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12 August 2013

Lightning over Seattle




Finally getting a little time to catch up with myself and BREATHE.

Our vacation in Menton passed very successfully (yes, you will be inundated with pictures just as soon as I have time to process them) and father-in-law has been and gone.

The summer here in Seattle has been one of record-breaking and mind-blowing loveliness; day after day of clear blue skies, temps in the mid 80s, mountains and lakes sparkling in every direction, balmy warm evenings etc. etc. and we have been living on the beach, in the pool and up on the roofdeck.

The heady weather ended with a bang, literally, on Friday evening, when a massive thunder and lightning storm lit up the skies around Seattle. Because of the lack of humidity thunderstorms are rare round these parts, but this one was a doozy, with the lightning owning the sky like the 4th of July (with apologies to Katy Perry). For much of the time it wasn’t even raining directly above us, so I took the opportunity of getting out on the roofdeck (not as crazy as it sounds as the lightning was a still a long way behind the city at this point).

It’s the first time I’ve ever photographed lightning, but I balanced my camera on the railing, followed the rules for photographing fireworks and took a bajillion pix, pressing the shutter when I thought lighting was due rather than waiting for it to happen.

And yes, I got lucky.




If truth be told I find this sort of photography, though it gives spectacular results, to be the most unsatisfying kind of photography. It’s the very definition of ‘taking’ rather than ‘making’ a photo – I didn’t have to quietly observe, find interesting angles or perspectives, stalk the light or make compositional choices. All I had to do was own a good camera, have a nice view, find the right settings and then point and shoot.

Still, there’s a undoubtedly a satisfaction in taking photos like this off your card and I was thrilled to have one of my photos featured on the Seattle Times blog. I suggest you click on them to view them properly.  The blog format doesn’t really do them justice.



I’m sort of back blogging I think. After nearly a solid month of travel things are starting to wind down now and we have a couple of gentle weeks until the summer’s grand finale – the Minx is going to her first ever overnight camp! We will be without her for four nights. I think my entire parenting life has been gearing up for the moment.

20 June 2013

Things I Am Loving: The Secret Garden


Pssst. Don’t tell the Minx, but I just bought her a colouring book for our plane ride at the weekend.




Well, to be more accurate I’ve just bought myself a colouring book, as I’m sure she would probably prefer to be plugged into an electronic device of some sort.

But honestly, who in their right mind could resist the intricate and magical pen and ink drawings in Secret Garden by ‘ink evangelist’ Johanna Basford?






Twelve hours on a plane doesn’t seem nearly so long now. (Check out this review from the Guardian, which includes some printable pages to download).

Speaking of The Secret Garden, which remains one of my favourite children’s books of all time, check out these beautiful clothbound keepsake editions of children’s classics from Puffin, designed by the amazing Daniela Terrazzini.










As the mother of an utterly voracious and rather advanced reader I’m the finding the classics to be one of the best ways of giving the Minx age-appropriate reading material. I understand from the Internet that these beautiful books can be hard to track down, but we found ours at the weekend in Seattle’s wonderful Elliott Bay Bookstore. Some are also available on Amazon. (There are some more boy-friendly options too.)

I, er the Minx, can’t wait to read them.


17 June 2013

School’s Out for Summer


So henceforth there’s going to be an awful lot more of THIS going on in our lives.



School finished last Friday (I still can’t get over how LONG the school vacations are here), so we’ve got a summer full of camps and visits and trips planned.

I’m painfully aware that this is probably the last summer that the Minx will truly be my little girl (can you believe she’s already eight?) so I mean to make the most of it. I think it will be good for me to slow down a bit too. All the stress-related issues I talked about at the beginning of the year are much better, but I’m still not sleeping as well as I should and a summer of fun in the sun, relaxation, stress-free photography, reading, cooking and dreaming is just what the doctor ordered I think.

I’m hoping to get fitter (just started using a Fitbit yay!), learn stand up paddleboarding, read lots of books, do a few workshops, cook up a storm and host lots of parties.

We have trips booked to Menton again (leaving on Saturday!) – we have rented an apartment there for three weeks – and to Canoe Island, and Grandad is coming to stay. The Minx will be going on her very first overnight camp (leaving mummy and daddy to have our first consecutive nights away together since she was born).





I WILL continue blogging, but only when it really feels like the right thing to do (though I have got tons of things I want to talk to you guys about).  If you want daily updates though, please come and find me on Instagram

Instead this summer will hopefully be all about this












and this




I hope yours is too.

I’m hosting ‘Mom Camp’ tomorrow. In the morning I will be teaching five eight year olds how to make pie and then we’re doing on a photography scavenger hunt. Think of me…

07 June 2013

Food Photography Workshop, Gulf Shores Alabama


It’s already been more than a month since I went to Gulf Shores, Alabama to learn about food photography and styling from the masters (mistresses?) – Helene Dujardin, Senior Photographer at Oxmoor House and of Tartelette blog fame, and Clare Barboza, whose gorgeous photography studio I’ve been renting here in Seattle.



It’s still difficult to put into words exactly what the weekend meant to me, mostly because I don’t quite yet know myself.  But let’s just say that if you mix mindblowingly beautiful surroundings with a bunch of hugely talented and creative people; throw in sessions of intensely creative work spiced with highly amusing play and season everything with long, leisurely walks on a gorgeous beach, you have a surefire recipe for having your soul turned over just a teeny bit. 


I wanted to show you the photos I took while I was there.  Part of my difficulty in summing up my weekend is that I was both immensely inspired and enormously frustrated.

I want to do this. I love doing it. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it.  But I’m not quite there yet.

For our first session we talked about using natural light for food photography and the importance of bending it, shaping it, softening it and brightening it, with bounces, scrims and reflectors, to get exactly the effect that we want.  And we were given a bunch of beautiful desserts to play with.

Although many props were available I wanted to style things simply and just focus on playing with light for this session. I know quite a lot about this stuff now after attending so many workshops, but this was actually quite tricky for me as the southern light was so very different from the softer light I’m used to here in Seattle. In Alabama the light had to be scrimmed (using only window blinds) instead of augmented, and finding that sweet spot between harsh and flat was tricky.




This is one of my favourite pictures that I took.  One of the props, a beautiful cake, got dropped and squashed before we started.  It’s more of a ‘found’ picture than a ‘made’ one – not a lot of styling and propping involved in this one – but it’s a interesting perspective on cake and I loved the way the light plays across and shapes the roses on the top.

For our second assignment we were talking more about composition and propping and had a selection of appetisers to photograph.

I still find propping a table setting so that it looks real yet beautiful to be a challenge, so this was a tricky for me, though it was super fun to play with all of Helene’s glorious props and backgrounds.




It was in this session that I learned a very valuable lesson. I was so busy making sure that the light on the grapes and on the top of the cheese and on the knife handle looked beautiful, that I omitted to notice that I wasn’t showing any of the bottom of the small pedestal stand the cheese was on and so the cheese looks like it’s hovering a few inches off the table. 

And I managed to do that in every. single. one of the shots I took this session, so they all featured flying saucer cheese, most even more ludicrously than this, with the cheese plate seemingly floating over the knife.

So I ended up submitting a plate of runny cheese and crackers for the critique at the end.




Our next assignment was very fun.  After watching a Helene and Clare both give a styling and propping demonstration during which they made it look SO easy, we were told to split into teams of two where we would take it in turns to be the stylist and the photographer, and given two very different real world assignments, so we had to style to spec.

I was paired with the lovely Michael and our first assignment was entitle Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I was delighted to find out that he had been on a previous Helene workshop where learned to style the perfect sandwich, so he was the food stylist, I was the photographer and we worked on the prop styling together.

This again was a stretch for me but I was pleased with how this worked out, though it’s not my usual thing.




Our next assignment was for something Colourful and Contemporary, so I chose to style the fabulous red lentil soup we’d had for lunch. The gorgeous bowls are from Suite One ceramics (as are the textured cake stand and plate in the cheese shots).  This assignment could have been made for me. I’m starting to realise that my ‘style’ is all about the juxtaposition of light, shape and colour. I was in charge of styling for his shoot and Michael was in charge of photography.  Looking at the photo now, I wish we’d done a little bit more with the light.




Our final assignment was pretty challenging.  We all had to choose a can of soup and make it look appetising.  Not easy when you see what’s in these things.  In honour of my Italian heritage I decided to go with a minestrone and chose a rustic styling, which again is not quite my usual thing.

I think I made the soup look vaguely edible, but I wouldn’t exactly call it appetising. What are those pallid beige cubes floating around in there?




Do you know what the single most inspiring thing about this weekend was though?  Meeting Helene. You already know from her blog that she’s funny, charming, delightful and talented, but in real life she just crackles with enthusiasm and energy and she’s just so darn good at her job. Watching her prop a shoot, with meticulous attention to detail, knowing just where to put each element and making it all look so easy, is quite simply awe-inspiring. (I will gush separately about Clare when I recap the Whidbey Island workshop).

If you’re interested in this stuff and can get to one of her workshops you really mustn’t hesitate.

And what was my ultimate takeaway from the event? It showed me that I really, really, REALLY want to do this.  I find the whole interplay between food, tableware, light, colour and composition to be endlessly fascinating and challenging.  I could do it all day.

So I’m putting it out there to the universe now.  I want to be a food photographer.

Stay tuned.

With heartfelt thanks to Laura Vein and Libby Stephens who made the most unbelievable food and looked after us all like mother hens all weekend (oh and buy Laura’s preserves – they are divine). And thanks also to Marilyn, Jerry, Tiffany, Gale, Janice, Karen, Serina, Paula, Nancy, Michael, Sharon and Kara for being such hugely fun, talented and inspiring companions.

04 June 2013

The Bathroom Is Finished


Delighted as I am with the kitchen, I am almost happier with the way the bathroom turned out. 

What used to be such an actively unpleasant, uncomfortable space now feels peaceful, clean and soothing and is filled with the most beautiful light.

Again I took these photos just after it was completed.  I’ll do some more when all the details are finished and it’s fully ‘styled’.




We’re really delighted with the vanity units, which we designed ourselves and had made up by our contractors (again heartfelt thanks to the utterly amazing craftsmen at GTR Residential Contracting). We’ve kept the old round medicine cabinets for the moment (which are chipped and can’t be opened with the taps in the way) but they will be replaced with round mirrors which should be arriving shortly.




We wanted this bathroom to be in keeping with a craftsman house, but also fresh and modern and so decided to use ceramic tile in a non-traditional way, particular as this is in a non-Craftsman part of the house.



As you know we were thrilled with how the large hex tiles on the floor worked out (now complete with delicious underfloor heating) and decide to complement them with smaller hexagons around the bathtub and shower.


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As with the kitchen, the hideous panelled ceiling has been transformed into a beautiful design feature now that is painted with a coat of gloss paint (all the trim is Benjamin Moore’s Simply White).




And yes we replaced the even more hideous glass brick window with something a little more pleasing.

The paint colours ended up being inspired by my trip to Gulf Shores and the beautiful white-trimmed pale aqua houses near the almost white sand beach. (And I like to think that the emerald green leaves shining through the window look like the emerald green sea).




It took me a long time to hit on a perfect aqua, that wavers just at the midpoint between blue and green and found it with Benjamin Moore’s Lido Green.  I’m SO in love with this colour.

The alcove at the back where the toilets (and also the washing machines) are situated was painted in Benjamin Moore’s Lychee, a soft luminous colour like a shell-sand beach. The colours work so well together and I am thrilled.




Again here are a couple of pictures of the previous baby poop coloured ghastliness. The full ‘before’ horror-story is here.




31 May 2013

Grand Hotel of the Week: Fairmont Hotel Vancouver


There’s a great exhibition currently showing at the Vancouver Art Gallery entitled ‘Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life’. I saw it when I was in Vancouver last month and highly recommend it to anyone in the area who loves hotels like I do.




The exhibition traces the rise of the modern hotel, and celebrates hotel design, hotel life and hotel branding (lots of examples from the Ace Hotels funnily enough). It also, not surprisingly, makes a lot of mention of the venerable Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, just opposite the Vancouver Art Gallery and fabulously located in the heart of downtown, where we stayed on my recent visit to Vancouver.




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The  iconic copper turrets of the ‘Castle in the City’ are nowadays somewhat lost among the other high rise buildings, and its gargoyles and statues look down on a sea of plate glass, but inside it’s just as you would expect – like its sister hotel the Fairmont Empress, it’s a gracious, elegant, timeless example of what hotel living really ought to be.



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That’s not to say that they’ve forgotten all the modern requirements of a luxury hotel. The pool was one of the best hotel pools I’ve seen, and amazing for a tightly-packed downtown location, and the staff was kindness and helpfulness personified.




