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17 posts from March 2011

30 March 2011

Royal Wedding Watch - Afternoon Tea at Harvey Nicks

 

I can’t tell you how much I want this silly but charming Limited Edition Royal Wedding Mug, which has been specially produced for upmarket British department store Harvey Nichols (oh how I miss Harvey Nicks).

 

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Tragically, it seems that this mug is only available from Harvey Nicks’ Food Halls directly, on sale for £20, or will be given away as part of an exclusive afternoon tea being served at Harvey Nichols’ cafés and brasseries throughout the month of April.

I’ll be emailing Harvey Nicks to see if it’s going to be made available online, so that people in the US and beyond, including me dammit, can get their sticky mitts on one.  If you’re in the US and think there might be demand for it, can you let me know in the comments below and I’ll send Harvey Nicks a link to this post.

   

Soraam Cushions, Mats and Cupcakes

 

Last week I did my first ever paid photography assignment.  Soojin, the graphic designer behind Etsy shop Soraam saw my photos with Uncle Beefy’s cupcakes and asked me to do a little product shoot with her.

 

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Here are some of the results.  Her pre-washed linen placemats and cushion covers - hand-printed with her own beautiful designs - really are stunning. I particularly love the placemats, which are designed to look equally good with or without plates.

The cupcakes are again courtesy of Uncle Beefy, as I’d fortuitously frozen some of the previous batch (cupcakes freeze really well by the way).

‘Soraam’ means ‘take a look with a smile on your face’ in Korean. You really can’t help yourself can you?

 

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23 March 2011

Pirates Ahoy!

 

I’ve been receiving lots of lovely comments and emails – thank you all -  about the Minx’s new loft bed and slide (it was featured on Apartment Therapy’s Ohdeedoh kids’ site yesterday – hi Ohdeedohers!) and had been feeling smugly pleased with myself. 

 

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Until a week or so ago, when a friend posted a link on Facebook and my smugness instantly evaporated. Now, this is what you call a loft bed and slide.

WARNING: Don’t read this with any trainee pirates, or trainee pirates at heart, anywhere in the vicinity of your computer.

 

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The pirate ship was custom built for the six-year old client and features a rope bridge leading to a specially built ‘jail’. See that rope to the left of the crows’ nest?  Slide down it and you end up in the closet below.

 

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And as a final piece de resistance, see that intriguing orange hole in a secret hallway closet?

 

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Well that turns out to be a DOUBLE. STOREY. SPIRAL. SLIDE acquired after the refurb of a local community centre.

 

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Full details of the design and construction on MyModernMet.

Please don’t show this to the Minx.

   

22 March 2011

Fancy Hotel of the Week–MyHotel Brighton

 

Last week I was idly flicking through pictures of the MyHotel in Brighton, the English seaside town known affectionately as ‘London-by-the-sea’.

Designed by New Yorker Karim Rashid and opened in 2008, the design brief was apparently to create a space ‘where Freddie Mercury might meet the Maharishi’. 

I really wanted to hate it after reading that, but unfortunately I just can’t.  From the photos at least it’s a shiny, sexy, glamorous, somewhat pretentious shag palace, perfect for all the London media types that Brighton attracts and the sort of place that I adore staying in. 

I’m sorry, just shoot me now.

 

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I was very much enjoying my wander through Rashid’s trademark colours, curves and kitsch (and fishtanks) until I came across this picture.

 

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Isn’t this the scariest, most nightmare-inducing hotel room you’ve ever seen? Imagine waking up and seeing that across the way. They’ll be decorating rooms with clowns next.

   

21 March 2011

Help the Sun Rise Again

 

Like everyone else I have been watching events in Japan unfold and have been alternately horrified by the extent of the tragedy and destruction and amazed by the resilience, grace and charm of the Japanese people.

Many people throughout the design and crafting community are doing their bit to help the relief effort and here’s little round up of some of the most beautiful products available to purchase, with at least a portion of the profits going to disaster relief.

 

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Jacob Cass from Just Creative Design is making the above image free for people who want to use it to create artwork and products to the help the relief effort. More details here.

 

 

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thispapership is donating 90% of the proceeds on the above print to the American Red Cross

 

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The Rusted Chain will be donating $10 from the sale of every ‘Blessed’ necklace to www.worldvision.org

 

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Once these limited edition Land of the Rising Kitten block prints have sold out $1,000 will be donated to disaster relief.

 

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100% of the proceeds from sales of the above tee-shirt will go to help the Salvation Army’s relief efforts in Japan.

 

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Cassia Beck is donating 50% of the proceeds of her photographic prints.

