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140 posts categorized "Baby it's you"

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.




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?






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.










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.


17 June 2013

School’s Out for Summer


So henceforth there’s going to be an awful lot more of THIS going on in our lives.



School finished last Friday (I still can’t get over how LONG the school vacations are here), so we’ve got a summer full of camps and visits and trips planned.

I’m painfully aware that this is probably the last summer that the Minx will truly be my little girl (can you believe she’s already eight?) so I mean to make the most of it. I think it will be good for me to slow down a bit too. All the stress-related issues I talked about at the beginning of the year are much better, but I’m still not sleeping as well as I should and a summer of fun in the sun, relaxation, stress-free photography, reading, cooking and dreaming is just what the doctor ordered I think.

I’m hoping to get fitter (just started using a Fitbit yay!), learn stand up paddleboarding, read lots of books, do a few workshops, cook up a storm and host lots of parties.

We have trips booked to Menton again (leaving on Saturday!) – we have rented an apartment there for three weeks – and to Canoe Island, and Grandad is coming to stay. The Minx will be going on her very first overnight camp (leaving mummy and daddy to have our first consecutive nights away together since she was born).





I WILL continue blogging, but only when it really feels like the right thing to do (though I have got tons of things I want to talk to you guys about).  If you want daily updates though, please come and find me on Instagram

Instead this summer will hopefully be all about this












and this




I hope yours is too.

I’m hosting ‘Mom Camp’ tomorrow. In the morning I will be teaching five eight year olds how to make pie and then we’re doing on a photography scavenger hunt. Think of me…

10 May 2013

Project 52: Sign of the Times


Wow, I have become Chatty Cathy on here all of a sudden.

Anyway, just thought I’d close out the week with my latest submission for Project 52.  Our assignment was to take a photo for the cover of a book entitled ‘Sign of the Times’, all about the advances made in technology in recent years.




I’m always seeing the Minx with various screens casting an eerie glow on her face, so I thought I’d make it into feature for this shoot, where she just got to sit in a darkened room and play games on the iPad. 

She’s never been so happy to be in a photoshoot before. 

But when did my baby get so GROWN UP?


03 April 2013

Project 52: Red Balloons


So last week’s assignment was simple. A concept shot inspired by “Red Balloons’. 

Because I wanted to do something a bit different, and because blowing up balloons makes my cheeks hurt, and because I’m trying to improve my food photography, I decided it might be easiest to just whip up a bunch of cupcakes.




In that I was almost certainly wrong.  Trying to organise and tame that ridicuously curly gift ribbon with tiny bits of sticky tape into strands that might possibly look like they were floating through the air tested my patience to the very limits.  Food and product stylists everywhere, I salute you.

I was worried that the photo above might be insufficiently conceptual, so then dug up a photo I had of a tiny Minx chasing balloons.  I used my still extremely crappy Photoshop skills to turn her into a Brush and included her in the picture.




I wasn’t entirely happy with this shot either as I couldn’t help wishing that the Minx had been stretching up towards the balloons, and the composition just didn’t look right. The Minx thinks it’s fabulous though, so I think I’ll make a canvas copy for her toyroom.

In the end I decided to use the same conceit but have the cupcake balloons wafting in front of the Space Needle.

This involved taking a photo of the Space Needle, converting it to a Brush and then using a mask to reveal the bunch of ribbons.  My Photoshop ‘skills’ pretty much exploded at this point.




To be honest, I think this is my least favourite of the Project 52 images I’ve produced to date, and I’m not sure that red flying cupcakes look particularly appetising, which, after all, is the point of food photography.  But it was a fascinating creative exercise and certainly tested my Photoshop skills, such as they are, to the very limits and beyond.



You can convert any image into a brush in Photoshop which gives it an interesting flat effect and means you can colourise it, move it about, multiply it, turn it, stamp your photos with it and do all sorts of jiggery pokery (note use of correct Photoshop terminology).  In fact do all the things you can do with the standard Brushes, but with a photo.

- Use your preferred selection tools to select the area of the image you wish to use.  (I had trouble selecting the Minx as you can see, the Space Needle was much simpler).

-  Go to Select –> Inverse and then delete the areas of the image you don’t want to use, so that you end up with your image on a transparent background.

- Convert the image you want to use to black and white, remembering that grey areas will show up in the brush but white areas will be transparent.

- Adjust contrast etc. to get a good strong B/W image

- Draw a box around the image with Rectangular Marquee Tool and go to Edit –> Define Brush Preset. And that’s it, you’ve created a new fancy Brush!

- If you want to save your brush permanently go to Window –> Brush Presets –> click on the Brush Presets Icon (second from left along the bottom) and Select the Brushes you want save. Then save them in a named set.

If you want to download some groovy premade Brushes for your digital artwork, check out Brusheezy or TwoPeasinaBucket.

And if you want to see how Photoshop Brushes can be used to make all sorts of crazy and inspiring art then check out this CreativeLIVE course with the incredibly bubbly and charming Khara Plicanic, which was one of the most fun courses I attended at Photoshop Week.

I spent the last couple of days at CreativeLIVE again, doing a course on Photoshop Working Foundations with ace photographer and Photoshop guru Ben Willmore.  My only regret is that I wish I’d done this course before Photoshop Week as I would have got so much more out of all the other courses I sat through. 

I can’t recommend this course highly enough if you want to get the basics of Photoshop – selections, layers, masking, adjustments etc. down pat. One of the most useful courses I’ve ever done and it would be a great purchase if you are fairly new to Photoshop.


06 February 2013

Flower Sugar Cookies






We celebrated a very special birthday a couple of weekends back.

The Minx, would you believe, turned eight in January. No I don’t believe it either.  I wonder if there are any of you around who remember her when she looked like this (oh, how innocent those blogging days were).

To celebrate we had to suffer through a party at the American Girl doll store in Seattle, followed by a birthday sleepover with eight of her closest friends and their dolls.  I believe I deserve some sort of mothering Oscar.

(For those of you not in the US or in possession of an 8 year old daughter, American Girl dolls are something of a cultural phenomenon.  They’re very high quality, INCREDIBLY expensive dolls – some dressed to be fictional historical characters and some from the present day – that come with every possible expensive accessory you can dream of.  Even to my adult eyes, the store, with its teeny dolls’ hair salon and bistro with special chairs so the dolls can sit at the table, is faintly mind-blowing.)




Unfortunately a fancy cake came as part of the package at the store, so I was unable to emulate my birthday cake extravaganzas of yore, so I decided instead to apply myself to sugar cookies that the girls could have with milk while watching their American Girl movie.  The tiny cookies are of course for the dolls.

As you can tell I’m a rather slapdash cookie icer.  One day I’d love to learn how to ‘flood’ the cookies properly with icing and pipe neat intricate details on them, but this time round I made do with dipping the cookies in royal icing – the pink worked best because it was wetter and runnier – and then piped some rather wobbly outlines on them.


