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140 posts categorized "Baby it's you"

22 March 2010

The Story of the Cake – Part 3


And here’s the little hussy with her clothes on!





Here’s a quick overview of what we did. You can get a much better idea of the structure from this pic. I don’t think Cinderella found this to be an entirely dignified experience.



Note the careful styling with the empty pizza boxes

1) Buy a nice clean Barbie-type doll, styled how you’d like.  The stripper gloves, choker, hair and earrings on this doll did make a huge difference to the effectiveness of the cake, so it’s good to start with a new accessorized doll, which then makes a great additional present for the birthday girl.

2) You can buy kits to do this but I used took a large stainless steel pudding basin

and a springform cake tin of the same diameter. The bottom layer above is a 9” cake pan, the middle two layers are the pudding basin.

3) Make up 3 x your favourite cake mix.  I again used the recipe for ‘Mom’s Chocolate Cake’ from the Macrina Bakery Cookbook. I can’t find it anywhere online, so I’ll try and write it down in a future blogpost. Suffice it to say that I’ve used it for birthday cakes for the last four years, it’s IMMENSELY forgiving to being moulded into all sorts of different shaped pans, is moist and flavourful and much loved by adults and children alike (to the extent that year on year people tell me they hope I’m making the same cake). Divide your mixture up so that one third is in the pan for the bottom layer and two thirds is in the pudding basin. The only tricky bit is gauging the cooking time for the pudding basin cake. I monitored mine closely and stuck a stick of spaghetti into it every 15 minutes after the initial cooking period was up. It took about an hour and half to cook in the end.

4) Slice the domed tops off the two cakes so that they’re flat, cut the pudding basin cake in half and layer the three cakes with buttercream. Wrap Barbie’s nether regions with clingfilm and plunge her into the cake. Our Barbie was tall and so had to go in at a bit of an angle. We also had to take the trimmings from the cakes and build up an embryonic fourth layer on the top so that the cake went up to her waist and not just her crotch.

5) Decorate with vanilla buttercream. This dress designing bit was fun! I’ve seen cakes online which use fondant icing for this part and they look incredible as you can arrange the ‘dress’ into pleats and folds. Unfortunately I don’t like the taste of fondant icing so much, so buttercream it was, there’s only so much compromising a glutton such as myself will do.

I also should have tested out my blue food colourings beforehand. They were entirely the wrong blue for Cinderella but because it’s a primary colour I couldn’t change it by mixing in other colours as I usually do. 




6)  Go OTT with frills and furbelows. I  realised that the colourful flowers I’d made previously would be very un-Cinderella like, so at the last minute I coloured some of the white melty stuff blue and made little forget-me-nots to decorate her underskirts. The coloured flowers I made went round the base.  She would also have been wearing a lot of pearls if I hadn’t run out of white dragees.

(Disney’s Cinderella is sadly quite tastefully attired, so I had to keep my wildest flights of fancy in check).




20 March 2010

The Story of the Cake – Part 2




Hey K, your wish is my command!

The party is this afternoon, and the cake is not much more advanced than this. So guess what I’ll be doing this fine spring morning.

18 March 2010

Cinderella – The Story of the Cake Part 1


Well, we weren’t able to put it off any longer. The poor Minx has her birthday at the beginning of January, and we are always so overcome with Christmas fatigue that we can never be bothered to organise a party for her. 

Until now that is. The guilt (coupled with ongoing emotional blackmail from the Minx – where does she learn this stuff?) was becoming too much to bear, so we’ve buckled to pressure and scheduled a bouncy party extravaganza for 20-odd five year olds (so help me) this coming Saturday afternoon.


Last year we managed to get away with a Nemo theme, but this year we are having to go full out Disney Princess and I have promised to try making one of those ‘dolls with cakes for skirts’ in the shape of Cinderella.  Feeling rather nervous about it I must say.

Last night I completed stage 1, which was to make decorations from Wilton’s Candy Melts after last year’s success with the seashells for the Nemo cake.  I bought some plastic flower moulds and was pretty happy with how they turned out (these Candy Melts are VERY easy to use).

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that there are no blue flowers here, despite the fact that Cinderella always dresses in blue and white. This is because bad mummy didn’t get blue melts last year and was too disorganised to get blue ones this year. I have told the Minx that Cinderella will appreciate more colourful attire. Quite frankly I could also do without the Pepto-Bismol/calamine lotion pink as well, but I don’t think the Minx would accept the absence of pink so readily.

To refresh your memories, here are the cakes I’ve made for the Minx so far (and yes, the expression ‘making a rod for your own back’ does come to mind). Tonight will feature burying a naked Barbie up to waist. Wish me luck.


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05 March 2010

Blackberry & Apple Crumble


Aka the lazy girl’s pie.

I’m always a little surprised that America, with its obsession with apples and fruit pies of all kinds, seems to be unaware of the humble and quintessentially British fruit crumble. After all it hits exactly the same comfort eating spots that pie does, but is much, MUCH quicker and easier to make.




The Minx and I were casting about for something to bake yesterday evening when I remembered that I already had a bag of stewed apple and blackberry in the freezer, left over from a crumble session last autumn.

Crumble can be made with any sorts of stewed fruits though, either mixed with apples or on their own – plum, rhubarb, apricots, pears and raspberries – are all traditional British faves.

Essentially you need to chop the fruit up into small pieces, add a couple of spoonfuls of water, enough to stop the fruit sticking, and mix with couple of spoonfuls of sugar to taste, how much will depend on the tartness/sweetness/quantity of your fruit.  Then cook very gently until the fruit is very soft. Again then cooking time will depend on what fruits you’re using. I like to make a big batch and shove a couple of bags into the freezer.

If I’m just using apples, I like to add a little cinnamon and some raisins; chopped nuts of all types – walnuts, pecans, almonds are also delicious. I’ve also eaten the most incredible crumble which added small cubes of vanilla fudge to stewed apples.




As the Minx and I already had our stewed fruit to hand, all we needed to do was make the crumble topping. I’ve found that about 2 cups of flour to 3/4 cup chilled butter to 2/3 cup sugar works well.

