Wednesday, September 30, 2009

thinking outside the box

Some of you have been writing recently about collections and box frames, and this got me thinking about some of my own little collections. I have collected Carlton Ware for some time now, especially the older floral series. It has an air of afternoon tea with scones and jam about it, which I love. (Where have those days gone?) These little spoons and knives are almost impossible to find now, they are so very delicate. After a couple of innocent breakages which almost broke my heart, I decided that framing my remaining 'whole' cutlery pieces was the best way to preserve them.
Off I went to the framer with my little knives and spoons carefully wrapped up. Oh yes, they thought that would be a lovely idea. I chose my frame and the magnolia-coloured mat board. Now, which order would I like to arrange my pieces? The framer laid them out. Being the finicky fusspot I am, I wanted to change the lineup order. The framer lifted the little yellow spoon, put it down, and - it broke. Now it's not as if she dropped it from a great height - less than 1 cm, and it still broke. As I said, they are so very very delicate. I'm not sure whose face registered the most shock - hers or mine. We both felt terrible! I wanted to cry, but then so did she.
Thankfully, all's well that ends well - the framer had my spoon professionally mended. I wasn't present when they mounted the pieces, and I bet there were a few nervous moments!
But, the end result, is just lovely!
Look outside the box to determine what goes into the box (frame). Art is whatever you want it to be.
Amanda xx

P.S Thanks for your lovely comments yesterday!
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

in the pink

If I'm honest, I've been feeling a little blue today. So for no other reason than to indulge myself, here are a few 'in the pink' images.

I'll be chirpy again in no time. Hope your week's going well!
Amanda xx

(images copyright Designers Guild, excepting the peonies - thanks TorieJayne)
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

little fashionistas

Mostly, as the mother of two young girls, I  have a fairly realistic attitude to their wardrobes. (My sister is chortling already!) Thankfully, they wear a uniform to school, and they have the fairly typical wardrobe mix of basics from the high street stores with a few special party numbers. But, and here is where my sister splutters, I have to admit that, due to a lightening strike, and the perks of a mother whose store stocks Trelise Cooper kids clothing, they are lucky to have a few more party numbers than some, and if I'm honest, the mere fact that the name 'Trelise' is a regular part of their vocabulary at ages 6 & 10 is a little frightening. (For my overseas readers, Trelise Cooper is one of New Zealand's most successful fashion designers. Her kids range is the icing on the cake to her hugely successful womenswear collections.)
Each year I am invited to Trelise's shows at Air New Zealand Fashion Week, and because it is hard to justify the trip to Auckland for anything other than my own love of fashion, I regretably decline the invitation. Until this year, when I thought, why not? My girls will only be young enough to enjoy these clothes for a few more years, and why not take advantage of a unique opportunity. I rsvp-ed with the polite request to bring my junior Trelise afficionados to the show. A note came back saying Trelise would be delighted, and what were the names of my junior afficionados for the seating plan. I'm not sure who was more excited - me or the girls! However, it wasn't all plain sailing. The girls had to earn 100 points in good behaviour and extra jobs in order to get there. I've never seen two more motivated children! Bribery & corruption - works every time.

Thursday night, and they were at 92 points. Using her father's sales skills, Milly asked if she could 'loan' the extra 8 points needed, and pay them back, with interest. What could I say! Major major dilemmas working out what to wear (especially for me!), but Friday morning and we were winging our way to Auckland. A near fashion disaster was averted when Milly came out of the Air New Zealand loos with her dress tucked in to her leggings. Just spotted in time. And when several Air New Zealand staff complemented us on our outfits we felt quietly confident.

  With excitement levels rising, we joined the throng at ANZFW. The Trelise Cooper kids show is always a hugely popular show, and this year was no exception. I couldn't believe it when we were shown to our seats in the front row. 'I'm Anna Wintour' said Milly, very pleased with her goodie bag.
The average age of the models in this show is 4, so you can imagine the unpredictability of the show. It is a sheer delight. Some little girls were so slow, some practically ran the length of the runway, there are tears amongst the lipgloss and glitter. The runway itself was made from pages torn from old storybooks, and as in the best fairytales, the theme was 'Once upon a time...'

