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23 posts from April 2012

28 April 2012

How To Bake British Without Freaking Out

 

victoria sponge (1 of 1)

 

I just wanted to let you all know that there are still some places left for the class I’m giving on Monday night at fabulous Seattle cookbook store Book Larder.

And it would be lovely to see blog readers there.

The class is called Baking In Translation – How to Bake British Without Freaking Out and is for anyone who’s tried to use a recipe from British website or cookbook and been flummoxed by the strange ingredients or metric measurements.

I’ll be covering the basics of weighing and measuring in metric rather than using cup measures; discussing differences in flours, sugars and creams; translating strange ingredient names and suggesting the best sources and substitutions for hard-to-find ingredients.  I’ll be demonstrating how to make a traditional English Victoria sponge cake and maybe, if there’s time, English flapjacks (sort of sticky sweet granola bars, not pancakes) and there’ll be treats to sample.

The class will run from 6.30 to around 8.30 and you can find full details and buy tickets here. Here’s my previous blog post on the subject.

I’d love to meet Seattle blog readers and if you can’t make it, anything you could do to promote the class via various social media would be very much appreciated.

See you on Monday!

 

   

27 April 2012

Things I Am Loving: Laser Cut Nori

 

Speaking, as we were, of lace effects in unexpected but obvious places, I just wanted to share my love for these award-winning nori sheets (found via JeannieJeannie).

laser-cut-sushi

 

laser-cut-nori5

 

Ad agency I&S BBDO Inc in Japan was asked to create an online campaign for the Umino Seaweed Store, a company producing nori (the sheets of seaweed used in making sushi) that had been badly affected by the tsunami.

Unfortunately, and particularly in a Japanese context, nori is a very boring product to advertise, so the company looked for ways to differentiate the product and get it some online buzz. 

Remember I did a certificate in Online Marketing last year?  Well, we were told again and again that original and persuasive content is the key to online campaigns that work, so the agency’s strategy of  tweaking the product itself in an original and beautiful way was utterly inspired.

Because of the horrible circumstances of the tsunami, the agency looked to traditional Japanese designs for longevity, good fortune, hope, happiness etc. to create a positive vibe around the product and the campaign has since won many awards.

 

laser-cut-nori

 

After poking round the Internet, I discovered that Seattle’s very own Food Geek had also had a very similar idea (and made some beautiful photos). Feast your eyes on these.

 

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Can someone please produce these commercially? They would make such beautiful onigiri.

   

26 April 2012

Go Love Your Room: The House that Houzz Built

 

houzz-nyt-paloalto2

 

I realise that recentGo Love Your Rooms’ have been rather same-y – white backgrounds, pastel-y accents, eclectic mix of furniture and objects, yadda yadda yadda, rinse and repeat etc.

So loving a very modern house is a bit different for me.  Once upon a time Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen were doing up their long low modern bungalow in Palo Alto and bemoaning the lack of online resources to save and share remodeling inspiration. So they founded Houzz.com. As you do.

 

houzz-nyt-paloalto

Warm and cosy

Several things strike me about this room.

Firstly modern houses can very quickly get ‘boxy’ – lots of square furniture in lots of square rooms – but in this house they’ve very carefully added circle shapes to add contrast. Not just with the awesome swing seat, but also by adding the circular tray and the circle pattern on the pouffes.

 

houzz-nyt-paloalto4

Circles and squares

 

There are still a lot of squares in the room, but they are also made more interesting by playing with scale – the big square picture, the medium cube pouffes, the smaller cushions and the even smaller cubbie shelves inserted into the wall.

Next they’ve gone for texture and comfort.  So many modern houses are beautiful but also seem sterile and cold. Here the cushions, the awesome rug, the pouffes and the swing make everything seem cosy, comfortable and FUN (though the pouffes do look as if you’d have to perch rather than lounge if you used them for seating).

 

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The light in this room must be amazing
 

And finally there’s some colour!  So many modern day architects seems to believe that the only colours available are black, white and brown, so the pops of orange, red and purple are extremely welcome.  I like how the books in the cubbies are arranged by colour, there’s so much scope to change stuff in and out of those shelves to create different wall ‘art’.  I’d love to know where their proper book storage is though.  I’m assuming this house has a giant basement where all the crap is stored.

 

houzz-nyt-paloalto5

Needs more colour?

Pulling out more that amazing light fitting brings more circles and spheres into play, which is good as the dining table and chairs would otherwise be very angular and stark.  I can’t help feeling that the dining area needs something more, maybe even something as simple as a coloured runner on the table.

 

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I’ve always loved those Ligne Roset Togo couches though I wish in this case they’d gone for the coloured version or maybe a coloured throw. But again, they look so deliciously lounge-y and comfortable.  I like the pops of colour in the kitchen and the shiny black floor grounds the whole space wonderfully.  The row of chairs finds echoes throughout the space too – the row of skylights, the row of vases on the dining table, the double row of book cubbies.

Still have no clue where all their STUFF is though.

 

houzz-nyt-paloalto6

 

The bedroom is saved from monochrome minimalist boringness by the use of overlapping textures – bumpy mosaic, smooth shiny cupboards and embroidered throws – and by that phenomenal wallpaper. This feature wall – which adds texture rather than grabbing attention -  is one I can definitely get behind.