When I say flour though, you can go a bit mad at this stage and experiment with other dried goods. Last night’s crumble was made with 1 cup of flour and half a cup each of ground almonds and rolled porridge oats. Other ground nuts would be good, wholewheat flour is a nice addition and I’ve even thrown it spoonfuls of muesli on occasion. Granola, chopped nuts, crushed cookies and other flours and grains would be interesting to try.  Likewise you can also experiment with different types of sugar – last night’s crumble was made with soft brown sugar instead of white.

When you’ve customised your crumble topping ingredients, chop the chilled butter into the flour  with a pair of kitchen scissors and start rubbing it in as if you were making pastry.  Stop when it reaches the consistency of large breadcrumbs and stir in the sugar. If you’ve experimented with oats or nuts you may need to add some flour to get it to the right consistency. Don’t worry though, quantities are extremely approximate and the important thing is to get the right breadcrumb consistency. Kids love making this by the way – they can literally be very hands on but it’s over before they can get bored.

And that’s all there is to it. Put your stewed fruit in an ovenproof dish, top with the crumble topping, press it down gently with a fork and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F/180 C.  When it comes out of the oven it won’t look much different, just a little more golden round the edges, but it will be firm and almost crunchy to the bite.

Serve warm or cold with ice cream, cream or, if you want to be really English, CUSTARD. Here are a few crumble ideas including a recipe for homemade custard (most English people would just use Bird’s custard powder or buy it ready made).


UPDATE:  It appears that there exists in America something called an Apple Crisp, and looking at recipes, it does seem very similar to apple crumble (though the fruit is cooked at the same time as the topping? – Must try this, seems like even less work.) I thought it seemed strange that there was no equivalent. Having said which I haven’t come across it in Seattle, and we gave some crumble to our babysitter last night and she’d never had anything like it.

09 February 2010



Aren’t these just fantastic?


Fabulous eco-friendly, organic and compostable soft toys made from kids’ drawings.  Above are Sistur, Liun, Small Bayr and Brothr. Meet the rest of the family here.They look satisfyingly large and cuddy too.


I’d love to do the same with some of the Minx’s efforts {via If It’s Hip It’s Here}

Wanted to get some of these in the shop, but it looks like shipping will be prohibitive.  Waiting for Aminals to get a European distributor.

06 February 2010

Spread a Little Love


This is so inspirational I just had to share.  If I can be bothered to get the tape and the cutter (which is admittedly quite a big ‘if’), the Minx and I might just go out and do this round the nabe.

This is the sort of thing that Brooklyn-based street artist Katie Sokoler gets up to in her spare time.





{I’ve just discovered (via Whorange) her crazy wonderful blog Color Me Katie and it is FABULOUS}

12 January 2010

Gigantic Granny Square Afghan


Today is the Minx’s fifth birthday.  And so of course she comes bounding into our bedroom this morning full of energy and excitement and shouts about presents. 


For some reason it seemed particularly dark and I felt even crapper than I usually do when it’s time to get up, but it had been raining all night, which would explain the darkness, and when I asked the Husband what time it was (he keeps the alarm clock on his side of the bed) he said ‘oh, it’s twenty past seven’.  I felt so dreadfully unrested that I asked him to double check but he reassured me about the time and we hauled ourselves out of bed and downstairs to begin the unveiling of half a ton of Disney Princess/Calico Critters/My Little Pony crap tempered with the occasional improving book.

This process had been going on for about ten minutes and I was just about to start making birthday waffles when I happened to glance at the clock on the VCR. Which said 3:52.  Yes, my Cambridge-educated Husband had got his long and short hands mixed up and we’d all got up at 3.35 am. And of course after that the Minx was so excited it took her ages to go back to sleep, and she woke up again for the final time at 6.30 am.

So if you thought that today there would be a moving eulogy to my five-year old daughter or even any substantive blogging at all, then, dear readers, you are very much mistaken.


Instead here are a few pictures of the Gigantic Granny Square Blanket I crocheted for the Minx’s new dolls house.


She had expressed some disappointment that the blanket provided (a thin scrap of dark blue jersey) was too small for the sofa bed, so I decided to make the dolls their very own gigantic granny square afghan. I was very pleased with how well the yarn went with the decor and it seems that the (rather creepy) dolls are too.

This is another step in my ‘teach yourself to crochet’ campaign. After a few false starts I can now granny square along fabulously thanks to the Purl Bee’s excellent instructions. I’m almost tempted to start on a full-size gigantic granny square blanket just for us.


The yarn is the scraps from my first ever pair of socks. It’s fascinating to see how differently the yarn works up in different patterns.

18 December 2009

Jolly Cookie Jar

I found this recipe for layered cookie mix last year on the Williams-Sonoma website and the Minx and I had fun making jars to give to some of her friends and godparents.

This year we decided to make some for her teachers.


This is a great project to do with young kids as they can be genuinely helpful, measuring out the different ingredients and patting it down into layers.  I got the jars quite cheaply at Ikea but they were much bigger than suggested in the recipe, so we had to stuff them with coloured tissue paper. I like the decorative effect and it means the teachers end up with a bigger jar to put the cookies in afterwards.  As you’ve probably guessed the Minx chose the colour schemes for each teacher (and she had very precise ideas for each one).


You could use any cookie recipe for this though the one given in the link above works very well as it makes for some interesting layers  - brown sugar layered between white sugar and flour, and layers of nuts, cherries, rolled oats and chocolate chips.  Recipes for hot chocolate mix, with chocolate chips and marshmallows would also be good.

All the recipient needs to do is stir in butter, eggs and vanilla and then bake the cookies, using the recipe provided on the label.  The recipe in the book tells you exactly what to write.


Next year I’m thinking it might be quite fun to decorate the jars with glass paints.


The Williams-Sonoma recipe comes from Kids in the Holiday KitchenI picked up the book this year as we’d enjoyed the cookie jar recipe so much last year. There are lots of fun projects for kids – including makes, not just baking , though I was a little perturbed by how unhealthy some of them food was– yes that is a chocolate brownie covered with buttercream and crushed candy canes you can see above. Also not all of the projects come with pictures, which is a great shame. But overall I think we’ll be using this book a lot.

16 December 2009

The Hello Kitty Plane

You would not believe the amount of Hello Kitty crap the Minx is going to get in her stocking (or if you’re in possession of a five year old girl maybe you would).

