Giveaway! – Gorgeous Shabby Apple Dress

 

It’s February and the only bright spot on the horizon is the shedload of diamonds you are undoubtedly going to receive for Valentine’s Day.  Too bad you haven’t got a thing to wear with them.

 

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But fear not, the solution is here at hand, in the shape of this beautiful ‘Nothing Like a Dame’ dress worth $78 in a gorgeous Valentines’ red, which the lovely people at Shabby Apple, purveyors of gorgeous women’s dresses, have generously offered as a giveaway to mirrormirror blog readers.

There are three different ways to enter the competition and everyone can enter up to three times. Just make sure you tell me how you’ve entered in a comment below. The competition closes at midnight Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday 8th February and I’ll use a random number generator to draw the winning entry as soon as I wake up on Thursday 8th.

 

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If you win you’ll be able to choose your size and the dress will be shipped directly to you from Shabby Apple if you live in the US. If you live elsewhere, I’ll have it delivered here and then ship it out anywhere in the world for FREE, so everyone in the UK and beyond can enter too. .

Here are the three different ways to enter. Remember you can enter all three ways as long as you leave a comment telling me how you’ve entered below. You also need to have ‘liked’ Shabby Apple on Facebook as a condition of entry.

1) Leave a comment below telling us whether you’ll be celebrating Valentines’ Day or if it leaves shivers of horror running up your spine.

2) ’Like’ mirrormirror on Facebook (leave a comment below saying you’ve done this)

3)  Tweet the following: I’ve just entered to win a beautiful Shabby Apple summer dress. You can too!  http://is.gd/aFFYsY (And leave a comment below saying you’ve Tweeted).

Good luck!

Update: If you’ve already ‘liked’ mirrormirror or Shabby Apple on Facebook just let me know in the comments and that can count as an entry too. Oh and remember that each entry is a separate comment.

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Christmas Pudding

 

When we got back from Whistler we tucked into the Christmas puddings which had been gently maturing since November.

It was my first time making Christmas puddings, so I was somewhat nervous as to what they would taste like, but I shouldn’t have worried. They were delectable – moist and boozy with dark marmalade-y depths -  and, like mincemeat, I will never go back to buying them again. Thank you America for your ridiculous ban on importing beef suet products, which has made me stretch my cooking horizons.

We shared the first one at a small family dinner. Here she is in all her moist and sticky splendour.  I had to send the Husband out in the rain to get the traditional sprig of holly, so couldn’t be too particular when he came back with a sprig without berries.

 

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And here it is anointed with warmed and flaming brandy in the traditional way. 

 

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The Minx was mesmerised.

 

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We shared pudding number two at a drinks party for friends on the second day of the new year.  It was fun to see the kids and Americans all equally excited by the idea of setting dessert on fire.  The actual taste of Christmas pudding is more of an acquired one though it seems.

   
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A Very Happy New Year

 

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Christmas, packing for Whistler, being in Whistler, returning from Whistler and unpacking from Whistler put paid to all my good blogging intentions over the last week or so. Ho hum. I hope you all had a marvellous and stress-free holiday season.

And yes, I know I should be leaving you with an eloquent elegy to 2011 and divulging all sorts of self-improving resolutions for 2012 but I’ll be doing that tomorrow, as I have to make blinis for a party tonight.

Instead may I encourage you all to wear your red underwear for luck in the Italian tradition and eat plenty of lentils.

And if you have time watch this video.  I wish you all this and more in the New Year. Thanks for all your comments, emails, advice and encouragement over the least year. It means a lot.  Mwah!

 

 

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or buil…d or sing or live as only you can. May your coming year be a wonderful thing in which you dream both dangerously and outrageously.
I hope you will make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and you will be liked and you will have people to love and to like in return. And most importantly, because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now – I hope that you will, when you need to, be wise and that you will always be kind. And I hope that somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself."

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Christmas Cupcake Decorating at Trophy Cupcake

 

Last week I went along to a cupcake decorating class at our local cupcake emporium Trophy Cupcakes and got some fabulous idea and tips for Christmas cupcake decorations.

