So This Is Christmas


I was planning a more thoughtful blog post this morning, but then this morning THIS happened, so the kid and I are at home and planning to go sledding and bake gingerbread cookies.

So This Is Christmas photography by

I think this will be my last blog post of the year, as we are again off to Whistler on Sunday. If you’re at all interested in our exploits I will of course be Instagramming the shit out of them. Come and be my friend here

Have the most wonderful end of the year wherever you are, thank you for all your emails and comments and interest in 2013 and I look forward to seeing you on January 2nd.

I’m so excited by my new blog and really can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

It was a bit of a ‘soft launch’ of the new blog this month, so I could iron out a few wrinkles. Back with a VENGEANCE in January though. You won’t know what hit you. 


Pistachio Shortbread Cookies


Baking cookies for Christmas isn’t really a thing in the UK  (we make mince pies instead) , so it took me some time to get a handle on just how gigantic a thing Christmas cookies are here in the States. Everyone here seems to spend the entire Christmas season buying cookies, baking cookies, decorating cookies, giving cookies and consuming vast quantities of cookies.

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies photography by

And so I’ve finally got myself in on the action, albeit in a rather restrained way. These pistachio shortbread cookies from the second Macrina Bakery cookbook have a nutty sophistication and are not achingly sweet, just satisfyingly crunchy and very moreish. They’re probably more suited to an adult palate than a kid’s one, though the Minx doesn’t seem to have any problem hoovering up any she finds in her path.

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies photography by




Look guys! I’ve finally got myself a proper recipe card plug-in thingy! Oh WordPress I love you SO.

Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
Yields 20
A buttery, crunchy, nutty, moreish shortbread
Write a review
  1. 1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
  2. 1/4 cup baker's (caster) sugar
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  5. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz) butter, chilled and chopped into small cubes.
  7. 1/4 cup sugar for topping
  1. Pulse the flour, sugar, salt, pistachios and vanilla in a food process for 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture turns into a paste. Be careful not to overwork the dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a log about 2 inches in diameter and 10 inches long. Chilling the dough and a little flour will make it easier to work with.
  4. Tightly roll the log in Saran wrap (Clingfilm) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.The dough also freezes beautifully.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325F or 160C
  6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
  7. Cut the chilled dough into 1/2 inch thick discs and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
  8. Lightly brush each cookied with water and sprinkle with sugar.
  9. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the cookies are golden brown.
  10. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  1. This recipe was not actually adapted at all, it's the straight recipe from the book (I just don't know how to change the recipe card!)
Adapted from More from Macrina
Adapted from More from Macrina
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Whimsy & Tea Towels


Whimy & Tea Towels photography by

As you know one of the most inspiring and life-changing things I did this year was to attend a fabulous food photography workshop in Gulf Shores, Alabama with Helene Dujardin and Clare Barboza. It was probably the highlight of my year and certainly a turning point for me, and I wanted to celebrate/commemorate it if I could.

During that workshop I happened to share a room with weaver Marilyn Webster of Whimsy & Tea, and we went on several long walks along that perfect beach, chatting about fibre arts, colours, photography, creativity, her childhood in India, US politics, life, the universe and everything in between. So she seemed to be the perfect person to commission to weave a couple of commemorative tea towels, inspired by that exquisite beach beside an emerald ocean and fringed with macaron-coloured houses.

Whimsy & Tea Towels photography by

Whimsy & Tea Towels photography by

Marilyn is a joy to work with, is full of ideas and sends lots of pictures along the way. It was huge fun to collaborate with her on colour choices and design and to see the beach come to life in tea towel form.

Whimsy & Tea Towels photography by

Although they are expensive, the towels are handmade, of FABULOUS quality and will last a lifetime. Marilyn wants her towels to bring beauty to people’s every day lives, and not just tucked away in a drawer for a special occasion. There’s an important message in there somewhere.

And, as you can see, they go fabulously with a certain pistachio-coloured fridge and my crazy colourful kitchen shelves. They also provided the perfect backdrop for some pistachio shortbread cookies I just happened to have lying around. (Recipe on blog later this week)

Whimsy & Tea Towels photography by

If you’re looking for a special Christmas present for someone who would appreciate some real beauty in their kitchen, then look no further than the Whimsy & Tea online shop or else if you’re looking to commemorate a special vacation, trip or other occasion then Marilyn is happy to work on commissions, she just needs photos.

See more of the beach that inspired the towels here. And Marilyn has written a blog post where she explains all the work that goes into her towels here.

Ha! I’ve also noticed that they go superbly well with my new blog too…


Weekend Link Love

Here are some interesting tidbits from my wanderings around the Internet this week to keep you busy over the weekend.