 

houzz-nyt-paloalto7 houzz-nyt-paloalto8

All photos by Matthew Millman for The New York Times

What do you guys think? Too modern, too shiny, too stark?  And tell me honestly, could you actually live like this?  I know me and my family wouldn’t have a snowball in hell’s chance of being this tidy.

Back blogging now. Next time I know to get guest bloggers in to cover the couple of days after a trip when I’ve taken one look at the overflowing cases, laundry basket and email inbox and am lying gibbering in a darkened room.

   

23 April 2012

The Sun Always Shines On TV

 

sunset-from-plane (1 of 1)

 

But apparently not in real life.  Our trip to Southern California was mostly foggy and overcast and not very warm. Especially galling as the weather was apparently delightful in Seattle.  The photo shows our first glimpse of the sun in three days as the plane soared over a thick blanket of cloud in LA. 

But still we did manage to have a great time. Thanks to L’Auberge Del Mar for another magical stay (see last year’s blog post here) and to the chic and groovy resorts of Del Mar, Encinitas, La Jolla and Laguna Beach for showing us beautiful beaches, whales and seals in abundance. We also had a surprisingly fun time at Seaworld (actually it was surprisingly fun for me, for the Minx it was expectedly awesome).

We ate epic fish tacos at Raul’s Shack in Encinitas, legendary shrimp tacos at El Pescador Fish Market in La Jolla (are you seeing a theme here?), excellent gelato at Gelateria Frizzante also in La Jolla, a superb breakfast at Americana in Del Mar and took my elderly aunt for a rather touristy but surprisingly good value and good champagne brunch at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach. The new chef at Kitchen 1540 at L’Auberge is also doing an extremely good job as far we can see.

SoCal, we will be back, despite your terrible weather.

 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have overflowing suitcases, an overflowing garden and an overflowing inbox to attend to and beautiful Seattle sunshine that has my name on it, so better blogging service will resume tomorrow. In the meantime last week’s amazing guest posts are worth a read.

   

20 April 2012

A Mini Tour of Ely

 

For our final guest post this week, I thought we’d return to the old country.  Whenever anyone asks me what I miss most about England, ancient buildings are very high on the list – or more explicitly that humbling feeling of being surrounded by generations of ghosts, which Liz writes about so eloquently below.  I’ve been reading Liz’s lovely blog for the longest times – it’s such a comfortable mix of family life, vintage finds, home ideas and unashamed geekery – and I knew she’d be the perfect person to take us round her home town and introduce us to a little city that deserves to be much more widely known.  (By the way, that sound you hear is me howling with homesickness.)

Hello, and it's so nice to meet you all! I'm Liz and usually you can find me over at Violet Posy writing about my Home and Family. I'm very excited to be writing as a guest on Paola's blog while she's away. I thought I'd share with you one of my favourite places, the tiny City of Ely, just outside of Cambridge in the UK.

The city which isn't on the usual tourist track, it lies in the middle of what used to be a series of islands. The largest of which was the Isle of Ely. The 'Fen' or large swamp surrounding it, was drained in the seventeenth century making the water logged land, fertile farmland and the Isle finally joined the mainland.

The Cathedral is at the heart of the city and is also known as 'the Ship of the Fens' - you can see it from miles around. It started construction in 1083 under King William I and was finally finished in 1375. It is a stunning piece of architecture and when you enter it you can feel the history surrounding you. One of my favourite things to do, is to sit down in the quiet Cathedral and imagine all the people who came before, you can almost feel them, it's such an atmospheric place.

 

 

The Lantern which sits in the middle of the Cathedral, brings in light to the centre. It was handmade in wood in the 1340’s and is beautifully hand painted.

 

 

It's hard to believe looking at it's complicated construction that it’s so old. Every Christmas, I sit under it wondering if that's such a good idea to be sitting under something wooden and nearly 700 years old! But it's still standing and I'm sure it will be for another few hundred years.

However the Cathedral is not the only old building in Ely. There are buildings from pretty much every period, Tudor, Georgian, Victorian and they are all beautiful in their own way. You can wander round and see buildings which are still used as homes, workplaces and pubs which are pretty ancient. I often forget that some of the buildings are so old as they are used daily and not museums at all.

 

 

Ely is also blessed with some excellent Markets, which are held on Thursdays and Saturday's. The Farmer's Markets and Continental Markets are especially favourites of ours. The range of artisan foods - breads, cheeses and meats are amazing, and the stalls with flowers and plants are outstanding. It's impossible to go to the market without coming home with bags of yummy food and a big bunch of flowers.

 

 

Further down the hill is the old Waterside with it's fantastic Antiques Barn where we love to have a good rummage and the beauiful riverside. It's a really lovely to walk next to the river or sit for a while and watch the ducks and swams go by. You can also take a peaceful boat ride along the river to see the sites from the water - generally they also give you a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake on the boat too.

