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214 posts categorized "Cool stuff"

20 June 2013

Things I Am Loving: The Secret Garden

 

Pssst. Don’t tell the Minx, but I just bought her a colouring book for our plane ride at the weekend.

 

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Well, to be more accurate I’ve just bought myself a colouring book, as I’m sure she would probably prefer to be plugged into an electronic device of some sort.

But honestly, who in their right mind could resist the intricate and magical pen and ink drawings in Secret Garden by ‘ink evangelist’ Johanna Basford?

 

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Twelve hours on a plane doesn’t seem nearly so long now. (Check out this review from the Guardian, which includes some printable pages to download).

Speaking of The Secret Garden, which remains one of my favourite children’s books of all time, check out these beautiful clothbound keepsake editions of children’s classics from Puffin, designed by the amazing Daniela Terrazzini.

 

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As the mother of an utterly voracious and rather advanced reader I’m the finding the classics to be one of the best ways of giving the Minx age-appropriate reading material. I understand from the Internet that these beautiful books can be hard to track down, but we found ours at the weekend in Seattle’s wonderful Elliott Bay Bookstore. Some are also available on Amazon. (There are some more boy-friendly options too.)

I, er the Minx, can’t wait to read them.

   

31 May 2013

Grand Hotel of the Week: Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

 

There’s a great exhibition currently showing at the Vancouver Art Gallery entitled ‘Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life’. I saw it when I was in Vancouver last month and highly recommend it to anyone in the area who loves hotels like I do.

 

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The exhibition traces the rise of the modern hotel, and celebrates hotel design, hotel life and hotel branding (lots of examples from the Ace Hotels funnily enough). It also, not surprisingly, makes a lot of mention of the venerable Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, just opposite the Vancouver Art Gallery and fabulously located in the heart of downtown, where we stayed on my recent visit to Vancouver.

 

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The  iconic copper turrets of the ‘Castle in the City’ are nowadays somewhat lost among the other high rise buildings, and its gargoyles and statues look down on a sea of plate glass, but inside it’s just as you would expect – like its sister hotel the Fairmont Empress, it’s a gracious, elegant, timeless example of what hotel living really ought to be.

 

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That’s not to say that they’ve forgotten all the modern requirements of a luxury hotel. The pool was one of the best hotel pools I’ve seen, and amazing for a tightly-packed downtown location, and the staff was kindness and helpfulness personified.

 

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And on a Friday night the downstairs bar was hopping, and serving fabulous cocktails.  I had the new-for-Spring ‘Royal Boulevardier’ cocktail, a heady mix of bourbon, vermouth, Aperol and maple syrup, which was delicious, but will get you royally somethinged if you’re not careful.  (Click here for a PDF of Fairmont hotels Modern Classics cocktail menu, complete with recipes).

 

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Our room was spacious, comfortable and supremely elegant.

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Reflection of the hotel from our upstairs window

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And the gold stickers on the loo rolls made me smile.

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Full disclosure: We were given an upgrade to the Gold Lounge in return for a blog post.  However, the hotel has has no influence on the contents of this post and all opinions are my own. We just had a right royal time here.


30 May 2013

Things I Am Loving: Art et Manufacture

 

Continuing on my dangerous Helene Dujardin-fuelled shopping spree (goodness that woman has a lot to answer for), I have been making my way down her list of great prop providers and spending far too much money.


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These utterly gorgeous ceramics from Art et Manufacture are worth every penny though.

I love how the shapes they use are modern yet timeless and the blue and white patterns are utterly contemporary while calling back to Delftware and other traditional blue and white china. Very European, utterly chic and completely inspired.

 

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The sweet little espresso cups and bowl below are MINE though.  Look out for them in a food photograph near you.

 

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10 May 2013

Things I Am Loving: Forms in Nature

 

This sort of stopped me in my tracks when I saw it yesterday.

 

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Created by artists Thyra Hilden and Pio Diaz, this ‘light sculpture’ entitled Forms in Nature is designed to cast spooky shadows reminiscent of a wild forest all round the room.  I have long been fascinated by the beautiful shadows cast by chandeliers and I love how they’ve taken this to the next logical step and made the shadows the star of the show.

 

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At the moment it is still a conceptual artwork, but according to their website they are looking at putting this into production.

 

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09 May 2013

Things I Am Loving: Wind & Willow Home

 

It’s been an expensive morning.

 

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One of the more unexpectedly dangerous aspects of doing a workshop with Helene Dujardin was the list of favourite prop suppliers she sent us after the course. And after three days playing with all her gorgeous things it was impossible to resist going shopping. 

 

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My first stop was at Wind & Willow Home.  Helene had a stack of these little wooden bowls in an array of colours, perfect for salt, oil or spices and for adding a little unexpected touch to a tabletop setting.  And  of course you could also use them for actual FOOD rather than just as a photography prop.

They’re incredibly tactile too. Etsy artist Araya Jensen starts with beautifully turned bowls and spoons and then hand dips each of them in a synthetic rubber in custom-mixed colours. 

The beauty lies in the timeless organic quality of the wood combined with the soft modern rubber in a host of contemporary colours.

 

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These walnut bowls are incredibly special.  Trying to work out if I can afford them.

 

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I REALLY want that plate too.

