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15 posts from July 2010

29 July 2010

Come Into My Garden - July

 

I haven’t done a ‘Come Into My Garden’ post for so long but since I spent all weekend macheteing my way through the jungle that had grown up while we were away I thought I might as well get a blog post out of it. 

 

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The oak-leaf hydrangeas, nandinas, lilies and lavender have all gone a little crazy as you can see, but there’s still plenty of pretty to be had. I think I’ve got some lemonade in the fridge.

 

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                               Rose ‘Christopher Marlow’                                                             Some lily or other

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                                                                   Rose ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ in the shade

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                         Echinacea Big Sky ‘Sundown’ and some straggly thing I bought at the garden centre last year.

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                                                                                   Geum ‘Fire Lake’

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                                                 Echinacea Big Sky ‘Summer Sky’ and ‘Sundown’

 

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                        Mixed echinaceas                                                     The most ginormous lily in the world (around 7 feet)

 

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                                                                                   A glorious tangle

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                                    The world’s most ginormous lily with nandinas and oak-leaf hydrangeas

 

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                                                       Oak-leaf hydrangea with and without lavender

It’s REALLY tricky to photograph the garden in summer I’ve decided. Either the sun is casting dark shadows over everything, making it look even messier than it is. Or else the it’s grey and overcast and looks like November. Seattle doesn’t do soft diffused sunlight at all.

26 July 2010

Go Fug Your Room – Sebastian Conran

 

Or, when designers don’t decorate.

I opened my new copy of Livingetc with some excitement as the front cover promised me an ‘at home with Sebastian Conran’.  I knew he had one of those huge Victorian wedding cake houses in Notting Hill and this would surely provide some great material for a ‘Go Love Your Room’ post.

For those of you in the US who may be unaware of them, the Conrans are pretty much design royalty in the UK.  Designer Sir Terence Conran founded the Habitat chain and the Conran Shop, has published a series of seminal works on interior design and owns a string of beautifully-designed, fabulous food-serving restaurants in London. He almost single-handedly dragged Britain out of the chintzy Fifties into the fab Sixties interiors-wise and has been a giant on the UK design scene ever since.

His children from various marriages are also successful designers and foodies in their own right – fashion designer Jasper, Notting Hill restaurateur Tom, interior designer and foodie Sophie and product designer Sebastian.

Sebastian is well-known as a product designer, probably most famously as the design brains behind Nigella Lawson’s Living Kitchen range, though as you can see from his website he has a number of great products to his credit.

 

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And there’s no denying that he’s got some great STUFF.  Wink chairs, Le Corbusier lounger, antique rugs, Arco lamp, interesting art, iconic Sex Pistols  and the Clash poster artwork (designed by Conran as a student).

 

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AND there’s no denying that he has, as you’d expect, paid a lot of attention to detail. The units, for example,  are painted in a colour Sebastian created from a gouache of stainless steel, “I wanted a shade that had the same tonal value as the metal to give cohesion to the mix of materials”.  A lot of remodelling has been done – hallways widened, door frames raised, huge French doors installed at the back and the sightlines adjusted to make sure the vistas through the house were perfectly aligned.

 

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And yet, and yet, I can’t help feeling that this looks a bit like a student bedsit, with white walls, mismatched chairs, posters on the walls and rumpled rugs (albeit a student with access to a phenomenal amount of money).

Everything seems somewhat haphazard and studiously UNdecorated – no interesting curtains or cushions (except in the bedroom and you can bet they belong to the stylist), no unifying colour scheme or much colour of any description, no flashes of wit, no striking arrangements, no interesting light fixtures. It’s the home of someone who celebrates form and function over everything and as such seems both curiously sterile, strangely uncohesive and not particularly comfortable.

What do you guys think?

 

 
 
{All images and Sebastian Conran quotes from Livingetc August 2010}

23 July 2010

Things I Am Loving - Janne Peters Photography

 

Anyone who combines food, photography and yarn has to be all right in my book.