 

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All profits from the sale of the above poster to disaster relief.

 

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All the profits from this limited edition lavender cologne “For Them’ by Parisian perfumer Libertin Louison will be donated to disaster relief. The cologne is dedicated to the town of Minami Sanriku which disappeared after the tsunami. Details here. Buy it here

 

These are just a few of the things I’ve come across over the last week or so. Please feel free to add links in the comments if you spot other beautiful products being sold to help the disaster relief or if you’re donating a portion of the profits from your own shop. 

16 March 2011

Royal Wedding Watch - Knit Your Own Royal Wedding

 

Are you looking forward to the Royal Wedding?

Even hard-bitten and cynical little me is getting very excited.  What’s not to love - London and dresses and kisses and big hats.  I was even thinking of going back for it until they inconsiderately decided to hold it in April, which meant we couldn’t really combine it with a summer vacation.  Instead I’m going to have to get up at 3 am to watch coverage here on the West Coast.

Or else I may just knit these and replay the Royal Wedding for myself at a more civilised time of the morning.

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Here’s the happy couple. Personally I’m a little disappointed in Kate’s dress.

 

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The Queen and Prince Harry will be the other stars of the show and there will no doubt be a lot of royal corgis running round and tripping up the footmen. Though you could’ve worn a rather more spectacular hat, ma’am.

 

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Here’s that poignant moment when William sees his beautiful bride for the first time – just loving Wills’ and Harry’s hair here. Note you can even knit yourself a mini Archbishop of Canterbury, though I’m not sure why you’d want to.

 

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And here’s the kiss we’ll all be waiting for – with accompanying Prince Charles, Camilla (boo!) and Prince Philip figures.

The book Knit Your Own Royal Wedding is by Fiona Gable, and if I weren’t suffering from Carmen Banana fatigue I would be seriously tempted to buy it.

 

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Lots more Royal Wedding coverage coming up. I can’t wait to do ‘Separated At Birth’ on the wedding guests.

   

14 March 2011

Recipe of the Week – Pear and Almond Tart

 

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The clocks may have gone forward this weekend but if my organic veggie box is anything to go by, we’re still in the depths of winter here in the Pacific Northwest.  Fortunately, in among the kale and spinach and chard and collard greens, there are usually a few delicious pears to be found, so I’ve been making a lot of my very favourite Pear & Almond Tart from the River Café Cook Book.

The River Café is one of London’s most celebrated (and much missed by me) Italian restaurants and the eponymous cookbooks I have by chefs Ruth Rogers and the late much lamented Rose Gray are among the most dog-eared and stained in my vast collection.

The emphasis on fresh seasonal ingredients rather than fancy cooking techniques means that most of the recipes are highly accessible to the home cook, especially if you’re prepared to fiddle with the quantities, as most recipes are restaurant-sized.

 

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Pear & Almond Tart

     

Ingredients*

 

FOR THE SWEET PASTRY

175g/6oz/1.5 cups plain (all-purpose) flour

A pinch of salt

90g/4oz/ 1 stick unsalted butter, cold from the fridge and cubed

50g/2oz/0.5 cups icing (powdered) sugar

1 whole egg

*I have halved the quantities given in the book to make a smaller tart, plenty big enough for 6-8 servings.  If you wish, double the quantities and use a 30cm (12 inch) loose-bottomed flan tin to make enough for at least 12 greedy people.

 

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Whizz up the flour, salt, butter and sugar in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg and whizz again. The mixture will immediately combine and leave the sides of the bowl. Remove the dough, pat it into a ball, wrap with cling film (Saran wrap) and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

When it’s firm and chilled, grate the pastry into a 9in (23cm) fluted loose-bottomed fluted flan tin and then press it evenly round the sides and bottom. (I have no idea why you need to grate it rather than just press it in in lumps, but I always follow blindly follow instructions).  It’s fine to handle this pastry as much as you want.

Line the pastry case with greaseproof or parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind at 180 degrees C/ 350 degrees F/ Gas Mark 4 until light golden brown, about 25 minutes. I forgot to line with paper for this session which accounts for the curious pitted nature of the pastry case above.

 

FOR THE FRANGIPANE FILLING

3 beautifully ripe pears

175g/6oz/1.5 sticks butter

175g/6oz/0.75 cups caster (baker’s) sugar

175g/6oz/1 cup ground almonds (almond meal)

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

 

Cut your pears into large chunks and lay on the pastry shell. You could also halve or quarter the pears lengthwise and fan them out in wheel.  Some people poach the pears in syrup, but if you have fragrant, juicy ripe pears then you don’t need to bother. And if you don’t, go make something else.

Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and light. Add the almonds and eggs. Spoon the frangipane over the pears and spread so that the pears are covered and the case is filled to the edges.

Bake at 150 degrees C/300 degrees F/ Gas Mark 3 until golden brown and firm to the touch. The recipe says this should take 40 minutes, but it always takes over an hour in my oven.

 

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Serve on its own or with a little crème fraiche and refuse resolutely to consider how much butter you’re consuming. Pears and almonds are health foods, right?

   

11 March 2011

Owls - Yay or Nay?

 

As you may remember I’m rather inexplicably – given that in real life I’m a bit phobic about birds -  into owls round these parts.

Commenter eM, on the other hand, said in a post below that a surfeit of owls is one of the reasons she’s stopped reading design blogs.

 

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Twitwooshkas – fabulous papier mache nesting owls from Niki Jones in the UK. They’re handpainted in Northern India and cost £100. I’m sorry but I still like these.

 

What say you? Has the owl motif reached overload? Are other birds acceptable?  Do I have to give up my dream of ‘Aviary’ wallpaper? Are we all just hipsters with scarcely an original thought?

 

All profound thoughts for a Friday. I’m still rather shaken by news from Japan. Sobering to think how fragile life is around the Pacific Rim. Count your blessings today. Every. Single. One.

10 March 2011

Things I Am Loving – pEIpod Pet Bed

 

After six weeks the kittens are starting to calm down a bit - in fact they’re not really kittens any more but rather small cats. Which is just as well, because they were turning me greyer than the Minx ever did.

 

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By the same token I have calmed down in the purchase of expensive cat accessories, though I did want to share one last extravagance with you.

The pEipod (‘ei’ means ‘egg’ in German) is an egg-shaped plastic pod available in two sizes,  three colours – pink, mint green or ivory -  with a cotton padded cushion in your choice of either pink or yellow. So you should be able to find a combination which suits your decor.

The bed is suitable for small dogs, cats or even bunnies.

 

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Ours has become one of the most commented upon bits of furniture in our house and I’m loving how it looks in our living room.

 

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The best news of all, given how much it cost,  is that the cats actually use it all the time – one or the other can generally be found sleeping there.  Might even have to get two.

 

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The pEIpod is available from here for $129.

09 March 2011

Go Fug Your Showhouse – Elle Decor

 

Elle Decor recently created its first showhouse in a San Francisco suburb – working with ten different Bay Area interior designers to ‘turn a classic 1920s Mediterranean-style home into a showcase for contemporary style’.

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That’s some beautiful house isn’t it? Unfortunately these designers seemingly run the gamut of decorating styles from boringly humdrum, via fussy and old fashioned through to suicidally depressing, and managed to transform the house into something not only monstrously ugly, but, to my eye at least, not remotely representative of San Francisco style.

I’m really interested to here what Bay Area peeps in particular think of this. 

 

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The living room was created by Gary Spain, and all the heavy, gloomy clutter, weird artifacts and strange cross-cultural references makes it look like a junk room at the British Museum.  And those dark wing-backed chairs would make even the Dowager Duchess of Downton uncomfortable.  In fact the whole thing looks about as relaxing as a dentist’s waiting room. Like the black fireplace though.

 

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The TV watching area of Erin Martin’s media room below at least has some wow factor – I like the screen and that curved chair -  but all the darkness is making me want to switch on my lightbox.  Does all the black really say San Francisco to you?

 

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The other end of the room with its huge spider (is that what it’s supposed to be?) light fitting  and hideously uncomfortable seating area and mirrored fireplace is, however, the stuff of nightmares.

 

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If the unremitting terror and gloom is getting too much then you can always escape to Will Wick’s library. Except that is probably the most scarily gloomy and depressing room of all. AND it has a zebra-stripe rug. Seriously didn’t that decorating ship sail a very long time ago?  But no matter, it also features a helpful saw thingy in an alcove, making it super easy to kill yourself, or at the very least add authenticity to games of Cluedo.

 

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Steven Volpe’s dining room is another unremittingly cheerful place – you can just hear the stylist yelling for ‘oranges’, ‘maple leaves’ ‘ANYTHING’  to relieve the gloom.  But at least you know that extra light bulbs would make a thoughtful hostess gift.

 

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The house’s vampires should avoid the breakfast nook decorated by Palmer Weiss, as here at least the sun is visible and the chairs are lovely.  But the birdcage light, ferns on columns and busy curtains make this look contemporary to 1911 rather than this century.  Or is Downton Abbey spearheading an Edwardian revival?

