I really like pretty things. I can't help it. I love decorative objects and I don't understand beige. I have a weakness for bold colour and fancy ornamentation and I can't bear to see a naked wall or a sticky-outy thing without something delightfully whimsical hanging off it purely because there's a place for it to be hung. Pretty things make life worth living.

But then I also like practicality. What is the POINT of creating an object which doesn't do what it's supposed to do? It offends my common sensibilities. I wish to own items which actually fulfill their purpose rather than ones which shakily attempt to do so before collapsing under the strain because then you have to go and buy them again and spend twice as much as you intended to in the first place and that's just false economy, people.

So if an item works, why can't it look the part? And if it's visually appealing, must it lose some essential component of functionality along the way?

This blog intends to track down the holy grail of useful, defiantly non-ugly objects for people who just want a bit of glamour in their day-to-day lives. No gadgets, no boys' toys; this is going to be unashamedly girly but purposefully so. Think of it as steel wrapped in feathers. Pretty feathers. Which actually work.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Shower caps

Anyone who has ever shared accommodation with me will miserably vouch for the long hours I spend in the bathroom. Sadly for them, it's not due an obsessive need for cleanliness. In actual fact, I just love the solitude that's offered by a locked bathroom. I quite like having a background of white noise to do a good bit of thinking, and the safety of being absolutely starkers without judgement (imagined or otherwise). But more than this, I get to adorn my head with an item that nobody else need ever see me wear.

There aren't many objects in this world which you choose entirely based on your own personal preference. As much as we all like to think that we march to our tune - and I perhaps try to convince myself of this more than most - such hopefulness is never strictly true. We pick our clothes based on who exactly we are trying to impress. Kitchenware is designed to deflect attention from our mediocre standards of cooking. Musical taste may be subjective but nonetheless PJ & Duncan is stealthily hidden behind Muse's prominently-placed back-catalogue.

The same cannot be said for the showercap.

The showercap has no other practical purpose in life than to cover one's hair and to do so in solitary confinement. It must be waterproof but in terms of looks, anything goes. And most importantly, those looks are absolutely and entirely down to your own personal preference because, all things considered, the only person who's ever going to see it is you.

After all, if you're in the shower and wearing a showercap, then chances are you're probably alone. And if you're in the shower but not alone then I wouldn't recommend that you wear a showercap. (Go ahead, try it one day. Let me know how it goes).

Personally I have two, albeit on a theme (the theme being pink, of course): one is encrusted with magenta sequins and the other has "glam" embroidered on the side which is only somewhat ironic considering its unnecessarily wide brim gives it the distinct aura of a Dickensian mop-cap which - one might argue - is by its very nature not remotely glam. Nonetheless, both fill me with a sense of joy and help me through painful early starts. I personally think if I must be jolted from my dreams with the screech of an alarm clock, stub my toe on the edge of the bed, stumble across the darkened hall and step shivering (or sweating, depending on the season) into the bathroom, then catching sight of my bleary-eyed head covered with bright pink sequins makes the entire morning that much more bearable.

Because one should never reveal one's shower cap to the general public, I shall post no photos of me (un)dressed in my morning attire; however here is a strikingly similar example which you may imagine on location in as little detail as necessary.

Face it: no matter how well turned-out you are on a regular basis, this is not the time to worry about sophistication. You can attempt glamour with your splashproof steel-grey designer headwear but if you're shaving your legs in the buff and your locks are covered by a wodge of plastic, you will never be able to cultivate that famously groomed image. Don't waste the opportunity! Why bring yourself down on a Monday morning with an ancient, torn piece of cellophane tat which you pinched from the Luton Travelodge? Why splash the cash on a Prada cap which will be admired by nobody but you and the cat?

Why not instead reveal your inner child with this youthful beauty? Especially recommended for accountants and lawyers who spend their working days encased in serious suits:

If you share my sense of humour, you'll laugh every morning when you catch sight of this hilarious offering. Warning: not for the early-morning intelligentsia:

Everyone loves a bit of shower-based warbling. If you've got the voice of a diva then frankly you need to look the part:

Always a winner for those of us who wake up with pillow creases on our foreheads and smears of mascara down our cheeks:

If you've got money to burn then why not check out these overpriced beauties. For more afforable, less glamorous but undeniably comical animal-themed hats you can try Shiny Shack. Normal shapes in a range of fabulous fabrics (including my sparkly one . . . but go on, show a little imagination) abound here or you can go straight for the specialists and visit The Shower Hat Company. And yes, gentlemen, you too can get in on the act; apparently leopard print is the way forward for hair-proud boys.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Kitchen knives

2011 is an exciting year for my parents because they are finally getting rid of me. At the grand old age of 26, I am being turfed out of the family home and into a flat of my very own. Once I'd got over the shock that I would have to do all of my own cooking (having been under the impression that my mother would accompany me and live in the cupboard under the stairs, emerging three times a day to prepare my meals), I realised that this traumatic discovery came with its own set of benefits; namely that I would be able to decorate the kitchen - and rest of the flat - entirely to my own taste.

