Moving with Style – In the Pink

Monday, 24th March, 2014.

Well not a lot of action on the house sale for the last few weeks. Oh apart from the housework having been amplified tenfold due to the sheer number of viewers we’ve had through the door; though no offers to buy. Being my usual optimistic self I had envisaged the house selling instantly, but seemingly I was lacking a magic wand.

I have this house showing lark off to a tee now. After hours of toiling – on all fours scrubbing kitchen and bathroom floors; laying and lighting two coal fires; vacuuming and dusting the entire house; mowing the lawns; turning the house into a florist’s shop with copious bunches of lilies and tulips to fiddle with – ten minutes before a viewer is due I vacate the house. No longer do the dogs and I head for the beach; but Costa.

Costa does make it better
Costa does make it better
Coffee love
Coffee love
My Costa clubcard is laden with points
My Costa clubcard is laden with points

The dogs are okay with it. They receive a mini muffin each. As well as a bag of mini muffins, I order a regular Cappuccino-to-go. Parked on the promenade – just a stone’s throw from the house – we enjoy a fabulous view of the beach we should be walking on. After thirty minutes we return home. But re-energised and feeling like the pink bunny  from the Duracell battery advert – all fluffed up and powered by caffeine – I head straight back out and onto the beach. How the dogs love house showing days.

The Duracell bunny

‘To the beach —>’

With the switch in my head flicked into overdrive, this is when positive house moving decisions are made. Hmmm.

Firstly, there was the cave house in Calitri, Italy. (Cave photos via Rightmove)

Entrance to the Cave
Entrance to the Cave
The living room
The living room

Maybe initially it appealed to the primitive side of me – or was it the price? At £21,000 the price is primitive. Either way I could see myself as a modern day Wilma Flintstone. My leopard print heels and a pair of chopsticks stuck in my hair would look great! Ahem. And Betty and Barney  Rubble might be neighbours.

Wilma
Wilma

When I began reading about Calitri, I was hooked. Calitri is a town in the province of Avellino in southern Italy. It is about one hour’s drive from Naples. Calitri sounds like a magical place, as locals liken it to Positano – the stunning village on the Amalfi Coast which is revered for its vibrant colours and year-round sunshine. Calitri itself is a medieval village, and the surrounding countryside is steeped in history, with castles and aristocratic palazzos in abundance. Apparently Calitri is world-known for its artistic ceramics. There are thermal baths to luxuriate in, exceptional cuisine on offer, and wine tastings galore. The cave would make a gem of a holiday home, and half the fun would be the journey getting there. Bello. (Photo via Rightmove)

A street in Calitri. The Cave can only be accessed on foot or by a three wheel vehicle.
A street in Calitri. The Cave can only be accessed on foot or by a three wheel vehicle.

Secondly, there was the cider farm in Brittany, France. I had always associated cider – or scrumpy – with southern England.

scrumpy

The traditional Breton cottage in France is situated in rolling countryside. Accessed by a little footbridge across a river, the apple orchard of 200 trees produced 2,000 litres of award winning cider last year. (Photo via Rightmove)

The Orchard
The Orchard

The cottage even housed a bread oven. Food and drink costs could be kept to a minimum. And not a bad diet either – bread and cider – carbohydrates from the bread and vitamin C from the apples. May need a few chickens running around – for protein of course. But then I thought of the neighbours I might encounter … The Wurzels – Combine Harvester

And I remembered I do not like cider.

Now if the apple orchard were a vineyard, there would have been a sale on the cottage. Tasting the wine would be pure pleasure … Absolutely Fabulous

My head is now back in the land of Blighty, and this week I view a quaint looking cottage a few miles down the road. Judging from the photos in the brochure, there appear to be some interesting artefacts lying around the living room, including a crystal ball! I wonder if a ‘sold’ sign will be slapped on the ‘for sale’ board when I arrive … the vendor may have seen in her crystal ball that the new owner is me. Hmmm.

SOLD
SOLD

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :-) Have a magical week.

Moving with Style – Hidden Corners

Monday, 3rd February, 2014.

Last week was week two of the house being up for sale. It was time for me to view some properties. Interesting how one’s imagination can run riot. I viewed quite an eclectic bunch of houses, and each one told a story. Two stand out in particular.

The first property I viewed had been part of a convent – a block of flats now stands where the main convent building once stood. The owner assured me that the flat dwellers provided a top notch Neighbourhood Watch service. And I truly believed him, for not only did the flats loom large over the property, but the residents’ car park was the owner’s back yard. There was no garden. There was an outdoor space to the property however, but this was accessed from the main bedroom. A French door led outside onto a roof terrace, revealing urban views of row upon row of roof tops and chimneys. A smudge or two of soot on my face and I could star in another version of Mary Poppins, singing and dancing the nights away to ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee.’

Now if there had been a garden then I may have been interested, as there was a hidden gem to this property. For in the lounge an ordinary looking bookcase concealed a secret. One touch on just the right spot and the bookcase swung open at an angle to reveal a secret room. Memories came flooding back of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But instead of walking through a wardrobe into a land of snow, I slinked behind a bookcase into a world of books. Forget Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, this was the stuff that James Bond movies are made of. I could be Pussy Galore … or at least Miss Moneypenny. The secret room had been decked out from floor to ceiling in shelves, housing a library of books. A tantalising thought entered my mind at this point: replace the shelves with wine racks. Images of cosy candle-lit wine tastings fluttered into my head – La Cave du Jane. Mmmm. I had to be realistic – no garden! It was a ‘no.’

La Cave du Jane – grande

wine cave

La Cave du Jane – petite

wine room

Wine tasting Beijing style … interesting

Beijing wine

The other property which stood out had a hidden room also. When viewing this house, not only was I met by the estate agent, but also the owner, the latter being a nice elderly lady who must have been an estate agent also – in a past life. The ‘real’ estate agent may as well not have been there. The owner described her home as a tardis as she enthusiastically guided me from room to room. The estate agent faded against a backdrop of pink chintz and collections of china tea cups as the old lady regaled me with her life story. Sigh. I did not want to linger longer than was necessary as the entire house wreaked of cigarette smoke. Not even the Febreze candles could mask the odour. Mind you the scent from those is pretty pungeant anyway, and they don’t exactly invoke a seductive atmosphere to sway a prospective purchaser.

Top Tip:  Any product, be it candles, perfume or body lotion containing vanilla, releases a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ into the air, and is a real winner!

