Mena Trott has started up a new weblog all about beauty products for civilians, and has been posting there with great frequency – I’m really enjoying reading the site.
For Christmas I received a couple of very nice books, and I’ll review each of them here. First up is “Cupcakes!” by Elinor Klivans, and published by Chronicle Books. Every one of their books carries such attention to detail – some of the type in this book is set in the shape of a cupcake, and the inner cover of the book is pretty blue polka dots.
The recipes in the book sound wonderful, and though there aren’t pictures of every recipe, I think there are enough to get the general idea of what you can create. I was reading it in bed the other night and hoped it would make me dream of cupcakes – no luck there though! The recipe for Boston Creme Pie cupcakes was a pleasant suprise – I made my own version of these over the summer when I had a little too much time on my hands one day, but I’m sure I could improve them with the help of an actual recipe.
This afternoon I spent a long time baking one of the basic recipes from the book (chocolate sour cream cupcakes) and feel very disappointed. I don’t think the book is at fault, but I think for an English girl (hello!) the American way of baking things is a little different – and techniques that are used to save time actually take longer than your own way of doing things until you get used to them. Plus it can make so much washing up! And after I checked on the cupcakes near the end of the baking time to see if they were cooked through (I have a fan oven and so actual cooking times are often less than expected), they all sank! The finished cakes look a real mess (which was upsetting because I’d used some new and fancy cupcake liners) but I have eaten some of the bits that spilled over from the cases and can report that they are very delicious – so perhaps all I need is practise and a few adjustments… And I can fill all the gaps with frosting, so it will be OK.
There’s only really one recipe in the book that is unappealing, and again, I think that can be put down to my Britishness: cream cheese frosting? Really? I know this is fairly common in the US but I can’t see it catching on here.
So, even though I’ve not been successful so far, I still love the book and will make something else from it soon. And next time I make this particular recipe again, I will beat the ingredients by hand the way I usually do, I’ll put less batter in each cupcake, and I’ll have the oven on lower.
Megan has started off what’s becoming a lengthy conversation about lip balm over at Not Martha – seems to be a very popular subject! There are lots of recommendations in the comments, and I was pleased to find out about the Sassy Priscilla website, which sells a range of pretty cosmetic items, including my favourite lip balm from Perfumeria Gal. There is a chance I may be going to Spain in February, so I’m hoping to see more of the products they make and bring a few back with me.
Discounted Cath Kidston fabrics December 29, 2006
It’s true: there is a sale at the Cath Kidston website. Not all of the discounts are particularly generous, but you can snap up some fabrics for half the normal price, which is certainly a good thing. See the discounted fabrics here, and if you’re after a really good bargain, it seems the best one is the offer on Cath Kidston tents – if I wasn’t so scared of encountering creepy crawlies in the great outdoors I’d buy one myself.
Print and Pattern December 27, 2006
Here’s a wonderful website if you want to see inspiring pictures of pretty things – stationery, fabric and gifts: Print and Pattern. Brought to my attention by my friend Eloise – one of her designs is featured on there, and described as “gorgeous.”
Smitten December 13, 2006
I love the Moomin cookie cutters Loobylu was sent. I haven’t yet found out how to buy a set of my own, but it’s on my list…
Update: you can buy all sorts of Moomin things, including cookie cutters and a Moomintroll cake tin and Moomin ice lolly moulds, here.
Knitwit December 11, 2006
Reading the paper at the weekend, I saw pictures of Donna Wilson’s knitted cake-shaped tea cosies, and also knitted doughnuts. They were in an article that showed possible Christmas presents to buy for people – at £59 for a tea cosy, you’d have to be pretty certain that the recipient would share your taste… Her products are certainly fun though – and it’s interesting to read on her about page that she worked with Toord Boontje.
Most appealing to me is the huge collection of knitted creatures she has made.
Chillies December 6, 2006
At our local farmers’ market this weekend there was an excellent stall selling products made from chillies. It was nicely decorated, with hanging bunches of dried chillies, and little chilli fairy lights. I bought some of their chilli jelly and am looking forward to trying it out. The stall was run by Gringley Gringo, and they have an online store if you’re in the market for some spicy food.
Keep a penguin warm this Christmas December 5, 2006
I read something recently about knitting patterns for creating jumpers to be put on penguins, protecting them from oil spills (because it stops them from ingesting oil whilst trying to clean themselves). The article I read contained a link to a website where you could buy a knitting pattern for this project, for £15 – a huge price to pay for what, if these people really cared about nature, should be freely distributed (it was a business selling the patterns, and not a charitable organisation). Anyway, I’ve now found a free pattern online – this one is for Little Blue Penguins – the small ones that live around southern Australia. It relates to a project that has now been completed, but I thought it’s worth hanging on to for future reference.
Advent December 4, 2006
I love advent: the idea of a small chocolate being legitimately eaten before breakfast every day suits me down to the ground. But online advent calendars have their charm too. At the top of the tree is of course Leslie Harpold’s advent calendar, but I’m also sneaking a peek behind the doors of Hampshire Police’s online calendar, where each new day brings us a picture of someone from their most wanted list of criminals.