February 28, 2013

El Matador Beach, Malibu

When I came to LA in February last year to visit PC for his birthday, we took a drive up the coast to El Matador Beach in Malibu.  This year, we decided to do the drive again and therefore make it an annual birthday tradition.  With us being in the peak of the winter season, the weather is usually pretty chilly (as far as 'chilly' goes in LA), but the weekend before his birthday saw a rise in temperature up to 80 degrees (the girl from rainy England is not going to complain about that!).  We bought some mortadella sandwiches and some chocolates from Sorrento Italian Market in Culver City and took along my newest obsession:  my Big Ben Lego.  I had the idea to photograph the lego in the sand by the sea, as a polar opposite location to where it resides in real life (see pictured below). 

The chocolates we got were Baci, also known as 'Italian kisses'. My friend Helen introduced me to them a few years ago when she lived in Perugia (which is where they are exclusively produced). They are supposed to be given to people to say "I love you", but I've never given them away and probably never will do because 'I. love. them!' 

As quoted on their website: 
Say “I Love You” the Italian Way! The world famous Bacio was created in 1922 and, according to legend, introduced on Valentine's Day. Nearly 100 years later, the Bacio tradition is unchanged: A heart of gianduia (a luscious blend of milk chocolate and ground hazelnuts), is dotted with chopped hazelnuts, crowned with a whole hazelnut, enveloped in silky dark chocolate, and hugged with a love note.  

I'm a sucker for anything that comes with a quote or a little note (like the jokes in a Christmas cracker), so I love reading the 'love notes' that are wrapped up in the foil packaging.  If you have never tried them PLEASE track them down because they are a dream to eat and now also available in white chocolate! 

February 26, 2013

Collection 03 / Breakfast time

Breakfast is possibly my favourite meal of the day and as the saying goes: Eat like a King in the morning, a Prince at noon, and a Pauper at night.  So when we get the chance, we like to set aside a good hour or so to enjoy a hearty breakfast.  Typically, I will make a pot of jasmine green tea using my red whistling tea kettle that I got as a present at Christmas.  It reminds me of my childhood and my Grandma's house as she also had a whistling kettle.  I always wanted to pour the tea even though it was way too hot for me.  PC will often grind up some fresh coffee beans in his fancy wooden coffee grinder to use in the stove top espresso maker.  When we don't grind our own beans we do have a love for Fortnum & Mason's coffee.  Fortnum & Mason is the quintessential English department store located on Piccadilly in London's West End.  It is said that this is where the Queen gets her groceries from (although I'm sure that she doesn't pop down herself with reusable shopping bags to get them).  I have brought over many tins of the 'King's Blend' coffee and my parents have just sent over a new batch as a birthday present for PC, so we're set for a few months now.  Below are some other items that are a delight to use over breakfast.

1. Pantone mugs {Image from Alice in Designland blog} | 2. Fortnum and Mason coffee | 3. West Elm Potter's Workshop Tableware - Dot breakfast bowl  
4. Red Chantal whistling tea kettle from Crate and Barrel  | 5. Hario coffee grinder

February 25, 2013

Week 9 / Out of town_Seattle

This week, we are out of town for some family time up in Seattle, Washington.  At the end of our stay, we've allowed ourselves a couple of sightseeing days in the city that brought us the famous coffee: Starbucks!  One night whilst in Connecticut over Christmas, we stayed in out of the snow and sat around the fire drinking wine and eating New England clam pizza whilst doing a jigsaw puzzle of Washington State.  I am looking forward to seeing some of the places we found on the puzzle and, as my own hometown is in the Northwest of England, I am excited to experience a part of the Northwest of the USA.

February 23, 2013

Yarn spinning / Knitting project update

I decided it was time for me to sort out my yarn basket, as I realised I'd totally lost track with what projects I'm working on.  Turns out that I'm part way though eight projects!

Projects on the go!

- Surprise present for Patrick
- Surprise present for Mum
- Damask shawl from a pattern on Ravelry that I'm working on at a knit-along at GatherDTLA
- My newest challenge: yarn spinning!

I bought some hot pink roving wool and a drop spindle from Wildfiber to have a go at spinning my own yarn.  Eager to start, I used a video on YouTube (recommended to me by one of the girls at the knitting store) to help get me started.  The lady in the video, as with most things, made it look easier than it actually is.  Without considering any further research and not realising that the roving needed to be drafted out first, I impatiently steamed ahead.  I began by spinning the yarn relatively thin, which worked for me to start, but the yarn gradually grew tighter and became more difficult to separate.  Small strands of wool started to fall off and other bits began to tangle.  The yarn then began to get thicker and harder to wind.  Eventually, I gave up and decided that it would be best to take it into the yarn store to get some expert help.  The advice I got was to make sure I drafted the wool before I attempted to spin it!  If only I'd read a bit further into it, or watched a few more demonstration videos. 

