Monday, November 30, 2009

Gratuitous whippet photograph

My study

I'm holed up in the country, working on a deadline, so please forgive the lack of complex posts. I'll be back to normal some time tomorrow. Actually I know exactly when: in between a business lunch at Soho House and the launch party for the new Alex cartoon book in the Crypt of St Paul's Cathedral tomorrow evening.

Some readers asked for more photos of my country bolthole so, above, is the view from my desk, and below is where I am actually working, complete with resident hot water bottles.

Whippet & Maine Coon

My sister sleeping at the Dean Street Townhouse hotel

Lil'sis sleeping Dean Street Townhouse

Blog Housekeeping: RSS feed & email subs

Sorry to be a complete pain, but as part of my transfer to a new domain name, I've had to change my RSS feed address.

Er, yes, but what on earth does that actually mean?
In simple terms, if you subscribe to LLG's email delivery service for new posts, you will stop receiving emails unless you re-enter your email address in the handy box to your right.
If you subscribe to LLG in a Reader, you will need to click on the RSS symbol in the address bar, use the link in the sidebar or click here Subscribe in a reader

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Raising Ruby: a service dog in training

Service Puppy...Or Service Bunny?

Raising Ruby

Of the hundreds and hundreds of blogs on my Google Reader, one of my favourites is Raising Ruby. It's the story of an adorable Golden Labrador puppy on her way to becoming a service dog for an individual with a disability in Colorado.

Her trainer
is a puppy raiser for Canine Partners of the Rockies, who took charge of Ruby when she was 10 weeks old, and who will have her for about 18 months until she is ready to enter Advanced Training.

Ruby's trainer, The Other End of the Leash, found me first and I'm so glad she did. I particularly like reading blogs that have nothing whatsoever to do with my daily life or my career, and that teach me (without preaching) all about something entirely new.

I have experience in my family of how the companionship of dogs can help someone with a disability, and the idea that someone who may be lonely and restricted in their daily activities can benefit both from companionship and comprehensive aid from a dog is quite, quite wonderful.

ps If you'd like to see the puppies before they left for their training, click here and prepare to fall in love.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas presents: Votivo Red Currant scented candle

Votivo red Currant candle

The first time I visited my wonderful friend Miss Whistle in her wildly chic Laurel Canyon home in Los Angeles there was something that felt vaguely familiar. All through the faint-makingly delicious Ottolenghi-inspired feast something nagged away at the back of my mind.

It wasn't the spotty dogs or the enticing piles of books or her fabulous taste that had caught some part of my attention: they were obvious and this was something nebulous that I could not place. Then I visited her downstairs loo and saw the Votivo Red Currant candle burning by the basin. The smell had been drifting through the hall, catching on my sub-conscious.

They are my mother's favourite candles and they scent our family home in the UK, along with the glass jars of diffuser reeds, and I can't smell them without being transported back to the English countryside.

I'm not a huge fan of scented candles as I have a wide-ranging floral fragrance intolerance which causes my rosacea to flare and gives me a hideous headache. I can't predict which smells, bar Madonna lilies which are poison to me, will set me off so I tend to avoid scented candles wherever possible.

But the entire range of Votivo candles, soy based and incredibly long-lasting - 50 hours, has only a benign effect on me. The Red Currant is utterly, utterly delicious, quite as lovely as anything Diptique produces, and less expensive too. I highly recommend for Christmas presents.

They are widely stocked in America, are exclusive to Liberty of London in the UK, and can be bought online in the UK at & in the US here

Posetta Baddog trying my patience


Someone please explain to me why, when there are three super luxe dog beds in the house, Posetta Baddog finds it necessary to curl up on the contents of my overnight bag? Specifically on my cashmere scarf and sequinned cocktail dress.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dean Street Townhouse hotel room review

Lil'sis & I are staying at the new Dean Street Townhouse hotel in London's Soho this evening. Owned by the Soho House group, it opened just three days ago and I was asked if I'd like to spend a night here by the publicist.

Given that I am a blogger, and that I make it very clear that I will, as I do in print, be completely objective about my experience, regardless of the fact I am being comped, one presumes that the hotel must be pretty confident about the quality of its rooms.

And, in this case, they have every right to be. It's possibly the best equipped hotel room I've ever explored. From the piles of the latest glossies to the hair grips for blow drying your hair I can't think of anything that might improve this room. Well, nothing that I'm willing to put in print...

In fact I'm so blown away by my room that I made a short review film to show you all. That way you'll know that I haven't gone all hyperbolic just because I'm not paying for it!

Toy Watch second time around

After I had a giant strop on LLG about bits falling off my Toy Watch within weeks of buying it, my inbox went crazy.

Not, as I had thought might happen, with emails from similarly cross customers, but from readers who were Toy Watch aficionados. They pretty much all swore that their watches had never missed a beat. That’s pretty unusual: when I go off on one of my rants, I usually get lots of comments telling me about similar experiences. (Dell spring to mind.) I also had an email from a very concerned Toy Watch distributor and one from their PR agency in London.

I was impressed on both counts.

So today I hopped off to meet them and to take a look at the Toy Watch flagship store on Regent Street. I’m always prepared to give people, products, places a second chance, so when they offered me a replacement watch I gracefully accepted and am now wearing this:


It’s bright, it’s shiny, it’s certainly not subtle - and I love it. Everything in my wardrobe is black so this makes a very colourful change. I think it tremendously chic in a rather unexpected manner. I’ve already been stopped in the street twice and asked about its provenance - & I’ve only had it an hour.