 

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I was in yet another Creative Live workshop during the early part of this week, so apologies for lack of bloggery.  So much to catch up on over the next week or so – more from Vancouver, more from the Gulf Shores photo workshop, more prop suppliers and the KITCHEN AND BATHROOM REMODEL IS SCHEDULED TO FINISH TOMORROW.  Quite honestly it’s looking to me like there’s about six months work left to do, but the contractors seem confident.

I so cannot wait.

   

05 April 2013

Canoe Island French Camp

 

This blog post is by way of a little favour to a friend.

 

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You probably already know how much we love Canoe Island French Camp in this family, and that’s before the Minx has even been to one of their residential camps on her own.

We always have an idyllic time at their Family Camps and I had a magnificent time on my own at Patisserie Camp last year. 

 

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Canoe is like a little Garden of Eden dropped into Puget Sound – a perfect little island with its own forest and beaches and astonishing views in every direction. The camping here is high class – you sleep in brand new waterproof canvas tipis and have access to a comfortable club house with a pool, games room and proper indoor washing facilities. There are opportunities to learn French if you’d like – many of the camp counsellors are French – but it’s by no means obligatory and the French atmosphere just adds a delightful touch.

 

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And the food is unbelievable, created by the resident chef and a young pastry chef who take the delectable produce from their own gardens and the surrounding islands and turn it into utterly scrummy restaurant-quality meals. And then there’s the sailing, the kayaking, the tennis, the yoga and the opportunity just to curl up in a hammock looking out to sea with with some knitting or a good book.

 

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The very nicest thing, though, is the laid-back and utterly relaxing vibe. Connie and Joseph, the camp directors, are kindness personified and do everything to make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible.  And everyone who works there, even the resident animals, are just so friendly and charming.

Every Spring Connie and Joseph run weekend camps for adults, which allow grown ups to participate in all this magnificence and also contribute to a scholarship fund for financially disadvantaged kids, so they too can benefit from the incredible learning opportunities at Canoe. Each time I spend a weekend there, I feel like I’ve been on a week-long vacation.

 

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Connie asked me if I could promote these weekends on the blog and I am delighted to do so – Canoe is one of my happy places.  If you live anywhere close to the Pacific Northwest and want to do some yoga, some art, some cooking, or just learn French, then I can’t recommend these weekends highly enough (and although the price of your stay includes a donation, they really are excellent value for money as you get looked after so very well).

Get more details about the adult camps here.  I think you’ll be seeing me and  the Minx at the Mother’s Day Camp. 

   

29 March 2013

WTF Friday: Dot Dog Bags

 

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So now you’re thinking that I’ve gone and lost my mind. Those little leather purses are adorably cute!  I would definitely walk around town with one of those swinging from my wrist.

And so dear reader would I.

 

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Except they have been specifically designed for the transportation of dog poop. Next time you see an impossibly chic Parisian woman (because of course these are a French design) wearing one of these, know that she has a bunch of poop dangling from her wrist.

 

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There are reasons we don’t have a dog (most of which are to do with scooping poop), so I pass this off to the dog owners amongst us.

Do you guys really carry poop about all day? Would such a cute designer purse actually be of use?  Or should dog poop be scooped into a plastic bag and DISPOSED OF IMMEDIATELY?  I am unclear as to the etiquette here.

I found this on the blog of lovely commenter Cate.  Her pet blog Under the Blanket features a ton of cool finds for the creatures in your life and she also sells really cool and innovative pet name tags which are attached to an online database of information in case your pets ever go missing. I reviewed them here.

     

26 March 2013

Eggstra Special Easter Ideas

 

Yay! It’s that time of year again when I get to make terrible, tired puns and pin up pictures of crafts and foods I have little chance of actually making (particularly with my current less than adequate kitchen arrangements).

Actually these decorated eggs(not edible) look eminently doable with the right sprinkles {via Studio DIY}.

 

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Loving these beautiful painterly paints from the lovely Leslie Shewring {via Decor8}.

 

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We have managed to indoctrinate the Minx into the true British ways of the Cadbury’s Crème Egg, which I import from the UK via the British Food Shop.

These crazy cupcakes have a whole crème egg baked inside of them {via Key Ingredient}.

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These cupcakes are slightly less insane {via Recipe by Photo}.

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And here are instructions to make crochet covers for blown eggs. Wish I’d seen these sooner they would be great to make for the Easter tree. {via LVLY}

 

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Here’s last year’s round up of Easter-related puns crafts.

Time to eggs-it stage left, methinks.

   

12 March 2013

Things I Am Loving: Nicole Porter Hardwood Bowls

 

Yet more things I don’t have either the money or room for.  They’re absolutely stunning though.

 

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Buy these unique handpainted wooden bowls, plates and servers at www.nicoleporter.com or on her Etsy shop and then send them to me.

   

15 February 2013

Things I Am Loving: Walnut Birds from Gretel Home

 

The sun is shining here in Seattle and the photography studio is calling me, but I quickly wanted to share the gorgeous present that I was lucky enough to receive yesterday for Valentines Day.

 

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Pinterest may have set back cause of feminism by several hundred years, but it sure has made it easier to give husbands a list of acceptable presents.