This house was long, dark and narrow. Tucked away in the darkest of corners at the back of the property was a door. The owner was keen to open it informing me that this was a recent extension … I did not understand the design of the room we entered into. It was jam-packed with junk. A toilet sat in one corner, whilst a shower cubicle sat in another. The latter contained a bike which stood upright on it’s front wheel, half covered by a grim looking shower curtain. The owner assured me of the slick workings of the toilet and shower. Sliding patio windows led outside into the garden …? Okay. A room for exhibitionists perhaps? Well I’m sure that in summer it would be pleasantly refreshing strolling through the open doors into the garden au naturel, to dry off in the sun. Save on washing towels. The house evoked a mishmash of thoughts, from Dr. Who to ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ and from Psycho to ‘I’m Too Sexy … for my shirt.’

Possible warning signs to look out for …

haunted sign

Positive signs to look out for …

champagne sign

Ideal secret room 1 …

secret lounge

Ideal secret room 2 …

secret bedroom

It’s not going to be easy finding our next home, but I’m finding solace in Jane Austen’s quote: ‘There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.’

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog :-) Wishing you a wonderful week

Moving with Style

Monday, 27th January, 2014.

Phew. The house has been up for sale a week and has been graced with three viewings already.

I am feeling excited, if not a little frazzled, having forgotten all the bits and bobs that are involved in marketing a house for sale. White paint spots dance before my eyes, and I can now perform a hurdling action over the stair gate (used to prevent the dogs from bounding upstairs), such is my new found suppleness gleaned from touching up the entire house’s paintwork. The squats at skirting board level coupled with the stretches at ceiling cove level are beginning to work wonders!

A view of the lounge
A view of the lounge … shabby chic

The little jobs I’ve never got round to doing before have made quite a difference. And in fact when I saw the estate agent’s photos of the house bathed in soft light – obviously taken with a state of the art camera – I wanted to put in an offer there and then. I was pleased to see the words ‘lovely feel/finish throughout’ appear in the particulars. No mention of ‘shabby chic’ then. I had explained to the agent that my style was based on French shabby chic. Apparently this term conjured up an image of something rough around the edges to him. Well … it’s certainly not perfect – what with two children, two dogs, two cats and a couple of dusty coal fires. And I’m wondering who it will actually appeal to. It isn’t super modern with walls adorned in flat screen TVs – a pet hate of mine. A television should be discreet and not dominate a room. Nothing much matches – best way in my eyes though – a home should reflect your personality, and not be an advert for a bland furniture chain. Think I may blog on interior design later. Hmmm. I hope not to be eating my words a year down the line when no buyer has come forth.

May be this will encourage a buyer ...

Maybe this will encourage a buyer …
This would work well on me ...
This would work well on me …

It is quite a to-do titivating the house on the day of a viewing. I morph into Mr. Sheen’s wife … ‘Mr. Sheen shines umpteen things clean.’ And I am on poop patrol in the back garden, armed with a box of black plastic bags. The dogs are quite regular you see. Ahem.

The lovely Mr. Sheen
The lovely Mr. Sheen
This is what I'm hoping for
This is what I’m hoping for

The fires have to be lit at precisely the right time, to ensure maximum warmth and ambience for a viewer’s arrival. A dainty squirt of perfume scents the air, and I make a mad dash for the beach – dogs in tow.

I await with bated breath this week for feedback from the three viewings. But the exciting bit begins now, as I become the viewer and go house hunting.

Will bear this in mind … farm

My next back yard maybe …

'Absolutely Fabulous' ... love those ladies
‘Absolutely Fabulous’ … love those ladies

Pliny the Elder summed it up really, with his quote – ‘Home is where the heart is.’ And I couldn’t agree more.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog :-) Have a great week.

Beautiful Bling

Monday, 25th November, 2013.

Whilst out shopping in the local supermarket the other day, I couldn’t help being drawn to the check-out man’s super sized bling. Although tame by Mr. T’s standards, the jewellery caught my attention, but alas, for all the wrong reasons. For Mr. Check-out wore a chunky gold chain with dog tag around his neck, and ID bracelet – wonder what the attraction is of actually wearing one’s name – together with a silver signet ring on his pinky. Despite these fairly bold statement pieces, albeit dated ones, Mr. Check-out’s words were barely audible, and I found myself making ‘eye contact’ with his toupee. This dashed any preconceived ideas I may have had about being able to judge a person’s personality based upon what jewellery they wear. I expected a lion’s roar from Mr. Check-out as opposed to a squeak, but I suppose I did get to see the mane upon his head.

Although Mr. Check-out’s name badge was out-dazzled by his bling, I feel his name might have been Trevor …

Trevor

Wonder if Trevor would consider swapping his signet ring for one of these:

Bikereye

Trev in evil eye biker mode

legoman

Lego man

Jamesbondring

Agent 007

I’m afraid I have to agree with Gordon Bethune here, who quoted, ‘Watches are the only jewellery men can wear, unless you’re Mr. T.’

Now I’m a fine one to talk, because over the years I have worn an eclectic mix of ‘jewellery’. The 80s saw me in the biggest pair of hoop earrings ever; they dangled from ears to shoulders, and if Tarzan were to veer from the vines he certainly would have been able to get a good grip on these.

Adorned too, in plastic neon bracelets by the dozens, I was convinced that life in plastic was fantastic. And with handfuls of Bertie Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts dangling from my neck, I must have looked tantalising … in a mobile sweet shop sort of way.

plasticbracelets

Frenchbracelet

A favourite summer bracelet bought at a market in Provence for just a few Great British pounds.

Mywatch

Another French purchase – Cacharel watch.

Apparently the most popular item of jewellery you wear can give an insight into your personality according to psychiatrists via weeklyworldnews.com

  1. Bracelet – You love life and have a great deal of determination. A vivacious, sparkling, dynamic individual who goes after what they want.
  2. Ear-rings – A proud, secretly bold person, who doesn’t want to get lost in the crowd.
  3. Religious Symbols – A cross or Star of David reveals an idealist, sincere, extremely loyal, and a very dependable individual.
  4. Rings – Level headed and down to earth. A wedding band reveals someone who cares about family and traditional values. A dazzling diamond ring reveals a person who wants you to know that she is someone to be reckoned with.
  5. Ethnic Symbols – If your favourite piece of jewellery is a pin or pendant about your ancestry, you’re probably a thoughtful, orderly person, and a trustworthy friend.
  6. Assorted Jewellery – if you have a favourite piece of jewellery for every outfit, you’re likely to be sensitive, artistic and sometimes shy. You are an orderly and well-groomed person, who is not given to emotional outbursts.
  7. No Jewellery – If no jewellery is your preference, you’re probably a self-confident, down to earth person. You may be blunt at times but people appreciate it.