Let’s hope this one stays together. I shall report back in a month and let you know if, as readers, lovely PR & distributor all swear, that my Toy Watch experience was just an aberration.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Super soaraway giveaway: Fifty Cars that Changed the World

Fifty cars

I just shoved a copy of this beautiful book, Fifty Cars That Changed the World under lil'sis's nose. What car is this on the cover? I demanded. An E Type, moron. Bugger off, she replied, as delightful & charming as ever.

I was just testing: anyone brought up in my family knows that this is an E type jag as sure as surely as they know that Posetta Baddog nips toes. My father lives, breathes cars. I remember books about the E Type on the coffee tables in the drawing room growing up, and the gradual progression of his collection from an XJS to the XK120 now garaged at his home.

I don't have any brothers so I get to play too. I've driven most of the English circuits from Silverstone to Brands Hatch, Castle Combe to Mallory Park, and been scared rigid by Stirling Moss when he almost span me into the kitty litter at Goodwood in the 120.

My father does terrifying things in races and rallies all over the world; he & my mother drove from Islamabad to Kolkata in his TR3, and took part in the Moroccan World Cup rally. Me, I stick to England and terrifying passengers. I've never enjoyed myself more than when asked to drive a friend's teenage son around Goodwood at a track day. He was crestfallen at being driven by a girl. Esp a girly girl with blonde hair & pink lipstick.

I smiled sweetly, asked how fast he wanted to go, slid down my helmet visor and scared the living daylights out of him. There is a reason why the 120 is named so: it was the fastest production sports car of its time (1948) at 120 mph and it shifts. Ha.

So of course this book is just as exciting to me as the other books in the series, (which includes Fifty Dresses & Fifty Shoes). It has one of my first cars - the Citroen 2CV (mine was lime green and called Celeste), although the 120 and my favourite car, the Mercedes 280SL are missing.

Anyway, I highly recommend it: cars like these informed popular design and a book like this should be part of any fashion lover's collection.

Luckily for you my darlings, lovely Octopus have three copies for my readers. Usual rules apply: leave a comment and I will draw the winners using Just tell me either what your first car was or what your dream car would be. Winners will be picked next Wednesday. UK entries only this time.

Mine was my mother's old gold Renault 5 - I crashed it within five weeks. My dream car? A Mercedes 300SL Gullwing.

Publicists vs bloggers

For every article proclaiming blogging to be an unavoidable part of the future of journalism I can give you five publicists who treat bloggers with derision, rudeness and dismissal. Of course to do so they would need to bother to take their phone calls or reply to their emails in the first place which an alarming number don’t bother to do.

I am in an unusual position: I’ve been a journalist and magazine editor for well over ten years, in New York and in London, as well as a blogger for three, so I’ve been on the receiving end of both oleaginous sucking up and jaw dropping rudeness. I very rarely tell people my print identity when I am calling for images or info for LLG, so it’s been an education to see how I am treated when I use my blog nom de plume.

It’s astonishing how few agencies or publicists seem to have a social media policy. They seem thrown when I call for info or for images for LLG, and I can tell that few read blogs that cover their sector, know who’s who in social media, scan lists of popular blogs produced by Cision, newspapers and magazines or utilize tools such as to discover the rankings and reach of particular blogs within their markets.

This stuff isn’t rocket science and to presume that an inch square placement in a glossy has wider reach than a blog with say 100k unique visitors a month & a high GPR is naïve in the extreme.

There are exceptions: some agencies, such as Exposure, (Levi's, Converse), actively reach out to bloggers, and a few companies who had a risible approach to social media back in 2007 have jumped in with both feet. Topshop are a good example of this: my record was twelve phone calls and five emails back in May 07 for a story I was working on, not one of which was returned. Now they host blogger events & hire bloggers for outreach.

Of course there are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there, many with minute audiences, many badly written and many owned by what I call blagging bloggers who are thrilled with the idea that they might get sent freebies, who exercise no editorial judgment and who jump on every gravy train going. I am sure that publicists get justifiably irritated with the bloggers that they consider to be time wasters or irrelevant, but if a blogger is savvy enough to contact a publicist in the first place, then they are probably worth talking to.

Bottom line: whether or not the publicist wishes to engage with a particular blogger, that’s no excuse for not replying to emails, returning phone calls, or being rude. I’ve heard tales from other bloggers that make my hair stand on end.

What many publicists don’t seem to understand is that the blogger will write the story anyway, find poor quality images elsewhere and, ten to one, write about their negative experience. So why not turn the coverage to their advantage by helping the blogger in the first place?

I was so angry today with a particular beauty PR company that I called the head office of one of their clients to ask why I couldn’t get their London PR co. to talk to me, (I’d been trying for five weeks). I was curious to know if they had a specific policy on social media. Turns out they love social media and were horrified to discover that their rep was blocking my advances.

Publicists: pull your finger out, or you may find accounts disappearing.

Charles Worthington High Gloss Serum

Charles Worthington High Gloss serum

I fear that I am turning into one of THOSE women. One that is obsessed with her hair.
This is a new thing for me. I was always that girl who was stopped on the street and asked to be a hair model, that had hairdressers oohing over her hair's natural, glossy, healthy thickness & sheen.

Now of course that I have grown up, and realised that a little grooming goes a long way, I've sacrificed that healthiness on the altar of heated styling appliances. I can still do shiny, but the ends of my hair split and dry out well before my eight week trim is due. There's no fix bar scissors for my problem, but there is a product version of a sticking plaster for hair: serums.

