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25 posts from March 2010

31 March 2010

Quick Easter Links

 

Rushing around like a mad thing this week, so blogging may be a little light.

Here are some greatest Easter hits to tide you over today though.

 

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Remember when we made hot cross buns? Still better than any I’ve managed to find in the US, though Alki Bakery does the best ones I’ve come across in Seattle.

 

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And here is the Easter tree explained with instructions on how to make the felted pompoms here

 

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And here’s the Easter bunny egg cosy I knitted for the Minx last year, using the free pattern here.

 

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This year I was going to make a traditional English Simnel Cake, but then I was lucky enough to win a pack of Bella Cupcake Couture’s new Easter cupcake wrappers, so plans have changed to make not so traditional Easter cupcakes.

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More on these anon. Oh and if you’d like to buy them in the UK (though sadly not the Easter ones this year), we’ve got Bella cupcake wrappers for sale in the shop.  (And look whose photo she is using on her promotional postcards!)

One of the great Easter mysteries of our time is why on earth giant chocolate eggs seem to be a purely UK phenomenon.  The British do take their chocolate eggs very seriously. After searching in vain for them over the last couple of years, I decided to take matters into my own hands and place an order with the British Food Shop online. After all we can’t have the Minx growing up not knowing about proper British chocolate can we? The British Food Shop ships Cadbury’s chocolate direct from the UK and its Easter eggs are currently on sale (though it’s doubtful you’ll get them in time for Easter).

Finally for someone who does Easter far better than I ever could, rush over to Not Martha to see her amazing take on making homemade Kinder eggs (though so much more beautiful than Kinder eggs could ever be). 

As an aside, did you know that, unlike guns, Kinder eggs are technically banned in the US? Any that you see on sale here are actually contraband. Really. I mean REALLY?

30 March 2010

Weekend Photos

This weekend I made a cheesecake for the school’s Gala auction

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admired the sun shining through my new (vintage) Pyrex {from ZellesAttic}

 

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over-exposed a tulip

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admired foliage in the Japanese Garden 

 

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had coffee and cake at the Essential 

 

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and put up the Easter tree

 

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I have spared you images from our trip to Ikea.

27 March 2010

Some Photography Links

 

Loving the ShakeItPhoto Iphone app, which turns all your Iphone pics into Polaroids. It seems to make even the most boring pictures seem interesting. Here are some recent shots, around my house and from a walk round Seattle’s Gasworks Park.  I really need to sit down and play with it properly to get some cool effects.

 

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Speaking of which, I think I’ve finally plucked up the courage to spring for a real Polaroid camera. The good news is that the Impossible Project is now making genuine Polaroid film, after it was discontinued last year. At $21 for 8 photos though it does seem scarily spendy.

If you’re a Photoshop user, this is pretty amazing. The below gives a sneak peek of a feature that is apparently on the way. Soon we won’t need cameras at all. {via the Daily Dish}

 

 

And finally female Etsy photographers have got together to produce a book on Blurb featuring some of their wares.  More details and images on sfgirlbybay. You can buy it here, I wish Blurb books weren’t so expensive as it does seem hugely inspiring.

 

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{Images from She’s a Rainbow by kristybee, traci french and cassia beck}

26 March 2010

Foodportunity

 

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Beautiful ravioli from the Herb Farm  

 

Oh but I’ve been a busy bunny recently.

On Tuesday night I was lucky enough to go to Foodportunity  - a networking event for Seattle foodies organised by Keren of FranticFoodie, where chefs, restaurateurs, press, bloggers, bakers and kitchen shops all get together to sample fabulous food from some of the top restaurants in Seattle.

This was the first time I’ve been and I so enjoyed myself. I got to meet fellow Seattle foodies and bloggers such as Seattle Bon Vivant and Carrie of Girl & Coconut (without her coconut on this occasion) whom I’ve been following for years, mirrormirror supplier Bella Cupcake Couture (with whom I’d only exchanged emails before) and loads of new and interesting people such as Lacey  from A Greener Kitchen, a new ecofriendly online kitchen store.

