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29 posts from March 2012

31 March 2012

A Shopping Trip to Portland: Part 1

 

Planning a trip to Portland any time soon?  A couple of Fridays ago I headed off down the I-5 at the crack of dawn in search of hipsters, birds, excellent food, perfect coffee, imaginative shops, and no sales tax, and was not disappointed.  The Friday was spent shopping with girlfriends, then the Minx and the Husband drove down to meet me and we stayed on for a great weekend.

If you’re thinking of going to Portland, here’s what you should do.

Firstly make sure that Myra of Seattle Bon Vivant and Lilian of Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs are with you. These ladies sure know how to eat and shop and they’re fabulously fun company too.

 

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When you arrive head first to Barista in the Pearl District for one of the finest cups of coffee you’ll have anywhere (and I live in Seattle), together with an extremely acceptable almond croissant.

You’ll need fortification before browsing through the crazy that is Cargo.  Just round the corner from Barista, Cargo calls itself a ‘showroom, flea market, and international bazaar’ and features bizarre and beautiful finds from Indonesia, China, Japan, Thailand and Mexico.  I guarantee you’ll find nothing in here that you need, but plenty that you’ll want. I bought some antique scissors and a small lucky waving cat charm for the Minx’s backpack. See what I mean?

 

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Next cross the river and go to The Meadow in North Portland’s Mississippi district.  This tiny shop sells salt, flowers, chocolate, wine and bitters, all personal passions of owner Mark Bitterman, author of the wonderful cookbook Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes.

I met Mark when he came to Seattle and, together with Myra, hosted a creative and delectable salt-based dinner.

This shop shouldn’t work, but it does, beautifully, because so much knowledge and passion has gone into the carefully curated selections. Just look at those walls of salt and chocolate.  I was tempted to buy a block of pink Hawaiian baking salt, but our kitchen has enough clutter. One day. 

I contented myself with a big bag of sel gris instead.

 

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Then head off for lunch at Pok Pok, which serves carefully authentic regional Thai and Vietnamese streetfood under a heated awning.

 

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Photo by Lilian Speirs

For some reason I didn’t manage to take any photos here.  However, here is Lilian’s detailed review, with a ton of photos. Like her I would have been happy to eat the phat si ew, a classic dish of stir-fried rice noodles, succulent Carlton Farms pork, Chinese broccoli and egg, all day.  Pok Pok is a fun, enjoyable place for a Portland pit stop, with great food and a buzzy atmosphere, deservedly a renowned Portland hangout.

After a hearty lunch it’s time to start shopping in earnest.

First go to Flora which sells a girly selection of scented candles, jewellery, stationery, art, apothecary items and general nicknackery.  I came away with a gorgeous fig-scented Tatine candle.  I wasn’t familiar with this range before, but loved the simple glass containers and the beautiful perfumes. The Minx also liked Flora very much when we went back the next day.

 

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Then head over to Canoe, by way of glorious yarn shop Knit Purl.  I forgot to take pics again, but did come away with two skeins of gorgeous naturally-dyed laceweight linen yarn. One has to have priorities.

Anyway, back to Canoe.  This shop has a wonderful selection of modern tchotchkes and home accessories, chosen with taste and flair.  The Husband particularly liked this shop when we returned the following day and it’s a particularly great place to browse for gifts for men.  I ended up with a new litter bin, a pink piggy bank for the Minx and some little glass bowls.

 

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After visiting more shops that I’ll get to in part 2 of this guide, we finished up at modern furniture shop Hive before settling down for a very well-earned and again excellent coffee at Cafe Allora, a little bit of Milan in downtown Portland.

 

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Finally we braved the immensely long line at Ken’s Artisan Pizza. We had to wait for over two hours, fortunately seated at a back table where we could drink plenty of wine, but the pizza was worth it when we got it, which means it’s VERY good pizza indeed.  Particularly the bacon pizza. Man, that was yummy.

The Minx and the Husband made it down the freeway in time to join us for an extra bacon pizza and dessert and we then waved goodbye as Myra and Lilian headed off into the night. I was left wondering why I don’t do day trips to Portland more often.

Find out what the Minx, the Husband and I got up to in Part 2.

   

29 March 2012

Teeny Trend: Warm Pastel Pink

 

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I’m seeing it a lot at the moment -  a warm, sophisticated, not-at-all-girly shell pink, which is almost a neutral. 

Sunglasses by Stella McCartney (I have a pressing need for these).  Room shown in Dutch interiors magazine VTWonen.

   

Eat It, Don’t Tweet It

 

Or a day in the life of my Instagram feed.

 

 

Maybe this is why only 41% of you follow me on social media.

Seriously chaps, thank you for the amazing feedback I’m getting through the Urtak. I really appreciate you taking the time and trouble to respond.  Some expected answers and some surprises so far.

   

28 March 2012

Blogging MY Way: Mirror Mirror On The Wall

 

So, as you will hopefully have realised, I’ve decided to take my blogging a bit more seriously in the last month or so.

Would you believe I’ve been pissing around in an unfocused and inconsistent way on this blog for about seven years now?  At the beginning of this year I decided it was time I either put up or shut up, which was one of the reasons I attended Holly’s class and have been thinking deeply about what I’m doing here.

 

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Can I take this blog to the next level, make it more professional and maybe start earning a bit of money off it?  I’ve taken a couple of online classes on monetizing blogs and it seems I’m currently at the bottom end of what an advertiser would be looking for in terms of monthly page views and unique visitors, so my first priorities are to bump up blog traffic, redesign the blog so that it better accommodate some curated advertising and put together a press pack.