 

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Owner Jennifer Shea herself was on hand to demonstrate the techniques and also talk about her experiences and astonishing success with Trophy, together with Nicole, her head cupcake decorator, who is responsible for planning all the new designs.

 

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The great thing about this class was that cupcakes, piping bags filled with coloured buttercreams, sprinkles, decorations and all the right tools were all lined up and ready to go – in my kitchen even finding the icing bags and correct tips and nozzles is a challenge.

First up Jennifer and Nicole demonstrated how to make sparkly bauble cupcakes. These were super easy, but still very effective.  You just scoop a blob of coloured buttercream onto the cupcake and then dip and press the cupcake in a bowl of sparkling sanding sugar, moulding the buttercream into a dome as you go.  Then decorate as you want with white buttercream and a writing tip. Finally pipe a small swirl of yellow at the top (which you can’t see on this cake) to represent the hanger.  I do love the effect of these and I can see me using this technique a lot in future.

 

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For the snowman, we started with a large round #809 tip and made a triple swirl of white buttercream. Then edge the bottom of the snowman in coarse sanding sugar.  Add a scarf using green buttercream and flat tip #44 (getting this to follow the line of his ‘neck’ is fiendishly difficult) and then pipe on black buttons, eyes and mouth. Use red buttercream and tip #8 and swirl to make a hat and finally use tip #4 and some orange buttercream to pipe a carrot nose.  You will note that this cake required five different bags of buttercream and five different icing nozzles, so is not likely to be made in my kitchen any time soon, much as the Minx adored him.

 

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The wreath decoration though is much more accessible. Spread a little white vanilla buttercream on the cake.  Make leaves round the edges with a #366 leaf tip.  Sprinkle with sanding sugar and little red non-pareils for holly berries and then pipe a red bow with a #4 tip.

Finally we made poinsettia cupcakes.  These are surprisingly do-able if you can get the hang of the #366 leaf tip (the same as for the wreaths)

Here is Nicole demonstrating the in and out technique you need.

 

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Once you’ve got that down, all you need to add are some extra green leave and a sprinkling of yellow non-pareils (sorry, I didn’t manage to get a good close up of the poinsettia).

After the demonstrations we all go to decorate our own cakes.  Definitely not as easy as Jennifer and Nicole made it appear, but do-able I would think with a bit of practice.

 

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Here are the ones I made, first attempts at all four. The snowman has clearly been at the mulled wine, but my wreath had definite possibilities.

 

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Trophy will be doing more cupcake decorating classes in future and I highly recommend them if you live in Seattle. It was lots of fun playing with all the icing bags and sprinkles and I picked up some good tips and ideas.

 

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I also snapped a pic of some simpler Christmassy cupcakes they had in their shop which I might even attempt over the next few weeks.

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Smashing Pumpkins

 

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Our baby pumpkins ripening in the sunshine (about two weeks ago)

It’s been absolutely pissing it down in Seattle today, so it was a pleasure to flick through my summer photos and find some that I had been meaning to share back then, but never got round to.

 

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This summer we finally had some fabulous raised beds built next to the sidewalk/pavement in front of our house so we could grow our own vegetables.

 

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In the US homeowners are responsible for the street area in front of their homes (in the UK this is the responsibility of the local council) which has led to a great trend of street-level vegetable gardens, especially in my neighbourhood where the front gardens are often steeply sloping.

Our garden met with mixed success, mostly because it wasn’t built until the end of June, so we sowed our seeds really late, though we did manage great crops of French and borlotti beans, quite a lot of salad and herbs and a few sprigs of broccoli.

The Minx enjoyed helping out and the cats thought we’d built an extra specially huge giganto litter box, so the they were a great hit with the whole family.

 

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Harriet models her ‘cat bib’ (www.catgoods.com) which is meant to stop her catching birds. And it works!

 

The Minx was desperate to grow pumpkins, so we dedicated half of one bed to her ‘pumpkin patch’. Again the late planting and cold summer was not a recipe for success but we ended up with two small pumpkins (another one was stolen out of the garden on Halloween, would you believe?) which we have been desperately trying to ripen in time to make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

 

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Tiny French beans basking in the sunshine
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Harvesting French beans, bolted salad leaves and broccoli

So the pumpkins have finally ripened and I’ve signed up to make pumpkin pie with them for Thanksgiving, which is a bit scary as I’ve never made pumpkin pie before (or even eaten them much). Hit me with your best recipes, secrets and tips for a great pumpkin pie. PLEASE.