I'm no Sleeping Beauty, but as a first attempt I was pretty pleased with my work.  And despite it's flaws and changes in thickness, I'll still be able to make something eclectic out of it when I've finished spinning what's left of the roving.  It'll be really fun to wear something that I've spun and knit myself.  Next step: shearing my own sheep! :)           

'Little bo Bubba' helping me sort out my projects...

Hot pink yarn and drop spindle

February 21, 2013

30th Birthday Poster

The boy turned 30 on Tuesday!  So as a homage to him I created a very silly poster to put up on his Facebook page.  He has this obsession with pulling funny faces, especially showing his teeth (or 'teef' as we call it), so I just had to use this as ammo.  When I started out the project I was concerned that I wouldn't have enough photographs to use.  I mean, how many 'teef' photos can there actually be in the world??  A lot in fact!  The ones shown below are the the best, (ahem...most ridiculous looking) of the bunch. Enjoy...  

Of course our dogs had to feature somewhere.  So I took what is a well known photograph (amongst family and friends) of Mr Bubba and Mr Theo and made them into 'birthday celebration dogs'.  A little extra fun for the day.

February 19, 2013

Collection 02 / Nautical Stripes

Whilst perusing the web this week, my eye was drawn to the beautiful Oscar de la Renta ball gown (pictured above).  Using this as a springboard for inspiration, I have put together a collection of products I love as a homage to the nautical stripe.

1. Angus stripe cushion | 2. Steve Mono Eliot cotton/leather simple bag 
3. Nautical bowl | 4. Navy stripe paper straws | 5. Oscar de la Renta strapless ball gown 

February 18, 2013

Week 8_Celebration

This week, it's the boy's birthday on Tuesday, so I'm all about celebrating! However, he has specifically requested a 'keep it casual' policy, and although I'd rather have made a big old fuss about it, I'm sticking to his wishes.  We are planning to pack up a picnic and head to the Kenneth Hahn park with the dogs for the afternoon.  We are then going to Wurstkuche in the evening for 'dogs and beers'.  For those who don't know Wurstkuche, it's a sausage grill serving gourmet hot-dogs and fine Belgian beers.  They have two restaurants, one in Venice (which, unfortunately, is under re-construction due to a police chase resulting in a car crashing into the place), and so we're left to hit the one downtown.  It's located in the LA Arts District, a funky little part of town with a mix of coffee shops, specialty retail shops, a sushi restaurant, a pie shop and a New Orleans themed jazz and blues bar. 

Other than that, it'll probably be back to business as usual.  I would, however, like to spread the birthday love a little further and make him a nice dinner on Wednesday.  There is a great fish stall at the Culver City Farmer's Market, so I think I'll pick up some nice shellfish to make either clam linguine (one of our personal favourites!) or a nice seafood stew.  I'll let 'the catch of the day' decide for us.

February 16, 2013

Architecture Lego_Big Ben

Instead of the traditional flowers and chocolates, PC got me Lego Big Ben for Valentine's Day.  It suited me perfectly because of my love of architecture and love of London.  It was really fun to put together and I'd really like to tackle one of the bigger kits.  I think the Villa Savoye will be the next.

Travel mug by Pendleton from Poketo

If you have read my earlier post about Broome St. General Store, you'll have seen my recent obsession: a stripy travel mug.  Since then, I have discovered that there are two more in the range and can be purchased from Poketo: a really fun design store in Downtown LA.  I'm actually heading there tonight for their "Alley-Oop" design exhibition.  I'm looking forward to seeing the space and checking out some hand-crafted pieces of furniture.    


February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day 2013

This time last year, I was on a plane flying out to LA in time for PC's birthday.  My friends thought it was really romantic that I was arriving on Valentine's Day.  So not to disappoint, I failed to explain the real reason why: I'd got a really good deal on my flight.  Excited and jet-lagged when I arrived, we took the day quite easy and went out and had my staple favourite for dinner: burger and chips (fries).

Fast forward 365 days and life could not be more different.  I am now living in LA, and although I'm not working (yet), my day-to-day schedule is rapidly filling up.  PC is also very busy with various meetings, so he's in and out the house all day long.  Sometimes we are like ships that pass in the night.

Today, PC left the house first thing and I am in catching up on emails and finishing off some knitting projects before heading out to my first yarn tasting event.  We haven't arranged to do anything tonight, but I stocked up on some amazing wild mushrooms from the farmer's market, so we'll probably share some time in the kitchen cooking and catching up on our day instead. 