I do have to question the business logic behind this Taiwanese Eva Airways Hello Kitty plane though – is your average business class passenger really in Hello Kitty’s target market?

Please don’t show this post to the Minx, she will be demanding we go on holiday to Taiwan.


Fortunately too big for the Minx’s stocking


You’d think they could do a Hello Kitty butter pat too. 


I’m sure Mr Taiwanese Businessman is THRILLED




Actually I do think most of the branding stuff here is rather lame. But the Minx would have exploded with excitement at this point.

09 December 2009

Christmas is Coming….

I’ve finished crocheting my Snowflake Garland.  It was very quick and easy and everso slightly addictive. So much so, that I might make some more as gift tags.




The Minx and I referred to that seminal work Usborne Activities – Christmas Cooking at the weekend in order to prepare our Christmas party offering. These were made from a basic Victoria sponge cake cooked in a roasting tin to make one big flat cake. The cake is then cut into twelve squares and ten triangles, covered with butter icing (by me) and decorated most tastefully by the Minx with bits of Twix as the tree trunks.


The now traditional Christmas tree decorating photo was also taken. 


Update: Oops, I forgot to give pattern details for the crochet garland. You can download a free PDF here.  It’s a US pattern, so UK readers should remember to translate it from US crochet terms to British crochet terms, but that’s very simple. Details of the garland I’ve made are here on my Ravelry page, for those of you who are on Ravelry.  If you are, do come and be my friend!

01 December 2009

Contemporary Dolls Houses – The Ones We Didn’t Get


Shhhh. Don’t tell the Minx but I’ve Santa’s been shopping for a dolls house for her.  Although I know full well that at the moment she would be most happy with some horrific Barbie affair, I wanted to get her something a more funky and cool, that she would appreciate more as she grew older.  And let’s face it, this present is just as much for me as it is for her.

So the last few days I’ve been surfing round the rather exciting world of modern dolls houses.

Here are the ones I didn’t end up getting.

Bozart Kaleidoscope

Designed Laurie Simmons for PMW Architects. I have wanted one of these ever since I first saw them but for some unfathomable reason they’ve been discontinued and are now only available on Ebay if you’re lucky.  I may still have to buy one for myself one day.




Minimii Arne Jacobsen House

Minimii was founded by a Danish design duo who were looking for a contemporary dolls house and decided to build one based on Arne Jacobsen’s own villa in Charlottenlund.




The company will also be producing mini Arne Jacobsen furniture. Unfortunately the products are not yet available (due early 2010 and it looks from their website like they may be horrifically expensive).


The Dolls House Emporium – Ocean Drive

For a brief moment we considered braving the huge shipping costs and buying this from the UK. Fortunately it is not available to ship the US.



Plan Toys Green Dollhouse 

Somewhat less esoteric is this dolls house which features its own wind turbine, solar panel and recycling bins. Not that the Minx would have any clue what to do with these features.  We did consider this one, but in the end decided that, while it would be perfect for her now, it might seem a bit babyish in a couple of years.



We got something else in the end. I am beyond excited about it.  Seriously and not sarcastically. More tomorrow.

06 October 2009

Conversations with the Minx


As we are driving past Seattle’s baseball and football stadiums


Minx: That’s Safeco Field!

Me: Who plays there?

Minx: The baseball.

Me:  And who plays at Qwest Field?

Minx: The Sounders! (We recently went to a game.) We had to sing ‘go home Chelsea’! (Chorus of ‘go home Chelsea’ from the back seat). But there were no girls (the Minx is a keen soccer player).

Me: Who else plays at Qwest Field? (Silence) The Seahawks play at Qwest Field. We haven’t been to see them but they play American football.

Minx: Do they have girls?

Me: No, girls don’t usually play American football.

Minx: Is there nowhere in Seattle that I can go to watch GIRLS?

How do I explain that one?

29 September 2009

An App –and Some Owls

How on earth did I live before I had my iPhone?  It seems impossible to even contemplate now, though I still find the touch screen infuriating at times.

Here’s one of my current favourite iPhone apps.

Developed by Seattle photographer Chase Jarvis, The Best Camera allows you to add some cool effects to your iPhone photos and also upload them easily to social networking sites such as Facebook etc.

Here’s an untweaked iPhone photo


and here is the same image tweaked using four different filters – Jewel, Paris, Slate and Candy (there are some more standard filters such as B&W and warm up filters as well). You can also combine several different filters together.  Jarvis has set up a website where you can upload the images you’ve taken – loads of great pics up there already.

IMG_0146 IMG_0147

IMG_0148 IMG_0149

These cute (I have no idea why they’re cute and not scary or ugly, but they are) mama and baby owls come courtesy of a blog reader Bushra who – after our recent owl discussion – emailed me the link for these owls on Etsy.  Which was splendidly timed to arrive just when the Husband was casting about for a birthday present that his baby could give to her mama…

Last Drop of Summer

or the final chapter for this year I think in ‘If My Daughter Ever Complains About Her Childhood I Will Refer Her To This Blog’.

Seattle July '091 

We spent the weekend at Lake Chelan, about three and a half hours drive from Seattle, high in the Cascade mountains, where the cooler temperate coastal climate of Seattle and its surroundings meets the desert of Eastern Washington. The climate and landscape seemed very Mediterranean and the lake itself reminded me a little of the northern reaches of Lake Garda in Italy, though sadly without the charming jewel-like lakeside towns and delightful Italian restaurants.

Much kayaking and swimming  – in crystal-clear lake and pool – was accomplished and a great time was had by all.  And a good job too, because we got back to find that autumn has finally arrived with a vengeance in Seattle. The words ‘freaking cold’ came to mind this morning.

We’ve got no more weekend trips planned (at least until the end of the month, when the Minx and I need to go to Canada to renew our visas) and I’m relishing the idea of hunkering down a bit with knitting and house stuff – it’s been a long, long, but utterly fabulous summer.

15 September 2009

Go Love Your Room – KenzieKate’s Nursery

I’m always a bit jealous of fabulous nurseries.  For the first year or so of her life when we were in our London flat the Minx slept in with all the mirrormirror stock in our second bedroom – not exactly conducive to beautiful decorating schemes.  Not that she really noticed if the truth be told.