And on a Friday night the downstairs bar was hopping, and serving fabulous cocktails.  I had the new-for-Spring ‘Royal Boulevardier’ cocktail, a heady mix of bourbon, vermouth, Aperol and maple syrup, which was delicious, but will get you royally somethinged if you’re not careful.  (Click here for a PDF of Fairmont hotels Modern Classics cocktail menu, complete with recipes).


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Our room was spacious, comfortable and supremely elegant.


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Reflection of the hotel from our upstairs window


And the gold stickers on the loo rolls made me smile.






Full disclosure: We were given an upgrade to the Gold Lounge in return for a blog post.  However, the hotel has has no influence on the contents of this post and all opinions are my own. We just had a right royal time here.

30 May 2013

Things I Am Loving: Art et Manufacture


Continuing on my dangerous Helene Dujardin-fuelled shopping spree (goodness that woman has a lot to answer for), I have been making my way down her list of great prop providers and spending far too much money.



These utterly gorgeous ceramics from Art et Manufacture are worth every penny though.

I love how the shapes they use are modern yet timeless and the blue and white patterns are utterly contemporary while calling back to Delftware and other traditional blue and white china. Very European, utterly chic and completely inspired.










The sweet little espresso cups and bowl below are MINE though.  Look out for them in a food photograph near you.



29 May 2013

Wonderful Whidbey Island



No Photoshop filters were harmed in the construction of this photo.  It really did look like this.


I’ve been feeling just a tad overwhelmed over the last week or so – moving eleventy million tons of STUFF back into the remodeled kitchen and bathroom; shooting some pics for a friend’s cookbook (yay!); holding the fort while the Husband was in China and generally rushing about like a crazy person.




So when the lovely Clare Barboza told me there were still places left on her 2013 Farm to Table Photography Workshop this weekend on glorious Whidbey Island (just across the water from Seattle), I was wondering whether it might be a bridge (or indeed a ferry ride) too far.




But with the aid of some dear friends taking the Minx for a sleepover, a wonderful Husband babysitting through his jetlag and some frantic late night packing I managed to make it work.  And I was SO very glad I did.





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I met some mindblowingly talented and just plain delightful women, ate fabulous food (thanks to the amazing Sean, Joe and Christine), drank too much wine; enjoyed gorgeous weather, sunsets, rainbows and scenery; and generally spent some quality time with my camera, which I always find to be incredibly soothing for my soul. We stayed at at the exceptionally comfortable Willow Pond Lake House; visited two farms -  Willowood, where they grow organic vegetables and Little Brown Farm where they keep goats and make the most delicious cheese and butter; shopped at the very cute Bayview Farmer’s Market and then got to style and shoot the farm produce.



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As with the Gulf Shores workshop I have MUCH to think about and process (and I will be blogging both at much more length), but in the meantime here are a few photos of the gardens at the house and from a pond nearby.

Can you see now why I loved it so much?





Many thanks to Melissa (seen squatting above), who taught me how to ‘paint’ beautiful abstracts like this.

Stay tuned for the full story of the baby vegetables and the baby goats.

20 May 2013

The Kitchen Is Finished




Dear hearts, it is DONE. 

Just as I was losing the will to live with this whole remodelling malarkey, this morning is the first one for months where I have not been sharing my home with charming bearded contractors.  The silence is utterly blissful.

And we are THRILLED.

I just can’t get over how beautiful the light is in here. I knew it must be, but it was almost impossible to see it against the forest green countertops and burnt orange walls we used to have.




There are still a couple of things to be done with the lighting – in particular we are waiting on a pendant light to go above the butcher block unit above -  and I also have to edit and organise approximately eleventy billion megatons of kitchen crap er paraphernalia.

But I thought I’d show you the finished empty shell and then we can talk about some of the details and styling at a later date, when it’s properly finished. I just hope I can do justice to it.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favourite details.




Yep, the Big Chill fridge still looks awesome.




I’m so happy with this aluminium roll door ‘appliance garage’.  We asked the contractors to customise the basic Ikea scrolling cabinet to make it deeper, so that I now have plenty of space to organise and disguise ugly appliances such as the slow cooker and panini grill and get them off the counter. I also like how the slats echo the panels in the ceiling.




We are obsessed with the splashback tiles in one of Heath Ceramic's ‘Dwell’ patterns.  The photo doesn’t begin to do justice to how beautiful they are. I’ll do a separate blog post all about these.




We freaked out a little and bought a slab of walnut butcher block for one part of the counter. I think it might be my favourite thing in the whole kitchen (the rest of the counters are in honed white quartz). We asked the contractors to add a hinged flap of butcher block at the end to provide an extra bit of much-needed counterspace.




The ceiling is painted in Benjamin Moore’s ‘Simply White’ in a semi-gloss sheen and has turned from being an eyesore into a design feature.  I am besotted with how beautifully this has turned out.  In fact we chose three different whites for the kitchen, which I will also do a blog post about.

In fact I have to say that I’m besotted with the whole thing.  The only problem is I hardly dare use it.

It’s interesting to see how similar it is to our original Sketch Up designs. Goodness that was a useful exercise to go through.


West walll

North wall


And here’s one picture of the ‘before’ just to whet your appetite.




Here’s the kitchen in all its former monstrous hideousness.

Oh and many, MANY thanks to the wonderful GTR Residential Contracting for making our dreams a reality.  It was a true pleasure working with so many craftsmen, in particular the ever patient and charming Dan for whom nothing was too much trouble.  If you are in the Seattle area, I can’t recommend these guys highly enough.

Pics of the bathroom remodel coming VERY soon.


10 May 2013

Project 52: Sign of the Times


Wow, I have become Chatty Cathy on here all of a sudden.

Anyway, just thought I’d close out the week with my latest submission for Project 52.  Our assignment was to take a photo for the cover of a book entitled ‘Sign of the Times’, all about the advances made in technology in recent years.




I’m always seeing the Minx with various screens casting an eerie glow on her face, so I thought I’d make it into feature for this shoot, where she just got to sit in a darkened room and play games on the iPad. 

She’s never been so happy to be in a photoshoot before. 

But when did my baby get so GROWN UP?


Things I Am Loving: Forms in Nature


This sort of stopped me in my tracks when I saw it yesterday.




Created by artists Thyra Hilden and Pio Diaz, this ‘light sculpture’ entitled Forms in Nature is designed to cast spooky shadows reminiscent of a wild forest all round the room.  I have long been fascinated by the beautiful shadows cast by chandeliers and I love how they’ve taken this to the next logical step and made the shadows the star of the show.




At the moment it is still a conceptual artwork, but according to their website they are looking at putting this into production.




09 May 2013

Things I Am Loving: Wind & Willow Home


It’s been an expensive morning.




One of the more unexpectedly dangerous aspects of doing a workshop with Helene Dujardin was the list of favourite prop suppliers she sent us after the course. And after three days playing with all her gorgeous things it was impossible to resist going shopping. 




My first stop was at Wind & Willow Home.  Helene had a stack of these little wooden bowls in an array of colours, perfect for salt, oil or spices and for adding a little unexpected touch to a tabletop setting.  And  of course you could also use them for actual FOOD rather than just as a photography prop.

They’re incredibly tactile too. Etsy artist Araya Jensen starts with beautifully turned bowls and spoons and then hand dips each of them in a synthetic rubber in custom-mixed colours. 

The beauty lies in the timeless organic quality of the wood combined with the soft modern rubber in a host of contemporary colours.




These walnut bowls are incredibly special.  Trying to work out if I can afford them.




I REALLY want that plate too.





I was in yet another Creative Live workshop during the early part of this week, so apologies for lack of bloggery.  So much to catch up on over the next week or so – more from Vancouver, more from the Gulf Shores photo workshop, more prop suppliers and the KITCHEN AND BATHROOM REMODEL IS SCHEDULED TO FINISH TOMORROW.  Quite honestly it’s looking to me like there’s about six months work left to do, but the contractors seem confident.

I so cannot wait.


01 May 2013

Gulf Shores Food Photography Workshop


Sometimes you have weekends that are almost impossibly inspiring; good for the deepest depths of your soul and quite possibly life changing.




This last weekend I attended a food photography workshop in Gulf Shores Alabama, with the amazing Helene Dujardin of Tartelette (and Senior Photographer at cookbook publisher Oxmoor House) and the equally amazing Seattle-based food photographer Clare Barboza. 





I’m still processing what exactly the workshop meant to me (there’ll be a blog post with the images I took later this week), but one of the most quietly inspiring and good-for-the-soul aspects was the location.  Who knew that Gulf Shores, Alabama was so incredibly beautiful?




Every day, we took walks on the enormous, blindingly white, sparkly sand beach – like dunes of soft sugar - and admired the seabirds and the soft pastel colours of the seagreen waves, the seashells and the pretty wooden houses on stilts, lined up like so many macarons on the water’s edge (I’m clearly in a dessert-y frame of mind). 






It was one of those places that always looks different depending on the light, but always equally enchanting.




Gulf Shores, I’m so sorry I doubted you.

Come take a walk with me.










The name of the house where we were staying seemed hugely appropriate.




And I wondered if the clouds on the flight back were telling me something.







Check out Clare Barboza’s blog post, to see what fun we had.  And here’s another blog post from my lovely classmate Jerry Deutsch. I met such fabulous people on this weekend.


23 April 2013

Roasted Pumpkin and Coconut Soup with Thai Flavours


This velvety, rich, sweet and downright luscious soup fits right in with my attempts to eat paleo (ie. omit all grain-based carbs) while not feeling remotely deprived, and my current obsession with the awesome kubocha pumpkin, which is dense and filling and absolutely packed with flavour and nutrients (however any flavourful pumpkin or squash would do here).

By the way, I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to Thai cooking, so if you’re expert please don’t snigger at the back. All I know is that these flavours taste delish and their brightness and freshness cuts through the creamy, sweet soup perfectly.


Pumpkin and Coconut Soup



(Serves 4)

4-6 cups of peeled pumpkin or squash (cubed)

1 tablespoon olive oil or melted coconut oil

Salt and pepper to taste

A few branches of thyme


Pumpkin and Coconut Soup


2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2-3 plump cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 fresh green chilis, finely chopped

4 inch piece of lemongrass, finely chopped

A small handful of Thai basil (or normal basil), finely chopped

3-4 lime leaves

This is the perfect place for one of those small boxes of fresh herbs from the supermarket entitled ‘Thai Flavours’ or some such. If you can’t find that I’ve made this with a couple of tablespoons of Thai green curry paste in place of the lemongrass, basil and lime leaves.

1 can light coconut milk

2-3 cups of good chicken stock (I use my own bone broth)

Chopped coriander (cilantro) and spring onions (scallions) to garnish.


Pumpkin and Coconut Soup



Roasted Pumpkin

Place the pumpkin cubes on a baking sheet, sprinkle with the olive oil or melted coconut oil and rub it into the pumpkin cubes with your hands until everything is well anointed. Season with sea salt (I use Maldon) and freshly ground pepper to taste and add a few branches of thyme.

Bake in the oven at 200 degrees C (approx 400 degrees F) until the pumpkin is soft and golden brown round the edges.

(You don’t have to roast your pumpkin, but it really does bring out the flavour).


Pumpkin and Coconut Soup Pumpkin and Coconut Soup


While your pumpkin is roasting, start to caramelize your onions.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot, add the onions, garlic, chili, lemongrass, basil and whole lime leaves and cook gently until the onions are a soft and have turned rich golden brown, being careful not to burn them.

When the onions are done, add the roasted pumpkin cubes (or raw pumpkin if you prefer), the coconut milk and 2 cups of bone broth and bring everything to a simmer. Cook for around five minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft if using raw pumpkin, and then fish out the whole lime leaves.

Using an immersion blender or liquidiser, blend the soup until it is thick and creamy.  Add more broth as necessary depending on the texture you like your finished soup to be.

Serve piping hot, garnished with chopped onions and coriander (cilantro). Obviously garnishes are optional, but the crisp green crunchiness really complements the earth, creamy soup.



17 April 2013

Amtrak Train Journey from Seattle to Vancouver


On Friday I did something very extraordinary and made the trip from Seattle to Vancouver ON. THE. TRAIN.

Of course I used to take trains all the time when I was in Europe, but here on the West Coast (is it different on the East Coast?) trains seem to be few and far between and are a very much mistrusted form of transport.


Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver


You have to time your Amtrak train trip to Vancouver perfectly – the train only goes once a day, though there is a bus service.


Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver


Which is the most tremendous shame, because once on board you are rewarded with the most stunning journey.

The clouds and rain on the way to Vancouver were quietly beautiful, as the train hugged the coastline and seemed to fly across the water, before turning inland past the pastoral idyll of Skagit County.

Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver


Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver


And then on Sunday I was welcomed back to the US by the most glorious sunset imaginable.


Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver


Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver


Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver


Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver


Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver


Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver


Amtrak Train Seattle to Vancouver


It really was ridiculously beautiful. Pacific Northwesterners, you have to do this journey at least once.

I’m back in the CreativeLIVE studios once more doing a Lightroom workshop with ace photographer and Lightroom genius Jared Platt. I highly recommend you download this course if you want to get to grips with Lightroom once and for all.


12 April 2013

Palm Springs Uptown Design District Shopping and Dining Guide


I’m off to Vancouver tomorrow bright and early for a weekend with friends, so I thought it was about time I posted up the last of my images from Palm Springs, before I get a whole bunch of new ones.




Truth be told, last time we went to Palm Springs we had been a bit disappointed by the shopping and dining out options. We visited some great places, yes, but overall the downtown area came across as a bit tired and down at heel - resting on its laurels from a bygone era, like a vacationing grandma.

Clearly we weren’t the only people who felt like that because in the intervening three or so years since we were last there a whole district of fabulous shops and boutiques, art galleries, vintage furniture stores and cool restaurants has sprung up – the Palm Springs Uptown Design District, on North Palm Canyon Drive.

The area begins north of Cheeky’s – breakfast here is still a highlight of any trip to Palm Springs, though be sure to get there early as the lines are LONG.

On the other side of the street from Cheeky’s is Copley’s which has a beautiful outside terrace on which to drink superb cocktails and eat excellent food.  The highlight for us, though, was the fabulous sticky toffee pudding that British chef Andrew Copley has snuck onto the menu.


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We were told by a shop owner that Trio, just north of Copley’s on North Palm Canyon Drive had spearheaded the development of the area, and it certainly was a fabulous place to eat, big and bustly, with a fun and funky interior, impeccable friendly service, and a menu full of upmarket comfort food (and truly excellent mac ‘n cheese for the Minx).

North of Cheeky’s you’ll find some extremely cool vintage furniture stores and Jakes restaurant. We didn’t have a chance to eat at Jakes -  though we stuck our heads in and it looked like fun - but it comes highly recommended by people we met at the hotel.







Carry on walking and you’ll reach a small Spanish style hidden courtyard, where’ll you find the fabulous NotNeutral store, selling beautifully designed contemporary homewares. Originally conceived as a temporary pop-up shop, it’s now a perfect fit in the design district. We could have bought the whole store and nearly did.



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The courtyard also hides the glamorous interior of Workshop Kitchen + Bar. We really enjoyed this restaurant, from the cool décor to the duck fat fries, the use of seasonal ingredients, the excellent cocktails and the ‘large format’ options, which led to the family sharing a large platter full of mustardy chicken and delicious vegetables.


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The pop-up store concept thrives at Raymond Lawrence.  Named for the delightfully friendly owners they feature a number of pop-up collections in their quirky store.

We fell in love with these limited edition portraits of vintage Barbies by Judy Ragagli.  The cutie in the middle with the curled brown hair ended up coming home with us.






The jewel of the design district is Palm Springs designer Trina Turk’s huge eponymous store, featuring women’s and men’s fashions and  the world’s most colourful homewares. Spent a lot of time ogling cushions here.


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With the development of the design district, Palm Springs has just become even more fabulous, if rather dangerous for the wallet and waistline.  I for one can’t wait to go back and am fascinated to see how it develops over the next few years.




10 April 2013

Paleo-Friendly Oxtail and Pumpkin Stew




As I mentioned I’m trying to be more ‘paleo’ in my eating, which essentially means cutting out all grain-based carbs and eating primarily meats, nuts and vegetables. Pumpkins and other squashes are allowed and they provide some much needed starchy bulk in the diet. So when I came across a recipe for Oxtail and Pumpkin Stew in Yotam Ottolenghi’s eponymous first cookbook, which seems to fit the diet perfectly, I was all over it like a rash.




The joy of this recipe comes from the unusual spicing – the earthiness of the wine-stewed meat melds with the sweetness of the pumpkin and aromatics like orange, cinnamon and star anise and just melts in your mouth into layer upon layer of sumptuous flavour. This dish truly is like nothing else I’ve ever eaten.  Kids and husbands adore it too.

Since this is a stew there is no need to be exact with the ingredients. Add all items ‘to taste’. Whatever you do, it will all cook down into a bowl of scrumptious deliciousness. Also do not be put off by the longish list of ingredients. Prep time is not long and the hardest part about the dish is waiting for the darn thing to cook already. And your house will smell AMAZING.


Ingredients (Serves 6)

2 tablespoons of your favourite oil or fat for frying (Ottolenghi uses olive oil, I used paleo-recommended lard)
Approximately 1.5 to 2kg (3-4lbs) oxtail pieces (I used 3 supermarket packs)
4-5 shallots or half a large onion, roughly chopped
3 large carrots, cut in large chunks
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
500ml (approx 2 cups) red wine
650g Italian chopped tomatoes (I used 1 large can)
10 sprigs thyme and 5 sprigs rosemary, tied in a bundle
Zest of half an orange, peeled in long strips
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
500g peeled pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-3cm chunks (I used my favourite kubocha pumpkin, but any other flavourful pumpkin or butternut squash would do)
300ml water
Salt to taste

Gremolata (optional)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 large clove garlic, very finely chopped
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon





If using, preheat the oven to 180°C or 350 F.  I, however, cooked my stew in the slow cooker in the 6 quart bowl. This is perfect slow cooker fodder.

Heat the fat in a large deep frying pan (if you will be transferring everything to the slow cooker afterwards) or directly into a large ovenproof casserole dish with well-fitting lid (be warned, this stew is BIG).

When the oil is hot, brown the oxtail pieces on all sides and transfer them to a colander so any excess fat is drained away. Do this in batches otherwise the pieces will boil in their juices rather than fry.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan and then add the shallots, carrots and garlic. Saute’ over a medium high heat for 10mins or so or until golden brown, stirring from time to time.

Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits from the bottom. Cook until nearly all the wine has evaporated.

Add the canned tomatoes, herb bundle, orange zest, bay leaves, cinnamon, star anise, pepper and salt to taste.

Place the oxtail pieces on top and cover with a large piece of baking paper placed directly on the oxtail. Cover the casserole securely with a heavy lid and bake for 2-3hrs, or until the meat comes away easily from the bone.  Or reunite the oxtail and vegetables in your slow cooker and cook on LOW for about 8 hours or until the meat slides easily off the bone. I prepare mine in the morning and leave it gently cooking all day.

When the stew is cooked fish out the oxtail pieces and set them aside.  Ottolenghi suggests picking the meat off the bones but you really don’t need to.  One of the great joys of life is sucking oxtail bones I find (why does this seem so suggestive?).  Also fish out the herb bundle and the orange slices and bayleaves.

Add the pumpkin or butternut squash pieces to the sauce and  add the water if the dish seems dry, which it probably won’t if you’ve used the slow cooker.  Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30mins or until the pumpkin is tender. Season to taste.

Meanwhile, mix the parsley, lemon zest and garlic together to make the gremolata. Traditionally served over osso buco in Italy the sharpness of the gremolata will ‘cut’ the unctuous creaminess of the stew. Serve the stew in a deep serving dish and scatter the gremolata over the top.

Serve with polenta or mashed potato if you’re not paleo-ing or some roasted cauliflower florets if you are.


05 April 2013

Canoe Island French Camp


This blog post is by way of a little favour to a friend.





You probably already know how much we love Canoe Island French Camp in this family, and that’s before the Minx has even been to one of their residential camps on her own.

We always have an idyllic time at their Family Camps and I had a magnificent time on my own at Patisserie Camp last year. 


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Canoe is like a little Garden of Eden dropped into Puget Sound – a perfect little island with its own forest and beaches and astonishing views in every direction. The camping here is high class – you sleep in brand new waterproof canvas tipis and have access to a comfortable club house with a pool, games room and proper indoor washing facilities. There are opportunities to learn French if you’d like – many of the camp counsellors are French – but it’s by no means obligatory and the French atmosphere just adds a delightful touch.




And the food is unbelievable, created by the resident chef and a young pastry chef who take the delectable produce from their own gardens and the surrounding islands and turn it into utterly scrummy restaurant-quality meals. And then there’s the sailing, the kayaking, the tennis, the yoga and the opportunity just to curl up in a hammock looking out to sea with with some knitting or a good book.


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The very nicest thing, though, is the laid-back and utterly relaxing vibe. Connie and Joseph, the camp directors, are kindness personified and do everything to make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible.  And everyone who works there, even the resident animals, are just so friendly and charming.

Every Spring Connie and Joseph run weekend camps for adults, which allow grown ups to participate in all this magnificence and also contribute to a scholarship fund for financially disadvantaged kids, so they too can benefit from the incredible learning opportunities at Canoe. Each time I spend a weekend there, I feel like I’ve been on a week-long vacation.




Connie asked me if I could promote these weekends on the blog and I am delighted to do so – Canoe is one of my happy places.  If you live anywhere close to the Pacific Northwest and want to do some yoga, some art, some cooking, or just learn French, then I can’t recommend these weekends highly enough (and although the price of your stay includes a donation, they really are excellent value for money as you get looked after so very well).

Get more details about the adult camps here.  I think you’ll be seeing me and  the Minx at the Mother’s Day Camp. 


04 April 2013

The Big Bathroom Remodel: Hexagon Tiles


We were stuck for quite some time deciding on tile for the bathroom.




Aside from wood, nature doesn’t feature very strongly in our house, so all the natural stone and marble options didn’t seem very much  in keeping. Glass on the other hand seemed almost too contemporary for a craftsman house, so it quickly became apparent that ceramic tiles were the way to go.

We didn’t, however, want to default to subway tile walls with a penny tile floor, although we do find them very American and charming.  The bathroom we are remodelling is a later addition to our 1912 house and it probably makes sense to go for real Americana in the original downstairs bathroom.




{via Apartment Therapy}


In the end we were inspired by this bathroom on Apartment Therapy that we found via Pinterest, and fell in love with the large size hexagon tiles, which seemed both contemporary and a bit different but still timeless and in keeping with the rest of the house.

Much intensive searching online later, and the only 4 inch hexagon tiles we could find were these beautiful matte handmade Savoy tiles, made in the US by Crossville Inc, which come in a range of neutral colours, including white.



{via Crossville Inc}

So that’s what we went with, and the floor was finished yesterday. Delighted doesn’t even begin to cover it.  It looks spectacular and we are THRILLED.




Onwards and upwards.  It’s finally all starting to take shape.


03 April 2013

Project 52: Red Balloons


So last week’s assignment was simple. A concept shot inspired by “Red Balloons’. 

Because I wanted to do something a bit different, and because blowing up balloons makes my cheeks hurt, and because I’m trying to improve my food photography, I decided it might be easiest to just whip up a bunch of cupcakes.




In that I was almost certainly wrong.  Trying to organise and tame that ridicuously curly gift ribbon with tiny bits of sticky tape into strands that might possibly look like they were floating through the air tested my patience to the very limits.  Food and product stylists everywhere, I salute you.

I was worried that the photo above might be insufficiently conceptual, so then dug up a photo I had of a tiny Minx chasing balloons.  I used my still extremely crappy Photoshop skills to turn her into a Brush and included her in the picture.




I wasn’t entirely happy with this shot either as I couldn’t help wishing that the Minx had been stretching up towards the balloons, and the composition just didn’t look right. The Minx thinks it’s fabulous though, so I think I’ll make a canvas copy for her toyroom.

In the end I decided to use the same conceit but have the cupcake balloons wafting in front of the Space Needle.

This involved taking a photo of the Space Needle, converting it to a Brush and then using a mask to reveal the bunch of ribbons.  My Photoshop ‘skills’ pretty much exploded at this point.




To be honest, I think this is my least favourite of the Project 52 images I’ve produced to date, and I’m not sure that red flying cupcakes look particularly appetising, which, after all, is the point of food photography.  But it was a fascinating creative exercise and certainly tested my Photoshop skills, such as they are, to the very limits and beyond.



You can convert any image into a brush in Photoshop which gives it an interesting flat effect and means you can colourise it, move it about, multiply it, turn it, stamp your photos with it and do all sorts of jiggery pokery (note use of correct Photoshop terminology).  In fact do all the things you can do with the standard Brushes, but with a photo.

- Use your preferred selection tools to select the area of the image you wish to use.  (I had trouble selecting the Minx as you can see, the Space Needle was much simpler).

-  Go to Select –> Inverse and then delete the areas of the image you don’t want to use, so that you end up with your image on a transparent background.

