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190 posts categorized "Photography"

10 January 2012

Instagram – My New Obsession


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Over the last few months a lot of people have asked me whether I was on Instagram or not. 

I wasn’t because I couldn’t really see the point – I was already taking plenty of iPhone photos and sharing them on Twitter and Facebook and I didn’t really need to be on another social media time-sucking platform, did I?


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How wrong I was.  As I mentioned before, one of this year’s resolutions was to try out Instagram, mostly because I thought it would be an easy way to do a ‘365 project’ and post a photo a day.  On January 1st I posted one solitary photo from our New Year’s Day walk in Gasworks Park and thenceforth I have become gently obsessed.  Instagram is like Twitter for photos. Follow some great photographers and you’ll have a constant stream of scrumptious eyecandy delivered direct to your phone. Take a photo with your phone (iPhones only at the moment unfortunately), or a upload a picture you took earlier, apply a suitably retro filter and then have it delivered to the Instagram network and also to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flick.

It’s been a great way to reconnect with blogger friends away from the noise of Twitter and Facebook and of finding new creative and imaginative people online as they go about their beautiful business.


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And it’s easy to produce lovely images.  The camera on the new iPhone 4s is crazy good and the various photography apps and filters available (I’m using Camera+ and Picfx as well as the Instagram filters) make it fun to create all sorts of effects. 

I’m enjoying the challenge of working within the iPhone’s limitations – wide-angle lens, tiny aperture, rubbish in low light, square format, not many pixels - and love the fact that the phone is usually to hand, when you see pretty lightshades at the opticians or a pile of soggy, but colourful leaves on a rainy trip to the dentist.  It’s not a substitute for a fancy camera, but a very fabulous adjunct.

Already my Instagram feed is proving to be a cool visual journal of January 2012, and seeing all the photos grouped together has shown me that I do in fact have photographic style – colourful and graphic yet dreamy – which has never leapt out at me before. 

Rest assured you’ll be seeing more Instagram photos on the blog in the days and weeks ahead (I’ll format them as Polaroids here so you can spot them).

And of course the whole network is riddled with cute pictures of cats.


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Are you on Instagram?  What do you like about it? Which apps do you use? What’s your username so I can follow you? I am mirrormirrorxx.


04 January 2012

New Year, New Photography Me


I got a Christmas present that made me so happy it brought tears to my eyes, I’ve wanted one for so long.


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As a weight-loss incentive the Husband said he would buy me a Canon 5D Mk II and this Christmas, since I am so close to goal weight (or I was before Christmas), he decided to put it under the tree for me.

This baby is fabulous and terrifying in equal measure – it has pixels and ISOs and features a go go and can produce some ridiculously amazing images.  Most of the professional photographers I speak to use it and love it, so I now no longer have any excuse not to produce top quality images.

And therein lies the rub.  I no longer have any excuse.  Before I could blame crappy images on my not so stellar camera, but now the only reason not to produce amazing photos is because I’m not a good enough photographer. 


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Because I have to admit to myself that I am a photographer, albeit not yet a very good one. There is nothing, apart from maybe knitting, that gives me so much pleasure and satisfaction – how with the press of a single button, you can tell a story, capture a mood, transmit an emotion, or, as is too often the case with my photos, convey absolutely nothing at all.

So this is the year when I start to take this craft seriously – when I upgrade my kit, study hard, practise tons and put myself out there.  I still have no idea where, if anywhere, it all might lead, but I’m going to bust my ass getting there.

To kick things off  I’m going to finish up my Christmas photo book, have signed up for an online Food Photography course with Lara Ferroni, am committing to posting at least a photo a day to Instagram (I’m @mirrormirrorxx come and join me), will read the stack of photography books next to my bed, will start using Flickr again and build a photography portfolio website. One day I want to be worthy of my new toy, in a way that I’m just not at present.

This year I’m only making positive resolutions, no more thoughts of ‘giving up’ or ‘losing’, or ‘stopping’.  Instead I want to do things that help me grow and develop, take me to new places and bring me new opportunities.  I want to throw a metaphorical stone into a metaphorical lake and watch where the metaphorical ripples end up, and am super intrigued and excited to find out where this photo journey might take me.

Are you starting any new journeys this year?  Where do you hope to get to?  What do you want to learn or achieve?  Spill the beans and we can hold each others’ hand along the way.

I was just about to press ‘publish’ when this post by Tara Austen Weaver popped up on Facebook. Of course she talks about following through on all things intriguing so much more eloquently than I can.  I think she must have been reading my mind.

11 December 2011

Picture the Holidays–The View from Here


Our next prompt was to remind us to take a few moments to enjoy the view.

This is  the view I have from my desk in a corner of my bedroom as I work.  The chair is my knitting chair. We had some lovely sunny days in Seattle last week so I decided to render this in black and white to emphasise the beautiful wintry light.


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This is the view you get from that chair.


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08 December 2011

Picturing the Holidays – You Hold the Key


For this prompt I had to photograph something that helps me to slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment.

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And it will come as no surprise to any of you that I chose knitting as my thing.  I love the satisfaction of seeing the puzzle of stitches work itself out on my needles, of watching yarn forwards and knit togethers line up where they’re supposed to as a pattern slowly emerges before my eyes.


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And then when the puzzle is figured out, it becomes a meditation. Each stitch pattern ebbs and flows in its own rhythms and my mind ebbs and flows with it.  And if you take things one little stitch at a time; if you rip back, correct your mistakes and press on; if you’re patient and persevering and just keep going, however daunting a project might seem; one day you will be able to look back on your work and see that you have created something beautiful.

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.

04 December 2011

Picture the Holidays – Reframing the Season


Our next prompt was to ‘Reframe the Season’. 


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The hint talked about using a literal frame and focusing about what we put it in, but I couldn’t think of what to do with it.

Then I glanced out of my window and saw the December garden in all its mellow wistfulness.  It seems to me that this season is one that we very much experience through the window frame, rather than being out and in the thick of it.

02 December 2011

Picture the Holidays – Holding on to Gratitude


This December I’ve decided to try my hand at putting together a ‘Picture the Holidays’ photo prompt book put together by Tracey Clark of Shutter Sisters via Paper Coterie.