A sample of Charles Worthington's High Gloss Serum from the Front Row collection magically appeared in the mail last week, and a few drops on my damp hair reminded me why serums are a very good thing. They smooth down the hair cuticle so frizz and knots disappear, and split ends are tamed. Sure it's not going to mend my split ends but as a temporary measure it'll do very nicely.

On closer inspection of the label I can't see any groundbreaking ingredient in the Charles Worthington serum that sets it apart from or makes it a better proposition than its competitors : like all these products it is basically a combination of various silicones. But it's at least as good as any other on the market, and today my hair is beautifully soft and shiny.

Charles Worthington High Gloss serum £5.99 Not yet available in the US.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Monday night supper: roast lamb, potato gratin & green lentils

On Sunday afternoon I drove up from London to my father’s house in Northamptonshire so that I could then drive him to Heathrow to catch a flight to Nepal. (He’s off for two weeks on a whistle stop tour around Nepal, Kolkata and Mumbai to visit schools funded by Mondo Challenge, a charity of which he is about to become chairman).

As we pulled up at Terminal Four my sister rang from Oxford where she was staying with her best friend, sounding tired & definitely not looking forward to the bus journey back to London. I had a rare brainwave and on the way home diverted via Beck’s to abduct lil’sis & Posetta Baddog to take them back to my mother’s for a few days R&R. Lil’sis isn’t too well at the moment & PB is starting to look like a barrel from the lack of walks.

We are a family that likes to eat and last night we cooked supper together. A leg of lamb from the butcher’s van, lentils and a potato gratin. It couldn’t have been simpler.

The gratin is a great dish for impressing people, yet costs around 60p/$1 for enough to feed at least four people. A small 1lb bag of Charlotte potatoes, still in their skins,& half a red onion were sliced on a mandolin in a matter of minutes and then strewn in a buttered ovenproof dish. I poured over enough stock to cover the vegetables and popped them in the oven for 40 minutes.

They came out soft & unctuous, with a sauce thickened by the starch from the potatoes. It's important to use a waxy, salad potato in this dish as, in such thin slices, a floury potato would dissolve into the stock.

potato gratin (3)

If you are making stock from concentrate, use a little less than normal for, as the stock reduces in the oven, it will become a lot saltier. For that reason, do not add any extra salt to the potatoes.

potato gratin

The lentils were even easier. To one small red onion sweated in a little olive oil, I added two cups of small green lentils and two bay leaves, which were then covered in vegetable stock and cooked for about 30 minutes.

So healthy and delicious.

jet lag is killing me

As I work from wherever I happen to find myself, I have plenty of flexibility in my life. And so I never, ever take the red eye back to London. Living in America for nearly three years now has taught me that if you fly back to England during the day, jet lag is minimal.

After all, you have all those extra hours on the plane to nap, relax & watch movies, arriving bright eyed & bushy tailed. I'm always quite tired as I never sleep well the night before I fly, and so I can go to bed, exhausted, at the usual UK time (as opposed to still being awake five hrs after everyone else has gone to bed) and wake up normally the next day.

Take the red eye and it's a whole different story. Tired from sleeping badly the night before you arrive at the airport early evening, fly at 2130hrs, twitch fitfully for a few hours in between meal services and arrive at 9am the next morning doing a version of the living dead.

Good luck with trying to stay awake all day. If you are anything like me, you will succumb to your heavy eyelids around 3pm, wake mid evening, fall asleep again at midnight and wake too early the next morning.

I arrived back on Friday morning and I really do not know if I am coming or going. I woke at 5am on Sunday morning. Yesterday I fell asleep at 2230hrs, woke this morning at 0330hrs, fell asleep over my laptop at 1030hrs and woke up again five hours later, having missed most of the traditional working day.

Given that I have now lost umpteen hours of work, it seems clear that as a sanity preserver using an extra day to fly back during daylight hours is a very clever decision. God how will I ever cope if I have children?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Waking up in the countryside

I was woken at 7am by the sound of rain on the tiles. My room was carved out of an attic so there is nothing but plaster and lathes between me and the roof. It's lovely being up here, separate from the rest of the house, with just the oversized furball to keep me company.

The only drawback is the lack of central heating. I forgot to set the night storage heater, so it's a little chilly. However quite a lot of the household goods from my London flat are stored in the garret above the garage alongside all manner of old furniture and general junk, so I've just been for a rummage for some home comforts to furnish the bare bones of my room.

First I attacked the pegs in the boot room. I found an old tweed coat, what I think must be my grandfather's thick woolen college scarf and one of those multi-coloured Nepalese hats with ears. Wrapped up from nose to tail, I inched up the lichen covered outdoor stairs to the garret, wrenched open the padlock and prepared to explore.

My spoils? A narrow antique (by which I mean ancient) lacquered bamboo table to use bedside, a spare duvet & pile of wonderful old fashioned satin edged blankets, some thick church candles, a couple of large framed fashion photographs (gifts from an old job) to prop against the walls, and a jewellery box in which to put my extensive chandelier earring collection. It's a good start: I will be warm & organised.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

So far, so good.

I arrived back in England on Friday and have driven over 500 miles in 48hrs.

I am jet lagged, exhausted and happy.

