Monday, 30 May 2011


Ugh, blogging here is really hard work. The internet connection is painfully slow and keeps timing out so I lose what I've written, or the photos I'm midway through uploading. Which is why I've fallen back on the easy option of yet more pics of the kids (sorry...). 

I think it's probably time to end this blog and start again. I have two new ones in mind, which I plan to start in September. Thinking about them is distracting me from this one, but I'm not giving up on it yet . I've grown too used to having a blog to drop it and be blogless. 

So, for anyone who can bear a couple more months or so of the online equivalent of  me sitting you down and boring you with my holiday snaps, I'll be here for a little while longer.

Otherwise, look me up in September when I'll be back with new blogging enthusiasm and a fast internet connection.

The Thinker

Snake killer

In my general hysteria about driving last week, I forgot to mention that I killed a 5ft snake on our drive into the mountains. I was so petrified and focused on not driving over the cliff edge with the kids that I didn't even see the snake slithering across the road and drove straight over it (actually probably a good thing, otherwise I might have swerved and killed us instead). Less dramatic than our encounter with a King Cobra last year, but still pretty cool in Seth's books.

The imps in Spain

 Bo with the loves of his life

 Granny's square yellow house, Harry the dog, blue Audi car, black VW car, Granny's white gate...Papa, Papa, are you listening?

 'Sunburning' like Mama

Our (non) holiday snaps

These shots reminded of the sort of snaps people would get back in the post from Truprint after two weeks holiday in the sun. Ol is in his writing cave, only seeing the sun, appropriately, on Sundays, but, I really can't complain...

Sunday, 29 May 2011

My very snoozy caterpillar

Today, after a swim in the sea, and a long, long nap, Seth found me and said wistfully: 'Seth slept all night, AND two weeks, but I'm not a butterfly..'.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Seth's not very Spanish supper for four

Corn on the cob, spicy chicken, mushroom and pepper fajitas, with guacamole, soured cream and cheese, all prepared by little chef Seth.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A moment of calm

 Happier driving a Maclaren pushchair than a VW Golf

The crisp air of Capiliera, 3188 meteres above sea level, was just what I needed after that drive through the hills. We wandered around the cobbled streets and tiny lanes, and had a picnic looking back down the valley. The drive there and back was so stressful for me, that those calm, cool moments high in the village were really special.

Giving my little friend a hug, even though he'd spent the journey telling dramatic stories about cars coming around the mountain and us crashing into them and rolling down into the river, and telling me there were lots of cars behind us, and that I should brumm off and go faster.

Both my imps have quiet and thoughtful moments, but most of the time they're like this:

Driving me nuts

It's taken me a little while to get around to blogging from Spain because I've been a little, erm, stressed. I know it's crazy given that we're in a villa in on a mountainside in Andalucia and the sun shining, and we're used to travelling from place to place with the boys. So why the stress? Well, we knew the villa was on top of a hill, but it's some hill. A small mountain, with an unrelentingly steep gradient, almost impossible to walk down with a pushchair and totally impossible to walk up with a three year old and a pushchair. So we've hired a car for six weeks.

So, why the stress? Mostly because I haven't really driven for over eight years. Even in my car-owning days I was a very nervous driver. I don't like driving and I don't really even like being in cars. Anyone who has driven with me as a passenger will know how uptight I am even when I'm not behind the wheel. Ollie, a marginally better driver than me, doesn't know where his driving license is, so if we were going to get up and down this hill, it was down to me.

So with that background, I had to drive out of the hire car parking space in a left-hand drive, on the right side of the road, and face the mountain roads up to the villa. That's hairpin bend one after another, one of which keeps me awake at night as I see myself taking the corner slightly too wide and us plunging off the side down the cliff escarpment. Doubly worse nightmare as I have Sethie and Bo in the back.

They say the way to deal with your fears is to tackle them, to do the very things you most fear. If that's the case, six weeks of driving in Andalucia and I should be able to close the door on this ridiculous phobia. Today we drove into the Sierra Nevada, the beautiful mountain range nestled up to the south eastern coast of Spain. This involved taking the fast, winding road around the high cliffs around the coast, then onto the motorway towards Granada crossing several super high, long bridges (even worse than hairpin bends) and flyovers, and then of course the winding roads up into the sierras. Two hours there, two hours back, and I was a nervous wreck every driving moment. We did make it back in one piece, but I don't feel any braver for the experience. I googled fear of driving, panic attacks while driving, and it seems there are plenty more nutters likes me out there with irrational fears, especially on motorways and high bridges over water. Not that that makes me feel any better.

So I haven't felt much like blogging. When I'm out of the car, at point A or B, playing with boys in the garden or the beach, up in the mountains together or watching the sunset over the valley, it's wonderful here, but I always have this lurking and ludicrous fear of making it around that corner. Oh, another thing, and for the sake of our marriage we've decided to take the bus to Granada next weekend!!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Decoupage design

Jill Barnes-Dacey, an artist who I got to know a little when I was living in London is exhibiting some of her exquisite decoupage works in Paris, from 27 May to 30 July. We're planning on finishing our inter-railing trip around Europe with three in days in Paris, so hopefully we'll get to the exhibition, along with several arteliers I've picked out from Paris: Made by Hand by Pia Jane Bijkerk.