Every day I am emailed a photo prompt to inspire me to take a photo, which I then upload into a photobook on the Paper Coterie site, which I can then have printed if I wish. I know I’m crap at following through on these sorts of projects, but a month of photos seems just about manageable.


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Yesterday’s prompt was entitled ‘Holding On To Gratitude’, encouraging us to think about what we’re grateful for. Funnily enough the night before I had gone to sleep thinking particularly grateful thoughts as I’d been reading a thread on Ravelry where people had been asking for good wishes and prayers because they were going through some particularly horrible things in their lives. I know I am insanely lucky in so many ways.

Unfortunately, the things I am most truly grateful for – my health; my bright, beautiful, healthy daughter; my lovely husband and his lovely job; my wonderful friends; even my fabulous blog friends, were either too abstract, or too absent at school or work to be photographed yesterday. 

Instead I hit up on something rather random. When you’re doing the Dukan diet you do become incredibly grateful for that morning cup of joe, which is permitted – oh joy! – if made with non-fat milk.  This photo for me sums up the warmth and comfort of home; reminds me how lucky I am to be able to afford a fancy coffee machine to make fancy coffee in a fancy mug; makes me think of my husband, and of Seattle, where I’m so lucky to be able to live. And in a literal interpretation of ‘hold on’ I like that this pictures is full of handles.  Oh well, it made sense to me.

What would you photograph given that prompt?

In a spectacular photography fail yesterday, I took my camera out last night to see the Christmas Ships without its SD card. So you’ll just have to image the fabulous pictures I would have taken of my daughter’s shining face as she gazed at the lit-up boats, next to blazing bonfires, against the sparkling backdrop of downtown and the Space Needle.  They might have been a little more appropriate for the above challenge too. Grrrrrr.

Oh and Dine & Dish is doing this too, go to her blog for a different perspective on things.

Advent Calendars


It’s the first of December so we’re allowed to start talking Christmas (or ‘the holidays’ if you prefer).


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The Minx’s advent tree, which is yearly supplied with small treats by one of the Minx’s godmothers, will go up tonight and I thought it might be fun to round up some other advent type things I’ve come across in the last few days.

One of the Minx’s other godmothers (yep, we did a good job picking those) has sent her a link to this gorgeous-looking online advent calendar by Jacquie Lawson featuring Christmassy London scenes. I don’t seem to be able to share the demo, but do click on it, it’s really charming.  I don’t care about the Minx, I’m excited enough to start open the first link when she comes home from school tonight.

Also tonight, we’re off to see the Christmas Ships as they set off on their nightly December odyssey round Seattle’s waterways. Rain has always conspired to stop us seeing them before, but it looks like it will be OK tonight.  Hopefully pictures tomorrow.

The Daily Suze found two beautiful, more grown-up, advent calendars.




This from the White Company (how I miss that shop).  I love this idea of having a tasteful tree decoration for every day and transferring them one by one from the calendar to the tree. Maybe when we get back to having tasteful trees again we’ll do this.

This calendar is also minimalist and lovely, and even I wouldn’t have trouble making it.  It could be made to fit into any décor too, if you changed the colour of the boxes.  I still don’t quite see the Minx appreciating it yet though.




If you want an advent calendar for yourself go along to Paper Coterie where they are doing a project called ‘Picture the Holidays’. Every day you will be emailed a prompt to take a photograph and at the end you will get the chance to put all your gorgeous images together into a photo book.  Facebook friends who have done one Paper Coteries’s Prompt Me projects before have said that it’s very fun, so I’ve decided to sign up.  Let’s see how it goes.  I’ll put more details up in dedicated posts as the month progresses.

Finally, if you’re into shopping rather than photography, Abigail*Ryan, purveyors of beautiful homewares, are doing a 12 Days of Christmas Sale. Search for the snowflakes on one of their gorgeous handprinted teatowels or cushions and get it on sale for one day only. And if anyone wants to buy me one of their teatowel gift boxes, please feel free.

10 November 2011

Autumn Leaves


Today I went out for a stroll to grab a coffee.


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I really must admit that Seattle does trees extraordinarily well.

16 September 2011

Food Photography Challenge – Chocolate Banana Bread


I’m still trying to work on my food photography – don’t know why, love doing it.  I’m going to set myself a weekly challenge to photograph a ‘difficult’ food subject. 




This week’s was Chocolate Banana Bread, which is basically a big brown blob.  I wanted to show the fudgey moistness and gooiness of the cake whilst introducing a bit of colour and getting everything properly exposed.

The colour bit was difficult – I had no fresh bananas left in the house, none of the other fresh ingredients are particularly colourful and flowers seemed a bit random.

In the end I settled for using my embroidered Mexican tablecloth, though I’m still wishing I had a brightly coloured cake stand or a knife with a brightly coloured handle. (More prop shopping obviously required.)

Anyway, did my photo succeed?  Does it make you want to eat the banana bread? What would you have done differently?  Critique away, I want to LEARN.

The recipe I used is here.

20 August 2011

Postcard from Orcas Island


Postcard from Orcas Island

19 August 2011

Postcard from Orcas Island

Postcard from Orcas Island

18 August 2011

Fancy Hotel of the Week – Melenos Lindos


Ha! You thought you’d got away with no more Greek holiday snaps. Unfortunately it remains my intention to bore you all into submission. After all, what else is a blog good for?

I mentioned that we liked to stay in little unassuming hotels while in Greece, but we decided to break that rule for the first few days by booking into the Melenos Lindos, high in the acropolis of the ancient town of Lindos in Rhodes. This hotel gets so many fabulous mentions, that it seemed churlish not to try it out.

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Images from hotel website

Unfortunately they contacted us a few days before we left and said that there had been a double booking and they had no space for us.  They pulled out all the stops to secure alternative accommodation (which, thanks to its enormous swimming pool and spacious grounds was actually much more suitable for the Minx) and offered us a free dinner on their beautiful outdoor dining terrace.

Architect Anastasia Papaioanou and Australian artist-designer Donald Green worked together to recreate a traditional  multi-levelled, multi-terraced Lindian mansion, decorated in a timeless way using traditional local crafts and antiques.

Here are some of my photos from our dinner, supplemented by the couple above from the hotel’s website, as I didn’t have my wide-angled lens with me.

Enjoy the spectacularly pretty.

