I was recently on some medication for a few months that, among other things, affected my sense of taste, leaving green vegetables (which I tend to favour) tasting of absolutely nothing at all, pushing me instead towards very spicy, salty food. So avocado, fennel, asparagus, spinach etc. were watery badness, but good cheese & onion crisps were still wonderful. Also lime pickle. You know – the sort of foods known for aiding a washboard stomach.
The medication is finished now, and my sense of taste has come back, so courgettes and fennel are back on the menu, and crisps are banned, replaced with such virtuous snacks as almonds, dates and Nairn’s oatcakes. Luckily I love all three, and I’m so encouraged that I’m flirting with the idea of cutting out dairy for good measure – I did this once before with the usual positive effects, but I’m such a slave to Dorset Cereals and milled seeds in the morning that I’m not sure what I’d eat instead, and I’m not sure I can go down the soy yoghurt route.
Maybe I just need to head over to Pinterest and look up healthy dairy free breakfasts – I think we can safely say that those well-lit American food bloggers have this covered, right?
Update: No, they don’t. All the dairy free breakfasts were also everything else free, except oats, apparently. So, how about this amazing Baked Egg and Avocado with Parsley and Goat’s Cheese from the wonderful Foodie Underground, pictured above?
I’m writing this on the train to Cardiff for a friend’s birthday lunch. Same friend as last time but this time travelling alone – the bliss of it.
This means I can wear lurid coral high heels, equally lurid red lipstick (NARS Heat Wave) and indulge in some leisurely eavesdropping on my fellow travellers – teenage girls discussing whether their “chubby” friend minds being called “chubby” (they felt not, somewhat misguidedly, I suspect), a man lecturing an older couple, in utterly exhaustive detail, about some shoddy building and electrical work he had suffered on his home recently (oh the DETAIL), and a tough guy listening to the Annie soundtrack very loudly on his headphones. Pleasingly, as we left the waiting room, the young man who had been writing an essay on the Book of John was whistling It’s A Hard Knock Life, which we had all listened to together some time earlier.
Even with delayed trains and “colourful” co-travellers, it’s nice to travel alone, when you have the leisure to pay attention to everything around you. You don’t notice any of this when you travel with children – your attention is so focused on them that it mutes everything around you.
I’m going home to Dublin on my own in April, and I’m looking forward to all the eavesdropping I’ll be able to do then.
About 8 years ago, we lived in Marrakech for a short time. It was exciting, there was a blog, there was a beautiful concrete house and then we moved to Paris. It was all great.
Two of the many things we brought away with us were a Beni Ouarain rug with amazing geometric patterns, and a vintage traditional marriage or wedding blanket. Both of these have been everywhere in interior design recent years, and we are very lucky to have been able to pick them up ourselves for next to nothing in a market in Marrakech all those years ago.
But “all those years ago” is key here – the wedding blanket had been put away because it got grubby and was a bit of a nuisance, to be honest – they look amazing in all those overlit shots on Pinterest, but in a small, dusty house in Oxford, with children and a somewhat lackadaisical attitude towards cleaning in general, it got a bit in the way and was eventually stored.
This morning I spotted it on top of a wardrobe during a clearout, and unfolded it in great trepidation, expecting it to have been devoured by moths. Mercifully there was only one nibbled bit, so I decided that we couldn’t risk folding it away any more, and it needs to go to Crete (I’m hoping that moths aren’t a thing there).
But first I had to CLEAN the damn thing (the hardcore laundry of the title), and four bathloads of water and a whole lot of wool/handwash liquid later – because these things don’t go in the washing machine – it is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT COLOUR. In a good way. A clean way. The gallons of grim, murky water that went down the plughole this morning have left a remarkably white(ish) rug in their wake, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it dries out, if that ever happens. No doubt exactly like the picture above. *ahem*
Maybe it’ll be clean enough to deserve a spot on the wall here instead of Crete?
Image above from a fantastic shop on Etsy where you can find lots of these gorgeous rugs.
Last week, as I mentioned, we went to Cardiff to stay with a friend. At bedtime, Honor sees her pyjamas laid out for her.
H: Beatrice! These pyjamas are just like our pyjamas in Oxford!