I’ve also been giving some thought to the ‘elevator pitch’ for my blog ie. a short, succinct way of encapsulating what I’m trying to do here.  I found the section of Holly’s class where we talked about this to be enormously thought-provoking, as the one thing I’ve struggled with over the past few years is knowing and communicating exactly what this blog is about.

This is what I’ve come up with so far:

elevator-pitch

Does that float your boat?  Does it sound like the sort of blog you would visit often and comment on?  I’m a chatty, opinionated extrovert, so the things I love most about blogging are chatting, sharing opinions, hearing what others have to say, learning new things,and making new friends,

And all that can only happen if there’s an engaged commentariat.  Which is where you guys come in.  I love it when you stop by and take the time to comment and chat and I’d like to make this a place you want to visit often and settle in for a cosy chat with a glass of wine and your gossip knickers on.

So this bit’s all about you.  I’ve set up this Urtak questionnaire to find out more about the incredibly intelligent, stylish and forward-thinking people who read ‘mirrormirror’. Some bits of information concerns the sort of demographic stuff that might be helpful for advertising in due course, but most of it is so I can help develop content that you guys want to read.

The great thing about this Urtak format is that you can answer as few or as many questions as you want, and you can also add your own questions for commenters here to respond to.  The questions I’ve seeded it with are delivered to you randomly.  And obviously feel free to share further information about your deepest, darkest personal secrets in the comments.  I won’t tell.

   
mirrormirror readership survey
   

Update:  It has been brought to my attention that the mighty Urtak won’t let you add questions without making you register etc. Stuff and nonsense.  If you have a burning question for the ‘mirrormirror’ commentariat, please add it in the comments and I’ll make sure it gets asked.

   

26 March 2012

Mad Men: Don Draper’s New Apartment

 

Zou Bisou Bisou.

I don’t think I’m ever going to get that song out of my head.

I trust we were all watching last night?  The big news of course is that Don Draper, apart from getting himself a sexy little package of a new wife -  who I predict is going to be nothing but trouble – but has also got himself a sexy, new, not-so-little apartment.

   

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Don now lives in the big city, away from Betty and her suburban angst and her suburban furniture (remember her er, lovely ‘fainting couch’?) in an apartment big enough that his kids can come visiting and where his wife can host wild surprise parties.

It’s a clever set.  Instead of filling it with mid-century icons such Saarinen tables and chairs and Arco lamps (unlike Roger’s office with its shipped-in style), it just feels very comfortable and of its time, very sixties, but not ostentatiously so. 

The colour scheme of burnt orange and turquoise is kept to the periphery and the accents  -  the aqua curtains, the seating out on the balcony, the orange kitchen cabinets and the gorgeous throw pillows, but the main body of the set is very brown, very boxy and very wood-panelled, with even the pattern on the curtains seeming quite subdued.

   

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A little light relief is offered by the white cupboard doors, the white feature wall and of course the infamous white rug, with the occasional dark red painted door or panel, but in general the main body of the set is kept quite spare and neutral.  Even the art on the walls is quite dull and nondescript.

   

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Which makes sense of course if the marriage-threatening surprise parties you hold are such a riot of sixties pattern and colour.  Weren’t the costumes in these scenes just awesome?

   

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I managed to spot a few Sixties icons dotted about – the Catherine Holm enamel bowls, the Eames lounge chair, the Murano glass and the zebra-striped cushion. Did any other Sixties paraphernalia catch your eye?

   

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And I have to give a shout out to the exquisite chandeliers in the entrance way, and that lovely low-hanging blue lamp.  What did you like most about the set?

   

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These images show how the designers had fun with costumes, party accoutrements and accent pieces to create a mood.  I’m sure we’re going to see that mood darken as the season progresses.

   

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I am certain the Husband had eyes for nothing but that glorious aqua Sixties vacuum cleaner in this scene.

   
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So did you watch? Did you enjoy it? What did you think of the new apartment? Any particular objects you were coveting?  I’m enjoying how the new Mrs Draper is quite literally leading Don by the balls.  I’m sure that’s going to end up well.

Zou Bisou Bisou.

   

25 March 2012

That Was The Week That Was: Weekend In Portland Edition

 

I forgot to do a TWTWTW last week, which was silly as I had some cool shots from our weekend shopping trip to Portland.

It turned out to be a sunshine and showers, great food and great coffee, groovy shops and pink petals sort of a weekend.

 

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We had a wonderful time There’s a blog post on shopping in Portland in your near future.

23 March 2012

Go Love Your Room: Vanessa Bruno’s Paris Apartment

 

This week’s Go Love Your Room – where I take a room, house or apartment and analyze why it really, really speaks to me – features French designer Vanessa Bruno’s apartment in Paris.

I actually blogged about this briefly back in 2007, but it has haunted me all this time and I recently came across a great set of photos.  I thought it would be interesting to examine what I love about it, and see whether it has stood the test of time.

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The space itself is cheating of course.  It doesn’t take much design talent to make those high ceilings and rustic beams look good.

The sugared almond colour scheme of lilac, celery green and dusky pink is still very attractive and feminine, though a perhaps a little sweet for my taste nowadays.  Though the colours, the sprigged embroidered cushions, the fresh flowers and the garland artwork are unashamedly girly, I love how Bruno keeps everything else spare and plain to avoid it tipping over the edge.