Melenos Lindos


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30 March 2011

Soraam Cushions, Mats and Cupcakes


Last week I did my first ever paid photography assignment.  Soojin, the graphic designer behind Etsy shop Soraam saw my photos with Uncle Beefy’s cupcakes and asked me to do a little product shoot with her.




Here are some of the results.  Her pre-washed linen placemats and cushion covers - hand-printed with her own beautiful designs - really are stunning. I particularly love the placemats, which are designed to look equally good with or without plates.

The cupcakes are again courtesy of Uncle Beefy, as I’d fortuitously frozen some of the previous batch (cupcakes freeze really well by the way).

‘Soraam’ means ‘take a look with a smile on your face’ in Korean. You really can’t help yourself can you?



17 January 2011

101 Things - Food Photography with Clare Barboza


Over the last week or two, I’ve been dealing with a severe case of ‘I’ve got so much to do in every direction that I must go and hide and gibber quietly to myself in a darkened room’ which I’m finding is not the optimum solution to my ever-lengthening to do list.

So it’s mostly going to be pretty pictures until I emerge from under the layers of work, admin and clutter which are currently overwhelming me.




On Saturday I took some time off from the insanity, to do yet another photography class to keep me going on my 101 Things list. (By the way, I have apparently inspired Lara at Food. Soil. Thread and Helen at CountrysideWeddings to similar madness, so please go and encourage them too).

Clare Barboza, whose Child Photography class I recently took, is also a mega-talented food photographer and works out of the same awesome studio as Lara Ferroni.

The class was extremely useful. We talked about lighting and basic technique; critiqued photos Clare had taken; took shots of beautifully prepared and plated food cooked by Chef Becky Selengut and Marc Schermerhorn; tried plating and styling our own shots, critiqued our shots as a group and then got some tips on post production.

Here are some of the shots I took. My hit ratio of good shots to crap is still frustratingly low (and these had to be significantly worked on in Lightroom) but I feel like I’m starting to grope my way towards a style. The lighting and the studio props make everything so easy though.

I know I always say this (hey, what can I say, Seattle is STUFFED with prodigiously talented photogaphers) but again I can’t recommend this class highly enough if you’re into food photography. I believe Clare has got another couple of classes coming up, check on her blog if you’re interested.


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06 December 2010

Fancy Hotel of the Week – Poet’s Cove


So I celebrated Thanksgiving in a rather unconventional way by heading off with a girlfriend to the Canadian Gulf Islands – part of the same group of islands as the US San Juans, situated in the strait between Vancouver Island and Vancouver itself.




Snow was falling gently as I left the house early on Thursday morning to catch the Clipper and for a moment I was worried that me and my wheely suitcase wouldn’t even make it down our icy steps, let alone all the way to the islands. But I needn’t have worried – the crossing over to Victoria was as smooth as a baby’s bottom, and welcome rain was turning the snow to slush when I arrived.

The following day we took the ferry out  to Pender Island.  It’s only a short ferry crossing from Sidney, near Victoria, and then about 20 minutes drive on Pender from the north island to the south. And this is what we saw as we turned the last corner.




Poet’s Cove is a modern resort, spa and yacht marina tucked into a tranquil and stunningly beautiful bay. My friend and I were lucky enough to stay in a two-bedroom cottage with its own personal outside hot tub, so we spent a lot of time drinking prosecco in the tub, watching dreadful movies curled up in front of the fire, doing the crossword and knitting, having treatments in the fabulous spa and dining on top notch comfort food in the relaxed and busy dining room.

The decor is in the modern ‘lodge’ vernacular which one finds so often in the Pacific Northwest and is all about the fireplaces and cosy sofas, high ceilings and a few interesting craftmade pieces.





The staff were absolutely lovely. Nothing was too much trouble – here they are keeping brunch buffet open for us, so that we could fit in our spa treatments before they stopped serving brunch.


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And while the resort was tremendously relaxing for the body and mind, Mother Nature was busy weaving her magic on our souls.  An old Native American chief is buried close to the resort and you can see why he’d want to live out eternity looking out at views like these.


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A big highlight was when this little chap came out to play close to the marina.  This beautiful mottled seal was a star in the making, giving us a ten minute display of incredible underwater athleticism and seemingly revelling in his audience. 





No wonder we looked somewhat drunk on fresh air, beauty (and possibly the odd caipirinha) by the end of our stay.


Apparently this place gets understandably busy in the summer, though I’d still love to return then – I think the family would love it.

And if you live in the Pacific Northwest and are looking for somewhere fun for a weekend, even in the depths of winter, then head off here. It’s where even the seals come to relax and play.

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.

22 November 2010



This is what’s going down in Seattle this morning.



In a miraculous first the Minx’s school DIDN’T decide that an inch of snow meant a snow day, so she went off to school well bundled up and practically bursting with excitement.

Because it’s so close to the sea, Seattle doesn’t actually get much snow, but by all accounts we’re in for a hard winter this year.  And snow this early in November is amazing.

Here are a couple of shots I took out in the garden. You expect to see snow on berries and evergreens but on autumn leaves and lavender?



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09 November 2010

Autumn in the Neighbourhood


It’s chucking it down with rain today, with views very much like the one below, but in truth this year we’ve been having a spectacularly lovely autumn in Seattle.

Last week temperatures hit 73 degrees just after Halloween, so I grabbed my camera, and went for a stroll round the neighbourhood in a wife-beater tank before doing a little sunbathing on the deck. Seattle is always full of surprises.

Enjoy the splendour.    I could never live anywhere that didn’t have seasons.






And here’s my attempt at photographing my street Cheryl Maeder-stylee. I can’t work out if if looks interesting or just drunkenly out of focus.




And finally here’s reminder of what these streets looked like in Spring

03 November 2010

Things I Am Loving – Cheryl Maeder Photography




Cheryl Maeder carefully controls focus, blur and colour in her photos to create impressionistic but fleeting glimpses of an idyllic world – childhood nostalgia in art form.

I have no real idea how she does these. But they make me want to grab my camera and start experimenting right away.


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You can buy Cheryl’s photos or check out her ‘Dreamscapes’ portfolio here.

01 November 2010

101 Things – Learning Thai Cooking


One thing I’ve added to my 101 List is to learn Thai cookery.  It’s so thoroughly and deliciously complex, looks so very beautiful and is a wonderful vehicle for consuming tons of healthy vegetables and lots of yummy seafood.