This little carved walnut bird with the pink lacquer chest has been a cover picture on my Pinterest boards for a long time, so I was thrilled to actually get one in the ‘flesh’ yesterday – along with four little birdie friends. 

As with most wooden things, these are so much more lovely than any picture can show – smooth, warm and tactile and most beautifully carved and finished.  Exquisite craftsmanship at its very best.

 

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The birds are handmade in the UK and are available at Gretel Home.

Here are my tweeties having a chat.

 

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I haven’t had time this week to trawl the Internet for design WTF**ckery. If you chaps ever come across anything that you think might be suitable to feature, do please let me know.

   

12 February 2013

Things I Am Loving: Doodle Bowls

 

I’m sitting here gently blogging to the sound of banging, the odd crash, and builders noisily chatting about skateboarding.  Yes, the kitchen remodel is underway.  We spent a glamorous weekend taking a huge mountain of STUFF out of our upstairs kitchen and making the downstairs kitchen one where actual food can be cooked (until now we’ve most used it to make breakfast). 

I knew I had a lot of kitchen paraphernalia, but seeing it all boxed up is rather mindblowing. Anyway, onwards and upwards. April 26th can’t come quickly enough as far as I’m concerned.

Just time for a quickie today.

 

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Saw these wooden Doodle Bowls and Plates from HappyDoodleLand on Pinterest (where else) and loved them. Unfortunately the artist doesn’t seem to be selling them at the moment (though her prints are also super cute).

But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to doodle as creatively as Flora Cha?

 

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02 December 2012

Advent Calendar Day 1: Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar

 

Still suffering with back pain (looks like I have something called piriformis syndrome), but I’m going to try a short, sweet Christmassy blog post every day as a little Advent Calendar for you all.

 

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First up you must get your kids (and yourselves) a Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar.  These magically beautiful online calendars feature gorgeous animations, and lovely music, with a new little interactive Christmassy game or a charming little story or scenario every day.  As you open more windows the scene becomes more detailed and beautiful, and it changes through the day to reflect the time and the phases of the moon.  The Minx loves the little games such as decorating the Christmas tree and cutting out snowflakes online and spotting how the scene changes from day to day.  (I’d say this was perfect for 5-10 year olds).

 

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The Minx is now excite to be working on this year’s beautiful Alpine village, but we retain a soft spot in our hearts for last year’s gorgeous London calendar which is still available.

   

01 October 2012

Art Yulia

 

Here’s a bit of lovely to start your week. Yulia Brodskaya is a Russian paper artist and graphic designer who now lives and works in London.

Her amazingly intricate and stunningly beautiful artwork made from coiled strips of coloured paper has been commissioned by a number of big brands.  I’m intrigued to see where it will end up next.

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See Yulia’s entire portfolio here.  All images by Yulia Brodskaya.

   

28 September 2012

WTF Friday: Prada Spring 2013 Shoes

 

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Here are Miuccia Prada’s latest shoes.  Apparently the ‘socks’ are soft leather booties to which you can strap different shoe platforms. I’m not sure that makes them better or worse.

I have to admit that though my first reaction to these was ‘WTF?’ as I’ve been putting this post together I’ve come to appreciate them more as, I dunno, performance art or something.

And if I were very tall and very skinny and very rich, I might be tempted to wear the pink ones with skinny jeans and a simple cashmere sweater.

What do you chaps think?

   

22 September 2012

Saturday Link Love

 

I’m trying to be a bit more active on social media nowadays, posting up interesting things I see around and about to the mirrormirror Facebook page and to my Twitter stream.

I thought I’d also start doing a regular Saturday link round up for those of you who inexplicably don’t follow my aimless meanderings on social media, just in case you find yourselves with time on your hands at the weekend

 

Liberty Christmas Crackers

 

Apologies for talking about Christmas in September, but these Liberty print Christmas crackers are too beautiful not to share {via the beautiful new blog from erstwhile British rock chick and now designer Pearl Lowe}.

 

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I went to a class at the Pantry at Delancey a week or two back and was lucky enough to try their homemade roasted pepper hot sauce.  Which was amazing. You definitely need to make this.

 

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Marmite has brought out a limited edition gold version with edible golden flecks. I love it. (British in joke). Poor bereft overseas Marmite fans such as myself can order it from the official expat page on the Marmite website, which ships worldwide.

 

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Finally someone has worked out that it would make sense to have differently coloured dollar bills. And making them different lengths to ensure better money management is a fabulously ingenious idea.

I just wish these were real,  I get so confused. {From designboom via the lovely Tula}.

   

21 September 2012

WTF Friday: WTF Stamp

 

I don’t think I’ve ever needed a piece of office equipment more.

 

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{Available from Knock Knock.  I love that according to the site it now comes with a ‘smooth, satisfying ker-chunk’. That makes all the difference.}

   

13 September 2012

Love This Site: Catalog Living

 

You know those days when you seem to spend all your time picking up the cats’ stinky toys from the carpet, the daughter’s myriad accessories from every single freaking flat surface in the entire house and the Husband has left a trail of towels, paperwork and back copies of the Economist in his wake?  And you’re wishing that just occasionally your house looked just a teensy bit more like the the homes in the interiors mags?