I've unpacked, gossiped, seen two of my godchildren and three of my best friends, drunk a lot of tea, been given a hysterical weeing welcome by Posetta Baddog, watched New Moon at the cinema in Islington at 10am with Miss P, shown 4yr old Little C how to drive a shift stick sports car, met 40 odd hitherto unknown rather brilliant twitterers & bloggers, navigated map-less from Muswell Hill to Wandsworth & back again without getting lost (& decided to never visit SW-whatever ever again), discussed glittery angels with Amelia, Doctor Who & the Ood with Miss P's stepchildren & Ben Ten with Little C, driven my father to Heathrow from Towcester to catch a flight to Kathmandu, had a post midnight bag of chips (fries), abducted my sister & the Baddog from her best friend's in Oxford, cooked Mama supper (twice), watched The X Factor in the right time zone and now I am going to sleep.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Leek & potato soup

There is nothing, nothing so comforting as a bowl of soup when the weather starts to change. Last weekend whilst I was dog-sitting the Bassets, it was grey & raining outside and I wanted something warm for supper.

So I made fridge soup - what goes in the pot is what is discovered lurking in the vegetable drawer. I found a leek and three quarters of an onion, so with three medium potatoes from the larder, I made my own version of leek & potato soup.

First chop up the vegetables: (ignore browning potatoes, I cldn't find my camera for a bit)

Leek & potato soup

Heat some olive oil, & throw onions & leeks into heavy pot over very low heat and put on lid.

Leek & potato soup

When they have softened cover with water/stock to two inches over. Add chopped potatoes.

Leek & potato soup

Turn up heat so liquid simmers and cook for around 20-15 minutes until potatoes are completely soft.

Leek & potato soup

Whizz it all together with immersion blender for speed or, if like me you like smooth soup with some chunks, take out a large ladleful of potato first, adding back once you've whizzed the rest. Equally you can pass through a sieve, use a mouli-legumes or shove it all in the Magimix.

Leek & potato soup

And ta da! Super quick & easy leek & vegetable soup. I added a blob of sour cream to mine.

Leek & potato soup

Friday, November 20, 2009

Back home in Northamptonshire: Day one

I am safely ensconced in the family home in deepest, darkest Northamptonshire. It's the perfect location: a scant hour and a half drive from London, yet still in proper, rolling fields countryside.

I'm writing this in my new quarters, a converted stable on the end of the house which had been used as an office. It's always had a sofa bed, wall-mounted TV and a basin, so my mother thought it might be nice for me, as this is an extended stay, to have my own self-contained base.

I was a bit dubious: my old bedroom, at the other end of the house, is very lovely, carved out of old attics in the eaves of the house. (The original farmhouse was built in 1710 with just a two room footprint, and is only one room wide. Each generation extended the house lengthways.)

As I am now at one end, beyond the kitchen and domestic offices, I have my own little front door,

Northamptonshire ironstone

which opens onto the boot room and, up a staircase, is a large room, formerly an attic, now furnished with a lovely wooden work bench under the eaves, and my bed in the corner.

Of course, the one thing that makes me utterly thrilled to be up here is that there is wireless access from my bed. (The walls of the house are at least a foot deep in places so wireless only penetrates as far as the kitchen.)

It's been a beautiful day here; that perfect crisp & warm winter sunshine that comes just before the first frosts. The light was extraordinary around 4pm so, before I succumbed to my jetleg, I scooted around the garden taking some photographs:


apple tree

Northamptonshire ironstone

Northamptonshire ironstone

The leaded lights in these windows are mostly the original handmade glass from the 18th century, hence the slightly distorted look. For the first fifteen years or so that we lived here, there was absolutely no money for house repairs, and each light was literally held in place by peeling & brown sellotape. When the gales roared in winter, the individual panes would rattle in their lead housings. It sounded as though the house was haunted.

Goodbye stayed true to form to the very last moment

Although I was worried that I would disgrace myself by weeping all over Bassets on departure from the house, I was saved by the antics of l'enfant. Just as I was gathering together the possessions I had strewn around the kitchen: cape, shawls, laptop, book, and the rest, Finch decided to engage in evil-ness.

With one clever scoop of his long Basset nose he winkled out a wide cylindrical gift pack of chocolate chip cookies from beneath a scarf in my carry on.

Beyond pleased with himself, his little chops jacked open just as far as they could possibly go around the oversize packet, he looked at me out of the corner of his eyes and bolted for the living room, front paws working in tandem, nineteen to the dozen.

As he skidded across the kitchen floor, the cellophane split and large cookies wheeled across the rug. Max was there in seconds and lil’sis’s present started to go snip snap down the gullets of two snack obsessed hounds.

Chuckling away, we managed to rescue most of them. I just hope lil'sis doesn't find any dog hairs on her cookies.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Goodbye New Jersey


Fete Nationale.

Finchley baby basset

L'enfant's first day in Jersey.


Max distinctly unimpressed with the arrival of l'enfant


S'mores: who knew Hershey's could actually be edible?


JK working it. Can you tell she works in fashion?

Eton mess side

Eton Mess. My dastardly plan to make everyone fat



L'enfant as puppyfootwarmer

Yoann & max crop


Y's birthday, er, cake



house exterior

Things I am going to do in London: part one

Most importantly, I HAVE to get my hair cut. (I'm heading for the dreaded stripper hair - way too long.) And possibly coloured too. I’m a natural blonde and usually I rely on the summer sun to perk up my hair. This year I spent way more time in the sun than normal - a few months in California, and then on my return to New York, I promptly left the city for the countryside. That meant I wore a huge sunhat to ward off the evil wrinkle forming rays every day. The annoying side effect of that is rather dull looking hair.

