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20 posts from October 2009

29 October 2009

Vancouver and Visas and Wearstler and Wanders

Can you believe it’s been three years since we first got our visas for the US?

When we first came out to Seattle we assumed that definitely be back in the UK before our visas ran out. But here we are three years later, happily settled and with no return to Europe in prospect, needing new visas.  You have to leave the country to get them renewed so we’ve driven 150 miles up the freeway to spend a few days in Vancouver. 

Here are a few pics from a gorgeous autumnal walk we went on yesterday in Stanley Park.

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And here are a couple of links which might be of interest until I’m back properly in front of a computer (on Friday).

First up Alexandra from A Bit Late is not impressed with Kelly Wearstler’s beach house. While I don’t think I hate it as much as her previous effort (she appears to have given up raiding the British Museum) I’m not sure it has a huge amount to commend it.  I haven’t yet seen the Metropolitan Home feature though.

Also our friend Marcel Wanders has apparently designed a range of Christmas decorations for Target here in the US.  I had high hopes for these as he’s done good stuff before for Habitat in the UK but really, with the exception of the big red, white and silver column candles which I may have to acquire, he was phoning this in without even bothering to switch on the phone. BO-RING.

26 October 2009

Harvest

In which I rescue my poor bedraggled little saffron crocuses from a weekend of heavy rain and pick out the saffron stamens.  Take that $25 bottle of saffron from the supermarket!

I think I’ll make risotto.

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I’ve not yet actually cooked with my home-grown saffron, so if we are all poisoned I’ll make sure someone lets you know…

My Nonna’s Lasagne – Parte Due

I bet all of you already know how to assemble a lasagne and this post will be a like teaching my nonna to suck eggs (ha ha!) but here it is for completeness’ sake.

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First up, I always pre-cook the lasagne. I know you can get the ones which you just layer in with your sauces, but I personally can never get those to be quite the right consistency. Here are some lovely fresh lasagne sheets which have been dipped in boiling water until they’re the texture of slippery silk handkerchiefs. I was making a ton here, so I ended up layering the pasta sheets between clean tea towels (you can just see the bottom layer on the left).  By the way, this fabulous teatowel by Tikoli is available from mirrormirror.

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Next, I spread a little of the meat ragu over the bottom of my roasting dish and then start layering. First a layer of pasta, then meat sauce, then bechamel and then a couple of handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese (yep, there is cheese in there somewhere). Rinse and repeat four or five times until you’ve used up all your pasta.

My final layer is usually mostly Bechamel, with a bit of meat sauce swirled in for colour and a couple more handfuls of Parmesan cheese.  I then bake in the oven for around an hour at 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Serve with plenty of red wine and think of my grandma, who probably learned this from her grandma before her. I love the way that cooking provides such a connection with previous family generations. 

More Nice Mentions

My Charlotte Mann post continues to make the rounds, with mentions by her highness Not Martha, Urban Little House and Butterscotch Sundae. I reckon Charlotte owes me a small doodle by now.

The ever fabulous Shelterrific also picked up on the espaliered apples post.

If you’ve written a post linking either to this blog or the mirrormirror store and I haven’t mentioned you, please let me know.  I like to share the link love.

21 October 2009

My Nonna’s Lasagne, Part I - A Tale of Two Sauces

My very first foodie memory comes from when I was about four years old and our Italian relatives were visiting us in London.

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One rainy afternoon my nonna decided that she would make ravioli for us all from scratch.  I sat on a chair mesmerised while my nonna mixed dough on the chipped pale yellow formica table and then rolled it out by hand into a huge wafer-thin sheet that covered said table from corner to corner.  She then covered half the dough with little blobs of the filling she’d cooked up earlier and carefully folded the dough over the top. I helped her press the dough around the little blobs of filling and then watched as she cut out the individual ravioli with a little fluted wheel. And then she did the whole thing again (she was cooking for 8 I think) and then she made a sauce.

I remember being amazed that something she had spent all afternoon preparing was then gobbled up in ten minutes flat.  I also remember thinking that nothing I had ever eaten previously had ever tasted so good (thus setting me up for a lifetime of pasta overconsumption).

