REALLY Cool Printed Fabric – ManoAllaMano


Or Benetton ads in quilting cotton.

Goodness but you guys are clever sometimes.

A regular commenter round these parts is Designer Mama – ManoAllaMano who lives in Seattle and has a young daughter adopted from Haiti. She is also a very talented photographer and graphic designer.


She couldn’t find any fabric that reflected her particular situation, and so, as you do, decided to design some of her own. It was such a big hit with her daughter, that she has come up with other permutations reflecting other variations of ‘non-typical’ American families – two mommies, two daddies, adoptive families, single parents, multi-racial etc.– and has just launched an Etsy shop, selling both quilting and upholstery weight fabrics.

This fabric seriously makes me want to learn to sew. I’d love to make the Minx something with this. It would also look fabulous framed (which may be the route I decide to go). Isn’t it just too cool?




H 3 small for etsy

I small for web


Brasato al barolo

or, as it’s known chez us, ‘Italian pot roast’.

The beauty of this dish is that it really is p*ss easy to make and yet so very splendid that you could honestly serve it next time the Queen drops in for supper.

The recipe is a classic from my mother’s home region of Piemonte, though the actual recipe I use is from the fabulous The Food of Italy by the incomparable Claudia Roden, which I’ve had in my collection for years and is to my mind one of the very best books out there on Italian cooking.


Roughly chop an onion and three-ish carrots and crush a couple of cloves of garlic.  My mother (and Claudia Roden concurs) would also chop and add a couple of stalks of celery.  However, since I consider cooked celery to be the work of the devil it is resolutely lacking in my version. 

Saute’ the chopped vegetables in a tablespoon or three of olive oil until soft.  Then add a sprig of rosemary and a big lump of beef suitable for potroasting.  My beef lump was labelled ‘chuck’ and ‘ideal for pot roasts’ in my US supermarket.  I’m not sure what the UK equivalent would be.  The most important thing is that it comes marbled with fat, as in the magnificent specimen above.

Brown the meat on all sides and then throw the meat, vegetables and rosemary in the slow cooker.  If you don’t have one of these, this can also be made in your finest Dutch oven/casserole dish.


Then add a PINT of red wine. Barolo – the magnificent red wine of Piemonte – is recommended, but it is also fiendishly expensive, so probably best reserved for when you actually do have the Queen coming over. I referred myself to Google for the best substitution and was pointed in the direction of either a cabernet sauvignon or zinfandel.  I used a nice-ish Californian zinfandel for my version – the wine is quite prominent in this dish, so you may want to take a step up from really cheap supermarket plonk.  I also add a tablespoon of tomato puree/paste at this point, because my mother would, but Claudia doesn’t and you don’t have to.

And that’s pretty much it.  Cook for 6-8 hours on LOW in the slow cooker, or 2-3 hours in a casserole dish, or until the meat is meltingly tender.

When it’s done hoik out the meat and rosemary and whizz the juices and vegetables together with your hand blender to create a smooth unctuous deeply flavoured sauce. Season with salt, pepper and a little freshly ground nutmeg to taste.


I like to serve this with some mashed potato to which a little truffle oil has been added and some carrots, which have been sliced thinly and gently sauted in olive oil and garlic for about 20 mins until soft and browning at the edges.  This is the way Italians cook carrots and is by far my favourite way of preparing them.

Buon appetito!


Fancy Hotel of the Week – the Wickanninish Inn


aka (by the uber-geeky Husband anyway), the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.


This is where we were lucky enough to stay last week in Tofino. The Wick is a 4* Relais et Chateaux hotel perched on the most glorious and enormous beach way out on the westernmost tip of Vancouver Island. There is something utterly beguiling and sobering about looking out to sea and knowing that the next stop is Japan or something.


The view from our balcony

We went in February with the intention of hunkering down and ‘storm-watching’, instead, we had the most incredible sunny weather and were truly able to enjoy the beach and the stunning natural surroundings.

Which you can do without ever leaving the bar thanks to the amazing nearly 360 degree views from the restaurant.


The other thing which sets this place apart is the food, which was insanely good, some of the best I’ve eaten in North America.

Everything we had, from different freshly squeezed juices every morning, to the homemade breads, to the wonderful seafood, to spaghetti and meatballs for the Minx was utterly delicious and clearly made with only the freshest and best ingredients.  And it was so nice to come back from a grubby afternoon at the beach and drink paradisical cocktails/hot chocolate. 


