Nutcracker March

One of the holiday activities the Minx and I have been most enjoying has been Seattle’s ‘Nutcracker March’.
 
The Pacific Northwest Ballet’s version of the Nutcracker appears to be a pretty big deal round these parts and to celebrate they have commissioned sixty large Nutcrackers which have been decorated by local artists and are dotted all over downtown.  They are then auctioned off on eBay to benefit local charities.
 
Hunting Nutcrackers has been a great excuse for the Minx and I to explore the area, and the Minx now shouts out excitedly when she sees one in the street, walks up to it and pats its feet. 
 
Here are the thirty-two that we managed to photograph.
 
We saw a few others when we didn’t have a camera, but the geeky side of my soul is now regretting that we didn’t make more of an effort to ‘collect’ all of them while we had the chance.
Tomorrow we’re flying off to the UK for Christmas.  Half of me is really looking forward to catching up with friends and family, but the other half is wondering why we’re putting us all through jetlag again when the Minx has really only recently settled into a proper Seattle routine. 
 
A very Merry Christmas to you and yours and thank you so much for all your comments and good wishes throughout the year. 
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Nearly there

And so the Christmas rush is coming to an end for another year, though we’re still getting some last-minute orders thanks in part to some great recent coverage of the cut-steel hanging garland in the Saturday Times  (yet another of my ridiculously amateurish photos makes it into the national press) and Saturday Telegraph,

and of our madly popular bathmelts in the Daily Express.

I don’t think Helen wants to wrap another bathmelt as long as she lives.

It’s been exhausting – lots of frantic emails flying backwards and forwards across the Atlantic in the wee small hours for me - but we’ve made it and I think the business has taken another huge step forward.  I would never have imagined we’d be in this position just ten weeks ago.

There is still time to place an order before Helen and I slump in a drunken stupor in front of the telly.

Place your order before 2pm on 22nd December and the Royal Mail promises to deliver it before Christmas.  We’re even offering guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery for the price of standard delivery on all orders over £40. 

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Winter walk

A glorious winter’s day, the Sound looks like the Aegean, fish and chips for lunch and a stunning sunset to finish things off.

And all within fifteen minutes drive of our front door.  Sometimes I do really like Seattle.

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Let it snow

Remember these? 

 

The Minx and I were trapped inside the apartment today by torrential, unremitting rain. 

All I can say is thank goodness for the CBeebies website, which has loads of Teletubbies pictures to print off and colour in.  We also quite enjoyed making these (well, I did).  You can join in the fun yourselves with this nifty little bit of computer jollity.

In a return of the ‘Seattle Daily Weather Forecast’  we are apparently tonight expecting hurricane force winds. 

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Christmas cookies

We weren’t going to put up a tree this year. 

All the Christmas decorations that we have carefully collected over ten years of marriage are still on a ship somewhere and it seemed somewhat extravagant to start buying them all over again. 

But after seeing the Minx’s joy every time we saw the ‘pitty tree’ down in the lobby of our building, we decided that it had to be done. 

After traipsing round loads of shops being rather appalled by the kitchness and cost of most of the decorations we saw, we managed to find some basic gold and ivory baubles in the local drugstore and some surprisingly cheap rolls of  wired cranberry and gold ribbons, so that became our colour scheme.  (It was surprisingly liberating to have one’s colour scheme dictated by circumstance and surprisingly appropriate since that is mirrormirror’s Christmas wrapping scheme this year.) 

A huge box of red and white candy canes and some big wired ribbon bows later, and the tree was looking rather gorgeous-if-I-say-so-myself, though a little ‘corporate’ and lacking in the personality that only comes from lots of different individually collected baubles, each with a story to tell.

So I decided to become an all-American girl and add life to the tree with homemade cookies.

I never really realised what a big deal cookies were in American life.  The supermarkets are full of trays of special occasion cookies and the wonderful bake shops here carry hundreds of different cookie cutters in every imaginable shape.

I looked up recipes for ‘sugar cookies’ and found there were hundreds online.  I sourced cookie cutters and sugar sprinkles and writing icing in tubes.  And then I remembered I didn’t have a rolling pin, so went out to buy one of those. Until finally I was ready for the great cookie bake up.