Fortunately for my peace of mind, and thanks to the extremely amusing Catalog Living, we now know EXACTLY what those people who live in catalogs or even catalogues are REALLY thinking.

 

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Elaine rushed to the dining room in a panic but was relieved to see that she misunderstood what Gary meant by “the number two on the table.”

 

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After years of using a computer, Gary was admittedly out of practice when it came to dramatically ripping paper out of the typewriter and tossing it in the trash.

 

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Gary thought his rough day was going to get the best of him until Elaine set down a tray holding what every man dreams of coming home to: an ice cold gin and tonic and a bound together stack of coverless paperbacks

More discussion of egregious interior styling here and here.

   

{Via Domestic Sluttery and lovely commenter Bushra }

30 August 2012

Food Stylings: Charlotte Omnes

 

What are you having for lunch today?

I was thinking of ham, cheese and mustard on white.

 

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Or possibly cheese with mustard, mayo and ketchup or ham and mustard.

Followed by a selection of juicy citrus fruits.

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I love it when food stylists do things a little bit differently.

All photos by ace food stylist Charlotte Omnes.

   

29 August 2012

Anglomania: Google’s London HQ

 

One thing that really struck me when I went back to London was the sheer number of Union Jacks (or Union Flags for the pedants amongst us) everywhere.

 

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Not surprisingly with the Jubilee being followed by the Olympics, the place was awash with red, white and blue bunting and you couldn’t move for Union Jack merchandise.  Mostly fabulously of all most of it wasn’t done in a tacky way.  It seems the Union Jack has finally been reclaimed even by top end designers as a bit of a style icon.  There really was some good stuff out there.

So it seems that Google have hit the nail right on the head with their new London HQ, designed by award-winning British architects Penson Group.  Not only have they taken the Union Jack, but they’ve mixed in a huge number of dated British design clichés – chintz, lampshades, swirly carpets, Chesterfield sofas, wood panelling etc.  - and made them fun, witty and contemporary again.

 

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I generally loathe that very trad English maiden auntish style of décor but this is fabulous. (Though I’d never get a stroke of work done here).

But what do you guys think? Do you love these offices, or should chintz, lampshades and swirly carpets be consigned forever to the dustbin of history, never to emerge?

   

22 August 2012

London 2012: The Olympic River Part 2

 

Here are some more photos from our trip up the River Thames during the Olympics.  I’m assuming that the whole light show will stay in place now, minus the Olympic Rings of course, in which case I can’t recommend a night time visit to the river highly enough if you happen to be in London.

Magical is not a good enough word.

Here’s what we had all come to see.

 

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But in every direction the river looked amazingly beautiful (that’s the home of the French Olympic delegation).

 

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London Bridge has got itself a groovy new lighting scheme.

 

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The Mayor’s Office had a laser light show featuring cyclists and tube trains amongst others.

 

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Remember I blogged about the incredible new light show they’d installed on Tower Bridge?  Well for some they flipped up the rings and then put the light show through its motions.  HMS Belfast to the right also changed colour too.

 

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And then the rings flipped back on and the Bridge turned gold to celebrate Mo Farah’s win in the 5,000 meters.

 

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Here’s the view from the restaurant we dined at in Hay’s Galleria.

 

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Finally, at midnight, we stopped off at the London Eye.

 

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Slightly awesome n’est-ce pas?

Here are some more shots from my boat trip along the river.

   

11 July 2012

An Afternoon of Chocolate

 

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Just in case your life was lacking a little chocolate right now (yes, I thought so) here are some pics from the afternoon we spent making chocolate desserts and truffles under the watchful eye of master chocolatier Jean-Pierre Meignaud at Patisserie Camp on Canoe Island.

It’s going to be the same drill as before, no real recipes, just descriptions and food porn a-plenty.

First get yourself a bowl of properly tempered chocolate, some Pralissimo hazelnut paste (this stuff is GOOD) and a box of chocolate breakfast cereal. Yes, truly, something like Cocoa Pops or Cocoa Krispies. I feel so much better now I know that fancy pants patissiers use this stuff too.

 

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Carefully mix the ingredients together and then use a ring mould to form them into a crispy chocolate base. You’ve just made the world’s most sophisticated, and delicious, Rice Krispie cakes.

Then mix together some more melted, tempered chocolate with the hazelnut paste and fold it into some whipped cream. Pipe this chocolate mousse onto the crispy bases.

 

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So far so easy, n’est-ce pas?  Unfortunately it gets trickier from here on in.

Next use a knife to ‘wipe’ petals of chocolate onto a sheet of acetate.  The shape of your knife will dictate the shape of your petals.  Place the sheet of acetate into a plastic ‘gutter’ (half a plastic tube) to bend the petals slightly.  That just blew your mind didn’t it?

 

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Or you could just swirl blobs of chocolate with your fingers.

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Or comb out streaks of chocolate and again swirl them into grids.

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It was amazing watching Jean-Pierre do this stuff.  He made it look incredibly quick and easy.

 

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Finally use your chocolate shapes to decorate your mousse cakes. Adding a little gold dusting powder as necessary.

 

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I’m just off to rustle some up for family supper tonight. Hahahahahaha.

We also made chocolate truffles that afternoon, but I have enough swoonworthy pics for a separate blog post.