 

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The low picture shelf is a lovely touch (that Diane von Furstenburg could learn from) as are the rustic wooden frames that echo the beams. And I like the echoing triangles of the side tables and the chair legs. And is that just a plain, pistachio green canvas propped up to give an additional hint of colour?

 

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Pulling out a bit the red furry (beady?) artwork on the wall is a touch of genius, providing an emphatic focal point,, emphasising the symmetry of the room, dirtying up the colour scheme and providing a much needed touch of luxurious texture.  I also like that, unlike last week’s room she’s used a huge floor rug to cosy things up a little and ground the spindly-legged and rather insubstantial furniture, even at the cost of covering up those marvellous floorboards.

The string of paper lampshades, which Bruno apparently put together herself, is also a fabulous touch.

 

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The coloured lampshades over the table are clever too, bringing the colour palette into the dining area and echoing the shades on the other side of the room. And I absolutely love how the central one is elliptical and not round to prevent a surfeit of balls everywhere (and that’s never a good idea).

The hefty wooden table and industrial chairs again counteract the girliness and the substantial table legs contrast well with the flighty nature of the surrounding pieces. I’m not sure about having the table and chairs half on and half off the rug though.

 

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I like here how the sculpture on the secretaire reflects the painting above. 

This room is another study in geometric shapes – it seems I’m a sucker for them – the aforementioned triangles, the square cushions and dining chairs, the rectangles of the windows and the big round balls.  And also a study in contrasts – romantic v industrial, light v substantial, rough v smooth, spare v ornate. 

Though I think nowadays I’d add a bit more punch to the colour scheme and maybe some more graphic elements, I think this has stood the test of time very well and I certainly wouldn’t mind moving in tomorrow.

What do you think?  Too feminine or just right (or not feminine enough?)  Do you think it looks dated? Where can I get a red fuzzy thing to hang on my wall?

See how the sun is streaming into the rooms above?  It’s a photographer’s nightmare, but that’s what’s happening in Seattle at the moment.  It’s going to be a great weekend.  Have fun wherever you are.

   

WTF Friday: Gwyneth Paltrow

 

Although we had a bit of fun with it the day after the Oscars, I did think that Gwyneth Paltrow’s white Tom Ford Oscar dress was absolutely stunning. 

 

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Picture from Goop

 

So I was interested to read how stylist Elizabeth Saltzman came to choose the dress in this month’s gloop goop.

Here’s what she looks for when choosing a dress for Gwynnie.

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Now, I must confess to finding Gwyneth Paltrow one of the single most irritating people on the planet, which maybe unfair of me, since I’ve never met the woman.  But honestly, if this is the brief she gives her stylist, who can blame me?

What elements would you look out for in choosing a dress for Gwyneth?

   

Kate Moss at the Ritz for Vogue US

 

I just subscribed to US Vogue on my iPad, and to celebrate I thought I’d share the most gorgeous fashion editorial I’ve seen in a long while.

   

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Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere

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Alexis Mabille Haute Couture
   

It’s not often you get to ogle exquisite interiors as well as exquisite frocks, but Vogue wanted to celebrate the iconic Ritz Hotel in Paris, before it closes for a major refurbishment.

   

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Giambattista Valli Haute Couture
   

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Armani Prive’
   

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Alexander McQueen
   
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Chanel Haute Couture
   
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Dior Haute Couture
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Full editorial here. Photos by Tim Walker.

   

22 March 2012

Teeny Trend: Cut Up Union Jacks

unionjack

 

Today’s Teeny Trend features the newly-unveiled Team GB kit designed by Stella McCartney and a cushion I’ve recently had my eye on. 

I do like the idea of using portions of the Union Jack in designs – it’s still iconic and cool without going full on into Rule Britannia territory.  And thank goodness the Stella McCartney designs, while a bit dull, aren’t hideously embarrassing, unlike the godawful Olympic logo. I still have no clue what they were thinking with that one.

We’ve booked our flights out to London for the Olympics!  We don’t have tickets to any events, but I still wanted to be there to join in the party.  Can. not. wait.

   

21 March 2012

The Story of Bloom by Anna Schuleit

 

I was so incredibly moved by this art installation that I came across recently.

There’s something about the beauty of the flowers in such a bleak space, and the hope they represent in a place that must have seemed devoid of hope for so many people.  Art can sometimes be so incredibly powerful.

 

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In 2003 Anna Schuleit was asked to create a commemorative art installation to mark the closure of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center.  She noted that psychiatric patients are rarely brought flowers, so she used old hospital records to calculate how many people had passed through the facility and decided to commemorate each one with flowers.

 

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The 28,000 potted plants and green turf were spread throughout the building which was opened up to the public, including former patients and staff, for four days.  Then the plants were distributed to patients in care homes throughout the region (which is why Schuleit insisted on using potted plants instead of cut flowers).

   

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Read more about it here. {Images by Anna Schuleit}

   

Adventures in Baking : Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Glaze

 

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Having a bad morning? Chocolate cake always makes things better I find, and this one is a complete doozy – dense, moist and fudgey with smoky almost indiscernible undertones of coffee.  See, you’re feeling better already.  And hardly any carbs I’m sure.

Anyway, I don’t think I’ve told you yet about Book Larder.   It’s a fabulous new Seattle shop modelled on my darling Books for Cooks in London, which I used to live round the corner from and still sorely miss. Book Larder not only offers an amazing range of both popular and hard-to-come-by cookbooks, it also hosts a number of events and demonstrations from famous cookbook authors and chefs.