Now I rarely wear jewellery, unlike Jade Pinkett Smith whose desire is, ‘If I had my way, I’d wear jewellery, a great pair of heels and nothing else.’ And Katie Price a.k.a. Jordan is ‘happy to receive any items of jewellery.’ Well no surprise there.

According to Padma Lakshmi, ‘Jewellery should not upstage you. I pick one hot point on my body that I’m going to highlight. Let one area do the singing – you don’t want to hear three songs at once.’ Sensible advice.

After checking out the Autumn/Winter 2013/14 jewellery trends, I reckon anyone will be bang on trend – and indeed without even realising it. Here’s what’s trending:

The words, Love, Cool, Happy, Help – in giant necklace forms.

Crowns

Insect brooches

Chandelier earrings. Pretty.

Chandelier

Chandelier Earrings at Balmain

Grunge bracelets

Mineral necklaces

Oversized gold and diamante brooches

Gold ear cuffs and cartilage jewellery

Beads and pearls

Bronze toned chains with biscuit porcelain medallions

Oversized turquoise necklaces

Layered rings

Tribal necklaces

Barbed-wire earrings

Ear nails. Painful.

Nail

Ear Nails at Versace

Serpent earrings/necklaces, eagles clutching their prey

Giant link necklaces

Ceramic watches

Silver cuffs

Engraved oversized choker necklaces

Evil eyes jewellery

Oversized cuff bracelets. Heavy.

Giantcuff

Over sized Cuffs at Giambattista Valli

Wear.what.you.want.

I think I changed my mind about the ‘no jewellery’ preference when I stumbled across Damson Contemporary Jewellery  (damsonjewellery.co.uk). I was blown away by their stunning designs. Damson specialises in beautiful handmade jewellery from some of Britain’s most innovative designers, offering unique, contemporary pieces you’d never find on the high street. In particular, I love the ‘Coast to coast’ ring with interlocking halves, created from a stretch of coastline you choose yourself.

Damson

On the other hand, if you want a bunch of dolls’ limbs wrapped around your neck, look no further than Margaux Lange, a New York based art jeweller who specialises in Barbie dolls pulled apart and made into jewellery.

Barbiearms

Barbiemouths

I came across a rather interesting hand contraption and some face distorting jewellery, via the Daily Mail.

hand

mouth

Nose

No need for plastic surgery then.

And a rather gruesome discovery was that of human teeth jewellery. Attractive.

teeth

Mmm. There is something I like about this ring … and it isn’t just because it could be used to skewer a piece of meat on the barbie …

skewer

A ring symbolising the voluptuous goddess Venus may be …

Nipplering

I wonder what Mae West would have made of all this, for she quoted, ‘I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number of carats in a diamond.’

Well for anyone in the know, this is probably the most personality defining piece of jewellery for me! Hmmm.

corkscrewnecklace

Bling bling

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Have a sparkling week :-)

Shoe Candy

  Monday, 18th November, 2013.

My daughter’s recent purchase of Dr. Martens had me thinking about shoes. Dr. Martens – also known as Docs or DMs – are bang on trend right now. These British branded boots were originally designed for comfort, and indeed still are, but they also come in a range of eye catching colours and designs. Docs were popular in the 70s and 80s, but they never captured my imagination back then. Instead, a pair of red stilettos stands out in my mind. Teamed with white skinny cropped jeans, I thought I was the girl in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. And having a medal in disco dancing – well – I strutted my stuff on the dance floor, with style. Hmmm. Looking back, it was probably more with enthusiasm than anything else.

Cool Docs
Cool Docs

Even worse was the time I paired the red stilettos with black pencil skirt, black seamed stockings, and my father’s black tuxedo. Yikes. And I recall standing at a bus stop in broad daylight dressed like that. Oh dear. I could easily have been mistaken for a ‘lady of the night’ on her way home from a ‘job’. Ahem. Yes, Docs are a much more sensible option for teenage girls.

A study in 2012 by the University of Kansas revealed that you can judge 90 per cent of people’s characteristics by their shoes. Volunteers filled out a personality questionnaire and provided photos of their most frequently worn shoes. From these photos, 63 students were able to accurately guess a volunteer’s gender, age, social status, and even a degree of their emotional stability. The study also revealed the following:

  1. Uncomfortable looking shoes indicate a calm personality.
  2. Practical and functional shoes generally indicate an agreeable personality.
  3. Ankle boots indicate a more aggressive personality.
  4. Flashy footwear is typically worn by extroverts.
  5. Having several pairs of new shoes, or taking exceptional care of shoes, indicates that the wearer spends too much time worrying about what other people think of their appearance.

Wonder what my shoe analysis would be.

Usually worn with a midnight blue, lacy dress.
Worn with a midnight blue, lacy dress.
Usually worn with a hot pink dress.
Worn with a hot pink dress.

These must have been from my 'Sex and the City' phase.

Quirky. These must have been from my ‘Sex and the City’ phase.

But what a colossal choice of footwear there is available today.

The French designer, Christian Laboutin, designs some dazzling shoe candy, ranging from the classic court to the downright dangerous. The shoes are instantly recognisable by his signature shiny red soles on each pair of shoes. Christian Laboutin claims that his interest in shoes began when he visited the Musee national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Oceanie in Paris. Apparently he saw a sign from Africa forbidding women wearing sharp heels from entering a building for fear of damage to the wood flooring. Christian Laboutin wanted to create something which defied the words on that sign, and so he went on to put together a portfolio of drawings of elaborate high heels. He stated, “I wanted to create something that broke rules and made women feel confident and empowered.” Nice thinking. And I do like his quotes:

‘There is an element of seduction in shoes that doesn’t exist for men. A woman can be sexy, charming, witty or shy with her shoes.’

‘A shoe is not only a design, but it’s a part of your body language, the way you walk. The way you’re going to move is quite dictated by your shoes.’

‘Strangely enough, I really think that shoes are a communication tool between people.’

‘I would say that a good shoe is exactly like a good wine. These shoes are going to stay and last for a long time.’

‘Designing my shoes, I’m thinking timeless. Not trendy.’

‘A naked woman in heels is a beautiful thing. A naked man in shoes looks like a fool.’

So, depending on what shoes I choose to wear, I can be sexy, charming, witty or shy. My shoes will make me move in a certain way and could determine excellent communication skills. My shoes could be like a well matured bottle of Amarone, but I may never look trendy. Interestingly, I shall be beautiful naked in a pair of heels. Mmm. Must put a savings plan in place for a pair of Christian Laboutin shoes.

Let’s take a peek at his fabulous designs.

bluespikey

Love these. Really looks like shoe candy.
Love these.
Beautiful. May be appropriate footwear for a production of Swan Lake.
Beautiful. May be appropriate footwear when attending a ballet production of Swan Lake.
Possibly worn by a 'Bond' girl?
Possibly worn by a ‘Bond’ girl?