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I used this trusty sugar cookie recipe from the Joy of Baking, which I highly recommend, together with their royal icing recipe.

For the record here is my baby blowing out the eight candles on her cake.




And here she is with her freaky ‘Look Like Me’ doll.



I do want to improve my cookie icing skills and so to that end I’ve purchased Decorating Cookies by Bridget Edwards which looks amazing.  Not that I’ve actually used it yet mind you. I find it’s always easier to buy the craft book rather than actually DO the craft.  The blog which inspired the book is here.


05 January 2013

Hanging Gingerbread Cookies


It’s still sort of Christmas round these parts.  The Minx doesn’t go back to school until Monday and we keep the tree up until January 6th as is traditional in the UK.




So I wanted to share one of the most fun things we did this Christmas, which was make gingerbread cookies for the tree.




I wanted to do something to pull together the hodgepodge of ornaments and decorations we’ve gathered together over the years, so I decorated them as simply as possible with white frosting and assorted pinkish ribbons from my ribbon box.




The very cool thing about them is that you’re always prepared for unexpected kid guests, of which there seem to be very many over the holiday period.  Kids seem to love being able to choose their own cookie from the tree.


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If you want to make some next year I can highly recommend this recipe which made easy and extremely tasty cookies.

I used this recipe for basic royal icing using egg whites but halved the amount (ie. 1 egg white to 1.5 cups of sugar). You really don’t need much icing for these babies.

I then pushed a little sugar ball into the cookie dough before baking, which could be pushed out at the end and left a little hole for hanging without the need to do dangerous things with skewers.  This worked fantastically for the heart and star-shaped cookies, but I think next time I need to find a way of creating slightly smaller holes for my gingerbread girls and boys, so they don’t all look like that have frontal lobotomies.




As you can see, my icing skills leave an awful lot to be desired, but they were hugely fun to do and I think they have a certain, er, rustic charm. 

I think this is the start of a new Christmas tradition anyway, though I bet I’ll be cursing these come December-time. Did you guys start any new traditions this holiday?


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.




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).




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.


26 November 2012

Things I Am Loving: Studio Mela


As it’s Cyber Monday and I’m awesomely well-organised (haha! :- Ed), I’m sitting at my desk gently shopping for Christmas presents for the Minx.


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Since she is now almost eight years old (how the heck did THAT happen?) I ‘m trying to get her a few more things which will still be very much loved and appreciated, but don’t fit into the ‘plastic tat made in China’ genre of presents.


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First up are these gorgeous prints from Studio Mela. I love how artist Shelli Dorfe’s charming illustrations are ridiculously cute, colourful and inspirational enough for any small girl, but never quite make it across the borderline into twee.


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Just the thing for the discerning girlchild in your life.


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Here is the Studio Mela Etsy shop, which is offering free shipping this Cyber Monday.


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?




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.




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






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





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?


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.



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.





Child’s Own Studio can be contacted here.




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!


20 February 2012

That Was the Week That Was


Last week was an Instagram week of hearts and flowers, grey skies, cuddly cats and a newfound love of the colour yellow.


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

16 February 2012

Animated Valentine




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.


13 February 2012

That Was The Week That Was


This was a golden Instagram week of baking, coffee and wintry walks, with a few signs of spring poking round the corner.


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


31 December 2011

Adventures in Knitting – Big Snowy Owl


Thought you might like to see the Minx’s knitted Christmas present – that you managed to guess so cunningly -   in all its final glory.


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Snowy owl on snowy balcony in snowy Whistler


I have to say that this was a rather frustrating knit. 

Being my usual organised self, I’d left it until Christmas Eve to finish the top of the head and the face when disaster struck and I ran out of white yarn before I’d even managed to finish the ears. This despite having purchased the recommended yarn, used the recommended size needles and knitted to the recommended gauge.

So I had to rip the head back, miss out some rounds without giving him too truncated an appearance and reknit.  This time I managed to scrape through to the end, though I still didn’t have enough white yarn to add a white circle to the eyes as in the pattern.  You can imagine how thrilled I was by this at 3 am on Christmas morning.


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All, however, is well that ends well. The owl is gorgeously soft, smooshy and snuggly and big enough to make for very satisfying cuddles (here he is sitting next to a standard-sized cushion). The Minx is also very fond of ‘Owly’, which makes a change.

More details on my Ravelry page. You can find the pattern here courtesy of the Purl Bee.  I DON’T recommend using their suggested yarn though.

10 December 2011

Can You Guess What It Is Yet?


Wow! You guys are good.  Too good in fact.  I was hoping to keep the tease going a little bit longer at least.  However, my undying admiration goes to Stephanie and Rebecca who both guessed that it was the Purl Bee big snowy owl.  Oh and please don’t tell the Minx.




I just hope I can do this one justice.  It looks like one of those projects where it’s all about getting the face right.  I’ll carry on pasting up progress reports.



In other competition news, I realise that I forgot to draw the ‘Edible Seattle’ prize. The winner is Dana. Congratulations! I’ll be emailing you shortly so we can get your ‘Edible Seattle’ subscription to you.

Oh and look for another giveaway on Monday.

05 December 2011

Picture the Holidays – All You Need is Love


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I think this one’s pretty much self-explanatory.  Not exactly creative, but I couldn’t pass this one up.

01 December 2011

Can You Tell What It Is Yet?


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After last year’s tiny little needles and tiny little stitches for Carmen Banana, I am treating myself to chunky size 15 needles and chunky weight yarn to make the Minx’s knitted Christmas present.

I’ll post regular updates before the big day and the first person to guess what it is wins my undying admiration.

13 September 2011

Blueberry Boy Bait




Speaking as we were about baking with kids, the Minx and I had very fun day for the last day of ‘mummy’ camp before starting school.

We went with friends for some pick your own blueberries (thanks Mercer Slough Blueberry Farm!) and then decided to do a spot of lunchbox baking afterwards.

The recipe for Blueberry Boy Bait from Smitten Kitchen seemed ideal lunchbox fare – easy to bake, easy to pack, not too sweet and packing enough blueberries that it could almost be counted as a healthy option. At least that’s what this mother tries to tell herself.  Oh and did I mention that they’re rather delicious?

First pick your blueberries.  I love how pretty they are.



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Then mix up a plain-ish yellow cake batter (the full recipe is here) made with butter, a little soft brown sugar and half a cup of blueberries. The cake is then topped with more cinnamon-flavoured sugar and another half cup of blueberries so that the fruit is  evenly dispersed throughout the cake. This is an ideal job for small fingers.


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You should end up with a golden rectangle of purple-flecked yumminess with a slightly crisp crust.  Cut it into small lunchbox-sized portions. Ours is now in a big ziploc bag in the freezer. Add a frozen slice to the lunchbox the night before and it will be fresh and ready to eat in time for lunch.


