More tea times treats.....Am starting to feel really sorry for them now.
Although middle teenageson has finished his long haul A level exam schedule today and has officially finished school 'forever', youngest teenageson is still on the homework band waggon and has a number of projects to complete before term ends. One of which, apparently requires penguins. Not real ones, but something a bit more interesting than pictures cut and pasted from the internet.
Last night, quite late, he said 'Mum, you're into origami, can you make me a penguin please? Like, now.' it reminded me of all the school projects I have had to 'help' with over the years, often at very short notice and with weirdly surreal briefs thought up by a desperate teacher. Our (my) best grade came from a pretty stunning model of the planets -in the right order- revolving around the sun, which we made in about ten minutes flat very late on Sunday night before science on Monday morning.
It used to make me mad that my sons were so disorganised in telling me stuff, regularly leaving it until the night before to tell me they had to take in Harvest Festival hampers/a shepherd's costume/ a term's worth of art project/cakes for the cake sale the next day. But secretly I guess I enjoy it, as with only one son now left at school from September, I'm dreading the thought that soon there will be no one wanting my help.
So I made the penguin, which wont win youngest teenageson (or me) any prizes, but keeps this little mum-and-son moment in time alive a little longer.
As you know there is nothing we like more than taking a sneaky peak into the homes/style/lives of others. Hence our readers kitchens posts (BTW, please contact us if you would like us to feature yours?).
So when we came across the My Desk section of the lovely blog My Friends House we were immediately intrigued. My Desk takes a look at the working environment of some of the UK's most stylish designers, starting with textile designer Lisa Stickley, and will feature a different designer every week.
My Friends House is written by two friends (who are also interiors writers) and features their interior likes and dislikes and attempts to do up their own homes. We love the site they posted about this week, London Shop Fronts, which catalogues the shop fronts that make up London High Streets. The fascinating images offer a true insight into the real local shops we often take for granted.
I don't go to therapy, instead I garden. It keeps me calm, I can work through all my issues and have imaginary arguments in the greenhouse where no one can hear me and I always win. The plants respond well to the attention and there are weeks when I spend more time nurturing my seedlings than my family.
The other advantage of gardening is meeting other gardeners, who are all too willing to share their interest in growing things and often give you stuff, in the form of cuttings and bits of leaf to identify. This weekend we went to the Garden Gadabout in a very sunny Brighton where we met some fabulous enthusiasts eager to share their green spaces.
We saw a number of interesting trends.....
The new shed- everyone's got a fancy room-in-the-garden shed, with sofas/internet connection/curtains
Vegetables in raised beds....everywhere but everywhere
Potatoes in bags/containers...apparently easy and prolific
Beech sticks as wigwams for climbers (prettier than bamboo)
Chickens....who have their own fancy coups if they're lucky
Seating areas....loads of them everywhere
Recycled boxes/tins/sacks are the new pots
Mosaics, from small to complex, black and white or multi coloured.
Creating your own seed packets and hand drawing the floral fronts.
Cakes, it seems all gardeners can cook cakes and make excellent lemonade
Here are some of the highlights of our visit (all pics expand if you click on them). Brighton's gadabout is also open next weekend too.
There has been a frenzy of activity over the last few weeks here at Middleaged Towers, most of it revolving around the 'Prom outfit'. It seems the texts and online chat have been mostly about the what the girls are going to wear and whether teen son and his friends outfits will co-ordinate with the girls. Apparantly the girls have been shopping for months and managing to fit in their GCSE's around hours and hours in Top Shop.
The Prom is a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, being previously the domain of the US High School kid. But in the last few years it seems to have reached epic proportions in the UK, with stories of 11 years in limos and designers suits on boys who still secretly like playing with lego. Luckily in our manor the 11 year olds are content with an end of primary school camping trip and so far only the 16 year olds are doing the Prom thing.
Being an inner city school with an amazingly diverse group of pupils, teen sons Prom night was sure to be a spectacle. Off we set to the parents assembly (the bit we were allowed to attend, before the real night began) with teen looking resplendent in his finery, a handsome boy, any girl would be proud to have on her arm. I was a little confused, as I imagined taking a girl to the Prom actually meant taking her, I mean like picking her up and walking her there, but it seemed not!