This baby nursery is truly stunning – not many people could pull off a zingy green, yellow, turquoise and red colour scheme but Kenzie Kate of wedding blog ‘Something Old, Something New’ does an incredible job.


I think it’s a great idea to do a bright scheme like this, as in my experience most little children are not very fond of pastels and will let you know that in no uncertain terms as soon as they can.  The Minx can be very vociferous on the subject of her dislike for baby pink (though hot pinks and fuchsias are another matter entirely). So this scheme should last for some time.


The thing that really pulls this together are all the little homemade touches – the gorgeous mobile, the soft toys, the homemade quilt and art work.  I would give my eye teeth to be that talented a craftsperson.


All details can be found here.  Found via the gorgeous Helen of Countryside Wedding – ex mirrormirror staffer and soon to be yummy mummy herself.

The Golden Years

Or, yet another chapter from ‘If My Daughter Dares Complain About Her Childhood, I Will Refer Her To This Blog’.Sausages on the Beach

This has been a record-breakingly fabulous summer in Seattle and this weekend we headed to the beach to cook sausages and watch the sun go down.

04 September 2009


Seattle July '09

Here’s the Minx enjoying her idyllic Pacific Northwest summer 

I’ve been waiting for this moment for nearly five years.

Yesterday the Minx went off to kindergarten (for UK readers that’s the equivalent of ‘infant school’) clutching her new Tinkerbell lunchbag in her sticky little mitt and I got my life back.

I fell pregnant with the Minx two months after deciding to start mirrormirror and was seven months pregnant when the website actually launched.  The Minx was three months old when my then business partner decided it wasn’t for her and eighteen months old when we moved lock, stock and barrel to Seattle while continuing the business in the UK.  So really I’ve never been able to work on the business without fitting it round the needs of a tiny child.

And although I’ve had varying amounts of childcare, since the Minx was born I have never before had the unbelievable luxury of five (albeit short) days a week at my disposal, instead of cramming in odds and ends and bits and pieces of work round the childcare.

So there are going to be some big changes round here.

- First up I really want to start developing this blog. Thanks to my diehard readers for sticking with it even when I’ve hardly been updating. I do love writing it though and now I’ll be able to update it at least daily. So stay tuned.

- Next, there are some changes happening with my poor neglected little shop back in the UK.  I’m not quite sure yet how they’re going to pan out, so no news yet, but stuff IS happening behind the scenes.

- Lastly and, most excitingly,  I hope to launch the US version of mirrormirror early next year, depending on when our green card comes through and I can legitimately work out here. Please keep you fingers crossed that it’s soon.

I’ve got tons of other ideas bubbling up, but we’ll start with this stuff for the moment and see how things pan out.  I’ve also got nearly five years of neglected filing and a disastrous email inbox to take care of.

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.

31 July 2009

Lavender Blue Dilly Dilly

Oh I’ve have been a very naughty blogger recently.  I’ve been struggling a bit keeping all the balls in the air while the Minx has been on summer vacation and to top it all Seattle has been having a mini-heatwave this summer culminating in a record-breaking temperature of 103 degrees yesterday (that’s 39.5 degrees in real money) .

I realise this is nothing compared with what many people elsewhere in the US go through, but you have to remember that most places in Seattle, including our house, don’t have air conditioning. So we’ve been getting through it with a combination of cool baths, evening swims in the lakes, sleeping in our new tent on the roofdeck, moaning about the weather and generally finding it difficult to achieve anything.

There’s some potentially exciting stuff going on in the background though, of which more later, and I’m intending to relaunch the blog somewhat when the Minx goes into full-time education starting in September! I’m such a bad mother, but I really cannot wait…


In the meantime, here are some pictures I took of the lavender festival in Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula.  Sequim (pronounced ‘Squim’) is in the rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains and has a uniquely dry micro-climate for these parts, which is apparently very similar to that of Provence and has become the centre of a burgeoning lavender production area.

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03 June 2009


So here is the new baby.  She's not exactly the colour I would have liked (we saw a fab orange one which was just out of price range) but she's cute and nippy and the Minx loves her very much. We are in ongoing discussions about her name - I favour 'Myrtle' but the Minx pefers the alliteration of 'Belle' (though we should be grateful that Aurora, Ariel and Tinkerbell have not yet come up as options).


I am naturally wondering whether any embellishment is in order - or would that be unspeakably naff and cliche'd?

Options include.

Retro flowers from TonyaBug on Etsy



Daisies from the Daisy People



Fabulous and fabulously expensive offical Beetle decals from Mibo.


Daisy tail light covers


and er, 'eyelids'


and, just in case you have money to burn, daisy hubcaps

beetledaisywheel beetle_daisy_3

Just in case I have any readers left after my shameful lack of blogging in recent weeks, here is a poll.


21 May 2009

Adventures in Knitting - Spring Things

My knitting seems to be following a springtime theme at the moment.

I managed to persuade the Minx that she'd like a little shrug in, horror of horrors, SPRING GREEN (and not her favourite colours of red or hot pink) by promising to embellish it with little pink beads.  If I'd been left to my own devices I would probably have used lilac, aqua or white beads, or more probably still, saved myself a whole lot of trouble and not used any beads at all.


Most importantly though, the Minx herself seems delighted with the result and may actually deign to wear it. I'm not convinced a modelling career beckons though.

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I'm also working on a crochet scarf for me. I like this as it looks fiendishly difficult but is actually pretty basic (it has to be as it's only the second thing I've ever crotcheted).


The beauty mostly comes from the Noro Silk Garden yarn.  I love watching the yarn unfold in all its different colours and textures. It sort of makes me want to take up spinning and dyeing in all my copious free time (ha ha!).


Apologies for the light posting recently.  Life has been a getting in the way a bit. For those readers who consider the approach of summer to be an excuse for excessive drinking rather than excessive crocheting, may I point you in the direction of my latest post on Shelterrific, where I attempt to educate the US in the ways of Pimms.

05 May 2009

Cars & Tulips

I'm back!


