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18 posts from August 2009

17 August 2009

The Desserts of Summer – Lemon Frosted Pistachio Cake

I already wrote about this cake from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries when I was also writing the blog A Year of Living Gorgeously, so there’s more cake-y description, links and photos here

However the inlaws are in town, so the Minx and I whipped up another cake and I made a few modifications to the original recipe to make a bigger cake, so I’m writing out the full recipe here.


Here’s the cake in its latest incarnation.  Perhaps one day the Minx and I will manage a tasteful version.


I have a 23cm cake tin instead of the 22cm one specified in the recipe and used to end up with a slightly flat cake, so I have modified this by ‘adding a little bit more’ to the butter and dry ingredients which seemed to work although they weren’t precisely calculated.  The amounts I used are given below. In order to keep the ratio of dried ingredients to wet similar, I also added one tablespoon of olive oil, which I’ve used before in dense, moist middle-eastern type cakes such as this and which was a super successful addition.

If you want the original recipe for a 22cm tin then there is a link here.

Lemon Frosted Pistachio Cake (from the Kitchen Diaries, with slight modifications)

275g butter

275g Caster (baker’s) sugar

3 eggs

Shelled pistachio nuts 100g

Ground almonds 130g

A large orange

1 tsp rosewater

1tbsp olive oil

75g plain flour


Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C/Gas 3.  Line the bottom of a non-stick 23cm cake tin with baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugar in a food mixer until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Blitz the pistachios to fine crumbs in a food processor, then add them, with the ground almonds to teh butter an dsugar. Finely grate and squeeze the orange, then stir it in with a the rosewater. lastly fold in the flour with a large metal spoon.

Scoop the mixture into the lined baking tin and bake for fifty minutes (I usually need to add 10-20 mins but start checking at 50) covering the top lightly with foil for the last ten minutes (I never bother). Chek the cake by inserting a metal skewer (I use uncooked spaghetti) into the centre. It should come out fialry clean, without any wet mixture stuck to it. Leave to cool in the tin before running a palette knife around the edge and turning it out.

Decorate with icing made from 200g sieved icing sugar and the juice of 1 lemon.

You all know how much I love my American readers (and er, those in Liberia and Myanmar), but today I really can’t be arsed to translate all the quantities into pounds and ounces.  If must insist on being pretty much the only nation not using metric measures then Google is your friend.

13 August 2009

Little Bo Peep

Funnily enough one of the things I miss most about England is sheep.  There is something so very quintessentially English and homey and comforting about a windswept hillside dotted with fluffy white blobs – a sight I don’t think I’ve ever seen in America, the land of the cow.

Lamb here is an exotic meat - tucked into a corner of the supermarket at the end of the huge counters displaying every possible cut of beef, chicken and pork, and viewed with some suspicion.  It’s rarely on the menu in restaurants, I’ve never had it served by American friends in their homes, and a waiter once told me that I may not like a lamb dish because the lamb taste might be ‘too strong’.

Anyway, I like this story, because it is so very English, so very charming and so very sheepy.  Vegetarians may be aghast to note that not only did sheepbreeder Louise Fairburn make her wedding dress from the fleece of her Lincoln Longwool sheep, but she served lamb from her flock to her guests.




Full article here, {via Rose-Kim Knits}

11 August 2009

And speaking of owls…

…I’m very much loving the new bamboo owl mobiles from one of our favourite suppliers Petit Collage.



For UK peeps we also have her beautiful wooden owl collage for sale on mirrormirror.


Lorena at Petit Collage has also brought out a couple of fun owl-y packing tapes



Must think about getting all these in the shop.

While we’re on the subject of real estate…

this has just gone on sale for $25million in Brooklyn, NYC. This is apparently twice the previous record price for Brooklyn, but, truly you can see why.  I think I could live here quite easily, if anyone fancies gifting me $25million.  The clocks all work too…





See the full slideshow here

07 August 2009

Wise Guys


We all loved the Mibo Beetle stickers I blogged about earlier this year (and no, I haven’t yet done anything to personalise the car) and today I found out about another cool idea from the Mibo website – downloadable, print-at-homeable OWLS.