 

 

And finally no trip to Ely is complete without a stop at the award winning Peacocks Tearoom. There you can get the most amazing afternoon tea - finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and a big old slice of cake with a selection of teas from around the world. It's possibly one of my favourite places to eat in the world, and you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day if you pay it a visit!.

 

I hope you enjoyed my mini tour and if you’re ever near London or Cambridge pop on a train and come up and visit!

 

Thanks so much to Liz, to Tina for her wonderful New York insights, to Michele for her awesome photography tips and Sandra for her great tour of Vancouver. Please visit their blogs and show them some comment love, so they’re encouraged to come back and write for us again.

I hope you’ve enjoyed having something a little different on the blog over the last few days, I’ll be back with the same old nonsense on Monday.

   

19 April 2012

My Hidden New York

 

OK chaps.  There's another limo waiting to take you to the airport. Places to see and people to do and all that. This time we're off to New York, New York!

I was also delighted to meet Tina at Holly Becker’s NYC workshop. She works for a very well-known interior designer in NYC and has a great eye. Her blog is also very special, full of unusual and creative products and ideas she comes across in her day to day life, so I thought she'd make the perfect guide to the city that never sleeps.  She’s lived in New York for six years now, so you know her recommendations will take you off the beaten tourist path. I want to do another weekend in New York immediately, just to try them out.

Hello mirrormirror readers! My name is Tina Ramchandani and I run the design blog Life in Sketch. I am an interior designer and I live and work in New York, New York. On my blog I focus on all aspects of design as well as highlighting places I visit and travel to. Since I live in one of the best cities in the world, I have tons of spotlights, right here in NYC. Today I'm going to share with you some of my favorite New York City spots. I have a few places to eat, shop and hang out, picked out for you. Hope you love them as much as I do!

 

To Hang:

How-I-learned

One of my favorite things to do is attend the How I Learned series by Blaise Allysen Kearsley. It's held once a month, usually on a Wednesday, at Happy Ending, at 302 Broome Street. If you are in town when the series is being held, you must go! It's a hilarious event where writers, comedians and other New Yorkers discuss their personal stories about the topic of the day. My very first time attending, the topic was "How I Learned to Live in New York". I can't explain how insanely funny it was. I was hooked!

Asssscatshow

On a Sunday night, the best thing to do is to head over to Upright Citizen's Brigade and watch the Asssscat show. UCB is an improvisational theatre and school that offers affordable classes and shows, which has never failed me. I have friends that have taken classes there, and every single show I have has left me in tears (from laughing so hard, obviously). The Asssscat show is the best of the best and often features comedians you love, that star in 30 Rock, The Office, SNL and more. There is a 7:30 show, which is $10 and a 9:30 show, which is free, but be prepared to wait in line as reservations are not accepted. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Ikea-ferry

This might seem odd, but I love the IKEA ferry! The ferry, run by New York Water Taxi, sails from South Street Seaport to Red Hook everyday. It's kind of amazing actually. You get on this ferry, virtually for free, and get a short tour of the East River. You leave from Pier 11 in southern Manhattan and get to see Jersey City, Ellis Island, Governor's Island and finally Brooklyn. I always run straight to the top of the boat where you get to sit outside and enjoy the view. The boat leaves every 40 minutes. On Mondays through Fridays, the cost is $5 but if you purchase something from IKEA you get your money back. Just be sure to present your receipt when you check out. On Saturdays and Sundays the ferry is free. When you're done you get to hop on the ferry back. It's a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

 

 

To Shop:

Housing-works-bookstore

There are tons of bookstores here in New York and it's hard to narrow down my favorite. But I had to do it for you and so I will say that Housing Works Bookstore is at the top of my list. Housing Works' goal is to help people affected with HIV and AIDS. In addition to the bookstore, Housing Works has an online shop and a few thrift stores around the city where you can purchase home goods and clothing. 100% of all profits are used to help those that need it. The bookstore is located at 126 Crosby Street and the selection of books is immense. There is a cafe inside with plenty of seating and they encourage you to sit and hang out! That is rare these days. If you needed another selling point - there are book events almost every day of the week.

treasure-bond-nyc

If I am looking to treat myself or get a one of a kind gift for a friend, I always go to Treasure & Bond. Each item is specifically picked for the New York City downtown market ranging from scented candles, stationery, to clothing and accessories. I recently purchased a PopUp Paris candle from here, that may have a hidden diamond inside! There is a huge benefit to shopping at this store as well. 100% of all profits go to charities benefiting children in NYC.

 

To Eat:

jehangir-mehta-nyc

My favorite chef is Jehangir Mehta and I am lucky to have his two restaurants extremely close by. One is within walking distance of my apartment, Mehtaphor, located in Tribeca. The other, Graffiti, is located in the East Village. While both menus are similar, there are items on each you can't resist. Jehangir's signature is a flavorful modern Indian food. If you go to Graffiti you will notice that he cooks in a 50 square foot kitchen, which we all know is hard to do! Both locations serve my favorite dish, the Graffiti burger, which you must try.

chinatown-icecream-factory

For dessert I always go to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. This place is fantastic. It has traditional and modern Chinese ice cream flavors, and it has been open since 1978! It's one of Chinatown's oldest businesses and it's definitely a place the neighbors love. My flavor of choice is black sesame, but it sells out quickly so if you want it, you have to get there early. The shop is open late so I usually end up stumbling in after a long day and I miss all the black sesame. All the flavors are super tasty, you can't really go wrong. It is located on 65 Bayard Street.

