Wednesday, 18 December 2013

All Wrapped Up

You know those magazine articles that are full of lovely ideas for beautifully wrapped presents?  They suggest brown paper and string with homemade dried orange peel and cinnamon sticks attached, or using pages cut (never haphazardly torn) from magazines, or arranging layers of different coloured tissue paper finished with generous servings of a wide satin ribbon, doubtlessly bought at great expense from VV Rouleaux.  Seriously, google 'creative gift wrapping', and just see what comes up.

I've saved you the hassle of googling.  This is one of the images that comes up.  Amazing, right?

Anyway, I don't have time to do any of that.  Not since I got married and had children and my sister got married and had a child and my sister-in-law had a child etc. etc. - not to forget Father Christmas's duties - the point is that I now have to wrap what seems like five hundred presents every Christmas.   So, these days, I go in for rolls of the least gopping wrapping paper Paperchase has on offer, and copious quantities of Sellotape.  I occasionally manage to accessorise with some silkiness, but it invariably has chocolate smeared on it (Esmeralda loves the ribbon drawer.)  On balance, however, I find myself at peace with my somewhat slummier wrapping method, and it has definite advantages:  the receivers of my gifts tend to have very low expectations of what is going to be inside.

What a present wrapped by me actually looks like.  Especially since I ran out of Sellotape and have been having to improvise with electrical tape.

Despite my lack of wrapping skills, I thought that I was pretty organised as far as Christmas goes this year.  I got the bulk of the presents wrapped, and delivered, to my parents' house in Yorkshire about a month ago.  So I switched off.  Today, in horror, I realised that I had nothing for my father, and virtually nothing for my husband.  Oh, and one of my orders, containing Esmeralda's presents, has not arrived.  And we're leaving London first thing on Friday morning!  I tried to do some emergency shopping this afternoon at the Olympia Horse Show (it's not too late to get tickets incidentally, and it was fab, Esmeralda loved it, especially the Shetland Grand National) but it wasn't great for much besides sparkly browbands and multicoloured numnahs, both things I think my father's horses can probably do without.

Olympia Horse Show, Shetland Grand National.  I always wanted to ride in this when I was little, back when my sole ambition was to be the first female jockey to win the actual Grand National.  Times changed.

I've potentially got a chance tomorrow afternoon at Winter Wonderland, and for a moment it really was looking like all those I forgot about were getting things from the genuine replica German Christmas Market (or however it is that they phrase it.)  But then I remembered Amazon!  Who now sell everything! (Including serious art.  Weird, but, whatever.)  I can get it all delivered, ready wrapped, to Yorkshire!  And the only reason I remembered this is because my friend Georgia has been doing Gift Lists on her blog, Before the Baby, and published Esmeralda's wishlist today.  Georgia's site is seriously worth checking out if you've got children to buy for.  And if you're buying for a woman, well, my friend Willow has done an amazing list on her blog, Willow Rose Boutique.  (I want everything.)

As far as husbands and fathers go, I have one thing to say:  Fine Food Specialist, who, if you order on Thursday by 11am, are still able to deliver in time for Christmas (just like Amazon!)  They've got it all:  truffle oil and goose fat, Gentlemen's Relish, endless cheeses, caviar, foie gras, whole hams - some of which are the most perfect stocking fillers imaginable (perhaps not the ham.  Unless your stocking is giant.)  And because I get to share what Father Christmas gives my husband, I'm definitely adding the Artisan du Chocolat Salted Caramel Drinking Chocolate.

However badly wrapped, what's inside is not going to disappoint.

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Wise Women Bearing (Beauty) Gifts

There was an article in last week's Sunday Times Style, by Esther Walker, about the moment one realises, post-children, that it's time to up one's game.  I've known I've been needing to do it for a while now, and the feeling is reaffirmed every time I go into Mayfair and have lunch with my friend Deep, who is Fashion Director of Tatler and has the sort of innate style that I dream of, or go and eat cake with my very chic friend Christina who until recently worked at Vanity Fair, and who has insane will power (she'll order the cake, but only eat a a single forkful.)  Christina is pregnant, and I bet she won't let herself be the kind of mother who, when her child throws up on her in the night, wipes the worst of the sick out of her hair with a baby wipe and then sprays it with Mitsouko.   And I don't for a moment suppose that either of them are the kind of people who haven't got around to changing their skincare routine since their twenties.

Well, nor am I, technically.  For in my early twenties, I used whatever I was given in goody bags or was handed from the Vogue and Tatler beauty cupboards.  I paid virtually nothing for any of it, covered my face in Creme de la Mer one week, Clarins and Lancome the next, and some new and unheard of brand from Iceland (the country, not the shop) the next. My skin didn't mind one jot.  My skin was amazing.