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It’s also a cuisine about which I am almost completely ignorant.  I love it, but rarely stray from Pad Thai, Tom Yum Soup and Red Curries on the menus; never cook authentic Thai at home (though here’s a stab at inauthentic Thai) and have never been to Thailand.

For the purposes of the list I defined my goal as completing six workshops or classes on the subject over the next three years.  I know that Thai cooking is as complex, if not more so, than French cuisine, but I figured that six workshops would be enough to give me a somewhat reasonable grounding.

The class in Thai Comfort Cooking I took at PCC in Greenlake was perfect for a beginner like me.  The amazing teacher Pranee Halvorsen, is a lovely Thai lady from Phuket, despite the Norwegian married name. She took us through four courses of a Thai comfort food feast, with detailed recipes and wonderful stories, chopping and stir frying all the while and patiently answering all our questions.




She showed us her favourite products, talked about specific Thai techniques and  ingredients, offered substitutions for difficult to get items and demonstrated how to make garnishes and ingredients such as sauteed shallots, crushed chilli peppers, vinegar and jalapeno condiment and dark soy sauce, and then served out each dish to eighteen people, so we got a fabulous lunch along the way.

By a huge coincidence Pranee had been a student with me at Jackie Baisa’s photography workshop, so she very kindly let me take photographs throughout the class. Again the overhead lighting was flat and unforgiving, but the dishes were too exquisite (and exquisitely delicious) not to look amazing whatever the photography.



I’ll be attempting to cook all of these dishes over the next few weeks so there will be recipes and more pics coming.  In the meantime feast your eyes on these pics.


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28 October 2010

101 Things – Jackie Baisa Food Photography


Another weekend, another photography workshop, another tick on my 101 Things list. This time with Seattle food and wedding photographer and fellow oxtail stew lover Jackie Baisa.

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A bunch of us came together at gourmet cooking store 'Dish It Up’ in Seattle’s Magnolia district.  For the first part of the class we discussed Jackie’s extremely informative hand out and also critiqued a bunch of Jackie’s photos that hadn’t quite made the cut – this was an extremely useful exercise, and I need to get into the habit of doing it both with my own photos and those in magazines.



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Then after a sneaky lunch at Nikos Gyros (at last, I have found decent Greek food in Seattle!), the real fun began when ace private chef Becky Selengut arrived to cook a bunch of beautiful dishes for us to photograph.

To be honest, the photography conditions could have been better -  we were in Dish It Up’s demonstration kitchen which is wonderful for chefs but not so wonderful for photographers, with flat overhead lighting, no natural light, no dedicated photography lights and a very shiny reflective granite surface. No different from photographing in most restaurants though, I wouldn’t have thought.


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And that, my dears, was the very great thing about this course -  the opportunity to take plenty of pictures of a chef in action. And the dishes Chef Becky produced were literally pretty as a picture – photography skills hardly required.  If Jackie does another course, make sure you’re on it. (Also the opportunity to sample the dishes later is, shall we say, an added attraction).

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Here are Chef Becky and Photographer Jackie doing their thang. 


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 Just back from San Francisco y’all (<--- how American am I?).  Love that place.

21 October 2010

Food Ninja – Peperoncini e Melanzane Sott’olio


Or peppers and aubergines (I’m sorry but I really cannot bring myself to say ‘eggplants’) preserved in oil the Italian way.




I’ve been following ace Seattle foodie Salty Seattle, whom I first met at the Ice Cream Social, on Twitter where she’s recently been having a lot of fun with the #foodninja hashtag. So much so that she, Salty Ninja, and her foodie friends Fujimama (Fuji Ninja) and Bell’Alimento (Bella Ninja) have recently set up a Food Ninja competition with some quite fabulous prizes.

Unfortunately it is not entirely clear to me what a ‘food ninja’ actually is, although it appears to involve badass cooking skills (or indeed ‘skillz’), doing death-defying things with knives, high kicks and possibly flying through the air, all while wearing stiletto heels.

So what’s a girl to do when her knife skills are pedestrian, she can’t wear stilettos due to acute plantar fasciitis and she looks ridiculous in a bandanna? After much thought, I decided to do death-defying things with red hot peppers instead.  The good news is that this recipe doesn’t even require badass cooking skills or even skillz, just a bit of care and patience (though don’t mention this to the ninja ladies).



I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite literally years.  When I was living in Europe and after my parents died, I would often spend Christmas with my Italian relatives in Piemonte. And let me tell you, Italy is a very good place to be at Christmas.  The cuisine of Piemonte is rightly famous for its antipasti or appetisers. On the night of Christmas Eve my aunt (a true food ninja if ever I met one) would serve a twenty course feast – a parade of seventeen varied and delicious antipasti which would leave you groaning on the floor before the pasta, meat and dessert courses even made an appearance.

Of these, my very favourites were the piquant ‘sott’olio’ vegetable preserves she would bring up from her cellar – zucchini, artichokes, aubergines and teensy hot peppers stuffed with tuna, all silky smooth and dripping with flavoured oil, just begging to be mopped up with some good crusty bread.

She gave me her recipe but I’ve never made them before – I even added ‘Make Italian Sott’Olio Preserves’ to my list of 101 Things - so it seemed like a sign when I was casting around for something ninja-like to make and I saw precisely the right tiny round bottomed peppers I needed at the farmers’ market (does anyone happen to know what variety these are by the way?)





Peperoncini Ripieni Sott’Olio
(Stuffed Peppers in Oil)

Makes 2 jars
20-30 little round bottomed hot peppers
1 cup (8fl oz) water
1 cup (8fl oz) white wine vinegar
1 can good quality tuna packed in oil
3-4 anchovies packed in oil, rinsed and patted dry
1 tbsp capers packed in vinegar or salt, rinsed and patted dry
2-3 cloves garlic (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil
Melanzane Sott’Olio
(Aubergines in Oil)

Makes 2 jars
Some beautiful firm aubergines (I used three)
1 cup (8fl oz) water
1 cup (8fl oz) white wine vinegar
6-7 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
dried oregano
dried chili flakes/crushed dried chili
Extra virgin olive oil



First up prepare your vegetables.

Peppers: Cut out the tops of the peppers and scoop out all the seeds with a knife and small spoon. This is pretty time-consuming which is why I only ended up making 28 peppers.  I shall regret this later.