There are so many places that I discover every day, it's hard to just pick a few to share with you. I'm really lucky and I get to see tons of super cool stuff all the time, so if you stay tuned you'll be learning about more NYC gems. I hope you've enjoyed my spotlights today!

   

Five Simple Tips to a Better Architectural Photo

 

 

I thought we’d relax after yesterday’s trip to Vancouver with a little photography.  I was fascinated to see that a full 89% of you who responded to the recent Urtak survey said you enjoyed photography, so I hope this next post will prove to be both interesting and useful to many of you.

I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Michele, a professional architectural photographer, on the Blogging Your Way weekend. Her blog is newish, but wonderful – she has a warm, witty, very funny voice and takes seriously awesome photographs.  And yes, you have to read her blog posts in a Brooklyn accent.

First of all, I’m totally having an anxiety attack because someone reads my blog. And not just someone, but the lovely, creative, funny, and incredibly spirited, Paola. And not only does she read my little photoblog, Tripping on Asphalt, but she likes it enough that she’s asked me to write something for her wonderful blog. I’m melting into a little puddle on the floor. Then she’s all, “Sorry for the short notice, Love” and I’m swooning over the super-cool accent (because, of course, I read her emails with an accent), and in my head I’m all, “seriously, sister; if you’d given me a week instead of 24 hours, I’d’ve died from an anxiety attack instead of getting myself together and writing this post”.

So here we are! My name is Michele, and I began my architectural photography business, Sequined Asphault Studio, back in 2005. I was born and raised in Brooklyn and now live in Connecticut with my very tall husband and my very small dog, who I am trying to teach to work a cocktail shaker. If you’d like to get to know me a bit better, consider yourself warned, but you can read about some of my random idiosyncrasies on my blog, Tripping on Asphalt .

Paola tells me you love photos! So we thought I’d share with you just a few of the techniques I use to create an image; techniques that you can easily steal to make your own photos even better. For the last tip you’ll need a dslr/slr and be able to set it to manual mode, but for all the others any camera will do. Now, I tend to steer away from the how-tos for fear of being Miss Bossy Pants, but for Paola, I’m going to be adventuresome. I humbly present to you, Five Simple Tips to a Better Architectural Photo.

   

Tip 1:   Use a Tripod.

   

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I basically can’t talk to you any more if you don’t follow this advice, because everything else I’m going to tell you requires you to put down the camera so that you can be more conscious of everything in your shot. If you’re using one already, 5 points for Gryffindor! If you are not, don’t despair, just give it a go. And don’t break the bank if you don’t have one already. Chances are you can find something in a friend or relative’s basement. If not, get an inexpensive base model and it will serve you loyally.

Now, if you are attempting to get a shot of newly mobile toddlers using a tripod, you will get a headache trying to get them in frame, which will lead to more vodka and less pictures. But a tripod can elevate many types of photography, even, or maybe especially, a basic family portrait where you can mindfully set up your shot and possibly hop in after you’ve set the timer.

   

 

Tip 2:  Be Conscious of Your Lines

   

 

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Now that your camera is on a tripod, look through your viewfinder at the walls, moldings, doorways, bookcases, trees, or anything that creates a right angle or parallel lines within the frame of your photo. Get right up in your viewfinder and position the camera so these lines are as straight as possible. Especially the floor and ceiling. I shoot directly to the computer and can double check on a larger screen, but you can use your viewfinder and LCD screen quite effectively. Most often when things look cockeyed on the screen after I’ve take the time to perfect my lines, I find I’ve been looking through the camera at some messed up angle, so make sure you’re not crooked either.

While you’re at it, analyze the lines you’ve got. If you don’t want to see the ceiling, zoom in and get it out of there. Make sure those lines include exactly what speaks to you to photograph. Nothing more, nothing less.

   

Tip 3: Consciously Choose Objects to Convey the Mood

   

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My husband, Dug, is convinced that my 3 pound Yorkie, Chewbacca, would make every single photo I take better. (Paola would likely prefer a disinterested cat.) I’ve unsuccessfully tried to explain to Dug that at some point, people might stop paying me for my services if I refuse to take photos without Chewie. To which he calmly shakes his head and replies, “Have they met him?”

But Dug makes an excellent point. Animals warm the heart and can create a more inviting photo. Embrace animals, or items that show personality. Since this shot was taken in my own home, it was super simple to grab Chewie and everything on that nightstand from other places in the house to create a quick scene that reflects me, instead of the clutter that was actually there, which also reflects me, though I’d prefer my used Kleenex and iPhone charger not be recorded for posterity.

   

Tip 4:  Declutter and Edit Out Objects that You Don’t Want Stealing the show

   

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Sometimes there can be too much personality. Go ahead and move stuff out of the frame that's distracting. Declutter. And here we come back to the tripod again. Because once you’ve got the camera pointed at your subject matter, you can keep going back and checking the composition to actively decide what you want in the frame and what you don’t. Get all the crap out of the way because the only thing that matters for your photo is what the camera can see. Armageddon can be, and often is, 2 inches outside of the frame, and no one will ever know.