19 June 2012

Pinterest Take 5: Colour Dipped Everything

 

It started with these, which you have no doubt seen if you have eyes and a Pinterest account.

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Dipped utensils by Little Bit Funky via Making It Lovely

 

Soon the whole world was dipping things in paint…

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Dipped cans by Maya via Anna Johanson

 

and posting up tutorials…

 

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Dipped chopsticks from Poppytalk via Martha Staples

 

Then the Etsy shops got in on the act.

 

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Neon dipped bowls from Wind & Willow Home via Anne DeOtte

 

And now everything is being dipped in colour.

 

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Cutest ever baby shoes from Schier Shoes via Oh Joy

 

Personally I love this trend. You?

   

14 June 2012

Pinteresting

 

Or a small study in the effectiveness of social media.

This past weekend I had the most blissful time at ‘Patisserie Camp’.

I was hoping to blog my pastries this week, but with the Minx now home from school for the NEXT. THIRTEEN. WEEKS (heaven help me), and with us heading off for a mummy and daughter long weekend in Victoria tomorrow, the processing of the over 800 photos I took is taking some time.

She’s off to camp next Monday though, so normal blog service will be resumed then.

In the meantime I leave you with a small but intriguing study in the power of social media and Pinterest in particular. Remember the cake I made a week or two back?

 

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Well ever since I posted it I’ve been getting a small but gratifying bump in traffic to mirrormirror thanks to a few blog readers posting it on Pinterest (thank you whoever you are). Until this weekend, when it absolutely went through the roof.

I checked back on Pinterest (did you know that if you look at something which has been pinned from your site you can see ‘Also From XYZ.com’ to the left?) and this is what I saw.  Suddenly the cake had been pinned and repinned literally hundreds of times.  It had gone viral.

 

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I’ve been looking back through all the pins and can’t identify the ‘tipping point’ when it all went crazy. Suffice it to say that I yesterday I had 6x the blog traffic I normally get and the craziness shows no signs of abating.  To put it into perspective that’s about 3x the traffic I got when Salon.com mentioned my Kelly Wearstler Go Fug Your Room back in 2008and that abated after about a day.

I mention this not to show off - I’ve actually been feeling like a bit of a fraud since I found the original idea on Pinterest, in a picture that had been repinned maybe two or three times – but because now I finally understand why big brands and big bloggers court Pinterest so assiduously.

I’m fascinated to see where my little cake ends up, what happens to blog traffic over time and whether any of the hordes of people stopping by turn into regular readers/commenters.

And you can probably expect a lot more images of photogenic cakes in the weeks and months ahead.

Update: Yay! I don’t feel such a fraud any more.  The source of the original idea has been tracked down to I Am Baker. The original pin just said ‘uploaded by user’ so I couldn’t get to the source originally.  So happy to be able to credit the right person.

   

06 June 2012

Queen of Diamonds

 

It’s been a long and gruelling Jubilee weekend here on the West Coast, with 5.30 am starts on Sunday and Tuesday, and the consumption of rather too much champagne, Pimms and Prince William’s favourite chocolate fridge cake.

 

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Early yesterday morning I was sitting bleary-eyed on the sofa with the Minx and my friend and fellow monarchist Lilian, being lulled gently back to sleep by one of commentator Huw Edwards’ monotonous monologues when the Queen finally appeared looking radiant and very, very sparkly.  Immediately the sofa contingent jerked awake.  What was that utterly stunning brooch the Queen was wearing?

It turns out that, when deciding what to wear for the last day of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the Queen recalled that she is the proud owner of the nine major diamonds cut from the Cullinan diamond, the world’s largest diamond discovered in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century and presented as a birthday gift to Edward VII (at the risk of sounding churlish, why don’t *I* get gifts like that?)

Inexplicably she declined to wear either the Imperial State Crown, which contains the Cullinan II diamond or sit in her carriage waving her sceptre which contains Cullinan I, the Star of Africa, the second largest cut diamond in the world. 

Instead, and obviously as some sort of austerity measure, she made do with wearing the brooch made from the Cullinan III and Cullinan IV diamonds, a mere 94.4 carats and 63.3 carats respectively and conservatively valued at some $120 million.

 

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Wouldn’t you be just terrified parading round the streets of London wearing that? Fortunately we were spared the sight of her Majesty crawling around the floor of St Paul’s on her hands and knees looking for the brooch she’d just dropped under her seat, which is undoubtedly what would have happened if I were Queen.

It is an utterly amazing brooch though, with an almost contemporary appeal in its stark simplicity - these diamonds don’t need any fussy curlicues or smaller stones to enhance them, unlike many of the Queen’s other diamond pieces.

 

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You’d be smiling too if you had that brooch

 

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And I loved how the Queen’s beautiful outfit of palest mint green was designed to show it and her off to the max – the heavy embroidery, crystal beading and contrasting soft chiffon drapery were exquisite and it was so refreshing to see an eighty six year old looking every one of her eighty six years and yet still be stunningly beautiful. The shoes were of course dreadful, but we can’t have everything.

 

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For future reference, just in case you find something similar in your back garden, this is what the uncut Cullinan diamond looked like before it was divided into the 9 smaller cut stones. Apparently it was initially tossed out of the window at the mining company where it was found, because no one believed it was possible to have a gem quality stone of this size.