Thing is I haven’t had my hair cut in London in three years, and I have no idea where to go. I’ve also got an inbox full of LLG reader emails all wanting to know where they should get their hair done in London. Anyone got any bright ideas? And, dear readers, if you can hang on, I’ll report back once I’ve taken the plunge.

Eat so much Vietnamese that I end up with a food baby. Hackney here I come. Song Que, Viet Hoa, Huong Viet: I intend to eat in all three as much as possible.

Find the squishiest sofa in Shoreditch House, hunker down and make it my London office. (And mumble occasionally about how great it is that they have a gym there, with absolutely no intention whatsoever of crossing the threshold.)

Go for a very long walk on Hampstead Heath with lil’sis & Posetta Baddog, followed by lunch outside at The Italian at Parliament Hill Fields, with PB tied to our table as she growls at all comers.

Go dancing. I’m thinking the Guilty Pleasures Black & White Ball at Koko for choice. In a black lace mid calf ballgown, black elbow gloves, proper pointy toe stilettos, masses of necklaces & birds nest hair. (Think 80s, think Madonna c. Like A Virgin)

Get my eyebrows threaded at Blink before they take over my face.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winner: Fifty Dresses That Changed the World

fifity dresses

Thank you everyone who left a comment to tell us about their favourite dress. I used to choose three people to receive a copy of the book. And they are:

Kiki said...
It's black lace, found on the floor of a Zara sale years ago for £10. I've worn it to everything, from everyday with flats to evening, for work meetings to a picnic at the park with flip-flops and Xmas dinner with friends. I've worn it so much the wrap detail at the front has loosened up and is now held together with a pin making it uneven (but I like it even more this way!) And wearing it one day this summer, waiting at some London traffic lights I got the best compliment EVER, from a cute old lady, "I love the way it moves at the back and it shows off your pretty legs! You walk well in it!" I walked with her to her house, chatting about her granddaughter, called everyone I know to tell them and had a smile on my face for the rest of the day! x

Claire said...
My favourite dress, is a pink collared vintage piece I found on. It was floor length, until it got it to my house that is! I cut it to a more modern length that suited my shape and height better, and now I wear it all the time. I always get asked where its from and how much. No one believes me when I say £5 from eBay!
I am wearing it here :
I love the look of those books! I study fashion promotion with styling and it would come in so handy! Fingers crossed! xox

Mirandola said...
The dusky pink silk dress my italian grandma made for me for my first dressed up party, when I was 18. She'd been a seamstress and volunteered to make me the dress. I was terrified, in the way that only an overwrought teenager can be, that the dress would be wrong, somehow, and that I'd get laughed at. I should point out, here, that I'd never seen my grandma wear anything but southern italian woman black wool...
My mum didn't want to hurt nonna's feelings by saying no, so we agreed that I'd pretend to wear whatever she made, but that if I didn't like it I'd get a proper, shop-bought dress. And it was fabulous. Not let's-be-nice-to-elderly-relative-wearable. It was chic, and flattering, and made me feel grown up and.... She was amazing.

Such fabulous stories from everyone. Girls: please can you email me at libertylondongirl at and I will let you know how to claim your books.

Hello Jamie!

Baby Jamie

This is little Jamie, born yesterday three weeks early to my old university friend Emma & her boyfriend Rob. I just want to say CONGRATULATIONS to Em & Rob!

Clarins Generation 6 Extra-Firming Botanical Intensive Care serum

A lovely reader (hello Cal!) emailed me to say she was a little confused by the whole beauty regime thing and could I please explain when one was supposed to use beauty serums?

I was reminded that I hadn't addressed her question this morning when I was massaging in a layer of gunk after my shower and admiring the plump, smooth texture of my skin.

God, that sounds narcissistic but bear with me.

Sure there's a lot of snake oil on the market and if we were to believe all the claims put forward by various beauty companies for their facial products (& take at face value their photoshopped advertisements), we'd all be walking around with the complexions of twelve year olds.

Although I was sent buckets of serums in my twenties, I never bothered with any of it: I had great skin and it was patently clear to me that adding another level to my skincare regime wasn't necessary.

Now that I've started the long inexorable fall towards old age (I'm over thirty), my skin could do with an extra boost and a good serum really can make a difference, delivering extremely concentrated amounts of supposedly active ingredients to your skin. After a week of using one my skin usually looks dewy, stays moist, and there is no flaking. With the really good ones I get no breakouts either.

This is important to me as I have rosacea, which is easily exacerbated by the wrong products. Unfortunately I have to use trial & error as I have no way of knowing which product will cause me to flare up in advance. The wrong one results in tiny white pustules (mm lovely) all over my cheeks which take a week to go down. Skincare for me is like Russian roulette.

Clarins Double Generation 6 serum

Anyway, my current wonder product is Clarins Generation 6 Extra-Firming Botanical Intensive Care Serum. It's aimed directly at the over 40s (er,not me), with the promise of age-control, anti-wrinkle, extra-firming properties.

I take all those promises with a very large pinch of salt but, having used it religiously every morning straight onto my skin, followed by my SPF day moisturiser, and each evening massaged in for a few minutes before applying night & eye cream, I'm really very, very impressed with the state of my skin. It stays hydrated & even a little glow-y throughout the day and the very fine lines really do seem to be less noticeable, I guess because they are all plumped up. Put me in a Force Ten gale and I suspect they'll be noticeable again in seconds.

This particular serum can be used daily or as an occasional boost. I'm not a big believer in products if they aren't used regularly, so I would suggest an all or nothing approach.