We arrived at the school (not a limo in sight, thank God) nice and early to ensure a good seat as teen daughter and I were here to indulge in one of our very favourite activities - observing people - sometimes known, as being nosey!!
In they came, every shape, size and nationality, transformed from awkward teens in school uniforms to beautiful Asian princess's in stunning Saris, Turkish Prom queens with the most amazing hair styles and make up I have ever seen, indie kids in vintage suits, cool black boys in three piece suits topped off with Trilbeys and tall, thin model material girls in the shortest skirts and highest shoes I have ever seen.
They strutted their stuff and looked fabulous, for some, the first time they had ever looked properly 'grown up'. They eyed each other up and handed out compliments, (well the girls did!) before joining their respective style tribes. All around there was an air of excitment and anticpation of what the evening would bring.
We had the usual speeches, presentations, kids performing and the odd tear from parents. But for me the most poignant part of the evening was when the deputy head quoted the words of Mary Schmich written in 1997, for the Chicago Tribune.
Hix, by chef Mark Hix, is a lovely cook book. I say that as someone who needs another cook book on her shelves like she needs a hole in her head.
For a start it looks and feels chic, with a matt brown-paper style cover and smart gold embossed letters (what a perfect, graphic surname to have as a chef) and wonderful photography by Jason Lowe.
It's got a boys-cook-book feel to it, due to its no-fuss cover and the introduction by Mr Hix which explains a little of how he came to set up the successful chop and oyster house restaurant in London that the book is based on. You can tell he's a chef and not a cook as some of the recipes tell you to deseed cucumbers - I mean, no one does that at home, do they? Also the cover, although gorgeous to feel, is going to get grubby fast in this house.
But this is distraction from the content, which is fabulous for a couple of reasons.
First, the photos explaining oysters, which I buy and eat so rarely that I don't know what I'm doing, so to have pictures and an explanation is great. Same with the cuts of meat, I'm a good home cook but often I look at some frozen meaty lump in the freezer and wonder what it is. And photos are so much better than illustrations, which many cook books seem to use.
Secondly, the recipe for something called Heaven & Earth, involving caul fat (me neither), black pudding (must be soft) apples, mashed potatoes and butter. I had never heard of it before but it looks and sounds fabulous.
Hix Oyster & Chop House, by Mark Hix £25
We are actually really loving this and have the sneakiest suspicion they may actually be a little bit like this in real life (if not worse!). Susannah bearing all on stage is classic, only someone who has been to boarding school would dare show their pants in public, at the age of 48.
Question is can Trinnys lips get any bigger. Tune in next time to find out?
One for garden lovers, this weekend sees some of the nicest gardens in the Brighton area throw open their gates and welcome guests. Garden Gadabout is in its 16th year and includes over 60 gardens, large and small, a few allotments and very importantly, tea and cakes.
It looks a great day out, you can take the city trail, which winds through the more towny landscapes of Hove, north Brighton and Surrendon, or the costal path, which includes Lewes, Seaford and Peacehaven. Garden owners will be on hand to explain their planting and there will be many plants on sale as well as jams, local honey and even the odd Pimms (with home grown borage flowers, cucumber and strawberries presumably).
Entry to the gardens is £2 each, or much better value is the one day pass at £7, which will get you into everything. The gardens are also open next weekend, 3rd & 4th July if you can't make it this weekend and all proceeds go to The Sussex Beacon.
www.gardengadabout.org.uk for details on tickets.
Our fabulous fashion designer friend Mark recently told us his current favourite song is Tightrope by Janelle Monáe (featuring Big Boi) and at first, we thought it sounded a bit like the kind of thing we might be yelling at the teens to turn down. But when we heard it, we immediately loved everything about it. Not only do we love the sound, it looks amazing and makes us want to rush out and buy a black suit, white shirt, bow tie (although that might be taking it a bit too far!) and black and white brogues. Don't even get us started on the fabulous dancing.
And isn't it great to see a gorgeous girl with some clothes on? I know I am in danger of sounding like someones nan, but the younger generation are in desperate need of some stylish (fully clothed) style icons.
The androgynous look is going to be big for Autumn/Winter 2011/12 and we can't wait.