Thank you so much for all your good wishes. I was quite taken aback by how badly affected I was by the shock of it all. The first couple of days I was all over the place and after that I was very, very tired - presumably as the adrenaline left my body.  Fortunately the only major physical injury was to my tongue, which I managed to bite, and to my jaw, which I think was bruised by the seatbelt and which seemed slightly misaligned and made eating hugely difficult.  I've had some bodywork though, and if you are in the Seattle area I can't recommend my chiropractor Dr Ted, who straightened my back out, or the magic fingers of Anne the rolfer - who managed to straighten my jaw out - highly enough. 

The car was a complete write-off though, so we're currently in the market for a little practical runaround. My head tells me that I should be getting a little fuel-efficient and practical hatchback, though such things are as rare as hens' teeth in the land of the Hummer, but my heart is telling me to get a VW Beetle.  If anyone's got any experiences, good or bad, to share then I'm all ears. 

This might have to be a light week of posting, as I've got a lot to catch up on with mirrormirror, but here are some photos from the annual tulip festival in Skagit County that we went to the weekend before last. I'm also writing some posts over on Shelterrific if you can't get enough of me.










09 April 2009


One thing I did manage to finish last  weekend were the Minx's socks.  I love how cute they make her feet look.  There's something very charming about four-year old cankles (unlike my own).



Of course temperatures went up to 70 degrees over the weekend and the beginning of the week and I thought she wouldn't actually be able to wear them before she grew out of them, but we're back now to a business-as-usual, grey, overcast, dull, rainy Seattle spring, so she might get a couple of months wear out of them.

Apologies for the lack of bloggery in recent days. I've been doing STUFF - painting a fence, building a flower bed, wrestling with a gigantic inbox and knitting some secrets.  I have no idea how people not only do stuff round the house but also manage to document it.

We're also heading for an impromptu trip to Portland over the weekend, so I'll be back in the middle of next week. Don't miss me too much. And if you have any recommendations for fabulous shops, restaurants and things to do leave them in the comments  and I will love you forever.

02 April 2009

Another Awesome Video

For all those of you who have a four-year-old or thereabouts.  Prepare for SQUEALING.


Watch more Funny or Die videos on AOL Video

17 February 2009

Be My Valentine

These are the Valentines that were exchanged in the 'mirrormirror' household this weekend. I wonder if you can guess who got what.


A Jean Pelle candlestick.  Sometimes dropping hints via your blog actually works. My vintage lucite owl likes it too.


The beautifully packaged Chocolate Pie Chart from Mary and Matt, perfect for the geek in your life.


A tee-shirt featuring parachuting Bambis from Etsy shop Circles and Squares. This is NOT the Husband.


 A heart-shaped Hello Kitty pendant necklace with matching bracelet (I have no idea what has become of the bracelet though)

15 February 2009

Project Nemo - The Story of the Cake


I  have to admit that the general concept for the cake was not original.  There are always loads of greatl ideas on

I baked three separate chocolate cakes using the recipe for 'Mom's Chocolate Cake' from the Macrina Bakery and Cafe cookbook. This is a superb chocolate cake recipe. It always comes out moist and, having used it for three different birthday cakes now, it seems to be very forgiving. (I just made the basic chocolate cake and not the vanilla syrup or chocolate frosting specified in the recipe). 

I didn't have a small enough tin for the upper tier, so I just made two medium-sized cakes and cut one down to fit.

I was a bit nervous about making a tiered cake as it had to be transported quite a way up the freeway to the pool where we were holding the party, so the the Husband, thank goodness he's an engineer, constructed quite a complex structure of wooden sticks and cardboard circles to make sure that the cakes didn't sink into another or slide about.



I then mixed up a large quantity of buttercream and tinted most of it sea blue - I found that about 2-3 drops of Royal Blue colouring to 1 drop of Leaf Green worked well.


We then coated the whole thing, including the base board, with the buttercream; piped on some green seaweed tendrils and jaggedy coral; and then decorated it with the shells. I am so pleased with how they turned out as they made the whole cake.

We then sprinkled it with some blue sprinkling sugar (which you can't see on this photo but which gave the icing the texture of bubbles) and topped it with Nemo and his daddy.  I cheated massively here and used some bath toys - the Minx thought this was an excellent idea as she got to keep a souvenir of the cake.


And the kids were mesmerized...

13 February 2009

Project Nemo

We've hired a swimming pool for the Minx's birthday party tomorrow (we've managed to get round to organising this only a month after her birthday, bad, bad mummy) and thought it appropriate to make a Finding Nemo cake for all the little swimmers.


First step was to make a lot of colourful shells, using a Wilton shell mould and Wilton candy melts.  These things are amazing - just melt in the microwave and then pour into the mould, put them in the fridge, tap the mould to release and watch them come out all shiny and professional looking. The only downside is that they are FULL of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and other undesirables, but whatevs, it's a birthday party.

11 February 2009

P'kolino Little Reader

It's been mentioned in the comments below, and for anyone with a pre-schooler at home, I can't recommend our P'kolino Little Reader chair highly enough.


It's made of high-density foam and incredibly light weight and so can get carried around by the pre-schooler in question no problem (there's even a handle on the back for the purpose); is covered in easy-to-wipe-clean microsuede; is very difficult to tip backwards (though the Minx has managed it once, but that's the Minx for you) and has two side pockets for corralling books and the other random cr*p which seems to follow my daughter around. 

Apparently it's good for one year olds but the Minx is now four and it still fits her fine and she's quite tall for her age.  I suspect she will get at least another year's use out of it.  And at $70 + Free Shipping on Amazon, it's not even very expensive.

The only downside is that it comes in the usual range of startling colours which are great for kids' rooms but not necessarily so good for adult rooms.  When will designers realise that it's nice to be able to incorporate well-designed kids' furniture into an adult scheme?

Case in point is the wonderful Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair below which we have in walnut and blends in fabulously with our dining table and chairs.


26 January 2009

Tees Made

il_fullxfull_43116530 il_fullxfull_49115488

il_430xN_44586933If your daughter is as obsessed with bright colour as mine is then I suggest taking a look at Little Overcoat on Etsy.

Made by a woman living on an island in Puget Sound, just a short boat trip from Seattle, these tees and dresses are patched together from vintage and recycled materials, with some new European prints added to the mix.

There are also some boys' designs and some women's tees and skirts which I am VERY tempted by.




15 December 2008

Christmas Cake Update

So on Friday the Minx and I worked on the Christmas Cake.