I've never really used Clarins products before, but I have a small mountain to test, courtesy of the US Clarins press office, and, so far, so extremely good. I'm using the serum in conjunction with the Multi-Active Night Prevention Plus Cream (recommended for 30s) and I haven't had a single break out, blackhead or flaky patch in two weeks.

The Serum is UK £50 here, US $94 here

Ann Louise Roswald London sample sale

Ann Louise Roswald AW09

(I wrote about Ann Louise Roswald here)

Ann Louise Roswald invites you to a one day sale of current & previous season stock including knitwear, party dresses & winter coats, press samples, vintage cashmere, fabric off-cuts, clogs - all at bargain prices.

Monday 23rd November
8am to 8pm

The Toy Factory, 11 / 13 Corsham Street, London N1 6D
Nearest tube Old Street (Exit One/Take the stairs to City Road, 2nd Right then 1st Left)

ANN LOUISE ROSWALD would like to draw your attention to the plight of the Paul D'auria Cancer Support Centre, SW11. The Centre is at risk of being closed, as its funding is not being renewed. For more information on the centre please visit

London here I come...

I’m feeling rather sad at the thought of leaving New Jersey. It’s been wonderful getting to spend proper time with J& Y, and with les Bassets, and I shall miss them very much. And what am I going to do without those silky Basset ears to play with?

After my stressful bolt around Manhattan yesterday, we have had a calm evening, eating Y’s delicious homemade cauliflower au gratin off our laps, and watching the Star Trek movie (a second time for both J & me; we were just geeking out by watching it again), teaching Y how to do the Vulcan hand salute & eating Magnolia’s chocolate devil’s food cake.

J remarked that I seemed quietly excited about my trip back to England and he was right…sort of. It’s always lovely to see family, friends and dogs, but I don’t really want to be in England right now, not one bit. But my mother is feeling mis & I think we both need to regroup.

So I’m sugar coating the pill by arranging lovely things to do instead. The basic plan is that I will spend the weeks writing & clearing attics with my mother at the family home in the countryside near Banbury, and the weekends in London, until I return to NYC at the beginning of January.

Highlights so far include a Tweetup in London this weekend with various of my blog & Twitter acquaintance, seeing New Moon with my best friend Miss P, and the prospect of dinner & a stay at the new Dean Street Townhouse hotel from the Soho House stable, which opens next week. There's also a chance I may get to see the wonderful Tania Kindersley as we serendipitously find ourselves in the same part of the world. (Tania lives in Scotland and I in America, so this is luck indeed.)

Whilst I am on the subject of Tania, her & Sarah Vine's most excellent book Backwards in High Heels
would be the perfect Christmas present for intelligent and loved girlfriends. Read about it here & buy it here(It's out in America in the New Year.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Running errands in Manhattan

So. New York. I left you as I drank tea with one of my Twitter acquaintance in Soho House. With a train to catch back to the sticks at 1745hrs (me) & a very nice lunch guest awaiting (my friend), our meeting was necessarily short, and I whizzed off to the arse end of Chelsea for a poke around in my basement storage container.

When I gave up my Manhattan apartment in February, I put all my household goods, spare clothes and books into storage. It looked like this for a while, but I've spent a few hours each time I go into the city going through each hastily packed bag and case throwing out junk, making piles for The Salvation Army, trying to consolidate everything.

I had a fine old time yesterday going through it all, ferreting out house keys, Oyster cards and other London essentials. Although I spent most of the time picking out clothes for London. I have a few winter pieces here in New Jersey, but not only has it not dropped beneath 55F here, they are of the comfy variety, as opposed to the trussed up cocktail/smart lunch/dating variety, all of which activities I have every intention of indulging in once I hit London.

I also downgraded to a much smaller container: I've got rid of so much that I don't need the bigger space any more, & I'll save $50 a month. After a while I emerged, blinking, (it's no wonder I have so few wrinkles - I never see daylight), onto the ground floor to sign the papers and casually checked the time. 1620hrs! I had been down there for THREE & A HALF HOURS.

It completely threw me: I don't wear a watch, so hadn't marked the passing of time. It seemed like only an hour had gone by. I had a scant 60mins to run all my errands and get back to Penn at 34th. Ack.

Now completely stressed, and lugging my wheelie case, thigh high boots threatening to become ankle boots, I struggled across 21st street all the way to 8th and hopped an E to Rockefeller Center to buy my mother's 2010 engagement diary from The Met Store on the Plaza. I am such a good daughter. Then, after a quick swing by (overrated) Magnolia Bakery's midtown location for the Red Velvet cupcakes I always bring Y from the city, I sprinted to the subway, taking no prisoners as I & my case cannoned into tourists every few metres. (I have zero spatial awareness at the best of times.)

Of course, even after another stop to fulfill my mother's esoteric magazine requests at Hudson News, I made an earlier train. Manhattan is so tiny, and the subway so fast, efficient and frequent that I had made it from 21st & 11th to 53rd & 5th to 50th & 7th and down to 34th & 8th in just fifty minutes, shopping time included. God I love New York

Sophie Theallet wins CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund

Photo credit: Getty Images (via Harper's Bazaar)

This photograph of Michelle Obama in a Sophie Theallet dress took the designer from fashion insider secret to, if not a household name, then a name that opened fashion doors worldwide.