 So, now the girls have their own 'Once upon a time...' We had a great day together, and an experience that won't be repeatable, but will be memorable. That's us in the background of this image of Keisha Castle-Hughes, and her daughter Felicity-Amore. Caught on camera for posterity! Back to earth today - Cotton On Kids & Farmers.
Amanda xx
(image 2,5 & 8 Getty Images & NZ Herald, other images mine)
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

a little wow eating out guide

Despite the sudden frigid temperatures, Wellington is abuzz for and with WOW, the World of Wearable Art. With so many out-of-towners arriving into our fair city to see the show over the next ten days, I thought it might be helpful to provide a little eating out guide. After all Wellington prides itself on being something of a culinary capital, and a coffee capital, as well as the cultural capital. So here is a little local knowledge. It is by no means all-inclusive, it may even be a little biased, and I had a little help from the lady who lunches.

Breakfast, Brunch & Coffee
It's hard to go wrong with coffee in Wellington. You can literally wake up and smell it if you're anywhere near Tory St. L'Affare, Havana, Fuel, & The Immigrant's Son all roast their beans within coo-ee of this street. Mojo, Peoples & Supreme aren't far away either. And most cafes and restaurants serve a local brew.

Nikau - it's been a long year without Nikau while it's building underwent earthquake strengthening, but it's just reopened, and the famous kedgeree is back on the menu!
Cafe L'Affare on College St is always busy and buzzing and full of locals. Not the place to have a clandestine meeting because everyone will see you, but perfect for brunch or lunch. And it's now open on Sundays too.
Deluxe is right next door to the Embassy Theatre on Kent Tce. A Wellington icon, this tiny cafe is extremely popular with the locals. A steady stream will come and go all day & night. Vegetarians are spoiled for choice.
Astoria - a CBD favourite, especially on a nice day when you can sit outside at Midland Park.
Lunch in a hurry? Midland Sushi - so busy, they're making it as you watch. Fresh & delicious. If the weather improves you can eat it on the waterfront.
Mojo - There are mojo's all over town! Regain a little of your own with a great coffee and simple but tasty counter food. You can watch the coffee roasting process on the waterfront at the new mojo headquarters in Shed 13.

Dining Out
Most of these cafes & restaurants are open all day. They'll all look after you really well!
Capitol - Great atmosphere, fabulous food & wine - I find it hard to go past the calamari & the risotto, but then again, I find it hard to go past Capitol. Whatever you choose you'll be very happy. And they have a special pre-wow express menu to get you to the show on time.
Floriditas - home of these cakes. But also home to other great food with consistently friendly, good service and a menu that changes daily. Great people watching. Hard to beat, any time of day or night.
Sweet Mother's Kitchen - 'noo orleens' southern style, tex-mex & south of the border. Sometimes too laid back! The girls & I love 'Sweet Mamma's', as we call it. Great value too - the first time Brunnel went he ordered two mains, because at only $14 each, he didn't think he'd get enough to eat. I did try to tell him.... Go early for a table.
Satay Village - our favourite Malaysian, hands down. I'm so predictable, I have the chicken fillet curry every time. And roti of course! BYO. Hugely popular, but worth the wait.
Chow - Ambient asian-fusion food. Lots of small sized plates for sharing is best.
Vista - a favourite with the Oriental Bay set, and the perfect place for a long leisurely lunch. Vista is also offering an express menu for WOW. If you have time for dessert try the churros!
Not to forget, Monsoon Poon, an exotic mix of asian cuisines & flavours all under one roof, Matterhorn, for the hippest, grooviest Wellington scene, Martin Bosley's, fine dining on Oriental Bay, Logan Brown, no wonder they won Cuisine's supreme award this year, Kazu, the best Japanese, and The Tasting Room, Wellington's best gastro-pub by far.

Whew - anyone would think that I was the lady who lunched! I wish....

Amanda xx

And, if you're lucky enough to be in Wellington on a Sunday, make sure you visit the City Market, where you'll find lots of Wellington's finest foodies. 