The above four images via Christian Laboutin

There really is hope for us all; as according to Coco Chanel, ‘A woman with good shoes is never ugly.’ And the magnetic Marilyn Monroe quoted, ‘Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.’ Powerful stuff.

I have to admit that being such a wine lover, these shoes are perfect for me.

Aha. Perfect.

Bottoms up!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week :-)

Eat, Drink and Dazzle

Monday, 11th November, 2013.

Last winter – to add some cheer to the long, dark nights – a bunch of friends and I took it in turns to host dinner. Nothing too formal – just hearty food and the dazzling company of good friends: two other singletons besides me, and one married couple – so not your usual dinner party set-up. No dress to impress. No back slapping. No social climbing. No competitiveness. Well actually maybe a little competition by way of the food. You see the chefs in the group were two females and one male, Peter. All decent cooks, but I did feel under a little pressure from Peter, who exudes a certain culinary flair. Even his barbecues are cordon bleu affairs. Could I match Peter’s haggis, tender slithers of pork fillet, and lime tart. I remember washing down his truly scrumptious dinner with Champagne. All. Night. Long. For I’ve heard that Champagne is a drink to complement any food.

I do like a challenge, so several weeks later my dinner consisted of a French theme: French onion soup – liquidised I hasten to add. I am not fond of navigating strands of onion into my mouth. Messy. The main course was Boeuf Bourguignon, followed by French chocolate cake. So all in all a rich, heavy meal, which seemed to go down well, with the help of several bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape.

Chateauneuf du Pape is located in Provence, in the south of France. The wine Chateauneuf du Pape is a blend of many different grape varieties, with Grenache being the dominant one. I am fond of this wine. It is rich and velvety smooth, and tastes of cherries and plums. What makes Chateauneuf du Pape wines so distinctive are small drift boulders from the ancient river bed, which reflect heat back into the vines at night, thus increasing ripeness and reducing acidity. Nature is clever.

Winter is upon us again, and so thoughts turn once more to wholesome food and sizzling company. And so I have opted for more of an English menu to kick off the first dinner of the season. Oh, sounding a tad grandiose there. Ahem. Anyway the starter and main course are my own recipes:

The starter is a vegetable soup consisting of half a butternut squash, a few sticks of celery, a bunch of carrots, an onion, two small potatoes and three pints of beef stock. As well as being totally nutritious, the butternut squash and carrots give this soup a delicate flavour.

Lightly frying the soup ingredients in butter.
Lightly frying the soup ingredients in butter.
The finished soup garnished with Paprika and parsley.
The finished soup garnished with a sprinkling of Paprika, and a sprig of parsley.

The main course is a take on Beef Hot Pot and consists of lean stewing steak, onions, carrots, celery, butternut squash, red lentils, beef stock, and thinly sliced potatoes for the top of the dish. The secret to achieving tender beef is to cook it at a very low temperature for several hours.

Beef Hot Pot before adding thinly sliced potatoes to the top.

Beef Hot Pot before adding thinly sliced potatoes to the top.

For dessert: chocolate meringues, served with fresh raspberries and Cornish clotted cream. Now the origin of the meringue is somewhat hazy. It has been claimed that meringue was invented by the Swiss in the 18th Century. However the Oxford English Dictionary states that the French word is of unknown origin. Nevertheless the name meringue first appeared in a French cookbook in 1692. Yet two English manuscripts of recipes giving instructions for confections that are recognisable as meringue, date back to 1604 and 1612/13. And I am almost embarrassed to quote the following; but slowly baked meringues are referred to in the Loire region of France as ‘pets’ – meaning farts in French – due to their light and fluffy texture! Oh my. That will certainly add to the dinner party repartee.

Meringue ingredients - egg whites and caster sugar - Cocoa optional.
Meringue ingredients – egg whites and caster sugar – Cocoa optional.
Chocolate meringues
Chocolate meringues

This dreamy dessert is a sweet, but light finish to the two protein and iron rich savoury courses. And so I would like a wine with a bit of a wow factor to accompany the dinner. I’m certainly no wine buff but I do like grapes, and I can assure you that this wine will make you feel sooo good. It hits the spot like no other wine does. Amarone  – full name is Amarone della Valpolicella. It is a rich, full-bodied, dry red. I discovered this wine accidentally in my 20s when searching for a bottle of Barolo – another fine Italian red. Amarone is not a wine I drink often as it’s pricey. It is made using partially shrivelled grapes that have been left to dry. This process gives Amarone it’s singularity. Over the drying process the grapes lose about 30 per cent of their weight (mostly water), resulting in an intensity in flavour, and high alcohol content – 15/16 per cent.

My bottle of Amarone
My bottle of Amarone

Amarone is produced in the Valpolicello area of the Veneto in north eastern Italy. Corvina is the main grape – other varieties included in the blend are Rondinella and Molinara. The wine is matured in oak for at least two years – four years for the Riserva. Apparently Amarone calls for meat and hearty, rich dishes so I should be ‘bang on’ with my dinner menu.

The description on the back of the bottle of Amarone gives a full idea as to flavour: ‘nose reminiscent of peaches and raisins. Lingering taste of mature cherry and liquorice enriched by a velvety body, vanilla flavours and a red fruit jam aftertaste.’ Heaven. You may need one of these …

winelock

Fill an empty wine bottle with fairly lights for extra sparkle on the table.
Fill an empty wine bottle with fairly lights for extra sparkle on the table.

Love this … fits in beautifully with a winter theme

winetwig

Wine Trivia

  1. By law you are not allowed to swallow wine during a wine tasting in Utah.
  2. Oenophobia is an intense fear or hatred of wine.
  3. A ‘cork-tease’ is someone who constantly talks about the wine he or she will open but never does.
  4. In the whole of the Biblical Old Testament, only the Book of Jonah has no reference to the vine or wine.
  5. There is increasing scientific evidence that moderate, regular wine drinking can reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and gum disease.
  6. California, New York, and Florida lead the United States in wine consumption.
  7. The largest wine producer in the world is France, followed by Italy, and then Spain.
  8. Wine grapes rank number one among the world’s fruit crops in terms of acres planted.
  9. A standard glass of dry red or white wine contains around 110 calories.
  10. An Italian study argues that women who drink two glasses of wine a day have better sex than those who don’t drink at all!

Oh dear. I give in. Could do with a little bit of the wow factor now. Gonna kick off my shoes by the fire, and await a flurry of dinner party invites. Hmmm.

shoes

Chin chin.