For more on Jill's decoupage work, see this article about her in the New York Times, or check out her website:

We're flying to Spain tomorrow, so from now until the end of June I will be blogging from Andalucia. Nos vemos!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A walk in the (bluebell) woods

Our anniversary walk on the Essex Way. Perfect for Ollie: walking + free. Perfect for me: walking + 7 hours of chatting. 

Little Mouse Designs

There was a spectacular lack of interest in the Royal Wedding from the male members of the Balch family. Ollie worked all morning, his Dad announced he was going to walk the dog, and Seth and Bo were getting in the way of my mother-in-law and me drinking pink champagne and oohing and aahing at outfits, so they were taken on the walk along with the dog.

Not that I was overly excited about the event, but I did buy the boys a patriotic t-shirt each to wear to the village party later in the day. It was an excuse to support my lovely, lovely friend Katie Crawford, who is making adorable applique t-shirts for kids

Katie of Little Mouse Designs, with baby Maddie

My Union Jack twins put in a good effort in the egg and spoon race at the village party, and Granny tried teaching Seth how to line dancing.

 Their interest in the festivities waned quickly, and soon they were back in bike begging to go home, back to to their cars and trains.
The t-shirts are lovely, with the designs handstiched onto organic cotton, with cute little details in the labelling and packaging. I've posted pics of three other designs below, and for more see Little Mouse Designs.

Arte Escondido

Four years ago a delightful young guy called Sean worked for me in Buenos Aires. He was only 18 years old, and was mostly making calls and collecting things from suppliers, but his Mum, Xenia, is a furniture designer and he had loads of good tips from her that he passed on to me.

Eventually Sean left to pursue his music studies (he's a very talented pianist), but not before he took me to his Xenia's workshop and showroom at their family home on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. What a place! Sean's two brothers have a wonderful bedroom on the first floor, with floor to ceiling factory style glass windows. It's completely surrounded by big old trees, creating a natural green curtain.

Xenia makes regular trips to the north of Argentina to source old furniture, textiles and inspiration for her work. Back at the workshop she heads up a team who restore old pieces, and make new wood and iron furniture which they French polish and finish with techniques which Xenia has developed.

To contact Xenia Christensen, or arrange to visit her workshop and showroom, email her at:

Cottage cravings

We have our eyes on a cottage near Hay. In spare moments, I sketch out the rooms and tot up the numbers, and wonder whether we should go for it or not. The area is beautiful, but would the jump from Buenos Aires to a tiny village on theWelsh border be too much? I do fancy a cottage though... and an article in the property section of today's Telegraph suggests it's a good time to buy a cottage.

The smiley family standing outside their perfect chocolate box thatched cottage are the Davisons, and Guy is one of Ollie's oldest friends.

Cowslip Cottage, in Old Basing, Hampshire is a picture-perfect red-brick house, set behind a white wicket gate, with two bedrooms topped by a thatched roof, is priced at £350,000 through Carter Jonas (01256 473388).

Sunday, 8 May 2011

doble M design in the FT

Thanks to Nick Foster for including doble M design in his piece on Buenos Aires in the FT House & Home supplement this weekend:
Homebuyers in the city are advised to apply the perfect Buenos Aires look – which hovers at present between hacienda chic and a contemporary, industrial feel – to furnishings and fittings. “You can’t very easily go and buy things off the shelf,” says Emma Balch, an interior designer from Yorkshire who has set up home in the edgy neighbourhood of San Telmo and runs her own company, Doble M Design. “Many things are custom-made by blacksmiths and carpenters. Sofas, for instance, tend to be handmade but you need contacts to find the right craftsmen – they don’t necessarily advertise their services widely.”
Otherwise, you can go shopping for antiques. “There is a wealth of early 20th-century European furniture on sale in the city, brought over by immigrants,” says Balch, who also recommends making use of traditional textiles from the north of Argentina: “They are wonderful and, thanks to the intensity of the light here, you can get away with their strong colours in a way that wouldn’t be straightforward in Britain.”
Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Wallpaper style

A little bird told me that favourite new BA shop is going to be featured in the next edition of the Phaidon Wallpaper* City Guide. I'm chuffed to bits. Lourdes Chicco Ruiz handcrafts the shoes upstairs in the mezzanine workshop above the store. I have a couple of pairs, and they're super comfortable as well as beautifully made. Just before leaving I treated myself to a pair of leather boots. Lourdes took elements from two previous designs to make my pair. They're the shape and height of the boots in the third photos, but made from sand suede like in photo 1, and with the heart design in sand and gold, not orange and green. I'm so pleased with them, and glad that handmade shoes (one of BA's best buys, in my opinion), by a young designer, and specifically Chicco Ruiz, will be in the Wallpaper* guide this time round. Doble M design also gets a mention in the shopping intro (thanks Matt!), and another favourite shop of mine, La Mersa, also makes it in. I'm looking forward to seeing the next edition, sounds like a guide to the BA I love.