Rather cleverly, the ladies have come back with an internet campaign -What They Did Next - that parodies their style and the whole 'Trinny & Susannah' brand in a way that made us laugh (a little) and also made us like them again. They take the piss out of themselves nicely, they're acting here as are many (but not all) of the cast so it's more a comedy sketch than a documentary. We have access to all 16 mini episodes, but wont show them unless you like them, so here's the first one, we'll stick up the next couple as they become available and you can lets us know if you want to watch the rest.
Yes, believe it or not in these days of photoshopped youthful perfection it is actually true and we will be rushing to the National Theatre on the 1st of July, to see it with our own eyes.
Infinite Variety is curated by actress Harriet Walker and will feature images of ordinary and famous women aged 28 to 95. The exhibition celebrate 'the gains in depth, personality and individuality that are traded for the superficial sheen of youth and encourages us to learn to love, grey, silver and delicately etched lines'.
Walker thinks aging is something “we are all in together” and that she isn’t trying to pretend wrinkles and grey hair are as sexy as youthful looks, but to break down disgust about older women. “I think it is still important to broaden the range of what is beautiful,” she says. “What I am trying to put into the show is an inner light in these women, something about how they’ve lived their life. I want older women to feel happier in their skin and younger ones not to worry that the only fate ahead is the surgeon’s knife.”
We couldn't agree more Harriet.
1st July - 15th August
The National Theatre
South Bank Centre,
London SE1 9PX
When we attended the Intelligence Squared Fashion Maketh Woman debate this week, we were impressed with the lovely ladies from the audience we saw wearing fabulous outfits. Here's a few of our favourites.
Possibly our favourite outfit of the evening, apparently the matt gold hoodie is 'ancient' and the trousers, which have a strip of silver down each side, are Robert Rodriguez from The Outnet.
Susie Orbach, who was one of the speakers against in the debate, looked terrific in her neat black dress, metallic print black jacket and lipstick red kitten heel shoes. She picked her shoes first she told us, as she wanted to be tall enough to see over the podium to speak
Grazia's style director Paula Reed, who looked extremely elegant in her Oscar De La Renta dress ('pre-season 2010 darling...she said to Peter York when he asked her where it was from...) was lead arguer for the debate and you might like to know she was wearing kitten heels too.
She was having trouble working out which vase peonies look best in. At first we thought, why, surely they look good in any vase. But when we bought some peonies and tested them out, we found it is indeed really difficult to find the right vase. We are huge lovers of fresh flowers, but simply don't have the time or the inclination to fiddle around arranging them, so vases are very important to achieve a good look
Luckily I have a vast vase collection and was able to spend some time working out the perfect shape and as I had a huge pile of admin on my desk, it was the perfect diversion.
It seems it all about the height and width of the vase and how you cut the stems. The vase needs to be quite wide at the top (a jug is good) and narrower at the bottom and the stems should be quite short. As the above pictures show, the taller vases just don't do the flowers justice.
As regular readers will know, our bench mark for a great shop is 'does it make our hearts beat faster? 'meaning, when we go in, are we so excited by what we see or experience that our hearts literally start pounding. Despite being immersed in retail constantly, it doesn't happen very often, My Sugarland, Anthropologie, Few & Far and Mint are some we've seen lately, well now we have another to add to the list Avery, in Avery Row London.
This is a perfume shop like no other, there's hardly any product on display for starters, and they don't sell much else BUT perfume (there are a few stunning smelling candles but that's about it) so the initial impact is baffling if very pretty (we're talking taxidermy birds, nice furniture and some hi-tech window displays).
As soon as you enter this little space, wafts of intriguing smells hit your nose and the charming Terence Pearce, who manages the store greets you and starts telling stories. This store is ALL about stories, how each of the artisan perfumes houses makes its perfume range (the shop only stocks perfumes from tiny, specialist companies many of whom are either cutting edge in perfume terms or very old and almost forgotten) and the passionate reasons behind why they are so special.
All this before you even begin to start sniffing in ernest. Terence guides you through the ranges -there are 11 brands currently stocked, but much like a fashion range, they are added to and (some) sell out completely, often replaced by other, even more interesting smells. You test the smells on gothic-ish black feathers (Avery/aviary, see?), I stuck mine in my notebook where they still smell beautiful the next day and look extremely stylish (see below).