- Convert the image you want to use to black and white, remembering that grey areas will show up in the brush but white areas will be transparent.

- Adjust contrast etc. to get a good strong B/W image

- Draw a box around the image with Rectangular Marquee Tool and go to Edit –> Define Brush Preset. And that’s it, you’ve created a new fancy Brush!

- If you want to save your brush permanently go to Window –> Brush Presets –> click on the Brush Presets Icon (second from left along the bottom) and Select the Brushes you want save. Then save them in a named set.

If you want to download some groovy premade Brushes for your digital artwork, check out Brusheezy or TwoPeasinaBucket.

And if you want to see how Photoshop Brushes can be used to make all sorts of crazy and inspiring art then check out this CreativeLIVE course with the incredibly bubbly and charming Khara Plicanic, which was one of the most fun courses I attended at Photoshop Week.

I spent the last couple of days at CreativeLIVE again, doing a course on Photoshop Working Foundations with ace photographer and Photoshop guru Ben Willmore.  My only regret is that I wish I’d done this course before Photoshop Week as I would have got so much more out of all the other courses I sat through. 

I can’t recommend this course highly enough if you want to get the basics of Photoshop – selections, layers, masking, adjustments etc. down pat. One of the most useful courses I’ve ever done and it would be a great purchase if you are fairly new to Photoshop.


29 March 2013

WTF Friday: Dot Dog Bags




So now you’re thinking that I’ve gone and lost my mind. Those little leather purses are adorably cute!  I would definitely walk around town with one of those swinging from my wrist.

And so dear reader would I.




Except they have been specifically designed for the transportation of dog poop. Next time you see an impossibly chic Parisian woman (because of course these are a French design) wearing one of these, know that she has a bunch of poop dangling from her wrist.




There are reasons we don’t have a dog (most of which are to do with scooping poop), so I pass this off to the dog owners amongst us.

Do you guys really carry poop about all day? Would such a cute designer purse actually be of use?  Or should dog poop be scooped into a plastic bag and DISPOSED OF IMMEDIATELY?  I am unclear as to the etiquette here.

I found this on the blog of lovely commenter Cate.  Her pet blog Under the Blanket features a ton of cool finds for the creatures in your life and she also sells really cool and innovative pet name tags which are attached to an online database of information in case your pets ever go missing. I reviewed them here.


28 March 2013

The Big Kitchen Remodel: Buying a Retro Fridge


I’m a firm believer that when you’re doing a room (or planning an outfit for that matter) that you should have one striking architectural feature, or piece of furniture or art (or clothing or jewellery) that acts as the focal point of the scheme, adds the wow factor and provides an anchor to build everything else around.

Unfortunately our boxy rectangular kitchen has not a single architectural feature of merit, and it is difficult to create a wow factor out of cheap Ikea cabinets.  So that left the fridge as the only real possibility.



Our Big Chill fridge in a finished kitchen


Sadly most fridges available here in the US are either white or stainless steel boxes – gigantically huge, fabulously functional in a way that European fridges can only dream of, and boring as hell.  After a great deal of online research the following are the only interesting fridges I could find, all retro-styled.  Wouldn’t it be fab if a fridge manufacturer could come up with an eye-catching contemporary fridge design?

First of all I thought of getting a Smeg fridge.  I had one back in London and they are so ubiquitous in the European design world as to have become a bit of a cliché.  But for some reason THEY ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE T TO FIND IN THE US.

West Elm has started selling the small standalone Smeg fridge in a variety of gorgeous colours, but these are tiny even by European standards.


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Teeny tiny Smeg fridges


Smeg does manufacture bigger fridge-freezers which would have been perfect for us, but they are NOT available in the US. This is criminal Smeg US!  Get with the program!





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Smeg fridge-freezers out in the wild. Though not in the US obvs.


Since we definitely need a freezer, I searched for retro-style fridge freezers and came across NorthStar fridges made by Elmira Stove Works in Canada.  It’s important to note that both these fridges and the Big Chill fridge we bought are just retro cases screwed on to a cheap white box fridge (Elmira uses Amana fridges) so they’re by no means state of the art when it comes to internal features.  We liked the look of the Northstars very much, but since they are imported from Canada they work out even more expensive than the Big Chill. Here’s a great discussion outlining the pros and cons of Northstar v Big Chill.


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Very cute and expensive Elmira NorthStar fridges

Big Chill Fridges are based on Whirlpool white box fridges. I have to admit that it was a difficult decision to spend so much money on what is merely a tarted up $800 fridge – as it was being delivered up our stairs I was given a graphic illustration of just what we’d bought, as all the fancy panels were unscrewed and removed so it could get up the stairs.  But once seen I had to have it, and we are delighted with its prettiness.



Another Big Chill fridge in a finished kitchen

Seems to me thought that there is a huge gap in the market for some manufacturer to produce a nicely-styled colourful, CHEAPER fridge-freezer from scratch though. What do you think?

Check out this fabulous post (with extra fridgeporn) from Nicole Balch of Making It Lovely for advice on how to style the top of your retro fridge.  Fortunately since we have a cabinet over our fridge, I do not have to make these difficult styling decisions.


27 March 2013

The Best Traditional Easter Simnel Cake


Last year, in typical organised fashion, I managed to post a recipe for a traditional British Easter Simnel Cake a week after Easter. So this year I'm posting it up again, BEFORE the actual date, to give you a chance to actually make one for yourselves.  Don't say I don't love you.


So, Simnel Cake.

I know I should have posted this last week but I actually wanted to try the cake and see if this recipe was worth sharing with you.  And wow it really is.  Suffice it to say that four days after Easter this cake is already but a distant memory.  Do yourselves a favour and bookmark this recipe for next year.

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First up a bit of history.  Apparently Simnel Cakes go back at least to medieval times when they were traditionally served on Laetare Sunday, a day in the middle of Lent when the Lenten fast was relaxed (sounds like cheating to me).  Since this day coincides with Mother’s Day in the UK, it was apparently the thing in Victorian times for daughters in service to bake a Simnel Cake to take home to their mothers.

Nowadays it’s thought of as an Easter cake, though it’s not very often made.  I think this is the third one I’ve made in my life.  Which is a shame, as it’s extremely delicious and not at all difficult.

Traditionally it’s a light fruit cake, stuffed full of vine fruits and spices, with a layer of marzipan baked into the cake and more toasted marzipan placed on the top.  There are always eleven marzipan balls placed on the top to represent the Apostles minus Judas Iscariot.  I also like to add a puddle of icing and some Cadbury’s Mini Eggs (they’re in the Bible somewhere, right?), but anything Easter-y such as chicks or flowers would do.  I think it’s safe to say that if you don’t like marzipan you will not like this cake.  If you do, though (and as far as I’m concerned marzipan should be a separate food group) then this tastes a little like a fruity, squidgy, non-bready stollen. 

If you live in the UK or anywhere where it is possible to get hold of good marzipan, then you need to buy around 450g/1lb of the stuff.  However, making your own marzipan is very quick and easy and it certainly tastes infinitely better than the peculiar canned almond paste I’ve found in the US.

I’m afraid I haven’t had time to convert to cup measures.  Time to get out those weighing scales!




simnel-cake (2 of 6)



This recipe is a combination of two or three recipes I found on the BBC website. Most traditional Simnel cake recipes are very similar though.


For the marzipan/almond paste

250g/9oz caster/baker’s sugar

250g/9oz ground almonds/almond meal

2 free-range eggs, beaten

1tsp almond essence or to taste

Mix the sugar and almonds in a large bowl and add the almond essence and enough beaten egg to turn the mass into a soft, sticky ‘dough’.  Knead everything together for one minute or so, until it becomes smooth and pliable. If it is too sticky add a little more sugar and almonds.  You want a workable mixture that is possible to roll out.  The marzipan will happily wait a day or two in the fridge.

For the cake

110g/4 oz raisins

110g/4oz sultanas/golden raisins

110g/4oz glacé/candied cherries (in the UK use those delicious undyed ones, I’ve yet to find a supplier of non-HFCS, undyed cherries in the US, if you come across such a delight please let me know)

110g/4oz currants/Zante currants

50g/2oz chopped candied peel (in the UK, you can buy pots of mixed peel, in the US I mix my own from orange, lemon and citron peel)

225g/8oz butter, softened

110g/4oz light muscovado sugar/soft brown sugar

110g/4oz caster/baker’s sugar

4 large eggs

225g/8oz self-raising flour (or 8oz all-purpose flour with 1 tsp baking powder)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 lemons, grated zest only

2 tsp ground mixed spice (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves. You could also use pumpkin spice but it will taste a little different).


For the glace’ icing

225g/8oz icing sugar/powdered sugar

Enough water to mix to a pouring consistency.


simnel-cake (4 of 6)



Preparation method

  1. Cut the cherries into quarters, put in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper. Do the same with your peel if it is sticky with HFCS.

  2. Weigh out all the fruit into a large bowl. Essentially you need around 500g/18oz of mixed dried fruit, so if you want to make some substitutions (pineapple, dried cherries or cranberries might be nice) or play around with the proportions then be my guest.  This mix is the traditional one for a Simnel cake though. If you’re feeling fancy then you can soak the fruit overnight in some amontillado sherry, but I didn’t with this cake.

  3. Preheat the oven to 150C/280F/Gas 2. Grease and line a 20cm/ 8in Springform cake tin.

  4. Cream the butter and sugars together in the stand mixer until very pale and soft.

  5. Beat in the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon or two of flour between each egg addition to stabilise the mixture and prevent curdling.  If it curdles a little it’s not a big deal.

  6. Stir in the rest of the flour and salt, the lemon zest and the spices. Mix until fully combined.

  7. Stir in the dried fruit with a wooden spoon until it’s fully distributed through the mixture.  The mixture should be of a soft ‘dropping’ consistency.  If it is too dry then stir in a tablespoon or so of milk.

  8. Spoon half the cake mix into the prepared cake tin

  9. Take one-third of the marzipan and roll it out to a circle the size of the tin and then place on top of the cake mixture.

  10. Spoon the remaining cake mixture over top and level the surface. I like to create a slight indentation in the centre so the cake doesn’t get too domed.

  11. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 2 1/4 hours, or until well risen, evenly brown and firm to the touch.  A skewer or stick of spaghetti stuck into the centre of the cake should come out clean.

  12. Cover with aluminium foil after one hour if the top is browning too quickly. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

  13. When the cake is cooled, turn it upside down.  If you want brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam and roll out half the remaining marzipan to fit the top. Press firmly on the top and crimp the edges to decorate. (My marzipan was sticky enough not to require jam).

  14. Make a stubby snake with the remaining marzipan third and cut it into 11 equal pieces. Form the marzipan into 11 balls.

  15. Brush the marzipan with beaten egg and arrange the marzipan balls around the edge of the cake. Brush the tops of the balls with beaten egg and then carefully place the cake under a hot grill/broiler until the top is lightly toasted or, as I did, use a chef’s blowtorch.  If you’re using the grill be careful not to set fire to the cake.

  16. Mix up the icing sugar and water to a pouring consistency and pour a puddle onto the surface of the cake.  When set, decorate with Easter-y things.


This is what your cake should look like inside. The layer of baked almond paste makes it all juicy, succulent and not at all dry, unlike many fruitcakes of my acquaintance.

Happy belated Easter!


simnel-cake (6 of 6)



26 March 2013

Eggstra Special Easter Ideas


Yay! It’s that time of year again when I get to make terrible, tired puns and pin up pictures of crafts and foods I have little chance of actually making (particularly with my current less than adequate kitchen arrangements).

Actually these decorated eggs(not edible) look eminently doable with the right sprinkles {via Studio DIY}.



Loving these beautiful painterly paints from the lovely Leslie Shewring {via Decor8}.



We have managed to indoctrinate the Minx into the true British ways of the Cadbury’s Crème Egg, which I import from the UK via the British Food Shop.

These crazy cupcakes have a whole crème egg baked inside of them {via Key Ingredient}.



These cupcakes are slightly less insane {via Recipe by Photo}.



And here are instructions to make crochet covers for blown eggs. Wish I’d seen these sooner they would be great to make for the Easter tree. {via LVLY}




Here’s last year’s round up of Easter-related puns crafts.

Time to eggs-it stage left, methinks.


25 March 2013

Monthly Trend Report: Metallics


Here’s the lovely Tina Ramchandani again with her monthly interior designer’s trend report.  This month spoke to me loudly since my favourite colour is SHINY and we’re sort of considering somehow making the space around the toilet in the bathroom gold or silver. (The Husband and I may have been drinking too much when we discussed this.)