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. Virginia Woolf

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Wishing you a week of sizzling winter evenings :-)

Lush Locks

Monday, 4th November, 2013.

 A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life. Coco Chanel

A recent catch-up with my friend, Fiona, in a local wine bar found my mind wandering to thoughts of hair. For there sitting at a table opposite us were three pleasant looking old ladies, and Fiona happened to point out that one day we would be like them. And indeed in one way I hoped that we would be when I caught sight of a decent looking bottle of red wine standing on their table; the three wine glasses were filled to the brim and it was only 4 o’clock – this gave a whole new dimension to ‘afternoon tea’. I really liked their style. However Fiona had been referring to the ladies’ hairdos. Generally speaking elderly ladies do seem to have a similar look regarding hair style and hair colour; the former being along the lines of the Queen’s hairdo, and the latter being the colour of corroding metal – rust. No more purple rinses then; my grandma had been proud of hers.

I was prompted to take a peek as to what’s trending in the world of hair right now. There’s certainly some fabulous looking hair in December’s edition of Hair Ideas that showcases eight celebrity trends.

Glossy Blonde

blond2

Classic Brunette

brunette

On-Trend Bob

bob

Funky Crop

shortcrop

Chic Ponytail

ponytail

Vibrant Red

redhead

Boho Texture

blond

Vintage Volume

favourite

Photos courtesy of Hair Ideas

My favourite, without a shadow of doubt, has to be number 8 – Vintage Volume. This style exudes femininity, in an elegant, but understated way.

Revealed: What your hair says about you via The Daily Mail

Straight                   Unexpressive

Bright Colour       Quirky

Fringe                        Individual

Wavy                          Likeable

Long                           Glamorous

Short                          Masculine

Colours which are trending are blonde, red and dark – well that just about covers the majority of us then. Not sure where Gabriella Ellis from Made in Chelsea would slot in – quite an array of colour there.

madeinchelsea

Photo courtesy of Glamour

But I did find out that her hair is dip-dyed. Now this expression threw up the process of sheep dipping to me, which farmers carry out to protect sheep against ticks, lice and blow-fly. Gabriella certainly looks squeaky clean to me. And so I found myself digging a little deeper to learn about dip-dying or ombre – the hair trend that has gone global. Ombre (from the French word ombre – having tones of colour that shade into each other) is usually where the top half of the hair is dyed brown and the bottom half dyed blonde; but there are all sorts of shading combinations available. Yet there is an alternative to dying the hair, in the form of two-tone hair extensions, which can be fixed into your hair at a salon. Again, hair extensions are massive in the hairdressing industry, and the thought did just cross my mind as to whether people’s hair growth is stunted these days …  Anyway hair extensions are available as synthetic hair, or one hundred per cent human hair; the latter posing the question where does the human hair come from? Salon floors? Dead people? Maybe people get paid for cutting and donating their hair, rather like sperm donation.

My daughter - and not a hair extension in sight.
My daughter – and not a hair extension in sight.

Also available and proving popular is the celebrity bun which can be bought in many colours and styles. One that is featuring prominently at the moment is the spiral bun. There are three steps to securing the spiral bun:

  1. Put own hair into a bun.
  2. Put spiral bun over your own bun.
  3. Tighten the string which is attached to spiral bun and hide under own bun.

Et voila! You now have a bun reminiscent of a coiled Boa Constrictor perched on your head, and without the fear of being squeezed to death.

Clip-on pony tails are also available … but let’s not go there. And oh the hair products which are available! The list is endless – but what great names:

Dual Personality texturising and conditioning spray. 

Big Night out Power Hold mousse.

Instant Oomph Powder.

My Big Fat Rollers.

Back Comb in a Bottle.

Incredible Body thickify dry shampoo – that’s a new one for the dictionary.

Billionaire Blonde repairing conditioner.

Naked Bounce Shampoo.

 The latter two are on my Christmas list. Hmmm.

I must move on to hair for men. The dashing and debonair style has returned – no more casual hair. Slicked back hair is the ‘must have look for men on the screen, runway, and the street.’ Opt for this trend and you too could be feeling like a movie star or model.

What Your Hairstyle Says About You via Men’s Life Today

Side Parting – Popular in finance, politics and insurance.

Serious and business minded. You’re a hard worker who wants to get ahead.

Buzz Cut (shorn look) – Popular in medicine, professional sports and the Army.

Confident and masculine. You care about appearance, but you’re too busy to spend too much time on your hair.

Faux Hawk (slightly spiked up on top) – Popular in fashion and photography.

Creative and extroverted. You’re concerned about standing out from the crowd.

Textured Bedhead – Popular in Hollywood, media and public relations.

Trendy and detail-orientated. You care about the little things.

Caesar Cut (flat hair cut) – Popular in law, theatre and gladiator rings.

Intuitive and savvy. Concerned about looking perfectly pulled together.

Hats haven’t featured here, but I couldn’t resist inserting this photo. Whilst out one evening, I asked this young man if he would allow me to take his photo for a blog. He was happy to oblige … or possibly scared not to.

Cute
Cute

One of the biggest fashion faux pas for men has to be the ‘comb-over’ which is a hairstyle worn by bald or balding men, where a strip of hair is combed over a bald patch in an attempt to conceal it. Of course a huge fan of the comb-over is Donald Trump – The Daily Mail called it an ‘astonishing coiffure.’ Donald is obviously the inspiration behind his ex wife’s quote: Gorgeous hair is the best revenge.  Ivana Trump

trump

Well a vain and rather painful hair mistake I made was at the age of 27. Instead of tying back my hair for a hockey match, I ran onto the pitch with a full head of curls. Determined to look my best for the game, the curls were stuck in place by an abundance of hairspray. What I didn’t bargain for was the torrential downpour that occurred part way through the match. Of course we had to play on – hockey’s a tough game. Ahem. Blinded by hairspray which ran into my eyes via soggy hair, it was like enduring a painful version of the children’s game, Blind Man’s Bluff . It became impossible to differentiate between the hockey ball and players’ feet. I played the worst game of my life. Needless to say I was dropped for the following week’s hockey game. Ouch. Vanity can be cruel.

My 3 Top Hair Tips

  1. Buy the most expensive shampoo you can afford. Cheaper shampoos are full of harsh chemicals. However the cheapest conditioner will do, as conditioner only coats the hair shaft.
  2. Use Olive Oil as an intensive conditioning treatment.
  3. Most importantly – eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. The market is saturated with hair products that are supposed to help the hair, but beauty comes from within, and what you eat will reflect in the condition of your hair. Note to self: must. cut. down. on. the. wine.

