Martedi grasso

As someone who’s half Italian, today is one of the days when I regret Britain’s Puritan past. While the rest of Catholic Europe revels in masked balls, fancy dress, copious alcohol and Nutella*, we British make do with a few pancakes, made from the abomination that is pancake mix, chastely consumed in front of the telly.( A propos, could someone please explain pancake mix to me? How exactly pancakes possibly be any simpler to make?)

Anyway, Shrove Tuesday was one of the family celebrations that I had in mind when I decided to have a baby. So this morning I gave the Husband strict instructions to come home from work as early as possible, so that we could sit down as a family and enjoy pancakes for the first time with our rosy-cheeked, gaily chuckling, daughter.

The Husband, of course, returned home late. I, of course, was in a foul mood because the Minx had been grizzling all afternoon. The Minx, cheeks rosily-sore with snot, was in a foul mood because I had been grizzling all afternoon.

Nevertheless I dusted down my trusty copy of Delia’s Cookery Course and mixed up some pancake batter, thinking what a model mama I was to be working on building those all-important family traditions. At which point the Minx promptly threw up the so-called chicken korma out-of-a-jar which she was being fed (her current cold is giving her certain cough/food/drool management issues) and then turned up her decided little nose at my delicious pancake with apple puree.

So she was packed off to bed and we spent the rest of the evening making and eating pancakes (with lemon and sugar – I am incapable of having Nutella in the house) while working on the mirror mirror website. Carnival indeed.

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Retribution

As regular as clockwork the Minx starts a new cold three to four days after attending nursery. Today’s cold has been particularly nasty, resulting in early rising, lots of crying and general grumpiness, punctuated by the most astonishing amount of sneezing.

I feel terrible seeing my poor little girl so sad and know that tomorrow we’re going to have to spend the day miserably at home instead of going to the Anna Piaggi exhibit at the V&A as planned. I just wish it didn’t feel so much like retribution for sending her to nursery in the first place.

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It may be winter outside

Today we went for a walk en famille in Kensington Gardens. It has become a regular weekend habit as one can always guarantee a veritable cornucopia of ‘giggies’ (doggies) to send the Minx into paroxysms of delight.
It was bitterly cold with a biting wind, but the sun was glorious, the sky was a clear, crisp blue and the Serpentine was (honestly) the same colour as the Aegean. To cap it all we met a very nice dog called Myrtle, who let the Minx stroke her ears, and bumped into our lovely Australian friends and their baby, of whom the Minx is inordinately fond and whom she likes to cuddle rather viciously.
After coffee at Island (this was not, in truth, a very strenuous walk), we took the Minx for her first ever go on the swings (a big hit), watched an immense ochre sun set behind Kensington Palace, and admired the profusion of snowdrops and crocuses in every hidden corner of the park. Finally, spring really has nearly sprung.
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Charm bracelets

The Husband is not renowned for his initiative in the present-buying department; much preferring the tried-and-tested, ‘ring-all the-things-you-want-in-the-catalogue/magazine’ method (a direct precursor of the mirror mirror wishlist).

However amongst other things on Valentines Day he bought me Charmed Bracelets by Tracey Zabar which he had chosen all by himself. Can you be divorced for being patronising, I wonder? It is an utterly charming (!) book, full of good ideas about putting together a collection of charms and of course lots of scrumptious pictures.

As you may have gathered, mirror mirror has a bit of a thing about charm bracelets and I used to long for one full of miniature delights as a child. So on reading the book, it occurred to me that it would be lovely to put one together over the years for the Minx. To start off with I’d like to buy a baby shoes charm to celebrate her first steps, a cat charm to celebrate her first word, a dog charm because she is so fond of them and maybe some garnets since they are her birthstones.

Which is where you (lot? few?) come in. I need advice. I’d like to create something a bit like the bracelet you can see here (though with fewer photo charms) – heavy and rattly and colourful, incorporating enamel and stones rather than just plain metal charms, but I hardly know where to begin. Should it be silver or gold? Will gold get too expensive? Can you get colourful silver charms or do they tend to be plain? Where can I source vintage charms? (I’ve got my eye on some cute little golden shoes on eBay at the moment). Can I get special charms made?

Of course we must all hope that fashion’s going through a boho phase when the time comes to present it to her, as I can just imagine her rolling her eyes in teenage horror at my quaint, old-fashioned, ideas.

(The Husband has just asked whether we will be buying commemorative charms in the shape of a tiny spliff, a tiny scowling face, a tiny tube of glue etc.)

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The Apprentice

Oh how I love, love, love this programme!

They seem to have found an equally objectionable bunch of arrogant monsters this time round, so I just know it’s going to be fun.

Have got my eye on the inscrutable Vietnamese guy and the cool, tall lawyer girl, and while yes, I know that Syed is hugely arrogant and irritating he does have a certain not-unappealing easiness on the eye…

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Me me me

Well, a rich gypsy appears to have tagged me with a ‘meme‘ (note use of cool blogspeak, have become trendy blogging-type person), which appears to mean that I am forced to answer lots of questions of a deeply personal nature. Being a shy retiring little flower, I do so hate talking about myself (says the woman who positively enjoys job interviews – Ed,) but hey…

What were the three things you wanted to be growing up?