 

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And I’m so relieved to see a little bit of colour in this home office designed by Kendall Wilkinson, that I’ll forgive it its totally impractical and uncomfortable seating.

 

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I suppose Jay Jeffers master bedroom is not too bad in a personality-free luxury hotel sort of way.  I do like the artwork above the bed and the interesting bedside lamps. Note that the turquoise bench at the foot of the bed provides a little pop of colour, but mysteriously disappears in the image below.

 

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While the Dowager Duchess would be right at home in this guest bedroom by Suzanne Tucker. Contemporary style, really? Really?

 

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The decorating cliches are back in force in this room for a teenage girl, with more zebras, and a brightly coloured Moroccan pouf. And I’m sorry, but covering up a stunning De Gournay wallpaper with framed pictures of RPatz has to rank as one of the worst possible decorating crimes against humanity.

 

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So what say you?  Does this house showcase the best contemporary design in San Francisco and the US? Or is it just fugly? 

 

 

Pictures from Elle Decor, Casa Sugar and Merida

08 March 2011

Beefcakes & Doilies

 

Uncle Beefy, as well as being one of the best bloggers on the Interwebulator, also makes the most incredible  cupcakes I’ve ever tasted anywhere. 

 

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His cakes are perfection in a mouthful – not remotely dry and with a satisfying crumb that is neither too stodgy nor disappointingly ethereal.  Each is topped with the precisely the right amount of not-too-sweet frosting, exploding with fresh authentic flavours.  I truly have never had a better cupcake, my own sadly included.

 

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And they are oh so pretty. On Sunday he gave me one box of lemon cupcakes with fresh strawberry frosting and another box of chocolate chip cakes with a creamy caramel frosting, which was brushed with golden lustre dust, and the same champagne colour as extremely expensive satin underwear.

 

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Unless we can persuade Monsieur LeBoeuf  to open a worldwide mail order business, you may never get to taste these beauties, but I though you might at least want to look and drool.

The beautiful linen tablemat is from Soraam on Etsy.  I met its creator Soojin Yum at a recent Seattle foodie event. Her gorgeous linens are all handprinted using water-based inks on natural materials and come in lots of beautiful designs. Well worth checking out.

   

07 March 2011

Cumming – the Fragrance

 

So we interrupt normal blog programming (insofar as anything is ‘normal’ on this blog), to talk about fragrance.

 

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This Sunday afternoon, following a delicious brunch at Spring Hill restaurant in West Seattle with my dear friends eM and Uncle Beefy, we stopped by the delightful Knows Perfume fragrance boutique on California Avenue to sniff a few scents.

Twenty minutes later our senses were reeling as owner Christen Cottam talked us through our scent preferences and sprayed paper strips with gay abandon.  Knows Perfume specialises in small niche perfume ranges such as L’Artisan Parfumeur, Penhaligons and Juliette Has a Gun, rather than the big brands, and Christen has an encyclopedic knowledge of every one.

We were in between sniffs, when I spied a bottle of Cumming –  the celebrity fragrance from sexy, funny, androgynous Scottish actor Alan Cumming.  I’d vaguely heard that he’d produced one, but had thought it was entirely a joke, what was it doing in such serious perfume company?

Christen explained that it was actually fabulous  - with notes of pine, peat, rubber, whisky, leather, dirt and moss. Uncle Beefy tried it at once, and out of the bottle it was horrible – like rolling on an old beer-stained, smoke-imbued leather sofa in a sweaty club which has been cursorily wiped down with a cheap pine-scented cleaner.

So we continued chatting and sniffing and experimenting until Uncle B suddenly said ‘you know, this is actually smelling rather wonderful’. And it was. Sexy and earthy and natural and woodsy. 

So of course  I had to try it. Same nasty whiff of stinky jockstrap to start, but then on me it dried down to a most deliciously complex mix of vanilla, earth, pepper and orange peel – not like some of those overwhelming vanilla scents which smell like you’ve been smearing yourself with custard -  but more as if I’d been eating orange-scented sugar cookies and exuding them through my skin, with underlying sexy, sweaty undertones. Honestly my dears I was sniffing myself for the rest of the afternoon.

 

It smells EXACTLY like this video

The original commercially-produced Cumming has apparently been discontinued – the fact that it smells DISGUSTING out of the bottle probably doesn’t help -  but has been reformulated for extra longevity by the original perfumer Christopher Brosius and is now included within his range.  I know perfume is a highly subjective subject, but if it doesn’t work for you – and on eM’s skin chemistry it stayed resolutely ‘smelly wet sock’ – then chances are it will do wonders for your man, I couldn’t stop sniffing Uncle B either, though on him it smelled less vanilla-y and more earthy.

