Monthly Archives: January 2012

Lust for Life

Yesterday was brilliant.  We had a fabulous meeting with our daughter’s lovely teacher – I love her candor and humor, it’s very refreshing.  I’m so proud of my little girl it makes me teary eyed.  In order to try and engender the association of achieve and reward we went out to our favorite diner for dinner and had milkshakes all round, it was a lovely family evening.  We were all exhausted afterward though, so it was an early bedtime for the kids and another recorded episode of Downton Abbey for me:)

It was a struggle to get out of bed this morning and I didn’t have time for an invigorating run due to a hairdressers appointment.  Armed with my photos of Ginnifer Goodwin I arrived and demanded my shorter cut.  My hairdresser is fabulous and always seems to understand my descriptions and then refines them to best suit me.  If you are in Atlanta and in need of a great hairdresser, who is humorous and conversational too, then seek out O’Neil at Van Michael in Virginia Highlands – you will love him I promise.

To coordinate with my shorter style I wore my Gap black jeggings, Frye Shirley Strappy Short boots, AllSaints Char jumper and my lovely Boden military jacket.  MM encouraged my shorter style, though has since made comments suggesting I should be in Roxette or that I’m channeling David Bowie’s Berlin era – maybe I’ll try a more feminine look tomorrow:)

Bowie Low

Similarity?

Boden military jacket

Before haircut.

HaircutHaircut

After haircut.

 

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Is spring here already?

This time of year in Atlanta presents a real challenge when it comes to dressing.  This morning it was below freezing yet this afternoon will be in the mid to high 60s…I also had to think a little more carefully as we’re off to see my daughter’s teacher this afternoon for a ‘conference’ – just a regular update on performance – but I still feel I should make a little bit of an effort.  So I opted for Boden’s clearance revelation, the Retro tunic in pink, M&S brown cable tights (kindly sent by my wonderful Mum – some things just can’t be matched over here – tights and Mums!) and the brown piped shoe boots, topped off with Boden’s dark brown leather blazer, currently in the sale.  The belt is a couple of years old from Target and I like to wear it sometimes instead of the knitted belt that came with the tunic.  The tunic is a lovely knit and pretty warm – and this winter I have discovered the joy of wearing a dress and how much more comfortable they can be than jeans every day.

Now off to school – let’s hope I don’t show her up…

Retro pink tunicRetro tunic with leather blazer

Sanctas clavis fores aperit

During our dinner on Saturday evening we got into the dangerous conversational territory of schooling in Altanta.  As couples, MM and I have fairly different opinions from our dinner companions regarding the schooling of our children.  We support our public schools and believe that if more and more ‘middle class’ families like ourselves support the state, public schools in the City of Atlanta the better they will become.  Many other families in Atlanta use the good elementary schools but then send their children to private middle and high school which can cost around $20k per child per year.  Our perspective is that with the five degrees we have between us, their exposure to international travel, and our general involvement in our children’s education – they will be just fine going through the Atlanta Public School system.  However, when someone starts telling me how atrocious the high school is, I can’t help but question my decision.  It always makes me revisit my schooling and wonder if things had been different would I have ‘turned out’ any different?

I was educated in the UK and my primary education was significantly different from my children’s.  To begin with I was raised in a tiny village near Bury in Lancashire.  There was one Church, a newsagent, a corner shop and a recreation ground and we lived in a 2 up 2 down terraced, stone cottage – all five of us!  The primary school was across the street and there were probably only around 60-80 children in the whole school.  Everyone knew everyone.  I remember it fondly, though because the school was so small it meant you could never really avoid your nemesis.  When I do look back I don’t ever remember being told, or feeling, that I was smarter than anyone else, or that I possessed any outstanding ability – in fact my Mum still tells me the story when one of my teachers told her I had ‘absolutely no number sense’.  Maybe I didn’t back then but I ended up doing my Maths O’level a year early so I must have caught up…It just demonstrates how tricky it is to predict your child’s ability.  Anyway at the age of 10 I was entered to sit the entrance exam for Bury Grammar School for Girls (BGSG).  I think the intention was for me to have a practice run for the following year, and I’m sure Mum and Dad didn’t expect me to pass – but I did and I was accepted to enter into the last year of the preparatory school which basically meant I was a ‘shoe in’ for the senior school.