Metallic interiors

{via from top left Interiors By Studio M; Trendir; Pinterest; Mimi and Meg; Pinterest; Pinterest; Pinterest}

Hello again! It's Tina of Life in Sketch, here with your Monthly Trend Report. Spring is just around the corner and the weather is getting warmer. I'm in the mood to redecorate, and I'm sure you must be too.

It's always nice to see what's in trend, and what trends are about to pop up so we can decorate our homes accordingly. After all, we want our spaces to be the envy of all our neighbors! Today I'm going to talk to you about metallics. While this isn't exactly a new trend, it's something that's stood the test of time. We seem to see metallics popping up more in the spring and summer, don't you think? I see more wood pieces in the winter, and maybe because metallics appear lighter they seem the pop up in interior design as the weather gets warmer.

You can use metallics in several ways. You can install a metallic wallpaper but if you decide to go this route be careful. Too much shine can be overwhelming, so you may want to install this in a small room or area, like at the back of a bookcase. I like to find metallic side tables, which will add a little bling to my room. Horchow has a great selection. If you're willing to search, you may be able to find fabrics that have a little sheen, or metallic threads sewn in. This will give your room a very luxe look!

Do you have metallic accents in your space? What do you think of this classic look?


22 March 2013

Kitchen Remodel: Progress At Last


After a few weeks when it seemed like nothing much tangible was happening (though I knew a ton of stuff was happening behind the scenes) we’ve suddenly made huge progress in the last week.




The big news is that, not only do we have primed white walls and ceilings, but the floor has been laid. I am so pleased with it.  I was a little worried that it would be too dark but I think it is warm and inviting and will hopefully look even less forbidding when the whole symphony of white above it fully unfolds.


upstairskitchen-2 upstairskitchen-3




Here is what the ‘symphony of white’ is going to look like.  I realise you can’t see any difference at all between any of them on your screens, though they are there.  I have to run off now to a meeting at the Minx’s school, so I think we’ll talk about whites in another blog post.




The other big news is the arrival of a jolly green giant this morning in the shape of our new Big Chill fridge (of which more too next week). And it fits into the space we left for it!  Much excitement all round here as it slid smoothly into the allotted gap.

Again I am delighted with it.  It was a ridiculous amount of money of course, and it’s huge design blogger cliché, but I do think it gives the room a focal point and the green reflects all the light in the kitchen and appears less sickly than it seemed from the sample.

All hugely thrilling, I am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.


21 March 2013

How To Temper Chocolate


So today, chaps, we’re going to do some science (cue sound of frantic scurrying in opposite direction).




Fortunately this science involves the melting and eating of chocolate, which makes me wonder why they didn’t teach this sort of science at school (though I was always quite partial to Chemistry, which is really just cooking for people who don’t like to eat).

But I digress.

Last month I was looking for a quick, easy and luxurious Valentines’ treat that I could make for my beloved family, which didn’t actually involve much, you know, actual work.

So I hit upon the idea of chocolate dipped strawberries. Obviously this was not a particularly original Valentines’ idea, so much so that even my local rather crappy supermarket was equipped with the right sort of hideously expensive, resolutely hothoused, absolutely gigantic, long-stemmed strawberries that you need (and that I never, ever saw in the UK).




The only tricky thing about dipping strawberries in chocolate is that the chocolate needs to be tempered, so that the chocolate you end up with after melting and cooling remains glossy and has that perfect chocolate ‘snap’ to it, instead of being dull, mealy and soft.

This is because cocoa butter has a crystalline structure.  In properly tempered chocolate (like the stuff you buy) all the crystals are lined up neatly and in the same direction, which gives the chocolate its texture and sheen.  When you melt chocolate the crystals get all higgledy piggledy – the chocolate tastes the same, but the snappy texture and glossy sheen will have disappeared – UNLESS you bring it back into temper again.

There you go, the science is over.  You can take you fingers out of your ears and stop singing lalalalalala now.


chocolatedippedstrawberries-7 chocolatedippedstrawberries-5


Tempering chocolate is one of those things that sounds scary but really isn’t.  I’d never done it before making these and ended up with a pretty good result.  The one thing I’d say though is that if you’re a beginner, you’ll need a good food thermometer.  The temperatures have to be precise, and while it’s apparently possible to discern changes in the texture and look of the melted chocolate when it hits the right temperatures if you’re experienced, I really couldn’t see much difference.





And now that I’ve put the fear of God into you, here’s what you do.

First break your chocolate into chunks or, as I did, use Guittard chocolate wafers.  Chocolate chips made for cookies are not suitable for tempering.

Using a double boiler, or a glass Pyrex bowl over a pan of simmering water, bring your chocolate to a melting temperature ie. 115 degrees F (46 degrees C) for dark chocolate and 110 degrees for milk or white. Be super careful not to heat it too high otherwise it will seize.  Also WATER + CHOCOLATE = TROUBLE.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

At this point if you have a cold marble slab in your kitchen you can pour the chocolate out and start throwing it around so that it cools to the correct temperature. You’re on your own with that though.  I’ve never done it before.


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If you’re not using a marble slab, grab a handful of unmelted chocolate wafers or chunks of chocolate and add them to the chocolate and stir as if your life depended on it. This is called ‘seeding’ and the fact that the crystals in this tempered chocolate are properly arranged will help the crystals in the melted chocolate to arrange themselves accordingly.  Keep adding a few chocolate wafers and stirring the chocolate until the temperature drops to the recommended temper point – 88- 90 degrees F (31-32 degrees C) for dark chocolate and 80-82 degrees F (27-28 degrees C) for milk or white.  This will take about 15 minutes and is hard work.

If the chocolate gets too cool and too stiff to work at this point you can reheat it a little with a hairdryer, but be careful not to take it warmer than 92 degrees or else it will be out of temper again.

Once you've got your melted tempered chocolate, things get much easier.  Dip the strawberries in the chocolate and lay them on a sheet of baking parchment or Silpat (I learned to my cost that the baking rack isn’t a good idea as things stick).

If you want to make artsy white chocolate dribbles, snip the corner off a small Ziploc bag, fill it with melted tempered white chocolate and wave the bag about over your chocolate covered strawberries.

And that’s it.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.





18 March 2013

Mad Men Season 6


I SO cannot wait. 

And aren’t these promo shots by Frank Ockenfels freaking GORGEOUS!



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peggy -mad-men-season-6





Sadly it looks like Megan Draper is going to be just as pouty and irritating as she was last season (she is SO high on my ‘irrational hatreds’ list she needs oxygen).

Here’s writer/director/producer Matthew Weiner talking about this season, a fascinating interview with photographer Frank Ockenfels about making the shots, and here’s my post on Megan and Don’s new apartment which was featured in the LA Times (thereby marking one of the pinnacles of my blogging career).

The show premieres on April 7th in the US.


Project 52 PRO: A Weather Poster


This week’s Project 52 PRO challenge was to shoot a poster for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce advertising the weather in Seattle. 

Seattle is of course famous for its rain, but also has glorious clear bright days of sunshine, the most amazing sunsets and the most incredible cloudscapes it has ever been my good fortune to see anywhere.

For the entire week of the challenge though, we were blessed by unremittingly boring, flat, grey, overcast skies leavened by the occasional bouts of weak-willed drizzle.  Not even the rain was photogenic.

So plans had to be changed and this is what I ended up submitting.




Please ignore the amateurish graphic design – we weren’t being critiqued on that, though I’d love to improve my graphic design capabilities (can anyone recommend any good books or courses I could do?).

And although this isn’t at all the sort of photography I want to do, it was interesting and challenging to spend the afternoon with my coffee machine in the kitchen, trying not to get too many distracting reflections on the shiny bits.


15 March 2013

Kitchen and Bathroom Remodel: Paint Colours


So today is a momentous day in Kitchenlandia (and in Bathroomlandia too).

The whole shebang is going to be sprayed with white primer and we shall finally be rid of the burnt orange and baby poop coloured walls and the tongue and groove ceilings should fade into oblivion.

I am SO excited.



There hasn’t been much to report the last couple of weeks, as much time has been spent working on the electrics and plumbing and new shelving and drywalling etc. But now instead of destroying stuff, the contractors will actually start rebuilding and we should see it all start to take shape. 

We (by which I mean the Husband, with me backseat driving) have been using some fabulous free 3-D drawing and planning software called Google SketchUp and this is what we’ve come up with so far.


South wall


The floors are going to be a dark brown laminate.  I wanted to have something dark to ground the space and was initially drawn to dark cork, but was told that dark cork (which is simply dyed) was very susceptible to visible scratches and scrapes.  So laminate it is. We’ve chosen one which looks a bit knobbly and distressed, to go with the old fir floors in the rest of the house (though I couldn’t bring myself to match their horrible orange colour).


West walll


The counters will for the most part be a nice matte white honed quartz from Pental.  Blew our budget a bit with that choice but I needed something lovely and neutral after all the year of forest green laminate.

For the sticky out island bit to the side we’ve chosen some walnut butcher block.  Again it was rather more than we were expecting to spend, but it will be fabulous for baking bread and making pasta (and for taking food photos).  There will be a hinged piece at the end to add extra countertop space when I’m cooking.


North wall


We’ve managed to include a pull-out larder cupboard and a rolling aluminium appliance garage on one wall which I’m super excited about and the big mint green monster you see is the retro style fridge which will be delivered next week, of which more then.

East walll


We’ve also extended the shelves on the back wall. These will be stained to match the walnut butcher block.

So now I have to choose paint colours.   I am tempted to just paint everything white, but a little scared that it will end up looking like a clinic, what with the white cabinets and counters. However, I have a lot of colouful kitchenware which will go on the open shelves, and we do have the big green fridge to contend with. But still it’s tempting to do something whacky with the back wall with the shelves on it.  Or at the very least a soft mint green.  What would you guys do?

If we do go for all white, can you recommend a nice soft white you’ve used recently?  Especially if you’re in the Pacific Northwest with our grey winter skies and dazzling summer light (kitchen faces south and west). I don’t think I’ve ever painted a wall white in my life.  (Oh and ignore the greyness of the SketchUp pics.  It’s just trying to render shadows.)

Just in case you’re feeling nostalgic, here’s a final glimpse of the burnt orange walls and wood ceiling.


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And of the baby poop walls (and the bizarre mural of fir trees they were hiding) in the bathroom.


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Please be nothing that the ghastly glass bricks in the bathroom have GONE and a lovely new frosted window is in their place.


14 March 2013

Palm Springs Modernism Week Bus Tour




Though they were officially sold out, I was lucky enough to squeak my way onto one of the famous Modernist Week bus tours.  Apparently if you show up on the day of the tour there’s a good chance of getting on one thanks to no-shows.

I can’t recommend a tour highly enough if you happen to be in Palm Springs for Modernism Week.  They’re a great way of getting a real sense of the unique architectural history of Palm Springs and spying on some truly FABULOUS houses.

Come and join me for a trip.


Chase Bank 1960 E Stewart Williams


The iconic now Chase bank designed by E.Stewart Williams (who also designed the Edris House) in 1960.




The Bank of America building with its famous blue mosaic wall built in 1959 by Victor Gruen Architects.


Del Marcos Hotel 1947 William F Cody


The Del Marcos Hotel, one of the earliest examples of Palm Springs modernism, built in 1947 by William F Cody.


Frey House


This is as close as I got to the world-famous Frey House II, perched in the mountains and designed by Albert Frey in 1963 to blend into its surroundings. Would have loved to have visited this one.


Barbra Streisand's House


This rather ugly sprawling monstrosity apparently belongs to Barbra Streisand. She didn’t wave.


Dinah Shore 1963 Donald Wexler


This gorgeous house was built for Dinah Shore by Donald Wexler in 1963. I’ve found some fun photos of the interior that I will share soon.


Elvis Presley Honeymoon Hideaway William Krisel


Dubbed the “House of the Future’ and designed by William Krisel in the early 1960s, this is the hideaway where Elvis and Priscilla Presley spent their honeymoon.  The fabulous Alix Tyler of Modern Kiddo (and previously Strawberry Lemonade) wrote a great post about the interiors and the Elvis connection a couple of years back.




We also saw some groovy private houses built in Modernist style.  The great thing about Palm Springs is that the style is not just restricted to a few iconic houses but covers whole neighbourhoods.




These houses with steeply-pitched roofs are called ‘Swiss Misses’.


Kaufman House 1946 Richard Neutra


Here is world famous Kaufman House built by Richard Neutra in 1946. Must find my way in there one day.




And this repurposed gas station is the Palm Springs Visitor Center.




Here is our lovely tour guide.  He knew everything about everything to do with Palm Springs.




A very bad picture of a zigzag roof.  It’s in there somewhere.




Frank Sinatra’s house, Twin Palms, designed in 1947 also by E. Stewart Williams.  Apparently he had to be persuaded hard to get a house in the Modernist style. Now it is impossible to imagine him in anything else.