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Incidentally the fabulous name was apparently bestowed by the fourteen year old girl who devised the recipe and came second in a baking competition back in the Fifties.  She was obviously a marketing as well as a baking genius. Mr T, the only boy in our family aside from Flora the cat, confirms that the name is appropriate even though it doesn’t contain either beer or bacon.

01 September 2011

Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer




I set myself a low bar when it comes to mothering.  If the Minx grows up to have good manners, to love books and to be able to cook then I figure she’ll probably always have friends, be passably well-educated and never go hungry. And that way it seems to me happiness lies.

Certainly I can think of few greater pleasures in life than devouring a good book or some good food. So you can imagine how much I enjoyed reading Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer by Yarnstorm’s Jane Brocket, which discusses all the delectable foods found in classic children’s literature, accompanied by scrummy-looking recipes and pen and ink illustrations from the works in question.

The Minx and I are currently on a bit of an Enid Blyton jag at present and revelling in descriptions of fabulous picnics with boiled eggs and sticky buns, Aunt Fanny’s cakes and of course lashings of ginger beer (which according to Brocket, Enid Blyton never actually says in her books).




I am amused to note that, while the plot intricacies of many of these books have completely receded into the mists of time, I can remember almost verbatim many of the food descriptions, such as this one from What Katy Did.

“.. and there – oh, delightful surprise – were seven little pies – molasses pies, baked in saucers – each with a a brown top and crisp, candified edge, which tasted like toffee and lemon-peel, and all sorts of good things mixed up together. There was a a general shout… a tumult of joy… in an incredibly short time every vestige of pie had disappeared, and a blissful stickiness pervaded the party.”

Oh how I wanted to taste one of these pies – ‘molasses’ sounded so delicious and exotic to this little British girl – and now I can, because I have a recipe.

Unfortunately the book is already out of print and quite difficult to get hold of – I suspect the market for it was rather too esoteric. American readers might be particularly frustrated as it focuses primarily on British children’s classics and old-fashioned British baking, though Little Women, Little House on the Prairie and What Katy Did all make an appearance.

But buy this book if you, as I did, grew up with the likes of The Famous Five, My Naughty Little Sister, Pippi Longstocking, Milly Molly Mandy, Paddington Bear, Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, and Malory Towers. Get it doubly fast if you are re-reading these books with your kids and enjoy baking with them.

What do enjoy cooking and reading with your kids?  The Minx and I are sorely in need of recommendations in both categories.

Oh and speaking of the Minx, she went back to school yesterday, oh frabjous day! So now I’m back blogging properly.

16 August 2011

The Story of the Cake - Part II


The day before the party the Husband and I set to work assembling all the various cakes I’d been making and freezing over the previous week.


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The top tier was a classic Victoria sponge filled with chocolate buttercream. The rainbow cake filled with vanilla buttercream formed the middle tier and the bottom tier was yet another Macrina Bakery ‘Mom’s Chocolate Cake’, which I’ve been using for birthday cakes ever since the Minx was two, as it is very moist and forgiving, and much beloved by the grown up kids in attendance.

Stupidly I’d made my cakes in 9”, 8” and 7” sizes which didn’t really make for enough of a tiered effect and also left  nowhere for my fairy cake toppers to sit. Fortunately I’d made a big batch of cupcakes ready for a cupcake decorating activity at the party so we used a few to create plinths for the fairies to sit on.

Here is the whole edifice covered in its crumb coat. (Please ignore hideous green kitchen countertops).




And here is the finished article, covered with easy moulded flowers and chocolate bunnies, made using candy melts; vines and leaves iced on in green buttercream and a set of five Disney Fairy cake toppers. The Husband has asked me to point out that he is the person who actually wields the icing bag (under my direction) and he certainly did a fabulous job.




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I was however nervous for the final piece de resistance.  Would the central rainbow cake be sufficiently lurid and rainbow-like?

It seems I needn’t have worried.




And the kids ADORED it.





I am indebted to my father-in-law for the last two photos. Note the careful styling in this bottom pic, it took me ages to get the mustard bottle just so.


10 August 2011

The Story of the Cake - Part I



Yes, it’s that time of year again, where I get to make my daughter a crazy cake for her birthday


Actually it’s a different time of year this time round, as we couldn’t actually get our backsides in gear to organise a winter birthday party for her, so this year we’re celebrating her half birthday. And she gets a summer party and her grandad gets to spend it with her, so it’s all good.

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But I digress. This year a Tinkerbell cake has been requested and I thought I’d go along the lines of the Nemo cake I made a couple of years back – three tiers, green icing and then an assortment of fairies and flowers rather than fish and shells.


I wanted to add an additional surprise though and make the middle tier a ‘rainbow’ cake, as has been demonstrated all over the internet.  Yes, it’s going to be ridiculously tasteless and OTT, but if you can’t get outrageous for a six year old’s birthday cake then when can you.


So I set to work.  A friend of mine in the UK, who has made a beautiful version, had success using a classic Victoria sponge recipe so that’s what I used.  I doubled it (8oz butter/sugar/flour + 4 eggs), weighed the mixture, divided it equally by six (the indigo layer seems to get missed out of these cakes) and worked out I had about 150g per cake to play with.

And then I set to work with my paste food colourings, as you can see above.  I ended up with some thin but still springy sponge cakes as a I wanted, so that I’ll end up with a not too steep middle tier. Here’s hoping that the more subdued colours of the outside of the cakes end up looking suitably garish when we cut into it.

More cake madness to follow.

05 April 2011

Things I Am Loving – Alessi Tigrito Cat Bowl


I promise that I’ve completely stopped buying expensive cat accessories, though I’ve been horribly tempted by the Tigrito Cat Bowl by Alessi, mostly because, with its grey fur and white paws,  it looks so much like Flora.




It does however cost $90. so let’s just admire it from afar, shall we? (Though it appears to be on sale via Amazon in the UK).

Instead, here is a picture of the real thing, looking rather nonplussed by the fake Tootsie Roll cat poop we made to play an April Fool trick on the Minx. It worked like a dream, particularly when the Husband ‘cleaned it up’ and started licking it. Never have you seen such a grossed out six year old.




Truly if you ever need to make fake poop, Tootsie Rolls are your friends (sorry, I don’t think there’s an equivalent in the UK). Just a few seconds in the microwave and a bit of sculpting required.


23 March 2011

Pirates Ahoy!


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




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

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


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





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






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




Full details of the design and construction on MyModernMet.

Please don’t show this to the Minx.


04 March 2011

The Minx’s Bedroom


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




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




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

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




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






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




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

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

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


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It also glows very excitingly in the dark.




Before pictures are here.  

25 February 2011

Funky Loft Beds


For the past few months we’ve been in the market for a cool loft bed for the Minx.  The problem was a familiar one – all the beautifully designed loftbeds that I actually LIKED were phenomenally expensive, while the ones we could afford were all cheaply made, old fashioned, plain ugly or only available in Europe.  Why does great design have to be so flipping spendy and why is all the funky stuff in the US imported from Europe in the first place? Where are the American designers doing cool contemporary design for kids?