The food was really excellent – with my prize for foodie bite of the night going to Alaska Silk Pie’s tiny Creme Brulee Cheesecakes – and best of all, thanks to good offices and generosity of Carrie Coconut, I won dinner for two at the Herb Farm, which is renowned as one of the very best restaurants in the whole of the Pacific Northwest.  REALLY excited about that one.

I found out about Foodportunity on Twitter and the Herb Farm competition above was a Twitter competition on the night (which Carrie alerted me to). I’m really finding Twitter a great networking place to be, can’t think why I didn’t get on there earlier. My Twitter handle is @mirrormirrorxx. I’d love to see you there!

22 March 2010

The Story of the Cake – Part 3

 

And here’s the little hussy with her clothes on!

 

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Here’s a quick overview of what we did. You can get a much better idea of the structure from this pic. I don’t think Cinderella found this to be an entirely dignified experience.

 

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Note the careful styling with the empty pizza boxes

1) Buy a nice clean Barbie-type doll, styled how you’d like.  The stripper gloves, choker, hair and earrings on this doll did make a huge difference to the effectiveness of the cake, so it’s good to start with a new accessorized doll, which then makes a great additional present for the birthday girl.

2) You can buy kits to do this but I used took a large stainless steel pudding basin

and a springform cake tin of the same diameter. The bottom layer above is a 9” cake pan, the middle two layers are the pudding basin.

3) Make up 3 x your favourite cake mix.  I again used the recipe for ‘Mom’s Chocolate Cake’ from the Macrina Bakery Cookbook. I can’t find it anywhere online, so I’ll try and write it down in a future blogpost. Suffice it to say that I’ve used it for birthday cakes for the last four years, it’s IMMENSELY forgiving to being moulded into all sorts of different shaped pans, is moist and flavourful and much loved by adults and children alike (to the extent that year on year people tell me they hope I’m making the same cake). Divide your mixture up so that one third is in the pan for the bottom layer and two thirds is in the pudding basin. The only tricky bit is gauging the cooking time for the pudding basin cake. I monitored mine closely and stuck a stick of spaghetti into it every 15 minutes after the initial cooking period was up. It took about an hour and half to cook in the end.

4) Slice the domed tops off the two cakes so that they’re flat, cut the pudding basin cake in half and layer the three cakes with buttercream. Wrap Barbie’s nether regions with clingfilm and plunge her into the cake. Our Barbie was tall and so had to go in at a bit of an angle. We also had to take the trimmings from the cakes and build up an embryonic fourth layer on the top so that the cake went up to her waist and not just her crotch.

5) Decorate with vanilla buttercream. This dress designing bit was fun! I’ve seen cakes online which use fondant icing for this part and they look incredible as you can arrange the ‘dress’ into pleats and folds. Unfortunately I don’t like the taste of fondant icing so much, so buttercream it was, there’s only so much compromising a glutton such as myself will do.

I also should have tested out my blue food colourings beforehand. They were entirely the wrong blue for Cinderella but because it’s a primary colour I couldn’t change it by mixing in other colours as I usually do. 

 

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6)  Go OTT with frills and furbelows. I  realised that the colourful flowers I’d made previously would be very un-Cinderella like, so at the last minute I coloured some of the white melty stuff blue and made little forget-me-nots to decorate her underskirts. The coloured flowers I made went round the base.  She would also have been wearing a lot of pearls if I hadn’t run out of white dragees.

(Disney’s Cinderella is sadly quite tastefully attired, so I had to keep my wildest flights of fancy in check).

 

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20 March 2010

The Story of the Cake – Part 2

 

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Hey K, your wish is my command!

The party is this afternoon, and the cake is not much more advanced than this. So guess what I’ll be doing this fine spring morning.

19 March 2010

Blossom Watch – Day 3

It’s been the most GLORIOUS Spring day here in Seattle and although at first glance it doesn’t look like much has changed.