 

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Last week, they were hosting a book signing for food blogger Joy the Baker and I was asked if I wanted to bake something for the event from the Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes

It’s a wonderful book, chock full of original and droolworthy comfort food recipes written in Joy’s chatty style with an accompanying photo for every dish and lots of excellent baking tips.   It’s also very American, featuring lots of maple syrup, bacon and peanut butter, cookies, marshmallows and waffles, to the extent that I was a little intimidated.  What is a ‘toasted coconut Dutch baby with banana and pineapple’ when it’s at home? What the heck is a ‘buttermilk skillet cake with walnut praline topping’ supposed to taste like?

 

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I decided to test the book out properly by making a bundt cake.  Bundt cakes are ubiquitous in the US but I’ve never come across them in the UK and certainly never made one.  Could Joy the Baker teach this English girl how to bake a bundt?  (This was of course mostly a good excuse to buy myself a fancy bundt pan)

As far as I understand it, a bundt cake is just a cake baked in a bundt tin, which was traditionally a ring-shaped ridged affair.  In the US you can nowadays buy bundt pans in the shape of forts or football stadiums, roses or pumpkins – the challenge with all of them is making sure that the giant slab of cake with no filling is moist and decadent rather than dry and dull.  I needn’t have worried. Joy’s recipe features sour cream, vegetable oil and freshly-brewed coffee, which makes for a very wet batter and a delectably moist cake.  In fact, having had some cake in the fridge for a few days now, I can confirm that it just gets moister and fudgier and more delicious with keeping.

 

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I was also nervous about getting the thing out of the pan. After taking lots of advice on Twitter (thanks particularly to Jeanne Sauvage aka @fourchickens) I brushed the pan with melted butter, sprayed it with Bake Easy for good measure and floured it to within an inch of its life.  I then took Joy’s advice (she has a whole section on getting bundts out of tins) to wait for 20 minutes while the cake cooled in the pan before taking it out.  As a result of all this advice, both cakes I made just slid out of the pans with no fuss. Aren’t they pretty? I nearly burst with pride and couldn’t stop patting them. It seemed almost a shame to glaze them at all.

 

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Joy’s bundt is finished with a chocolate coffee ganache. This almost caused a bit of a commotion by refusing to set, meaning that I turned up for the event with only five minutes to spare. If you’re making this for an event I suggest you make it the day before. The cake honestly improves with fridging and then you won’t have a last-minute ganache-fuelled panic.

The glaze is also maybe the one thing I’d change about the cake.  The cake and ganache are surprisingly unsweet and sophisticated, perfect for adult tastes, but the Minx has declared that she doesn’t much like the mocha frosting.  If making this again with kids in mind I would replace the sour cream and coffee with normal cream for a sweeter frosting.  If you’re catering for adults though this is perfect as is.

Sorry non-American peeps, I didn’t have time to make the conversions from cups to weight.  Time to get out those cup measures again!

 

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Glaze

makes one 10-inch bundt cake

For the Cake:

1 1/4 cups freshly brewed hot coffee

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Pernigotti which is just insanely good)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking (bicarbonate of) soda

2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/4 cups sour cream

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons canola oil

 

For the Glaze:

6 ounces semisweet chocolate

3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter

1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

4 tablespoons freshly-brewed hot coffee

 

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan (see above) and set aside.

 

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To make the cake:

 

In a small bowl, whisk together the coffee and cocoa powder until smooth and no lumps remain. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment, whisk together the sugar and eggs until thick and pale. . Add the sour cream and oil and whisk until well incorporated.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until the flour is well incorporated. Add the cooled coffee mixture and gently mix to incorporate.  The batter should be loose and smooth.

Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for around 50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely in the pan and then invert onto a cooling rack. Cake should be completely cooled before frosting.

 

To make the glaze:

Bring 2 inches of water to simmer in a medium pan. Place the chopped chocolate (I used chips) and butter into a heatproof bowl. Place over the simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the boiling water. Remove the bowl from the heat when all of the chocolate bits have melted.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool for around 20 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the hot coffee, followed by the sour cream. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of coffee and stir until glossy.

This ganache will be very liquid and will need to spend half an hour or so in the fridge before it’s ready to be spread on the cakes, and will probably need an hour or so in the fridge subsequently if you’re planning on transporting the cake anywhere.

This is where I admit that I actually wasn’t a reader of Joy’s blog (I’ve started now though – I love her ‘voice’). It seems there are a ton of people who are though. It was standing room only to meet her.

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Please don’t look at the picture of me.  My hair was suffering from being raked-through too often by my fingers during my ganache-fuelled panic.

   

19 March 2012

Fancy Hotel of the Week: The Ace Hotel NYC

 

While in New York I had a great time at the Ace Hotel.  It was fascinating to stay there since we’d enjoyed ourselves so much at the Ace in Palm Springs and I was intrigued to see how their aesthetic would translate to a New York setting.

 

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And what they’ve done is very clever. The free-wheeling hippie chick of Palm Springs has smartened herself up for New York and become a little more glam and a little more polished, while still being a bit rough and ready around the edges and retaining her creative rocker vibe.

The refurbishment of the 1904 midtown Hotel Breslin is not exactly to my taste, but it’s hugely clever and hugely comfortable, and, as you would expect, full of thoughtful and quirky touches which add greatly to the pleasure of the stay.

 

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Our room featured tattoo art (and super comfortable beds) a guitar (of course, every hotel room should have a guitar) and a full-sized fridge, a working record-player and water bottles in the shape of gin bottles (I loved those).