I loved this bear. I totally wanted to take him home. But if I’d left him in the shot, no one would be looking at the architecture, right? They’d be all, ‘Bear!’ Which was pretty much how I felt all day at this shoot. “Bear!’ We even set him a place at lunch. You can also see the equipment and wiring in the corner behind me that we covered with the homeowner’s cool jugs (now I’ve gone and accidentally made a boob reference and I’m never going to get invited back).

OK, bear with me while we get a tad technical. (and now I’m punning, how unfortunate)

   

Tip 5: For a Sharp All Over Photo, Set a Large Numbered f-stop

   

scotto5

When I’m setting up an overall, wide-angle shot, I want everything as crisp and sharp as possible throughout the entire image. None of the beautiful bokeh, the blurred background that pops your subject, people love so in portraits. To make this happen using only available light, crank the f-stop setting to as high a number as you can go (a higher number is actually considered a smaller f-stop because it means the resultant opening for light is very small), then find your shutter speed through experimentation. You’ll need a much longer exposure, so just keep adjusting your shutter speed to find the right balance of light. Anything moving in a long exposure shot, like an animal, person, or branch in the wind, will end up a motion blur, which can be pretty interesting.

This night shot is an extreme example but the shutter was open for 3.2 seconds and the f-stop set at f/16. Obviously I couldn’t hold the camera still for 3.2 seconds, so thanks to my trusty tripod, that’s 3.2 seconds during which I was sipping pinot noir.

Our time here has come to an end, lovelies. I thank you so much for the opportunity to chat, and thank you Paola for having me as your Guest Blogger for the day! I’d love to hear if you’re able to make use of any of these tips, or if you have any questions I can tackle about the kinds of photos you see on my site or in the design magazines. Drop by any time for a visit.

xoxo MS T

   

18 April 2012

Vancouver in Five

 

Please welcome Sandra from Raincoast Cottage to the blog. She’s a Vancouverite who recently moved back there from Toronto, so who better to tell us of some of the great new places she’s found in her old home town. I’m also shamed that she has made more progress doing up her cottage since she moved in six months ago, than we’ve made in this house in over five years. Check out her cottage on her blog. It’s lovely.

Five favourite spots that is! Welcome to my city - my old home town. You see, I lived out east for ten years and only returned to Vancouver late last summer. So there's been more than a bit of exploring happening around here as I discover my new favourite places to shop and eat. And I am happy to share five of them with you.

When I left Vancouver, the neighbourhood just east of Gastown was a bit sketchy. More than a bit sketchy. So sketchy that you could never begin to imagine any gentrification. But it has. It still has its edginess - but that gives it its charm. And this is where we will start on our tour of my five favourite places.

 

Nelson the Seagull

nelson-the-seagull

 

You are in the Pacific Northwest so the very first stop is going to be for a coffee. How could it not be? And not just any coffee - one from Nelson the Seagull. They know how to pull shots. And although they do have a yummy menu (let's come back for lunch), once we have our coffees, we're going to step out and walk down to Cartem's Donuterie.

 

Cartem's Donuterie

To go with your coffee, do I have a treat for you. And it's less than a block away. It's a tiny, tiny place making THE best handmade donuts from only locally sourced, organic ingredients. I know, you think that you have had good donuts, that you know all about them. How can they get any better? Well, they can. And they are.

cartems-donuterie

What about some of these flavours - Earl Grey, maple topped with bacon (and some Bourbon too!), carrot cake, even vegan options. And they even deliver but only downtown - it's by bike so they stay on this side of the bridges.

Now that we are fed and watered, how about a visit to The Old Faithful Shop?

 

The Old Faithful Shop

oldfaithfulcollage

 

I know that "well curated" is such an overused phrase now but I can't think of a better way to describe the goods that the Old Faithful Shop carry. Savannah, one of the owners, is originally from the Canadian prairies - her friendly personality is a dead giveaway. She and her partner Walter stock all sorts of goods from all over the world that are well made and unique. You can shop online too!

Urban Source

urban-source

 

Feeling inspired to make something? Want something a little different than your usual art supply store? Let's scoot over to Urban Source. For over 15 years, Urban Source has been the place to go for alternative art materials. It's not a big place but it is full from top to bottom with bins of materials collected from over 100 local businesses. Most of it you buy by the paper bag. Grab the size you want and start filling it up. And then when you get home, start making some art.

 

Metropolitan Home

 

met-home-vancouver

 

A trip to Vancouver would not be complete without some vintage furniture shopping. For our last stop we'll visit Metropolitan Home for a dose of mid-century modern furniture. Located in the Armoury District near 2nd and Fir, there's lots to catch your eye - both in furniture and decor. I have that table lamp and there is a floor version too.

Thanks for joining me to visit five of my favourite places in Vancouver! And visit me at www.raincoastcottage.com where I write about living a creative life.

Guest Bloggers!