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If you look closely you’ll everything is now tinged with white

 

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And in some corners of the tree things are getting VERY exciting indeed.

 

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In more breathtakingly thrilling news from my garden, the first tulips are out.

IN. THE. MIDDLE. OF. MARCH.  Crazy.

 

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18 March 2010

Cinderella – The Story of the Cake Part 1

 

Well, we weren’t able to put it off any longer. The poor Minx has her birthday at the beginning of January, and we are always so overcome with Christmas fatigue that we can never be bothered to organise a party for her. 

Until now that is. The guilt (coupled with ongoing emotional blackmail from the Minx – where does she learn this stuff?) was becoming too much to bear, so we’ve buckled to pressure and scheduled a bouncy party extravaganza for 20-odd five year olds (so help me) this coming Saturday afternoon.

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Last year we managed to get away with a Nemo theme, but this year we are having to go full out Disney Princess and I have promised to try making one of those ‘dolls with cakes for skirts’ in the shape of Cinderella.  Feeling rather nervous about it I must say.

Last night I completed stage 1, which was to make decorations from Wilton’s Candy Melts after last year’s success with the seashells for the Nemo cake.  I bought some plastic flower moulds and was pretty happy with how they turned out (these Candy Melts are VERY easy to use).

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that there are no blue flowers here, despite the fact that Cinderella always dresses in blue and white. This is because bad mummy didn’t get blue melts last year and was too disorganised to get blue ones this year. I have told the Minx that Cinderella will appreciate more colourful attire. Quite frankly I could also do without the Pepto-Bismol/calamine lotion pink as well, but I don’t think the Minx would accept the absence of pink so readily.

To refresh your memories, here are the cakes I’ve made for the Minx so far (and yes, the expression ‘making a rod for your own back’ does come to mind). Tonight will feature burying a naked Barbie up to waist. Wish me luck.

 

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Speaking of the Cherry Tree

I’ve been thinking for some time of putting a tree house in the cherry tree for the Minx. Does anyone know of any companies in the US putting together fab modern treehouse kits?

While I was having a desultory wander round the Internet in search of kids’ treehouses (instead of working I might add), I came across this fabulous restaurant in a treehouse from New Zealand.  The award winning Yellow Treehouse, was designed by architects Pacific Environments, and makes me want to go to New Zealand as fast as my little legs will carry me. Can someone in Seattle please do something this cool? After all there are plenty of trees here.

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I had this post all ready to go and then found that my blogging heroes, the always hilarious Tom and Lorenzo beat me to it. Looks like Project Runway is going to be good tonight!

17 March 2010

Glorious, Eyeball-Searing, Colour

 

Tara at Sticky Fingers has had the great idea of setting up an online photo gallery each week. She gives the theme and then everyone links to a photo blogpost on the theme.

 

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This week’s theme was ‘colour’.  I didn’t have the time (or the weather conditions) to do it justice this week, but as you can imagine from me, I do have a Flickr set entitled ‘Colour’ for use in emergencies.

Here is a collage of the most colourful pictures I could find in my archives. More where they came from on my Flickr here.  And do check out the whole Sticky Fingers parade, for some great bloggers and photography.

Blossom Watch – Day 1

 

The immense cherry tree in our tiny backyard is one of the very last cherry trees to flower in Seattle and is currently absolutely PREGNANT with blossom buds (about three weeks earlier than normal), so I thought it might be fun to follow its progress in the days ahead.

 

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I know I owe you guys lots and lots of updates – painting the living room, my weight loss (ha ha!), and the office tidy up. They’re on the way, but I need to take pictures and its very grey here as you can see.

Fabulous Wallpaper

 

If I were the sort of person who had a cosy kitchen breakfast nook, which sadly I am not, I would be shopping for wallpaper at Studio Nommo.  Yep, really cool wallpaper from Turkey, available online {via India Knight’s blog}.