There is no way I could ever make my nonna’s ravioli, I just don’t have the skill and dexterity she had to roll out a sheet of pasta that thinly, but, via my mother, I have inherited her recipe for lasagne.

Making lasagne the Northern Italian way is a long and painstaking process and it is only cooked on very special occasions. I try and think of it as performance art or something and set aside two cooking sessions to prepare it – one for making the sauces and one for the assembly.

The main difference between this and lasagne I’ve had in the US is in the saucing.  Instead of ricotta, Northern Italians will generally make a bechamel (besciamella) sauce and instead of tomato sauce will use a thick meat ragu.  Here is my grandmother’s recipe. Quantities are unfortunately all rather approximate.

RAGU BOLOGNESE

Finely chop a medium onion, a small carrot, a couple of garlic cloves and some parsley and sweat everything down in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  I like to add a couple of heaped tablespoons of chopped pancetta at this stage but that's purely optional. 

Cook until the pancetta is crispy and the onions etc are soft and then add about 2 heaped teaspoons dried oregano and the minced beef (I use 1 pound for a smaller lasagne and 2 pounds for a big roasting dish size).

Brown the meat. Sadly I have experimented a lot with reduced fat mince and can only conclude that full-fat is much, much nicer and makes a more authentic sauce. If you want to make a lower-fat version bulk up the meat with finely chopped mushrooms which are not authentic but delicious – they do turn the sauce a slightly darker brown though.)

When the meat is brown add a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes (I sometimes push it all religiously through a mouli, but mostly I never bother), a couple of bayleaves, salt and pepper, and a slug of any wine you might have open in the fridge. if you’re using a lot of meat, add more tomatoes and wine. Sometimes I add a little sugar if the tomatoes seem to need it.  Bubble the sauce gently for as long as you possibly can, or at least about an hour and a half, with the lid on the pan but open a crack to let the steam escape. It is cooked when little pools of red fat (!!!) appear on the surface.

SALSA BESCIAMELLA

Make a plain roux-based white sauce with around 2 pints of milk – though obviously you need to adjust this according to the size of your lasagne.  The very best lasagnes all have plenty of creamy sauce though. At the end of cooking time, when the sauce should be the same consistency as thick cream, flavour it with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg. That is all. Resist the temptation to add cheese at this stage.

Please do not look at my horrible backsplash and kitchen paint colour.  It will change one day, probably some time in the next millenium.

Megan Not Martha is having a more traditionally American lasagne moment over on her blog courtesy of her rather fabulous Baker’s Edge Lasagna Pan.

I can be very pedantic about lasagne (pronounced ‘lasagn-EH’).  It’s never called ‘lasagnA’ in Italy.  The name refers to the actual sheets of pasta and feminine nouns are pluralised with an ‘e’ in Italian.

Fancy Hotel of the Week – Mondrian Miami

I’ve never had much of a desire to go to Miami, but all that changed when I saw this hotel.  I totally adore the whimsy and wit of Marcel Wanders and his masterful use of shape and pattern, though the only thing I have that he’s designed are my gorgeous patterned storage boxes from Habitat.

The Mondrian Miami is still very ‘Miami’ with lots of shiny, lots of heavy columns and lots of huge curly chairs, but it does all look rather fun.

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CfdfdaptureDesign details I love include the faces on the walls, the shiny white floors, the layered monochrome patterns, the indoor and outdoor chandeliers,  the strangely curving staircase and the funky modern chairs (not so keen on the faux French antique chairs, but I can see what he’s trying to do).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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20 October 2009

The World of 100

Or if the world were a village of one hundred people.

Graphic designer Toby Ng has produced a set of 20 posters, each conveying a simple statistic about the state of the world.

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Which I’m finding to be very thought-provoking as I sit at my spanking new computer on my overweight, college-educated butt…

See more stats and realise even more how lucky we all are here.

15 October 2009

Psst! Guess Who?

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Yep, it’s our very favourite diabolical domestic goddess Martha Stewart – looking pretty good we have to admit - in her Mad Men era modelling days. From Tory Burch {via the Bubb Report}.

