doors of their houses and welcomed an English family through them. At not even 8 years old I wasn't fully aware of how special that was or how much those simple acts of kindness would shape my future life.

20 years later I look back at the welcome we had in California with extreme fondness. Particularly on my Mother's behalf. It is only recently that I have begun to realise what she went through for our family, for her husband. It cannot have been easy relocating a 6 year old, a 3 year old and a baby half way round the world for my Dad's job, but she did. She would be the first to admit that she gained an awful lot from the experience too, but the catalyst for the trip was to further my Dad's career.

20 years later I remember the kindness that people showed towards my family: the invitations, the blueberry muffins that appeared on our first morning in that strange rented house. And I have always sought to make our flat the place where friends, existing and new, are always welcome & to welcome new friends into my life. (which is perhaps in part why I love blogging so much & why I am always keen to meet my blogging pals in 'real life').

And so, 20 years later, Thanksgiving is still special to me. I don't celebrate it with my family (although it would be wonderful to see them) but we often have a dinner with friends. As we have been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday Husband & I are having a dinner tonight together. It may be a freebie courtesy of his work but for me it is our first married Thanksgiving celebration and I will be telling him how thankful I am that we are married and a family.

Other things that I am thankful for, aside from family, health and home, include the fact that opportunites are arising jobwise again, that I finally demonstrated willpower by NOT purchasing a heavily heavily reduced beautiful bronze leather Mulberry wallet at a sample sale & that I have learnt to be able to say no when I need to.

Small things, but big lessons.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Give Away Winner!

My sincere apologies for the delay in announcing this. This week has been manic. So, without further ado, the winner of the Dorma cushion is...

Congratulations Laura!

Please can you e-mail me with your contact details & address and I will post the cushion to you.

Thank you all for entering.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Fudge By Post

Last week I received a very tasty parcel through my letterbox. A beautiful box of homemade Scilly fudge complete with stunning artwork by Cornish artist Tom Holland.

Veronica Farm Fudge is made by Issy's mother at their home in Bryher which is one of the islands which make up the Isles of Scilly. Issy is the author of the blog Cupcakes & Cornwall where she chronicles a mixture of recipes, food and cornish related things. And it was through a giveaway that she hosted that I received a pick me up parcel last week.

Veronica Farm Fudge is everything that you could hope for in fudge: rich, creamy, sweet but not sickly. In my head the Isles of Scilly are bathed in sunshine and I swore I could taste it as I ate my fudge on a cold rainy November morning in London.

And best still, the fudge is available by post, payable online. A few simple clicks and it can be winging it's sunny way to you or someone of your choosing.

Friday, 20 November 2009

To the seaside

One cold November morning a girl said goodbye to her Husband and ventured forth for a day by the seaside. It took her several hours to get there and involved a complicated route of two tubes, one train, a coach load of OAPs making a racket and a small bus.

Somerset 4

She read a newspaper, and the Economist, on the train, wondering what had happened to the world when 20 something girls found 80 something old ladies irritating, with their mints and their laughter and their day trip anoraks. But when she got on the bus, she found her nose pressed to the window.

Somerset 2

The fields, the light, the colours of the leaves on the trees, they were all so beautiful. Beautiful in a soothing of the soul, calming way, that London just did not have. The sun even shone, as they wound their way round the country villages, lanes and fields.

Somerset 3

When she finally arrived at her destination, and the reason for her visit was over*, she headed straight for the sea. Realising she was becoming more like her dear old Dad than ever, she ignored the cold and the fact that she could barely stand up in the strongest gusts and started to walk in the twilight along the sea front, pausing by the sea wall to watch dogs being walked along the sand.

Somerset 1

In the gathering dusk she walked along the beach, right to the darling little harbour at the far end, where fishing boast sat on their keels in the sand, protected from the wind by the protective arms of the harbour wall, and where tiny whitewashed fishing cottages hugged the cliff, their windows shining light like beacons into the deepening twilight.

She stood for a long time by the lifeboat station watching the white horses coursing in the channel and the lights appearing on the channel markers, their reassuring red and green twinkles providing assistance to any one who might be out there. And somewhere, over the sea, for it really was only a channel, she could see more lights. And she thought she could see, in the distant distance, the light that was her sister (until she remembered that her sister was, in fact, in Morocco).