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15 March 2010

Alice Waters’ Chicken Noodle Soup with Italian Additions

 

What with crumbles and pot roasts I appear to be on a bit of a traditional cooking kick a the moment. Part of it is because there’s a reason the old classics are classic – we’re talking seriously good food here - but it’s also because I’m increasingly realising what a pleasure it is to share great classic food with the Minx who is experiencing it for the first time. It makes me seriously happy to see her hoovering up things like homemade apple crumble with gusto.

Another of the Minx’s favourites is Chicken Noodle Soup. This has only entered my repertoire fairly recently, but we’ve been making it A LOT as it’s a very easy way to give a kid (and adults) a complete and tasty meal in a bowl, with plenty of leftovers for lunch and supper.

 

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I use as my starting point Alice Waters’ recipe from The Art of Simple Food (one of the best cookbooks I’ve come across in America) which essentially makes the soup in two stages.

Firstly create an intensely-flavoured chicken broth by taking bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (or sometimes I use thighs) and simmering them for 45 mins in store-bought chicken broth (or stock-cube stock), with roughly sliced onions, roughly chopped carrots and a little roughly chopped parsnip. Alice Waters adds celery, I of course do not because cooked celery is the work of the devil. Instead, because I am Italian, I add some roughly chopped cloves of garlic and one or two squooshy old tomatoes from the depths of the fridge. 

If you want some more precise quantities then an adaptation of Waters’ recipe is here.  Though I seriously would encourage you to buy the book or just improvise using these instructions. I tend to guesstimate based on what I have to hand and how much I want to make.  All I would say is be measured in your use of parsnip.  Its subtle sweetness is a wonderful addition to the soup, but a little goes a long way.

When the broth has simmered for about 45 minutes, hoik out the meat and skim and strain the broth, discarding the vegetables. Remove the skin and bone from the meat and shred it into small pieces. Put it in a small bowl, cover with a couple of spoonfuls of broth and then cover the bowl. This way the meat remains moist, and yes, it does seem to make a difference.

 

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About twenty minutes before you want to serve your soup, whizz up some more onion, carrot and parsnip in the food processor until finely chopped.  I do it in the processor, instead of dicing the vegetables by hand, because a) it’s easier  and b) it’s incredible how much vegetable matter the Minx will inhale if it’s chopped so finely she can’t see it. Again Alice Waters adds celery, I don’t but add garlic and go easy on the parsnip.

Simmer the broth with the fresh vegetables for about ten minutes and then add fettuccine or soup noodles and cook them until soft (Alice Waters cooks her noodles separately and then adds them at the end. I have no idea why you would want to do this). When the noodles are ready, stir in the reserved chicken and get ready for some serious comfort food.

Alice Waters suggest sprinkling with chopped dill to finish. I prefer some chopped Italian parsley,  some grated Parmesan cheese, and little freshly ground nutmeg, which seems to meld with the parsnip flavour to add an intriguing extra dimension to the dish.

How do you make chicken soup? I think it’s one of those dishes where there’s an infinite number of variations and you’ve probably all been making it longer than I have.

Go Love Your Room – New York Townhouse

 

The clocks going forward always leaves me feeling totally jetlagged – don’t these people realise how fragile my post-insomniac sleep patterns are? So let’s ease into the week gently with a great house from April’s Livingetc.

These crazy people apparently have seven kids. but they also have a design and property business and an amazing modern townhouse in New York.

I love how they’ve taken an ultra-modern, quite boxy building and filled it with a mixture of modern and vintage furniture and lots of colour against a monochrome backdrop.  Nothing new here, but it’s well done. I’m also spotting lots of familiar trends. Are you?

 

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Numbers in decor are clearly a very big thing right now. I do think they make things look edgier somehow.

Loving the floors, the rug by Paul Smith for the Rug Company and the artwork here.  Love the effect of the striped cushions juxtaposed with the ultra-feminine rug. The huge window apparently rolls onto the ceiling like a garage door, which must be so fabulously cool. I would be moving it up and down all day.

NOT much liking the colour scheme or the enormous Kelly green box the layout designers stuck on this. Much as I adore Livingetc as a magazine I do think their layout people could take lessons from Elle Decoration.