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14 October 2009

Harvest

Or fences that grow apples.

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Look what we’ve been picking recently!  Small, perfectly formed, and just the right size for the Minx’s lunchbox.

090I first got the idea to use espaliered apple trees as fences when we visited the tulip festival back in 2007 and they’d used them to fence in the car park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here are our two just planted espaliers to the left of the picture below back when the garden was new in August 2007.

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That first year they sure did look pretty but the one apple they produced was eaten by our garden squirrel.

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This year, however, look what we got.

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The extremely cool thing about these espaliers – as you can just about see from the picture above -  is that each of the four branches has a different variety of apple on it.  The Gala and Granny Smith apples in the top picture both came off the same tree.

13 October 2009

Cupcake Couture

Our old friends Trophy Cupcakes here in Seattle have been showing off their Halloween cupcake range.

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They are fabulous and I’m particularly liking their couture outfits from Bella Cupcake Couture. Truly fashion at its finest.

Bella Cupcake Couture makes textile inspired cupcake wrappers which are fabulous for weddings, parties and other special occasions. Utterly sublime.

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12 October 2009

World’s Most Beautiful Object?

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So, this black steel fireplace by French company Focus has apparently been voted the World’s Most Beautiful Object by the Pulchra design competition in Italy.

Thoughts? It’s impressive, but definitely not my most beautiful object (still trying to think what would be though).  And this room is utterly spectacular, though that has more to do with room’s bones than the so-so decor.  

What objects would you nominate?

Pearly Kings and Queens

One of the main things that really drew my eye to the Lulu Guinness spread was the magnificent Pearly Queen of Dalston  wallhanging above the banquette. I love everything about it – its wit, the fact that it’s made of buttons, its quintessential Englishness, the colours – and it seemed like just that sort of thing an expat Londoner would hang over her Seattle sofa.

I even vaguely thought about commissioning one, but it soon became clear from sculptor Ann Carrington’s website that it would be way out of my league – it’s apparently a fairly important piece, purchased by the Rothschild collection in honour of the Queen’s 80th birthday, and doesn’t belong to Lulu Guinness at all, it merely served as the inspiration for her limited edition ‘Stamp Jayne’ handbag (shown to the left of the banquette picture and seemingly no longer available through her shop).

Here it is in more detail

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And here are some other works by the artist, both made using thousands of tiny pearl buttons.

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I wonder, though, if American readers are getting the cultural reference?

Pearly Kings and Queens are the heads of certain families in London’s East End, descended I think from Victorian costermongers (street sellers?) who decorate their black clothes with thousands of tiny buttons and do tons of work for charity.

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If you like the look then these cushions here are pretty special.

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07 October 2009

Go Love Your Room? – Lulu Guinness

I’m a little bit on the fence about this one, as it’s a little too romantically girly for my taste, but there’s still a lot to love in Lulu Guinness’ Notting Hill house.

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Love the refreshing colours, but there’s too much spindly furniture – which never looks comfortable and wallow-y

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My least favourite room in the house.  I love her bags, but I’m not a fan of LG’s bedding (it’s from her homewares range) and the mural commissioned from an art student doesn’t redeem things much. And I do wonder who dusts that collection of powder compacts.

First up the bones of the house are superb – the Victorian houses built in Notting Hill are larger and grander than in other parts of London, so the proportions are generally, as in this case, more splendid.

And there’s something about the quality of the light there, I lived in Notting Hill for twelve years and even on gloomy days it always seemed brighter and lighter than the rest of London – something to do with the white coloured houses and the sunset views to the west.  But maybe it was just because I loved living there so much.

But I digress.

I love the eclecticism of the decor, the bold use of colour, the collections of objects which are clearly much loved and personal and the way the whole thing reflects LG’s own quirky feminine but slightly kitsch style. (Is she well known in the US? I haven’t come across her here.  In the UK she is renowned as a handbag designer, but she also designs homewares.)

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I ADORE the pearly queen wallhanging and her tchotchkes (one of my favourite American words) are mostly fab though wonder how practical it is to have everything lined up behind the banquette like that.