And so, reluctantly, she turned and walked back to the town, where she paused to have some supper. And was seated at a table next to a group of women who ranged in age from mid twenties to mid fifties, who were all dressed in teal & brown. A local teachers meeting, it transpired. The french departments of all the local secondary schools, having tea and cakes, and from the sound of it, a good old moan. But pretty soon they had all left, because it was late. Only it wasn't really, it was only 5.30pm. And so she drank gingernut latte and realised that really there were very few *commodities* that you can't get in the countryside. Even Jimmy Choos can be ordered online.

All too soon it was time to get the bus, and the train and the two tubes. Back to London. Back to Husband. Back to real life.

*If it turns out it was worth the trip, I will share...

Peacock Feathers Give Away: Dorma cushion

**giveaway extended until Sunday. Please enter by 10pm GMT if you would like to win one of these beautiful cushions**

I don't write enough about great bedlinen. It is one of life's simplest pleasures: beautiful, fresh, ironed, lavender scented sheets, perfect for snuggling under on a cold winter weekend.

Since I don't have much money these days, I don't buy that much, but I was excited to see that Dorma, one of the nation's oldest bedlinen brands, was bought by Dunelm last year and has started producing linens again. They have been making sheets since 1921. I am pretty sure that the 'vintage' sheets my Granny gave me as a present a few years ago were Dorma, as is my duvet. In short, they make classic bedlinen & duvets very well.

Since relaunching they have expanded their range into home fragrances & cushions. I have the orange & cedarwood candle, which I think is rather nice. M, on the other hand, thinks it smells like lemonade.

And since I have never done a giveaway on the blog, I thought this would be a good opportunity. I asked Dorma & they have kindly given me a Belvoir Boudoir cushion (worth £30) to give to one of you (which you can see in the image above).

To enter is simple. Go to the Dorma website and look at the new range of bed linens. Then leave me a comment telling me which is your favourite (I am nosy, I admit it) and then next week I will use to select a winner. As it is light, I will even post overseas.

{Image by Dorma}

One entry per e-mail address only
Competition runs until 10pm GMT on Sunday 22 November 2009.
Winner will be chosen by & posted in a new post thereafter
Entries welcome from all readers

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

I wish I was...

yurting life

We didn't choose a far flung place for our honeymoon or use the occasion as a chance to visit foreign climes. We have the rest of our married life for that. After the three months prior to the wedding we needed fresh air, beautiful surrounding and time to be together. Simple living, dark skies, a fire to cook on, a space decorated with simple furniture and flowers plucked from the hedgerows.

We spent a week staying in a yurt on a farm in the countryside above Fowey in a field full of sheep, where all power & light came from the fire, solar powered batteries and a single ringed gas hob. We spent our days reading, painting, lying side by side on our backs on cushions in the field whilst listening to Wimbledon on a solar powered radio, eating nice fish and drinking some amazing wines. We went to the beach, to the Minack theatre, to small fishing pubs and horse riding. We talked of our dreams, our hopes, our fears. We sat and watched suns setting and revelled in being married. We planned our lives together and returned to London refreshed, tanned, freckled, together & married.

Now that the nights have really drawn in, the leaves have fallen & been taken away by the council in bags and I *still* don't have the job of my dreams, I look back on those two weeks when all cares were far away and thank Husband every day that we chose such a honeymoon.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

I wish I was...

, originally uploaded by lucie camp.

Whilst on a break from interview preparation today I got distracted by (a) using e-bay profits to purchase new sheepskin boots due to old ones finally breaking and (b) getting distracted by photographs which I find inspirational.

This one made me think of my sisters. One of whom now lives in London. The other lives (in my mind) on a cliff top in Wales. In reality I suspect she lives in a house. We shall find out in December when we go & visit. I cannot wait.

See, there are always more interesting things to be done than reminding oneself of one's weaknesses, one's future ambitions & situations when working in a team one overcame a significant hurdle.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Things I did this weekend...

.drank lots of very tolerable cava at the Jimmy Choo for H&M launch party on Friday night. and bought the shoes above. sleek, comfy & perfect to bring my vintage dresses up to date for the upcoming party season. {funded by selling one or two things on e-bay}

.ate burgers & drank beer in the American diner near Carnaby Street with Husband, my sister & her best friend. followed by vodka cocktails back at our flat.