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Love, love, LOVING, the Murano glass chandelier in the ultra-modern kitchen. I’m not normally a fan of kitsch chandeliers like this but in this context it is utterly PERFECT.

 

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And haven’t we seen a Pearly Queen button picture in Livingetc before? I still want one rather desperately though.  I also have to wonder about all these British artefacts in a New York townhouse in a photospread aimed at the UK market.  Call me cynical, but is it possible that the rugs and artwork were all brought in by stylists? Surely not.

 

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I adore this girl’s bedroom. How many years will I have to wait for the Minx to get over her horrendous Disney Princesses and Tinkerbell phase and be ready to appreciate something like this?  I cringe every time I walk into her room.

 

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  Loving the his and hers desks here.

 

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Can only assume that these guys have another large New York townhouse somewhere in which to house all the clutter that must surely come with seven (SEVEN!!!!) children.

 

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Another Rug Company rug, this time by Diane von Furstenberg, and NO CLUTTER. Not even drawers by the bed.  Where on earth do they keep the KY Jelly?

Whilst peering at the above picture to look for KY Jelly, I noticed that the ‘7’ on the table by the bed is now backwards, which presumably means the photo has been flipped. It’s making my head hurt anyway.

12 March 2010

Un Moment ‘Noir’

This tribute to film noir is pretty darn cool and set to one of my favourite tracks of all time, Angel by Massive Attack (who can forget the bit in the West Wing  when Zoe gets kidnapped?)

{From J-Walk via the Daily Dish}

11 March 2010

Today I Am Mostly…

 

…admiring my new shoes.

 

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Very happy with my new pink Birkies.  I have recently been shopping until I drop at RueLaLa, a invitation-only website featuring 2-day designer boutiques at private sale prices.

I haven’t been given anything to shill for these guys (unfortunately as they’re backrupting me) but they do have some great names on here – homewares and menswear as well as womenswear and accessories -  and the prices are amazing (I picked up a DwellStudio duvet set yesterday for $90).  The good news is that I’m inviting you lovely blog friends. 

Just click HERE, sign up and start shopping. The bad news is that you too will soon be bankrupt. The other bad news is that this appears to be US only for the time being.

10 March 2010

Mad Men Barbies AND Furniture

Be still my beating heart. (And poor exhausted credit card).

It’s been announced that Mattel will be bringing out a range of four ‘Mad Men’ Barbie and Ken dolls to promote the show’s return in July.  Full details here and here. You just know these’ll be all over every blog by lunchtime.

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If you do buy some, why not get them some furniture they’d really enjoy as well? Designer Maryann Roy builds one of a kind interior room sets for her collection of vintage Barbie dolls, which she also restores. Full details from her website here. All roomset images also from her website.

 

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UPDATE:  They’ve just gone up for pre-order HERE.  I’ve just ordered a Joan to be mirrormirror’s new office manager.  Now I need to get her a suitable retro chair so she can sit on my desk.

08 March 2010

Some Random Oscar Thoughts

 

Since I spent five hours sitting on my couch yesterday until my backside was literally numb, I might as well get a blog post out of it, so here are some random Oscar thoughts.

Best bits of the night were Kathryn Bigelow’s win for Best Director  - yet another big crack in the glass ceiling – and Meryl Streep proudly announcing that she was wearing Chris March. Yes, cuddly Chris March, my all-time favourite Project Runway alum. 

 

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She looked radiant and much better than she often does on the red carpet – the dress looked comfortable, age appropriate (take note James Cameron’s wife) and she looked like she was having a blast wearing it. And unlike many fair people she can really carry off white – it makes her flawless skin look like alabaster.

I thought it might be by him as it was reminiscent of the dress he designed for her for the Golden Globes, so I hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration for both of them.

Last night the over-40s really schooled the ingenue crowd in how to take the red carpet by storm.