And a tip I came across which I tried and would not advise, is one which is supposed to determine your face shape to ascertain what hairstyle suits: stand in front of a mirror with lipstick and use it to draw around the reflection of your face in the mirror. Messy. And the result was scary.

Finally, I have decided it is a total myth that the moment you turn a certain age, ie 50, you have to lop off your hair. After looking at a bevy of twee bobs aimed at the over 50s, my big hair decision is cut and dried. When I exit my 40s I shall be embracing 50 with a lion’s mane – well if my hair carries on growing that is.

With Fiona ... and not a bob in sight!
With Fiona … and not a bob in sight!

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Wishing you a wonderful week.

 

Taste the Stars

Monday, 21st October, 2013.

Whilst chatting on the phone with my friend Rachael the other night, I was reminded of her affinity for the bubbly stuff. Rachael’s idea of elevenses is a glass of Champagne. Rachael is slim, attractive, has an abundance of energy, and is overflowing with an effervescent quality. Indeed I would like to think that Champagne plays a positive role in her sparkling attributes. Madame Lily Bollinger’s famous quote comes to mind – it hangs on a wall in my dining room in the form of a framed tea towel:

Quote by Mme. Lily Bollinger - 17th October, 1961.
Quote by Mme. Lily Bollinger – 17th October, 1961.

“I drink Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch the stuff – unless I’m thirsty.”

I pondered more upon the health benefits of champagne when I discovered that Madame Lily lived an active and healthy life until the age of 77 years. And what’s more she was a keen cyclist, pedalling through the vast acres of vineyards which she owned, to check on grape quality. True job satisfaction. Being a bike enthusiast myself, I now believe that cycling and champagne go hand in hand. A wave of reassurance bubbled through me when I came across the following.

Recent research from the University of Reading reveals that drinking one to three glasses of champagne a week  may counteract the memory loss associated with ageing, and could help delay the onset of degenerative brain disorders, such as dementia. Previous research from the University of Reading revealed that two glasses of champagne a day may be good for your heart and circulation, and could reduce the risks of suffering from cardiovascular disease and stroke. I would imagine that when combined with a healthy lifestyle – good diet and a dollop of exercise – this is worth taking notice of. After all everything in moderation. Although on one visit to France I did hear that in the Champagne region, a drop of bubbly is often added to a baby’s first bottle of formula milk – well at least mum would be assured of a good night’s sleep.

Top Ten Biggest Champagne Brands 2013  (via the drinks business)

10  Canard-Duchene

9    Lanson – Will continue to sponsor Wimbledon and will celebrate it with new neroprene cooling jackets and an exclusive Wimbledon cocktail.

Lanson in their stylish new jackets!
Lanson in their stylish new jackets

8    Piper-Heidsieck

7    Pommery – Star of the show at a new Champagne bar, Voltaire, in London’s Blackfriars.

6   Taittinger

5   Laurent-Perrier – Celebrating its 200th anniversary.

4    GH Mumm – Offers an app dedicated to the etiquette and art of serving and drinking Champagne. Wonder who makes up the rules?

3   Nicolas Feuillatte

2    Veuve Clicquot

1    Moet & Chandon – The brand continues its sponsorship of all things tennis. Game. Set. Match. Moet.

manlady

What is Champagne?

Champagne is made only in the Champagne region of north eastern France. It is a light sparkling wine, but it is different from all other sparkling wines for the following reasons:

  1. A wine can only be labelled as Champagne if it is made in the Champagne region of France.
  1. To be called Champagne, it must be made from the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or Chardonnay grapes, which grow in the Champagne region.
  1. True Champagne as opposed to other sparkling wines undergoes the fermentation process twice – once in barrels and once in bottles.

Champagne may be produced elsewhere as long as credit is given on the label to the methode champenoise. Champagne is the most visited and favourite wine region in France for UK wine lovers.

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Champagne Faux Pas

  1. Chilling glasses by filling them with ice cubes or crushed ice. This will have a negative effect on the Champagne bubbles and how they feel in the mouth when tasted. Oh. This reminds me of a visit to a local new wine bar. Everything was cold and clinical. I came to realise that the little guy in white tux serving me had the chill factor too. I told him I didn’t want ice in my glass. He scoffed at me and smugly announced that it was etiquette to chill the glasses. I didn’t put him right. He wouldn’t have understood. The white tux had obviously elevated him somewhat. Perhaps I should have commented on the largeness of the bubbles, thus indicating a more inferior quality of Champagne. Too pretentious perhaps.
  1. Wrapping the Champagne bottle in a cloth. This was practised in Parisian nightclubs as a way to conceal the label of a cheap bottle of Champagne, so as not to reveal to customers that they were being charged for a more expensive bottle of the bubbly.
  1. Returning an empty Champagne bottle to the ice bucket upside down. This shows a complete lack of respect for the Champagne, and a total disregard for the friends you have just shared it with. C’est sacrilege!

Champagne Trivia

  1. There are approximately 49 million bubbles in a standard sized bottle of Champagne.
  2. The pressure in a bottle of Champagne is more than triple the pressure of a car tyre.
  3. A Champagne cork reaches a velocity of about 40 miles (64kms) per hour if popped out of the bottle.
  4. By the law of averages, you are more likely to be killed by a flying Champagne cork than by a poisonous spider.
  5. The largest bottle size for Champagne is called a Melchizedek – equal to 40 standard bottles (30 litres).

Did you know that some people believe that the Champagne coupe – a wide mouthed goblet – was modelled in the shape of Marie Antoinette’s breast; others believe it was created to commemorate the breast of Madame de Pompadour – mistress of King Louis XV. In fact Mme. Pompadour said she was ‘left full of beauty’ after drinking Champagne. Anyway, either way, I am sure that it was an honour, and something hugely appreciated by any man privy to this info. However, so called experts argue that the ‘breast’ goblet is best reserved for ice cream and sorbet only. Apparently old style coupes tend to flatten the drink by allowing the bubbles to dissipate quicker. Enough said.

me

Famous Champagne Quotes

“Come quickly! I’m tasting stars!” Dom Pierre Perignon – French Benedictine Monk – when he first tasted his newly created Champagne.

“He who doesn’t risk never gets to drink Champagne.” Russian proverb.

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” Sir Winston Churchill

“Champagne is the one thing that gives me zest when I feel tired.”  Brigitte Bardot

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.” Mark Twain – American humorist and novelist.