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

interior inspiration

Whenever I'm in need of a little interior inspiration I look no further than my files of Designers Guild images amassed over the years. I study every little styling detail, especially the flowers, and props used in each setting. I'm not well I know. This one is a particular favourite. A mix of iconic modernist and antique pieces, all reinterpreted as only Designers Guild could interpret them. I love the retro inspired velvet on the antique sofa, and again in the black on the Platner chair. The vibrant fuchsia pink wallpaper reflected in the mirror from the opposite out of sight wall. The incredible embroidered silk satin used for the curtains and to upholster the back of the sofa (and believe me, it is even more stunning in the flesh). The graphic black & white Tullgarn wallpaper both anchors the room, and softens it. Enough white to keep the look from appearing cluttered, even though it is quite over the top, and a hint of black to ever so slightly mute the more vibrant colours. That Tricia is so clever!
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Monday, September 21, 2009

grease is the word

Yesterday I took Milly & her friend Bella to the movies. As part of their 'classic' series, the Embassy was screening 'Grease'. The packed theatre had some first timers, like my girls, but mostly, excited viewers like myself, keen to reminisce! I'd built it up to the girls as being the 'High School Musical' of my day, perhaps with slightly older 'themes'! And I'm still not sure about the message that the good girl has to turn ever so slightly bad to get the guy. Putting that aside, (we) I loved it all over again. Everyone knew the moves to 'Greased Lightening' & the words to 'Summer Lovin'. It had special significance for me as this grainy image shows. Here I am, circa a long time ago (1979), as a pink lady in Napier Operatic's stage version. Was there a show that could have been more fun to be in? I doubt it! That's me in the front wearing the pedal-pushers. So, there's your wee laugh for the day, but all I can say is that Grease is still the word!
Happy Monday!
Amanda xx
P.S The next classic movie dress up is 'Mary Poppins' on November 1st.
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

let them eat cake

I have been dragging Bruno around Oriental Bay at 6.30 each morning this week in order to lose a little winter excess. (That's Bruno the dog, as opposed to Brunnel the husband. Sometimes they look a little alike, but Bruno is the only one excited to be out at that time of day.) I look forward to warmer weather, but positively dread the thought of exposing just a little more flesh than I would like thanks to my excessive winter diet of pain au chocolate from the French Kiss Cafe
So, I think it most unfair of Floriditas to weaken my resolve when I merely volunteered for the office coffee run this morning. Wellingtonians know that as well as being a fabulous cafe & restaurant in Cuba St, the Floriditas name is synonymous for 'cakes', and great ones at that. Who hasn't cheated on dessert with their amazing Raspberry Chocolate Vegan cake or Orange Ricotta cake?
This morning, each of these glass domes had something delicious and tempting underneath - lime brulee tarts, portuguese tarts, little caramel decadent puddings, huge lemon lamingtons, and more more-ish treats. As you see it wasn't easy. I gave in. I am weak - and tomorrow morning Bruno & I will have to walk much much faster.
Amanda xx
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

take a seat - in the garden

I adore old french garden furniture. Rust & all.

This lovely old iron chair has recently taken up residence in our office courtyard. A glimmer of sun, and we'll be fighting to sit on it. The courtyard itself might need a wee bit of tlc first. I always did mean to paint that back wall a dusky shade of pink. I just need twice as many hours in a day... 
Amanda xx
(photos Amanda & Appley Hoare)
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Monday, September 14, 2009

paper blossom lanterns

How I love the two dollar shop! All manner of goods lumped in together in the one store, with one thing in common - the cost. From packing tape to petcare, tinsel wigs & satin gloves, sponge rollers, feather boas, screws, umbrellas, fake eyelashes, & diamond rings, it's all there. Today, I was on a mission to create something for a window display which will be all about Trelise Cooper Kids clothes. I thought I was after fake flowers. (Yes, I know it's not really me, but at the time the idea seemed good!) However, as I am easily distracted when in the two dollar shop, I instead, came away with this idea for some pretty rice paper lanterns. And as this idea is also perfect as lighting in a girl's bedroom, I thought I would share the process here. You can create these shades easily for $10 or less.

I purchased the rice paper lantern, and a few packets of paper raffia. For my lanterns I am using a mix of four different colours, but many paper blossoms in a single colour would also be lovely.You will also need a trusty glue gun and scissors.
To begin, assemble your rice paper lantern. Cut your paper raffia into lengths of about 7cm, and unfold each piece.