 

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Downstairs in the lobby everything was dark and a little seedy, with glamorous filmstar lights, polished vintage woods and antique ceiling lights, while the funky graffiti wallpaper echoed the tattoo art in the bedroom.

 

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Using vintage artifacts and furniture everywhere, while retaining the worn mosaic floors and chipped plaster ceilings made everything seem a little louche and decadent, while being respectful of the building and its history.

 

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And someone had had huge fun with the graphic design (and having the address written so prominently on the keycard was super useful when grabbing a cab late at night).

 

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The food was good, the coffee was great, the bar was jumping and staff couldn’t have been more pleasant, helpful and friendly.

All in all a fun, comfortable and reasonably-priced place to stay in New York.  I will be back.

   

16 March 2012

WTF Friday

 

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New location-based phone app Highlight was apparently the breakout star of SXSW this week.  I personally have no idea what is does because I just can’t get beyond the gruesome, migraine-inducing logo. 

Is causing acute physical pain in your customers a new corporate trend?  It’s not even a good logo – rendered smaller and without the colours - as it probably will have to be for mobile devices etc. -  it’s just not memorable in any way.

But hey, I’m talking about it and so is Business Insider, so maybe they know what they’re doing.  But does this count as good graphic design?

You’re getting this early because I’m off for a weekend in Portland early on Friday morning (not quite sure why as it is POURING with rain here in the Pacific Northwest). Any good shops or restaurants you’ve been to recently that we should try out?

   

15 March 2012

Go Fug Your Room: Adam Levine’s Hollywood Hills House

 

Is the Husband reading?  No? Good. Because here is where I confess to a teensy weensy crush on Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine.

It helps that he looks uncannily like an Australian I had a bit of a crazy affair with (it couldn’t be called dating) before I met the Husband, and I’m also really liking his attitude as a judge on The Voice (I think you really are revealing too much about yourself today, Ed)  – he’s cute and funny and seems to really care about the contestants in his team and about music in general.  I’d been afraid that he’d turn out to be a complete douchebag (how I still love that word) much like the handsome Australian turned out to be, but for me he’s added major charm points.  Oh and I like his clothes.

But we all know that we can’t come to a proper conclusion about a man until we’ve seen the inside of his home, so fortunately Adam Levine’s house in the Hollywood Hills was featured recently in Architectural Digest so I could ascertain whether he was a worthy recipient of my affections.

 

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Here’s Adam waiting to pick me up and whisk me off.  It’s looking good so far, isn’t it ladies (and gay men)?

 

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And here’s the kitchen. Some great furniture (a Florence Knoll table and some Jacobsen chairs).  It doesn’t look like he cooks much, but I’d be happy to bake him a cake.  A little bit of colour would be nice somewhere -  this looks a bit like a space-age conference room - and the stylist who brought in the pink orchids obviously agrees.  But overall not bad.

 

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Oh dear. Purple VELVET?  And the Chesterfield shape looks a bit incongruous and grannyish with all the mid-century stuff going on.  I don’t like the rug either, something more graphic and less Miss Havisham would have worked better.  And the dark drapes continue the ‘conference room at a mid-sized bank’ theme. 

 

 

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Admittedly it looks a little better from this side. I take it back, the van der Rohe daybed does work with the couch, and the big cushions outside are cool. I still wish he’d change that hideous rug though. Love the floor lamp.

 

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This really feels like a musician’s house.  Adam comes across as really loving music on The Voice and this feels really authentic and true to him.

However, I could do without more tufted velvet – I love the piece, but not here – and  yet another granny rug, and although I have been known to like black walls in some contexts, this all looks far too dark and louche for southern California. 

Adam, you are disappointing me.

 

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Guns and Grammys?  Seriously?  I know you want me to know that you’re overloaded with testosterone, but this is all a bit much. I absolutely adore your sideboard though.

 

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And THIS is the bed you are planning to throw me on to?  Isn’t it, shall we say, a little staid and a bit Hilton Hotel-ish?  More for snuggling up in flannelette pyjamas on your own with a good book, I’d say.  And I’m not sure that black walls, looming portraits of hairy rockers and SKULLS are exactly going to get me in the mood.

I’m sorry Adam, but I’ve just remembered a prior engagement.

   

So my lovelies, what did you think of Adam’s shag palace tastefully appointed home?  I really wanted to love iy, but to me it’s just too weird a mix of fabulous furniture, chain hotel and trying-too-hard mancave, with a hint of douchebaggery round the edges.  But I have a sneaky suspicion that might be a pretty authentic reflection of Mr Levine’s personality anyway.

What do you guys think?  Is this house fugly? Please post your thoughts about his body in-depth analysis of the interiors in the comments.

 

An astonishing 74% of you agreed that Ines de la Fressange’s Provencal home was fugly. 

   

14 March 2012

That Was The Week That Was: Back In Seattle Edition

 

This has been an Instagram week of raincoats and snuggles, marmalade and bundt cake, polka dots and salted caramels, with a hint of spring green peeking through.

 

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On the 1st January I started posting daily photos to Instagram. I’m @mirrormirroxx. Come and be my friend.

   

It’s Back! Mad Men Season 5

 

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I  can’t tell you how excited I was to see these pics go up on the AMC website.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, Don Draper and co are finally going to be back on our screens.  It really has been far, far too long.

 

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We’ve been invited to a premiere party and I’m thinking of baking a Black Forest Gateau.  I know that was considered to be the height of elegance in 60s Britain, but I’m not sure about the US. Should I be throwing Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup into a hotpot instead?  I believe some sort of cocktail might be in order too.

