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8 posts from May 2010

14 May 2010

Hiatus

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I’m going to stop blogging for two weeks.

As you can probably tell from the lacklustre recent posts, I’ve been finding it difficult to motivate myself recently and there’s so much other stuff I’ve got to sort out.

So I’m taking a week or two to organise all my clothes, my desk, my photos and the shop, do some exercise, get the garden ready for summer and refresh, rethink and refocus this blog a little.

I will be back. Have fun and don’t miss me too much.

Cakespy HQ

 

For a spy Cakespy really isn’t very discreet. Jessie Oleson was the toast of Seattle society last week as she opened her new gallery and shop featuring some fabulous indie art together with her own original ‘Cuppie’ artwork and a variety of other cute dessert-related products.

 

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We went along to the opening party last Saturday and the place was heaving with partygoers, spilling out onto the pavement outside in the evening sunshine.

There were custom cupcakes from Trophy  featuring edible artwork by Jessie, her husband Danny’s band Exohxo played a fabulous set and we got to see Jessie’s new mural in person.  The Husband and I hung out with Megan Not Martha and Carrie Cupcake in the upper gallery, while the Minx, wearing her best cupcake-themed sandals for the occasion, mingled with the partygoers below and got very indignant when we went down the stairs to join her, telling us in no uncertain terms,  ‘Go away, I’m talking the grownups.’

If you didn’t get to the party, I highly recommend that you check out Jessie’s shop which is a very sweet addition to Capitol Hill. All details and Jessie’s online store are here at www.cakespyshop.com.

 

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10 May 2010

An Extremely Cool Mother’s Day Idea

 

Yesterday morning I was woken at 6.20 AM by a very excited little girl, eager to present me with her Mother’s Day gift.

Because I’m an extremely bad mother, I must confess I was not exactly thrilled to see her at that time of the morning.  However when I saw what she’d made, it was so spectacular even I couldn’t find it in my heart to be grumpy.

 

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Funnily enough the Minx had no idea that I had recommended Edible Arrangements in my Mother’s Day Gift Guide on Shelterrific. Instead she had referred to instructions given in a recent issue of Sparkle World magazine.

The Husband reports that it’s a really great project to do with a young child – he got to cut the watermelon ‘vase’ and wield the melon baller, while the Minx was in charge of design, cutting out daisy and star shapes and threading fruit on to skewers.

And it was a superbly pleasurable way to have a light and totally guilt-free fruity breakfast before going out for Mother’s Day brunch.

Someone was rightly extremely proud of her little self. And I am very, VERY proud of her.

Hope all you other mommas had a great day too.

 

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We went out for the brunch buffet at Urbane, the restaurant in the newly-opened Olive8 building. Loved the restaurant, loved the decor (would have taken pictures had the battery in my camera not died at the wrong moment), and the brunch was excellent.  Highly recommended to all Seattleites, especially the Nutella brioche which was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten in my life.

06 May 2010

Vote Early, Vote Often

 

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Portrait Badge of Emmeline Pankhurst c. 1909 From the Museum of London.

 

Feeling bad today as for the first time in my adult life I’m not going to be voting in a UK Election - for some unfathomable reason we just forgot to register. I hope that Mrs Pankhurst, wherever she is, can find it in her heart to forgive me.

It’s made even worse because today is the first election I can remember where it really isn’t clear what the outcome is going to be, and so it is all rather exciting, though in a somewhat depressing way, as none of the candidates are particularly inspiring. Where is a Barack Obama when you need him?

Still we have the Prosecco on ice in the hopes that by tomorrow the rather unpleasant Gordon Brown will no longer be Prime Minister. (Champagne doesn’t seem appropriate given the parlous state of the British economy whoever gets in).

I’m going to be watching the all-night coverage via The Telly, worth hooking up to for any other British expats out there.

05 May 2010

Last Night’s Supper - Irish Soda Bread

 

 

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Tremendously appropriate for Cinco de Mayo don’t you think?

Oh well, the vagaries of my appetite don’t follow the calendar. I ended up making soda bread last night as curried butternut squash soup was on the menu and we didn’t have any good bread in the house. I’d also fortunately just bought a giant bag of wholewheat flour by mistake.

I’d never made soda bread before so I looked up a number of different recipes online and came up with this hybrid version.

Ingredients

4 cups wholewheat flour

1 cup bread flour (we only had white bread flour in the house)

1/3 cup rolled oats

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup normal milk (I added this because I didn’t have enough buttermilk, I’m sure all buttermilk would work)

1 tablespoon runny honey

 

Neither the honey nor the oats are particularly usual additions. I did find one or the other in some recipes though and included them to save the bread from that saliva-sucking dryness you get from some soda breads.  They worked a treat and gave the bread a delicious hint of nutty sweetness. 

