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18 posts from November 2010

29 November 2010

Shhhh! Don’t Tell the Minx

 

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I had the devil’s own job with the mouth and had to rip it out twice times before getting it right.  For sock knitting aficionados, it’s knitted as a mitered heel, except that the only mitered heels I’ve ever knitted previously used a completely different method of doing the short rows, so this was uncharted territory for me.

Fortunately someone else has charted the territory, and if you ever do want to knit this (kit available here) I can’t recommend these very detailed instructions highly enough.  Ms Carmen here would be very ugly without them.

 

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25 November 2010

Snow Day

 

Or this is why I haven’t been blogging.

After complete and total snow-fuelled carnage on the icy, steep Seattle streets (this city is as laughably bad at snow as London was)  yesterday dawned crisp, clear and glorious. And yes my neighbours do need to look into insulating their roofs). 

 

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After a two-hour journey back from school the previous day, the Minx was understandably pleased not to be going to school, especially when this is what we ended up doing.

 

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We went sledding, made a very unfeminine snowgal, drank hot chocolate with whipped cream, made chicken noodle soup, watched a Tinkerbell movie and altogether had a wonderful time.

And I’m so glad we did, because today the Minx and the Husband set off for England to spend the long weekend with his mother who is in hospital with kidney failure. They’re away for five days, which is by far the longest time I’ve been away from the Minx since she was born.

I’m sad not to be with them at Thanksgiving – this holiday, which meant beans to me when we first arrived, is one of the most beautiful American traditions, and I’m going to miss celebrating tomorrow, though I’m glad to share the Husband and Minx with my mother-in-law.

Instead I shall be spending Thanksgiving morning on the Clipper heading to Victoria on Vancouver Island, off to spend a weekend of laziness with a girlfriend out on the Gulf Islands.  As a consequence blogging over the next few days will be light to non-existent.

And  the whole thing has made me so grateful that I have my health and my own small family the rest of the year. To all those of you celebrating, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving and good health and happiness in the year ahead.

22 November 2010

SnOMG!

 

This is what’s going down in Seattle this morning.

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In a miraculous first the Minx’s school DIDN’T decide that an inch of snow meant a snow day, so she went off to school well bundled up and practically bursting with excitement.

Because it’s so close to the sea, Seattle doesn’t actually get much snow, but by all accounts we’re in for a hard winter this year.  And snow this early in November is amazing.

Here are a couple of shots I took out in the garden. You expect to see snow on berries and evergreens but on autumn leaves and lavender?

 

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20 November 2010

Things I Am Loving – Jonathan Adler Pop Menagerie Christmas Ornaments

 

It would be so easy to go crazy over Christmas decorations, but every year I try and limit myself to one very special ornament for the tree.

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This year I have fallen in love with Jonathan Adler’s Pop Menagerie Christmas ornaments, even though I must have missed the bit in the Christmas story which mentioned the Christmas lion, the Christmas elephant and the Christmas peacock.

 

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The good news about these ornaments being not remotely Christmassy is that they can sit on my mantelpiece for the whole of the year. The even better news is that they come in the most gorgeous coordinating patterned boxes, which are almost more desirable than the creatures themselves for a packaging sucker like me.

Honestly, they saw me coming a mile off.

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Pop Menagerie Ornaments $28 each from www.jonathanadler.com

19 November 2010

Recipe of the Week – Red Onion Marmalade

 

I’m in a preserving state of mind at the moment and this weekend decided to make a little treat for the Husband.  Since coming to the US we’ve found it quite difficult to get hold of good onion marmalade. We can occasionally buy it in Canada or in the speciality food aisle here in the US, but we’ve yet to find a brand that could replace Tracklements Onion Marmalade in his affections.

 (The following recipe is one I first tried at a friend’s house years ago. I photographed the relevant page from her cookbook but unfortunately the pboto doesn’t tell me which cookbook it came from. I’d love to be able to credit it properly, so please let me know if you recognise it.)

 

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Silky, sticky onion marmalade is one of those very British sweet/sour condiments that the French find quite barbaric, but is quite sensationally good. The sweetness of the caramelised onions is enhanced and deepened by the balsamic vinegar and sugar, while the garlic, thyme and wine add unexpected layers of flavour. 

It’s best served with foods that are rich, creamy and intensely savoury – the subtle crunch of the onions adds a layer of texture, the vinegar cuts through the richness and the sweetness adds its own counterpoint.

Dollop it onto strong creamy Cheddar as part of a ploughman’s lunch, or serve with a smooth chicken liver mousse, other meats or even foie gras.  It is also quite amazing with sausages and mash and fabulous in a hamburger.