.went out for breakfast. i love going out for breakfast but we don't do it very often. we walked there in the peeing rain and ate in a lovely Turkish cafe round the corner from our house.

.went to a dinner party. which was lots of fun.

.worked in the vintage shop & made new blogging friends talking to customers.

.made bread sauce to go with the pheasant Husband roasted for supper last night. which was yummy.

{Image by H&M, of course}

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Vintage Christmas Decorations

vintage decorations

As promised, a few photographs of some of my favourite vintage Christmas decorations from Shikasuki. All decorations are either American or Russian from the 1940s-1980s and in excellent condition considering their age. Some are slightly faded but this all adds to the charm.

I cannot wait to buy some for our tree and I am also considering a bowlful of them on the coffee table just like the middle images above. They look so sparkly and beautiful and festive altogether in a great pile.

In addition to the knitted & card angels (top left) there are a range of large feathered angel with a head like a doll (they are gorgeous and I will try and photograph them for another post soon}.

All decorations from Shikasuki
Prices from £3-£35

If you don't live in London and are interested please contact me for purchasing on your behalf. Otherwise please do come in and have a look {but give yourself a good time slot. You will get distracted by the sparkly dresses & accessories}. I am in the shop on Sundays, 12-7pm but the shop is also open Monday - Saturday 11am - 7pm.

Shikasuki: 67 Gloucester Avenue, London, Nw1 8LD. Website is coming soon...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

{Image by unikot}

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
Though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

.John McCrae

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

.Laurence Binyon

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

dresses for engagement & other parties

The winter party season is nearly upon us. This week in Shikasuki we have started selling vintage decorations* and all manner of sparkly, sequined dresses, tops and accessories. Each day I am there I find a new favourite. I love this time of year. Just being in the shop cheers me up.

In just 3 weeks time it will be December. I think our party season kicks off with a birthday dinner on the 1st and then a glamorous cocktail engagement party on the 3rd. In my dreams I will wear this Lanvin Fall 09/10 nude ruffled dress (but with black tights and different shoes) which I fell in love with months ago.

In reality I propose to wear a vintage velvet high necked shift dress with a silver beaded embellished bib which looks like a large necklace with peeped toe black high heeled sequined shoes. This year has not been kind to me financially so it will be vintage not Lanvin for all occasions I feel.

{Image by Lanvin via}

* Please contact me if you would like details of the vintage decorations which are absolutely beautiful. I will try and do another post on them soon. (or come to the shop & see for yourself).

Monday, 9 November 2009

A date in fragments of the past,

20 years ago today the Berlin wall came down. I was 7. We were living in California, celebrating my sister's birthday. I don't remember much about the occasion save I was aware that *it was important*. At 7 my interests did not yet include world history and teaching at my American junior school seemed more preoccupied with teaching cursive and math. Discussion with my fellow classmates at recess involved, occasionally, Vietnam but never Europe. Even when President Bush had been elected and had flown over the school, we had spelt out Bush in the playing fields but again, no real discussion about the event beyond that it had happened.

25 years ago today I ceased to be an only child when my beautiful little sister was born.

35 years ago today my parents met a college bonfire night party in a meadow in the city of dreaming spires. Years later as a small girl I was looking through photograph albums in the sitting room and found an album that Dad had put together of his time at university and found photographs of my mother at 19, faded brown and sepia.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo at Manchester Academy

Proper post coming soon once I have dragged myself out of the depths of more job applications.

Ps. Who sends job rejections on Sunday afternoon? Having a relaxing day after the gig in Manchester finishing The Deathly Hallows (for the 2nd time, the first since the day after it was released) when my BlackBerry flashed red to disturb my peaceful afternoon and remind me that even Sundays aren't sacred any more. The job rejection voice of doom must infiltrate all days and all thoughts, just to remind me that it is still there and lurking and that there is nowhere that I can hide from it's ability to turn a perfectly good day into crap with one e-mail.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Things I would like*

I am rather fond of this bag.
Were that I was funded enough to warrant extraneous purchases
or that it could fit a laptop therein so as to be justifiable
I might go and buy it.

*an ongoing list

Bag by Next

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

On being unemployed

Had an e-mail back from a job I applied for, one for which I am grossly over qualified, and from which I got rejected. {Incidentally, it was very kind of them to provide any kind of feedback, as usually feedback is only given to candidates who go for interview and only then if you are very lucky.}

He thanked me for applying, told me I had a strong CV, but given that there were over 700 applicants they had chosen someone whose CV precisely matched the job description.