“I only drink Champagne on two occasions; when I am in love and when I am not.” Coco Chanel

 Some Artistic Lovers of Champagne

  1. It is said Alexandre Dumas could not write without the company of a good bottle of Champagne next to his desk.
  1. The sensitive Frederic Chopin was better able to love his muse George Sand, when he had a bucket full of ice and two bottles of the best Champagne close by.
  1. It is said that Marilyn Monroe bathed in Champagne bubbles to keep her skin smooth and youthful.
  1. Marcel Proust wrote his novels accompanied by Champagne, which kept his creative juices flowing.

If only improving my writing was that simple!

There is a quote I like by Bette Davis:

“There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of Champagne.”

Well yes … just to recap: Champagne helps you lead an active life, counteracts memory loss, delays the onset of dementia, is good for the heart and circulation, reduces the risk of heart disease, tastes like the stars, gives zest, stimulates the creative juices, helps keep the skin smooth and youthful, and when drunk Frederic Chopin style – makes an unattractive partner seem that much more desirable. Wow. Heady stuff.

I am just going to spoil the momentum slightly now. Much as I am a fan of Champagne, and a complete and utter Francophile, I don’t get to drink it that often. A drink which is a firm favourite is Prosecco. An Italian sparkling dry wine made from the Glera (Prosecco) grape. It is a light, intensely aromatic and crisp wine, with hints of apple, pear, white peach and apricot. It should be drunk as young as possible and served chilled. As well as being a cheaper alternative to Champagne, the Venetians refer to Prosecco as a ‘pick-me-up’ – and it is now known as Champagne’s sexy Italian cousin!

Saturday night Prosecco.
Saturday night Prosecco

Whether Champagne or Prosecco – A votre santé and Salute!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog – have a sparkling week :-)

Strike a Pose

 Monday, 30th September, 2013.

Whilst shopping yesterday a man in his 60s made me chuckle; for he wore a t-shirt with a picture of a barbecue on the back, and written next to it were the words, Old Guys Rule ~ Smokin’ Hot and Seasoned to Perfection. His wife walked proudly at his side. And as I entered the grocery store I spotted the latest Autumn/Winter fashion magazine by Cosmopolitan. Now although not a ‘blind’ follower of fashion I purchased this right away to see what was trending. My inspiration – the ‘old guy’ who obviously has a message he’d like to express to the world.

The French always seem to appear chic and elegant. I notice that simplicity is key here. Muted colours, clean lines and no clutter; the latter being accessories which can easily be overdone. Personally, I do like an injection of colour, but again this too can be overworked. The ‘tube of Smarties’ look is best avoided. But as the 1970s ad says, ‘Smarties make you smile.’ And the current slogan is, ‘Smarties have the answer.’ Hmmm. But I actually do think colour lifts the spirit. However there is still the staple little black dress in my wardrobe albeit with a lace twist, but which still remains feminine and classy.

Fave bag - used every day
Fave bag – used every day

Headlining the Autumn/Winter fashion magazine was, ‘The New Glam Rocks’. Love glam rock. But as you get older you have to be careful not to be a slave to fashion. For when enthusiastically checking out the new glam look, the realisation hit me, that if I was to emulate this look now I could easily be mistaken for an extra on the set of Star Wars. It’s actually rather reassuring being older because you have usually figured out what suits, and have created your own style. I can never understand though, why some people follow fashion like a herd of wealthy ewes. What’s with the having to have the latest branded handbag – is it some sort of club – doesn’t sound a very exciting one. Maybe these people haven’t yet worked out who they are as individuals. And the ‘must have’ designer sunglasses prominently perched on their heads, even in the depths of winter, is comical; maybe they’re the equivalent of a comfort blanket. Did you know that Dolce & Gabbana designed the most expensive sunglasses in the world. At £225,000, they included diamonds and solid gold. Oh.

A sultry scent - 'Loverdose' perfume by Diesel. 'Grown-up' glam rock shoes!
A sultry scent – ‘Loverdose’ perfume by Diesel. ‘Mature’ glam rock shoes – Moda in Pelle.

Top 7 English fashion tips from a non-fashionista

  1. Learn what colours are flattering for your skin tone.
  2. Never wear clothes that are too tight.
  3. V-necks flatter a small person and help to elongate the body.
  4. Don’t wear too many pleats/gathers if you are small or have a fuller figure.
  5. Clothes which softly skim the body, paired with some classy heels are flattering for most women.
  6. Smile and feel happy – your face and body will exude a certain beauty and an attractive level of confidence, which will put your clothes well and truly in the shade.
  7. Be you, and create your own style.

Stylist to the stars, Gaelle Paul quotes, …And don’t believe what you “think” you see in the mirror … you probably look 10 times better. Loving this lady.

Fashion can be fun - trying on clothes in River Island. (daughter on left)
Fashion can be fun – trying on clothes in River Island. (daughter on left)

Fashion Faux Pas

The Onesie immediately springs to mind here. Or as I see it – an adult romper suit. The Onesie comes in many designs, including cows, sheep, dogs, chickens, pigs – well any farm yard animal really – even Shrek is available as a Onesie. I thought they were for wearing in the home, but I have seen furry dinosaurs roaming the streets. Wonder what the attraction is …  Comfort? Attention? Hilarity? Onesies: best. for. baby.

Matching super hero onesies ... fulfilling fantasies?
Matching super hero onesies … fulfilling fantasies?

One of my fashion faux pas has to be a blue and white striped t-shirt teamed with a white baggy pair of dungarees, in the 80s. I thought I was Eileen in Dexys Midnight Runners’ song, Come on Eileen. The only accessories missing – a paintbrush and a tin of paint.

Autumn/Winter Wardrobe 2013 (via Cosmopolitan)

Key Trends 

  1. PUNK
  2. CHECKS
  3. HITCHCOCK HEROINE (tailored skirt suits/pencil dresses)
  4. GRUNGE

Micro Trends

  1. Androgynous
  2. Animal print
  3. Berry tones (pinks and reds)
  4. Camouflage
  5. Polka dots
  6. PVC (leather’s out)
  7. Sports luxe
  8. Swinging 60s

… And not a scarf in sight! Never been a fan of the scarf. Too ‘busy’. Why spoil a perfectly nice outfit by wrapping a random swathe of material around your neck. A flattering neckline, with or without a simple necklace is a far classier option in my mind. The wannabe psychologist in me wonders whether scarves are worn to create a safety barrier to hide behind. If that’s how you feel. Well, okay.

I was pleased to see that as well as show-casing expensive designer fashion, the magazine also featured more affordable fashion. As well as the Hitchcock Heroine outfits, I particularly liked a black lace dress from Miss Selfridge, priced at £150, and a classic coat in pink from Marks & Spencer, priced at £85.

dress

coat

A couple of quirky clutch bags caught my attention. The Apple clutch is £245, the New York clutch £205; both by Kate Spade.

clutch

I thought I had found the perfect iPhone cover, but when I glanced at the price – £95, I swiftly turned the page.