Us Brits are a little stuck in a rut when it comes to perfume and tend to keep to just one. But why we do this when there are so many amazing ones to choose from I can't work out. Terence says we should all be compiling perfume wardrobes (well, he would I guess) but it's logical, as not every occassion needs the same smell; sometimes you want to be sexy, sometimes interesting, or even a little scary when it suits (Terence told me he has a 'strong' smell he wears when he's in meetings with perfume buyers that gives him an extra confidence).
Not surprisingly, I bought, but not for me, for Middleagedad for Fathers Day (from teenagesons), two smells in fact as both were amazing. Firstly Carthusia's Uomo, which smells like your other half should smell when he's just stepped out of the shower after a long hot day spent at the beach on the Italian Riviera ('Marine' in perfume speak). Gorgeous (£50 for 50ml).
The second is a bit daring, it's black for starters (the only black scent made) and smells hypnoticaly sexy, almost dangerously so and should be handled with care (it is in a concentrate of about 32% which is high powered for an eau de toilette). Called Black Afgano it's made by the Italian perfumer Nazomatto (which means 'crazy nose' in Italian). I also liked the masculine Duro smell and Narcotic Venus, all very strong, so perhaps not to everyone's taste although Terence said that Narcotic Venus always gets amazing reactions from women when he wears it (he didn't divulge what EXACTLY happened but it sounded good....). All these were £98 but a little goes a very long way here.
Take some time and visit this heady emporium if you are in the area, I can't think of a more interesting father's day present than a hand picked perfume. Ask Terence to tell you a story.
For our New York readers check out the other Avery store in the new Limelight Market Place on Avenue of the Americas. We've not been so would love to know if it's as good as the London store. The New York Times wrote about it here
Avery Fine Perfumery, 27 Avery Row, Mayfair, London W1K 4AY. www.averylondon.com
This weeks comments by Julian McDonald OBE (!) about plus size models, sums up an attitude which is sadly all too prevalent.
McDonald is a judge on (the hideous) Britain's Next Top Model, and told the newspaper, Wales on Sunday, that he thought using plus size (BTW, we are talking size 14 ) models, was 'a joke', and that (BNTM) 'is a serious show and a catwalk model is a size six to an eight'.
Ok Julian, how many real people do you actually know, without an eating disorder, who are a size 6? Not even my 14 year old daughters naturally skinny friends, are a size 6. They are all healthy size 8's,10's and 12's - but remember they are 14. Luckily, apart from a couple of girls, they mostly have a healthy attitude to food, but are far too (in my opinion) aware of their weight, which is almost certainly fueled by watching programes such as Britian's Next Top Model - or Britain's Next Top Stupid Person, as I affectionately like to call it!.
I was appalled when one of the prettier (but not model material) girls went to try her luck at a modeling agency, where they told her she had the right face, but needed to loose weight. She is a normal size 8/10. She came back determined to go on a diet and her ridiculous mother told her she would diet with her!!! Luckily she lost interest after a couple of weeks and remains an ordinary pretty girl.
So where does this view of what fashionable looks like, come from?
The media and key figures in the fashion industry claim not to want to perpetuate the myth that thin = fashionable and we are seeing more and more celebrities proudly showing off their curvy, athletic bodies. So just why is it, that every single season we see underweight young girls parade down the catwalk in the name of fashion?
I am in danger of sounding homophobic here (nothing could be further from the truth), but maybe one of the reasons is, the gay designers at the high end of fashion often have an unrealistic view of what women should look like and create idealistic fantasy figures based on a gay mans stereotype of a real woman.
I have many many gay friends in fashion who would be the first to admit they want women to look perfect, sexy, feminine, glamorous and most of all thin (well maybe thin with a cleavage!). They don't want all women to look like this (otherwise they wouldn't be friends with me!), just the women they design for and the models who wear their clothes. They are not being mean (well maybe sometimes) just true to what they think fashion is all about.
Julian McDonald's clothes are a case in point. They are clingy, over the top, glamorous and designed for thin girls. Think Jade Jagger and Cheryl Cole.