St. Mary's Church

Hawkshaw Village Church

I remember being very excited – especially about the uniform as primary school hadn’t required one.  I don’t ever remember thinking about the implications, for me or my parents, of leaving my little primary school a year early in order to attend a fee paying, all girls school in town.  It soon dawned on me though in 1981 when I started my new educational chapter.  My eyes were opened as I met girls of different backgrounds, races and religion.  It took me a while to figure out why a number of girls went to different rooms for morning assembly – then one day I was informed they were off to Jewish and Muslim prayers.  I had no idea what ‘being Jewish’ meant.  My best friend was the daughter of a wealthy pediatrician and I remember going to her house for the first time – I never knew a girl could have so much ‘stuff’ of her own.

BGS logo

I’m never sure if I was genetically wired to be competitive or if BGSG developed it but I always wanted to do my best and be in the top of my class.  I hated failure and though I was never reprimanded for an occasional crummy grade I carried the shame of it swearing next time would be better.  Maybe it was the fact that we were all ‘high achievers’ – as we’d all passed the entrance exam we were all obviously relatively smart – so the bar had been raised and I had to step up my game.  I also think girls versus girls made everything more intense as we couldn’t fall back on “well boys always do better in maths/science tests”.

BGSG

Bury Grammar School (Girls)

I went through school never really being comfortable in my own skin – but who is with all that teenage angst?  I moved from clique to clique never really feeling settled and I found my real happiness in studying.  By this stage I think my Mum and Dad were somewhat out of their depth academically and with little parental involvement I did well in all my subjects.  In my desire to feel included I auditioned over and over again for the school choir and finally the music teacher took pity on me.  Everyone was in choir – all the cool girls – and the music teacher had amazing enthusiasm but executed favoritism like no other.  She adored her ‘special’ girls – the rest of us were ignored, and a mild inconvenience.  It was similar to that in P.E. – if you were anything less than brilliant at hockey or netball you didn’t stand a chance of being noticed.  Now, as an adult, this behavior really bothers me – I actually find it strange that they were allowed to get away with it but then BGSG always needed to be seen as excelling, not just in academics.

Roger Kay Hall

Morning Assembly

Interestingly, I recently read Janet Lawley’s “A Ballet of Swans”, the previous headmistress’s tale of BGSG, from its founding to the present day.  Though some of the references were familiar I have to say no fond feelings were awakened – it actually made me feel a little prickly that only 10% or so of the girls there when I was a student got the full support and attention that we all deserved.  Elitism was rife and if you weren’t applying for Oxford or Cambridge at A’level time then again you really weren’t of much interest.  Maybe I harbor some resentment as no one told what I needed to hear and what I tell my children every day – “you are more than capable, don’t be afraid”.  If a teacher had just taken the time to tell me that in my moment of weakness then I may have taken a different path.

So was a private, all girls school good for me?  Maybe it helped shape me and make me more competitive but I think I discovered my true self at University.  Did I get a great education?  Yes, but I never really knew what to do with it, we were given no life lessons.  Were they happy times?  They were okay, but I couldn’t wait to get as far away from everyone I knew when I went to University – I was the only one in my year that went to St. Andrews – and I was just fine with that.

Hence, when it comes to my children’s education my greatest concern is that they have the opportunity to discover their talents and be true to themselves – not what others think is ‘best’ for them.  As a parent my role is to be hands on, without meddling and overly influencing their decisions based on my experiences.  Crumbs – another parental challenge.

Music that inspires…

It was a good run this morning and a great feeling to burn off some of last night’s calories.  What can be better on a Sunday morning than pounding the streets in glorious sunshine with blue skies?  It wasn’t that warm at 10am this morning but gorgeous non the less.  To help me on my way was another country foot tapper – Dwight Yoakam’s “Guitars, Cadillacs” – the beat is perfect for getting up the last hill on my 4mile loop.  Don’t ask me how Dwight gets in those jeans though….

When I’m Cleaning Windows.