 

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Do check out the rest of her portfolio, it’s stunning.

22 July 2010

Adventures in Knitting – Clown Barf & Colourwork

 

I realise it’s AGES since I updated you on any knitting, though I have been plugging away quietly in the background.  I’ve finished a couple of other things but they need to be photographed and I’ve got a few more projects that should be coming off the needles in the next few weeks.

In the meantime though, this was an incredibly fun and satisfying knit, though I’m somewhat embarrassed by the outcome – tasteful it most certainly is not, though the Minx utterly adores it.

 

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The pattern is Bobinsky (Ravelry link) which essentially knits up in three parts. The yoke and sleeves are knitted in the round in a variegated sock yarn (the Minx chose the ‘clown barf’ colourway, ShibuiKnits in Zinnia). Then the body is knitted in stranded colourwork using the variegated yarn and a contrasting plain colour (the variegation of the yarn makes this look much more complex than it really is) and finally a plain stocking stitch frill is added to the bottom in the contrast yarn (ShibuiKnits Blossom).

I hugely enjoyed knitting this – it was the first time I’ve done colourwork and was pleased that I mastered knitting holding the colours in each hand and knitting both English and Continental style (thanks to this video). It ended up being quite easy and it’s definitely inspired me to do more colourwork in future.

 

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My only caveat if you want to make this, is to make sure that the contrast yarn contrasts strongly with ALL the colours in the variegated yarn. In this case the pale pink doesn’t contrast very well at all with the pale yellow of the variegated leading to some slightly strange effects in the body. But it works well enough and my ‘client’ has been wearing it non-stop.

 

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21 July 2010

Things I Am Loving - Moomin Wallpaper

 

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The Minx and I spent a lot of time on our recent holiday reading Finn Family Moomintroll (which was aces, just as cool and fabulous as I remembered it) and I’m wishing I had the courage to decorate my kitchen with these gorgeous wallpapers from Photowall (though it looks like you’ll need to grapple with Swedish to buy them).

 

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As an aside, can anyone recommend good chapter books for a five year old ? We’re currently hugely enjoying Junie B Jones, who regularly makes us cry laughing, but I’m finding it difficult to find books suitable for a fluent reader, but age-appropriate in content (and no, not the vile Rainbow Magic fairies, which the Minx utterly adores, and which I couldn’t loathe more if I tried).

20 July 2010

Recipe of the Week – Swiss Chard Quiche

 

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I’ve recently signed up to get a weekly box of fruit and vegetables delivered – in part so we can get out of the rut of buying the same old, same old veggies week in and week out.

This week we were delivered a splendid bunch of Swiss chard, which I must confess I’ve never really eaten, let alone cooked. After leafing through my copy of From Asparagus to Zucchini (a great cookbook I bought at a local farm that lists vegetables alphabetically and then gives you recipes to use them , so a perfect match for a veggie box) I decided to adapt a recipe to make a very simple Swiss chard quiche.

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Ingredients

1 uncooked pie crust/tart shell (I used wholewheat and you could of course make your own)

1/2 a large onion, finely chopped (mine was red)

3 cloves garlic, crushed (I like garlic, less would be fine)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large and splendid bunch of Swiss chard, washed and chopped (I removed the thick central ribs)

3 large eggs

A heap of grated hard cheese (I used about 4 oz of grated Gruyere, which ended up being about a cup full. But the amount of cheese really depends on how cheesy/fattening you want it to be.)

A very generous slug of single cream/half and half

Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

 

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C

Gently saute’ the onion and garlic in the olive olive until all is soft and going golden round the edges.  Then add the chopped chard and continued cooking until it is soft and thoroughly wilted (you could stop at this stage and you’d have a lovely side vegetable).

In a bowl whisk up the eggs, add the grated cheese and and enough cream so that the mixture will fill your pie crust.  Season to taste with the salt, pepper and a little nutmeg.

Bake in the oven for about 30 mins, until puffy, firm and golden.