The Minx and I will be making these on Monday after we return from camping.  That is if our fingers can move for the chilblains and frostbite – after last week’s record high temperatures, temps have plummeted this week and the weather forecast for the weekend is awful. I will be attempting to blog my camping experiences from my new iPhone (the silver lining to my car being broken into on Tuesday).

Speaking of iPhones, has anyone get any favourite apps they want to share?  Either for me or the Minx? If you have a pre-schooler about the house you could do much worse that to download Smacktalk. 

Thanks for the Mention

A few nice mentions since I’ve been back blogging properly.

The Roasted Corn Soup was mentioned on Shelterrific

Amy Ruppel’s State Animals were much admired and mentioned on Shelterrific and the fabulous Whorange

My new sofa was also mentioned on Shelterrific.

And I was mentioned on local Wallingford Seattle blog Wallyhood – though that was on the occasion of my second car break-in this year (yep, I’ve had a ton of luck with cars this year), so we’re not too happy about that one.

If you’ve blogged about either the blog or the shop recently and I haven’t mentioned you, then do let me know.

Alexander McQueen’s (Ex) East London Home

As you know around here we’re rather partial to a peek at fashion designers’ houses (we’re looking at you Matthew Williamson, Betsey Johnson and Vanessa Bruno), so here for your delectation and delight are pictures of Alexander McQueen’s East London townhouse. {From the Real Estalker via the HolyMoly mailout – yes I do read it}

I don’t think it’s fair to make this a ‘Go Fug Your Room’ candidate as these photos are only estate agent’s photos and don’t fully reflect McQueen’s personal style, but it’s still interesting to snoop.

Personally I’m finding this rather boring.  As you may have guessed I’m not hugely into minimalism at the best of times, but this strikes me as rather boring minimalism. My main gripe is with all the square and boxy built-ins – I prefer a few elegant curves in my rooms.  And that house looks as if it dates from the 1850s? so it probably had quite a few nice original features – ceiling mouldings, fireplaces etc -  which have all been summarily destroyed.

I also have to say that this house could benefit hugely from a bit of American-style home staging – some pictures, maybe a rug and a funky chair here and there would make all the difference.


I am loving the roof deck (though for me the glass skylight directly above the bed is not exactly a selling point), the pond thingy (pool?) and what we can see of the outside spaces though. Here the minimalist lines are softened by the plants, though a few flowers wouldn’t go amiss.


Anyway, if this house is for you it will only set you back 1.7 million pounds (I’ve just got a new computer and now have no idea how to find a pound sign) or around $2.8 million.  Please bear in mind though, that this house is in Hackney, one of the, shall we say, edgiest areas of inner London.

06 August 2009

So(fa) Exciting!

This is apparently what our new sofa looked like before it left the manufacturer. So fabulous to see it with the cone legs at last. It looks even better than I thought it would. Ameer and his team have done an incredible job.

It should be delivered next week, so then we get to see it in situ and sit in it. Can’t wait!

Custom 56 Sofa - Oasis White - Couch (2)

Custom 56 Sofa - Oasis White - Couch (3)

Custom 56 Sofa - Oasis White - Couch

River Mirrors

I’m sorry and I’m enjoying life in the US more than I ever thought I would, but from a design perspective I still wish I was living in the UK, there’s so much fabulous stuff coming out of there.

A case in point are these spectacular ‘River Mirrors’ by British artist and designer Caryn Moberly {via The Art of C}.




Each River Mirror is created from beautiful pieces of burred elm and resemble water flowing between the natural banks of a river.  Caryn uses the natural undulating shape of the tree to form the ‘river banks’, and so no two mirrors are the same.

I find the choice of wood particularly poignant – as a very young child I lived close to a stand of magnificent elm trees and remember feeling quite overwhelmed by their height and majesty.  It pains me somewhat that, due to Dutch Elm Disease, it is unlikely that my daughter will ever see a mature elm tree in all its glory.