Here's one for the parenting police.  We made lots of tiny holes in the cake with a skewer and then poured a couple of tablespoons of brandy over the top. The Minx is spreading the brandy over the cake to make sure it got properly impregnated.  We've done this about three times since the cake was baked.

Next I made a vast quantity of marzipan using Delia's recipe which was super fiddly as the eggs and sugar are cooked over a gentle heat to make a meringue before the ground almonds are stirred in.  It makes really good marzipan though.

Here is the cake all marzipanned and ready to go.


Because Christmas cake isn't made in the US there are no kitsch Christmas cake decorations for sale either, so the Minx and I decided to make some out of marzipan.  Santa is still waiting for his snow white beard made of royal icing. The Husband insists that no Christmas cake is complete without a 'frozen pond' made from card and tin foil, so he's been told to make one of those, before I make some royal icing and assemble the whole thing by the middle of the week.


11 December 2008

Toys for Seattle Kids in Need - Can You Help?

I know many of you are from the Seattle area, so I wonder if you could consider the following letter from the Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation {via the Instant Hausfrau}.  If you're not from Seattle I would imagine the situation will also be pretty much the same wherever you are. Please spread the word if you can.

Here's a picture of the Minx to get you in the mood.



Hello everyone

Each year, several of our community centers host holiday parties for under privileged children. At the parties, children from low-income homes receive toys provided to the community centers by Toys For Tots. This year, Toys For Tots has received so few donations that they have been unable to fulfill our community centers’ requests. You can read more about it here:

As a result, some community centers have had to cancel their holiday parties, and others are scrambling to gather toys.

Seattle Parks and Recreation has more than 650 children this year who are pre-registered for the holiday parties, and who hope to receive a toy. Were it not for this annual party, some children would not receive any presents.

I am asking you to consider donating a new, unwrapped toy to help us meet this overwhelming need. Our most urgent situation is for Garfield Community Center. More than 150 children are pre-registered for a holiday party THIS Friday, December 12. That’s tomorrow. (After center staff were turned away from Toys For Tots this past week, they stopped registering children for the event. So there will probably be more children who just show up for the party without having been registered. We won’t turn anyone away.)

Four other community centers still have holiday parties scheduled in the coming weeks and hope to fulfill their need for toys for these children. If you cannot find time to shop and donate a new, unwrapped toy by tomorrow, there’s still time to help the other community centers.

If you would like to donate a new, unwrapped toy, you can do so at the following locations:

Parks Headquarters, 100 Dexter Avenue N — Kathleen Shaw (684-7050) or Patricia Young (684-4369)

RDA Building, 800 Maynard Ave. S — Jacqueline Tabor (684-7044)

Densmore Building, 8061 Densmore Ave. N — Brenna Clausen (233-7011)

Thank you for considering this donation.


p.s. Please forward this email to any friends or family you think can help.

Tim Gallagher


Seattle Parks and Recreation

05 August 2008

Separated At Birth

I was amused to note from the recent Elle Deco feature that Englishman Simon Doonan, who is the Creative Director of Barneys New York and Jonathan Adler's partner (and therefore, we must suppose, an International Design Guru of Some Standing) exhibits a very similar taste in clothes to the Minx.

IMG_6928 image0

Creative Director Barneys New York                                                   My daughter

21 July 2008


Or, if this child dares ever to complain about her childhood, I'll refer her here.


God Washington state is BEAUTIFUL sometimes.  More pictures on my Flickr.

21 April 2008

Now I know my ABCs

Just loving these ABC prints from Etsy shop Lucky Paperie

il_430xN_23526433 il_430xN_24850623

I think it's the two colourways I like mostly. (Found via black.white.bliss, one of my favourite design blogs)

22 March 2008

More Cooking In Translation - Hot Cross Buns


My photo of the buns

It's funny how important the 'old country's' food traditions become when you move abroad.  Hot cross buns are now available all year round in England and are no longer such a big deal - though I still remember fondly feasting on hot cross buns for breakfast on Good Friday morning and being excited because my father was home on a Friday (Good Friday is a public holiday in the UK).

But here they scarce as hens' teeth and need to be sought out even at Easter time. And even when you can get them, they're somewhat spoilt by having an cross piped on them in white icing.  Which is OK as far as it goes but means you miss out on the essential splendour of toasting the buns and serving them oozing with butter.  They're supposed to be hot. (The clue is in the name).

So yesterday the Minx and I set to work.  Having had only mediocre success with the usually reliable Delia in the past, I used this recipe from the BBC website which came highly recommended by some food blog or other (I'm sorry I can't remember which).

And then I came across my usual raft of translation issues. 

I couldn't find a source of fresh yeast (a big fat boo to the Essential Baking Company - I'm not linking to them -  who refused to sell me any) so substituted one of those little sachets which seemed to work fine.

'Mixed spice' is a unknown quantity here.  I had to look that up on the Internet, to find that it's a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg with possibly some cloves and ginger.  So that could be recreated.

Mixed peel, however, was impossible to track down. Chopped, candied citrus peel turns up in all sorts of British home baking and is traditional in hot cross buns, even though the slightly bitter flavour is disliked by many and the peel if often picked out.

But who knew?  I made the buns without and although they tasted wonderful that slightly bitter edge was definitely missed.

I followed the recipe and piped on crosses of flour and water paste which are then baked in the oven so they form an integral part of the bun. And then we gobbled them up, hot from the oven, with plenty of butter. Although the Minx proved how American she has become by requesting a 'cold crossed bun' sic.


The Minx's photo of the buns taken with her new camera.  We were both so proud. 

21 March 2008



Much jubilation in the household today as we have just learned that the Minx has been accepted at the local French immersion school and, come September, will join their petite maternelle section and be taught 80% in French. The school itself is lovely with small class sizes and a real family atmosphere and the Minx loved it to bits in her 'interviews'. 

I studied French at university and can speak it pretty well, but even after twelve years of study could never match the effortless bilingualism that tiny children can muster if taught early enough.  We're absolutely thrilled that she's going to get this opportunity and happy because it also means she will receive a rather more Euro-centric education than she would have done in a normal American school -useful for when we decide to return. And even better, it means that going to live in France in a few years is now a possibility.