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! xoxo    

February 13, 2013

Chinese New Year_The Year of the Snake

I pretty much grew up eating Chinese food.  My parents took me to a restaurant in Southport, England where we'd have Chinese banquets and I learned how to use chopsticks.  I think I mastered them when I was about seven and insisted on using them when we got Chinese take-out on a Friday night.  At that age, having Chinese at home was one of the highlights of my week.

When I was studying in Manchester, I used to live close to Chinatown and would often frequent the local Chinese supermarkets and stock up on spices, prawn dumplings and teas.  As a university student, we'd often go to one particular Chinese restaurant, Tai Wu (which has unfortunately changed into a Chinese buffet), after we'd been on a night out.  It was the most wonderfully busy and hectic place, with little old ladies pushing metal trolleys overflowing with piping hot dim sum in bamboo steamers.  Even at 1am, Chinese families and their young children would be eating there.  On some nights, it seemed like every other table was speaking in Mandarin, and we took this as a good sign that we were getting the 'real deal'.  And we were.   

February 12, 2013

Collection 01 / Spring Fling

With the weather starting to warm up a little, I'm feeling inspired by bright colours.  In particular: daffodil yellow.  I'm not normally a 'yellow person', but being in the sunshine is helping to boost that love.

1. Le Crueset signature braiser | 2. Hello Satveer fat cat print 
3. Melanie Porter hugo quad cushion | 4. Marimekko mug | 5. Liberty print fabric 

Happy Pancake Day!

Pancake day, (or 'Fat Tuesday' as they call it in America) has been a Shrove Tuesday tradition at home for as long as I can remember.  The idea being, that you try to eat as many pancakes as you possibly can without bursting.  This is always done on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which marks the first day of Lent and the countdown to Easter.  We classically serve them with lemon, sugar and golden syrup.  However, the fillings and flavours have evolved over the years with nutella and banana being a popular choice.  Today, I'm serving ours with fresh strawberries and blueberries from the local farmers market.  And a dash of honey and lemon.

They're quick and easy to make, and also help to use up any leftover ingredients in the fridge.  I don't think this will be the only time we have pancakes this year.

With Lent beginning tomorrow we have decided to give up one of our favourites: cheese!!!  I don't know if we'll be able to go the full 40 days and 40 nights, but we're gonna give it a damn good go.  I just hope no one decides to have a cheese and wine party over the next 6 weeks. 

February 11, 2013

Week 7_Research and prep

This week is going to be busy again.  It's only a week until PC's birthday, so I still have some research and prep left to do for that.  I have been continuing on with my 'secret knitting', so I aim to get that finished this week (or as near as damn it).  I am also going to design a poster of sorts to put up on his Facebook page as a homage to being 30 (hehehe) !!!

It's pancake day this week, so we'll be doing some flipping on Tuesday night after our weekly trip to the farmer's market.  For savoury pancakes, I'm thinking: cheese, ham and tomato, and for the sweet ones: strawberry and blueberry, and not forgetting the traditional: syrup, lemon and sugar.  PC hasn't celebrated pancake day before, so this will be a fun treat and the start of a new tradition.

I have my weekly knitting groups scheduled for this week.  On Tuesdays and Fridays I meet with a group of ladies at Wildfiber in Santa Monica.  We all work on our own varying projects and natter away whilst munching on chips and guac.  On Wednesday, I meet with a different set of ladies at Gather DTLA for a knit-along.  This is where we all work on the same project.  We are currently working on a very detailed lace shawl.  Of all my knitting challenges to date this is proving to be the hardest and even though its a steep learning curve, my progress is proving to be pretty slow.  On Thursday, there is a 'yarn tasting evening' at Gather DTLA which is an event where you can check out the new yarns due to arrive in the store.  There is also wine and chocolate sampling from local merchants, so count me in!

I have also signed us up to see a furniture exhibition called "Alley-Oop" at Poketo on Saturday night.  I've been meaning to head down to the store, so this is a great excuse for us to check it out.

February 06, 2013

FASHION FIX by The Orphans Arms

I am loving these printed tees designed by two young British designers, Joshua Wilks and Jay Shipley.  The brand focuses its ideas on English heritage and their products are manufactured in the U.K. 

Check out the website below for more young designers coming through from the U.K.

February 05, 2013

Broome St General Store

Having been reading other blogs and following people on Instagram, I came across a post about Broome St. General Store in Silverlake.  The thing that first attracted me was the amazing looking cappuccinos and knowing PC and his coffee addiction, I knew it wouldn't take him much convincing to go.  When we arrived, there was much more to this place than just a great looking 'cup o' joe!'  The building is a sailor blue timber ranch house, that had been converted into this magical store filled with expensive household nic-nacs.  As always, I could have spent a fortune on things that I don't necessarily need.  However, I have made a mental note of what to go back for when we eventually move house.  PC kindly treated me to one thing that really caught my eye: a colourful striped ceramic travel mug.  I can't wait to use it for my morning jasmine tea when I eventually start work again. 