Here are some of the beds we loved and had to reject because of cost.  Next week I’ll post pictures of the bed we finally chose.

This is the Alex Loft Bed system by DucDuc. It’s available in a range of cool colours and is American designed and made, but you’ll have to fork out $2,850 for just the top bed and armoire before adding a the desk or a bottom bed etc.




All you get for $2,850


The felt-covered  German-made Perludi ‘Amber in the Sky’ is also rather splendid, and available here for a cool $2599 (down from $3,450).





The Azor loft bed below is also imported from Europe but comes in at a slightly more reasonable at $2150, including, I think, the desk.




My absolute fave was this picture I found on OhDeeDoh. The link is now broken, it looks like the bed was also super expensive, and I haven’t been able to find it anywhere else,  but I love the diagonal footprint, so am adding it here to sigh about what might have been.





Did I say my most favourite? Actually that accolade probably needs to go to these Tiramolla loft bedrooms from Tumidei of Italy which I believe are available through Roche Bobois. I didn’t even bother to enquire as to how much they cost (I’m sure the answer would be ‘your first born child’ which would rather defeat the object) but they sure are molto bello.



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Images from the Minx’s new bedroom coming early next week. I know you can’t wait.


07 February 2011

Goldilocks and the Sky Blue Ceiling


Welll, that was trickier than I thought it would be.

Last Friday the walls of the Minx’s room were painted in Benjamin Moore’s White Vanilla and from the picture rail upwards in BM’s Morning Sky Blue. However, when it was done, the ceiling read much lighter than the tops of the walls and looked more like a greyish white than a true blue. 

So then we painted just the ceiling and not walls in the next darkest colour- Benjamin Moore’s Tear Drop Blue. And this time the ceiling was very obviously a darker blue than the tops of the walls.

So finally we mixed Morning Sky Blue and Tear Drop Blue in about equal percentages and again painted just the ceiling. And this time it was just right. 



It’s interesting how the angle of the light changes everything. 

Here’s a reminder of what the room looked like before. That purple (chosen by the previous owners) could look very dark and forbidding on a gloomy Seattle day, such as we have very occasionally in the winter months (hahahahahahahahaha).



There’ll be more updates from the Minx’s room as we piece it all back together and assemble her super duper big girl loft bed.

24 January 2011

Introducing Flora and Harriet


The Minx’s first word, when she was around ten months old, was ‘ca’ and ever since she’s been asking us for either a cat or a dog or (though not as frequently) a sibling.

Since we decided that a sibling was definitely NOT going to be provided, she was fobbed off with vague promises of a pet ‘when you’re old enough’, which turned into promises of a ‘cat when you’re six’.




The Minx turned six in the middle of this month, and we soon realised that she would not let us postpone the fateful day a moment any longer and we signed up to get emails from cat adoption agencies.

Last Thursday we unexpectedly heard of a kitten adoption event at a local shelter and after meeting them on Friday night brought home two small grey kittens on Saturday. So my weekend was spent somewhat differently than I had anticipated and our house has already turned into Grey Gardens.

Here they are – Flora has three white socks and a white bib and Harriet is completely grey.  I am realising that cat photography makes kid photography seem like a walk in the park.

And as you can see someone is absolutely besotted.

24 December 2010

Pssst! Don’t Tell the Minx




And she’s DONE.  I have to say that ears do help a lot in the beauty department. 

I have beads and findings to make her a necklace and some earrings and was planning to knit her a handbag and a hat, but even if I don’t get to finish anything else tonight, she’s in a fit state to go under the tree tomorrow.

There are also a ton of other little clothes to knit for her, but at the moment I don’t wish to look at her ever again. SO relieved that’s over.

All that’s left is to wish you all a very happy, peaceful and joyful Christmas. Thank you for all your comments, emails and suggestions over the year. I do love my little blog. And you guys of course. Have fun! xoxoxoxoxo

(Thanks also for all the lovely messages and emails about my ma-in-law. Sorry that blogging has been so sporadic recently. I will be posting a few updates between Christmas and New Year after we get back from Whistler).

23 December 2010

Pssst! Don’t Tell the Minx


Carmen Banana finally has clothes!




Here she is lying seductively on our hotel bed while wearing her delicately embroidered undergarments.  I cannot tell you with words, by the way, how much I suck at embroidery.  Those took a LOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG time.

Here she is admiring the view from our Whistler condo during a whiteout. Carmen don’t do it!




And here she is wearing her Christmas party dress.  My goodness but this was a labour of love. The end ruffle, where I had to knit about 250 teeny tiny stitches and then DOUBLE them and then DOUBLE them again, leaving me with about a thousand little stitches to cast off nearly blew my mind.




She may have clothes, but what she doesn’t have are the ears, embroidered features, jewellery, handbag and hat I’d planned for her. It’s really going down to the wire, but for the moment, I’m off to go swimming in the snow and then to decorate a gingerbread houses with the pastry chef from Chateau Whistler.

Oh and yesterday I ticked something off my 101 List. Pics tomorrow.


20 December 2010

Christmas Baking with Kids


Last Saturday the Minx and I attended a Christmas baking class for kids at our local PCC supermarket




The class, run by Birgitte Antonson of Nature’s Way Food, was huge fun and perfectly judged for kids aged 4-6.

We were given the recipes for four Christmas treats – Pumpkin Seed Date Snowballs, Holiday Maple Spice Cookies, Yummy Yam Frosting and Jewel Cookies.  Sneakily the recipes were comparatively healthy; minimising sugar, by cutting down the quantities and replacing it with maple syrup, honey, yams or fruit spreads; and incorporating more healthy ingreadients such as dried fruit, pumpkin seeds and whole wheat flour into the recipes.  I have to say, for comparatively healthy stuff, it was utterly delicious and the Minx thought everything tasted suitably decadent and Christmassy.

Two of the cookies recipes had been pre-prepared by Birgitte, so we were handed our cookie dough and got to work rolling and cutting and generally making a mess.




Birgitte demonstrated how to make the Yam Frosting and the Pumpkin Seed Snowballs, and the kids were rapt, able to watch exactly what she was doing on the big screen.


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Our favourites were the Jewel Cookies (recipe below), where the Minx got to roll them into balls, make a big thumbprint indentation and fill them with fruit spread.


When the Maple Spice cookies were baked we had lots of messy fun decorating them with yam frosting, shredded coconut for snow and naturally coloured sugar sprinkles (coloured with fruit juices etc). I had no idea these latter existed and will definitely be buying them again as the colours are very beautiful, notwithstanding the health benefits.



I was going to post up the recipe for Jewel Cookies but we’re currently in Whistler and I don’t have it to hand, so you’ll get it after Christmas.

10 December 2010

Shhh! Don’t Tell the Minx


Look who I caught misbehaving in my jewellery box yesterday.



And yes that is a tail you spy.