The Husband just scoffs his with a spoon, straight from the fridge.

 

Red Onion Marmalade

Ingredients

(Makes enough for 1 small jar. Multiply the quantities depending on how many jars you want to make)

2 large red onions

3 tbsps olive oil

2 cloves garlic

Sea salt

4 tbsps red wine

4 tbsps balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

Few springs of thyme

Black pepper

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Method

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Thinly slice the onions.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based deep-sided frying pan or saucepan. C rush the garlic and saute’ the onions , garlic and a little salt very gently for around 20 minutes until soft and translucent. The recipe suggests covering the onions with a circle of greaseproof paper so that moisture is trapped and they don’t brown – this worked very well for me.

Then add the wine, vinegar and sugar and simmer everything gently for around 15-20 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.  You could also experiment with different vinegars and liquids. Port would be a good substitute for the wine and sherry vinegar would be an interesting replacement for the balsamic. The Husband’s favourite Tracklements brand uses redcurrant juice.

Strip the leaves from thyme and add them to the marmalade, season with pepper and more salt to taste and cook gently for another 5 minutes.

Pack into a sterilised jar and close the lid while it’s still warm. The recipe says this lasts for about a month in the fridge.  I pass this on to you as an interesting theory, no more - the Husband inhales this stuff and in our house it lasts a week or two at the very most.

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16 November 2010

Shhhh. Don’t Tell the Minx

 

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Quite possibly the most sinister photo I’ve ever published on here.

It’s been going swimmingly so far, but now I move onto the head, where there’s plenty of scope for making her look ugly or even downright scary. Wish me luck!

(She is helped to sit by a small bag of big green lentils stuffed in her bottom)

   

15 November 2010

Knitted Wreath, Candle Holders and Vases

 

Or the art of wrapping knitting around things.

A regular and lovely commenter round these parts, Lou, from Happy Serendipity, has just taken up knitting (you may have seen us discussing knitting in the comments) and decided to make a winter door wreath she had seen. Bear in mind that this is just her second or third EVER knitting project.

If it had been been me I would have been getting into a pickle trying to knit in the round, increasing and decreasing etc. etc but Lou just knitted this

 

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pinned it like this

 

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and hey presto! created this

 

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so much quicker, easier and cleverer all round, and just goes to show that you don’t need to be an expert at all to create beautiful things.

With the remaining yarn she made this candle holder, which I think I love even more than the wreath – its chunky, simplicity seems very cool and modern somehow. 

 

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Check out Lou’s tutorial here for more details.

It seems also that Ferm Living is getting in on the act, recently introducing a range of chic knitted vase covers.

 

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They’re available from Ferm Living here and also from Velocity Art and Design in the US

 When I get out from under the sock monkey, I’m thinking of designing a few knitted home accessories, maybe for sale in the shop. Very inspired by all these ideas.

12 November 2010

Go Love Your Trailer Park – Hicksville Trailer Palace

 

You already know how much we love Joshua Tree, but the person who decided to build a trailer park motel there with themed trailers, secluded swimming pool and recording studio (just in case you have an album to make) was clearly a genius. Hicksville Trailer Palace, I salute you!

 

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amenities.courtyardThe Fifi would definitely be the Minx’s trailer of choice, though the Husband would need to keep a firm grip on his masculinity. Though glowing wig heads would make up for all the frou frou I suspect.

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I could live out my fantasy of living in an Airstream in the Integratrailer, though the interior does seem a little subdued. It apparently comes with its own alien communication system though.

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And I also like the look of the Lux, which apparently comes with its own library of horror movies, which I would NOT be watching stuck in the middle ofJoshua Tree. At night.

 

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The other amenities look more fun than normal camping too.

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And can you imagine how spectacular it would be sitting out under all those stars?

 

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{All images from www.hicksville.com and their Facebook page. Found via the Divine Ms T at Whorange}

10 November 2010

Shhhh. Don’t Tell the Minx

 

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My needles are on fire at the moment as I’ve realised that the actual monkey has to be finished by the end of November for there to be any chance of her having clothes by Christmas. I start attaching the arms tonight.

She can sit due to a little bag of rice in her posterior end. Note that the pattern designer added a little shaping to the waist to give her some ladylike curves.  Truly the Joan Holloway of sock monkeys.

09 November 2010

Autumn in the Neighbourhood

 

It’s chucking it down with rain today, with views very much like the one below, but in truth this year we’ve been having a spectacularly lovely autumn in Seattle.