And, if dressing America's most photographed woman wasn't enough for her this year, tonight she was named winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, which brings with it $200,000 and a year’s worth of mentoring. (To give you an idea of its influence, wunderkind Alexander Wang won last year, & Proenza Schouler picked up the award in its inaugural year, 2006)


Sophie Theallet's atelier may now be based in Brooklyn, but her roots and training are wholly French. Born in the South West of France, the only girl amongst five brothers, she was a tomboy who dreamt of princesses in beautiful gowns. She trained at Le Studio Bercot in Paris, graduating a year early when she won the National Young Designer Award


Although she’s best known for the decade spent at Azzedine Alaïa’s right hand, she worked first for Jean-Paul Gaultier and, after Alaïa, set up a resort line, Motu Tane, with François Nars, and named after his Tahitian resort, which was enormously successful.

In the Spring of 2006 she launched her Sophie Theallet label in NY, which has become known for its exquisite detailing, a direct link to her years with Alaia. But, lest you think this means her collections speak to a body con aesthetic, Theallet describes her signature as ‘bohemian luxe seen through the eyes of a sophisticated couturier’. What that translates to is eminently desirable, grown up clothing, which flatters a woman's body as only a combination of exceptional skill and training can do.

All other photos from Sophie Theallet SS10 via

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lovely day in lovely New York

I spend most days writing & staring out of the window. When I emerge, blinking like a particularly squiffy, cross owl, to actually do something, I am astonished at how much I can achieve in a day if I put my mind to it, especially when serendipity comes into play.

I’m very good at rising to a challenge, so when I got an email at 915am asking if I could pop in to Manhattan for a meeting today, I begged darling Y to drive me to the station, looked in the mirror, shrieked in horror, trowelled on an inch of slap, pulled on my thousand league suede boots and was off to the railway station within twenty minutes.

At Penn Station an hour later I nearly expired, knocked for six by the unlucky combination of mass humanity and unseasonally warm weather. Beetling down to Soho House in Meatpacking to pick up my post, I stripped off my leather gloves and abbreviated Batman cape, untwined five foot of cashmere scarf from around my neck and raised my face to the sky. There really is nothing like Manhattan on a sunny day.

There’s a handy public Mac in the drawing room of SH, so (as my Blackberry is kaput) I popped upstairs to check my email & Twitter. There was a DM waiting for me from an online friend suggesting tea at SH if I was in the city. I looked up and, sitting working with his back to me, was my friend, easily recognisable from his Twitter profile. Kismet.

He did look a bit taken aback when a random woman approached him, smiling like a loon and saying his name. I remembered then that of course not only do I use a nom de plume on Twitter but I’ve posted an unrecognizable portrait of me too.

Once he’d realised I was me,(it’s quite odd introducing myself as Liberty), and not a crazed stalker, we had a lovely pot of tea and talked about ships & sealing wax and cabbages & kings.

Twitter is a funny animal, but one thing has become evident to me over the past year: Twitter requires an ability to distill thoughts into 140 characters. If the contraction still lets personality shine through, then that person is bound to be fascinating in real life.

More of my NY day later.

Netsayi: album release & tour


I first heard of Netsayi in summer 2006 when I was invited to a tiny private acoustic gig in the basement of a restaurant in London to launch her first album. She held the room spellbound with just her voice stripped back and bare, with an emotion ringing through her words which you rarely hear. I could understand why comparisions have been made to Joan Armatrading and Nina Simone.

She’s a Zimbabwean singer-songwriter, who was born a refugee in London during the Zimbabwean chimurenga (war against apartheid). After independence she was raised in Harare, the capital city.

She grew up in a musical household and the soundtrack to her childhood was diverse – traditional songs and local pop competing with reggae, soul and folk. All these genres have influenced Netsayi's own writing, a style she has christened 'Chimurenga Soul'.

Netsayi has opened for some of the most respected stars of Afro-jazz, soul, blues and hip hop (like Hugh Masekela, Omar, Boubacar Traore and K'Naan) and appeared live in session across the BBC radio network (including a prestigious Radio 1 'Peel session').

Her latest album, Monkeys’ Wedding came out in September, and she is at the end of a British tour at the moment.

You can listen to her on Myspace here

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dell XPS M1330: failed motherboard, power adapter & customer service

After it took forty minutes and five emails between me & Friday's extra special Dell helper, I have called the external contractor three times and they still have no record of my existence. I am currently on the phone to Dell. I have now spoken to SIX people over the course of the last 32 minutes. SWEET MOTHER OF GOD they've just put me through to Latitude support not XPS support. Okay being put through to the SEVENTH person...

Right the seventh person was a beacon of sanity & helpfulness. And would you believe it? Mr Condescension from Friday HAD GIVE ME THE WRONG NUMBER after all. So it's no wonder the external contractor had no record of me - because it was the wrong contractor. F**KWIT.

I have just spent 52 minutes on the phone.

I have just called the external contractor who have told me I cannot arrange a time for the technician. They will page him & see when he is available. When I said when shall I call back?, she replied, "Please call us back after some time." Riiiiggghht. Helpful, that.

Oh & did I mention that somehow Dell have arbitrarily decided to swap my warranty to the UK which is just adding another layer of horror/confusion to the whole ghastly affair? I bought my laptop through Dell America online, had it delivered to New York, have had it fixed three times in NY & have never requested a warranty change.

I really want to cry right now. What upsets me more than anything else is that the problems are all of Dell's making. I am paying in time and in money for their substandard hardware and incompetent technical & customer support. The only ray of light in the darkness is their Social Media department who are like manna from heaven, as they return emails (the guy quoted above never returned my Tuesday email, resulting in my Friday phone call), facilitate repairs, and cut through the nightmares.