I’m cooking on gas with this now, though Carmen’s pointy earless head is freaking me out somewhat. I must get cracking on the ears, though I’ve read online that they’re tricky to get right. Working on her panties at the moment, so she will at least be decent soon.


08 December 2010

Lundby Advent Calendar – Days 5 & 6


After her 24 hour bath, the demented Lundby child was thrilled to find a cute new bathrobe in the calendar.  She may look like she’ll grow up to be a serial killer, but at least she washes her hands.




The shoddily painted baby, who is actually  the scariest looking member of the family, is seen here playing with his new, very cute and absolutely enormous plush teddy. Let’s just hope it doesn’t roll over and squash him.




06 December 2010

Lundby Advent Calender – Days 3 & 4


Mrs Lundby was treated to a new pink dress on Friday.  It’s exactly the same as her old dress, only a different colour and a lot cleaner, so we do still have the ‘falling down and revealing her perky plastic bosoms’ problem. But I don’t suppose Mrs Lundby would want it any other way.




Here she is relaxing by the pool. Unfortunately she can’t kick her shoes off as they’re painted onto her feet.  I did think this dress was somewhat unsuitable for a Swedish or indeed a Seattle winter, but the Minx insists that the whole family lives in Australia, which is why they are still enjoying the pool at Christmas time.

Saturday brought two bottles of bubble bath and a little rubber duck, so here we see one of Mrs Lundby’s many and various slightly demented-looking children (whom the Minx refuses to name) taking a relaxing bath.


02 December 2010

Lundby Advent Calender – Day 2




Here’s Mrs Lundby relaxing after a hard day’s shopping, though she’s only managed to fit two Christmas presents in her oversized Christmas carrier bag.

Mrs Lundby is very Swedish as her pale blue boob tube slips down at every opportunity, revealing some very perky breasts (plastic always helps I find). She is also probably very cold but we couldn’t find her jacket this morning.

01 December 2010

It’s DECEMBER Already? – Lundby Advent Calendar Day 1


Could somebody PLEASE tell me where this year has disappeared to?

I realise that after all last year’s fuss about the Lundby Dollshouse, I never, ever showed you around. For all mothers of small girls out there, I can confirm that no toy of mine the Minx’s has ever been played with quite as much as this one.


Friends, even boys, other parents and babysitters are all fascinated by the resolutely unchildlike nature of it all and the stunning attention to detail. The Minx plays with it even more now than she did a year ago and every time I go into her playroom I find that the dolls have been arranged into yet another vignette.

This year Santa is going to have no trouble at all as the Minx has given him firm instructions to get her the accompanying Gotland Summer House.  It’s available quite cheaply in the UK from Amazon (the Husband brought it back with him after his recent trip) and unfortunately more expensively in the US at Cheeky Monkeys. I don’t know why Lundby doesn’t distribute more widely in the US.

But I digress.




This year, after much hunting online, I managed to track down a Lundby Dollhouse Advent Calendar. They were made in 2007, so difficult to get now, but still on sale at Cheeky Monkeys.  It promises clothes, accessories and Christmas decorations for the Lundby family and the Minx and I were beside ourselves with excitement to open door number one this morning. 

I thought it might be fun for you guys to see what’s inside, and show you round the house at the same time.

Today we she got a small wall clock, which has been (somewhat wonkily) applied to the wall of the main bedroom by the Minx.




29 November 2010

Shhhh! Don’t Tell the Minx




I had the devil’s own job with the mouth and had to rip it out twice times before getting it right.  For sock knitting aficionados, it’s knitted as a mitered heel, except that the only mitered heels I’ve ever knitted previously used a completely different method of doing the short rows, so this was uncharted territory for me.

Fortunately someone else has charted the territory, and if you ever do want to knit this (kit available here) I can’t recommend these very detailed instructions highly enough.  Ms Carmen here would be very ugly without them.



25 November 2010

Snow Day


Or this is why I haven’t been blogging.

After complete and total snow-fuelled carnage on the icy, steep Seattle streets (this city is as laughably bad at snow as London was)  yesterday dawned crisp, clear and glorious. And yes my neighbours do need to look into insulating their roofs). 




After a two-hour journey back from school the previous day, the Minx was understandably pleased not to be going to school, especially when this is what we ended up doing.



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We went sledding, made a very unfeminine snowgal, drank hot chocolate with whipped cream, made chicken noodle soup, watched a Tinkerbell movie and altogether had a wonderful time.

And I’m so glad we did, because today the Minx and the Husband set off for England to spend the long weekend with his mother who is in hospital with kidney failure. They’re away for five days, which is by far the longest time I’ve been away from the Minx since she was born.

I’m sad not to be with them at Thanksgiving – this holiday, which meant beans to me when we first arrived, is one of the most beautiful American traditions, and I’m going to miss celebrating tomorrow, though I’m glad to share the Husband and Minx with my mother-in-law.

Instead I shall be spending Thanksgiving morning on the Clipper heading to Victoria on Vancouver Island, off to spend a weekend of laziness with a girlfriend out on the Gulf Islands.  As a consequence blogging over the next few days will be light to non-existent.

And  the whole thing has made me so grateful that I have my health and my own small family the rest of the year. To all those of you celebrating, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving and good health and happiness in the year ahead.

16 November 2010

Shhhh. Don’t Tell the Minx




Quite possibly the most sinister photo I’ve ever published on here.

It’s been going swimmingly so far, but now I move onto the head, where there’s plenty of scope for making her look ugly or even downright scary. Wish me luck!

(She is helped to sit by a small bag of big green lentils stuffed in her bottom)


10 November 2010

Shhhh. Don’t Tell the Minx



My needles are on fire at the moment as I’ve realised that the actual monkey has to be finished by the end of November for there to be any chance of her having clothes by Christmas. I start attaching the arms tonight.

She can sit due to a little bag of rice in her posterior end. Note that the pattern designer added a little shaping to the waist to give her some ladylike curves.  Truly the Joan Holloway of sock monkeys.

08 November 2010

All About Me – Jonathan Adler Mod Model Pillow


One of the things I enjoyed most on our recent trip to San Francisco was visiting the Fillmore neighbourhood (thanks Victoria SFGirlByBay for the recommendation!).




It reminded me a lot of my adored Notting Hill (still my spiritual home) – the quirky restaurants and shops, the people milling about (unusual to see in the US), even the colours of the white stucco buildings.

Fabulous interiors stores included Nest, Zinc Details and Jonathan Adler. Yes, I finally got to visit an actual real life Jonathan Adler store, as such as thing has not yet materialised in Seattle.

I was doubly thrilled when I got there as they now have the ‘Mod Model’ cushions back in stock.  I’d added her to my Christmas list two years ago, but she she sold out too quickly, never to return until now. 

I’ve thought about her a lot in the intervening two years, so this time we snatched her up even though she is fiendishly expensive. I’m a great believer in buying stuff you’re slightly obsessed with, whatever the cost.  It works out more economically in the long run than buying a lot of cheap stuff that doesn’t quite float your boat. Or that’s what I tell myself anyway.