Could this get any more ninja?  Red hot chilis AND knives.



Aubergines: Thinly slice your aubergines lengthwise. If you were a true ninja you’d probably use a ninja star for this, but I used a knife.




Layer the aubergines in a colander with plenty of salt. Put a plate on top and add a heavy weight such as a big bag of flour to squish out all the bitter brown juices.  Leave the aubergines for at least one hour and preferably several.

When the aubergines are ready, rinse off the salt and brown juices and pat off as much excess moisture as you can.  Cut the aubergine slices into strips about an inch or so wide with kitchen scissors.

Aubergines and Peppers: Heat the water and vinegar together until boiling. This recipe is easily scalable so just use as much water and vinegar as you need, remembering to keep a ratio of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar. Two cups of liquid is fine for the quantities of vegetables I have here.

Scald the vegetables in the boiling vinegar solution for 2-3 minutes. I did my peppers and aubergines in separate batches so as not to mix the flavours.

When the vegetables are blanched, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and leave them to dry – the aubergines pressed between clean dry teatowels or kitchen towel, and the peppers placed upside down with their bottoms in the air on kitchen towel.




It is very important at this stage to dry the vegetables as much a possible as wet vegetables will go mouldy.  Leave them for several hours – my aunt suggests putting them outside in the sunshine, but then she lives in Italy.

Aubergines:  Sterilise your jars in boiling water.  When the aubergines are very dry, add a layer of oil to the jar, then a layer of aubergine and then a few slices of garlic, a pinch of chili flakes and some sprinkles of oregano. Continue layering the jar in this way until you’ve reached the top, making sure that the aubergine is completely covered with oil. This is again important for the preserving process.



Peppers: Sterilise your jars in boiling water. Prepare your stuffing by breaking up the anchovies with your fingers and stirring them and the capers into the tuna. If possible, gently pulse the mix in food processor until thoroughly amalgamated but stop before it becomes a sloppy puree. Filled the dry, hollow peppers with the mix.





Layer the stuffed peppers, slices of garlic and oil in your prepared jars as before, again covering the peppers completely with oil.

Store everything for several months in a dark, cool, dry place. It’s important to leave them for a little time if you can so that flavours meld and the oil becomes especially delicious.  This is easier said than done.

Serve with good bread, some prosciutto, some delicious tomatoes and a glass of chilled white wine for a taste of the Italian summer all year round.

And so, it was not what I was planning, but the first thing I can fully cross off my 101 Things list is ‘Prepare Italian Sott’Olio Preserves’. Only another 100 things to go.  I’ll do an update post when we finally get to open them, probably around Christmas time.

And if you want to me help me cross ‘Win Something, Anything’ off my list too, then I’ll be posting details of how to vote for this post in the next few days.

Oh and apologies for light posting recently. I managed to lose a bunch of posts I’d prepared, so I’m now having a ton of fun recreating posts I’ve already written up once. So much my favourite thing to do as I’m sure you can imagine.

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.

06 October 2010

Things I Am Loving – Carl Kleiner’s Food Photography


I’ve been looking at a lot of food photography recently, but, sometimes, dare I say it, it can get a little same-y – put your food in a pretty dish, lay it on a cunningly folded napkin, place everything on a textured table and play with depth of field until the background is artfully blurred.

Rinse and repeat. (And yes, I know I do this too.)

So it’s wonderful to see food photography that is completely out of left field and so very beautiful, for, of all things, an Ikea cookbook.

Photographer Carl Kleiner worked with stylist Evelina Bratell to create fabulous still-life patterns out of the raw ingredients for each dish.









The photos of the finished articles are witty, pretty and original too.




Unfortunately I think the cookbook is only available in Swedish and from Ikea in Sweden at the moment, though hopefully an international edition will be available shortly.

And wouldn’t those prints look wonderful as kitchen artwork?

And maybe I was onto something when I took a picture of my pot roast ingredients back in February? I should have held that thought.

{via Jackie Baisa’s Facebook page}


04 October 2010

All About Me - Shuttertour


As part of my 101 Things list, I’ve challenged myself to complete at least six photography workshops or classes in the next three years.

First up was a Seattle Shuttertour with the amazing Valentina Vitols.



This is such a cool concept – you are taken on walking tour of some of the most photogenic spots in Seattle, while ace photographer Valentina tells you a little about the history of what you’re seeing, stops every so often to give the group photography tips and is always available to share her knowledge on an individual basis.

She also talks a bit about using urban backdrops for portraiture, making sure to pick up your camera and take plenty of pictures of you as well, so you end up with some nice portraits by a professional portrait photographer.  And she took us to corners of Seattle that I had never been to before.

I knew most of the tips, but it’s one thing to know these things in the abstract and another to be able to put them into practice straightaway afterwards. And in fact just walking round the city for the sole purpose of taking photos was so unusual for me and just so much fun. I must do it more often.

I think the Shuttertours are finished for the year now, but if you’re a photographer either living in Seattle or visiting as a tourist, I can’t recommend them highly enough. Go and do one next season!



Valentina in front of Seattle’s infamous and quite revolting gum wall.



Moments and details in Post Alley


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Coffee stop at the beautiful Caffe Stella near the Hammering Man


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Portraits and self-portraits (wish I’d washed my hair that morning)
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Colours and character in Pike Place Market


23 September 2010

Recipe of the Week – Brown Bread Ice Cream


Or ice cream as health food. Kinda.





A week or three ago I was honoured to be invited to an ‘Ice Cream Social’ at the home of Seattle Bon Vivant. ‘Viv’ doesn’t blog much anymore but she is a huge presence on the Seattle foodie scene and I knew I was going to be in exalted foodie company.

So which ice cream to make? I wanted something that would be unusual enough to intrigue an American foodie crowd; something either very English or very Italian to reflect my heritage, and of course something utterly delicious. And that’s when I remembered Brown Bread Ice Cream.

This ice cream is as British as it comes, apparently made by the Victorians, and still served today in British restaurants and gastropubs, though you won’t find it in a British supermarket  (why on earth not? – Ed)

It’s also pretty quick and simple to make. I used Gordon Ramsay’s recipe here as my base but made several changes.


