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13 posts from June 2010

27 June 2010

Postcard from France - Balcony

 

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Menton, my new spiritual home.

26 June 2010

Postcard from France - Bouquet

 

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Courgette flowers. Market. Menton.

24 June 2010

Postcard from France – Soleil

 

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Sitting at the next table eating salted butter caramel icecream. Grasse.

23 June 2010

Postcard from France – One of Greatest Breakfasts Ever

 

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Postcard from France – Room with a View

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Hotel du Clos, Le Rouret, near Grasse

18 June 2010

Recipe of the Week – Rhubarb and Amaretti Crumble

 

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Oh, I know we’ve done crumble almost to death recently, but a couple of weeks ago I had some late rhubarb (one of the few redeeming features of the cold, wet Seattle spring we’ve been having) and made that most quintessentially English delight – a rhubarb crumble.

 

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And, not a just any old crumble either, but a slightly adjusted Rhubarb & Amaretti Crumble, courtesy of dear old Delia Smith, the doyenne of English cooking.  Which ended up being just about the most fabulous crumble I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Ingredients

Approx 10 sticks of rhubarb

4 tbsps water

6 tbsps caster/baker’s sugar (or to taste).

 

Crumble Topping

40g chilled butter

75g self raising flour (or plain/all purpose flour with 1/2 tsp baking powder)

50g demerara sugar

50g whole almonds

4 Virginia Amaretti biscuits.

Unfortunately I forgot to measure out everything in cup measures, but if you use the proportions of dried ingredients  to butter to sugar that I give here then you should be OK.

 

Method

Unlike Delia I stewed the cleaned and chopped rhubarb beforehand in the sugar and water for about ten minutes until soft, just because that’s how I’ve also always done it. I also didn’t add ginger  because I wanted the full flavour of the Amaretti to come through (also, truth be told, because I’m not very fond of it).  But feel free to add a teaspoon of ginger or cardamom at this stage and follow Delia’s method for cooking the fruit in the recipe link above.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C /350 degrees F /Gas Mark 4

 

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Then put all the crumble topping ingredients into the food processor and whizz until crumbled.

 

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Pat the crumble ingredients down over the stewed fruit and bake in the oven for around 35 mins until slightly golden round the edges and dig in.  Normally I like crumble served slightly warm, but this was fabulous spooned up straight out of the fridge.

 

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That’s it for the moment folks. On Sunday evening we’re off on our three-week European grand tour - a week on the French Riviera, a few days in Provence, a couple of days in Paris and a week in London, meeting friends, godparents and family along the way. There won’t be any proper bloggery while I’m away, but I’ll try and post up some ‘Postcards from Europe’ so you can vicariously join us on our travels.  Don’t miss me too much.

16 June 2010

Go Fug Your Room - Carrie and Big’s Apartment

 

Well, we all know the movie’s crap – two of the best reviews here and here –  but what did we think of the set design?  Most specifically what about Carrie and Big’s new grown-up married folks apartment?

Carrie confesses in the film that over the past year or two she’s been ‘cheating on fashion for furniture’ and she’s been working with same designer, Lydia Marks, who also revamped her apartment in the first movie.

So let’s take a tour.

One of my main bugbears with this new apartment is the colour scheme, which is basically blue and brown. I know Carrie is trying to create an environment that Big will also feel at home in, but it just makes everything seem rather dark and depressing and yet again very not Carrie. I know she’s grown up now, but where’s the fun, the liveliness, the inventiveness, the eccentricity and the bohemia?

 

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The entrance way sets the tone for the whole, some great pieces – love the wallpaper and green glass bottle -  but just a little too fussy and cluttered and somehow old fashioned. Would Carrie really have a glass case of dead butterflies on display?

Entering the living room, I like this view of it. The Rug Company rug is beautiful, as is the coffee table, though, as in her old apartment, the sofa and chairs still seem rather more for 'perching’ than truly relaxing, though much is made in the movie of Big turning into a couch potato.  I think I like the gold painting though I can’t help thinking that Big and Carrie would have a more striking piece of modern art. 

 

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Sex and the City 2

 

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Paul Smith got an excellent bit of product placement in here with his ‘Birdie Blossom’ cushion, which Carrie is seen cuddling like a new lover.  It’s lovely, though I’m not sure the pattern really works here, but it does seem more authentically ‘Carrie’ than much of the rest of the stuff.  It’s also great to see all the books everywhere. One of the things we all complained about last time was the lack of books in bookworm Carrie’s apartment.