Here she is on our new sofa. She is very charismatic – like a portrait whose eyes follow you around the room.





I thought you might also like to see some pics of the Minx really, really, REALLY enjoying shopping at Jonathan Adler. (Though we already know she is a great fan of JA’s hubby Simon Doonan).





05 November 2010

Remember, Remember the 5th November


I always do, and not just because it’s Guy Fawkes Night



Here’s a photo I apparently took on 7th November 2006.  The view had been even worse over the previous two days, and that chink of light in the distance was a new and welcome development.


Four years ago, me, the Husband and a very small Minx woke up (at 2.30 am I might add, due to the Minx’s jetlag) in an apartment overlooking Puget Sound, ready to begin our new adventure in Seattle.

Record-breaking (so we later found out) torrents of rain were sheeting down the big glass windows, we had no decent food in the apartment, the Minx was bored with the eight books we had brought in our carry on luggage (the rest of her toys were following with our stuff) and was letting us know in no uncertain terms and we were utterly exhausted through sleep deprivation and getting everything packed and organised for our move.

If I’d had a return ticket I would have been on the next flight back.

You too can reminisce by reading my blog entries back then.

We intended to be here for only three years, but yes. four years later we’re still here with no plans to return. Life is a funny thing.

04 November 2010

Shhhh! Don’t Tell the Minx




Need to buck my ideas up if I’m going to get this done in time for Christmas.

14 October 2010

101 Things – Photographing Kids




I did another photography workshop at the weekend. They seem to be one if the easiest things to tick off my list of 101 Thingsgetting all the fun things out of the way before I start tackling the hard stuff I suppose.

I’ve noticed that I don’t very often photograph people – I prefer the still-life composition of food or interiors shots, or the drama of landscapes. Portraiture, particularly of strangers, doesn’t do much for me, which is weird, because I’d consider myself to be quite an extrovert ‘people’ person.

There is of course one notable exception and that is the Minx and she is horribly difficult to photograph – usually in perpetual motion and either pulling funny faces or smiling in a horrendously false and sickly way every time she sees the camera pointing in her direction.

So it seemed a good idea to take a workshop in Photographing Kids – both to take me out of my comfort zone and to improve my photography of the Minx.  This time I was working with the wonderful Clare Barboza, who is both an astonishing food photographer and does amazing portraiture. She shares the gorgeous and inspiring Spare Room studio with Lara Ferroni.

We talked about appropriate shutter speeds, using a bounce to soften the light, focusing on the eyes, composition, capturing details and using props, with the help of two beautiful models, just-turned-four Meilee and three-month old Kate.

One of the things I love about doing workshops with different photographers is that each one focuses on different things to create their pictures and has different compositional and lighting tricks they prefer, so I always learn a ton of stuff about photography in general whatever the subject.  If you’re in Seattle I can’t recommend Clare’s workshops highly enough.

Here are a few of my favourite shots from the day.  They’re not the usual stuff I post about on this blog, but what the heck, enjoy the cute.






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It does make me a little sad that I didn’t have the skills to take photos like these of the Minx when she was a baby and toddler, though I suppose it’s better late than never. Must schedule a photo shoot with her soon.

01 October 2010

Recipe of the Week – A Traditionally English Bramley Apple Pie


One of the challenges on my 101 List is to ‘Win something – anything’, which means I actually need to enter competitions.

Cue the 2nd Annual Queen Anne Farmers’ Market Blue Ribbon Pie Contest, which I decided to enter on a whim, despite the fact that I haven’t actually baked a pie for about ten years – crumble always seems so much quicker, easier and less daunting – and that Seattle is home to some fiendishly expert piemakers.




This year I’ve been able, through extensive excitable Twittering and emailing, to locate a local source of Bramley apples. Despite being home to more fabulous apple varieties than you can shake a stick at, America appears to be almost entirely ignorant of Bramleys, which I’ve missed horribly over the past couple of years.

For those of you who don’t know, Bramleys are a large knobbly British heirloom ‘cooking’ apple – too tart to eat raw, but which, thanks to the extra acidity, have a uniquely wonderful flavour and soft fluffy texture when cooked. It’s funny the things you miss, but I am not the only Brit to nearly wet my knickers with excitement at finding them.

So, I decided to make a traditionally English Bramley Apple Pie for the competition and show Americans what they’re missing out on.




And here’s my finished pie literally seconds before it slipped out of my hands as I was putting it in the oven and it crashed to the oven floor. Fortunately I was able to perform extensive reconstructive surgery using leftover scraps of pastry and make it look like a pie again, but it certainly wasn’t going to win any beauty competitions.

So you can imagine that I wasn’t holding out much hope of a prize when I was greeted by a veritable masterclass in the piemaker’s art on arriving at the market. (My poor battered pie is at top right in the red pie dish, I didn’t even bother to take a proper close up photo of it).




Here it is after the judges had tucked into it.


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And here it is sporting its ribbon for 3rd Prize! You could have knocked me down with a feather, quite literally. They clearly weren’t judging on looks.




Anyway, it was a lovely and very unexpected surprise to end to what has been a fairly shitty week, so many thanks to all at Queen Anne Farmers’ Market, to Jones Creek farms for their wonderful Bramley apples, to my lovely friend M for coming to my rescue with lard, and  to my fellow competitors who made some SERIOUSLY delicious pies (enough already, it’s getting like the Oscars round here :- the Ed)

And it’s made me think that maybe I should make pie more often.



Shortcrust Pastry

250g/2cups flour

75g/5 tbsps butter*

75g/5tbsps lard or vegetable shortening**

Iced water + lemon juice


1-2 tbsps of butter

5 Bramley apples – peeled, cored and sliced***

1 tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsps raisins soaked in Madeira****

6 tbsps bakers/caster sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

A few grindings of nutmeg

1 tbsp cornstarch/cornflour/plain flour


* I used an imported European butter as the fat content is higher and it apparently works better for pastry. You can get Kerrygold and Lurpak reasonably easily in the US. I also used salted butter as Il like the whole salty /sweet thing in my desserts.

**It appears that good quality lard is also very difficult to get hold of in the US. It’s available as ‘manteca’ and extensively used for Mexican cuisine but the brands I’ve found seem to be full of partially hydrogenated fats. Or else you need to track down ‘leaf lard’ from a good butcher or farmer. I was lucky enough to be given some by a friend. Brits, treasure that pack of Tesco’s lard you’ve had squashed in the back of the fridge since time immemorial.

*** Bramleys are unique in my experience. If you can’t get hold of them, Granny Smiths have a similar tart taste, but very different texture and I’ve heard that Gravensteins and Belle de Boskoop are other good cooking varieties. You may need to adjust cooking method (below) accordingly.

**** Madeira is yet another very English thing. If you don’t have madeira, rum, whisky or Calvados would be great. If kids are going to eat the pie use apple or orange juice.



Soak your raisins in your booze of choice a few hours before starting.