And then I got married, got pregnant, had Sholto, got thin again, got pregnant again - all the time using the same Clarins products that I discovered in the second half of my twenties - had Esmeralda, looked in the mirror, and realised that I look about four hundred years old.  I can't actually blame Clarins - in fact, I owe Clarins for the fact that I don't look six hundred - rather, the age increase is down to the lack of facials, the broken nights, the occasional severe sugar binge (see 'broken nights'), the fact that I blatantly should have moved on to the product range developed for women in their thirties, and that side-affect of mothering that they call guilt.  (I feel guilty about everything:  guilty that I work, guilty that I don't play football with Sholto every afternoon, guilty that I have yet to cook a single thing from the Annabel Karmel 'perfect baby nutrition' book, guilty that I'm still co-sleeping with Esmeralda, guilty that I'm not also still co-sleeping with Sholto, guilty that I can't quite stretch to the the fees at Notting Hill Prep, etc. etc. etc.)  And all of this means that I don't look like Sienna Miller.

Why, why don't I look like Sienna Miller?

However, I'll feel even worse, and probably guiltier still, if I don't get to grips with my looks soonish.  My friend Talia, who had her second baby a whole lot more recently than me and looks incredible, told me about the Tracy Anderson Post-Pregnancy Workout DVD.  I've ordered it, I just need to unwrap it from it's cellophane, and get it into the one remaining DVD player in the house that Sholto hasn't filled with raisins.  My friend Samantha, who has three children and is about to be forty (not that anybody could tell) swears by body brushing, which I totally mean to make time for.  And Calgary Avansino, the former Executive Fashion Director of Vogue and general wellbeing guru, dictates good food (i.e. not M&S ready meals) and daily exercise ("Sweat is your fat crying").  I follow her blog assiduously, and am determined that the entire family will be eating more healthily come the New Year.  (And you can forget Annabel Karmel.)

Calgary Avansino.  Look at her, just look at her! I think I need a juicer.

But it seems that the Gods were listening to my plea for a somewhat easier quick fix, for I found myself at one of those Christmas fair things at the Cavalry Club, and who should be there but a girl called Georgie Cleeve (with a tiny baby called Ophelia strapped to her tummy) who I knew when she used to work at House & Garden.   She has developed a whole skincare range called Oskia, which I imagine everybody in the world knows about except me, as they've won pretty much every beauty award going.  (I now feel guilty that I didn't do something as clever as Georgie with my maternity leave.  And I've realised that it's time to start reading the beauty pages.  They're doubtlessly packed with helpful information.)

Well, after less than a week of using Oskia, I only look about a hundred.  It's amazing!  I think my favourite product has to be the Renaissance Mask, which was voted Best Mask by the Anti-Aging Beauty Bible, and Best Prestige Skincare Product in the UK Beauty Awards, and which means I don't have to worry about the fact that I haven't had a facial in about a year (who has time?  Seriously?)  I'm also a big fan of the Nutri-Active Day Cream and the Bedtime Beauty Boost.  Oh, and the Get Up & Glow, which won Best Skin Perfector at the Natural Health Beauty Awards, and which one can put on either under or over one's moisturiser. I am literally glowing (in a good way, rather than a 'Oh my God I realised I was going to be late to pick up Sholto from school, so ran here, pushing a buggy, and now I'm bright red and quite literally melting' kind of way.)  And Georgie told me that she's going to send me the Renaissance Cleansing Gel - she was utterly horrified to hear that my concept of 'cleansing my face', these days, is splashing it with water.  (It dries out the skin.  I know this, I know this - my mother's facialist, the great Janet Filderman, told me when I was fourteen, and still I persist.)  It's time to stop.  It's also time to stop walking around with chipped nails (unacceptable past the age of twenty-five, I reckon), unbrushed hair (ditto), and in jerseys from Zara that have seen better days.  (That last I have potentially remedied.  The Erdem sample sale took place last week.  Whoops.)

Get Up & Glow.  This, combined with one of Calgary's juices would surely be a total game changer.

So, it's more time at the gym, healthier eating, improved grooming . . . . . I'm probably not going to manage all these things immediately (even as I type, I realise that the Chanel Rouge Moire that looked so fabulous on my nails on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday is now chipped, and therefore sadly must come off.)  Oskia, however, I'm sticking to. I am a total convert.  Especially since one of my parents' friends just mistook me for my sister Rosanna, who is eight years younger than me (and much more beautiful.)
Calgary Avansino's blog; her own website is coming soon -