We’re in full Christmas frenzy mode here. Tree is up, gingerbread dough is relaxing in the fridge and the Minx and the Husband have ballet and choir performances all weekend. So I think there’s going to be quite a lot of relaxing in front of the TV (not in the fridge) with wine and Christmas movies for me. Anyone else got any more riveting plans this weekend?



{This year’s traditional Christmas bokeh picture is revealing that we have a big ‘hole’ in the lights two-thirds of the way up the tree}

I was lucky enough to have a seat at the taping of photographer Chase Jarvis’s interview with social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk (Chase’s studio happens to be about 5 minutes from my house). I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone (especially a creative person) who wants to use social media more effectively. I’m reading his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook at the moment and it’s giving me much food for thought as I start reinvigorating and changing my online profile.

If you haven’t yet seen it,  this animation of an Ira Glass quote on storytelling, and perseverance and creativity and well everything, has REALLY resonated with me.

Rene’ Redzepi of Danish restaurant Noma – voted the best restaurant it the world in 2013  – visited Seattle and an amazing dinner, cooked by local star chefs Matt Dillon and Blaine Wetzel, and organised by the amazing Lara Hamilton of cookbook store, Book Larder, was held in his honour, OUTSIDE. IN NOVEMBER. WHEN IT WAS WAZZING DOWN WITH RAIN.

I was lucky enough to be there, and although everything was a little moist, the setting was magical and the rain careering in torrents down the see-through canopy certainly made for a memorable evening. Stupidly I forgot to bring the card for my camera, so couldn’t take photos. Fortunately for us all Shauna Ahern, aka Gluten Free Girl, was on hand to tell the tale. Redzepi’s cookbook A Work in Progress is stunningly beautiful and full of inspiration and ideas,

Wonderful photos of Philip Johnson’s Glass House, where the New York Times recently spent the night.

As someone who is trying to reinvent themselves as a photographer, this piece about reinventing yourself by author, entrepreneur and hedge fund manager James Altucher was also an inspiring read. His book ‘Choose Yourself’ is on order. I will report back. (I’m on a bit of a self-help book kick at the moment, all part of the massive mid-life crisis I’m going through. Cheaper than a sports car though.)

I am contemplating rewatching Love Actually . I saw it when it came out and found it unbearably schmaltzy, so have never seen it since. I understand that now there is an Internet-wide discussion as to whether it’s a good or bad movie. Where do you chaps stand? Should I rewatch?


UPDATE: So I rewatched ‘Love Actually’ and I think what really bugs is how utterly ridiculous all the stories are, with the exception of the Emma Thompson/Alan Rickman one. But the images of London at Christmas are droolworthy. I felt so homesick watching it. But what do you guys think?


A Perfect Pairing from Simple & Crisp


Simple & Crisp photography by


One of the fun things I did during my blog hiatus was attend the International Food Bloggers Conference here in Seattle, where I came across the Seattle brand Simple & Crisp.

Jane Yuan launched Simple & Crisp after she was looking for a healthy, gluten-free alternative to crackers. Her homemade, delicately dried, fruit crisps – they come in Orange, Apple, Pear, and, seasonally, Blood Orange flavours – are the perfect accompaniment to cheese, appetizers, cocktails and desserts.

Jane is also a marketing genius (as befits an ex-PR person) and has come up with the idea of challenging bloggers, photographers and foodies to come up with ‘perfect pairings’ for her crisps. If you want ideas of what to do with the crisps just search on the hashtag #perfectpairings on Twitter or Instagram, or anywhere really and you’ll be inundated with mouthwatering pairing ideas.

Simple & Crisp photography by

The idea I came up with takes one of my favourite salads up a notch.

I paired the crisp, sweet, yet slightly bitter oranges (think your favourite marmalade) with a salty swirl of smooth, creamy goat cheese, and some succulently sweet roasted beets all topped with crunchy pistachio pieces, savoury thyme and a little rich balsamic glaze.

Simple & Crisp photography by

The combination of bitter, sweet, savoury and salty flavours and crisp, crunchy, smooth and juicy textures made my mouth extremely happy. So much so that when the photoshoot ended I sat down in the the studio and ate  EVERY. SINGLE. ONE of the props. It was lunch. I was hungry. What can I say?

Simple & Crisp photography by

Anyway, if you’re looking for ideas for appies for a holiday cocktail party, you could do a lot worse than try these. I’ve seen the crisps in the Seattle area at PCC and WholeFoods or you can buy them online at Simple & Crisp.