 

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I had a pet theory last season that whichever woman on the show is closest to Don’s heart ends up wearing green (watch season 4, it works!), and on that basis I’m glad to see that Don is still very fond of Joanie and Peggy and has major issues with the ex-Mrs Draper.  Speaking of which, where is the soon-to-be-new Mrs Draper?  My other theory is that she’s going to turn out to be a bunny boiler extraordinaire.

 

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So questions for you. Will you be watching? Are you excited?  Are you having a party?   What retro 60s American food should I make? Am I the only woman in the world who doesn’t want to jump into bed with Don Draper? Which Mad Men woman are you?  I’m Peggy, though my life is currently more season one Betty (without the double-life living husband).

 

   

13 March 2012

Blogging Your Way: NYC Road Trip Part 2

 

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Day two of the Blogging Your Way workshop (other pics here and here), found Leslie Shewring from A Creative Mint taking her day in the sun (quite literally as the sun came out in New York after two days of Seattle-like torrential rain).

After hearing Leslie’s inspiring story of clicking with Holly online and subsequently striking up a great blogging and teaching partnership, we settled down for a day of more practical creativity.

 

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The biggest thing I took away from the workshop is that styling is ALL about telling stories in an image.

Whenever I’m styling something I know I always look at the colours and shapes first, forget about the mood or story I’m trying to convey, and then wonder why the image seems flat and dead. I can be very dense sometimes. Of course, it’s all about the storytelling. Well, duh.

 

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Leslie showed us how she pulls together inspiration boards to figure out moods and colour schemes.  She’s just one of those people who can instinctively pull together a bunch of random stuff and magically turn it into a coherent and pleasing whole.

It does help that she has some great props – she gave us lots of sources for what she called ‘curated hoarding’.  This was the second most useful thing I learned at the workshop.  Now I can explain to the Husband what I’m doing when he complains about the crap on my desk.

 

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We then talked about composition, lighting and the basics of photography and Holly gave us a ton of tips about styling and photographing interiors.  Then for the rest of the day we had time to play ourselves and make the most of the lovely light at Divine Studio and Leslie’s pretty props.

Here’s a little ‘inspiration board’ I pulled together, with things I’d pulled off my desk at home.

 

 

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And here are a few shots I styled and photographed of the beautiful food.  Can you see what stories I’m trying to tell?

 

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Leslie encouraged us to explore our subjects from lots of different angles to find the best composition.
   

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At the end of the day we all had fun taking pictures of all our new-found friends. Of course a huge part of the value and pleasure of doing these sorts of events is meeting a ton of inspirational and creative women.  New friends include Tina, Audrey, Michele, Natalie and Gretchen, Jessica, Ashley, Amanda and Fiona (seen below, who’d flown in all the way from England).  Also special thanks to Marianne, for being the most charming and easy-to-live-with roommate one could wish for.  I highly recommend taking a stroll through the links above, you’ll find some super charming and talented women and some new and fabulously inspirational blogs.

And once more a HUGE thank you to Holly and Leslie. You ladies rock SO hard.

 

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The simple crepe paper hangings Leslie had put up made a great back drop for photos.

 

One day I’ll have a picture taken with Holly where I’m not looking either blurred or deranged (See also San Francisco pics). 

 

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Teeny Trend: Turquoise Leather

 

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Shoes from here. Bag from here. I want those ‘vogs so much it’s painful.

I have a horrible feeling these ‘Teeny Trends’ are going to feature a LOT of shoes.

   

Blogging Your Way : NYC Road Trip Part 1

 

Very early a couple of Fridays ago I crept out of the house and set off on a little adventure

 

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When Holly Becker first announced that she was coming to New York to teach her hugely successful online Blogging Your Way’ class in person, my initial instinct was to think that it was a crazy idea; then I remembered how much fun I’d had at Holly’s book signing; then Holly started a persuasion job on me on Facebook (and goodness that woman can be persuasive) and before I knew it I’d booked a place on the class, a ticket to New York and a room at the Ace Hotel.

The weekend was split into two parts: Holly taught the ‘Creative Business of Blogging’ on the Saturday and then Leslie Shewring of A Creative Mint followed on Sunday with a more active workshop on styling and photography.  Since one of my goals for the year is to finally get serious about both my blogging and my food photography, it seemed like a great way of killing several birds with one stone. The fact that it was in NYC might have influenced my decision a leeetle bit too.

One of the things we talked about a lot during the Saturday workshop with Holly was uncovering and keeping true to your own personal style, aesthetic and voice. The quote on the slide above Holly’s head in the above picture is ‘to thine own self be true’ and she certainly practises what she preaches, as I discovered on the Friday night.

 

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                       Friday night                                                                                      Saturday morning
   

Since I was three hours behind New York time and wide awake on Friday evening, I was happy to help Leslie Shewring as she styled Divine Studio in the East Village to turn it from its bare white bones into a creative and inspirational space.  We moved tables, covered them with plain white paper, hung rolls of crepe paper, decorated jars with washi tape, arranged tulips and pretty notebooks. By the time Holly had added Liberty print ties and round tags and floral banners she’d made herself on the plane, being in the studio was like being within the pages of Holly’s blog – all white with pops of colours, lots of pretty pastels and florals, with the odd homespun, crafty touch. 

It’s not exactly my aesthetic, but seeing a coherent look being pulled together with some cheap accessories, a deft touch and a focused styling eye, was one of the most fascinating aspects of the weekend for me.