Olive oil, for greasing

75g (2 1/2 ozs) brown bread (I used 3  large thick slices of a well made wholemeal  or whole grain loaf without too many nuts or seeds)

75g (2 1/2ozs) soft brown sugar

250ml (1 cup) milk

250ml (1 cup)  double/heavy cream (American heavy cream is not as rich as British double cream but still works)

1 tsp vanilla extract (Gordon uses a vanilla pod, if you have one refer to his recipe above) 

6 free-range egg yolks

50g (1/4 cup) caster sugar



- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6

- Make brown breadcrumbs by slicing thick slices of your wholemeal loaf, removing the crusts, letting them go stale over a day or two and then whizzing them in a food processor. If you’ve forgotten to let them go stale, just bake them for 30 minutes or so in a very cool oven before whizzing.

- Add the same weight in light brown sugar to the crumbs. I forgot to make precise cup measures., sorry. Suffice to say that you should make LOTS of the caramel breadcrumbs as they are delicious stirred into any shop-bought vanilla; so just make loads, keeping the weight of bread and sugar the same.  

- Grease a baking tray with a little olive oil using a pastry brush or spray. Spread out the breadcrumbs and sugar and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the sugar caramelises. I burnt my first batch, so for the second batch I stirred the bread crumbs with a wooden spoon every 3 minutes until they were crunchy and caramelly – about 10 minutes in my oven. I highly recommend doing this. Watch the crumbs like a hawk anyway.

- Leave the crumbs to cool. When they’re cool, bash them with a rolling pin or meat tenderiser or similar, so that they’re crumby and not all clumped together.

- Whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar together in a bowl until thick, pale and creamy and then whisk in the cream, milk and vanilla extract. Transfer to a thick-based pan and cook gently over a low heat until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Pass through a sieve if you’re feeling fancy.

- Cool in the fridge overnight. Gordon forgets to mention this, but it’s imperative for my ice cream maker (the Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment)

- Pour the custard into your ice-cream churn and, just as it starts to set, add the breadcrumbs and churn until they’re stirred through.  Then put in the freezer to freeze completely. This ice cream benefits hugely from twenty minutes ‘ripening’ in the fridge before serving.

- I served mine with strawberries marinaded in sugar and lemon juice.

- If I were you, and if you were going to serve this to adults only, I’d definitely experiment with adding a splash of Baileys or Irish whiskey to the mix instead of vanilla.

If I say so myself this ice cream was super good – dense and rich, with a sweet chewy nuttiness - and it was fab to see the change come over some initially highly sceptical faces at the Ice Cream Social.

26 August 2010

Days of Wine and Roses – Aix en Provence


Do you want the bad news or the good news?

On the downside the Minx’s interminable summer vacation continues, so you’re just going to have to make do with holiday snaps and maybe the off it of flybynight blogging for the time being.

The good news is that she goes back to school NEXT WEDNESDAY (be still my beating heart!). Not only will it be business as usual, but I’m hoping to unveil a bit of blog re-launch then as well. I’ve no idea how y’all can cope with the excitement. 

In the meantime though, here are some pictures from the next stage of our French adventure (which seems so long ago now). 

After five very pleasant days in Menton we drove north and east to spend a few days in a gite near the beautiful town of Aix en Provence.

As you can see, we indulged in a lot of shopping, sitting in cafes, drinking wine, eating patisserie and general loafing about a la francaise.




We stayed in some very sweet and well-equipped gites, in beautiful old stone buildings set in a vineyard close to St Maximin and Aix. The Minx managed to swim her very first length in the huge pool, which accounts for the enormous cheese-eating grin below.




Not surprisingly the Minx has decided that she likes France very much. This was all part of my cunning plan to ensure that she continues to enjoy going to a French immersion school.  I have not yet revealed to her that not every corner of France is quite like this.

20 August 2010

Recipe of the Week – Cherry Clafoutis




Apologies for the light posting of late – the Minx is only doing morning camp this week, so I don’t have so much free time. The good news is that the interminable summer holidays are coming to an end in less than two weeks, may the Lord and all the angels be praised. Call me a bad mother but I am counting the seconds. America, is ELEVEN weeks of summer vacation REALLY necessary?




But I digress.

For a brief moment at the end of the cherry season in the UK, the market in Portobello Road was full of deep, dark, rich, ridiculously expensive cherries, the colour of the very best red wine, marked ‘USA”. I used to look forward to those cherries all year.

Little did I know then that the chances were that those cherries came from Washington state and that I would one day be living in a place where the farmers’ markets would be heaving with them. Apparently it’s something to do with the climate and the volcanic soil, but they truly are the best cherries I’ve ever tasted.

Last week was pretty much the end of this year’s Washington cherry season, so I seized the opportunity to make a clafoutis. I first ate (an awful lot of) clafoutis in the South of France when I was teaching there as part of my university degree and every year since then I’ve made it religiously when cherry season comes around.

The recipe I’ve found which seems to me to be the most authentic comes from my ancient battered copy of Paula Wolfert’s the Cooking of South West France which has apparently been recently reissued.

I’ve doubled the quantities she gives to make enough to fit my 34 cm x 20 cm ( 13ins x 8ins). You don’t need to get too precious about the quantities – you just need enough batter to almost cover the cherries.


- Enough cherries to completely cover the bottom of your dish. Many people in France don’t stone their cherries which makes it much easier to prepare but a bit of a pain to eat. I stone my cherries if I’m feeling posh. You could also use apricots or pears – any fruit that doesn’t get too soft in cooking.

- Enough butter to grease your dish

- 5 tbsps plain/all-purpose flour

- 1/2 tsp salt

- 4 tbps granulated sugar

- 5 large eggs

16 fl oz /500 ml/ 2 cups single cream or half and half or creamy milk or a mixture of milk and heavy/double cream, depending on how decadent/slim you’re feeling

- 1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract

- 2 tbsps dark rum, kirsch, Armagnac (optional, I prefer it without)

- enough granulated sugar to dredge thickly when cooked




- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180degrees C/Gas Mark 4

- Remove stems and pit fruit if necessary, if using apricots or larger fruits instead of cherries, slice them in half.

- Slather your dish with butter and add the fruit in a single layer

- In a mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients.

- Warm the milk or cream until barely simmering

- Whisk the eggs into the cream

- Whisk in the dry ingredients mixture until well-blended.

- Add the vanilla and rum etc. if using.

- Strain the batter over the fruit (very often I can’t be bothered to strain it).