On one piece of raffia, dab a tiny tiny amount of glue in the centre, and stick another piece of the same coloured raffia on top, so that it forms a cross shape. Do the same with all your raffia, as it is easier to get a bit of a production line going. Then twist each cross in the middle to form a blossom, and fluff out the petals, making each look like a flower blossom. Dab your glue onto the lantern and add your blossoms, working evenly around the shape, and distributing your colours. You will need to make at least 60 blossoms for your lantern.

But the result is very effective for such a simple, easy and well-priced idea. Little girls love them!
OK - that's the first one done. I've only about another ten to make....
Amanda xx
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Friday, September 11, 2009

home efficiency

Home efficiency and working to a timetable - here is some advice I could learn from! As gleaned from an old recipe book of my grandmothers - circa 1930 ish I'm guessing. I'm not sure how much notice of it Mama took, although I do remember that she always set the table for breakfast before going to bed the night before.
Anyway, it's been such a busy week, that for me, all thought of a timetable has been out the window. I'm looking forward to a little family time, where we might even get some breakfast together - but I might let L'Affare cook it!

Have a fabulous fun-filled weekend everyone!
Amanda xx
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

random acts of kindness

Sometimes, the loveliest of surprises really are a surprise. Today the courier delivered a small box to me at the store. I opened it to find these absolutely exquisite 'small acorns' acorn gingerbread biscuits. Not just any old acorn icing, but icing embossed with a pattern, beautiful colours, and each little biscuit iced uniquely. After all no two acorns are alike! The little note accompanying the acorns said -
Hello Amanda
I was making some ice age acorn biscuits & thought
of you & 'Small Acorns'. I couldn't resist making something
a little different. Enjoy!
At this stage I need to point out that I do not know Tanya - but I recognise her beautiful decorada creations. These are the biscuits my eagle-eyed children spot from 10,000 miles away in Moore Wilsons. These are biscuits to shamelessly bribe your children with. I rang her to ooh & ahhh & say thank you, and she said she truly thought that after doing a batch of brown acorns for a client with an Ice Age theme, that it might be nice to do a few coloured ones for us. I was sold and she didn't even try and sell me!
And you only need to glimpse the stunning creations on the decorada website to see that if you're looking for a beautiful wedding cake or favours, or client gifts, or a special birthday party, you will have something really special from Tanya.
And guess what, I've never seen little girls jump into bed so quickly with the joyful propect of a special acorn biscuit in their lunch box tomorrow. You see - shameless bribery - works every time!

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

instore at small acorns

It has been madness in the store these last couple of days as we've all worked frantically to get our amazing new Orla Kiely bedlinen & towels out of their packing boxes and on to the shelves. To cap it all off, the first of the new season Orla Kiely bags also arrived today. I finally managed to get half the window done, and thought you might like a wee peek.
And can I just say, the boxes alone that the bedlinen comes beautifully packaged in, are so special. I've been trying to persuade customers buying the linen that they might not need the box, & I would happily recycle it for them. They just laugh at me!
Amanda xx
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Monday, September 7, 2009

upcycling - treasure boxes

Little girls l-o-o-o-v-e to collect 'things' - shells, handmade trinkets, cards, notes, mementos, & all manner of objets trouve. The dilemma is where to put all these much-loved treasures. Constantly losing them in drawers, bags, boxes, wardrobes & a myriad of other untidy-driving-mummy-crazy places, just wasn't working. When I was little I had a 'shadow box' on my bedroom wall. Why it was called this I have no idea, but it was the jewel in my bedroom (next to the Milly Molly Mandy books) on which I displayed all those same-similar treasures my girls are collecting today.
Recently we created this version of the shadow box for  each of the girls rooms.
The starting point was some great old soft drink crates. Gilberds was an original fizzy drink factory in my home town of Napier. Sadly no longer in production. Foxton Fizz has been given a new lease of life, utilising it's retro image to stand out on the soft drink shelf. 
Murray-do (my dad, so-called because he likes to constantly 'do') was called in to help. His (not insignificant) eyebrows were somewhat raised at the crate idea. However, he's been called upon for crazier Amanda DIY things, so wisely knowing better, he said nothing & got on with the job. We sanded the inside of each crate to remove any splinters, and then sealed them with a matt polyurethane. Attached with precision to the wall, so that you can still see the original crate signage, and the little girls were then left to decorate.
Everybody's happy!
Happy Monday!
Amanda xx
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Sunday, September 6, 2009