Adventures in Knitting – Blocking and Stitching

I’ve just finished knitting a cardigan for me – the first garment I’ve knitted for myself in about twenty years – of which more anon when I’ve taken some pictures.

In the meantime, though. I decided that I really ought to focus more on finishing off my Interminable Blanket, as I’m getting so bored of having it hanging around.  I’ve been gently knitting up squares in the background – I’ve decided to make it 5x4 squares instead of the original 4x4 in order to make it a bit more practical – and recently decided to bite the bullet and start sewing them together.

The first order of business is blocking – washing the squares and pinning them out to stretch them. I wish I’d done this a bit sooner, as it is so inspiring when a screwed up bundle like this,


turns into lovely smooth even flat squares like these


I then took my courage in both hands and started sewing.  Sewing and me have developed a hate/hate relationship over the years, so I was by no means convinced that I’d be able to come up with a neat enough seam, given that the seams on this project are pretty visible.  But after several false starts and lots of undoing and redoing I’ve come up with some seams that look pretty good to me.

Here’s the first row of five blocks all sewn together


And here’s a close up of the stitching


I’m hoping that the edges will unfurl again as I sew the strips of blocks together and add the lace edging, though the whole thing will probably need another blocking when it’s done.

All the way through this I’ve not been sure that I’d be able to sew it together well which I realise now has been somewhat demotivating. The knowledge that I can actually do it AND make it look good AND that the process isn’t even painful has made me set to like a thing possessed.  I’m hoping to have this finished this month, only about five and a half years after I started it.  I do wish I liked the colour more though.

05 August 2009

Paris Hilton’s Doghouse

Fun whimsy or a little bit sick?

Apparently Paris Hilton has been Tweeting about the house she’s had built for her enormous collection of chihuahuas.


The house is 300 sq. ft and two storeys, and features a clay-tile roof with copper gutters, intricate ceiling mouldings and a black crystal chandelier hanging in the bedroom complete with a closet and central air conditioning. It was designed by Paris’s interior designer Faye Resnick and is apparently furnished with faux designer doggie products from such design world luminaries as Jimmy Chew, Pawda, Sniffany & Co. and Chewy Vuitton. Oh and it has a price tag of $350,000.

Am I alone in thinking that in this day and age, this is just a tad inappropriate?  I just hope those dogs like candyfloss pink.



Our lavender bushes at home have been pretty spectacular too (though I forgot to take photos when they were at their peak, so you’ll just have to imagine them).  In the recent dry weather (no meaningful rain in Seattle since mid-May!) the flowers have been drying on the bushes and I’ve been collecting the dried flowers, because it seemed like the right thing to do.

But I don’t really have any idea what to do with it all.  I’m not really the sort of person who makes lavender bags (though maybe I’ll knit some).  According to all these links, I’m supposed to be making lavender sugar, lavender lemonade and lavender oil; using it in cooking; making lavender teabags to put in the bath; using the oil to heal burns and wounds and making eyebags from lavender, flaxseed and rice.  As a linguist, I am intrigued to note that the name lavender comes from the Latin verb lavare  ‘to wash’, so it’s obviously well worth putting in the bath.

Has anyone else got any good ideas?  I particularly want to try using it in cooking, so any good recipes would be much appreciated.

August’s Yarn Soup

Somebody on Ravelry suggested putting all the yarn for your work-in progress projects for the month into a separate bowl or basket. This month I’m attempting to finish my Interminable Blanket (I’ve started sewing it up, yippee!) and my Lacy Wrap and for my quick and easy portable knitting I’m treating myself to a new pair of orange socks.


04 August 2009

Lampshade Couture – It’s Competition Time!


Dawn Bassett of Seattle-based LiT Shades makes bespoke lampshades for any room in the house, using designer fabrics such as Marimekko, or custom letterpress printing.

Lit lamps

Until 7th August Dawn is running a competition on her blog where you can win your very own custom couture lampshade. All you need to do is send in a picture of a lamp in need of a revamp and Dawn will pick one to crown with its own special bespoke shade.

