Thursday, 28 January 2010

Magic Cupcakes

The time had come for me to host my first gathering of ladies at home for the 'Committee', and I recently felt that all these coffee mornings are beginning to get a little repetitive, only on the refreshment front I might add, not with the company which is stimulating, hilarious,insightful and somewhat competitive in a discreet British manner.

Always the best china is used, as are the table linens which are neatly and accurately pressed, not a stain in sight, plates piled high with cakes and biscuits which are always homemade, and naturally, tea, which is mostly bags but occasionally leaves, although this does create all sorts of logistical tea pouring problems, so most stick to tea bags or coffee. Outfits carefully considered and most seem to be channelling a Jaeger look which is not really me, but fear not as I have found my very own version of country casual courtesy of a combination of those stalwarts of Britishness, Burberry and Mulberry (although I believe they are sadly no longer Brit owned).

I was really quite excited and decided that although I am now very much living here in the countryside that I would add a little London to my coffee morning, starting with the tea, and along with Lapsang Souchong, Darjeeling and Earl Grey I was going to add my two new favourite herbal teas in their girlie packaging from Pukka Tea, Harmonise and Pleasure and I was going to use something quite radical, mugs, not just any old mugs, but a very sexy variety from the esteemed maker of tea and coffee sipping accouterments, Keith Brymer Jones . I knew this would cause a stir, as tea is always served in cups and saucers at these events, but the time has come to shake these ladies up a little, and change can be a good thing.
I also made the decision to move away from the traditional cakes and biscuits and produce some vivid and unique cupcakes.

The morning arrived and I felt completely satisfied that I had left nothing to chance. I had decided to hold the main event in our drawing room rather than at a table in the dining room, and had positioned a selection of small Victorian side tables at strategic points so the ladies would be able place their mugs and plates down when the wished, beautiful bouquets from a nearby florist I found were placed in two of the window seats offering up hints of spring.

At the allotted hour the ladies began to arrive and after their coats had been taken, were shown into the drawing room which at this time of day has the sun shining through it, highlighting the wood paneling, lead windows, beamed ceilings and stone fireplace. A small fire had been lit and the room glowed. While the ladies chatted about the state of the potholes and the weather that had caused them the tea, mugs, coffee, milk and sugar and cupcakes were brought in to the drawing room and placed on my antique bureau.

I had decided not to serve, but invited my guests to help themselves and I watched as the chair lady lifted her rear from a newly Pierre Frey covered chair and made a dash for the refreshments, elbowing others out of the way to get there first. She was transfixed and I was unsure if it was in horror or shock or both perhaps. She gasped at the woman on her right and as I shimmied over I heard her whisper (loudly), "Do you think she made these herself"? She then grabbed the spectacles which dangled around her neck on a plastic chain and read the inscription on the mug "Sex+chocolate" she spluttered, "outrageous". The woman on the right then said "Actually Daphne, (not her real name), I think it's thoroughly refreshing, and you really must find your sense of humour". With that, I interjected and offered to pour the chair lady some tea and picked up the plate of cupcakes and offered them to her. She took her tea and chosen cake decorated with chocolate flowers and a raspberry coloured bow, and stomped off back to her chair.

During the remainder of the morning, much tea, both normal and herbal were drunk by my guests and nearly all the cupcakes eaten, many subjects were discussed and plans were made to begin the task of organising the Summer Fete. I noted that throughout the proceedings that the Chair Lady seemed less forceful than usual and others were allowed to freely make suggestions without being verbally slapped down.
Two hours later we were finished and the ladies all said their thank yous, and complimented me on introducing them to some new teas, and on acquainting them with the fine art of cupcakes. The Chair Lady was last to leave and after she had taken her coat, she looked me in the eye and said "That was the most beautiful thing I have ever eaten, not only the taste but its design, you are a very talented young woman, and I'm very glad you have joined our committee, you have much to offer, and although some of your ideas are rather 'modern', I can see that there is humour within them" she then patted me on the back and left. I am now quite chuffed knowing I have the regal seal of approval from our very own local Majesty, and that there is some magic dust somewhere in my cupcakes.