 

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                                                                                   Holly-isms everywhere
   

Aside from lots of practical advice about blog design, how to build readership, how to use social media successfully and how to monetize your blog, there was lots of stuff on finding your own authentic voice, focus and niche.  Focus is one of the things that my blog has suffered from a lack of over the years (you don’t say! – Ed) so this really resonated with me. I did a lot of soul-searching, both during the class and on the plane on the way home and I think I came to some conclusions.  I’ll share them in a separate post.

 

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Even the food, from City Bakery, was both beautiful and delicious
   

The thing you need to know about Holly is how authentic she is.

She’s had a lot of success but that has come about because she has stayed true to herself, her passion and her vision.  The whole weekend was an object lesson in ‘walking the walk’. From the décor, through the food, to the one-on-one attention, the course materials and the great team of helpers Holly had pulled together (Leslie, Michelle and Melissa below and Julie, whom I sadly don’t have a picture of), everything reflected Holly’s style and the fact that she is so utterly and ridiculously nice. This is a woman who really cares about her readers and the people who attend her classes and workshops, which is why they are so darn fun, creative and inspiring.

And that was probably the most inspiring, thought-provoking and fabulous thing of all.

 

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I’ve got so many pics that I’ve decided to split this post into two parts.  Tune in tomorrow for more about Leslie Shewring’s fabulous styling and photography class.

   

12 March 2012

Things I Am Loving: Diane Von Furstenberg for Gap Kids

 

Since we were all so rude recently about DvF’s Manhattan apartment, I feel it’s only fair to highlight the rather wonderful clothing collection she’s bringing out for Gap Kids, which hits stores on Thursday 15th (a couple of weeks later in Europe I think).  Lots of beautiful jolly prints, cool sandals and wrap. dresses. for. toddlers.  Who could want for more?

 

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As I mentioned, one of my beefs with DvF is that – since I’m not in possession of a waist -  I am one of the few women in the world who is not flattered by her wrap dress.  However, I am in possession of a tall, willowy seven year old blonde who will look FABULOUS in some of these creations.

   

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I’m seriously thinking of getting up early on Thursday to get in line, sad slave to labels that I am.

   

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I also very much liked the quote from the video DvF made for the Gap website. Much food for thought for us mamas.

   

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Here’s a still from the video, which I don’t seem to be able to embed. The full thing can be found here.

Will you be getting in line for your daughter?  Or maybe even yourself? (I think they go up to age 14).  Or do I really need to get a life?

   

10 March 2012

Pinterest Take Five

 

This week on Pinterest we’ve been getting ziggy with it.

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Source: Chevron iPhone case from Society6 via Leah Dent

   

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Source: Faux Feather Neon Aztec Earrings from lovesexton via Marcia Prentice

   

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Source: Design Crisis via Hammocks & High Tea

   

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1. Paint the canvas all crazy like 2. Use painter's tape to create a herringbone pattern with some missing  3. Paint over the canvas in white 4. Remove tape and voila!

Source: Cozamia via Melanie Hernquist

 

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Source: Pattern of the Day from Karina Maranin via Poppytalk

 

Oh and have an extra one this week. You guys are so SPOILT.

 

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Source: How to Make a Chevron Pattern in Photoshop from Ashli Nixon via Uncle Beefy.

   

09 March 2012

WTF Friday

 

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From the Sartorialist.

‘Trust me, French young ladies are still the ones to look to for the most aspirational new trends. The newest thing I’ve seen in the streets here in Paris are straight, wide leg jeans. Not flared or oversized jeans, but jeans with a wide leg hemmed right at the ankle and reasonably fitted at the waist. It seems simple, but in order to work the look just right the eye will have to adjust to this new proportion.’

   

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Do you mean to say that I’ve lost all this weight just so I can look like a plumber? PLEASE someone tell me that this trend won’t take off.

Or am I missing something important here?

   

Go Love Your Room: Circles, Rectangles and Stripes Edition

 

One of the things we talked about at the weekend was the idea of constantly exploring and questioning and thinking about your aesthetic and why you are drawn to certain things – using your blog as a way to explore your own creativity and as a catalyst to live your best life.

I saw this apartment a few weeks ago, and it really resonated with me, so I thought I might try and work out WHY I like it so much.

 

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This room is gorgeous.  The beautiful focal point of the paintings sort of goes without saying, but the designer has also used texture subtly and cleverly–  the smooth table and hard metals contrasted with soft leather rug and pouffe and the natural wooden floor. 

I’ve noticed in my photography that I’m really drawn to complementary shapes and I love how the designer has used  the large square art pieces to emphasise the rectangles of the doors and walls, while the circle of the ceiling rose is echoed by the cylindrical light, the round table, the cylindrical pouffe and even the spots and circles on the paintings.

 

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Pull out into the lounge area and you’ll see more use of shape and texture.  More rectangular pictures, more circular tables and a Tord Boontje metal light shade (which I don’t think is quite big enough).  You’ll know through all my ‘Go Fug Your Room’ rantings that I don’t like uncomfortable chairs, and I think the seating in here could be a little more cosy (and maybe a rug would have helped), but my goodness, it’s still a lovely space.

 

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Looking in the other direction the stripy art picks out the lines of the floorboards (love how they go in opposite directions), and echoes the stripy art and crib slats in the nursery. I also like how the curved top of the mirror reflects the curves of the Eames rocker and stops everything from feeling too square and boxy. And there’s a most beautiful stuffed owl with circular owly eyes.  And we all know how much I like those.

 

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Rectangular shelves, a round stool and a stripy rug complete the nursery and there are more circles and a whole family of round-eyed owls in the entrance hall.