Now I am notoriously superstitious and it occurs to me that buying household objects in advance of completion is probably deeply unlucky, but it's tough when they appear out of thin air and start jumping up and down on your head shouting "I WAS MADE FOR YOU TO OWN ME". Much like these stunning little blighters:
I discovered them whilst investigating presents for other people (isn't that always the way?) on Firebox and immediately fired off an email to my mother which read along the lines of "MINE".

If you've never bought anything off Firebox, do it now. Anybody with more money than sense needs to check out What The Firebox?! for an array of exotic objects ranging from an enormous gumball machine to an actual private jet. If you didn't win the EuroMillions (or you did, but you've already got a see-through pool table and a replica Batmobile) then just have a mosey around the rest of their wares. I think of Firebox as a superior replacement to the long-defunct Gadget Shop; my one-stop destination as a teenage girl for sourcing affordable presents for family members who I didn't really know or understand particularly well, like my dad and brother. Firebox is even better. Not only is the P&P free but they also chuck in a bag of sweets with every order. The first time I thought it was a mistake. The second time I wrapped them up with the present for the doubly-appreciative recipient. After that I decided to stop being so bloody generous and started hoarding them for myself.

There are an awful lot of amazing gift ideas on this website, both for others and your own personal Christmas list. I'm a particular fan of the s-shaped brownie tray and the gigantic edible gummi bear but neither of these fit this blog's criteria (the former being highly covetable for baking fans but not particularly attractive, and the latter being . . . well, a giant gummi bear, so utterly useless really but nonetheless delightful. I mean, it's a giant gummi bear. Who doesn't want one of those?). But those knives are both fun to look at and great quality as well. At £20 for a set of five, they're neither Ikea nor Sabatier but they are increasingly popular and for good reason, it seems. There's no serrated knife for tomatoes but there is a breadknife and four other assorted sizes which cover all bases. They are shamelessly bright and fun and almost entirely painted but for a tiny sliver of silver metal along the blade itself, allowing them to be sharpened without risk to the colourful non-stick coating.

Unfortunately I neglected to take my own advice and unlike my previous post, did no research whatsoever; had I done so, I would have discovered that they also come in a handy perspex knife block like this one. Fail. So as to avoid them gathering dust with the wooden spoons, I am planning on attaching a magnetic knife rack to one of the more visible kitchen walls and (carefully) sticking them back up post-chop/slice/saw so as to maximise their usage; these are not the sort of knives that one can wilfully stick in a drawer.

And in the future, when I start having people over for dinner and entertaining out of choice (rather than as payback for all of the favours that I will no doubt be calling in over the next few months), and on top of that become sophisticated enough to shove in a cheese platter after the coq au vin and the Black Forest Gateau, I shall consider adding these to my collection.

Buy the knives for £19.99 on their own, or for £34.99 with the Perspex block. Feeling flash? Fork out (haha) £12.99 for the cheesey four-piece as well.

Thursday, 21 July 2011


Once upon a time I had boring brollies. That was before the hallowed Christmas for which I was given a beautiful pink pointy flower-adorned walking umbrella and I suddenly found myself praying for rain.

Imagine that! I actively hoped for the nimbus clouds to come rolling on in. Talk about bonkers. But then that's just how happy this umbrella made me feel. When the heavens finally opened I skipped merrily down the street, delighted that I was able to use this paragon of prettiness to the purpose for which it was designed.

Then one evening I took it to Shoreditch House and I left it behind. That was a sad day.

After a suitable period of mourning, I decided that it was time to seek out a suitable replacement. It had to be entirely worthy of its predecessor and I came equipped with criteria: I wanted a walker, it needed to work with both my purple winter coat and red mac, it should be as large as feasibly possible and not have one of those frames which buckle and flop at the slightest hind of wind. Plus, of course, it had to look fabulous.

After searching the far corners of the web and checking new arrivals on eBay daily, I stumbled across the mecca that is Bombay Duck. (I suspect that this online treasure trove will make a regular appearance on these pages). From a selection of truly stunning brollies, I selected this particular gem:

This umbrella brings me compliments from strangers in the street, not only when it's raining but even just hanging on my arm. It is that little bit larger than most umbrellas so it keeps my arms and bag dry, plus its exaggerated curvature means that it both protects my hair from buffeting winds and resists turning inside-out. The pom-poms suggest flimsiness but they bely the sturdiness of the frame; it withstands my daily commute into central London and has survived both torrential rain and blizzards, all whilst looking deceptively like a parasol. I love it so much that when I accidentally left it hanging on a wall after my birthday party earlier this year, I promptly bought another one.

I learnt two things from this episode.

1) Always do your research. Don't just buy a generic umbrella from Boots because it's there. A little bit of research shows that something covering all bases will be available, even if you have to take the time to find it.

2) Don't take your favourite umbrella to your birthday party, drink copious numbers of cocktails and catch the night-bus home.

View the beautiful brolly in its full glory at Bombay Duck . . . but buy it for a couple of quid cheaper at Brollies Galore.

This is me, with my brolly. I'm at London Zoo. Facepainting for grown-ups is coming back, you mark my words.