 

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From here though things go downhill faster than an Olympic skiier. This view of the sitting room is a cluttered and fussy as a pair of Queen Victoria’s bloomers.  There are just too many little pieces of furniture, too many patterns and too many little splashes of colour against horribly dark and serious walls.

 

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This little seating area seems especially ridiculous. Are Carrie and Big really going to sit here as if they were in doctor’s waiting room taking afternoon tea? Isn’t this the perfect spot for a huge comfortable reading chair facing out towards the view?

 

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I like the lighter fresher feel in the formal dining area. The Lee Jofa fabric works well and the light fitting is wonderful, though shelves could do with a bit of editing. It goes through to what I think must be the kitchen, though it seems rather impractical to cook in, and I would never, ever, EVER put a rug, however pretty, in space for cooking.  But maybe that’s just me.

 

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Looking to the left from the entrance hall we catch a glimpse of the bedroom, with another fabulous light fitting in the small library and beautiful Cole & Son wallpaper on the bedroom walls, which echoes the paper in the hall.

 

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Carrie makes a huge amount of fuss in this movie about Big’s purchase of a big TV for their bedroom, thus confirming a) that we were right that the big TV in Carrie’s old apartment was incongruous and out of character and b) the TV product placement people have a lot of money.

 

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The bedroom feels a bit ‘hotelly’, but I do like the way they’ve echoed the pattern on the wallpaper with the headboard.  And below we’ve got another lovely rug/useless seating area/boring artwork situation happening.

 

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The piece de resistance is naturally the closet, with ridiculously twee ‘his and hers’ sides.  I know people have been charmed by this conceit, but to me it looks as ludicrous as having two different his and hers sinks, one ‘feminine’ and one ‘masculine’ side by side in a bathroom. 

 

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Not bad shoe storage though. 

 

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(By the way Habitually Chic has put together a great post on where to source many of these pieces, including identifying the books that Carrie and Big are currently reading.)

 

So what do you think?  Additional comments hugely encouraged.

 

15 June 2010

All About Me – New Dwell Bedding

 

So the plan was that on Mondays I was going to keep you updated on something that’s been happening chez moi but our routine is all discombobulated at the moment due to the beginning of the interminable school summer vacation, so this week you’ll have to make do with Tuesday instead. Do feel free to change channels at this point.

As you already know I’ve recently become addicted to shopping sale site RueLaLa, a lot because they not only feature great sale boutiques by a host of designer clothing names, but also they have fabulous homewares brands as well.

One of my recent triumphs was a set of Dwell Studio bedlinen (two pillow cases plus a duvet cover) for the incredibly bargainaceous price of $99 (down from approx $300).

 

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I’m loving how well it goes with the Emma Gardner rug too, but I’m basically horrified by these photos. When we first moved into this house I swore that one of the first things I’d address was the horrendous sauna-like cladding of unfinished floorboards in the bed alcove, but here we are three years later and I’m LIVING WITH THEM.  The light fitting’s pretty sucky too.

Which just goes to show that when you move house you should get all those horrible jobs done quickly otherwise you’ll stop noticing the flaws until the time comes to post up photos of your bedlinen on the internet.

Not quite sure what to do with them to be honest.  The boards themselves are rough and unfinished but I’m dreading what removing them would reveal.  I think a coat of light grey/blue gloss paint is required pronto quick.

 

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Our crazy-ass 90s bed isn’t a good fit for this alcove either, but I’ve had it for about fifteen years now and sort of can’t bear to get rid of it.

What deeply embarrassing ugly features have you been living with for so long in your house that you’ve stopped noticing them?  Anyone brave enough to send/post up a photo?

Oh and if anyone still needs an invitation to RueLaLa, just click here and you too can go nearly bankrupt.

10 June 2010

This Week’s Recipe - Madeleines au Chocolat

 

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A week or two ago I was lucky enough to be invited with a host of other Seattle foodbloggers to meet Mireille Guiliano, the extremely petite and chic (that’s her on the right below) author of ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’  who was promoting her new cookbook ‘The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook’, who has been one of my foodie heroines for the longest time.

Her books are full of good sense about eating only delicious food, eating slowly and deliberately, eating exactly what you want to eat but only in small portions, eating a good breakfast and balancing each meal between carbs, proteins and fats. She exercises by walking and doing yoga, and she looks… incredible.

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For Mireille cooking can’t be separated from the joy of eating and her cookbook is a delight, full of charming anecdotes about the role food plays in Mireille’s life, making it definitely a cookbook for the bedside table.