 

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Buckingham Palace is putting on a display of the Queen’s personal diamond jewellery this summer, including all seven smaller cuts from the Cullinan diamond, and some spectacular tiaras. Full details here

   

05 June 2012

Great British Fashion Stamps

 

I miss British stamps.  The Royal Mail puts out some of the most beautiful and best designed commemorative stamps I’ve seen, and the set they produced for the Diamond Jubilee is no exception.

The set of ten stamps celebrates British fashion designers of the last sixty years, including Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell, who both designed some of the Queen’s most iconic looks when she was younger.

 

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It’s a pretty much spot on collection of great names and clothes, though am I alone in never having heard of Granny Takes A Trip? 

Mary Quant has apparently featured on a stamp before, and was thus ruled out of this collection. John Galliano managed to rule himself out for obvious reasons.  And I’m wondering why there wasn’t a place for Barbara Hulanicki of Biba.

 

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The gorgeous photos are by Sølve Sundsbø. Stamps are available for purchase here.

   

02 June 2012

Red White Blue

 

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A world-class energy-efficient illumination system has been installed on Tower Bridge to celebrate the Jubilee and the Olympics and designed to highlight the crazy architecture. All sorts of different colour schemes are planned for the future.

Can’t wait to see this when we get to London this summer!

Tell us what the Jubilee means to you (if anything) below. I’m so excited for this summer in London.

   

29 May 2012

Easy Cake Decorating Idea

 

I’m starting to think that Pinterest has pushed back the cause of feminism by several hundred years.

 

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This weekend we were hosting a Eurovision party and since it also happened to be the birthday of one of the Minx’s friends who was attending, I offered to make a quick birthday cake.

And then I went on Pinterest, disappeared down the rabbit hole, and emerged to find several hours had gone by and the kitchen was totally covered with food colouring and buttercream.  This is indeed a very easy frosting idea, but quick it is most certainly not.  It was enormous fun to do though.

 

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The Minx and I got a little carried away with the food colouring and made coloured layers inside the cake, which I think in hindsight was a garishness too far, particularly as they were not quite as subtly pretty as I was hoping  It would have looked better just as plain cake with white buttercream inside.

But then garishness isn’t really a problem when making cake for an eight year old. Please excuse drunken pic below, but you get the idea.

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Update: Several people have asked me to provide a bit more information on how I did it. I mixed up a big batch of vanilla buttercream (beat together 2 sticks/220g of  room-temperature butter, 6 cups/640g icing/confectioner’s sugar, plus a little vanilla extract, plus a tablespoon or two of milk until the buttercream is soft and smooth).

Then I divided the buttercream into six and the Minx and I conferred long and hard over which colours to choose. I spread a very thin crumb coat over the sides to even them up and then used a #21 tip to pipe little rosettes onto the cake, making sure that I didn’t pipe the same colour in adjacent spots.  And then kept going and going and GOING until every bit of the cake was covered.

Further Update: Thanks to the comments below, I’ve been able to track down the original source of the idea at I Am Baker. Thanks for pointing it out. The original pin I found was ‘uploaded by user’ and no source was indicated, so I’m glad to finally be able to credit the right person.

   

21 May 2012

Fan Bingbing at Cannes

 

Last week Chinese actress Fan Bingbing won the Internet.

 

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Firstly she gets to be called Fan Bingbing; secondly she gets to put tassels in her hair and look stunningly beautiful,  not utterly ridiculous: and thirdly she got to wear one of the most exquisite dresses I have ever, ever seen.

 

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Her glorious embroidered dress by Christopher Bu was inspired by a Chinese porcelain vase from the Qing dynasty and tells stories of the Four Beauties of Ancient China. Her hair is worn in the style of a young noblewoman from the Tang dynasty. 

 

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She and the dress are so freakin’ beautiful that I want to hang her on my wall.

   

17 May 2012

Teeny Trend: Colourful Circles

 

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Oversize necklace by LeJu available at Boticca.com

Details for cool DIY paint chip art project from The 3Rs Blog.

   

03 May 2012

Toms Makes Wedges

 

We interrupt normal blog service for a public service announcement.

 

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After I posted the above picture on Instagram this morning I got a number of comments along the lines of ‘Toms makes WEDGES?’.  Well yes, they do ladies, and have been doing so since 2010 as far as I can work out.

I got mine from a cute boutique in Ballard called Horseshoe which carries lots of Toms.  I love the linings on these as much as the shoes.

 

Toms Wedges

 

As you were everyone. 

Normal blog service will be resumed shortly.

   

02 May 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

 

At my baking class on Monday night (and thanks so much to everyone who supported it in any way, either by being there or spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter) we talked about making your own vanilla extract and I realised I hadn’t shared this with you on the blog.

 

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As you can imagine, since I am a cake baker, vanilla extract is one of the most used ingredients in my kitchen, which was not good given how fiendishly expensive it is.

After doing some research online, I tried making it last summer, and I am utterly delighted with the results.  Like so many other homemade foodstuffs, there’s no turning back when you’ve tasted homemade. And this is so, so EASY.

All you need is a smallish bottle (depending on how much extract you want to make), some unflavoured vodka or white rum and some vanilla pods. 