Time for a Break

I'm off for a little well earned break (hopefully not a limb). I not only pack for myself, but I also have to check the small herd have everything they need too, and I find I need to be super organsied for the build up, ensuring dogs are being looked after, plants fed and watered and the house is being taken care of. Once this has all been done, I can concentrate on myself as I like to take my time packing, I love the ritual of placing layers of clothes in between the tissue paper and all in perfect sequence. I never forget anything as I hate the thought of not being comfortable wherever I am in the world. When final checks have been made I can then relax knowing everything will run smoothly.
I wish you a very happy Easter whatever you are doing and wherever you are. Don't eat all those chocolate eggs, please save some for me. Au revoir and I shall return to update you in a few weeks...

Friday, 22 January 2010


My school run has changed from being a stressful and disagreeable event for myself and the small herd to a delightful pleasure. We now leave at a most civilised hour as the journey is traffic and congestion free, besides the odd tractor or milk lorry, we drive past fields, farms and cows, down country lanes. On arrival, there are plenty of parking spaces to choose from, no fumbling around for credit cards or loose change for pay and display as there is none, and, most gratifyingly, no traffic wardens.

We glide into our chosen space vacate the car without panic, older chaps wave goodbye (no kissing just the occasional hug) and smallest chap and I meander into his class chatting to other parents and small people along the way, and all done with calmness.

After the drop off and obligatory chat with teachers, mothers and some fathers about the news and views of the world we all drift off to our next destinations. Today, my first appointment was with a seamstress I had found to make some alterations to an evening dress that is now (hooray) too big. My drive took me along some unfamiliar country lanes and I drove carefully as one never knows what may be lurking around the next corner.

It all happened so quickly that I didn't have time to brake until it was too late. A large rabbit dashed out of hedge at lightening speed, I screeched to a halt unsure of whether we had collided or not. Initially I was too scared to get out to look, but I knew I had to be brave for the sake of the poor rabbit. I swung open the door, hazards on, and slowly inched round to the front of the car, eyes squinted and ready to look away quickly in case of a very nasty mess. Nothing on the drivers side, I moved further round, nothing in the middle or on the passenger side, so I knew I had to look under the car where the poor dead, or even worse injured animal would be, so I crouched down (not actually kneeling for fear of dirtying my new Balenciaga cords) and holding my breath took a look, and there it was crouched under the car trembling, but as far as I could tell uninjured. I was unsure of what to do, and was concerned that if I just drove off and left it another vehicle might come along and crush it, at least under my car it was safe. Whilst this was all going on a car had driven up and was waiting behind me, I hadn't noticed as I was too busy worrying about the rabbit, and in a city I would by now have caused a tailback about a mile long and have horns blowing, people shouting and waving angry fists around, but that sort of behaviour just doesn't happen here, so I was unaware of anyone else being around until I heard the opening of a car door. I tall man approached and asked if I needed assistance, I explained and he said I just need to reverse and the rabbit would hop off, brilliant idea. I did reverse and the rabbit did hop off but not back to the hedge just back under my car. Further discussions took place and we decided we would have to give the rabbit and incentive to move. I pulled a long stick from the ground and pushed it under the car to give the rabbit a little prod to get it to move, and it did but just further back under the car. A couple of more cars arrived and the drivers got out to see what was going on, and we all discussed the best way to deal with the rabbit. A darling old lady came up trumps, I get back in my car and blow my horn, so I did, and how right she was, the gorgeous bunny jumped for its life and made a quick dash back into the hedges and hopefully back down into its warm hole in the ground.

We all drove of waving to each other and as I pulled my Bamford coat around me for warmth it was then I realised that I was probably wearing one, or several, of the rabbit's relations around my neck. No wonder it didn't want to move away from the safety of the underside of my Mini, it didn't want to be added as decoration on my cuffs.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Nearly Nude

This weather has had an unexpected effect on me one which I never thought possible. I have been going out into the world almost nude as I now feel confident that I won't be shunned or sneered at. You might be shocked by this and think it rather brazen. I will explain. I had a rather unpleasant incident last week while out and it was only be sheer good fortune that I was visiting one of the larger towns here when this traumatic event occurred within close proximity of one of my favourite shops, Space NK, the very beautiful sweetie shop for ladies who like to take great care over their appearance.