Chop your fats into small dice and put the flour and fats into the freezer for around 15 minutes. If you didn’t use salted butter, you could maybe add a pinch of salt.

Prepare a cup of iced water and add a squeeze of lemon.

Put your flour and fats into a food processor and pulse process until the fats are fully incorporated and the mixture looks like coarse sand or oatmeal.

Add iced water to the mix a teaspoon at a time and keep pulsing until everything has almost clumped together. Fish it out and knead it into a smooth dough by hand. (You can of course use the traditional ‘rubbing in’ method. I like the above, courtesy of Nigella Lawson – God love that despicable woman – because it’s quick, easy and means you don’t have to handle the pastry more than is strictly necessary).

Put the pastry in the fridge for at least 30 mins to relax.



Core, peel and slice your apples and place the slices in a bowl of cold water with a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to stop them browning. Americans seem to prefer more discernible lumps of apple in their pies, so may want to slice them more thickly.

Melt a tablespoon or two of butter in a large frying pan and then turn off the heat and add your apples, drained raisins, approximately 6 tablespoons of caster sugar depending on how sweet your apples are (if you’re not using tart Bramleys you may want to use a bit less), the spices and the cornflour. I also added a little lemon juice, and you can adjust this according to the tartness or otherwise of your apples. If you’re using very sweet dessert apples go for more.

Stir the apples around until all the buttery juices are amalgamated. If you prefer a softer pie filling or are using dessert apples that don’t disintegrate easily you may want to cook the apples gently at this stage.  I didn’t with my Bramleys.



Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the one of the pastry circles and line the bottom of your pie dish.

Add the filling.

Roll out the other pastry circle and place over the top of the pie dish, cutting the excess away with a knife.

Paint the edge of the pie with milk and then crimp together the top and bottom layers. Pierce vents in the top layer to let the steam escape and decorate how you like with the pastry scraps, eggwash or milk and lots of sugar. I experimented using different types of sugar – caster, demerara, and large-crystalled ‘sparkling’ sugar to decorate different elements of my design.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes until golden. I covered my pie with foil for the first 20 minutes so it wouldn’t get too brown.

I’m not going to count this as a win for the 101 Things, since it was only a 3rd place. However ask me again when the three years is nearly up.  Oh and here’s a gratuitous cute picture of the Minx chatting up a baby at the market.




Here’s a link to a write-up about the competition on the Queen Anne Farmers’ Market website, with a rare flattering photo of me (on the far left).



Photo by John Schussler


Thank goodness I didn’t know that professional bakers would be competing and that we would be judged by professional pastry chefs.

Here are links to the three other prize-winning recipes which all looked utterly incredible. Mine was apparently the highest-ranked apple pie (of which there were several) which I attribute entirely to the amazing power of the Bramley apple.

04 August 2010

Things I Am Loving – Crochet Covered Stones




Stones and beaches and kids and summer go together, like well, stones and beaches and kids and summer.

Everytime we hit the beach supposedly ‘beeyootiful’ stones get delivered with regularity to my beach towel. The heaviness of my bag is due not just to the sunscreen and goggles and bags full of cherries I carry everywhere but also to the stones I keep finding in the pockets.

A collection of large stones from French beaches even found their way into the Minx’s little roller suitcase to take back to Seattle, though, since we are cruel parents, these were surreptitiously removed from her bag and left in the hotel room and have remained studiously unmentioned ever since.

So, you can imagine how delighted I was to find a beautiful project requiring smooth round stones – heck, the next time we go to the beach I’m even going to send the Minx off on a stone hunting expedition. 




Artist and photographer Margaret Oomen crochets little covers for her stones which make them look like sea urchins reimagined by a Victorian grandma and sells the stones themselves (though they disappear quickly and still-life photographs of them on Etsy.




Now you can make them too as she has put a tutorial up on the Purl Bee to make a basic version of her stones, though I would imagine that any number of doily patterns (Ravelry link) could be adapted for the purpose, once you’ve go the hang of the basic concept.


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Will definitely have to try this at some point. I’m just wishing that there was more knitting/crocheting time in the day.

22 July 2010

Adventures in Knitting – Clown Barf & Colourwork


I realise it’s AGES since I updated you on any knitting, though I have been plugging away quietly in the background.  I’ve finished a couple of other things but they need to be photographed and I’ve got a few more projects that should be coming off the needles in the next few weeks.

In the meantime though, this was an incredibly fun and satisfying knit, though I’m somewhat embarrassed by the outcome – tasteful it most certainly is not, though the Minx utterly adores it.




The pattern is Bobinsky (Ravelry link) which essentially knits up in three parts. The yoke and sleeves are knitted in the round in a variegated sock yarn (the Minx chose the ‘clown barf’ colourway, ShibuiKnits in Zinnia). Then the body is knitted in stranded colourwork using the variegated yarn and a contrasting plain colour (the variegation of the yarn makes this look much more complex than it really is) and finally a plain stocking stitch frill is added to the bottom in the contrast yarn (ShibuiKnits Blossom).

I hugely enjoyed knitting this – it was the first time I’ve done colourwork and was pleased that I mastered knitting holding the colours in each hand and knitting both English and Continental style (thanks to this video). It ended up being quite easy and it’s definitely inspired me to do more colourwork in future.



My only caveat if you want to make this, is to make sure that the contrast yarn contrasts strongly with ALL the colours in the variegated yarn. In this case the pale pink doesn’t contrast very well at all with the pale yellow of the variegated leading to some slightly strange effects in the body. But it works well enough and my ‘client’ has been wearing it non-stop.



10 May 2010

An Extremely Cool Mother’s Day Idea


Yesterday morning I was woken at 6.20 AM by a very excited little girl, eager to present me with her Mother’s Day gift.

Because I’m an extremely bad mother, I must confess I was not exactly thrilled to see her at that time of the morning.  However when I saw what she’d made, it was so spectacular even I couldn’t find it in my heart to be grumpy.


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Funnily enough the Minx had no idea that I had recommended Edible Arrangements in my Mother’s Day Gift Guide on Shelterrific. Instead she had referred to instructions given in a recent issue of Sparkle World magazine.

The Husband reports that it’s a really great project to do with a young child – he got to cut the watermelon ‘vase’ and wield the melon baller, while the Minx was in charge of design, cutting out daisy and star shapes and threading fruit on to skewers.

And it was a superbly pleasurable way to have a light and totally guilt-free fruity breakfast before going out for Mother’s Day brunch.

Someone was rightly extremely proud of her little self. And I am very, VERY proud of her.

Hope all you other mommas had a great day too.




We went out for the brunch buffet at Urbane, the restaurant in the newly-opened Olive8 building. Loved the restaurant, loved the decor (would have taken pictures had the battery in my camera not died at the wrong moment), and the brunch was excellent.  Highly recommended to all Seattleites, especially the Nutella brioche which was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten in my life.