All proceeds from the perfume go to charity, so it really wouldn’t hurt to buy a little sample. I  am utterly obsessed.

04 March 2011

The Minx’s Bedroom

 

Pssst!  Want to peak inside the Minx’s newly painted bedroom?

 

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In the end we decided to go for a Maxtrix loft bed with girly playhouse panels and a slide.  It’s not as cool and funky as those other loftbeds, but it was within our budget and has potential to be raised higher with a desk underneath when the Minx is older.  The full interchangeable Maxtrix system - comprising beds, slides, ladders, playhouse and castle panels, desks, shelving, trucklebeds and underbed storage is available here. We ordered online and were delighted with their quick delivery and excellent customer service. The bed arrived in eleven separate boxes, so you need to have someone who’s handy with a screwdriver in the house, but is sturdy and well made for flat-pack furniture. Most importantly the Minx and her friends absolutely adore it.

 

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The colour scheme for the rest of the accessories is a bit more pastel and girly than I would necessarily like, but it was somewhat dictated by the pastel bed curtains. I was ecstatic with how well her old accessories fitted into the scheme.

The cool lights above the bed are from Ikea, the sheer curtains with pink ribbon details are from the Land of Nod, the quilt and pillow is from Pottery Barn, the green circular rug and the daisy rugs were, I think from Target, but I can’t find them online, and the family portrait was commissioned from Auntie Cookie.  The knotty pine chest of drawers was bought at a junk shop in the UK years ago though we added glass knobs from Chloe Alberry on Portobello Road. The embroidered sampler above was picked up on Ebay.

 

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The chandelier was another Ebay find. You can’t see very well, but it has little green and pink glass daisies on it and it makes a super cool shapes on the ceiling. The pink daisy flowers make everything glow pinkly when lit.

 

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The pink rocking chair by NurseryWorks came from Tottini in Seattle, though I don’t particularly recommend it as it has a very violent and potentially dangerous rock.  The daisy cushion came from some sidewalk sale and the pistachio green beaded cushion featuring a fluffy Westie with a pink diamante’ necklace is from mirrormirror. The fairy wings are from the Minx’s extensive collection.

 

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The Minx is a voracious reader, so underneath the bed we put the mattress from her old bed, her Land of Nod bookshelf, various blankets and cushions and another Ikea Smila Blomma light, this time in white.

I love this because it hides the not very aesthetically pleasing bookshelf (we’re lucky enough to have a separate playroom for her, so toy storage in the bedroom is not an issue). 

The Minx just told me that she loves it because she gets to read in peace without having to listen to me yelling.  The cats also love it, but they haven’t told us why.

 

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It also glows very excitingly in the dark.

 

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Before pictures are here.  

01 March 2011

Things I Am Loving - Aviary Wallpaper

 

Phew! I think I’ve just about got the Oscars out of my system.  I was on the brink of comparing Nicole Kidman to an armadillo, but stopped myself just in time.

In other news, Liberty London Girl just tweeted about the fabulous wallpaper in the bathrooms at the Soho Grand Hotel in NYC.

 

Steinberg Aviary Wallpaper

 

It’s called Aviary by F Schumacher, and the pattern was designed by Saul Steinberg, who was a cartoonist for The New Yorker in the 1950s.

Here is is in situ at the Soho Grand.   I may have to stay here next time I’m in NYC, just so I can sit in the bathroom.

 

Soho Grand Bath 1

 

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This wallpaper needs to be in my life somehow as a matter of urgency.  Time to work on the downstairs bathroom? It’s also available at Decorator’s Best.

{Found via Liberty London Girl’s Tumblr.  Additional pictures via Remodelista and Tea For Joy}

   

Accessories They Should Have Worn – Georgina Chapman

 

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Georgina Chapman, the designer behind Marchesa and wife of Harvey Weinstein, knows her fashion onions, so I can’t understand why (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT) she wasn’t beating down the doors of mirrormirror to get her hands on one of our Rose Trimmed Shower Caps.

 

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Separated At Birth – Anne Hathaway Oscars 2011

 

 

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                            Look at ME                                                                                              No, look at ME

 

I suspect this divides almost entirely along country lines. The Americans I was watching with and those on the forums and blogs I read seem to be saying, “Oh, but she’s ADORABLE, and she tried SO hard’.  While all the Brits were going ‘pass the sick bag’.

This is why I will never be American.  Also if the entirely best thing about your act are the costume changes then you' know you’re in trouble.

Separated At Birth – Reese Witherspoon Oscars 2011

 

Reese Witherspoon misreads the invitation that said bring your favourite beer.

 

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