Full disclosure:  In return for getting a discounted ticket to IFBC I am obliged to write three blog posts about either my experience or the sponsors. Additionally I was sent some free fruit crisps by Simple & Crisp when I mentioned I would like to blog about them. However, the choice to write about the company was mine alone and I did that because these things are flipping delicious!


A Christmas Crib


Christmas Crib photography by


We’re in full Christmas countdown mode here at chez Thomas and the Minx gets more and more insufferably crazy by the day. (We’re excitedly working through our Jacquie Lawson calendar – this year featuring a Downton-esque Edwardian country house, are you?)

This year I thought it might be fun to put up a Christmas crib. We’re not particularly religious in this household, but I think it’s important for the Minx to understand that there’s something more to Christmas than Santa and sleighbells and I find it sad that, unlike British school kids, she’s never had the opportunity to appear in a school Nativity play.

It also ties back to my (and her) Italian roots. Though they’re becoming increasingly popular in Italy, Christmas trees are only a recent innovation there. Instead each family puts up a wonderfully elaborate ‘presepe’ or Nativity scene, usually set in a little working village, often complete with running water and electric lights.

My aunt is married to a Neapolitan, and the Christmas crib tradition runs particularly strongly in Naples, with a whole street dedicated to shops selling little figurines and statues for cribs of various sizes. I remember visiting as a child and it was magical.

In the little mountain villages close to my Italian family’s hometown of Cuneo, they even set up ‘living cribs’, with actors playing all the parts, not only of the Holy Family and the shepherds etc. but of villagers of bygone times. I visited one many years ago and it was a beautiful, if rather cold, experience, which I one day want to repeat with the Minx.

In the meantime here are a few little crib ideas for you own home.

Christmas Crib photography by

I’ve actually bought this beautiful little Nativity set from Princess Nimble Thimble on Etsy (we also got some additional angels). The quality of these little handmade dolls is superb and as a family we are particularly in love with the tiny Baby Jesus. We just need the Minx to build us a diorama to put them in.

I’d already bought the Princess Nimble Thimble crib when I saw the one at the top of the page from Alessi featuring the world’s most awesome Baby Jesus. It is touching how proud and full of love Mary and Joseph are. This crib also features the world’s cutest star (who knew a star could be cute?) and some very cool sheep. I’m thinking I might add this to MY Christmas list.

Christmas Crib photography by Christmas Crib photography by

Christmas Crib photography by

Finally if you’re in the market for a modern Nativity and are also extremely rich here is the rather splendidly folksy Alexander Girard Nativity, a new nativity set based on an illustration he made which now hangs in his son’s house.

Christmas Crib photography by

What about you chaps? Do any of you put up cribs? Found any other good sets?

Many thanks to Abigail of Abigail*Ryan fame for mentioning the Alessi crib on her Facebook feed. That might end up being quite an expensive visit to Facebook…


A New Dawn


A New Dawn photography by

*Tap microphone* Is anyone out there?

I know it’s been forever and a day, but I’m back!

And hoping against hope that at least some of you will be able to find me.

Welcome one and all to ‘mirrormirror’s new home. Pull up a seat, have a slice of cake and make yourselves comfy.

I’ve spent the last few months working with the amazing Kaytlyn of Beneficial Design and the guys at Foliovision to design a lovely new online home and  transfer the old blog over from Typepad to WordPress  (yay! I now have widgets and stuff, and can do amazing things like, you know, reply to comments. )

I’ve even got a shiny new blog URL. Please add to your blog address books.

It’s all still a bit of a work-in-progress, so if you spot any glitches, hitches, bugs or things which you really don’t like, please let me know.

And also, drumroll, do  you remember this post? Where I confessed that I wanted to be a food photographer? Well, I thought about it and worked on it and have spent the last few months pulling together a photography portfolio to match the blog. I’m so proud of this baby I want to burst. Come and check it out at

I’m going to do another post about my photography very soon where we can talk about it at more length. Suffice it to say for the moment that creating a photography portfolio is hard y’all (<—  my new favourite American word).

But that’s enough housekeeping. I’m just SO happy to be back and promise I’ll be blogging here regularly from now. I’ve missed you lovelies a heck of a lot.


Lightning over Seattle


Lightning over Seattle photography by


Finally getting a little time to catch up with myself and BREATHE.

Our vacation in Menton passed very successfully (yes, you will be inundated with pictures just as soon as I have time to process them) and father-in-law has been and gone.

The summer here in Seattle has been one of record-breaking and mind-blowing loveliness; day after day of clear blue skies, temps in the mid 80s, mountains and lakes sparkling in every direction, balmy warm evenings etc. etc. and we have been living on the beach, in the pool and up on the roofdeck.