The above ingredients make 4 small loaves. We shared one loaf between two of us with our soup.

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C.  Lightly butter two baking sheets.

In a large bowl stir together all the ingredients, until a soft, slightly sticky dough is formed (according to many recipes I read, stickiness now avoids dryness later).  Form the dough into four balls with a light hand – no kneading and certainly no bread machines required. Mark each loaf with a X and place on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 30 minutes until the crust is golden and the bread sounds hollow when you knock it on its bottom.  The beauty of this bread is that from looking in the bread bin to discover there’s no bread in the house to eating a delicious loaf takes about 50 minutes tops.

Serve warm with lashings of unsalted butter.

Regret unsalted butter, but then think ‘what the heck’, and reach for more. It also makes SUPERB toast the following day. (Ours kept well in a ziploc bag overnight).

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

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If you’re still looking for Mother’s Day gifts, rush over to Shelterrific where I’ve put together a gift guide. Don’t forget to rush back though.

Jonathan Adler at Le Parker Meridien – Palm Springs

 

The last day of our trip to Palm Springs was also the only day we had grotty weather. It was sunny enough for swimming in the hotel pool until lunchtime, but then we checked out and went for lunch at the Parker, with interior design by Jonathan Adler.

From the moment we walked through the enormous orange front doors it was obvious we were in the presence of decorating GENIUS.

 

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Even the Minx thought so.

 

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To be fair Adler is definitely a decorator, not a designer and he does make it easy for himself. The building is not especially exciting and he hasn’t done anything particularly original with the space. Pretty much everything is painted white with dark wood floors, and the whole would be incredibly boring if it were empty.

But he has created the perfect backdrop for his superb vignettes of furniture and quirky accessories all topped off with his incredible sense of colour.

 

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Everywhere you turned there were little Adler-esque touches.

 

The Parker

 

The restaurant – Norma’s – was quite blandly decorated but the food was good and it’s obviously worth it to come here and have a bit of nose around the hotel.

 

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The outside spaces looked like they might be interesting, but by this time the weather was really closing in and it was time to get the hell out of Palm Springs.

 

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Just a quick word here in praise of Virgin America. We flew down the West Coast with them and it was such a pleasure to travel with an airline that was on time, had superbly pleasant customer service, fabulous seatback entertainment for everyone, and, to the Minx’s utter delight PINK and PURPLE interior lighting. Truly the key to a little girl’s heart.

 

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In other tales from our trip to Palm Springs, check out

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club here.

The Colony Palms Hotel here.

Out and About in Palm Springs here

The Aerial Tramway here.

Joshua Tree National Park here

 

01 May 2010

Palm Springs Afternoon Out – Joshua Tree National Park

 

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We were told by many people that we couldn’t go to Palm Springs and not go to Joshua Tree, so on the Saturday, after checking out of the Ace, and before checking into the Colony Palms, we drove out of Palm Spings, turned right at the wind farm (who would have guessed that so many wind farm fans read this blog?) and continued on the road through the desert and a slice of small-town America.

I only wish I’d been quick enough to photograph the teabaggers with the sign for ‘Less Gov, More God’. My first ever teabaggers! We don’t have teabaggers in Seattle.

It takes about an hour and a half to get to Joshua Tree and we were surprised to find that it was in fact cooler than Palm Springs, being higher up and much more windy. I’m not sure if this is always the case, but it might be worth bearing in mind if you’re sweltering down in the valley.

The park is named after the small stunted tree which dots the landscape as far as the eye can see. Vistas like this are so awesome and alien and strange to British eyes and so different from the cosy, cuddliness of Seattle. This is the America that I don’t even begin to understand, but which, I suspect, is an essential component of the American character.

 

 

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According to the small book of walks we bought at the Visitor Center, we could quite easily have spent several days exploring the park. However, on the recommendation of a family at the hotel we decided to walk through Hidden Valley. This was a well-signposted, 1 mile loop through a rock-enclosed valley which was once apparently and excitingly the lair of cattle-rustlers. 

This was the perfect length of hike for the Minx and I can’t recommend it highly enough for small kids. Lots of tiny lizards and cute chipmunks to observe and loads of ROCKS. TO. CLIMB. 

 

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I liked it too, as the incredible rock formation brought out my inner Ansel Adams

 

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 {To me, and to most other Brits I suspect, the Joshua Tree means U2. Here is my own small tribute to those irritating Irish rocksters. Why an album full of Irish angst is named after this park, goodness only knows, but that didn’t stop me having ‘With or Without You’ going round in my head for most of the day}.

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And here’s another fix for all you wind farm junkies.

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In other tales from our trip to Palm Springs, check out

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club here.

The Colony Palms Hotel here.

Out and About in Palm Springs here

The Aerial Tramway here.

Next week we will be concluding this series with lunch at the Parker, designed by Jonathan Adler.