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The other interesting aspect is how the house has evolved since it was last photographed in 2001 (seen here on Hidden in France) – LG has kept many of the same pieces but the style is a little more pared down and the colour palette more restrained, with much more use of white.  It’s so refreshing to see a wealthy person who doesn’t throw everything out and start again every few years, but who keeps their house full of familiar, much-loved  treasures.

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Kitchen 2009

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Kitchen 2001

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Just loving all the perspex and the black and white

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I’ve always loved her trademark perfume bottles

What do you think? {All images, by the way, from Living etc}

06 October 2009

Seeing Things – the Surreal Line

What I like about art is that sometimes it teaches you to look at things with a different perspective.

In my life I must have spent thousands upon thousands  of hours commuting backwards and forwards on the Tube in London, but never once did I think to look for these surreal juxtapositions of Tube trains/passengers and the huge ad posters which are posted on the other side of tunnels from the platforms.

Genius stuff. By Yusuf Ozkizil.

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And now these pictures have got me all nostalgic for the Tube.  Who knew that I would think of those days of being crammed in like sardines with one’s nose stuck in someone’s smelly armpit with such fondness?

Conversations with the Minx

 

As we are driving past Seattle’s baseball and football stadiums

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Minx: That’s Safeco Field!

Me: Who plays there?

Minx: The baseball.

Me:  And who plays at Qwest Field?

Minx: The Sounders! (We recently went to a game.) We had to sing ‘go home Chelsea’! (Chorus of ‘go home Chelsea’ from the back seat). But there were no girls (the Minx is a keen soccer player).

Me: Who else plays at Qwest Field? (Silence) The Seahawks play at Qwest Field. We haven’t been to see them but they play American football.

Minx: Do they have girls?

Me: No, girls don’t usually play American football.

Minx: Is there nowhere in Seattle that I can go to watch GIRLS?

How do I explain that one?

Packing Tape Art

Feeling inspired to create but can’t afford the materials?

Yes, paints and stuff are expensive, so go and rescue that sad and lonely reel of packing tape you’ve got stuffed in a drawer, pick off the bits of fluff and get to work.

Here’s the sort of thing you could be making.

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The above are made from layers of tape stuck to plexiglass with light shining through. 

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All images by Mark Khaisman. 

I came across this fabulous art via Flavorpill’s Daily Dose, where my post on Charlotte Mann’s wall art was also featured {via a mention on Fashioncopious.com).  As a result my blog stats have gone through the roof and it’s been fascinating to watch my post go slightly viral, with people blogging about it, linking to it on Facebook, Tweeting it and posting it on other social networking sites.

Such things don’t normally happen round these parts, though I suspect it has slightly more to do with Charlotte Mann’s fabulous art than my sparkling prose.  Anyway, thanks all for the mentions and I do hope Charlotte is getting some nice juicy commissions as result.

05 October 2009

Go Fug Your Room – Kelly Wearstler AGAIN


Really my dears, she makes it all too easy.

I know we’ve been through all this before, but Ms W has a new book to promote, so therefore pics of the interior of yet another Hollywood home are doing the rounds (does she actually live in any of these houses?) and it’s the FUGLIEST yet!  Quelle joie!

Ths sad thing is that from the exterior this is a beautiful LA house with a stunning pool, but now you couldn’t pay me to live amongst all this cold, hard, ersatz splendour. Money truly is wasted on some people.

Can anyone explain what I’m missing about this woman?  I would genuinely love to know – at the moment it just looks to me like the Empress has new clothes.

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No, she didn’t let her boys scribble on the walls, apparently this is custom-made graffiti-inspired wallpaper. Which is not to say that the boys wouldn’t have done a better job.

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Like living in the British Museum, and about as comfortable.

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Doesn’t it strike you as a little inconvenient to have to move half a hundredweight of assorted replica statuary every time you want to lay the table?

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This is apparently Kelly’s study – such a practical place for a working designer n’est-ce pas? And those chairs would seriously freak me out.

Two further questions strike me. 

- With the zebra skins and the faux decapitated heads, is Kelly channelling Eddie or could Eddie be channelling Kelly? (Though why either of them would wish to is beyond me.)