- Bake for 40 minutes or until firm and golden




Before                                                                                      After          
During – oh clafoutis you gorgeous golden hunk of love


- When it’s cooked, take it out of the oven and dredge thickly with granulated sugar while still warm. Serve either lukewarm or cold.

The best accompaniment to this is the sort of extra-thick spoonable double cream that you can buy in the UK and which is unheard of in the US (which I have verifired via a heated Facebook and Twitter discussion). If you can’t get thick spoonable cream, then creme fraiche would do at a pinch or just pourable heavy cream. Or else, it’s really so delicious that you don’t need any cream at all.



09 August 2010

All About Me – Me and My Girl

You won’t see many photos of me out there, mostly because the Husband, who obviously has MANY fine attributes, is the worst photographer known to man.

This weekend we fled the terrible Seattle summer and went to Lake Chelan, high in the mountains of northern Washington, which has a sunny microclimate and beautiful, swimmable waters.

And hell must have frozen over or something, because the Husband actually took some photos which made me look like a human being and not a water buffalo. They’re not amazing or anything – hair had just been in swimming pool and I’m wearing no make up – but I share them with you in memory of this miracle.






In case you think I’m exaggerating, here is one the Husband’s first, and more typical attempts.



05 August 2010

Things I Am Loving – Wobbly Bowls


One of the things I learned at Lara Ferroni’s food styling photography workshops is that food props should be small, so as to make the food look ample and luscious, and preferably have texture and colour help too, to add visual interest.  (Check out also this fascinating series of guest posts on food props at  Lucullian Delights.)


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{Images above from Atelier BB}

So I was delighted to come across these delightful little wobbly plates and bowls in dozens of bright intoxicating colours from Atelier BB on Etsy.  Each bowl and plate is made of thick glazed ceramic and imprinted with different lacy designs for extra texture.

I bought a few little plates for my new ‘food styling prop cupboard’ (how VERY Martha Stewart of me) and will probably be buying quite a few more.




And yes, they DO make food look good. Here’s a very quick snap of some potato and beetroot gratin which we had for dinner last night and which was DIVINE. I’ll make it for you guys with pictures next time we get beets in the organic box.



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.

03 August 2010

Menton Mon Amour


After a few days at the Hotel du Clos, we drove a couple of hours along the Grande Corniche, with fabulous views of Eze and Monaco and out to sea towards Corsica.  Our destination - Menton, the lemon capital of France, situated at the very Eastern end of the French Riviera and within jogging distance (even for me) of Italy.

If ever a place was my spiritual home then this is it – an almost perfect blend of Provence and Liguria in Italy – with a bustling and beautiful old town; a warm, shallow sea perfect for swimming; great food; a superb market; tangly old streets and magnificent people watching.

We all just LOVED it. (Except for the jellyfish, though on the plus side the Minx can now say ‘jellyfish’ in three languages.)






We stayed at the Hotel Napoleon on the waterfront – wonderfully located with great views of the old town from its balconies.  The hotel itself is very pleasant, comfortable, well-equipped and modern, though no great shakes from a design perspective (hence I forgot to take any pics of the interiors) and had excellent breakfasts. Next door was sweet little chapel marking the pilgrim route from Rome to Santiago.




The best bit though was the luxurious private beach club, fully equipped with comfy loungers, a great restaurant and bar and handsome beach boys.




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The Minx particularly appreciated the SELF. SERVICE. GELATERIA (help yourself to icecream, toppings, sauces and flavourings and then pay by weight at the end) next to the beach.



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I, on the other hand, hugely appreciated the mesmerising view behind me, while we were at the bar watching England crash out of the football…

29 July 2010

Come Into My Garden - July


I haven’t done a ‘Come Into My Garden’ post for so long but since I spent all weekend macheteing my way through the jungle that had grown up while we were away I thought I might as well get a blog post out of it. 




The oak-leaf hydrangeas, nandinas, lilies and lavender have all gone a little crazy as you can see, but there’s still plenty of pretty to be had. I think I’ve got some lemonade in the fridge.





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                               Rose ‘Christopher Marlow’                                                             Some lily or other


                                                                   Rose ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ in the shade


                         Echinacea Big Sky ‘Sundown’ and some straggly thing I bought at the garden centre last year.


                                                                                   Geum ‘Fire Lake’


                                                 Echinacea Big Sky ‘Summer Sky’ and ‘Sundown’




                        Mixed echinaceas                                                     The most ginormous lily in the world (around 7 feet)



                                                                                   A glorious tangle


                                    The world’s most ginormous lily with nandinas and oak-leaf hydrangeas


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                                                       Oak-leaf hydrangea with and without lavender

It’s REALLY tricky to photograph the garden in summer I’ve decided. Either the sun is casting dark shadows over everything, making it look even messier than it is. Or else the it’s grey and overcast and looks like November. Seattle doesn’t do soft diffused sunlight at all.

23 July 2010

Things I Am Loving - Janne Peters Photography


Anyone who combines food, photography and yarn has to be all right in my book.


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Do check out the rest of her portfolio, it’s stunning.

20 July 2010

Recipe of the Week – Swiss Chard Quiche




I’ve recently signed up to get a weekly box of fruit and vegetables delivered – in part so we can get out of the rut of buying the same old, same old veggies week in and week out.

This week we were delivered a splendid bunch of Swiss chard, which I must confess I’ve never really eaten, let alone cooked. After leafing through my copy of From Asparagus to Zucchini (a great cookbook I bought at a local farm that lists vegetables alphabetically and then gives you recipes to use them , so a perfect match for a veggie box) I decided to adapt a recipe to make a very simple Swiss chard quiche.




1 uncooked pie crust/tart shell (I used wholewheat and you could of course make your own)

1/2 a large onion, finely chopped (mine was red)

3 cloves garlic, crushed (I like garlic, less would be fine)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large and splendid bunch of Swiss chard, washed and chopped (I removed the thick central ribs)

3 large eggs

A heap of grated hard cheese (I used about 4 oz of grated Gruyere, which ended up being about a cup full. But the amount of cheese really depends on how cheesy/fattening you want it to be.)

A very generous slug of single cream/half and half

Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste



Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C

Gently saute’ the onion and garlic in the olive olive until all is soft and going golden round the edges.  Then add the chopped chard and continued cooking until it is soft and thoroughly wilted (you could stop at this stage and you’d have a lovely side vegetable).