Ironically, he also puts his name to a collection for Debenhams, and we are pretty sure the women who wear that range, are more likely to be around the British average size 14. Doesn't he take them seriously, does he think they are a joke? We are not sure they would be very happy to hear that Julian!!
What do you think?
Now this is a nice idea from The Perfume Studio, a perfume you can make specifically to suit your tastes and then if you want you can even name it after you. I guess if it's good enough for Sarah Jessica Parker then it's good enough for us and let's face it, you couldn't do much worse than Brittany Spears's awful creations.
Retail is all about personalization currently, trying to make the selling experience targeted to each customer's very own needs, so this idea of creating your own fragrance taps right into this.Here you feel like you have created something unique and learnt something along the way AND you have a story to tell to people afterwards....clever.
First the smell. You create your own perfume by mixing -with some experienced help- from the 18 base smells created by the company's master perfumer. As you smell the different bases you learn about how a perfume is constructed, what all the different types of smell are and get to play about with different combinations. There's also a blending chart to try and help match your character to different smells if you feel a little overwhelmed with the process. Once you have an idea of what works for you, the perfume is 'built' and there you have it, your own special smell.
You then name it (I called mine Palm Springs as I was having a hot and sunny moment) and the company runs a competition each month to judge who came up with the best name. Mine smelt rather fab, old fashioned and florally talc-ish with a lingering rosy base. Each bottle of perfume costs £35, which is reasonable compared to much of the stuff on the market.
Then there's the idea of having perfume parties, ideal for hen nights or special birthday parties, where you can create wedding smells or birthday smells, as a remembrance of a special time, or you can all just do your own thing. And of course the perfumer comes to you, which is fun.
The perfume is also sold in a number of beauty salons around the UK and Europe and also in Debenhams in Newcastle. For more info check the website The Perfume Studio
You know you're getting older when your make up routine takes approx 10 minutes, and that's you being indulgent. A quick wash, slap on some tinted moisturiser, whack on the mascara and in my case, a slick of red lipstick, and you're done!
You know what you like and don't really care if the beauty pages are telling you smokey eyes and nude lips are in fashion, you have worn blue mascara since you were 14 and you're not going to stop now. There is nothing more age defining than hair and make up and 40 somethings tend to fall into several beauty profiles.
There is the Aging Rock Chick; think anyone married (or formerly married) to a Rolling Stone (apart from Charlie Watts wife, who is tres chic!) and Stevie Nicks. Shoulder length straggly streaked hair, with side swept long fringe, heavy eye make up and pale lips, are the look du jour for the 40 something WAG.
Then there is the Eccentric Creative, think Edna 'E' Mode (from the Invincibles) meets Magenta De Vine. Jet black hair with a short severe fringe in helmet like bob, with black designer glasses and bright red lipstick, which say ' I am unconventional, creative and ever so slightly scary!'
And last but not least there is the Down Trodden Earth Mother. Sadly, her hair has not been near a hairdresser in many years, mostly because she was breast feeding Octavia, Felix, Henry and Theo for most of the 90's. She has little or no make up routine, as she has much more worthy things to do, but may slap on some 10 year old foundation for a wedding, causing her family to ask if she's ok, as she looks ill.
I am part down trodden mother (my routine is all surface and no detail - although that is probably too much detail!!) and a lot eccentric creative, and my make up routine is definitely stuck in a rut - and I don't care.
I love my red lipstick and have no intention of giving it up. It has seen me though the early 80's when it was accompanied by the most severe drawn on eyebrows known to man, the late 80's when I wore only black for several years. The early 90's when, after I had given birth, I reached for my red lipstick before receiving visitors. The years of bringing up small children, when as soon as applied my lipstick I felt like a person again, not just a mum. Even now, despite my increasing wrinkles and grey hair, I still feel revived and bright, when I apply my current favouite red.I have no perfect red, I flit from Chanel to Nars, even Boots, and am currently loving the new Top Shop shade, Rio Rio. I am happy to try them all, and will occasionally throw in a bright orange or shocking pink, just for fun.
So ladies if you are stuck in rut make up wise, good for you. Whatever makes you happy, we cant all be Madonna! I for one will be sporting the 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane' look right to the end!!