Breakfast! Just the best smoked salmon bagel I’ve ever had in my life

As for the decor, it’s all pretty standard North American ‘lodge’ stuff  – all hewn timber and earth-toned textiles (which frankly were looking a little tired round the edges, why not replace them and add some colour next time?) – which, as you know, is not exactly my cup of tea.

However, this was really well done for the genre, with lots of local art and thoughtful touches everywhere – art glass, Native American wood carving,  driftwood furniture, a soaring copper fireplace, stone statues of local wildlife and a gorgeous copper screen of swimming salmon.

Sleeping Beauty

As an aside, and for those of you who care about such things,  the hotel was also super child-friendly, but in a very grown up way.  The staff could not have been friendlier and kinder to the Minx, who fell in love with the hotel the minute she found the basket of beach toys they had thoughtfully supplied in the room. Best of all they provide complimentary babysitting, so parents can go and have dinner in the restaurant. Other hotels please take note.

But at the end of the day it was mostly all about this


and this


and this


and this



A Walk Up My Street

This comes with huge apologies for all those of you struggling with yet more snow in the UK and on the East Coast.


This is what has been happening in that crazy parallel universe we call Seattle, where we’ve been having an unseasonably mild and rainfree winter. This is all happening within a block of my house – you can smell the heady perfume in the streets. Have you ever seen so much insane loveliness in February?  More on Flickr.


The Office Project

I’m horrified to admit that this is the current state of mirrormirror’s intergalactic headquarters.


I’m the first to admit that I’m not the world’s tidiest person, but even I can see that this is ridiculous and severely hampering my productivity.



I’m giving myself three weeks to sort this out and turn it into a haven of tranquillity and humming productivity and doing little blog updates along the way.  Does anyone care to join me?  Just think how much happier you’ll feel. Link to a ‘before’ post on your blog below, and let the tidying and filing begin!

If you need inspiration take a look at Nicole Making It Lovely’s office.  I’m just going to read that and weep. 

If this gets a lot of interest, I’ll see if I can sort out a prize for the tidiest and most beautiful office.


Tweet, Tweet


Being at the forefront of technological innovation as I am, I’ve just arrived in the world of Twitter. Still trying to figure it all out but my handle is mirrormirrorxx (yes, very naff, but the best I could do).  Who are good/witty/amusing people to follow? Do you guys find Twitter useful? Or is it just another huge time suck? (Like I don’t have enough of those in my life). Will I be seeing you there?

Tweety stacking salt and pepper pots above by Hannah Tofalos are from mirrormirror.


A New Me – the Bald Hobbit



Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been a bit worried that I might have to give up on my running before I’d really even got in the groove.  Each time I’ve gone out my knee (with its torn anterior cruciate ligament) has been getting more and more sore and has been needing tons of ice after a run.  Even more worryingly even walking was becoming increasingly painful – which it never normally is.

I started fishing round the Internet and found more and more information on ‘barefooting’, which says that humans have evolved to run barefoot and that many sports injuries are actually caused by the heavy cushioned sports shoes we wear. More on the science here

I read that running barefoot was particularly good for plantar fasciitis, which you might recall I’ve also been suffering from, and for knee injuries. So as a bit of a last resort I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers KSOs (Keep Stuff Out), which have been designed to mimic the effects of running barefoot while providing a layer of protection against hazardous terrain.

They were waiting for me when we got back and yesterday I went for my first run in them. And what a revelation they were.  For the first time in years, my run was pretty much pain free and really quite delightful. It’s great to feel more connected with the terrain. Who knew how soft and pleasant grass and mud can be to run in? And I’m sure their lightness made me run a little faster.

They are of course just a teensy bit embarrassing (though the Minx finds them hilarious). Next time you see someone lumbering past like a geriatric buffalo with hobbit feet do stop to say hello.


Sunny Days are Here Again


Oh, but we had the most fabulous time in Vancouver Island.

The clouds parted as we arrived in Victoria and after that it was sunshine all the way.  We are so lucky to live in this part of the world.




Yes, this is the Minx.  In her swimmers. In the ocean.  In Canada. In February.


IMG_3846   IMG_4204






 IMG_4276     IMG_4184



LOTS more where these came from on my Flickr and on Facebook. It truly was a photographers’ paradise.


Go Vancouver!


Watching the Opening Ceremony for the Vancouver Games, I was reminded again what an incredibly stunning corner of the world I’ve accidentally ended up in.  Many of the themes of the ceremony – the Native American imagery, the salmon and whales, the juxtaposition of mountains and sea, would equally apply to Seattle, which is, after all, only 150 miles to the south.


We’ve been to Vancouver a few times since arriving here and love it to bits. Lots of pictures of Vancouver and Whistler here, here, here and here