700 applicants for one position.

Is it any wonder I've been struggling...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

30 posts in 30 days

Not sure why I decided to have a go at this but considering I have managed 3 posts in 3 days already I shall attempt a further 27 more & then it will be Advent.

Nov 3: The boiler broke today. We had no hot water & no heating. We chased the plumber & the landlady & the boiler manufacturers. Someone is coming tomorrow. We shall see. (we managed to make it work enough to produce some hot water to wash in this evening. it still makes a nasty noise though). Did more job applications. Re-did CV. again. Made chocolate crispy cakes. and then ate them all with Husband watching TV after eating baked sea bass. drank nice Riesling. early night.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Halloween Decorations

halloween decorations

jack o lantern

So, turns out that if you live where we do (in one of the few converted houses amongst mainly large family homes) then putting up halloween decorations indicates that you are *open* for trick or treaters. Who knew?

Not that we minded. We gave away all those horrid Bounty bars from the celebrations box I bought half price the other week. Still, once we'd given all the Snickers away and then all of the Mars Bars, I drew the line. I wasn't expecting the backlash though. One charming child, on being informed that he was in fact too late for chocolate, as it had all gone (which it had. I gave away some & had eaten the few remaining milkyways & malteasers), shouted "We have come all this way. You had better give us something" in a very menacing manner, much to the horror of the parent who was accompanying them (he explained to me the child was a friend of his son's). As he walked back through our front garden he shouted to Husband, visible through the kitchen window, that he "would remember our house & return to mess it up". He couldn't have been more than 7 or 8. How sad.

I was also sad to see that for most parents, costume making seems to involve going to a shop and purchasing one. I have never worn anything other than a handmade creation and do not intend to start now, whether we have children or not. One Mum clearly couldn't even run to a sheet for a ghost outfit, e-mailing this to our freecycle group last week:

"My little boy has been invited to a fancy dress party this Saturday. Was wondering if anyone had a boys fancy dress outfit that their child no longer needs. At present not to fussed what costume it is."

I don't know what the response rate was like but I should have responded that I had plenty of empty loo rolls in the recycling and lots of bubble wrap and that perhaps she & her son could create a monster outfit out of them. We always used to make our own fancy dress outfits for various school things and I can still clearly remember the feeling of immense satisfaction on creating myself a lantern out of black card in which I could carry a candle when dressing up as the original Guy Fawkes.

Satisfaction which almost rivalled that of the feeling I had last night after successfully retrieving Husband's phone which I had managed to flip down the back of the radiator in our bedroom. Having presumed that it would just fall out the bottom I was surprised to find that the skirting board makes a secure seal at the bottom meaning that the only way to get it out was the way it fell in. 45 minutes later and both of us suffering from neck-ache from peering down the very small gap, I had rigged up a greaseproof paper contraption and we managed to get the phone back using a bamboo cane. The phone was extremely dusty (which goes someway to explaining why our flat is always so dusty - it literally is collecting in great lumps back there with no way to remove it) but working.

And it is bonfire night this week. We are having a party with pumpkin whoopie pies, mulled wine, sparklers & s'mores (courtesy of our American guests) whilst we show them what a proper English autumn celebration is like. We may even have a 'bonfire' & apple bobbing...

(Post to come later in the week explaining why we celebrate this event, in case readers are unaware...)

Sunday, 1 November 2009


Halloween costume

Further proof that phone snaps are not very good quality & that, no matter what I do to it, my hair will not keep a curl. Am trying hard to edit the original photo with my limited (free) software. As it was a poor image to start with this is about the best I could manage.

People had made such effort with costumes for Count Dracula & His Bride-to-Be Amy that it was hard to tell who was who and which people I already knew. Such was the amount of fake blood swilling round the party someone really could have bled to death without anyone realising. Witches, vampires, pirates, cats, masked men, a pair of bacon & eggs and 'Derren Brown' all vied for space in a spider filled back garden & the devil and a dictator were found talking and smoking outside the front door -with the party was still in full swing - when Husband walked me home at 2.30am (I was 'working' in the shop in the morning).

Dress: Vintage 1980s velvet & DeVore ruffled prom dress from Shikasuki
Look: Inspired by Heathers
Image: Taken by Husband