In a bowl whisk up the eggs, add the grated cheese and and enough cream so that the mixture will fill your pie crust.  Season to taste with the salt, pepper and a little nutmeg.

Bake in the oven for about 30 mins, until puffy, firm and golden.

Et voila’ one slightly strange vegetable successfully negotiated!  (I know, I know, you’re going to tell me you eat Swiss chard ALL the time).

19 July 2010

Fancy Hotel of the Week – Hotel du Clos




On this particular trip we didn’t set out to stay in fancy boutique-y hotels  - our criteria were mostly cost, space for us and the Minx and proximity to beautiful locations, but we really lucked out with the first hotel we stayed in, booked at the very last minute through Splendia, a website specialising in characterful hotels.

The Hotel du Clos is in the little postcard-perfect village of Le Rouret, about 15 minutes from Grasse and 25 minutes from Nice and the bustle of the Riviera, and so a perfect place to relax after our long transatlantic flight to Nice (via Amsterdam).




The hotel – and this is the reason I loved it so – combines the very best in traditional French charm and style with the odd touch of whimsy here and there, which made everything seem lighthearted, modern and fun and added oodles of character. Though frankly the buildings were so beautiful that additional character seemed almost unnecessary.

The rooms are each individually decorated, the staff were absolutely delightful and extremely welcoming to the Minx, and the same people who own the hotel also own a fabulous Michelin-starred restaurant, five minutes away in the village. So, I really can’t recommend this one highly enough.


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The bedroom featured the most beautiful fireplace and was  decorated in those overlapping shades of dove grey that the French do so well.






  I loved the wall sticker of ‘books’ stacked up on the bedside table









the Roman faces fabric on the cushions and curtains


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and the Perspex angel light fitting above our bed (with another angel peeking out in the bathroom).





The traditional Provencal garden – fragrant with roses, jasmine and lavender -  was a big hit with a certain someone, who particularly loved the fabulously UNtraditional sculpture lurking among the olive trees.


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We ate epic breakfasts every morning on the beautiful terrace



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- the fromage blanc with rose syrup was a particularly big hit.




In the mornings when I woke early through jetlag, I would knit on our balcony shaded by an ancient olive tree and listen to the sound of church bells and the kids singing in the school next door. 


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After breakfast we would head to the small but delightful stone pool, made particularly elegant by the use of very dark green tiles, which made it fit much more naturally into the garden landscape.




And we all appreciated little touches such as the antique jelly moulds used as keyrings (and were sad not to get one of the three bears)




and the papier mache cow in the reception area. 



More photos from the Hotel du Clos, Le Rouret and Grasse, on my Flickr here.

I’m back. Sort of normal service will be resumed, though it’s school vacation and a busy time for ‘mirrormirror’ so other things also need to take priority. I’ve been missing you though.

Postcard from France – Patisserie




Aix en Provence

16 July 2010

Postcard from France - Shutters




Also Cassis. Love these colours. 

15 July 2010

Postcard from France - Cassis


Day trip to Cassis.

14 July 2010

Postcard from France - Vineyard



We stayed in a little gite here.


We’re back, but I have three weeks of unpacking and laundry to do, over 1000 photos to process, an empty shop and a garden full of parched plants and bindweed to grapple with, so I’ll be back blogging properly again on Monday.  In the meantime I’ll post up some more ‘Postcards’ of the remainder of our trip.

07 July 2010

Postcard from France - Lavender




Near Aix.

06 July 2010

Postcard from France - Graffito



On the way to Aix.

03 July 2010

Postcard from France – Menton Mon Amour




Au revoir. Definitely.

Will try and catch up with posting when we get to Paris and a better internet connection.

27 June 2010

Postcard from France - Balcony




Menton, my new spiritual home.

26 June 2010

Postcard from France - Bouquet



Courgette flowers. Market. Menton.

24 June 2010

Postcard from France – Soleil




Sitting at the next table eating salted butter caramel icecream. Grasse.

23 June 2010

Postcard from France – One of Greatest Breakfasts Ever



Postcard from France – Room with a View



Hotel du Clos, Le Rouret, near Grasse

18 June 2010

Recipe of the Week – Rhubarb and Amaretti Crumble





Oh, I know we’ve done crumble almost to death recently, but a couple of weeks ago I had some late rhubarb (one of the few redeeming features of the cold, wet Seattle spring we’ve been having) and made that most quintessentially English delight – a rhubarb crumble.




And, not a just any old crumble either, but a slightly adjusted Rhubarb & Amaretti Crumble, courtesy of dear old Delia Smith, the doyenne of English cooking.  Which ended up being just about the most fabulous crumble I’ve ever eaten in my life.


Approx 10 sticks of rhubarb

4 tbsps water

6 tbsps caster/baker’s sugar (or to taste).


Crumble Topping

40g chilled butter

75g self raising flour (or plain/all purpose flour with 1/2 tsp baking powder)

50g demerara sugar

50g whole almonds

4 Virginia Amaretti biscuits.

Unfortunately I forgot to measure out everything in cup measures, but if you use the proportions of dried ingredients  to butter to sugar that I give here then you should be OK.



Unlike Delia I stewed the cleaned and chopped rhubarb beforehand in the sugar and water for about ten minutes until soft, just because that’s how I’ve also always done it. I also didn’t add ginger  because I wanted the full flavour of the Amaretti to come through (also, truth be told, because I’m not very fond of it).  But feel free to add a teaspoon of ginger or cardamom at this stage and follow Delia’s method for cooking the fruit in the recipe link above.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C /350 degrees F /Gas Mark 4



Then put all the crumble topping ingredients into the food processor and whizz until crumbled.




Pat the crumble ingredients down over the stewed fruit and bake in the oven for around 35 mins until slightly golden round the edges and dig in.  Normally I like crumble served slightly warm, but this was fabulous spooned up straight out of the fridge.



That’s it for the moment folks. On Sunday evening we’re off on our three-week European grand tour - a week on the French Riviera, a few days in Provence, a couple of days in Paris and a week in London, meeting friends, godparents and family along the way. There won’t be any proper bloggery while I’m away, but I’ll try and post up some ‘Postcards from Europe’ so you can vicariously join us on our travels.  Don’t miss me too much.