The store, although very cosy in size, has been expertly laid out to maximise every inch of the space. The walls are adorned with open vintage dresser units, old fireplace surrounds used to backdrop the display tables and white painted wooden shelves that are stacked high to the rafters. These of which, are used only as a tool to display the products. Oversized mirrors are positioned at high level so not to interfere with the goods.  This also helps to increase the spacial awareness of the store and let's the shop keeper retain a watchful eye over the customers :)  Their wares range from clothing to hardware to gourmet food and classic toys.  All are timeless and simple in design with a contemporary twist. It's a hybrid that reminds me of old fashioned sweet shops, apothecaries of days gone by and hardware stores where the owners would wear sand coloured aprons and overcoats. It's an emporium of organised chaos where tradition meets modern day. 

 The staff are not only great at making coffee but taught us a new technique to using a spinning top: Spin it in the air and let it land on the work top and hey presto it carries on spinning.  I think this only works with certain tops and they sell them in store. I think this will go on the list for purchase, particularly the acorn shaped one. 

 Oh, and as for the coffee...I'll be going back for more.   

Lovely banner sign

Who goes there . . .

Dream store

Sweet tooth

Glass spice jars

Packaging delight

This is what we came for !

A mug for a mug :)

Fresh ginger tea in my new mug with my red
whistling teapot from Uncle Pepe

February 04, 2013

Fish Finger Butty

A throw back meal from my youth and great comfort food.  Here I have done it with home made mushy peas and some fresh rocket.

"Posh fish finger butty"

What you'll need: 
Serves 1
- 4-5 Fish fingers/Sticks

- 1 Soft bread roll

- Salted butter for spreading

- Tomato ketchup (Try to track down Tiptree Tomato Ketchup, in my opinion, it's the best)

- 75g Frozen peas

- 1 Small potato, peeled and quartered

- Dash of milk

- Knob of butter for peas

- Small handful of mint, finely chopped

- Handful of rocket

- 1/2 a lemon or dash of malt vinegar

- Salt and pepper

How it's done:

Cook fish fingers/sticks to packet instructions from frozen, usually grilled on each side until crispy and golden.

Cook the peas in a pan of boiling salted water for a few minutes until soft (or cook to packet instructions).  Remove with a slotted spoon retaining the water and whizz up in a food processor or use a potato masher.  

Using the retained water from the peas, cook the potato until until soft. Once cooked, drain and mash with hot milk, butter and season with salt and pepper.  Combine with pureed peas, chopped mint and a squeeze of lemon or vinegar if using.  (I love my mushy peas to be really vinegary).

Generously butter the bread roll.

To assemble:  

Spread a good layer of the mushy peas on the bottom.  Top with a handful of clean rocket and add a spritz of lemon.  Put the fish fingers on top, then add a good squeeze of ketchup.  Place on the top part of the roll and give it a good press down.  

And enjoy!
Easy, peasy, lemon, squeezy!

FASHION FIX by Table of Contents

Week 6_Motivation !

I'm feeling really motivated this week after spending the whole of my Sunday figuring out new fun things for my blog: the wonders of HTML make me smile with glee!

My first task for this week is to catch up with my journalling.  I have a lovely memory book where I can write a short note everyday day for five years.  However, I've been neglecting it somewhat.  I keep telling myself that I'll fill it in once a day but I keep forgetting.  I'm planning to keep it by my bedside to write in every night before sleep time.

This week, I am also planning to make more recipes using cookery books or magazines that I've collected over the years.  The newest book "The Hungoevr Coobkook" was given to me as a gift.  It has some fun, home comfort recipes to help cure a hangover (not that I'm planning on having a hangover everyday this week).  With being away from home and the food that I'm used to, it really does make you crave the weirdest things.  For example, one night I got the taste of chicken and mushroom pot noodle in my head.  Luckily, I was heading to bed so I didn't end up traipsing to Trader Joes for the closest thing.  Another day I ended up wanting a fish finger butty after seeing an advert on the telly for the US equivalent, fish sticks.  Not quite as bad as wanting a pot noodle!

One thing I really want to tell you about are two products I have found myself carrying around over this last week.  The first is a Ginger Orange lip balm from Etta+Billie, a company based in San Francisco.  Their products are all natural, sustainable and use essential oils and smell divine.  I have a grapefruit and cardamom body scrub bar still yet to try.  The second product is a hand cream by TokyoMilk called Tainted Love.  It is a mix of Dark Vanilla Bean, Orchid, White Tea and Sandalwood which makes the scent totally addictive.

Catching up on journalling

Reading material for today

TokyoMilk and Etta+Billie
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