 

So the quality of blogging round these parts is going to soar over the next few days. (Thank goodness, I hear you cry!)

For the first time in its excruciatingly long and illustrious history, mirrormirror will be featuring guest bloggers.

pink-nail-polish

While I am chilling at the beautiful L’Auberge del Mar (or more likely visiting Legoland), you will be travelling the world in the company of four fabulous guest bloggers and erstwhile members of the mirrormirror commentariat.

virgin-airlines-cabin

 

Sandra, the stylish mastermind behind Raincoast Cottage, will be taking you on a tour of Vancouver; interior designer Tina from Life in Sketch will show you her hidden New York; and the lovely Liz from Violet Posy will be whisking you to Ely, the ancient English market town that she calls home. In addition pro architectural photographer Michele from Sequined Asphault will be giving you her top tips for creating great architectural photos.

Please leave lots of encouraging comments on their posts and click hard and often on the links to their blogs, to make it worth their while and ensure that they come back to blog here again.

I’d say ‘don’t miss me too much’ but I have a feeling you’re not going to miss me at all. Please leave any good tips for things to do in Del Mar, Dana Point or San Diego in the comments and follow my progress on Twitter and Instagram. I’m @mirrormirrorxx.

See you on Monday!

   

17 April 2012

Washington Tulip Fest 2012

 

Yes my dears it’s that time of year again, when we go and visit the spectacular Washington tulip fields and then I get to bore you all my photos. And yes I do realise you’ve seen very similar photos before.  Long time readers may want to grab a cup of tea at this point.

 

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You will have noticed that a certain not-so-little-anymore Minx was also avidly photographing. That’s one of her pics below.  I’m such a proud mama!

 

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We’re still quite early in the season.  If you live in the Pacific Northwest I reckon you’ve got at least two more weeks to see the splendour.

   

WTF Monday: Wenlock and Mandeville

 

Only three days late.  One day I’ll get good at this ‘blogging to schedule’ malarkey.

So we touched on this in the comments to a recent post, but I thought it was time we properly dealt with London’s Olympic shame.

When it was announced that London had won the Olympics bid, I was looking forward to my home town showing the rest of the world why it is a capital of style, creativity, incredible design and all round fabulosity.

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And then the mascots – Wenlock and Mandeville -  were unveiled (the logo I can’t bear even to talk about).  They are apparently supposed to be one-eyed drops of steel from the construction of the Olympic stadium, with London taxicab lights stuck on the tops of their heads.  Of course.  As an aside, I can’t find any reference to why Mandeville has apparently peeed his pants.

So, really, aren’t these more scary than attractive?  Is anyone going to buy them/collect them?  Aren’t they just embarrassingly lame? 

I did do a one kid focus group with the Minx and she thought they were ‘cute’, so maybe I’m not the target market here. Though the Minx’s strange taste is already on record. 

What do you think? What do your kids think?  Are these an embarrassment to London? UK peeps, are the mascots much in evidence in the run-up to the Olympics or is everyone just trying to pretend they don’t exist?

Buy Wenlock and Mandeville here if you must.

   

13 April 2012

That Was The Week That Was: Spring in Seattle Edition

 

Oh goodness, it’s been ages since I’ve done one of these.  It’s been a pastel-coloured, blossom-filled, playing in the sunshine, baking goodies couple of weeks.

 

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

12 April 2012

A Shopping Trip to Portland: Part 2

 

Here’s part two of my shopping guide to Portland.

You can see where I went with my girlfriends on the Friday in Part 1 here.  And pictures from  Portland’s Japanese Garden are here.

Here’s what we did on Saturday after the family came and met me on the Friday night.

After a leisurely breakfast at our hotel (we stayed again at the Nines, which is worthy of a separate blogpost), we wandered off to the Portland Saturday market.  To be perfectly honest I wasn’t terribly impressed. There seemed to be a lot of tat and not a huge amount of originality.

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We then tried to get into the legendary Voodoo Doughnuts. The magic may indeed be in the hole, but weren’t going to stand in the mile-long queue to find out. I sort of regret that now.  Instead we jumped in the car and headed to the Farmers’ Market at Portland State University. This was more like it, on a par with the best of the Seattle farmers’ markets, but with new and different producers to try.

After the market we headed back downtown for lunch and went to Habibi for Lebanese food. It’s a cuisine I miss a lot from London, as I can’t find any very good exponents in Seattle, but here it’s done well – the food is fresh and tasty, with excellent rice, hummus and breads, though not particularly imaginative.

 

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From there we went back to a couple of shops I’d visited the day before and possibly my two favourite shopping finds in Portland so far.

 

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Woonwinkel focuses on colourful and graphic contemporary craftmade pieces – it’s the shop I wanted mirrormirror to turn into. They call it ‘new modern’: warm, inviting, tactile, quirky.  Modern with soul. I loved it, though left without purchasing.

 

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Alder & Co also does beautiful everyday items, with a clean, almost Japanese aesthetic.  I bought the most stunningly smooth and tactile (and stunningly expensive) stoneware Japanese butter dish and some beautiful wooden measuring spoons.