It’s also full of recipes which aren’t really diet food, but which are rich and flavoursome and for which a little goes a long way. Her recipe for Chocolate Madeleines is a case in point. Six tablespoons of butter sounds like a lot, but not so much when spread between twenty madeleines, and just one of these is light and fluffy and decadent enough to satisfy any chocolate craving.

 

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Ingredients

3 1/2 oz  (100g) of dark chocolate

6 tbsps unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup plus 3 tbsps all-purpose/plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

(I also added 1/2 tsp salt, because I like what salt does to sweet things, and 1 tsp of vanilla essence).

Method

Combine the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water and melt, stirring until smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and leave to cool.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and reserve.

Whisk the eggs until frothy, gradually add the sugar and continue whisking until the mixture is pale yellow and has thickened.

Gently fold in the cooled chocolate-butter mixture until well combined. Then gently fold in the flour until just combine. Then cover the mixture and chill it in the fridge for 3 hours.

Thoroughly butter your madeleine tin, which is an excellent job for small fingers, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

 

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Spoon the chilled batter into the madeleine pans until they’re three-quarters full.

The mixture will be quite thick and cold at this point, so don’t make the mistake I did with my first batch of these and not spread them right into the crevasses of the madeleine shapes. I’d expected the mixture to spread while cooking, but it didn’t enough and my first batch were very misshapen.

 

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Bake for 11-13 minutes until puffy. Do not overbake.  Cool on a rack and serve either slightly warm or at room temperature. Eat and marvel at how much slimmer you’re feeling ALREADY.

 

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Things have been all over the place this week because of my computer problems, but I’m intending to make Wednesday ‘ Recipe of the Week’  day – where I play at being a food stylist  - going forward. Thanks to Keren at Frantic Foodie for organising the coffee morning and do check out Mireille’s excellent website which is full of ways to keep slim the French way. Oh and you can buy the Atelier LZC tea towel I used above from mirrormirror.

09 June 2010

Go Fug Your Room - Meg Ryan’s Beach House

 

I opened the most recent copy of Elle Decor with some trepidation.

The front cover promised views of Meg Ryan’s Martha’s Vineyard beach house, and given what she’s managed to do to her face, I was worried what would happen if she managed to get her hands on an actual house.

 

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No, not a young Joan Rivers

I was fretting needlessly though, as the house itself is very, very white,  very, very bland, the very epitome of quiet good taste, utterly devoid of personality and not at all what I was expecting.  Maybe that goofy, quirky schtick that Meg does in her movies really is acting after all?

I can see how for some people this might be a haven of peace and tranquility and the house certainly has excellent bones; but to me all the white seems absurdly unimaginative and would make me feel PROFOUNDLY uncomfortable.

 

 

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Can you imagine trying to eat pasta with sauce in this dining room?  I would have a nervous breakdown. Though I must admit to liking the table and the overall architecture of the room. And aren’t ghostly chair covers very passe’ anyway?

 

And you can just imagine the stylist on this shoot screaming at her assistant, ‘Flowers! Leaves! Fruit! Throws! Bombay Sapphire! Just rush to the shops and get me some COLOUR, dammit!’ And you just know the stylist also brought in that metal ‘FLOWERS’ thingy, though I do like that very much.

 

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I love the textures of these shelves and the fabulous wooden bench in the kitchen. Of course I would be terrified to actually cook in there.

 

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So, am I being unnecessarily harsh?  I don’t hate it but it’s quite a long way from what I’d do if I had eleventy million dollars to spend on a beach house. The view’s very lovely though and has awakened a hitherto unsuspected yearning to go to Martha’s Vineyard.

 

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So, your turn. Additional comments always welcome too.

 

Ha! So that bit of dynamic bloggery didn’t last long. My computer has been taken away to computer hospital to cure its severe case of  ‘fighter jet fan’  so I’m currently working off the home server which the Husband has set up for me. I didn’t even know you could do such a thing. But it’s not a terribly efficient set up, so posting may be a little light over the next few days.

In future every Tuesday will be ‘Go Fug Your Room’ day IF I can find enough subjects. If you see articles which might be good candidates for GFYR then do let me know. They need to feature decor which is at least somewhat controversial, and of course being snarky about celebrities or celebrity designers is always much more amusing than making fun of people we’ve never heard of.

08 June 2010

Low Light Food Photography with Lara Ferroni

 

A couple of weeks ago I did another photography workshop with Lara Ferroni, this time talking about food photography in low lighting conditions.