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Sparkly, glowy Helen Mirren once again made me proud to be British and was once again one of the best dressed of the night.   Demi Moore proved that Rachel Zoe really does know what she’s talking about, though I think that dress would have been nicer in a colour that didn’t so exactly match her own skintone.

Unfortunately SJP, having heard my comment last year that she was too old to dress like an ingenue, went completely the other way and decided to channel Nancy Reagan circa 1976 wth Barbra Streisand hair. 

I was conflicted about the dress as I wanted so much to like it – it was unusual and different and pretty from the back – but in the end it was just too shapeless for her and it wasn’t really helped by the bits of tin foil stuck randomly all over it, nor by the enormous char sui bun made from mismatched hair pieces that she stuck on her head.

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J Lo’s dress has been getting a lot of inexplicable praise this morning.  Personally I thought it looked as if it had been put together in a Project Runway-esque challenge out of miles and miles of bubble wrap and staples, in order to hide the unfortunate stunted conjoined twin she has joined to her hip (I kept expecting to see a little face peeking out from under that side bustle). And isn’t it the convention that you go a little more understated if you’re only presenting?

She is, however, the only woman on the planet who can almost pull something like this off.  And she has the sparkliest eyes I’ve ever seen, as if they’ve been embedded with diamonds or something. If anyone knows the makeup trick she uses to achieve that then I’m all ears.

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Sandra Bullock (who gave a charming and touching speech and who this weekend also went in person to pick up her Razzie for worst actress – giving her thousands of kudos points in my eyes) decided to come dressed as an Oscar and looked better on the red carpet than she usually does.

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Her hair is spectacularly glossy and shiny too, but if you’ve got big ears then the last thing you want to do is tuck your hair behind them and really show them off (take note also Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres on American Idol, who have turned that show into a mesmerising big ear fest).  So I shall cross my fingers and pretend that Sandra pulled her hair into a simple updo and wiped that eyeball-searing gunk off her lips at the same time.

Speaking of unfortunate hair, I did tweet last night that it was a shame Mo’Nique was wearing a cauliflower on her head.

MoNique-2010-Oscars(1)I take that all back this morning as I learn that her electric blue dress and GARDENIA in her hair was her personal tribute to Hattie McDaniel, who also wore blue and gardenias as the first ever African-American winner of an Oscar back in 1939.  (She was apparently forced to sit alone at a table next to the kitchen during that Oscar awards ceremony. SO glad things have moved on a bit since then.)

Frankly I do think Hattie McDaniel (see her acceptance speech here) wore it better and Mo’Nique would have looked a lot less severe with looser hair.

 

   

 

 

 

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Speaking of larger black ladies in blue. I adored Gabby Sidibe’s infectious exuberance and excitement at being a part of the whole shebang, but her dress was utterly ruined by sticking that cheap-looking applique right over her stomach. Proving once again that designers don’t have a clue how to dress anyone over a size 0. Her upper arms could have done with a tad more draping as well.

Oprah gave us all a lesson in how to be a ‘larger black lady in blue’ but I can’t find a decent picture of her anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As for real howlers, disappointingly there were no really bad dresses aside from Charlize.

Miley Cyrus – would someone get her off my screen PLEASE? – had me screaming at my television all night in an effort to get her to stop slouching. I think she was afraid that her boobs would just pop out if she pulled her shoulders back.  And visible tan lines is not a particularly classy look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vera Farmiga’s dress looked it was single-handedly doing one of those fan dances that strippers do and I kept on expecting a nude woman to jump out from behind it. The colour was absolutely glorious though.

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Diane Kruger looked like she’d been through a shredder and was on the verge of being throttled by a boa constrictor. A traumatic evening.

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Zoe Saldana looked like she was emerging from one of those retro three-dimensional fold out Christmas decoration thingies. I liked the top of the dress but all the can-can flounces were far too much.  This dress was one of the Minx’s favourites, and if you’re one of the Minx’s favourites then you know you’re indeed on shakey ground tastewise.