asparagus pleasures

It must be spring! The very first of my very favourite spring vegetable were at the market today - asparagus! Despite the new season price tag, I couldn't resist just a few of the tasty spears, and thanks to a combination of a favourite Annabel Langbein recipe with a Jamie Oliver classic, here's what we're having for dinner tonight...
lemon carbonara with spring greens
asparagus spears, trimmed & chopped
snow peas
1 egg yolk & approx 1/4 cup cream per person
1 cup finely grated fresh parmesan
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
few grinds of black pepper 
2 tbsp butter
8 rashers bacon, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
fresh italian parsley, chopped
400g dried fettucini
Bring a large pot of well salted water to the boil. Boil asparagus for 1 minute, then remove and refresh under cold water. Add pasta to boiling water, and cook according to packet instructions.
In a separate bowl, whisk together using a fork, the egg yolks, cream, parmesan, lemon zest & black pepper.
While pasta cooks, heat butter in a frying pan & cook bacon over med high heat until crispy. Add garlic, asparagus & snow peas, & stir-fry until vegetables are just softened but still bright green, 2-3 minutes. 
Drain cooked pasta, reserving a little of the water the pasta has cooked in, and return to the pot off the heat. Toss through the egg/parmesan mixture, and a little of the pasta water as needed, then bacon and vegetables. Sprinkle over parsley, and toss to combine.
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Thursday, September 3, 2009

lovely package exchange

Is blogging the new pen-pal? Without a doubt, one of the things I enjoy most about blogging is the virtual opportunity it creates for me to meet some amazingly creative people through their lovely blogs. Many of them continually inspire me to 'keep going' with my own blogging efforts. It is almost bizarre in that I feel I know some of my blogging friends really well, even though we have never met. And for a relatively shy person, I amaze myself with some of the tales I am prepared to share from the relative security blanket of my computer screen. (Although I certainly wasn't expecting yesterdays blog post to end up on the All Blacks facebook fan page!)
Back in July I signed up to join the lovely package exchange being organised by Danni from oh, hello friend. Everyone who signed up was carefully paired up by Danni, with the idea that you exchange a small package with, as the name suggests, the emphasis on the packaging itself, as much as the wee gifts it contained. You only have to take one look at Danni's blog to see how beautifully it is presented to get the idea. So, I sent my package off to America last week. I have a bit of a thing for doilies at the moment, so I used them as the basis for my wrapping. Thanks to an idea from the girls at mondo cherry, I even made a doily bunting (such a great idea), which I hope will spill out of the box first.

And, how exciting when my letter box contained this beautifully paper-patchworked box from my exchange partner Melissa from Design Delights. My girls could hardly contain themselves when they saw the lovely bright tissue paper and ribbons. Melissa must have guessed my love of colour! Everything was wrapped so thoughtfully, and I especially love the handmade envelopes made from old maps. Thank you Melissa! 
And thank you Danni! This is such a lovely idea, and so much fun. Just like having a pen-pal again!
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

eye candy

I wouldn't describe myself as a voyeur normally. But, this very large billboard, which can be seen from all over Wellington, is quite, shall we say, compelling.

Yes, all over town, and at night, under lights, it shines out like a beacon.

Am I too old, I wonder, to be staring at Dan Carter in his jockeys? And yet this billboard is so very large, it is hard NOT to look at Dan Carter in his jockeys. Brunnel would describe him as 'the greatest first five eight that the All Blacks have ever produced'. That's on the rugby field. He has other talents as well, obviously. 
I felt ridiculous taking these photos this morning - rush hour, everyone on a mission to get to work, and here I am, trying to get the best camera angle on Dan. I felt the looks, the smirks, the stares!
I met Dan once. It was at Moore Wilson's Fresh Market. A frisson of excitement was in the air. Not just any old All Black. It was Dan the Man. He was with girlfriend Honor (that's her, sharing the billboard with him). They were both fully clothed at the time, helping her father with an olive oil tasting. Milly thought it would be cool to get his autograph. Except then she disappeared. Leaving me to do the old 'Can I have your autograph for my (invisible) daughter please?' I wanted to disappear behind the broccoli myself. Thankfully, I doubt that Dan remembers this momentous event as well as I do. 
And really, why am I worried about a billboard. After all, I have Brunnel, and he is a sight in his jockeys too...
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