Whilst strolling along I was hit by a huge gust of wind and rain directly in the face, it was as if someone had switched on my power shower outside. After I had regained my dignity I dashed straight into the serene haven of my favoured shop and was greeted by a fresh faced girl with the dewiest skin I have seen in some time. I needed immediate attention in order to fix my face as all my make-up had either been removed or had smudged in my soaking. This glorious youngster soothed me with her calmness and unfazed approach to my bedraggled appearance and gently guided me over to the counter of miracles, the place where all evidence of age, self inflicted abuse, and late nights are swept away with some brushes and magical potions, and clever beauty industry tricks. She sat me down with a cup of chamomile and appraised my face in a highly professional manner (I know as my face has been appraised by some serious skin specialists over the years). "What can you do to fix me" I asked pathetically. I was completely astonished when she replied "absolutely nothing". She then went on to explain that she thought (other than the smudged mascara) I looked completely gorgeous, my skin was in radiant condition with a natural flush which simply highlights my high cheekbones, other than a few very fine signs of happiness around my eyes (lines), my skin looked that it should belong to a woman about 8-10 years younger than me, and that whatever skincare range I use it obviously works for me, (a mixture of all the obvious contenders, in case you are wondering).

I was won over, and at that moment she could have sold me the entire shop should she have wished to, but being modest I did not wish to sound to grateful for this praise and I simply thanked her but suggested that with age comes the knowledge that everything can be improved. She agreed, but insisted that all I might need to enhance my natural features was some mascara and of course my favourite cosmetic of all time, lip gloss. I think I could probably write a thesis on the subject as I have at least 200 in my current collection, some of which are now quite rare to find. She gathered some examples for us to play with and showed me how to apply mascara avoiding those irritating lumpy clumps that can appear at the end of lashes. I just couldn't come to a decision regarding the lip glosses so I bought 7, one for each day of the week.

I have taken this young woman's advice and have been leaving the house with a nude face, not a scrap of foundation, blusher, concealer, or highlighter and I must tell you ladies (and any gents who like to touch up their skin), that it is an extraordinarily liberating experience and one in which leaves me more time to work on that natural flush with handsome husband. Check out the alluring Space NK for some guidance on all beautification matters.

Monday, 11 January 2010

The Best Service in Town

As I sat in my Crumpet England cashmere lounge wear sipping my morning tea, and contemplating another day of snow torture, there was a knock at my front door. After unlatching all the locks (I believe in security), there before me was the young man from our local butcher. I asked how I could help and he told me that as our lane is snowed in (like most of the lanes in the British Isles) it was he who could perhaps help me. I was intrigued and invited the shivering waif into the warmth of my kitchen. He explained that the owner had sent him to check on all the households down here who might need food and were finding it difficult getting up the hill. How very thoughtful, and as it happens he was right on time as my fridge was beginning to look quite bare and I had began to ponder how I was going to get more supplies for my small herd, who had told me only last night that they were fed-up with pasta and couldn’t I manage anything else.
He took my order of meat, a selection of sausages, bacon, chicken and steaks and then proceeded to tell me that he could also bring other supplies from the assortment of traders in the village. This is better service than
Ocado, and none of that annoying online ordering confusion. So I hastily wrote a list for him and took out my wallet. “No need for money madam, we will add it all to your monthly bill”. Completely marvellous, and off he went continuing his journey down the lane.
Approximately 3 hours later the small herd, who had discovered about this mornings visit when they had wafted down from their beds, and had ever since been sitting at their bedroom windows looking out for their saviour from gastronomic boredom, all came tumbling down the stairs with shouts of excitement and joy. We all ran outside and watched as the butchers van with trailer attached made its way carefully and slowly down the slippery icy road, coming to halt at our driveway.
The trailer was laden with boxes filled to the brim with goodies for many of the residents. Waif boy unloaded all our boxes and insisted on carrying them inside (with eager help from the hungry herd), and then hopped back into his van and carried on down the lane.I have never known such excitement for food, as we went through all the boxes, meats, crisps, sweets, cakes and biscuits, fruits, vegetables (fresh and frozen), milk (goats included as smallest of the herd is quite partial to goat products), cheeses, butter, yogurts, bread, iced buns, teas, soft drinks and most importantly of all on these cold nights
Gin and several bottles of tonic. No need to worry about ice either as I just break off a few icicles hanging from the bird bath, take my drink and curl up in front of the roaring fire, and let them eat cake to the little hearts content….