The heady weather ended with a bang, literally, on Friday evening, when a massive thunder and lightning storm lit up the skies around Seattle. Because of the lack of humidity thunderstorms are rare round these parts, but this one was a doozy, with the lightning owning the sky like the 4th of July (with apologies to Katy Perry). For much of the time it wasn’t even raining directly above us, so I took the opportunity of getting out on the roofdeck (not as crazy as it sounds as the lightning was a still a long way behind the city at this point).

It’s the first time I’ve ever photographed lightning, but I balanced my camera on the railing, followed the rules for photographing fireworks and took a bajillion pix, pressing the shutter when I thought lighting was due rather than waiting for it to happen.

And yes, I got lucky.


Lightning Over Seattle photography by


If truth be told I find this sort of photography, though it gives spectacular results, to be the most unsatisfying kind of photography. It’s the very definition of ‘taking’ rather than ‘making’ a photo – I didn’t have to quietly observe, find interesting angles or perspectives, stalk the light or make compositional choices. All I had to do was own a good camera, have a nice view, find the right settings and then point and shoot.

Still, there’s a undoubtedly a satisfaction in taking photos like this off your card and I was thrilled to have one of my photos featured on the Seattle Times blog. I suggest you click on them to view them properly.  The blog format doesn’t really do them justice.


Lightning Over Seattle photography by


I’m sort of back blogging I think. After nearly a solid month of travel things are starting to wind down now and we have a couple of gentle weeks until the summer’s grand finale – the Minx is going to her first ever overnight camp! We will be without her for four nights. I think my entire parenting life has been gearing up for the moment.



Things I Am Loving: The Secret Garden


Pssst. Don’t tell the Minx, but I just bought her a colouring book for our plane ride at the weekend.


Secret Garden photography by


Well, to be more accurate I’ve just bought myself a colouring book, as I’m sure she would probably prefer to be plugged into an electronic device of some sort.

But honestly, who in their right mind could resist the intricate and magical pen and ink drawings in Secret Garden by ‘ink evangelist’ Johanna Basford?


Secret Garden photography by


Secret Garden photography by


Twelve hours on a plane doesn’t seem nearly so long now. (Check out this review from the Guardian, which includes some printable pages to download).

Speaking of The Secret Garden, which remains one of my favourite children’s books of all time, check out these beautiful clothbound keepsake editions of children’s classics from Puffin, designed by the amazing Daniela Terrazzini.


Secret Garden photography by


Secret Garden photography by Secret Garden photography by
Secret Garden photography by Secret Garden photography by
Secret Garden photography by Secret Garden photography by

As the mother of an utterly voracious and rather advanced reader I’m the finding the classics to be one of the best ways of giving the Minx age-appropriate reading material. I understand from the Internet that these beautiful books can be hard to track down, but we found ours at the weekend in Seattle’s wonderful Elliott Bay Bookstore. Some are also available on Amazon. (There are some more boy-friendly options too.)

I, er the Minx, can’t wait to read them.


School’s Out for Summer


So henceforth there’s going to be an awful lot more of THIS going on in our lives.


School's Out photography by


School finished last Friday (I still can’t get over how LONG the school vacations are here), so we’ve got a summer full of camps and visits and trips planned.

I’m painfully aware that this is probably the last summer that the Minx will truly be my little girl (can you believe she’s already eight?) so I mean to make the most of it. I think it will be good for me to slow down a bit too. All the stress-related issues I talked about at the beginning of the year are much better, but I’m still not sleeping as well as I should and a summer of fun in the sun, relaxation, stress-free photography, reading, cooking and dreaming is just what the doctor ordered I think.

I’m hoping to get fitter (just started using a Fitbit yay!), learn stand up paddleboarding, read lots of books, do a few workshops, cook up a storm and host lots of parties.

We have trips booked to Menton again (leaving on Saturday!) – we have rented an apartment there for three weeks – and to Canoe Island, and Grandad is coming to stay. The Minx will be going on her very first overnight camp (leaving mummy and daddy to have our first consecutive nights away together since she was born).


School's Out photography by

School's Out photography by


I WILL continue blogging, but only when it really feels like the right thing to do (though I have got tons of things I want to talk to you guys about).  If you want daily updates though, please come and find me on Instagram

Instead this summer will hopefully be all about this


School's Out photography by




School's Out photography by




School's Out photography by


and this


School's Out photography by


I hope yours is too.

I’m hosting ‘Mom Camp’ tomorrow. In the morning I will be teaching five eight year olds how to make pie and then we’re doing on a photography scavenger hunt. Think of me…