The beautiful Catholic church of St Theresa (where the funeral of former Palm Springs mayor Sonny Bono was held, with a eulogy by Cher).




A former 1960s hotel has been refurbished as the splendidly-colourful Saguaro.  We took a peek inside one day and it looks fabulous.




We again stayed at the Ace which was repurposed from a old Howard Johnson motel (as immortalised in the most recent season of Mad Men).

More private homes.




Nice clerestory windows.




Nice butterfly roof.




FABULOUS orange front door.


Telly Savalas Home


Bettered only by the pink front door on the former home of Telly Savalas. Bet you never thought of Kojak with a pink front door.

I think I’d better stop now.  I have literally hundreds of photos from this tour, but I suspect my blog is about to explode.


12 March 2013

Things I Am Loving: Nicole Porter Hardwood Bowls


Yet more things I don’t have either the money or room for.  They’re absolutely stunning though.




Buy these unique handpainted wooden bowls, plates and servers at or on her Etsy shop and then send them to me.


11 March 2013

Project 52: Food Glorious Food


I’ve been having fun with my Project 52 assignments recently.  The last two assignments have been about honing in on the type of commercial photography we want to focus on and to take a picture of the raw ingredients for a simple recipe.

So I got to shoot food and more food.

First up I decided to shoot a graphic shot of doughnuts.  I was feeling lazy and baking is tricky at the moment without a proper kitchen, so I picked up some Krispy Kreme doughnuts and then mixed up a pink glaze to get some interesting drips and splodges.


doughnuts (1 of 1)


For the raw ingredients challenge, I tried to get a bit arty and was inspired by the idea of an artist’s palette.




Beetroot, Orange and Pistachio Salad

Roast some beets whole in their skins in a little olive oil, salt and herbs (some thyme branches are good) until soft.

Peel the beets and make a salad with some perky watercress or rocket/arugula, some peeled orange segments, some pistachios or pecans and some chunks of goat cheese.

Dress with sea salt, extra virgin oil and some good syrupy balsamic vinegar.

Slowly and painfully I feel that I am groping towards a style – I’m not there yet, but it definitely involves interesting colour stories, graphic elements, shapes and repetition and lots of mess.


08 March 2013

WTF Friday: Alexander McQueen Fall 2012




Though in this case the W stands for ‘Wow!’

Yeah, I know these aren’t exactly wearable, unless you’re Lady Gaga, but the workmanship in these clothes is utterly breathtaking, and I suppose the half-finger gloves would be perfect if you bite your nails.

If you see me walking down the street wearing a jewelled head cage and pearly fishnets you know who to blame.

Enjoy the fabulous crazy.











07 March 2013

Meyer Lemon and Rosemary Posset


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Last year we planted a little Meyer lemon tree at the south side of our house by a sheltered wall. 

There had been a citrus bush there when we moved to the house, so we knew one could grow outside, but it hadn’t survived the recent snowy winters. This winter on the other hand has been extraordinarily mild, so we were rewarded with a bumper crop of lemons from our new baby.


meyerlemonposset (1 of 4)


Sssssh all of you folks in California, stop laughing. Words cannot explain how proud we were of the little Meyer Lemon Tree That Could. This is the frozen North after all.

For those of you in the UK, Meyer lemons are an intriguing fruit, which I had never come across before moving here. Thought to be a cross between a traditional lemon and a mandarin, they are softer, sweeter, less acidic and a slightly deeper yellow than a traditional lemon, and therefore highly prized for dessert making within their short season.  Meyer lemons can be replaced by traditional lemons whenever you see them in a recipe.

Anyway, I wanted a recipe where my one tiny lemon would be the feature ingredient rather than being an afterthought and was given a simple and but glorious one by a lovely Facebook friend.

This is deceptively simple but utterly delicious. Your next dinner party is crying out for this dessert.


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A posset is a traditional English dessert where cream is heated and then slightly curdled by the application of an acid, such as lemon juice or wine, so that it sets. The infusion of rosemary adds an intriguing savoury undertone that marries perfectly with the lemon.




Serves 4

2 cups (approx 500 ml)) heavy/double cream

2/3 cup (90g) organic sugar

1 sprig fresh rosemary

5 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice or any fresh organic lemon juice




Bring the cream and sugar to boiling point in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the rosemary. Remember that the boiling point of cream is much lower than that of water, so take care that it doesn’t boil over.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the lemon juice and stir and allow  the mixture to cool for 15 minutes. Remove and discard rosemary. Pour into 4 ramekins or glasses.

Chill until set, about 4 hours.


meyerlemonposset (3 of 4)


06 March 2013

Things I Am Loving: Journals and Notebooks


Turns out I have a little bit of a notebook problem.



They’re just too pretty to resist and cheap enough for lots of impulse purchases on my travels round the web. Here are a few that have recently er, caught my eye, I have bought .

1)  I won a Julia Kostreva journal at the Blogshop workshop last year and love the colours and graphic simplicity of her covers.  Nice quality paper inside too. Really liking the colours and style of her new ‘Mon Petit Notebook’ range.

2) I’ve been following Greek graphic designer Tomy K on Instagram for a long time and ended up buying some of his small graphic notebooks. They come in complementary sets of three and are therefore very useful for bribing small similarly notebook-addicted daughters and including in cheesy Instagram vignettes of one’s desk ( though I rarely do this as it’s not often my desk is tidy enough for human consumption).

3) I recently bought a few Moleskine-alike Ecosystem notebooks. Beautifully made in the US from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, you get to choose your size, cover colour (from six juicy hues) and inside style (blank, lined or grid). Like Moleskines they have silk bookmarks, elastic closures and an inside back pocket and the paper itself is of beautiful quality. But unlike Moleskines they have perforated pages. This is a great organisational feature for me, as I’m always scribbling crap in the wrong notebook.

4) No notebook roundup would be complete without a selection from Rifle Paper Co.  I have a couple of Anna Bond’s old pocket notebooks, but her new Botanical journals are the prettiest yet.  I might have to do a little shopping.

Are you a notebook addict?  Or have you moved over completely to tablets and such like?  And if you are, seen any pretty ones recently?  For research purposes only of course.


05 March 2013

Go Love Your Room: The Edris House


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By great good fortune it was Modernism Week when we were in Palm Springs. Of course I wasn’t organised enough to book many of the house tours before they sold out, but I did manage to wangle a place on the tour of the Edris House, built for Marjorie and William Edris in 1954 by the renowned Palm Springs architect E. Stewart Williams.


edrishouse (4 of 17)


It’s not a particularly large or grand house, but is a quite magnificent specimen of mid-century modern desert architecture with all the interior fixtures and fittings still intact and  the most breathtaking views. We were lucky enough to go there on an absolutely perfect blue sky day and here’s what greeted us.

Come and have a peek inside. 


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The charming owner J.R. Roberts has kept all the original fixtures and incorporated his own furniture and art, all bought with the house in mind.


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I found the kitchen, with its original cooktop and ovens particularly fascinating.  I suspect the previous owners of our house were going for a similar effect in our monstrous kitchen (because of course that makes total sense in a 1912 Craftsman house).


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The ceilings almost made me rethink my aversion to the wood panelling in our kitchen and bathroom. Almost. (I think it probably helps if you have amazing floor to ceiling windows with incredible views).


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And here’s the lovely owner JR, who considers himself to be more of a custodian than an owner of the house.  Mind you, you would be happy and charming if you had a huge walk-in bar at your disposal.


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I found this fabulous video of him talking about the house.

Tour of the Edris House from Marilyn Chung on Vimeo.


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edrishouse (17 of 17)


Photoshop Week at CreativeLIVE absolutely kicked my butt literally, since we were sitting on the most uncomfortable chairs known to man and I was terrified of my piriformis syndrome returning, and figuratively. Who knew that Photoshop and Lightroom could be so riveting?  If you are any sort of photographer it is probably worth you downloading at least a few of the courses.  All the teachers were without exception fabulous – patient, thorough and clear, with an incredible breadth and depth of knowledge.  It was a quite mindblowing experience for me and I know my photography will never be the same again.  I can’t recommend it highly enough (and can’t believe how lucky we are to have CreativeLIVE here in Seattle).


28 February 2013

Paleo Chicken Curry


quickchickencurry (7 of 9)


It has become increasingly obvious that my body is completely incapable of tolerating carbs, so at the beginning of the year I decided to start eating the Paleo way. It’s not a diet per se, but I know I feel about a million times better if I cut my carb and sugar intake to a bare minimum.

Since this dish is based on ready made curry powder and mango chutney it is remarkably quick and easy – we make it all the time for a weekday supper – but still quite delightfully fruity, aromatic and succulent. I miss good curry like nobody’s business here in Seattle, and while this is not remotely authentic, it certainly hits my curry sweet spot. (And yes, I know that mangoes aren’t strictly Paleo, but I figured the small quantities used here wouldn’t hurt too much.)


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Because they are so integral to the dish it is important that you use the best quality curry powder and mango chutney you can lay your hands on – that ancient pot of stale, yellowish-brownish power at the back of your store cupboard is not going to cut it, nor is a jar of sickly sweet jamlike commercial mango chutney. 


quickchickencurry (3 of 9)


Instead go to a good grocer or supermarket where they might sell curry powders imported from India, and high quality artisan chutneys, full of fruit and whole spices; or try your local spice shop or gourmet food shop. I like to experiment with different spice blends and chutneys and make subtly different versions of this dish. I’ve had good success using Sun Brand Madras curry powder imported from India and available on Amazon and Neera’s mango chutney.


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1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, crushed (or to taste)

1 small fresh red chili, finely chopped

2 tablespoons curry powder (or to taste)

2tbsps coconut oil or ghee

1 boneless, skinless chicken (I used chicken thighs, but you could also use breasts) cut into thin strips

1 cup mango chutney

1 1/2 cups coconut milk or single cream (half and half)

1 bag of baby spinach or some fresh sorrel if you’re lucky

Salt and pepper to taste

Coriander (cilantro) to garnish


quickchickencurry (4 of 9)

Heat the oil or ghee in a large steep-sided frying pan or skillet.  Coconut oil or ghee are recommended  for Paleo cooking and are absolutely delicious in this dish, but you could also use vegetable oil.
Saute the onions and garlic until soft and then add the chili and curry powder.  Fry for a minute or two until the spice become fragrant.  Add the chicken strips and saute until brown all over.
Add the mango chutney and coconut milk (or cream) and then cook at a medium heat for about five minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Add a huge heap of spinach or sorrel and continue cooking until the spinach has wilted into the curry.  If you’re lucky enough to have some sorrel, the lemony sharpness is perfect for this.
Season to taste and garnish with a little lime and cilantro (coriander).  To keep with the Paleo theme, I like to serve this with tiny roasted cauliflower florets, but some Basmati or jasmine rice would obviously work too.
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quickchickencurry (8 of 9)


26 February 2013

Project 52: Portrait of a Stranger


So a couple of weeks ago, I kicked off Project 52 PRO – a year of critiqued professional level photography assignments, with ace commercial photographer Don Giannatti (although Project 52 PRO is no closed, you can always sign up any time for the free version Project 52).

The first assignment was a tricky one for me. We had to make a portrait of a stranger – someone we’d never met before, even someone we’d just approached in the street with our cameras.  And they had to be aware that we were taking the shot and be participating in it, no candids allowed. 

It was difficult for me, not because I’m particularly nervous about approaching people, but because I have very little interest in actually making portraits and hardly ever do anything other than the odd snap of the Minx.  There’s a pressure to people shots which doesn’t exist with still life or landscapes – you want to create something interesting and hopefully beautiful, but you can’t push people, especially strangers. around like you can with food.



I cheated a bit with my first portrait by posting on here and on the Seattle Bloggers’ Unite Facebook page, to see if I could find a willing victim er, client. 

First out of the blocks was the gorgeous Inward Facing Girl Melanie Antley Biehle.  I’d been wanting to meet her for a long time, so it was no hardship at all to arrange a meeting in a local coffee shop which I knew had pretty light.  (Go read her blog – it’s excellent and thought-provoking).

It did feel like I was breaking the spirit of the assignment a bit though.  I’d followed Melanie via her blog and on Facebook and she really did seem like a friend, even though we’d never actually technically met. 

So I decided to challenge myself to just walk into local shops, and see if I could find someone willing to pose for me.  I struck gold in our beautiful local stationery and paper Paper Delights, where the very pretty assistant agreed to pose for me in between serving people buying Valentines’ cards, and where the window displays and light were made for photography.  We managed to put this shot together in about five minutes.