A pair of new trainers/sneakers for dog walking has been on my mind recently. Spotted some silver and gold ones with black laces and zips – would certainly cause a stir on the beach in those. But having pondered on the price, it was a no. They were a tad too much at £585. The leopard print trainers would set you back £1,040. Who. buys. these?

Any clothes you wish to get rid of, head down to Marks & Spencer. A great idea is in place whereby all their stores now accept unwanted clothing as part of the ‘shwopping’ initiative, and through Oxfam they’re resold, reused or recycled. The aim is to recycle 350 million pieces a year. Brilliant.

Uni students scrub up well. (son on left)
Uni students scrub up well. (son on left)

If you enjoy fashion, but don’t want to or can’t afford the prices, the free app – Vente-Privee – may well be worth taking a look at. It is a chic discount shopping site giving access to super sales, from Diesel Jeans to Stella McCartney lingerie.

Having browsed through the Autumn/Winter trends, it was a toss-up between Hitchcock Heroine and Grunge. But somehow I just can’t picture myself wearing the latter – an oversized jumper and leggings with jewellery overkill. No. I want to wear a pencil skirt suit and be a Hitchcock Hottie. Hmmm.

Perfect
Perfect

Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable.Style is more about being yourself.  Oscar de la Renta

 Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week :-)

‘Don’t Stop The Party’

 Monday, 9th September, 2013.

 One can never have too large a party.  Jane Austen

Whilst driving in my car the other day, a song from my late teenage years was playing over the radio; ‘It’s My Party’ … and I’ll cry if I want to was performed by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin in 1981. It was at number 1 in The Charts for four weeks. What a miserable song.The only person I have seen crying at a party is a six year old. Of course a party can be any sort of social gathering of invited guests. Usually involving eating, drinking and entertainment.

 To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.  Jane Austen

In Jane Austen’s era, as well as family parties, there was an annual season of balls.These events were a perfect opportunity for a daughter to meet an eligible suitor.The venue would be illuminated with hundreds of candles, and with a crowd of people present, the room soon became hot.This is a reason why ladies often carried fans. But a fan was also a handy little implement for wafting around in a flirtatious manner – beckoning eyes peeping over the top. Apparently Jane Austen loved dancing. Dances would go on for 15 – 30 minutes. Good if you were dancing with the Regency era equivalent of Michael Jackson. And a man could only ask a woman to dance if he had been formally introduced to her. If a lady refused to dance with a man, she had to refuse everyone else too!

Dress wise, white and pastel shades were very popular with the young ladies. And as I was browsing at the dresses worn in the regency era, I realised my one and only ball gown was similar to these. However I would have committed something of a faux pas by wearing it at a regency ball, as older ladies tended to wear sombre colours. Depressing. And hair was often covered with feathers and caps. Quite a trifling mix then.

 Dress is at all times a frivolous distinction, and excessive solicitude about it often destroys its own aim.  Jane Austen

My ball dress
My ball dress

I can relate to the above quote when I did not have the pleasure of attending a ball. The dress was so pinched in at the waist that a starter was all I could eat. Hindered by  a train sweeping the floor, there were no smooth dance moves. And every time I got up from my chair, I felt the urge to ask a friend to check the dress was still intact. Much as I admire Jane Austen’s writing, I could never fully embrace being a Janeite. Though maybe I could join the Paris Hilton club. Apparently she gets ‘half a million just to show up at parties’ and her ‘life is, like, really, really fun.’ Hmmm.

House parties can be interesting, as you are almost forced to speak to other guests, particularly if the host’s house is on the small size. I was trapped by a rather eccentric older gentleman sporting a Kaiser moustache. Although English, he had been living in Portugal for many years. He regaled me with sailing yarns, before turning into my sommelier for the evening. He was the father of the party’s host, and had driven back to England with a car stacked full of Portuguese wine. He insisted on opening a bottle of Vinho Verde – green wine. This semi-sparking wine is called green, not because of its colour, but due to the fact that it is meant to be consumed within a year or two of bottling; so ‘green’ meaning ‘young’ in this case. Vinho Verde may be red, white or rose. Confusing. It originated in the historic Minho province in the far north and is unique to Portugal. My sommelier’s choice of wine was either not ‘green’, or had been jiggled about in the car too much. I felt obliged to drink it. However the bottle which was given to me to take home could be poured down the sink. But what a nice man.

Kaiser moustache.  Attractive ...
Kaiser moustache. Attractive …

One of the most enjoyable house parties was here – my son’s Christmas party. Armed with a bottle of Chat en Oeuf, I settled down by the fire, watching the 19 year old’s arrive. It was great. A constant stream of teenagers flowed into the lounge. Better and funnier conversations were had than at most parties I’d been to. My son commented he was doing less socialising than me. And even though I was under strict instruction to stay in one room, there came a point in the evening when my son and friends whisked me through to the party kitchen – with flashing lights – to dance to Pitbull’s, ‘I’m In The House’. And I certainly was in da house.

Beer Pong – a drinking game with beer – seems to be popular with this age group. Ten cups are set up in a triangle formation at either end of a table. There are two teams, and each team takes turns attempting to shoot ping pong balls into the opposing team’s cups. If a ball lands in a cup, the contents of that cup are consumed by the other team and a cup is removed from the table. The first team to eliminate all the opposing team’s cups is the winner. Haven’t played wine pong yet.

Chat-en-Oeuf A modest, fruity French red which can be drank anytime.
Chat-en-Oeuf
A modest, fruity French red which can be enjoyed anytime.

And then there’s the dinner party. This is enjoyable when dining with close friends, but sometimes a spanner can be thrown into the works. Having had a group of friends over for dinner, the invitation was reciprocated by one of them; a capable mum of two boys. But when we arrived at the house, there reclining in an armchair was her ex-husband. Aha. Were they getting back together? She certainly had not told us he was coming for dinner, and as the realisation dawned on him that we had not been informed, he looked slightly awkward. But nothing a few drinks could not sort out. For he held court the entire evening. Yawn. We felt we were his guests, in his house, eating his food, and drinking his wine. Why did she invite him? We don’t know. It was a no win-win situation.

My Dinner Party Tips.  Ahem

  1. Pretend to be in control, even if not.
  2. Smile. All. the. time.
  3. Keep wine glasses topped up, until almost overflowing.
  4. Chillax and enjoy.

Guests feel your vibes. I would advise giving off good ones.

At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom.  George Carlin

Must sign off. Heading into the kitchen … Pitbull’sDon’t Stop The Party’ is playing.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week :-)