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Highlights of 2009

I was kindly tagged by the lovely Metroplitan Mum to discuss personal highlights of the past year. I did not need to think too long and hard about this as for me there were two. 1. Leaving the heaving metropolis of London for peace, beauty and ease of the countryside, and 2. Discovering fashionable finds in my new surroundings, so I'm never far away from an item of silk, cashmere, cotton or fur whenever I have the desire to splurge on an item of luxury. You see I have, at last, found the one one emotion I have been seeking - contentment.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Limited Edition Chanel Give Away

Having the latest beauty products is essential to my life, and I prepare myself well for launches of must-have items. I am on first name terms with the women and men at my favourite stores who keep me informed of what's coming in and when and they happily put items aside for me. However, I have encountered the waiting list problem with only one item. Nail Varnish. When I did finally get hold of the Jade coloured varnish from Chanel last summer, having paid far more than I should have on Ebay I was bitterly disappointed as the colour did not work for me at all. So when I learnt about the newest colour from Chanel 505 Particuliere, which was launched at the end of January, I rang the Bond Street store and spoke to the woman who is the keeper of all things glossy there and was told that absolutely no polishes would be held for anyone it was non-negotiable. So unless you are the editor of a magazine where you can demand your beauty editor hand over the sample that was sent in months ago, it's not going to be easy getting hold of a pot.

Why do I care, you may ask, well this particular colour is the colour I have been searching for my entire life and I want it desperately. I had asked all my London girlfriends to do everything they can to get me one, I just can't bear having to pay £45 on Ebay again, for something that should only cost £16.50, fundamentally there is something wrong with this. So you can imagine my delight, joy and excitement when I found one of these gorgeous varnishes in a town about 11 miles from here that I was visiting on one of my weekly visits I have been making for research purposes. I am compiling a small booklet for my guests of places to visit when they come to stay and I can only give my seal of approval if I have called in on these places and spent a little time there.
The pot sat proudly on display of this small store and when I approached the counter I felt the surge of love pour over me as I knew the colour was perfect. I picked it up and casually asked if this colour was in stock and gulped as the overly, but expertly made-up woman behind the counter told me she had lots. So trying to hide my excitement I purchased a bottle and as I was leaving the store I thought of all the women out there desperately trying to find a small bottle of this liquid joy, so I popped back to the counter and bought another and have decided that I would give it away to one of you in order to spread some goodwill around the world.
To win simply tell me what should be on every woman or mans must have item list, and please be kind and fair and pass on the news of this give away to whomever you feel would love to have a go. I shall pick the winner on the 15th February, with the help of handsome husband.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Winner Is.....

I had great difficulty in choosing a winner for my Chanel Limited Edition varnish competition, and I definitely needed the help of handsome husband who brought some fairness into the judging as it was obviously tempting to me to feel a pull to the virtual friends I now have.
So without further ado I pronounce the winner is Eleanor at Pretty Much Penniless who entertained us with her rose tinted view of the world. This is not the end of my prizes as there were two very close contenders, and because they were so close, I have awarded them with runner up prizes of another Chanel Varnish (Ming), firstly to Julia at The Thank You Project who charmed us with the virtues of blush, and Sarah at Brit Gal in the USA who for taking a 6 hour round trip for a cosmetic item absolutely deserves a gift (still waiting for an address for you Sarah).
Also I must mention Daisy Chain who made a sensible suggestion of clean underwear and Ashley at Breakfast at Saks who charmed us with smelling sweet and nearly swung it with my weakness for lipgloss.
Thank you to everyone who entered and I will ensure that if I am fortunate enough to come across any further limited edition treats that I will offer them to you first.
Have a great weekend....


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