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And finally dear old Kate Winslet. Why do you always have to dress like a dowager duchess?  I know you’re on a quest to be Britain’s next national treasure, but you’re still young.  Would it really kill you to have a little fun with your clothes? Another dress that looks like armour, another bad case of helmet hair. And this time it looked like you’ve been visiting Madonna’s colourist, and we all know that’s not a good thing.

 

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One final note for the Oscar producers. The show itself was as lame as centipede that’s had all its legs cut off. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were utterly AWFUL. And I speak as someone who’s just started watching 30 Rock on DVD and has turned into a raving Alec Baldwin fan.

However, a star double-act was born before our very eyes. Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. were hilarious while dishing out the award for Best Original Screenplay and should have been hired on the spot to present next year. I’d pay to watch that one.

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Oh and one very last aside. Whatever happened to these two? Grizzly Adams and his partially melted blow-up doll.

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A Right Charlize

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Off to bed.  Where I shall be wondering why Charlize Theron thought it would be a good idea to wear giant unfurled violet condoms on her bosoms.

Maybe more Oscar thoughts tomorrow if the world and his wife hasn’t already said all there is to say (the perils of being based on the West Coast).  I’m @mirrormirrorxx on Twitter if you want to check out my prime time tweeting.

05 March 2010

Blackberry & Apple Crumble

 

Aka the lazy girl’s pie.

I’m always a little surprised that America, with its obsession with apples and fruit pies of all kinds, seems to be unaware of the humble and quintessentially British fruit crumble. After all it hits exactly the same comfort eating spots that pie does, but is much, MUCH quicker and easier to make.

 

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The Minx and I were casting about for something to bake yesterday evening when I remembered that I already had a bag of stewed apple and blackberry in the freezer, left over from a crumble session last autumn.

Crumble can be made with any sorts of stewed fruits though, either mixed with apples or on their own – plum, rhubarb, apricots, pears and raspberries – are all traditional British faves.

Essentially you need to chop the fruit up into small pieces, add a couple of spoonfuls of water, enough to stop the fruit sticking, and mix with couple of spoonfuls of sugar to taste, how much will depend on the tartness/sweetness/quantity of your fruit.  Then cook very gently until the fruit is very soft. Again then cooking time will depend on what fruits you’re using. I like to make a big batch and shove a couple of bags into the freezer.

If I’m just using apples, I like to add a little cinnamon and some raisins; chopped nuts of all types – walnuts, pecans, almonds are also delicious. I’ve also eaten the most incredible crumble which added small cubes of vanilla fudge to stewed apples.

 

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As the Minx and I already had our stewed fruit to hand, all we needed to do was make the crumble topping. I’ve found that about 2 cups of flour to 3/4 cup chilled butter to 2/3 cup sugar works well.

When I say flour though, you can go a bit mad at this stage and experiment with other dried goods. Last night’s crumble was made with 1 cup of flour and half a cup each of ground almonds and rolled porridge oats. Other ground nuts would be good, wholewheat flour is a nice addition and I’ve even thrown it spoonfuls of muesli on occasion. Granola, chopped nuts, crushed cookies and other flours and grains would be interesting to try.  Likewise you can also experiment with different types of sugar – last night’s crumble was made with soft brown sugar instead of white.

When you’ve customised your crumble topping ingredients, chop the chilled butter into the flour  with a pair of kitchen scissors and start rubbing it in as if you were making pastry.  Stop when it reaches the consistency of large breadcrumbs and stir in the sugar. If you’ve experimented with oats or nuts you may need to add some flour to get it to the right consistency. Don’t worry though, quantities are extremely approximate and the important thing is to get the right breadcrumb consistency. Kids love making this by the way – they can literally be very hands on but it’s over before they can get bored.

And that’s all there is to it. Put your stewed fruit in an ovenproof dish, top with the crumble topping, press it down gently with a fork and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F/180 C.  When it comes out of the oven it won’t look much different, just a little more golden round the edges, but it will be firm and almost crunchy to the bite.