I ended up submitting the Melanie shot, because I found her wistful expression gazing out of the window to be more intriguing; though I’m prouder of the Girl in the Shop as I had to screw up my courage to ask her and had a much shorter time to get the shot.

Which shot do you prefer? Do you prefer portraits where the subject is looking away or one where they’re engaged and looking at the camera?

Thanks to everyone who emailed me offering to help.  I’m sure there will be many more chances to be my photographic victims as the year progresses.


25 February 2013

Go Love Your Room: The Parker Palm Springs


Dear hearts I am BACK -  full of eggy breakfasts, date shakes, sunscreen-induced acne and beautiful memories. We had an absolutely fabulicious time.






I have MUCH to share with you. By a triumph of meticulous planning (or possibly fantastic good luck) Winter Break this end happened to coincide with Modernism Week in Palm Springs. Of course, most of the events were sold out before I got my act together, but I did manage to go to one or two fun events, which I will share with you later this week.

Through a triumph of very bad planning however, our flight back from LA coincided with the Oscars, so I still haven’t watched the ceremony, though I understand from Twitter that it was all, how shall we say, not good.

As a result though mirrormirror’s usual in-depth Oscar coverage will not be happening this year. I am desolate, but I hope you will be able to cope.




Instead, here are some pretty pictures of our room at the Jonathan Adler-designer Parker where we stayed for three nights.



ParkerPalmSprings-3 ParkerPalmSprings-2
ParkerPalmSprings-7 ParkerPalmSprings-9



The other reason for lack of Oscars coverage is that tomorrow I start six days of intensive Photoshop training courtesy of Creative Live as a member of their live studio audience. 

My Photoshop skills suck big time, so I’m very excited to learn from the masters. Catch me on the live broadcast any day this week (except Thursday). Let me know if you’re watching and I will wave!

Oh and here is previous coverage from the Parker a couple of years back. It hasn’t changed a bit.


21 February 2013

Five Great Things to Grow in Your Pacific Northwest Garden



I asked my great friend Nazila Merati to write a guest blog post for you while I was away sunning myself in Palm Springs.

Nazila is a very good friend to have.  Throughout the summer months she delivers an endless supply of beautiful fresh produce grown on one of her two allotments (p-patches) and in winter she delivers cookies and homemade rocky road chocolates made with her own homemade marshmallows. See what I mean?

Since she is one of the most green-fingered (green-thumbed, I believe you crazy Americans say) people I know, I asked her to share her thoughts on easy vegetable crops to grow here in the Pacific Northwest. Since the climate here is very similar to that of the UK, these tips would work there as well, and can be easily adjusted for other parts of the US and Europe.  You can find Nazila at Flora and Flying or on her food blog BanamakPlease show her some love.

 Over to Nazila…





Spring is popping up all over Seattle and through much of the Northern hemisphere based on the images I am seeing in my social photo streams. I’m a big fan of rejoicing the return of spring through sappy tweets about daylight, romancing the first fat pussy willow, snapping a picture of the first snowdrop, but honestly, my biggest thrill is digging into that cold soil and getting things started.

What, you say it is too cold to go outside? Pshaw, I say. Go put on your big girl wellies you bought to match your hipster beret, double glove up and head outside and survey your back forty. If that is not an option, go look at your meager raised bed in front of your house with the shriveled remains of last year’s bean plants and dead basil stalks. (I believe she is referring to me here:- Paola)

Now that you have gone and looked, it isn’t all that bad is it? Sure there is stuff to clean up and a few weeds to pull out, but the moist soil makes this task so much easier. Look carefully, do you see your tiny chive patch reemerging? Your mint for mojitos? Rosemary to make chicken skewers survive? Fabulous. The bones of your perennial herb garden made it through. Now go inside, make a nice cup of tea and devise a plan about how you are going to succeed growing a small manageable garden of things you actually like to eat and do well here in our temperate Northwest. Here is my list of five things that are easy to grow, give a lot of bang for your gardening dollar, and increase your smug factor when entertaining.

Snap Peas - I suggest growing bush snap peas instead of pole peas because everyone promises to put up netting for a trellis and very few people actually get around to it. Bush varieties seem to yield better and are easier to pick in my opinion. Seeds or seedlings can go in the ground as soon as the ground can be worked which in Seattle is now. The shoots can be consumed along with the young pods. They are great for salads, stir frying, and eating out of hand. Two varieties to look for include Ed Hume’s Oregon Sugar Pod Pea and Territorial Seeds Avalanche Peas .

Swiss Chard – Swiss chard has replaced the ornamental cabbage in many landscape applications. The bright lights variety with its orange, yellow, red and vivid pink stalks and veins makes it a great addition to a small garden as it produces like crazy and through a few frosts and can be used at many stages of maturity. You can start it from seeds, but my recommendation is to go to any local nursery and pick up a 4” pot of seedlings. Plant a few colors in your vegetable patch and then throw a few into ornamental pots for a splash of unexpected color. Use young leaves in salads, mature leaves with kale etc. in braising mixes and throw some in a lemony lentil chard soup. My pick would be Territorial Seeds Bright Lights (you will find many growers will have this available as seedlings) or if you like a monochromatic look and a more traditional chard, try Hume’s Silverado.




Lettuce – As I look at the four dollar heads of Buttercrunch lettuce I am buying this time of year, I secretly wish I had a hydroponic set up just to grow lettuce. The price for something that is so easy to grow starting in April and if you are careful about the type you grow, through November here in Seattle. I am a big believer in growing your own lettuce from seed or from seedlings, just remember that it will mature around the same time, so planting in succession is important. If you like variety in your greens, I recommend growing a patch of mesclun mix with a bit of bite from mizuna and arugula. A patch, if well-tended and harvested regularly, should last you a month or two. Plan to do another sowing of seeds two weeks after the first planting to prolong the growing season. If you are a head lettuce person and are not sure what you like – try putting in seedlings. Some nurseries will have seedlings in different varieties – try out a few through the growing season. My mesclun pick is Hume’s Mesclun Mix. My favorite lettuce varieties are Territorial’s Tom Thumb for its petite adorableness and taste and the beautiful heirloom variety Speckles.

Tomatoes – Who doesn’t like a fresh tomato picked right off the vine? In a small garden with at least six hours of sunlight, try for something with great appeal that is easy to harvest, does not require staking and promises a big return on investment not based on the poundage of tomatoes harvested and canned, but on the number of ways you can use that fruit. A cherry, pear, grape or currant tomato will fill this requirement quite well. If you are a dedicated gardener, then you have already started your seed trays full of the tomatoes you will tend all summer. If you are a practical gardener, you might have taken notes on what didn’t work last year and avoid that variety entirely this year. If you are me, you will read the tags on the seedlings at the first big plant sale and pick something with the best name and the fewest number of days to maturity. This is probably not the best way to proceed, but look for varieties that say they do not require staking, are compact, yield lots of bite sized tomatoes with sweet fruit. I am a fan of growing at least two of these types – a yellow and a red variety. Some varieties to look for include Sun Gold and Juliet and Yellow Canary. Sun Gold and Juliet will require cages and staking. You can’t go wrong with the Juliet, it will produce until the first frost.



Leeks – The Leek is misunderstood by Americans and is revered as highly as Jerry Lewis is by the French. They are simple to grow, take up so little room, make a great onion substitute for those who want a little onion flavor but can’t handle sulfur and side effects of the rest of the allium family. They also look pretty – the blue green leaves that can look grey in certain light are gorgeous in the fall. You can plant a row in the spring to harvest in the summer for use in sofritos, soups, grilled alongside lamb. Plant a row later for fall and winter harvest. I believe that the novice gardener should start with leek sets,sold either in bunches like onion sets or in 4” pots if you are looking for specialty leeks. My picks for leek varieties to last you through your first vichyssoise until your last chicken pot pie is Cook’s Garden’s Blue Solaise Leek.

Gosh, there are so many other things I would recommend you grow, but these five things are good places to start. The peas and lettuce will start you off right, the chard and lettuce will keep you green and strong, until the tomatoes and leeks start coming in.

Happy gardening.


Thanks Nazila!  Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see more gardening on the blog. I’m into year two of my little raised beds and need all the tips I can get.


20 February 2013

Monthly Trend Report


Dear hearts, Tina is back with her monthly trend reports!  Do say thank you by showing her lots of love on her blog.

Hello mirrormirror readers! It's Tina of Life in Sketch, back again with a Monthly Trend Report for February. Today I'd like to chat about the Sputnik Chandelier. I've had my eye on this type of lamp for about a year now, and it's holding steady as one of my favorite chandelier looks! I know you've seen these around, but may not have identified them as Sputniks. Sputniks come in all shapes, sizes and heights. Some are very close to the ceiling and some hang much lower and take up more space. Some have long, pointy bulbs, and some have round, globe shaped bulbs.



{via Loft Life Mag}

Although the sputnik is trending right now, it's not a new look. The original sputnik style lamps were made in the 1950s and 1960s, soon after the launch of the Russian Sputnik satellite. (Interesting note: the Sputnik was the first artificial satellite to circle the Earth.) Some of the first designers that created the sputnik type lamp were George Nelson and Gino Sarfatti.



{via Steven Gambrel}

The sputnik lamp works well in many settings. The one that comes to mind first is a "Mad Men" look of the 1960's, because that was the way the lamp was first used. However, since it does come in many different shapes and styles you can pick the perfect sputnik for your room! There's a wide cost range, too, so you can definitely find something that fits your budget. On the lower end of the spectrum, IKEA has come up with it's version of the lamp which will cost you $90, and ZGallerie makes one for $300. Design Within Reach makes a satellite lamp for $1325. If you're willing to spend a bit more you can find some originals and replicas at 1st Dibs.


Sources: Furnnish // Desire to Inspire // Elle Decor // Architectural Digest // Paloma 81 // Design Within Reach

Whatever your budget, you can definitely get this look, which I'm sure is here to stay. I'm curious, do you have a Sputnik chandelier in your home? If not, are you thinking of getting one? Do you love the look or hate it?


18 February 2013

Kitchen Remodel: Cabinet Decisions


The first decision we had to make when it came to the kitchen was choosing the cabinets.

In the end it wasn’t a particularly hard decision – I wanted them to be white and they had to be from IKEA, since we wanted to spend what budget we had on things like countertops/worksurfaces (and fancy fridges, but that is another story).

We also had to take into account the age and style of the house. The horrible upstairs kitchen is essentially an 80s(?) extension on a 1912 craftsman house and the room itself has nothing particular to recommend it in the way of architectural features or mouldings.  Which meant that we couldn’t go too modern, otherwise it wouldn’t look good with the rest of the house; and we couldn’t go too folksy, firstly because I’m just not that kind of a gal and secondly because we’re not exactly dealing with a charming country kitchen here.                                                                                           

As far as I could see that narrowed down the choices a lot. The Lidingo kitchen would be lovely if you DID have a charming country kitchen, but it was a little too fussy for this remodel.



{via Ikea USA}

I dithered about the high gloss Abstrakt –  probably my fave -  for a bit, but I think they would be a bit too space age for the rest of the house.  It’s also one of the pricier options, and I was a bit worried about chipping the gloss finish.  They sure are pretty though.




{via Design Crisis}

The panelled Stat might be a good choice if you didn’t already have a hideous panelled ceiling.



{via House to Home}

Which left us with the Adel cabinets.  The lines are clean and modern, and classic enough to fit in with the rest of the house.  I dithered about these a little – they’re coated with melamine and I was worried they’d seem too ‘plasticky’, but in the end they were the only option that really seemed to make sense.



{via Houzz}

I do admit to being hugely swayed by this lovely remodel which used them.



{via Little House Blog}

So there you are.  Which ones would you choose?  Remember you’re not allowed to say you hate the Adel doorfronts, because we have ten tons of Ikea boxes sitting in our basement, bought in the 15% off sale just before Christmas, and I would cry.

Here’s how the kitchen is looking at the end of week one.  Yes, those are cabinets you spy being assembled.


kitchenremodel kitchenremodel2






We’re off to spend Winter Break in Palm Springs to escape from the carnage and so I can work on my massive Vitamin D deficiency. When we get back next Monday the bathroom demolition will start. God help us all.


15 February 2013

Things I Am Loving: Walnut Birds from Gretel Home


The sun is shining here in Seattle and the photography studio is calling me, but I quickly wanted to share the gorgeous present that I was lucky enough to receive yesterday for Valentines Day.




Pinterest may have set back cause of feminism by several hundred years, but it sure has made it easier to give husbands a list of acceptable presents.

This little carved walnut bird with the pink lacquer chest has been a cover picture on my Pinterest boards for a long time, so I was thrilled to actually get one in the ‘flesh’ yesterday – along with four little birdie friends. 