Oh and regarding that warranty: it might read Complete Care comprehensive warranty & service contract including Next Day/Weekend/Night On Site Technical support, but it's a Complete Crock . They don't keep parts in stock so they can never come next day as the parts have to be ordered. (Because all that ever goes wrong with an XPSM1330 is that Dell use crappy parts - hello NVIDIA - which breakdown & have to be continually replaced - hello second motherboard & power adapter in three months). And the parts despatching people aren't open over the weekend, so forget about the weekend onsite support.

PS if you've come here through Google, this site is a catalogue of errors with the XPS M1330. It seems I am not alone in having had two failed power adapters, a replacement screen & two replacement motherboards - within a period of four months.

UPDATE (Tuesday):
The Dell tech cldn't come on Monday as the parts didn't arrive in time - quelle surprise, but a very charming man from Unisys arrived an hour early (hurrah!) today, and dismantled my laptop, replacing the motherboard. Unfortunately, Dell hadn't ordered me a new adapter, so he said, so I am STILL awaiting the delivery. They promise via FEDEX tomorrow. We shall see. I fly to London on Thursday and there will be ill humour if it has not arrived by then.

Blog Housekeeping: LLG has a new domain name

Just a quick post to say that you may have noticed that the LLG domain name has changed overnight from to

What do you need to do?
For the moment, my blog host Blogger will automatically direct everyone to the new domain address.

However, from December (if I can can get it done by then), LLG is moving to a shiny, sparkly new site, just in time for Christmas, and the blogspot address will cease to function.

So, if you could update your links (and any links within posts too if you can be bothered) now to you will experience no cessation in LLG activities. (Of course, if you are fed up to the back teeth with my inchoate ramblings, this is a great opportunity to say sayonara LLG!)

Also: some words of advice from a seasoned blogger who wishes she had known better back in 2006 when she started her blog: if you have any intention at all of growing your blog readership beyond your best friend and your mother, buy your domain name and point it towards your blog.

Fortunately no one had speculatively bought libertylondongirl as of last week & I was able to snap up both the .com & domains, but it happens so there's another reason to cover your back.

Domain names aren't fearfully expensive, I think I paid around £40 for both for two years and Google doesn't charge you to use a custom domain, as opposed to the .blogspot address. ( will charge you $10.) In any case, it is well worth it if, like me, you have built up lots of lovely links & press, as Blogger won't let you transfer any of that to your new blog.

Just think of all the time (& possibly money) you'll save: I had to spend ages yesterday changing all the links to here on my work portfolio website, and I still have the blogspot address on all my business cards, which I will need to update.

Blogger don't make it transparently simple to set up - they wld much rather you used .blogspot in your address, but it isn't complicated to change to a custom domain and, once you figure it out, it takes five minutes, tops. Hell, if I can do it, you certainly can.

So what are you waiting for?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Designer shoes? Depends how much...

It's always pained me to spend good money on shoes. I'm really hard on my footwear, jamming my shoes into my handbag so I can change depending on my transport options, walking everywhere in New York, often in very high heels, and getting my heel tips caught in grates, drains and pavement cracks more often than I can count. I need shoes I can wear every day without weeping over the repair cost of a torn heel or broken strap.

Not only that, but over the years that I've worked in fashion, I've seen the accessory lines ramp up their prices to such a ludicrous level that they no longer have even a remote connection to cost, but reflect only what the consumer is prepared to pay for a logo, a label or a red sole. And, most of the time, I'm just not willing to jump on that bandwagon. I can admire a beautiful shoe, a wonderful piece of craftsmanship but I am not willing to fork out half a month's Manhattan rent on a pair of shoes that will be worn only a few times each month.

I've already noticed some lines have dropped their accessory prices during this recession, and I suspect that there may be a gradual adjustment back down to the realms of aspirational affordability over the next year.

I do hope so, because at the moment I rely on Zara (about once every three months they produce a shoe I die for, and which gets me stopped in the street; the rest of the time, no), vintage, sample & normal sales and, I admit it, the odd gift from designers to fill up my shoe wardrobe. I do have beautiful, expensive shoes in my possession: I just shopped for them wisely.

And, because I am so hard on my shoes, I spend a fortune on shoe trees, boot supports and cobblers' bills to keep them looking tip top.

Every new pair of shoes gets taken to the shoemender to have a very thin rubber non-slip sole glued to the bottom (bar satin evening shoes obviously). That way the shoe lasts much longer and there's less chance of me going arse over tit (an all too frequent occurrence, given my coordination skills). Because, if you live in the northern hemisphere, chance are that you will be wearing those shoes in the rain more times than you think and nothing ruins a good shoe more than a leather sole being repeatedly plunked down on rainy pavements.

So, even if you abuse your shoes as I do, with a little care they can last and last - just as long, in fact, as a pair of over priced boutique ones.

Odette New York Dachshund necklace

Odette Dachshund necklace
Dachshund necklace Sterling Silver: $105 Yellow Gold Vermeil: $115 Rose Gold Vermeil: $115

I'm wondering how my life was complete before I knew about Odette New York's wonderful dachshund pieces. Alerted by Crystal who pointed out that Posetta Baddog appeared to have been immortalised in silver, I clicked through immediately and was overcome with lust.

Because, although the dachshund pieces rock my world, the rest of her work is pretty damn lovely too.

Odette New York earrings

Odette New York was started in 2006 by artist Jennifer Sarkilahti out of her Brooklyn studio. Each design begins from a pencil sketch that is carefully translated by hand into wax before being cast into metal.