 

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More stripes in the bed cover and through the kitchen cabinets and more circles through the art, the cushions and in the Nelson coat rack.

Wow. To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t noticed how thoughtfully the designer had organised the shapes in the apartment until I was half way through writing this post.  I thought at first it was the colours everywhere speaking to me, but I think it’s the underlying sense of organisation that is making my soul happy (unfortunately this is not reflected in my own home).  This house makes me want to tidy up and buy art.

What do you guys think?  Do you like it or is it too structured and sterile for you?  Does anyone know who did those amazing paintings or where I can buy those FABULOUS owls?  And where do the people who live here put their stuff?

This apartment belongs to Norwegian jewellery designer Stine A. Johanssen. More details are here, translated from the Norwegian.

   

07 March 2012

Teeny Trend: Pixels

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No, you don’t need new glasses, though I’m curious to know if anyone out there would dare to wear the shoes.

Cushions are available here and shoes here.

   

06 March 2012

That Was The Week That Was: NYC Edition

 

This has been an Instagram week of colourful shopping, tall buildings, funky hotels and yellow cabs.  With just a bit of blogging inspiration thrown in.

 

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On the 1st January I started posting daily photos to Instagram. I’m @mirrormirroxx. Come and be my friend.

I’ve had the most wonderful weekend. My head is full to bursting with ideas and inspiration, as is my cardholder with friends old and new.  Unfortunately my email inbox and laundry basket are also in danger of exploding and my fridge is very, VERY empty. 

I’ve got tons of ideas and thoughts and photos to share with you all but need to get myself straight today. New and improved blogging service begins tomorrow.

   

02 March 2012

Packing and Panicking : Blogging Your Way NYC

 

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PANIC!

 

This is what’s going down currently chez moi.  Early tomorrow morning I’m flying off to New York to attend Holly Becker of Decor8’s first ever in person Blogging Your Way workshop, which will include a day of photography and styling tips with the lovely Leslie Shewring of A Creative Mint.

 

 

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I’ve long wondered what could happen if I took my blogging a bit more seriously, so I’m hoping to get a ton of tips and tricks to take this blog to the next level and beyond, now that I’ve got my mad Photoshop skillz in hand. (Haha! – Ed)

I’m back on Monday night so there won’t be any blogging over the weekend.  However I’ll be taking pictures like crazy, so follow me on Instagram (@mirrormirrorxx), Twitter or Facebook.

In the meantime, tell me all your favourite unmissable shops in NYC, I’ve got a free day of mooching around on Monday.

   

01 March 2012

Things I Am Loving: Freshly Picked Desk Accessories

 

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The problem with Pinterest and Instagram is the constant stream of beautiful STUFF that is being constantly paraded under your nose.  How is a person to resist?

A recent Pinstagram-driven purchase was a lovely tan and gold leather mousemat from Freshly Picked, which I first saw on sfgirlbybay’s Instagram stream.

Susan from Freshly Picked makes the most beautiful tiny moccasins for babies (which almost make me wish the Minx was tiny again) and also the most delicious painted leather mousemats and pen holders, originally available in either a subtle gold, white or charcoal.

 

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I love my mat’s stark simplicity (which contrasts well with my floral desk) and the fact that it is high quality painted leather makes it easy to keep clean (er, quite a lot of food ends up on my mouse mat) and means it will only become softer and more supple with age.

Which is a bit of a bummer because I am now craving one of Susan’s new neon mouse mats rather desperately.

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Buy your mousemat here. Please don’t tell me if you get a neon one.

   

Go Fug Your Room? - Ines de la Fressange in Provence

 

Does that title send shivers down your spine?  

Given that Ines de la Fressange is the person I’d most like to be when I grow up, and Provence is the place in the world that I’d most to live (yeah, how original am I ), and her apartment in Paris has already been given the coveted mirrormirror seal of approval,  I can’t express how excited I was to see that my Elle Décor international edition was featuring Ines’ house in Provence.

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Until that is I actually opened the magazine. Was this cold, spare, almost industrial, snoozefest of a space REALLY the home of the most stylish woman on the planet?  Or has my beloved Ines been kidnapped by space aliens and replaced by some sort of robot?

 

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My first issue is with all the white.  I spent one of the happiest years of my life living in the South of France and the light there is warm and golden and oozes like butter, made for the sunset colours of painted plaster, terracotta tiles and warm, rich woods.  This harsh, clinical whiteness might work in Scandinavia, or Britain, or even Paris, but it doesn’t begin to say Provence to me.

 

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And then there are the chairs.  Is it me, or does every single chair with the exception of the daybed look supremely uncomfortable? Either the sort of chair you have to perch on or a somewhat creaky flea market sofa with the sort of smelly upholstery you have to cover with a throw?

 

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I could almost cope with the white if it had been enlivened by some brilliantly contrasting colours, but black?  I think black is quite difficult to live with at the best of times, but the black and white, with the stiff metallic lamps and stark, shiny floors, just seems cold, uncomfortable and unfriendly in Provence.  And I can’t even begin to explain how many sorts of wrong the depressingly coloured Union Jack cushion is.

 

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The kitchen is by far the best room in the house and shows what might have been if more colour had been included.  But it still all seems rather brutal to me.

 

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But what do you guys think?  Is this house fugly or not? As usual tell us how you reached your decision in the comments.

 

 

I was astonished to find out that an amazing 74% of you agreed with me about Diane von Furstenburg’s Manhattan penthouse. I do hope you’re not just sucking up.