Et voila’ one slightly strange vegetable successfully negotiated!  (I know, I know, you’re going to tell me you eat Swiss chard ALL the time).

Things I Am Loving - Crochet Car Cosy

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{Image by Flickr user StartTheDay}

Isn’t this just the business? 

It was apparently created by Magda Sayeg for the Il Lusso Essenziale art festival in Rome and I’m very tempted to start making one for my Beetle, except a) I don’t think it’s terribly suitable for the Seattle winter (or indeed the Seattle summer, of which we would rather not speak, thank you very much) and b) I have no idea how you open the doors.

19 July 2010

Fancy Hotel of the Week – Hotel du Clos

 

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On this particular trip we didn’t set out to stay in fancy boutique-y hotels  - our criteria were mostly cost, space for us and the Minx and proximity to beautiful locations, but we really lucked out with the first hotel we stayed in, booked at the very last minute through Splendia, a website specialising in characterful hotels.

The Hotel du Clos is in the little postcard-perfect village of Le Rouret, about 15 minutes from Grasse and 25 minutes from Nice and the bustle of the Riviera, and so a perfect place to relax after our long transatlantic flight to Nice (via Amsterdam).

 

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The hotel – and this is the reason I loved it so – combines the very best in traditional French charm and style with the odd touch of whimsy here and there, which made everything seem lighthearted, modern and fun and added oodles of character. Though frankly the buildings were so beautiful that additional character seemed almost unnecessary.

The rooms are each individually decorated, the staff were absolutely delightful and extremely welcoming to the Minx, and the same people who own the hotel also own a fabulous Michelin-starred restaurant, five minutes away in the village. So, I really can’t recommend this one highly enough.

 

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The bedroom featured the most beautiful fireplace and was  decorated in those overlapping shades of dove grey that the French do so well.

 

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  I loved the wall sticker of ‘books’ stacked up on the bedside table

 

 

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the Roman faces fabric on the cushions and curtains

 

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and the Perspex angel light fitting above our bed (with another angel peeking out in the bathroom).

 

 

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The traditional Provencal garden – fragrant with roses, jasmine and lavender -  was a big hit with a certain someone, who particularly loved the fabulously UNtraditional sculpture lurking among the olive trees.

 

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We ate epic breakfasts every morning on the beautiful terrace

 

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- the fromage blanc with rose syrup was a particularly big hit.

 

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In the mornings when I woke early through jetlag, I would knit on our balcony shaded by an ancient olive tree and listen to the sound of church bells and the kids singing in the school next door. 

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After breakfast we would head to the small but delightful stone pool, made particularly elegant by the use of very dark green tiles, which made it fit much more naturally into the garden landscape.

 

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And we all appreciated little touches such as the antique jelly moulds used as keyrings (and were sad not to get one of the three bears)

 

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and the papier mache cow in the reception area. 

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More photos from the Hotel du Clos, Le Rouret and Grasse, on my Flickr here.

I’m back. Sort of normal service will be resumed, though it’s school vacation and a busy time for ‘mirrormirror’ so other things also need to take priority. I’ve been missing you though.

Postcard from France – Patisserie

 

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Aix en Provence

16 July 2010

Postcard from France - Shutters

 

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Also Cassis. Love these colours. 

15 July 2010

Postcard from France - Cassis

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Day trip to Cassis.

14 July 2010

Postcard from France - Vineyard

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We stayed in a little gite here.

 

We’re back, but I have three weeks of unpacking and laundry to do, over 1000 photos to process, an empty shop and a garden full of parched plants and bindweed to grapple with, so I’ll be back blogging properly again on Monday.  In the meantime I’ll post up some more ‘Postcards’ of the remainder of our trip.

07 July 2010

Postcard from France - Lavender

 

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Near Aix.

06 July 2010

Postcard from France - Graffito

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On the way to Aix.

03 July 2010

Postcard from France – Menton Mon Amour

 

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Au revoir. Definitely.

Will try and catch up with posting when we get to Paris and a better internet connection.