     
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She’s Off to See the Wizard!

 

I FINALLY managed to persuade the Minx not to dress as a Disney Princess.  Oh happy day!

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I always get very curmudgeonly about Halloween as I hate getting dressed up myself (and believe me Halloween provides lots of opportunities to humiliate the parents of six year olds).  But the people of our neighbourhood put on the most fabulous display of Halloween decorations yet again and there was something very fun about skipping through the autumn leaves in the dark singing ‘We’re Off To See the Wizard’.

Hope you all had fun.

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Things I Am Loving – Mary Katrantzou Spring 2012

 

I’ve featured her before but I can’t help loving Greek designer Mary Katrantzou’s gloriously colourful prints, shown at London Fashion Week, which this season are inspired by flowers and crushed car parts (natch).  I just want to take all the models home and hang them on my wall.  I obviously also need to rush out and buy some turquoise lipstick.

 

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Barbie Got Married

 

Ken has finally made an honest woman out of Barbie! (When did he start looking like someone out of a boy band by the way?)

 

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Fortunately wedding photographer Beatrice de Guigne was commissioned to record the occasion. Check the album out to see Barbie getting ready – close ups of her dress and shoes, the bridal party, the flowers and and the table decorations.  All the details of how Beatrice coped with such a famous and temperamental bride are here.

 

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I love how this set features (as is only appropriate for Barbie) every wedding album cliché in the book. How many of these poses do you have in your own album? (Beatrice dG really is a great photographer though. I loved this Parisian wedding album on her blog). 

 

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Adventures in Knitting – Mystery Shawl Knit Along

 

Those of you who know me in person know how much  I DON’T like surprises. I’m the sort of person who sends the Husband long lists of links for potential Christmas presents, who plans trips with meticulous precision and who always reads the spoilers.

So I surprised myself last week by joining in with a mystery knitalong on Ravelry. This is where a designer releases a ‘clue’ (a few lines of a pattern) every few days or so and a bunch of people knit along and chat about the process online.

So here’s my latest knitting project after the completion of the first clue.  All I know is that it’s going to be a crescent shawl, can be knit on laceweight or fingering weight yarn and has optional beads. I thought it might be fun to post up my progress so we could all see what it turns into.

 

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The shawl is by the same designer who designed my Annis and my Abrazo so the chances are that I’ll like the finished product.  I have also satisfied my inner control freak by choosing a comparatively cheap wool/silk yarn for the project (I’ll only need about a third of the skein). No 100% silk for this one.

As for the beads, I’d love to incorporate three colours, however, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to work out of the symmetry and pattern of the bead placement with the next clue, so I might stick to turquoise.

 

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The next clue comes out on the 19th and then I have 10 days to knit it up.

   
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Sia Does Crochet

 

I’ve always found it difficult to describe Aussie singer Sia Furler’s music – it’s somewhere between dance-pop and soulful jazz, with an almost folksie vibe thrown in.

Suffice it to say though that she has an amazingly powerful, rich yet tender voice with an appealing break and I adore her music.

A week or two back the Husband and I escaped for the evening to go and see her on tour in Seattle. The music was amazing; the band was cute; the support act (Danish singer Oh Land) was fabulous, Sia herself is as nutty as a fruitcake, with an appealing whimsical Aussie bluntness which made me laugh more than most stand-up comedians, and as the total icing on the cake, she had decorated her set with crochet. granny. blankets. Be still my beating heart. Really, who needs fancy lighting and special effects when you can have CROCHET?

Here are some photos of the awesome. Please excuse crappy phone photos

 

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The backdrop comprised two huge granny square blankets on painted stripes, with ‘Sia’ picked out in balls of yarn.

 

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Everything – amps, stools, mike stands etc. was wrapped in crochet.

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Here’s Sia in concert at the London Roundhouse from the same tour. You can just about see the set in action.


   
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