01 May 2010

Palm Springs Afternoon Out – Joshua Tree National Park





We were told by many people that we couldn’t go to Palm Springs and not go to Joshua Tree, so on the Saturday, after checking out of the Ace, and before checking into the Colony Palms, we drove out of Palm Spings, turned right at the wind farm (who would have guessed that so many wind farm fans read this blog?) and continued on the road through the desert and a slice of small-town America.

I only wish I’d been quick enough to photograph the teabaggers with the sign for ‘Less Gov, More God’. My first ever teabaggers! We don’t have teabaggers in Seattle.

It takes about an hour and a half to get to Joshua Tree and we were surprised to find that it was in fact cooler than Palm Springs, being higher up and much more windy. I’m not sure if this is always the case, but it might be worth bearing in mind if you’re sweltering down in the valley.

The park is named after the small stunted tree which dots the landscape as far as the eye can see. Vistas like this are so awesome and alien and strange to British eyes and so different from the cosy, cuddliness of Seattle. This is the America that I don’t even begin to understand, but which, I suspect, is an essential component of the American character.






According to the small book of walks we bought at the Visitor Center, we could quite easily have spent several days exploring the park. However, on the recommendation of a family at the hotel we decided to walk through Hidden Valley. This was a well-signposted, 1 mile loop through a rock-enclosed valley which was once apparently and excitingly the lair of cattle-rustlers. 

This was the perfect length of hike for the Minx and I can’t recommend it highly enough for small kids. Lots of tiny lizards and cute chipmunks to observe and loads of ROCKS. TO. CLIMB. 


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I liked it too, as the incredible rock formation brought out my inner Ansel Adams


Joshua Tree




 {To me, and to most other Brits I suspect, the Joshua Tree means U2. Here is my own small tribute to those irritating Irish rocksters. Why an album full of Irish angst is named after this park, goodness only knows, but that didn’t stop me having ‘With or Without You’ going round in my head for most of the day}.


And here’s another fix for all you wind farm junkies.


In other tales from our trip to Palm Springs, check out

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club here.

The Colony Palms Hotel here.

Out and About in Palm Springs here

The Aerial Tramway here.

Next week we will be concluding this series with lunch at the Parker, designed by Jonathan Adler.

13 April 2010

Ace Hotel and Swim Club – Palm Springs

So we got up very early on Thursday morning, caught a 7.15 flight to LA, drove along the dusty freeway and were in Palm Springs by lunchtime – 88 degrees, brilliant blue skies, slight breeze blowing through the canyon. Bliss.

And this is where we stayed for the first two nights.




We’d been slightly reluctant to book a room at the Ace as we’d heard that the ‘douchebag’ quotient was high, but actually we loved it (though it’s entirely possible that we’re also douchebags – god I love that word, the best ever American addition to the English language).  But we took the plunge due to its reputation for kid-friendliness and were glad we did.

Ace Hotel1





It has the same tremendously relaxed feeling that I love about Babington House in the UK (still my most favourite hotel in the whole world) – everything is supremely comfortable and luxurious, with great food, powerful showers, free bikes, soft towels, comfortable beds, hammocks and loungers everywhere, night time fireplaces, well-equipped gym, really helpful staff, well stocked bar etc. but it’s not not in the least bit, prissy or intimidating or fussy, which is really important when you’ve got a small child in tow.




If anything for my taste it was a little bit too unfussy – the building is nothing special, just an old Palm Springs motel with stained concrete floors, metal trim and a ‘diner’ aesthetic, on which they’ve overlaid a bohemian ‘California hippie’ vibe with some quirky art pieces (the Minx loved the stuffed wolf wearing necklaces and the rattan elephant), kaftans instead of bathrobes, photos just pinned up haphazardly in the bedrooms and sturdy canvas or leather furnishings.  To be honest too, our bedroom was a bit of a disappointment – a good size and close to the pool – but very dark and gloomy during the day (thank goodness we weren’t there much).


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Palm Springs





There were some cute design-y touches though – canvas sunshades that looked like satellite dishes, a pergola adorned with misters, coloured perspex on the windows of the gym, an interesting rope ‘curtain’ hanging in the lobby which looked great at night, a cavernous bar and outdoor showerheads painted the exact same shade of yellow as the flowers that surrounded them.






Ace Hotel2



As for kid-friendliness, well, the Minx just spent all of her time in the large shallow area of the incredibly inviting pool, playing with all the other kids who were staying and giving mummy and daddy a chance to swim, drink excellent margaritas and read. It’s not explicitly a kiddie-place (no babysitting or kids clubs) but there are plenty of kids there and the relaxed vibe suits them perfectly (the hotel was also absolutely full of dogs – who even have their own dog park). 

Kids-wise the only thing we would have changed was the food. Someone in the kitchen has a gone a bit crazy adding spicy this and spicy that to things on the menu, to the extent that we found it quite difficult to find things for the Minx to eat, even though she’s not a particularly fussy eater (just not that fond of chili peppers).  And would it harm hotels and restaurants to at least offer vegetables and fruits for kids? My kid can’t be the only one who actually eats such things can she?  It was a shame as the food for grown ups was fabulous, with an incredibly tempting menu, and they did make a mean mac’n’cheese for the Minx.



{All pics copyright Paola Thomas 2010}

Overall we loved our stay here and would definitely return, though we were pleased to leave on the Saturday morning as the hotel suddenly changed into a gay version of Jersey Shore as lots of short muscle-y suntanned men moved in.  The hotel had neglected to tell us that they were hosting a weekend of parties for White Party weekend (a gay event, not a neo-fascist convention). Not a problem per se but the hotel did become markedly less relaxing when the music started pounding at 11am. (The Ace definitely becomes a party hotel at the weekend, so it’s definitely worth double checking to see whether they are hosting an event while you are staying).

That’s part one from Palm Springs.  It’s going to be Palm Springs ad nauseam here this week, I suspect.

05 April 2010

A Fun Family Easter


An egg as big as the Minx’s head




Some Easter eggs we made instead




(Remember when I fondly imagined the Minx and I following Martha’s instructions for tasteful natural egg dyes? Yeah right. Naive is not the word. This year’s egg dying kit from the drugstore was entitled ‘Bright & Shiny.’)


Some chocolate cupcakes made that day


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(Chocolate sour cream cupcakes with chocolate buttercream. The Minx was in charge of chicks, Cadbury’s Mini Eggs and sprinkles. Prize Easter cupcake wrappers from Bella Cupcake Couture.)


We opened the ‘Crack Mes’ and shouted ‘hooray’! (Still can’t get over how exquisite these were, and the Minx managed to get one with a HOMEMADE. PAPER. DAFFODIL inside).




We went out for brunch and a movie too. (Both highly recommended).

We had tons of fun, what about you?

Sorry, I’m still in doggerel mode after the ‘Easter Bunny’ put together a hugely successful rhyming clues Easter egg hunt for the Minx. You have never seen two parents more ridiculously proud of their little selves than we were. Sad I know.