After a great work out yesterday morning, and no emotionally scarred children left in the swimming pool, Saturday turned into a day of ticking chores off my list and having fun.  The weather was just glorious here – as it is today – sunshine all day with clear blue skies.  I decided to get one of my outside chores completed and clean my windows – dull I hear you say? – Well yes – but they haven’t been done in the four years we’ve been in this house, so job done, and I saved $500 on a window cleaner which can now be allocated to my closet;)

I was pretty tired after waving my extendable squeegee around but after a refreshing shower and a glass of white I was ready to head out with friends for dinner.  The six of us went to a very popular restaurant here on the West Side called Miller Union.  The West Side is an area of Atlanta that is being rejuvenated and as far as I am concerned is where some of the best restaurants in the City are located.  I’d been to Miller Union once previously and I was excited for MM to try it.  We were in good company so we had fun but I have to be honest I found the food overpriced and a tad disappointing.  My starter of watercress and blue cheese salad was good, and not easy to to get wrong, but my entree of grouper, though tasty was a bit cold.  I should have sent it back but in my very British, no fuss, manner I ate it – plus we’d had a long wait between courses as they were so busy so I didn’t want another long wait while everyone else ate…Then the bar didn’t have any Amaretto for me – surely every bar stocks Amaretto for those of us that love that sickly, sweet tincture?  I don’t think we’ll be heading back in a hurry, there are better, more reasonably priced restaurants in my opinion.  A shame, as I really like their decor and the patio looks great for Spring.

For my ‘going out’ ensemble I chose the Boden Silk Flower tunic in navy, piped shoe boots, Johnnie B leather jacket and my YSL clutch that was my Anniversary present from MM last year.  I love this tunic and it is in the clearance now – not hugely discounted – but I still ended up buying both the navy and the raisin.  It’s lovely jersey and is really comfortable and the silk flowers are not too brash but add some fun detail.  My only concern is that it is hand wash and I am terrified about how the silk flowers will come out – I don’t want to be ironing petals for an hour…

Silk flower tunicSilk flower tunic, Johnnie B jacket and YSL clutch

Now I’m off to Skype my parents to find out about their cruise to South Africa that they have just returned from – alright for some hey?  Plus, I’ll no doubt find out what they think about their daughter telling all in Poppy’s Style:)

Music that inspires…

Yesterday I was late to pick my daughter up from the pool and when I arrived she was with her instructor, in tears and panic stricken that Mommy had abandoned her, left the building and forgotten all about her.  I felt like the worse Mom in the World.  I think I managed to convince her that due to the fact I think of her every minute of the day I am unlikely to ever forget about her.  However, given the emotional scars that I left her with yesterday I was extremely cognizant of the time today as I ran on the treadmill while she was swimming again.  I tried to run a fair bit faster to get rid of some the cold germs and work off some calories before going out for dinner tonight.  Hence my shuffle was skipped through until I found some faster tempo music.  Today’s song is Gram Parsons “I Can’t Dance” – MM heard me playing it just now and said wow that is so Camden – so obviously we played it a lot back then in our heady partying days pre-parenthood.  Due to the age of the song and the brevity of Gram’s life I couldn’t find footage of a live performance on You Tube but here’s the tune – enjoy:)

“Generally really cool and smart”

Well the play date yesterday was fabulous.  We had a riot – it was so much fun.  My friend has 3 boys, the eldest is my daughter’s age and her middle boy is at daycare with my son.  The weather wasn’t great but I was prepared (unusual for me!).  I had bought a disposable, plastic, party tablecloth to avoid substantial mess, and let them loose with the paints, stickers and sequins – they loved it!  Then they watch Roald Dahl’s The BFG while the Moms enjoyed a glass of sauvignon blanc – very civilized:)  It’s so nice and refreshing being in the company of someone that ‘gets me’.  There are some real over achievers in Atlanta when it comes to parenting and I am not one of them.  I don’t have the craft room, the hand sanitizer, nor do we recite our times tables in French every day.  I am a regular Mom that sometimes barely gets through the day – so to spend some time with another Mom who has some of the same anxieties about parenting as I do is lovely and we ameliorate each other’s irrational concerns.   She is also stunning, hilarious and great company and much fun was had by all.

Today I woke with a sniffle and scratchy throat bleeeuuugh.  I’m sure the Atlanta weather is helping the germs breed – it is so warm and yet damp – lovely.  So I had to postpone my lunch with a friend that I was really looking forward to – but it turns out this was a good thing as I then got a call from school that my daughter was in the Nurse’s room.  After a moment of panic it turns out all was well and she had bumped her head playing.  The nurse said she’d be fine to stay at school but when I spoke with her she was very weepy.  So it being a Friday and all, I went to collect her, then we called at our favorite take away place for lunch and we’ve just eaten an obscene amount of chocolate cake between us.  I love having her home when it is just the two of us.