- And how on earth does a colour scheme of dark blue and dirty brass with some pink scribbles qualify one to write a book about colour (the subject of Kelly’s next magnum opus)?

Oh and for those of you in the UK and elsewhere, Kelly Wearstler is one of the most famous interior decorators in the US.  I kid you not.

Viktor & Rolf – Spring 2010

This post is for all Project Runway contestants (and judges) past and present, who have struggled with the concept of ‘avant garde’.  Viktor & Rolf took saws to densely packed layers of tulle to create walking sculpture and the result is both strangely gorgeous and absolutely riveting.

Wouldn’t you just love to see some super brave starlet walking down the red carpet in one of these? (And she could always sweep the carpet at the same time.)

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{via Project Rungay – run there to see more pictures, the runway videos are worth watching}

02 October 2009

Go Fug Your Magazine - Lonny Mag

As you know I was never a big fan of Domino -  I’m becoming more American every day, but nothing has come remotely close to replacing the British shelter magazines such as Living etc and Elle Deco in my heart – but I was looking forward to the launch of Lonny, the online magazine brainchild of former Domino Market Editor Michelle Adams and photographer Patrick Cline.

Issue 1 was launched today and I’m afraid you’ll just have to colour me rather disappointed.

First the good news.

- The online reader tool is fantastic – clear, fast and making it very easy to flip between the pages (though it seems strangely old-fashioned to just duplicate a print magazine online – if you can add hyperlinks, for example on the shopping pages, why not just do it?)

- The photographs are aces.

- The styling, though completely not to my taste, is generally excellent.

- There’s lots to read, with plenty of home tours and not too many ads.

The bad news, unfortunately, is that the whole magazine is a celebration of the fussy, over-ornate, grandma’s old knickers style that dominates American interiors magazines and which I’m sure led partially to Domino’s demise.

The front cover is spectacularly meh. I know it doesn’t have to stand out on a newstand, but really couldn’t they do better than this?  If the cover of a magazine is supposed to tell you what a magazine is all about then this says is ‘fussy’ and ‘mumsy’ (do Americans understand what this means? Should I be writing ‘momsy’ instead?), which is not a decorating style I aspire to.

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Inside the layout is full of the multiple fancy fonts, strange dotty lines and fussy boxes which we’ve discussed before about American magazines, though it is less busy and better organized that some.

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The shopping pages feature some quite spectacularly ugly stuff.

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The fashion pages are EXECRABLE. I have no words.

And there of course are loads of rooms cluttered with overdecorated repro furniture and table lamps in every direction (what is it with Americans and table lamps?)

Regardez

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Table lamps outside? Seriously you guys are OBSESSED.

The one more modern home featured is about as imaginative as a Crate & Barrel catalogue

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Even the home of Grace Bonney from Design*Sponge, whose taste I normally quite like, is made to look dull.

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Finally our old friend Eddie Ross is back with his special brand of granny style, featuring even more zebra than he had in his New York apartment and a ton of fuss and clutter on every surface (a shame as the bare bones of his country house look absolutely amazing).

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The very best news though is that we now have a great new source of ‘Go Fug Your Room’ fodder.  I thereforewish Lonny Magazine many, MANY years of success.

And now, having offended most of the American online decorating establishment, I will go and do some real work.

01 October 2009

Get Wood

For the longest time I avoided wooden accessories in the home – they always seemed a bit too rustic and  ‘knit your own yogurt’ and you know that I’m really not that sort of a girl.

But recently wood seems to have become a little more sleek, sophisticated and playful, while still retaining that delightful tactile smoothness and warmth.

Check out this gorgeous coffee table from Habitat in the UK

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These cute owls (here we go again) from UK designer Matt PughPIC5a

This beautiful walnut cheese board/server from SavedFromAFire  (made from offcuts of wood saved from furniture making, which would otherwise be thrown away or burnt).

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These stacking rings from Little Sapling Toys who make the most fantastic wooden kids accessories

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These wooden iPhone cases from Vers (though I’m not sure how practical pulling your phone in and out would be).

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and finally, the wooden accessory that revived wood for me, my Jean Pelle candleholder

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