Serve warm or cold with ice cream, cream or, if you want to be really English, CUSTARD. Here are a few crumble ideas including a recipe for homemade custard (most English people would just use Bird’s custard powder or buy it ready made).

 

UPDATE:  It appears that there exists in America something called an Apple Crisp, and looking at recipes, it does seem very similar to apple crumble (though the fruit is cooked at the same time as the topping? – Must try this, seems like even less work.) I thought it seemed strange that there was no equivalent. Having said which I haven’t come across it in Seattle, and we gave some crumble to our babysitter last night and she’d never had anything like it.

04 March 2010

Go Love Your Room – Raina Kattelson

One of the very best things about the Blogging Your Way course has been the opportunity to ‘meet’ a bunch of really fab bloggers.

One such is Raina Kattelson, a fashion and interiors stylist from the Hudson Valley in New York state.

Her blog is full of interesting find and thoughts, but I was most blown away when I saw pics of her house. Which I completely adore.  It’s already been featured on Design*Sponge and Poppytalk, but I wanted to share it here as well.

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Loving the green on the walls – works because everything else is simple and monochrome.

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Well, except for the stunning collection of vintage ceramics. Absolutely loving how she’s styled these shelves. 

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Love the little touches such as the place settings drawn on the table.

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Another great collection of vintage knitting needles – MUST get myself on Ebay - and great desk inspiration for the Office Project.

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Next job for us is getting the radiators stripped, though these are much lovelier than ours.

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Favourite bit of the whole house = the stencil on the floor. 

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Her daughter’s bedroom.  First ever use of chalkboard paint I actually like.

 

Isn’t it fantastic? Go and say hello to Raina over here. I’m feeling most inspired to finish painting the living room now.

{all pics courtesy of Raina Kattelson}

03 March 2010

Today I Am Mostly…

…eating breakfast

 

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2% Fage Greek yogurt, strawberries, bananas, almonds for crunch and protein, drizzle of raw Washington honey = breakfast of the gods.

Experimenting  with that ‘slightly over-exposed’ feel that other photographers get.

OK Go –This Too Shall Pass

So, this is even more awesome than their treadmill dance (which is saying a lot).

02 March 2010

Jennifer Squires Photography

Just a quickie this morning as I have decided to make progress on, can you believe it, tidying. my. office. (Did you hear that Lou?) There will be an update post tomorrow.

In the meantime you slackers, my lovelies, I would really appreciate any blog improvement suggestions below. I’m trying to make a list at the moment and anything you could add would be enormously helpful. 

And I will now leave you with the gorgeous photography of Jennifer Squires.  Jennifer is another photographer who achieves that peaceful, tranquil atmosphere with her photography which I aspire to emulate but never seem to be able to achieve.  Maybe you need to have a peaceful tranquil mind to get these effects? 

 

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Photography is so fascinating, as so much of the photographer’s personality always shines through in the photos. I swear a hundred photographers could take the same camera to the same place in the same light and you’d still get hundred different images. Anyway, you can read a great interview with Jennifer on Art Wall (a fabulous blog about, you’ve guessed it, art walls).

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{All photos by Jennifer Squires Photography}

01 March 2010

Get Your Bitchpants On!

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So, this Blogging Your Way course I’m doing with Holly Decor8 (highly recommended BTW) wraps up this week and we’ve been divided into teams to critique each others’ blogs. 

I have been getting A TON of hugely useful feedback, which has got me thinking about a full redesign in the next month or two. And then it struck me that you, my lovelies, are also the perfect source of intelligent, thoughtful, insightful blog critiquing.

So could you please put your bitchpants on and let rip?  If you were me, what would you change about the blog?  How can I improve the layout? The content? Are there things you find distracting? Are there features you particularly love or hate? Why do you come here in the first place? What would you like to see more of? How can I make you love the blog more?

Please don’t pull any punches. I’m a big girl and can handle it. And if I’m doing a redesign, I want to make it as effective as possible.  I promise not to hate you (much, haha!) though feel free to go anonymous on this if you prefer.