I chose this recipe, and they tasted delicious to me, though obviously I’m not a cookie aficionado.  I then opened up my tubes of writing icing and found that I was supposed to have bought special nozzles to attach to them. 

Which is why I ended up icing them using a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off and which is why they look like they’ve been iced by a drunk monkey wearing ski gloves.

The ones in the picture are the only ones that were just about pretty enough to use on the tree.  I have omitted to photograph the rejects, which look like they were iced by the Minx.

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From tiny acorns

One of the most astonishing things about Seattle is the quite mind-boggling number of Starbuckses to be found everywhere you go.  They’re on practically every corner, and it appears to be the law for every large mall or public space to have at least one outlet.

Even the gingerbread village had to have one.

According to the Starbucks site, our Starbucks density is 96 outlets within a 5 mile radius of our apartment (and we’re not even in the centre of downtown) and that doesn’t take into account all the other competing chains of coffee shops.  Even though this density can be beaten in central London and in Manhattan, Seattle – with one for every 13,340 people - at least has the highest number of Starbuckses per head of population.

Now I’m half-Italian and enjoy a well-made espresso or cappuccino, but all this ‘double skinny mocha mint upside down long tall sally frappuccino special with extra sprinkles’ nonsense really doesn’t do it for me.  However, it can’t be denied that most people here seem to have a monstrous coffee habit and it’s the drug of choice for most of the mothers I meet.

Nevertheless, as the owner of a small business, I did feel rather inspired when we walked past the first ever Starbucks location the other day (in Pike Place Market). It opened in April 1971 and they’ve kept the same unprepossessing storefront ever since.  Here’s my photo but I’ve just realised I didn’t manage to get a shot of the logo, so check out some more photos here.

It would perhaps be wise to take a photo of the current ‘mirrormirror‘ homepage, so you can blog about it when we become a multi-billion $ global empire.

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Gingerbread

Frankly I think gingerbread tastes like soap, but that didn’t stop me admiring the incredible gingerbread creations on display at the City Centre mall – apparently another Seattle holiday tradition.

The theme was ‘Scenes of the Northwest’ which meant we got a gingerbread Smith Tower

 

 

and Seattle townscape complete with holiday carousel, space needle, Starbucks, monorail and Mount Rainier.

The attention to detail was astonishing.  Here are the vendors throwing fish in Pike Place Market

and yes that clock does work.

Santa’s sleigh above was moving round the Christmas tree.

 

Speaking of advent calendars, I am indebted to the Instant Hausfrau, who is putting together an ‘advent calendar’ of Seattle-based holiday activities.  I am also indebted to her for posting a link today to a Flickr group of ‘crying santa photos’.

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Urban Craft Uprising

I took myself off on Sunday afternoon for my first foray into the Seattle craft scene. 

The Urban Craft Uprising (what a great name) was pleasantly chaotic – with quite a lot of stuff ranging from the quaintly homespun to the quite frankly bizarre (handbags made out of old vinyl records anyone?) with a couple of real gems, and an awful lot of felt, along the way. Or, as the people at Indie Craft Documentary would say’ the new wave of craft is a marriage of your granny’s handiwork, punk and the DIY spirit.’

I treated myself to the Christmas decoration above (two sides of the same, made from vintage wallpapers and edged with German glass glitter).  I also bought some vintage wallpaper notecards from the same lady.  She apparently bought 650 rolls of 30s and 40s wallpaper from a farmhouse in Wisconsin a few years back and used it to found her business.  The wallpapers are really beautiful with a gorgeous heavy texture that is nothing like today’s wipe-clean vinyls.  I bet Claire Coles would love to come across such a stash!

Other things I loved were the gorgeous soaps from Estrella (I bought the Almond and Lemon Poppyseed which smell divine), some funky changing mats and burp cloths from Ida J Designs and some truly gorgeous hand-felted bags by Jamie Irene.  You’ll find images of her bags here. I’m somewhat regretting not splurging on a stunning chocolate brown and turquoise messenger bag.

I stupidly didn’t take a camera with me, but you can find some more photos on Not Martha‘s Flickr page.

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