B: They ARE our pyjamas from Oxford, Honor – Mummy brought them. Mummy? Did you bring these?
Me: *deep breath* Yes.
The following evening, back in Oxford, Honor again sees her pyjamas laid out.
H: Beatrice!!! Beatrice!!! Look! These are the pyjamas from Wales again!
B: Honor!! They ARE our pyjamas from Wales! They’re OUR PYJAMAS. *pause* Mummy? Are these our pyjamas?
Me: *deep breath* Yes.
A couple of years ago we were lucky enough to find a lovely house in a village in Crete. The house was a ruin, but perfectly suited for us – a nearly pristine rural village within easy reach of both the beautiful city of Rethymno and the hidden beaches of the south coast. Nearly three years later (!) it is nearly finished and ready to move in to and we are at the long-awaited stage of choosing furniture for our hideaway.
When we lived in Marrakech our house was in the heart of the medina, but was a modern, concrete box with 1960’s furniture and polished concrete floors. Although I HATED it at first, having romantic notions about the traditional sort of house I wanted to live in, I quickly fell in love with its clean lines and the contrast from the full-on vibe of Marrakech outside the door.
When we started our plans for this house in Crete, we kept that feeling in mind – the pleasure of walking in from a traditional Cretan village lane and meeting a starkly modern interior. The planning office had strong opinions about that, however, and we were instructed to restore the 18th century house exactly as it was built, but luckily they don’t have any jurisdiction over our interior design choices and I have been satisfying my modern, minimalist urges with hours spent on the IKEA site choosing sofas and coffee tables to my hearts content. Furniture shops – especially online – are a little limited in Crete, but luckily there is IKEA and I’m more than happy to kit out a lot of the house from there – it suits our style and budget. There is plenty of time over the coming years to modify and add to the house from further afield!
We will be listing the house on Airbnb after Easter, so you’ll be able to see it in all its glory then, I hope.
First picture: Karlstad Sectional Sofa, Stockholm Average Coffee Table, Stockholm Mirror, Stockholm Chair, Antique Beni Ouarain rug from Marrakech – not IKEA!, Alex Desk, Alsesda banana fibre stool, Lovbacken side table, Ekero armchair in navy, Nockeby small sofa, Nockeby footstool, Farrow & Ball paint in Pink Ground.
Second picture: Karlstad sofa bed, Ekero armchair in yellow, Stockholm rug, Lovbacken side table, Stockholm sideboard, Hektar lamp.
I have two children – both girls, aged 6 and very nearly 4. They are, of course, brilliant. They smell great, they are beautiful, they are loud and gentle by turns, and best of all – they play with each other unbelievably well. Which is just as well, because I have to admit to being something of a hands-off parent. I am perfectly happy to hand them scissors and glue, a stern warning about not cutting off hair and/or fingers and then leave them to it. On the other hand, they are very good at occupying themselves and will settle down with combinations of their lego, My Little Ponies and blankets for hours at a time, to play extraordinarily complicated games. There’s the occasional scream or wail, and a bit of refereeing and possibly a snack has to be applied, but for the most part they’re great.
“Independent play” is partly about laziness on my side, I admit that, and the fact that being self employed and working from home means that it’s quite difficult to draw a clear line in my time between working and parenting. It’s easier (although not necessarily bad, I hope) to pack them off with their lego than to work on one of those guilt-inducing Pinterest crafting projects that some mothers get into.
Maybe I need to up my game a little – make some better work/children boundaries and promise them two proper art projects a week or something. The idea doesn’t strike fear into my soul so much as pre-emptive guilt about my inability to set work aside properly – there never seem to be enough hours in the day.
This week is half term in the UK, and as I had too much work on to arrange a trip away for the whole week, we escaped Oxford for a trip to Cardiff to visit friends. Although I’d been to Cardiff before, I’d always gone straight on to Penarth, just outside the city, but this time I wanted to see the beautiful arcades, built in the late 1800’s, that Cardiff is so famous for.
We didn’t get around them all, but I got to have a fantastic flat white in The Plan cafe in the Morgan Arcade (and a great eggs benedict), as well as pick up some lovely rose creams from the St. Kitt’s Herbery, which I hadn’t heard of before. Lovely small shops abound, of course – Neal’s Yard (where we were given lovely packets of samples for Chinese New Year), Bang & Olufson and many independents I didn’t know about.