We then headed for Powell’s Bookstore, where I have to admit that I spent a lot of time surreptitiously photographing the covers of books that look good for later download on my Nook.  I sort of hate myself for doing this, though we did slightly assuage our guilty consciences by buying children’s books for the Minx. But please tell me how I can reconcile my love of independent bookstores with my Nook love?  I really haven’t figured this out yet.

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All the guilt was making me thirsty, so we headed over to Portland’s Ace Hotel for coffee in the downstairs Stumptown coffee shop. You buy your coffee and then can take it into the hotel lobby. I was intrigued to see the décor after my recent stays at the Ace in NYC and the Ace in Palm Springs.  Again they’ve done a great job of matching the Ace’s hipster aesthetic to its surroundings.  Not as smart as the NYC hotel, nor as carefree as the Palms Springs one, this was quirky, funky and yes, most decidedly hip.

As we walked back home I saw this bicycle stand outside a cupcake shop.  I’ve no idea whether the cupcakes are good or not, but the bike stand just summed up Portland for me.

 

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Tired but happy, we ended up heading back to the Nines for dinner, where the whole family sat in the king-sized bed, ordered burgers and mac’n’cheese from room service and watched Hugo on the big flat-screen telly.  I digress, but what a totally gorgeous and moving film that was. I’ve never been a big Scorsese fan before, but wow.

10 April 2012

The London Faberge Easter Egg Hunt

 

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I like to torture myself by including as many UK-based Instagrammers in my Instagram feed as possible.  So each morning I get big dose of homesickness while I feast my eyes on pics of every day British architecture, or gardens or foods.

 

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Over the past few weeks my feed has been full of eggs – more accurately some of the two hundred giant eggs decorated by famous artists, designers and other creatives, such as Zandra Rhodes and Mr Brainwash - which were part of the Faberge Big Egg Hunt which has been taking place all over Central London. Although we had a Nutcracker March in Seattle a few years back, I believe this is the first time a similar event has happened in London.  I so wish we’d been there for this – the Minx and I would have been all over it.

So now that your weekend of egg decorating and egg hunting has drawn to a close, here’s a look at how the professionals do it.

 

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The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt from we are fallon on Vimeo.

   

Did any London peeps get to go egg hunting? Was it as fun as it looks?

   

Update: Many thanks to reader K for pointing out that there was a Cow Parade in London a few years back.  That one completely passed me by.

   

Mad Men: More On Don Draper’s New Apartment

 

 

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It went a little crazy round these parts when I wrote my recent analysis of Don Draper’s new apartment, so for the 47% of you who watch Mad Men (and for the remaining 53%, why the heck don’t you?), here are some more great articles I’ve found online about his new digs.

Firstly the LA Times did a great interview with set designer Claudette Didul about how she put the look together, and including a list of shopping resources.

 

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Secondly, the LA Times also did a piece on the reaction to Don’s new pad online and included a link to THIS.VERY. BLOGAnd they called me ‘astute’.  What a remarkably sensible and insightful paper the LA Times is! 

The divine Tula, shopping guru extraordinaire, wrote two great pieces.  One on how to recreate Don’s apartment in your own home and another on how you can channel your inner Megan.

 

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And the ever fabulous Tom and Lorenzo are again doing their weekly episode by episode Mad Style round-ups, which focus mainly on the fashions, but also on the interiors and sets.  I swear only people who are more insightful and knowledgeable about the show are the writers and producers themselves.

   

09 April 2012

Things I Am Loving : Demakersvan Lace Fence

 

This is one of those design ideas which seems so obvious you wonder why no one’s thought of it before. Dutch design company Demakersvan combines the ancient craft of lacemaking with industrial chain link fence.

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DEMAKERSVAN'S LACE CHAIN-LINK FENCE_

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Demakersvan’s website is here. Their ‘Lace Fence website is here. And you can even buy lace fence in various panel sizes here.

It’s making me want to build a dark wooden wall somewhere in my garden, just so’s I can install a lace fence trellis.

   

08 April 2012

Happy Easter!

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I made a traditional English Easter Simnel cake to eat this weekend but I’m not going to have time to get the recipe up for you until early next week. Still here’s a pretty picture for you, and whatever and however you’re celebrating this weekend (our Easter is rather heathen and chocolate-fuelled it must be admitted) have fun!

   

07 April 2012

WTF Friday: Crocheted Carrots

 

So I was browsing through Tula’s ever-fabulous blog the other day when I came across a link to NYC-based online shop Blue Tree and some limited edition hand-crocheted vegetables.

They’re OK, I thought, if you like that sort of thing, and the carrot would probably make a cute present for your Easter Bunny, and then my eye happened upon the price.

 

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$525 for a whimsical crocheted carrot?  WTF?

Now the carrot is comparatively large (43 inches) and you don’t have to tell me how long crochet takes, and I’m all for craftspeople being paid an honest wage for an honest day’s toil.

But seriously, $525 for a crocheted CARROT?  Or am I being stingy?

   

05 April 2012

Easter Egg-stravaganza

 

It’s spring, when a mother’s fancy lightly turns to how the heck are we going to decorate eggs to put around our Easter tree THIS year.