Fortunately the nurse called after I had colored my hair.  It could have been quite messy had she called an hour earlier while I was standing naked in the bathroom covered in hair dye – the things we do for the sake of beauty/vanity.  In the summer I tend to go to the salon to get my hair colored as when it comes to summer highlights it’s far easier and less likely to result in a dyeing disaster.  In the winter when I opt for a single color it is less time consuming and certainly cheaper to do it myself.  I tried a new home kit this time to try to reduce the mess – Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Foam in medium ash brown.  The product is great to use – I love the non drip foam but all I can say is I’m quite glad I didn’t opt for a darker tone – this has gone REALLY dark – not sure the ‘medium’ adjective is entirely accurate.  Fortunately MM prefers me as a dark brunette and I like the Urban Dictionary’s definition.

Given I feel a bit sorry for myself today I decided to wear something cosy yet cheerful.  I’m wearing my aqua stripy Boden jumper that I snatched up in the sale before Christmas.  These jumpers were REALLY popular and sold out very quickly.  I vacillated for a long time, as I thought they were too similar to my Breton tunics from last year, and I missed out initially, but the aqua and rose came into stock in the sale and I swooped and scored again.  Today’s Revas are a pair I’ve had a couple of years and probably wear more than any others – they are “Mouse” which is a lovely neutral grey and goes with anything.  I keep waiting for them to do this color again so I can replace these as the soles are getting thin…

Boden stripy jumper

Now I’m looking forward to a very lazy evening with MM in front of a movie – it feels like it has been a long, busy week.  Happy Friday!

Be good to your customers.

I was thrilled to head home with a new pair of jeans yesterday!  I had bought a pair of Hudson Collins last April and while wearing them over Christmas I bent down and the knee completely split!  After 8 months of infrequent wear I certainly didn’t expect that for an almost $200 pair of jeans.  So being the Social Media addict that I am I left a note on their Facebook page and was directed to email their customer services.  After returning the damaged pair they sent me a completely brand new pair of jeans – isn’t that brilliant?!  It just goes to show it is always worth asking and not just accepting.  I have found more and more brands and companies are responding to customer issues via social media before any bad news travels virally.  As great as social media can be for a brand it can also kill it in an instant if you are not seen to respond to a customer appropriately.  This article clearly demonstrates the damage that can be done:)  Also doing the rounds yesterday on Facebook was this fab story regarding Sainsbury‘s response to a young customer.  As a side note, if you are also a Hudson fan, I just received and email today about their 30% off end of season sale.

The meeting with our contractor went well – first check signed and handed over – yikes!  Now the design for our new master bathroom begins.  I think I might start an ‘inspiration board’ and take a look at Pinterest for some ideas…I can’t wait to see the final design that will include my lovely soaking tub.  I’ve also subscribed to all the home magazines like HGTV and Dwell – I can see this becoming another thing to obsess about.  In addition to the bathroom all our hardwoods are being refinished and stained, and the floors in the couple of rooms that are still carpeted are being replaced with hardwoods – I can’t even bear to think about the mess and dust that this project will create – the finished product should be worth it though!

My choice of clothes today was influenced by a) the forecast of rain all day and b) a play date for the kids today – we’ve got 3 boys coming round so no doubt I will be scrambling around on the floor a lot picking things up and looking for objects.  The Clifton tunic was another clearance purchase from Boden – I actually ordered all three colors but far preferred the navy so returned the heather and pine.  Unfortunately it is now sold out so no link.  I like the fact it is a layering piece and it looks great over a patterned or plain tank.  The leggings are also Boden – the best quality leggings I have ever bought, and inside my Frye Harness boots I actually also have on my Boden stripy socks.  The necklace is an old J Crew Outlet one that I have wrapped twice around my neck.  I selected my little Tiffany Elsa Peretti diamond earrings as I don’t like wearing bigger earrings with a necklace.  It’s interesting how writing this blog has challenged me to look at my decision making criteria!  The second image shows me in the JohnnieB leather biker jacket that was one of the first items I bought when the AW 2011 season went live.

Clifton tunic, grey leggings, Frye Harness bootsClifton tunic, grey leggings, Frye Harness boots, JohnnieB jacket

So I’m now off to buy treats and paints etc…for the kids to enjoy this rainy afternoon – wish me luck for the play date:)

Music that inspires…

Blimey it’s like a Spring day out there right now – I even ran in a vest – no sleeves required!  A little glimmer of what’s in store for us over the coming months – I can’t wait!