 

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I buy my vanilla pods in bulk via Amazon, so much cheaper than the single pods in glass jars you find in supermarkets. As for alcohol, if you want a pure vanilla flavour use unflavoured vodka.  I however prefer to use a white rum such as Bacardi.  The rum has a flavour that goes very well with vanilla, and adds an additional something, something to cakes and desserts.  But which alcohol you choose is up to you.

Then all you need to do is fill your bottle with alcohol, score a few vanilla pods lengthwise so the seeds are showing (don’t scrape them out) and then add them to rum or vodka.  How many you add is up to you and will depend on how the big the bottle is, how strong you want the extract to be and how many you can afford to use.  I currently have around six in my biggish bottle, but experiment with what seems right for you.

 

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Here’s my bottle posing out in the sunshine last summer, just after I’d made it.

Then leave the bottle in a cool, dry place (mine is in the fridge door) somewhere where’ll you see it often. Then, every so often, pick up the bottle and give it a shake.  After several weeks the clear alcohol will darken to brown and will be ready to use.  Thereafter just keep the bottle topped up with additional alcohol and vanilla pods as necessarily and depending on how strong you want your extract to be.

 

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If you want to get going on your Christmas gifts now (hahahahahahahahaha!:-Ed) then homemade vanilla extract is a very quick, easy and thoughtful gift for the baker in your life if you put it in a fancy bottle.

 

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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).

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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.

 

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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.

   

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.

   

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.

   

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.

   

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.

   

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:

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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.

   

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.

   

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.

   

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.

   

26 February 2012

Child’s Own Studio

 

So there’s this adorably crazy lady out there who custom makes soft toys for kids based on their own drawings, which are totally and utterly and completely awesome.  And I desperately want one for the Minx.

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The only problem is that she can only make four toys a week, has a waiting list as long her arm (well, duh!) and is so swamped she’s not taking any new commissions until she’s found some other softie makers to help her. So if that’s you, please contact her pronto quick.

If it’s not you and you just want to commission one of her toys, please forget you ever saw this post. At least until the Minx and I are on the list.

 

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Child’s Own Studio can be contacted here.

 

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Are you watching the Oscars tomorrow?  I’m going to an Oscars party, and hoping there’ll be enough crazy dresses for some ‘Separated at Birth’ posts on Monday.  Have fun and keep your fingers crossed!

   

23 February 2012

I Heart Blogshop

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It’s taken me ages to put together my Blogshop review, mostly because I thought I ought to use some Photoshop to put it together and Photoshop still takes me an agonisingly long time. But the fact that I can do any Photoshop at all is a testament to the teaching skills of graphic designer and blogger extraordinaire Bri Emery and commercial photographer Angela Kohler, who together are the team who make Blogshop happen.

This workshop is billed as ‘where blogging and Photoshop totally make out’ and if you write any sort of visual blog, you’ll find the skills you learn here invaluable – from putting together photospreads and mood boards, to designing blog headers and social media buttons, to creating animated gifs and retouching photos (which is taught using professional photo portraits of the participants, taken by Angela). It’s the only course out then which focuses on Photoshop from the perspective of bloggers, so while it’s expensive it is so, so worth it.

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It was great to meet up again with some groovy local bloggers - Cassandra from Coco+Kelley who hosted the whole event, Erin from Apartment 34 and the inimitable Uncle Beefy, who made us some utterly delicious churros (of which more hopefully next week).  It was also a chance to make some new friends – Jennifer from Art & Lair, Lisa from With Style & Grace, Alisa from Alisa’s Garden and Shannon from Happiness Is… (who both sat at my table and were incredibly patient with my thousands of questions).

The amazing space (that turquoise wall is to die for) is the Fred Wildlife Refuge, a fabulous photography studio and event space on Seattle’s Capitol Hill; with all the props and accessories being provided by Scout Vintage Rentals. And I’ve already told you about the great goodie bag

The one downside, and this is just a very personal opinion, is that, although the course is billed as being for beginners, it’s really quite challenging if you’re as much of a Photoshop ignoramus as I was.  Bri and Angela and their two interns were patience personified, but I would have got more out of the course if I had previously been familiar with the layout and the buttons and the concept of layers etc.  I feel like I do understand a lot of the basics now, but I’ve looked at the notes for some of the more advanced techniques we were shown, such as masking, and I am still deeply confuzzled.

 

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But we’ll see, you may have noticed me using Photoshop in some previous posts and hopefully you’ll see things getting prettier round here over the next week or two. Just promise me that if you’re a complete Photoshop beginner and are thinking of doing this course that you’ll have a little play to familiarise yourself with the program first. This set of beginners’ tutorials from Mashable looks like it would be a great place to start .

Photoshop experts out there, how did you learn?  Are there any books, courses or online tutorials you can recommend? I really want to get this thing LICKED.

 

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On a final shallow note, Bri is just the most ridiculously photogenic person EVAH, thanks to her translucently pale skin, shock of platinum hair and the cute bright colours she wears.  Here she is with Jennifer from Trophy Cupcakes, who was here to do the course and also injected cupcakes and gift cards into the proceedings. .