I mention this by way of a public service announcement because I love my readers, though I don’t particularly want any of you to enter as I’ve just entered my own sadly neglected Ebay lucite lamp. Anyway, if you must, full details of how to enter are here


A lamp in need of a vamp

03 August 2009

Amy Ruppel – State Animals

One of my absolutely favourite artists is the incrediby prolific Portland-based Amy Ruppel (I just wish we could afford something nice and big by her).

Her latest endeavour is a limited edition run of pictures of the official US state animals (no, I didn’t know until I moved here that every state had one either). If you don’t manage to nab one of the originals, she’s also making prints.

Here are a few of my favourites – clockwise from top left Virginia, Arizona, Utah and Washington.  You can buy them here.

bat ringtailedcatillinoisJPG Capture utah

Washington’s state animal is apparently the orca, though after going on not one but two fruitless 'whale-watching' trips, we are convinced that orcas are just a figment of the Washington State Tourist board’s imagination.

The Salads of Summer – Greek Salad

When people ask me what I miss most about the UK, I usually say ‘Greece’. 


The Husband and I spent a lot of time travelling in the Peloponnese, the Pelion and island-hopping -  mostly in the Cyclades - before the Minx came on the scene and we can’t wait to go back there with her.

Anyone who’s spent any time in Greece will know that most restaurant meals will be accompanied by a simple Greek salad, or horiatiki (‘village salad’) which is remarkably similar wherever you travel in Greece. A lot of people are scathing about Greek food but there’s something very comforting about this simple salad and we’ve been eating it a lot here in Seattle this summer as we’ve managed to find a good source of Greek feta.  We usually accompany it with some grilled lamb or chicken.

Here’s my recipe – which serves 2-4 people.  All the quantities are very approximate, just add or subtract different quantities of ingredients, to taste or depending on how many you’re serving and what you’ve got to hand.



Tomatoes – the redder and juicier the better.  I chop up about a punnet of sweet cherry tomatoes

Cucumber – about half a large one, cut into thickish rounds.

Red onion – about half a small one

Green pepper – we’ve seen salads with and without peppers in different areas of Greece, so these are optional. Here in the US, I like to use the pointy, slightly spicy, green Anaheim peppers. Add one or two chopped and deseeded peppers to taste. If you’re not using peppers, add a bit more cucumber.

Olives – we add a handful of pitted Kalamata olives from a jar, but any sticky, salty black olives will do

Feta cheese – feta just means ‘slice’ and in Greece this salad normally comes served with a thick slice of feta placed on top

Oregano – this salad is always seasoned with a good sprinkling of dried oregano.  When we first had this in Greece I was surprised that they used the dried stuff when fresh oregano grows pretty much wild and it felt strange to use dried herbs on a salad. But it’s traditional, and it works.

Olive oil – the salad is dressed with a good slug of olive oil.  I like to add to add a little red or white wine vinegar, but again that’s not always the case in Greece.


Assemble your ingredients and serve the salad with the slab of feta still intact on the top.  At the table, serve the salad by mooshing up the cheese with a spoon and stirring it into the other ingredients, to create an oily, cheesy dressing. Never add salt to this salad – the olives and cheese are plenty salty enough.

Kali orexi!

Urban Craft Uprising – the Reckoning

We went, we saw, we bought.  AND there was air-conditioning.  What more could you ask for?

UCU has grown up.  It still has a pleasantly friendly and chaotic vibe, but there was so much more stuff that was actually worth buying.  Still a lot of felt though.


Here are a few images of the Uprising. I’ll talk about some of the individual stallholders over the course of the week.








01 August 2009

Urban Craft Uprising



Just a quick reminder for Seattle-based peeps that the first ever summer Urban Craft Uprising is taking place tomorrow and Sunday at the Seattle Center.

I got to a UCU a couple of years back when I first arrived in Seattle and found it to be a charming mishmash of the homespun, the bizarre and the fabulous. Included in the fabulous this time round will be Dave Sheely Designs and the Cakespy herself.