I take all my photographs in natural light, as I don’t even possess a flashgun for my camera, but after getting the opportunity to play with Lara’s flash rig and huge studio lights I was busily working out how I could afford to buy all sorts of gear to counteract the Seattle gloom. (The answer, in case you’re wondering, is that I can’t. Not for the moment anyway.)

But it was all super interesting and gave us another opportunity to style and photograph the dishes that Lara had prepared, including the most delicious radish risotto, the recipe for which will be coming up in the next week or two.

 

Here are some of my favourite shots from the session.

 

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Not surprisingly we spend a lot of time discussing light and shadows in Lara’s workshops. These tomato and lemon photos used the same continuous studio lights, but for the ones on the right I used a ‘bounce’ of white polystyrene to soften the shadows.  I actually like these pictures equally but it’s interesting to see how something so simple can totally change the ‘mood’.

 

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Yep, I know it’s completely out of focus, but for some reason I really like this shot.

 

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This radish risotto was SO good.

 

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There are more photos here on my Flickr. As part of my increased commitment to photography I’m going to try and post more stuff up there. Do feel free to make me a ‘contact’ on there – I’d love to see your photos.

I also can’t recommend Lara’s workshops highly enough if you have any interest in still-life photography (not just food). I can’t wait to apply some of my new techniques to mirrormirror product shots.

I’m also going to take the time to practise food styling at home. Henceforth on the blog there will be a weekly recipe, which I’ll take the time to style and shoot as best I can. Coming up on Wednesday, chocolate madeleines!

07 June 2010

Thoughts

 

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I’m back, sort of.

I wanted to see if I missed blogging, and I did, a lot, so I’m glad to be back in the saddle. The bad news is that my computer sounds like a jet fighter just before take off and this is my last week of freedom before the Minx finishes school for the summer vacation (can you believe it?) AND we’re off to Europe in two weeks, so I probably still won’t be able to blog as frequently as I would like, but let’s see how it goes. 

In addition I have been having THOUGHTS about refocusing the blog a bit.  Which, I hear you say, won’t be difficult, since it currently has no real focus at all.

Firstly I’d like this to be more of a ‘salon’ type blog about the design-world with lots of vigorous discussion in the comments, and a bit of an antidote to the ‘bunnies and unicorns’ type of approach taken by some other blogs. So I’ll be casting around for more ‘Go Fug Your Room’ type stuff and other things for us to discuss.

Secondly, I’m getting more and more into my photography and feel that it’s taking me somewhere. I have no idea exactly where it’s going, but I’ll be using this blog to experiment more and see what happens. 

Thirdly, I’m going to introduce some more regular features so that I have a bit of a framework for my blogging week and you can come here with a bit more of an idea whether to expect tulips or chairs or knitting. I’ll be introducing some of these over the coming week.

Thanks so much for all your lovely messages and comments, I missed you!  Mwah!

In other news Seattle is ‘enjoying’ one its interminable rainy springs. I know I shouldn’t expect the fabulous Seattle summer to start until early July but all this rain in June is somewhat depressing, particularly as it seems you’re even having summer in ENGLAND this year. But the lavender is peeking out, so I’m hoping this portends of better things.

04 June 2010

What Home Means to Me

 

stopping to smell the roses

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Photo from Twins Garden Style Blog 

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 Image from Yarnstorm

 

sticking to my knitting

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Image from Brooklyn Tweed

 

Image from Attic 24

 

baking lots and LOTS of cake

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eating tons of pasta and drinking lots of wine

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 Print from Jenn Ski on Etsy

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Image from Lara Ferroni 

 

ogling my bread bin, still my favourite thing in the house

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being constantly amazed by the bounty of our incredible cherry tree

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Image from Canelle-Vanille

 

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entertaining friends

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Pinned from rathernice.tumblr.com 

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admiring the crazy awesome view that still makes me catch my breath every time I glimpse it

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It’s true, Seattle really is seeming more and more like home.

 

Yes, I’m back! But only briefly. I’d forgotten that I’d signed up to participate in the Pin It Forward blog mashup organised by the amazing sfgirlbybay and showcasing the incredible talents of Pinterest, the fabulous new online pinboard tool, which lets you save inspirational photos from around the web. I am going to be using it A LOT in the future.

Tomorrow don’t forget to go and visit Being Tazim, to find out what home means to her. I, in the meantime will be back on Monday. I have been having THOUGHTS.