Having said which, it looks like we might be staying in Seattle longer than we originally thought as the chances of her getting such a good education back in London are zero.   And the thought that the Minx's education is now sorted for the foreseeable future is a very relaxing one.

And yes, I do realise that we are just one big hideous ambulatory middle-class parental cliche'.

17 March 2008

A Bag with Bangs


In general I've found it better to use words like 'elevator' and 'eggplant' (rather than lift and aubergine) round these parts in order to have any chance of being understood.  I still though, find myself far too embarrassed to say 'bangs' (the American word for a fringe of hair over your forehead).  I mean, where on earth did that come from?

I've just finished the Minx's little messenger bag - and contrary to normal experience, I'm not so very fed up of knitting that I never wish to pick up needles again.  In fact I've just started a new project.

The bag was the perfect way to get back into knitting - easy enough to knit mindlessly, while the moss stich embellishment I added was just enough to stop it becoming unbelievably tedious. The best bit though was making the fringe (PLEASE don't tell me Americans call a fringe on a thing 'bangs' as well), which I'd never done before.

After knotting it all up I was supposed to give the bag a hair cut and make the fringe even round the bottom. As you can see I didn't really succeed (the right hand side is definitely longer than the left) but I was terrified of getting into one of those haircutting situations where you keep cutting at it to make it even and end up with a fringe (or indeed bangs) that look like Herman Munster's (the Minx has a permanently wonky fringe for the same reason).

The only downside with this bag is the garter stitch strap. The Minx's first action was to put a heavy jigsaw puzzle into the bag and it stretched so much that it hung somewhere around her knees...

I'll try and get a photo of Minx and bag to post up, so you can see the full effect.

27 February 2008

You know you're addicted to design when...'re reading your daughter a bedtime story and admiring the Marimekko wallpaper and cushion.


From That Pesky Rat by Lauren Child

02 February 2008

For Mothers Everywhere

15 January 2008

This birthday party is brought to you by the number three..

I have no idea how the Minx managed to turn three without me noticing.  Surely she was still my baby only last week?

So on Saturday we hosted an Elmo party - dress code 'red' - for more than twenty toddlers and attendant parents.  Thanks to the lovely people at Urban Monkeys (a beautiful light and bright 'loft' style venue in South Lake Union with enough room for a play gym and bouncy castle) we all had a wonderful time and I've never seen a happier or more excited Minx.

You will see that her taste in cakes hasn't changed that much from last year.

I have come to the conclusion that having a child in mid-January really is monumentally bad planning. There's absolutely no chance to recover from Christmas and trips to England - you just have to keep going with the planning and organising and baking.

Now that we've finally got Christmas and birthdays out of the way, MY year can finally begin. Yippee!!!

11 December 2007

Gorgeous Things for Kids

Well, last week was an absolute nightmare.

Our hosting company managed to balls things up yet again.  While trying to correct a small issue with the graphics rendition of the site, they managed to disable the whole back-end interface - which made it very difficult to even see orders, let alone add new things to the site or update the stock. 

You can imagine how thrilled I was.  Fortunately after a lot of stressed emailing back and forth the issue is now resolved.

The other reason why I haven't been blogging much recently is that I've finally got round to adding a Kids section to the site.  







I think it's very important that kids get to experience good design from a young age in spite of all the garish Fisher Price nonsense that they are constantly surrounded with.

Interestingly the Minx loves all of the things I've bought for the site (of which quite a few have ended up in her room) and I'm hoping they're the sort of things that she will treasure even more as she gets older.

So I'm trying to build up a collection of kid-friendly decorative objects, tableware and toys.  At the moment the collection includes cushions and posters from Atelier LZC,  








utterly gorgeous limited edition collages from Lorena Siminovich,

and a selection of contemporary ceramics featuring that ever-hip design icon Miffy, which come packed in covetable gift boxes.


I've got few more items to add over the next couple of weeks, but I'd love to grow the collection much more over the next year.

If you, or someone you know, makes fab products for babies and kids (not clothes for the moment, but everything but) then I'd love to hear from you.  I'm looking for excellent quality and craftsmanship, visual appeal, and a refreshing lack of tweeness. Get in touch!

09 December 2007

Putting up the tree

06 December 2007


While the first week of December is a time of immense stress for Mummy, as we start receiving more orders in a day than we often do in a week - with all the attendant small crises that brings; it is a time of great excitement for the Minx.

She was really too young to understand much of what was going on for Christmas last year, but this time is really getting into the idea.

We managed to get ourselves organised enough to hang up and fill the family Advent calendar on December 1st (this doesn't always happen) - a somewhat rustic affair made from linen and sackcloth that I acquired years ago at the Country Living Fair.

It combines little pockets stuffed with small embroidered dolls and little sacks ready to be stuffed with sweets and other goodies.

This year we also decided to incorporate some of the ideas for family activities I wrote about last year.

I thought a calendar full of activities would be a bit much for all concerned, but in amongst the pockets of this year's calendar we've hidden notes with the following activities:

  • Write a letter to Santa
  • Paint the whole family's toenails pink
  • Make a gingerbread house with Mummy
  • Buy and donate a gift to a child in need
  • Meet Daddy downtown for an evening ride on the Christmas carousel
  • Have hot chocolate with all the fixins'
  • Make Christmas cookies for the tree

So far the little embroidered dollies have been given short shrift, the sweets have been much appreciated and we wrote our letter to Santa today.

I was pleased to find this post on Lifehacker giving info on how to write to Santa and receive a reply.  Canada Post's service appears to be free and they have a lovely website with special Christmas stationery you can design and make yourself on the computer. I couldn't work out whether USPS even ran a scheme from their website and you have to pay for the Finnish service.

We spent a lot of time this afternoon printing Christmas stationery, drawing pictures of Santa and preparing a package to send to the North Pole (postcode H0H 0H0).  I will let you know whether the Canadian Santa manages to respond.

I also decided to brave the line at Nordstrom's downtown this morning so the Minx could meet Father Christmas.  I have no idea why, but we were able to breeze in without queueing at all - we were told that normally you'd have to wait nearly an hour.

The Minx was utterly thrilled.


08 November 2007

Miss Liberty

02 November 2007

Treat or Treat

I wonder why the Minx likes Halloween so much?

This picture comes courtesy of Laurie, who is wondering whether to start up a business photographing children. I am, of course, trying to persuade her she should.