Last week temperatures hit 73 degrees just after Halloween, so I grabbed my camera, and went for a stroll round the neighbourhood in a wife-beater tank before doing a little sunbathing on the deck. Seattle is always full of surprises.

Enjoy the splendour.    I could never live anywhere that didn’t have seasons.

 

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And here’s my attempt at photographing my street Cheryl Maeder-stylee. I can’t work out if if looks interesting or just drunkenly out of focus.

 

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And finally here’s reminder of what these streets looked like in Spring

08 November 2010

Shhhh. Don’t Tell the Minx

 

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All About Me – Jonathan Adler Mod Model Pillow

 

One of the things I enjoyed most on our recent trip to San Francisco was visiting the Fillmore neighbourhood (thanks Victoria SFGirlByBay for the recommendation!).

 

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It reminded me a lot of my adored Notting Hill (still my spiritual home) – the quirky restaurants and shops, the people milling about (unusual to see in the US), even the colours of the white stucco buildings.

Fabulous interiors stores included Nest, Zinc Details and Jonathan Adler. Yes, I finally got to visit an actual real life Jonathan Adler store, as such as thing has not yet materialised in Seattle.

I was doubly thrilled when I got there as they now have the ‘Mod Model’ cushions back in stock.  I’d added her to my Christmas list two years ago, but she she sold out too quickly, never to return until now. 

I’ve thought about her a lot in the intervening two years, so this time we snatched her up even though she is fiendishly expensive. I’m a great believer in buying stuff you’re slightly obsessed with, whatever the cost.  It works out more economically in the long run than buying a lot of cheap stuff that doesn’t quite float your boat. Or that’s what I tell myself anyway.

Here she is on our new sofa. She is very charismatic – like a portrait whose eyes follow you around the room.

 

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I thought you might also like to see some pics of the Minx really, really, REALLY enjoying shopping at Jonathan Adler. (Though we already know she is a great fan of JA’s hubby Simon Doonan).

 

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05 November 2010

Remember, Remember the 5th November

 

I always do, and not just because it’s Guy Fawkes Night

 

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Here’s a photo I apparently took on 7th November 2006.  The view had been even worse over the previous two days, and that chink of light in the distance was a new and welcome development.

 

Four years ago, me, the Husband and a very small Minx woke up (at 2.30 am I might add, due to the Minx’s jetlag) in an apartment overlooking Puget Sound, ready to begin our new adventure in Seattle.

Record-breaking (so we later found out) torrents of rain were sheeting down the big glass windows, we had no decent food in the apartment, the Minx was bored with the eight books we had brought in our carry on luggage (the rest of her toys were following with our stuff) and was letting us know in no uncertain terms and we were utterly exhausted through sleep deprivation and getting everything packed and organised for our move.

If I’d had a return ticket I would have been on the next flight back.

You too can reminisce by reading my blog entries back then.

We intended to be here for only three years, but yes. four years later we’re still here with no plans to return. Life is a funny thing.

04 November 2010

Go Fug Your Room? – Paola Navone

 

Oh we haven’t done one of these for ages, have we? So let’s get our bitchpants critical thinking caps on and get to work.

 

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My first name, courtesy of my Italian mother, has always been a source of great consternation to me – as so few people in either the UK or America have any clue how to pronounce or spell it (for the record, say ‘Pow-la’ in your best Italian accent and you’ll come pretty close) and I’ve had some pretty creative versions of both over the years.

Because my name is so unusual in English-speaking countries (Paolas are ten a penny in Italy) I’ve always had a soft spot for famous Paolas such as er, Queen Paola of Belgium and Italian product designer Paola Navone.  In the latter case, it’s not just because of her illustrious name, but also because she designs some super cool stuff.

So I was very excited when September’s Livingetc featured her Milanese apartment – an old Parmesan cheese warehouse that was apparently in miserable condition until Navone recently rescued it.

 

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The problem is that I’m not exactly thrilled by the interior design. The overlapping blues and greys, are beautiful in and of themselves, but there’s just too darn much blue everywhere and, coupled with all the hard tiling on floor and ceiling, it just looks so cold and uncomfortable, like living inside an icecube. 

That might be appropriate in Morocco, or Greece, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Milan, and in winter it is often as dank, cold and foggy as Sarah Palin’s brain.  The ceramic Moroccan stools;  smooth, shiny Moroccan pouffes and Asian ceramic busts only add to the chill. Am I the only person who wants to add some snuggly orange cushions or thick, shaggy deep red rugs to the mix?