Much like in Oxford, I was surprised to see so many shops empty – I wondered, as I do here, why big landlords allow vacant shops to occur, instead of modifying rents according to the market. Surely lower rent overall is better than one in five shops being vacant? Something which must scream “run away!” to potential tenants? This is one of my pet subjects though, and one which I will spare you here.
Traveling on my own with children is getting easier and easier. They played peacefully with their My Little Ponies all the way there and back on the train – I actually got to kick back and read a BOOK instead of tending to a thousand tiny needs as I used to. Sleep sadly eluded the tiny one, and I ended up being awake at 2am trying to convince her to settle down – not naughty, just restless. Still, I feel sufficiently emboldened to be really looking forward to the solo trip to Dublin coming up in May, and the fully solo trip to Lisbon planned for October. People ask me a LOT now about having a third, and while I do occasionally get broody, the luxury of having such very PORTABLE little people is a pearl beyond price.
For the last couple of years, my uniform has been skinny jeans, biker boots, and a parka or down jacket. I like the boots and skinny jeans look, but not the down coat part, so when it got properly cold, I upgraded to this Whistles coat (in black) and I feel transformed. It goes with everything, it’s warm, I can wear it to work meetings. Best of all (and something which my last “smart” coat failed on) it looks great with trainers, which is really important since I finally ditched heels as part of a 2015 “let’s be honest, here” resolution, so I have celebrated with a pair of Ash Virgin trainers – a long-lusted for treat.
It has taken me a long time to pull a look together that I feel truly comfortable in, and (unsurprisingly for an ex-goth, perhaps) it has come back down to black. And black. And a bit of grey. For a long time I have thought I had to find some kind of happy medium between my old urban life and my current life in resolutely dress-down Oxford, with children and a small business to juggle, and I was never quite able to pull it off. But all it took, it seems, is the perfect coat. Suddenly my look seems to make more sense and I feel that practically everything I do now, whether taking the children swimming or going to a new client meeting, can be done with one, consistent sartorial approach.
I don’t think that finding the perfect coat is a small detail in life – more people probably see you in your winter coat than in any other garment, so it matters, even if “only” for the school run. I’m delighted to have got this right, at last.
I’ve had a bit of a stationery overload this week, as I’ve been packing up over 1000 greetings cards destined for The Conran Shop and for my newest stockist, Rhetoric Inc in Japan. I don’t stock very many retailers any more, and only take on a very few new clients now, as I am concentrating on other projects, but I couldn’t resist this fantastic small chain of lifestyle shops in Japan – they even import fantastic mid-century modern furniture from Norway.
I don’t miss “big” Natural History, when I used to stock many shops all over the world – it was exciting, but it was difficult to really appreciate everything as much as I should have with so much going on. That said, I’m looking forward to creating a stationery collection from the Tradescant & Son prints later this year, and showing it to a couple of special retailers here and in the US.
All over Oxford, and in ever more unlikely locations. deathly serious coffee shops have been opening up, all vying to serve the best flat white, the perfect cold brew, the most skilled pour over. I’m all for it. Now I go into a cafe, note what beans they use, JUDGE, order a latte, observe the milk work and JUDGE again. Except in Brew yesterday, where the flat white was the best I’ve had in months.
My husband got me into all this when he was working as a barista at one of these cafes and found himself making coffee for a surprisingly long time before he was allowed to make a milk-based coffee for a customer – the owners took the standard of their milk drinks, and therefore barista training, incredibly seriously. Gradually we both learned about milk, beans, roasts and eventually filter coffee.
After years of the flat white, it seemed strange to be told that filter is the best technique for really appreciating a roast, but now we really think (read: geek) about the beans we buy for home – we buy Square Mile mostly, but we also drink coffee from local roaster Jericho Coffee Traders, James, Tim Wendelboe (when we can get it!) and Ozone. All of our home filter brewing things are from Hario.
All this filter nerding aside, there’s nothing like a perfect flat white and I can’t wait to go back to Brew.