Here’s a selection of egg decorating options from my 'Celebrations’ Pinterest board.  I haven’t yet consulted the Minx on this weighty matter though.

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From Martha Stewart.  I think I’d be making these if I’d got the neon thread in time.

 

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From Stylizimo. There are loads more egg decorating ideas on this gorgeous blog, but there’s no way the Minx and I could do anything this detailed and beautiful.

 

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From Home Made Simple. Not entirely sure I can convince the Minx of the intrinsic chicness of black eggs.

 

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From Crafty Endeavour. Starched embroidery floss eggs formed around mini-balloons. Not sure the Minx (or I) have the patience for these.

 

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From Better Homes and Gardens.  These could be a contender.  They fit right in with the polka dot trend and all you need is a hole punch, some double-sided tape and some glitter.

 

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From Fabulous K. I think these might be my favourites, if I can get the right paints together in time.

And now I’m eggs-hausted.  If you’ll eggs-cuse me.

   

04 April 2012

Meet My New Office Manager

 

So as mirrormirror begins its quest for world blogging domination, I thought it was about time I brought in a new office manager to get things organised round here.

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Remember when I pre-ordered a Joan Holloway Barbie doll?  AGES ago?  And how I was looking for a suitable mid-century Barbie-sized 1:6 scale chair to sit her on? (Which was not an incredibly expensive Vitra Miniature)

Well when I was in New York last month I finally found what I was looking for in the MOMA shop – a 1:6 scale Panton chair (also available online at Lexington Modern in a variety of colours).

So today I finally unpacked Ms Holloway from her cardboard coffin and brought her in to kick some ass.

 

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Unfortunately I hadn’t reckoned on the fact that she doesn’t have jointed knees, so after all that she looks rather ridiculous sitting on her Panton chair.  And her skirt is so tight it rides up and shows the tops of her stockings. Not that I expect the real Joan would have minded that though.

 

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Maybe I should have bought her the Vitra Miniature Saarinen Womb Chair and Ottoman after all. (Haha! No. Have you seen the price?)

I have to say that the attention to detail on this Barbie is wonderful, from her carefully painted finger and toenails, to the seams in her stockings and her exquisite jewellery.  I’ve never had a Collector’s Edition Barbie before and I adore her.

   

Portland’s Japanese Garden

 

Just before spring.

It’s been a day of soft April showers here in Seattle and I thought I’d share pictures of another such day we spent a couple of weekends back in Portland’s Japanese Garden

 

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Of all the Japanese gardens here on the West Coast, Portland’s is by far my favourite. Not as flashy and gaudy as San Francisco’s, but bigger and more peaceful than Seattle’s, Spring had not yet fully sprung when we went, though everywhere soft young leaves were starting to peek through, as the hailstones fell and the sunshine glinted through the raindrops like so many crystals on a chandelier.

Some places are good for the soul.

 

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03 April 2012

Pinterest Take 5: Multicoloured Polka Dots

 

This week on Pinterest we’ve got spots before the eyes.

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DIY tags with transparent polka dot stickers from Tokketok via Cinzia Ruggieri.

 

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Iphone wallpaper from Gallery Hanahou via Ricki Mountain

 

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DIY tablecloth from Oh Happy Day via Cinzia Ruggieri

 

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Funfetti Layer Cake from Sweetapolita via Grace Kang.

 

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This idea for pre-sorting your laundry is INSPIRED.  I just wish I had an empty closet where I could do this in our house.

From Brick City Love via Shauna Christensen.

   

02 April 2012

Baking In Translation: How to Cook British Without Freaking Out

 

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I just wanted to let readers in the Seattle area know that I’ll be teaching a baking class at Book Larder on April 30th entitled Baking in Translation. I’m nervous already, so it would be wonderful to see as many friendly faces as possible in the audience.  And of course, if you’re a Seattle blog reader, do come and laugh at my funny accent, I’d love to meet you.

 

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The class has arisen from the occasional blog posts I write lamenting all the difficulties I’ve had over the past five years translating British recipes into American and vice versa.

We will cover weighing ingredients in metric versus measuring with cup measures; differences in terminology and vocabulary, such as flour and cream equivalents; where to source strange ingredients in the Seattle area and what to substitute if you can’t get hold of them, and discussing things like pan sizes and oven temperatures. Please come armed with any questions that have been bugging you and we’ll try to cover them all.

While we’re chatting, I will be showing you how to bake a classic English Victoria sponge (measured out in metric) and, if we have time, English flapjacks, using weird British ingredients like porridge oats, golden syrup and sultanas. There will also be treats available to taste.

I will be putting together a detailed hand-out containing all my hard-won knowledge which will be yours to take home, and by the end of it, the world of British cooking will be your oyster and you’ll be buried knee-deep in the Guardian’s food website and ordering obscure English cookbooks from Amazon UK.

   

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Tickets cost a bargainaceous $25 and can be ordered here.  Spaces are limited to 24. Oh and if you haven’t been before, you will adore Book Larder so come armed with lots of money too.

The pictures are from last autumn when I made five Victoria sponges for Seattle’s annual Will Bake for Food event (click through and you’ll see one of my sponges out in the wild).