Also, and this is probably just me, there’s just a bit too much Moroccan going on in here.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Moroccan design in and of itself and I love combining elements from an eclectic mix of cultures in a single space, as Navone mostly does to great effect. But the pasha’s boudoir above has strayed into ‘theme-bar’ territory and the Asian busts just seem incongruous and out of place.

 

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But the real story here is the monotone colour. The blue is absolutely unrelenting, permeating every room in the apartment, though she goes wild and adds a little green to the kitchen, which, I’ll admit, I would kill several close family members to have in my house.

 

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In isolation, each of these rooms is beautiful, as are many of the pieces in them. It’s just that the whole just seems so chilly and hard and the monotones are just well, monotonous.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the stylist had to, both literally and figuratively, turn the fire on, so as to liven up the spread.

 

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You may be interested in Paola Navone’s other houses. Her Greek island home, which is a study in white,  is here and her stunning Paris apartment, which is mostly white, with pops of colour, is here.  I am obviously not remotely insanely jealous of anyone who has homes in Paris, Milan and Greece.

Shhhh! Don’t Tell the Minx

 

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Need to buck my ideas up if I’m going to get this done in time for Christmas.

03 November 2010

Things I Am Loving – Cheryl Maeder Photography

 

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Cheryl Maeder carefully controls focus, blur and colour in her photos to create impressionistic but fleeting glimpses of an idyllic world – childhood nostalgia in art form.

I have no real idea how she does these. But they make me want to grab my camera and start experimenting right away.

 

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You can buy Cheryl’s photos or check out her ‘Dreamscapes’ portfolio here.

02 November 2010

Voting Works!

 

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Well my lovely cute little chickadees.  Thanks to everyone who voted for me in the Food Ninja competition, I apparently won the ‘Best Blog Post’ category and soon a cute and extremely funky looking Zojirushi rice cooker will be mine. 

Thank you so much to all who voted.  I’m completely amazed and tickled pink, especially as I can now tick off ‘Win something, anything’ from my 101 Things list, for a total of 3 things completed.

So you see voting thing works. There’s another teensy vote going on in the US today. Regular readers will probably know which side of the fence I’m on (I’ll give you a clue, two weeks ago I went to see Obama at a rally in Seattle) but I just wanted to urge everyone to get out and vote, whatever and whomever you’re voting for.

I can’t vote in US elections, but know full well how much impact they have, not just for Americans but for the rest of the world. And the whole world benefits from a vigorous, informed and engaged American electorate. So if you have a vote, count yourself lucky and go out and use it!

A propos, has anyone actually used a rice cooker? Are they useful? What sort of stuff do you cook in them? Are they good for brown rice and pilafs as well as Asian white rices? Where the heck am I going to find space for it in my kitchen?

01 November 2010

101 Things – Learning Thai Cooking

 

One thing I’ve added to my 101 List is to learn Thai cookery.  It’s so thoroughly and deliciously complex, looks so very beautiful and is a wonderful vehicle for consuming tons of healthy vegetables and lots of yummy seafood.

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It’s also a cuisine about which I am almost completely ignorant.  I love it, but rarely stray from Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup and Red Curries on the menus; never cook authentic Thai at home (though here’s a stab at inauthentic Thai) and have never been to Thailand.

For the purposes of the list I defined my goal as completing six workshops or classes on the subject over the next three years.  I know that Thai cooking is as complex, if not more so, than French cuisine, but I figured that six workshops would be enough to give me a somewhat reasonable grounding.

The class in Thai Comfort Cooking I took at PCC in Greenlake was perfect for a beginner like me.  The amazing teacher Pranee Halvorsen, is a lovely Thai lady from Phuket, despite the Norwegian married name. She took us through four courses of a Thai comfort food feast, with detailed recipes and wonderful stories, chopping and stir frying all the while and patiently answering all our questions.

 

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She showed us her favourite products, talked about specific Thai techniques and  ingredients, offered substitutions for difficult to get items and demonstrated how to make garnishes and ingredients such as sauteed shallots, crushed chilli peppers, vinegar and jalapeno condiment and dark soy sauce, and then served out each dish to eighteen people, so we got a fabulous lunch along the way.

By a huge coincidence Pranee had been a student with me at Jackie Baisa’s photography workshop, so she very kindly let me take photographs throughout the class. Again the overhead lighting was flat and unforgiving, but the dishes were too exquisite (and exquisitely delicious) not to look amazing whatever the photography.

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I’ll be attempting to cook all of these dishes over the next few weeks so there will be recipes and more pics coming.  In the meantime feast your eyes on these pics.

 

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