The last tune today is one of my favorite records of ALL time.  Not because it’s a lyrical masterpiece or anything like that, but because I bought it from a record shop on Camden Market and played it over, and over, and over again.  It was my song to get ready to and the song we continued to party to when we got home after a night out.  It still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – I just LOVE it!  Also it was a hit in 1998 – the year we got married.

Pass me a glass…

Heading to carpool yesterday I realized how absent minded I am sometimes – I’d left the petrol cap unscrewed and the cap cover open on the car after filling up yesterday – fortunately the petrol hadn’t all evaporated or been syphoned off – but duh – makes me wonder how much just passes me by without me taking notice – MM is always telling me I only hear 50% of what he says…

Driving the kids home yesterday was torture – for some reason when they are strapped into their car seats they see it as an opportunity not to sing songs or play games, but to bicker and see who can make who cry first…I know they are tired so I try to be patient, but yesterday I resorted to turning up the volume on the radio in an attempt to block it out.  As soon as we were home they were all sweetness and smiles for Daddy – aaaargggghhh!  So I headed straight to the fridge and opened a bottle of white.  I’ve discovered a lovely little tipple from Trader Joe’s (my new favorite place for wine, though Whole Foods still has great deals) – it’s called Big Day White and it’s cheap as chips.  It’s a blend but I’m no wine snob and it tastes fabulous – really fruity and almost 13% – perfect!  I have friends who have been fans of Trader Joe’s for years and it has taken me longer than most to discover the gem it really is – mainly because we have one of the best Whole Foods in the land just down the road, but for quick, healthy options Trader Joe’s wins.  For supper I had a fabulous piece of Trader Joe’s soy glazed cod with stir fried veggies – as good as any restaurant, half the price and low fat to boot!  Unfortunately, it was followed by three Fortnum & Mason’s butter biscuits which I am still trying to finish.  My fabulous BIL and his family sent me a F&M’s hamper for my 40th, which we saved to enjoy at Christmas, so now the only way to remove these tempting, calorie laden goodies from the house is to eat them.

Mr. UPS swung by last night too – he misses me if we go any longer than a week without seeing each other.  He brought me my best Boden clearance item to date.  When I first saw the Joyful Jersey Dress I have to say I thought it looked frumpy, both online and in the catalogue, and I steered clear all season long, no matter how many rave reviews it won or how many of my friends on the Boden Community praised it.  Until that is I saw one of my lady friends wearing it and looking simply divine. ‘Simple’ being the operative word – I hadn’t considered the plain black option but it looked so simply classic that I had to try it.  I stalked and stalked and low and behold a US6 popped back into stock – swoop, attack, buy – and boy am I glad I did – it is LOVELY.  The same thick jersey as my beloved colorblock tunics, perfectly shaped, and best of all the perfect length.  Can I just say I love it again?  Unfortunately because it was so popular there are none in stock on the site so no link I’m afraid, but I encourage you to stalk:)

Joyful Jersey DressJoyful Jersey Dress

It’s going to be beautiful here again today so I am trying some ‘transitional’ items.  I don’t normally buy Boden trousers as I find them too high waisted but when the straightleg wool crops went into the sale at $38.00 I snapped them up in black, navy pinstripe and slate.  I’m wearing the slate today and I love them.  I’ve tried to wear them with socks and ankle boots in the past but because they are only lined to the knee the wool trouser sticks to my socks – rather unflattering when they bunch up!  I think they look great with ballet flats though, especially my grey flannel Tory Burch Reva flats which I bought last Spring in the sale.  The jumper is the AllSaints Jagger Godiva jumper which is my favorite AllSaints piece right now.  Earrings today are Erica Lyons from Belk, lipstick is Revlon Smoky Rose, nail polish is Revlon Perplex and perfume is DKNY Golden Delicious.

Straightleg wool crops, AllSaints, RevasStraightleg wool crops, AllSaints, Revas

Tory-Burch-Grey-Flannel-Reva

Have lots of work to do this morning as I’m finishing early – MM and I are meeting our contractor/designer this afternoon to start the design phase of our house renovations that we are doing this year.  Very exciting, but a little overwhelming too!