When I was very young I wanted to be in Pan’s People because they got to wear nice frocks, danced a lot and had lovely hair.

At secondary school I remember telling everyone that I was going to be a) a journalist and b) a millionaire, until I worked out that journalists had deadlines and a) was pretty much incompatible with b).

Thereafter I variously decided that I was going to be an air traffic controller (at the risk of offending the many thousands of air traffic controllers who are no doubt avidly perusing this blog, I’m not sure what I was thinking of at this point), an interpreter and a diplomat. I gave up on that idea when I realised that one had little say about where one was sent (so it was unlikely that I’d be sent immediately to a glamorous little embassy in Paris or Rome) and also that I am the most undiplomatic person on the planet.

So there was nothing for it but to become an investment banker, which I did for eight years, before realising that I absolutely loathed it.

I’d still like to be a millionaire though.

[I think I will answer the next questions as part of an occasional series, before I manage to bore all three of my readers to death]

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Picasa

If you’re remotely into photography, Google’s Picasa software will transform your life.

It organises your photos into easy-to-view files and has a basic yet comprehensive suite of really easy-to-use photo-editing tools, which will cover most of your editing needs. I can’t explain how much easier it is to use than Photoshop (which I still use for more tricky editing tasks).

Mostly I really hate software (which admittedly is a bit of a disadvantage if you’re running an online shop). It’s either full of bugs or has been designed by people whose brains work in strange and wondrously illogical ways, which means I spend a large part of my day engaged in software-cursing. Picasa, by contrast, is always helpful and almost cuddly.

It also has a rather sweet ‘collage’ tool.

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Bye bye baby

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Am very proud mama.

Today my baby girl lurched forward two tiny, shuffling, protesting, UNSUPPORTED paces and became a toddler.

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Spring has sprung


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Spring has sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where the birdies is?

Actually Spring hasn’t sprung, it’s miserable out there and the birdies, if they’ve got any sense, are lying on sun-loungers somewhere warm drinking pina coladas.

But never mind. We’ve been photographing all weekend so we could add some gorgeous springlike goodies to the mirror mirror website – exquisite rose-strewn beakers from the wonderful Karin Eriksson (she of the most beautiful blog on the web); the fabulous earrings from Darling It’s Perfect that I’ve been banging on about; and another pair of deeply elegant crystal earrings from the same company.

We’ve got more stuff to go on, but in the meantime don’t you think you deserve a little ‘it’s February and I’m miserable’ treat?

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Family Tree

Img_59141_1I’ve never known much about my father’s parents. 

My father died nearly twenty years ago now and he himself had very few memories of his parents who were killed during the war.  He would have been about nine when they died, but never knew them very well, as he was evacuated to Cornwall at the age of six and before that had been in and out of hospital.

I was never even quite sure of my grandparents’ names and the only photo we have is of my grandfather. I must admit that one of the main reasons for going to visit my aunt was to see if I could find out a little bit more about the family before it was too late.

Well, my aunt excelled herself. Not only was she full of memories and anecdotes about her parents – she is two years older than my father which made all the difference memory-wise – but she also had a treasured photo album, full of pictures of her parents, pictures of herself and my father as children and even pictures of my father as a baby. 

And so for the first time I came face to face  with my grandmother.  Facially we don’t look very alike, but I have her eyes and for the first time can see where my tendency to plumpness and ample bosomage comes from.  The above is the earliest and most formal photo my aunt has of her.  The others show a very jolly-looking woman whom I wish I’d known. 

I am now full of questions.  How come she didn’t have her children until she was 39 and 41 respectively?  How did she manage to nab herself a handsome toyboy 11 years her junior? (The Husband is 7 years younger than me, so running after young boys is clearly a congenital proclivity.)  And what was it like to have your six-year old son and eight-year old daughter evacuated and hardly see them for years?  Using the new information I have I was able to find her on the 1901 census. She and her sisters are there,  living with their Welsh parents in a grocer’s shop in London.  I appear to come from a long line of shopkeepers, so it’s nice to know that in other ways I’m keeping up the family tradition. 

The end of her story is a tragic one.  My grandparents moved from London to Cheltenham, presumably to be closer to their children, and, according to their ID cards, both worked in an aircraft factory there.  They were killed by German bombing in Weston-super-Mare – the family story is that they were on their way to see the children in Cornwall. When I Googled for their names on the off-chance, the first thing that came up is the Weston-super-Mare Blitz War Memorial, an online list of everyone who lost their lives due to enemy action in the town.  It is somehow nice to know that their names will live online for posterity.

My aunt believed that her parents were killed by a freak accident, by a German plane discharging unused bombs on its way home.  The reality is more sobering.  The same lovely person who researched the War Memorial has discovered that in fact heavy bombing of Weston-super-Mare was a reprisal for the bombing of Bremen, because they thought Winston Churchill was in the area after returning from the US. 

My father hardly knew his parents, my aunt still misses them even now and I never got to meet my jolly-looking grandmother.  Who knew that the bombing of Bremen would have such profound and tragic consequences for us all?  As I look at the photos of the grandparents I never knew, the politics of the war have finally become personal and I’m finding it all both intensely moving and very sad.

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