As with most wooden things, these are so much more lovely than any picture can show – smooth, warm and tactile and most beautifully carved and finished.  Exquisite craftsmanship at its very best.




The birds are handmade in the UK and are available at Gretel Home.

Here are my tweeties having a chat.



I haven’t had time this week to trawl the Internet for design WTF**ckery. If you chaps ever come across anything that you think might be suitable to feature, do please let me know.


14 February 2013

Last Minute Valentines’ Ideas


As has become traditional round here, we’re all about the last minute Valentines.  And since it’s Valentines’ morning already we are taking the definition of last minute to new extremes.

Still here are some things you can do to surprise the family this evening.

Get the kids to work on this cute colour mixing chart courtesy of Art Projects for Kids.


lots of hearts


Or make or buy pink and white loaf cakes (pound cakes) and have fun with cookie cutters (courtesy of Matthew Mead).




Set the kids to work again. This time with buttons (courtesy of Hands On As We Grow).




Or let them get busy with heart-shaped doilies (from Say Yes to Hoboken).




Have breakfast for dinner tonight, and break out the squeezy pancake bottle (via Recipe By Photo)




Or if you’ve been organised enough to get a gift, but not any wrapping paper (er, that would be me), here’s a cute gift wrap idea from Babble.




Or maybe you could just arrange some fruit and make a pretty Valentines’ photo. From DaitoZen.




However, and with whomever, you are celebrating today, make sure you tell someone you love them. To all my lovely readers out there, I LOVE YOU very much!

(If none of these float your boat checkout last year’s last minute ideas round up here.)


13 February 2013

The Best Ever Victoria Sponge Cake


It’s the day before Valentines, and, if you’re anything like me you haven’t exactly managed to buy or make anything in advance. Never fear though. There is still time to make a delectable sponge cake and decorate it with a heart. 




A Victoria sponge cake is a simple but delightful British afternoon tea treat, said to be a favourite of Queen Victoria’s. It is most usually filled with a red jam (raspberry, strawberry, plum and cherry are all good) and whipped cream, and sprinkled with icing sugar, making it somehow look very ‘Valentinish’. 

However you can just fill it with jam; with jam and a vanilla buttercream (keeps longer); with jam, whipped cream and fruit as I did for this cake, or my mother would often fill our family cakes with a thick layer of chocolate buttercream. If you’re using jam I do recommend using the best quality you can lay your hands on as it is a prominent part of the whole experience. I used a homemade seedless raspberry for this cake.

First make your sponge cakes.




Classic Victoria Sponge

The following quantities make for a nice deep cake in 7 in cake tins or 8 in cakes with a more even proportion of filling to cake. The traditional quantity – 4oz (110g) of all the dry ingredients + 2 eggs makes deep 6 in cakes, or a shallower 7 in ones. (The pictures show the quantities below baked in 7 in cake tins).

For American readers who prefer to use volume measures, I used this recipe as the demo when I was giving a class on British baking and using weighing scales.  I suggest you weigh the ingredients for this as you will get a more accurate result.



175g (6oz) butter at room temperature

175g (6oz) caster (baker’s) sugar

3 large eggs

A few drops of vanilla extract (make your own vanilla extract)

175g (6oz) self-raising flour, sifted (or the same quantity of all purpose or cake flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder)

Hot water as required

To finish

Jam, whipped cream and icing sugar


heartvictoriasponge-2 heartvictoriasponge-3



Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (325F)

Butter two 18cm (7inch) sandwich tins and line with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugar together until very pale and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla extract together in jug and add a little at a time to the creamed mixture, beating thoroughly after every addition.  If the mixture starts to curdle then add a tablepoon of the weighed flour and keep beating.  If the mixture curdle and you can’t rescue it, don’t worry, it just means your cake won’t rise quite as much.

When everything is incorporated sieve about a third of the flour into the bowl and fold in the flour thoroughly with a metal spoon. Repeat until all the flour is incorporated. Be careful when you’re folding to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.

Add hot water or milk as necessary, until the mixture slides easily off a spoon. This is called ‘dropping consistency’ and it key to a bouncy sponge with an even top.  I find that I need to add more liquid for American flours. Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and smooth out to the edges. (If you want your cakes to be perfectly even you can weigh the mix in the pans).

Bake for around 25- 30 minutes if making the shallower cakes (4oz of dry ingredients in a 7 in tin or 6 oz of dry ingredients in an 8 in tin) or for 30-35 minutes if you’re making one of the deeper cakes (4 oz of dry ingredients in a 6 in pan or 6oz of dry ingredients in the 7 in pan). When they are fully cooked your cakes will be golden and springy. Press the cake with a fingertip and it should leave no imprint. Loosen round the edges with a palette knife and turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Fill with cream and jam and sift a little icing sugar over the top - in the shape of a heart if you’re feeling romantic.




12 February 2013

Things I Am Loving: Doodle Bowls


I’m sitting here gently blogging to the sound of banging, the odd crash, and builders noisily chatting about skateboarding.  Yes, the kitchen remodel is underway.  We spent a glamorous weekend taking a huge mountain of STUFF out of our upstairs kitchen and making the downstairs kitchen one where actual food can be cooked (until now we’ve most used it to make breakfast). 

I knew I had a lot of kitchen paraphernalia, but seeing it all boxed up is rather mindblowing. Anyway, onwards and upwards. April 26th can’t come quickly enough as far as I’m concerned.

Just time for a quickie today.




Saw these wooden Doodle Bowls and Plates from HappyDoodleLand on Pinterest (where else) and loved them. Unfortunately the artist doesn’t seem to be selling them at the moment (though her prints are also super cute).

But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to doodle as creatively as Flora Cha?



doodlebowl6 doodlebowl5PNG doodlebowl4



08 February 2013

WTF Friday: Our Upstairs Bathroom


This week we have a real WTF doozy.




I promised you pictures of the upstairs bathroom which we’re finally going to have remodelled. And here they are.

We have the same green laminate countertops as in the kitchen, this time paired with baby poop brown walls.






We have the same orange-y brown wood panelled ceiling as the kitchen.




And thoughtful design touches such as the green glass bricks, which match the green tiles in the bath surround and on the floor.




Together with some charming fixtures and fittings (and built in speakers in the ceiling and toilet ????)


Upstairsbathroombefore-2-2 Upstairsbathroombefore-8


Obviously you’re all jealous of such gorgeousness, but seriously WTF were they thinking?

Kitchen remodel starts on Monday. Bathroom remodel starts a couple of weeks later. I so cannot wait.


06 February 2013

Flower Sugar Cookies






We celebrated a very special birthday a couple of weekends back.

The Minx, would you believe, turned eight in January. No I don’t believe it either.  I wonder if there are any of you around who remember her when she looked like this (oh, how innocent those blogging days were).

To celebrate we had to suffer through a party at the American Girl doll store in Seattle, followed by a birthday sleepover with eight of her closest friends and their dolls.  I believe I deserve some sort of mothering Oscar.

(For those of you not in the US or in possession of an 8 year old daughter, American Girl dolls are something of a cultural phenomenon.  They’re very high quality, INCREDIBLY expensive dolls – some dressed to be fictional historical characters and some from the present day – that come with every possible expensive accessory you can dream of.  Even to my adult eyes, the store, with its teeny dolls’ hair salon and bistro with special chairs so the dolls can sit at the table, is faintly mind-blowing.)




Unfortunately a fancy cake came as part of the package at the store, so I was unable to emulate my birthday cake extravaganzas of yore, so I decided instead to apply myself to sugar cookies that the girls could have with milk while watching their American Girl movie.  The tiny cookies are of course for the dolls.

As you can tell I’m a rather slapdash cookie icer.  One day I’d love to learn how to ‘flood’ the cookies properly with icing and pipe neat intricate details on them, but this time round I made do with dipping the cookies in royal icing – the pink worked best because it was wetter and runnier – and then piped some rather wobbly outlines on them.


flowersugarcookies-3 flowersugarcookies-4






I used this trusty sugar cookie recipe from the Joy of Baking, which I highly recommend, together with their royal icing recipe.

For the record here is my baby blowing out the eight candles on her cake.




And here she is with her freaky ‘Look Like Me’ doll.



I do want to improve my cookie icing skills and so to that end I’ve purchased Decorating Cookies by Bridget Edwards which looks amazing.  Not that I’ve actually used it yet mind you. I find it’s always easier to buy the craft book rather than actually DO the craft.  The blog which inspired the book is here.


05 February 2013





There’s been quite a lot going on behind the scenes here at mirrormirror global headquarters over the last month or two. The mysterious backpain has been coupled with days of utter and total exhaustion and nights of bizarre dreams, insomnia and very unrestful sleep. 

I read everything the Internet had to offer on piriformis syndrome – the clenched muscle in my left buttock that was squeezing on the sciatic nerve and radiating pain all down my left leg making it impossible to sit and often to sleep – and discovered that some people think it’s stress related, that the muscle spasms due to stress or anxiety in the same way that we might get a tension headache when we’ve got too much on our plate.

And just believing that I needed to relax and that the pain wasn’t due to a major structural issue, and that I could walk and sit as normal, immediately started to bring relief and now the pain is pretty much gone. I’m convinced that for me the pain was stress-related.  I can even feel the muscle start to tighten again if I get agitated. (If you think you might be going through something similar, you could do worse than check out John Sarno’s book Healing Back Pain. It’s a terribly written book and could be condensed into one chapter if you got rid of all the padding and filler. But I’m certain he’s onto something.)

As all this was going on, it slowly started to dawn on me that, what with being the mother of a young kid, moving countries, trying to run my business from afar and finding time to blog, I’ve actually been living with a mountain of stress for years. I’ve always been a very type A personality – rushing about everywhere, and with a ton of stuff on my plate – and although many of those stressors have now abated, I realised that  I had absolutely hit a wall, that the chronic insomnia I’d been suffering from since the Minx was born was not going to go away on its own, and that the exhaustion I was increasingly feeling  during the day was not exactly normal.

And then I started reading about adrenal fatigue – where you are literally running on empty and caffeine, - where your adrenal glands, worn out through years of pumping adrenaline and cortisol into our body in response to stress, stop producing the cortisol and adrenaline you need to make you feel wakeful and energetic and just respond to stress and anxiety. I was waking up exhausted, struggling through the day, getting more stressed, producing more adrenaline and cortisol in response to the stress and then ending up so stressed out that I had trouble sleeping. And the following day the whole vicious cycle would start up again worse than before. 

So I’ve been resting and relaxing as possible, clearing a lot of stuff on my plate and working with a naturopath to rebalance my sleep cycles. Hence the lack of blogging in recent weeks. The good news is that I think I’ve turned the corner. I’m sleeping better, though not always soundly, and the dragging exhausted feeling during the day has lessened. So I’m hoping to start up regular blogging again. To my one remaining reader, I have missed you!

Reboot – Part 2

The other big change has been in what I do with the rest of my life.

I closed mirrormirror over Christmas. It’s been pretty much on hiatus for the last couple of years and you might have noticed that I’ve been completely uninspired by it for the longest time. In fact you probably thought it was already closed.  It just became too complicated running it across the different time zones and since it seems that we are here in Seattle for the foreseeable future, I had to bow to the inevitable. It was HARD to say goodbye to my baby – at one point it seemed like we were running a successful little shop -  but I wasn’t doing right by her. Sometimes you just have to let go. 

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported the shop in the past, by buying from it or promoting it. I really appreciated all your help and encouragement. I was hoping to hold a big sale before Christmas but all my health issues got in the way, so we do still have a bit of stock. If there’s any stuff you remember liking let me know and I can give you a fabulous price. I’ll also be hosting some ‘Bargains of the Week’ via the blog over the next couple of weeks and months.

As to what I do next, that’s a good question. All I know at the moment is that food and photography are drawing me somewhere.This blog is probably somewhere in the mix too. Where it’s all leading I’m not exactly sure but I’m intrigued and excited to find out. 

I’ve signed up to do ace commercial photographer Don Giannatti’s Project 52 PRO course, which is a year of critiqued professional level photographic assignments, which should help me build my portfolio. I’m renting some beautiful studio space so I’ve finally got a proper place to work. And  I’ve committed to working really hard at building my blog, my photography and my foodie credentials over the next year and I’m excited to see where I end up. Watch this space. And I hope you can join me on the ride.

And yeah, just while I’m supposed to be relieving stress we start our kitchen and bathroom remodel next week. Oh my lord!

Oh and as a further aside, our first Project 52 assignment is to ‘photograph a stranger’. Is there a Seattle-based blog reader whom I’ve never met who would like to meet up for coffee and a quick portrait session? I don’t normally take many people shots, except of the Minx, so I don’t promise they’ll be any good, mind you.  If you’re interested drop me a line.