31 October 2007


Inspired by such Halloween geniuses as Nicole and Megan, the Minx and I set to work with a will yesterday to create our own fabulous pumpkin.

Actually we were even more inspired by that seminal work Teletubbies and the Magic Pumpkin which features a little video on how to make your own happy pumpkin.








Ours has a paper mouth and nose (mummy really couldn't be bothered to procure bark and felt as in the video), marshmallows and raisins for eyes, raisins for teeth and nostrils, leaves for ears, cupcake sprinkles for 'eyebrowns' and pampas grass for hair.  He is a very happy soul despite the fact that the morning dew made his marshmallow eyes rather soggy.

I knew Halloween was big in the States, but had no idea it was THIS big. The Minx has taken to trick or treating like a duck to water (surprising, not).

On Sunday evening a small witch (last year's costume still fits hooray!) met up with an even smaller crocodile  belonging to an Instant Hausfrau for a Pumpkin Prowl at Seattle's Woodland Park zoo.

It was spooktacularly well done - we were almost as mesmerised by set pieces such as dry ice and ghosts hanging over a pumpkin-laced pond as the Minx was.

The Hausfrau has become a great friend since we arrived in Seattle and has taken it upon herself to educate us in the ways of the pumpkin.

Here is a picture of the Minx and the Husband er, enjoying themselves hugely, as we all hunted for pumpkins in their natural habitat at The Farm, just north of Seattle, as the rain lashed down and the corn maize nearly drowned in a sea of mud.

Actually the day at the pumpkin patch was fab.  Whereas in England everyone would have stayed in with tea and toast and telly, the whole of Seattle appeared to have turned out  in the rain to go sliding down bales of hay in the barn, play with new kittens, learn geography in the map of Washington corn maize and thrill to the story of the three little pigs acted by real pigs.

Photo courtesy of the Instant Hausfrau

25 October 2007

The Minx's Room

The colour scheme for the Minx's bedroom was pretty much decided after we got a good deal on the pink Nurseryworks 'Storytime' rocking chair.

I decided to incorporate green so that it wouldn't all end up too Barbie, but still be fun for a little girl.  And then we found a strange inflatable 'Frog Prince' at Ikea and decided to build him a 'lily pond' with little flower mats from Target and a cheap and cheerful flower bean bag, which sort of dictated a daisy theme. (Note that in the end we settled for an embroidered quilt from Pottery Barn, which is currently much too big for the Minx's todder bed.)

So this is where we are today.  You will notice that the existing purple walls don't quite fit in.  The main problem with them is that the room is north west facing and so is quite dark during the day so I want to lighten them up quite a lot.

These are the options I'm toying with at the moment.

A pale, not too girly pink

A pinky white

A light celery green

I'm worried that either pink or green would be too 'matchy matchy' and the white will be too boring.

What do you think?

I'm also thinking of getting enormous daisy decals from Apple Pie Designs to funk up the walls a bit, either in silver on a coloured wall, or coloured for a white wall. (Check out great posts on Apple Pie Designs on Decor8 and Designers' Block).

As you can tell I've been playing a lot on the Benjamin Moore site today, and was amused to note that they actually have a paint colour called 'Seattle Grey'.

Which, funnily enough, is exactly the same colour as the view out of our bedroom window this afternoon.

22 September 2007

Two Countries Separated by a Common Language - Part I

Or, what is the American for duvet?

Up until now I have been an extremely cruel mother and confined my little, exceedingly wriggly, girl to a Grobag sleeping bag and cot (quite a big one as it has potential to be converted to a toddler bed).

The extent of my cruelty was brought home to me when we were staying at the very new and very swish Hotel du Vin in Cambridge and the Minx's cot came equipped with a zoo-print toddler duvet.  Never have you seen a more delighted girl.  And never have you seen a more shamefaced mummy, when on the next few nights, the Minx proceeded to unzip herself from her Grobag and wear it 'like a duvet'. 

So a toddler duvet must be procured, and it is yet one more thing where I don't have a clue where to begin here in the US. 

I was quite young when the so-called 'continental quilt' took the UK by storm and became the very thing for the well-dressed bed.  Somewhere along the line we adopted the French word 'duvet' and now I think there is hardly a bed in the UK where they aren't used.  After all, who would want to go to all the trouble of fussing with sheets and blankets?

The Americans, that's who.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but from experience of staying in US hotels and from searching for duvets online just now, it would seem that most Americans are still in thrall to traditional bedding with sheets and blankets and quilts and things called shams. 

Do you guys know what duvets are?  Are 'down comforters' the same thing?  Is this a toddler duvet? Can you suggest anywhere where I might get a funky toddler duvet cover in pink and green which is not as wishy-washy as the Pottery Barn ones (we  - by which I mean I, because the Minx would probably love one - would also prefer not to go the Dora the Explorer duvet route either).  Any advice on American bedding etiquette would be much appreciated, because I really have no idea where to begin.

20 September 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

I got a piece of Brie.

It was my birthday on our last day in London and my husband's gift was a very smelly piece of unpasteurised Brie.  Never let it be said that that man is not a romantic. God it was good though.

We of course had a phenomenally lovely time. The sun shone (even on my birthday, which absolutely NEVER happens); we met friends and family seemingly at every hour of the day and night; the Minx was beside herself with excitement and kept exclaiming ' I LOVE England'; we went to a very glamorous and lovely party; and mirrormirror was successfully transferred to its new base in Cambridge. 

And the Minx only woke up twice last night and managed to sleep through to 6 am which is a new jetlag record. So life is charmed indeed. 

13 June 2007

Felt Cookies

Since, as you know, we are rather partial to a cookie round these parts, I was thrilled when I came across this jolly jar of felt play cookies on Etsy made by nanacompany who also make the most beautiful little girls' aprons and other baby accoutrements.

Such a simple but pretty idea - they come all decorated with hand-sewn 'sprinkles' in a lightweight plastic jar, all personalised with her name on the top.

You have never seen a child so besotted.  I seem to spend my whole life at the moment being served cookies, pretending to eat cookies, counting cookies, discussing which cookies are most delicious, which ones have the prettiest sprinkles etc. etc.

Funnily enough we are not the only people who are having a felt food moment.