Oh, and I was just about to hit ‘publish’ when I found this video of the Seattle workshop on the Blogshop page.  See if you can spot me peering in deep confusion at my screen (the silhouette above will give you a clue) or, if you’re really quick, the shot of me in a long ginger wig (additional clue below).

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BLOGSHOP - Seattle from GMP on Vimeo.

   

21 February 2012

Mary Katrantzou for TOPSHOP

 

Well I tried but all that was left on the website was a scarf and a pair of floral leggings and I think floral leggings are a bit too mutton-dressed-as-lamb even for me. 

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I’ve blogged about my love for Greek designer Mary Katrantzou before, so I was thrilled to learn that she was producing a limited edition capsule collection of nine pieces for TopShop.  And my goodness they’re beautiful and so surprisingly WEARABLE, particularly the figure-skimming silk tunic and blouse. 

I’ve started stalking eBay, but the prices are absolutely cray-cray. Please TopShop make some more!

Did anyone out there get any pieces?  Are they as lovely as they look?

   

Yeah, Our Cats are Dorks – Cat Bibs

 

I posted this pic of the cats to my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds yesterday and got loads of questions back about the dorky bibs I make them wear, which I realise I’ve never properly showed to you.

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We started letting the cats outside last year when they were about six months old and it soon became apparent that between the two of them they are fabulous birders. Since, as you know, I have a bird phobia, you can imagine how much I was enjoying them bringing back tiny grey birds with their heads ripped off.  And I don’t think the birds were enjoying it very much either.

Deeply traumatised, I searched high and low online to see what could be done to stop them hunting and most websites informed me that it was an occupational hazard of cat ownership and that there was nothing I could do. 

Until I came upon www.catgoods.com – which sells thin neoprene bibs, which apparently stop cats from catching birds by slightly hindering the overarm pouncing action and disrupting the precise timing they need to catch their prey.

Since I was at the end of my tether I decided to give them a try.  And lo and behold they really do work.  Over the last six months or so I think they’ve only managed to catch one bird between them while wearing their bibs (despite still being quite successful hunters when they go out bibless). 

The bibs don’t seem to stop the cats doing anything else; they can still go in and out of the cat flap, climb trees and fences like crazy and jump prodigious heights with them on.  And after the first few goes, they didn’t seem to mind wearing them at all, napping with them, eating with them and even grooming them.  They do get a bit muddy in the Seattle rain, but, being neoprene, we just rinse them under the tap at night. I like that they make the cats more visible to traffic too, and they’re certainly good for striking up conversations with the neighbours.  All in all, they have transformed my cat-owning life and probably saved the lives of dozens of birds. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

I’m writing this post as a public service announcement to help anyone who’s having the same trouble as us with prolific bird hunting.  I would prefer it if we didn’t get into a conversation about indoor v. outdoor cats.  I know letting cats outdoors is frowned on in the US, but we live on a VERY quiet urban street and our house backs onto a bunch of well-tended gardens. They have had all their outdoor vaccines and are brought in just before sundown and not let out until sunrise. The cats ADORE being outside, they even go out in the snow, and if you saw them you’d understand that I could no more keep them in than keep Nicole Kidman off Botox.

20 February 2012

Downton Abbey Paper Dolls

 

I know, I know.

Downton Abbey finished last night here in the US, ending on a spectacular high with a Christmas special which almost made up for the sheer ridiculousness of most of the preceding season, and you, as I know from my sobbing Twitter feed, are suffering from terrible withdrawal symptoms already.

Believe me I do understand, having mysteriously managed to watch the entire season last year *taps nose*. 

But fear not, for I bring you solace in your hour of need, in the form of these utterly awesome paper dolls from Vulture.

 

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Re-enact Matthew and Mary’s ‘will they, won’t they?’ romance, complete with the hovering spectre of dead Mr. Pamuk.

 

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Marvel as Thomas and O’Brien engage in deeds of ever-increasing evilness for no fully explained reason, just because they can.

 

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Help the Dowager Countess run the full gamut of emotions from irritation to disdain, all while sabotaging Cousin Isobel at the village flower show.

And don’t forget to send all the plot ideas you come up with to writer and producer Julian Fellowes, since on the basis of this season, he really could do with some help in that direction.

If you’re also missing the fabulous costumes and sets, here’s the post I wrote about Highclere Castle during season one.

   

16 February 2012

Animated Valentine

 

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I dug out this little flip book I made the other day, and thought I’d share it with you, even though the great day has passed, as it’s obviously an idea you can let your imagination run wild with throughout the year.

The Minx and I made this a couple of years back when she was five and old enough to wield a pen. I dressed the Minx up, stuck her against a white background (I should have moved her a little to the right to leave room for making ribbon holes on the left).

I made ten copies of the photo and then asked the Minx to draw one heart on the first picture, two hearts on the second picture, three hearts on the third picture and then so on up to ten.  You get the idea. She also wrote a message on the back of the last picture.

 

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I then tied the photos together with a pretty ribbon (and yes the holes are on the wrong side, but we couldn’t be bothered to do the whole thing again) so the Husband could flick through the book.

 

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Of course this post is mostly about showing off that I learned to make animated gifs in Photoshop at Blogshop last week. Let me know if an animated gif tutorial on the blog would be of interest.