Sparkly Things

Friday, April 30, 2010

I am having a bit of a thing about these Kate Spade shoes. The shape. The colour. The sparkly bits (which is all of them, really). Except that sequins (a) fall off and (2) get caught on things. And the bows on the front look so great on the actual shoes by themselves, but very probably would make me look like Minnie Mouse if actually worn*. Which is pretty much the point of shoes. To wear them, I mean; not to look like Minnie Mouse.

* which means that all the fabulous Valentino shoes I also keep gazing at adoringly are also a bad idea. But maybe not these ones...


Lemons And Lateness

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's been a while since there was some baking. These lemon sour cream cakes were actually made a couple of weeks ago, now, and I'm finally getting round to sharing them.

The recipe is from Notebook: and they always seem to have some great ideas of things to cook. And (drum-roll, please), the cakes were the maiden voyage of the blue mixer.

They're quite a bit more rustic than the originals in the magazine* - this is partly as I decided not to ice them (the quick out-of-oven sample revealed they were quite sweet enough without icing, and - while I'm not normally one to turn down an opportunity for icing, even a slightly superfluous one - I didn't want to detract from the nice tanginess of the flavour. Although, they were good with some lemon curd (especially the home-style lemon curd my mum and dad found at a local market)**.

This is the recipe for the lemon sour cream cakes:

Lemon sour cream cakes
(makes 12)

70g butter, softened
1/2 cup (100g) caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup (125g) sour cream
1/2 cup (75g) plain flour
1/2 cup (75g) self-raising flour
1 tbs finely grated lemon rind
2 tbs lemon juice
for the icing
2 cups (300g) pure icing sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
Citrus rind, to decorate

Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease twelve 1/2-cup (125ml) capacity loaf pans or friand pans.
Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Add the sour cream and combined flours and stir to combine. Add the lemon rind and juice and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture evenly among the prepared pans and smooth the surface. Place pans on an oven tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through. Remove tray from oven and transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
Place the icing sugar in a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice and stir until a firm paste forms. Spread icing over the top of the cakes. Place aside to set. Top with citrus rind to decorate, if desired.

* I also made them in cake cases, rather than miniature loaf pans, which I didn't have. 
** It looks a bit too disconcertingly gooey in the photo, but it tastes so good!


Say It Isn't So (Oink)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Picture: The Joy Of Cooking

After the recent discovery of bacon fat popcorn, I came across this. Bacon fat caramels. Is it the start of a new trend?

Perhaps it's a way to minimise waste - a variation on nose-to-(curly)-tail eating*. Perhaps it's just that it's being highlighted, whereas back in the "olden days", there was dripping, suet and so on and so forth just quietly included in things.

Maybe suprisingly, it looks pretty tasty. Although the combination is perhaps a little reminiscent of the US may of serving French toast - with maple syrup and bacon. Which I just can't quite get my head around - possibly this has to do with French toast, in my mind, being inextricably paired with tomato ketchup. I'm already flinching for the howls of protest!

* Eep! Did I really just get hyphens and parentheses in one (attempted) word?


Not On Your Nellie

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Things that are a pain, get your goat*. For things that are really annoying, there is the highland goat.

And if it’s just a bit of a nuisance, there is the pygmy goat (presumably if it’s a smaller goat, it’s less of an issue if somebody gets it...?)

And then there is also this, which I just think is hilarious, and is by one of my favourite cartoonists, Judy Horacek...

* Sorry, this train of thought might be a thinly disguised excuse for more of Sharon Montrose's animals...


Window Shopping

Monday, April 26, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, the windows of David Jones had posters up for the new Balenciaga perfume. I thought the photos were really striking, and loved the combination of the graphics, the text and the lines of the building...

Often when there are posters across the windows it looks like a pale imitation of a "proper" window display, but the scale of this made it just as effective (if not more so), than an artfully arranged window of stuff...


(First) Impressionism

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sometimes, you come across a book with such a fabulous title (or cover, perhaps), that you desperately want to read it, but have the lurking worry that it might all be downhill from there...

This definitely gave such cause for concern – very thankfully highly unfounded, and the start of an ongoing obsession ever since*:

 This, much more recently, also gave itself very big shoes to fill (and for me, filled them):

Blogs create a whole new potential for anticipation (and potential disappointment). When I came across hovering cat, I was convinced the name was surely going to be the best bit. And I was very pleasantly surprised by the mixture of interesting and unexpected bits and pieces to be found...

There’s always room for more unusual animals. And Brendan Wenzel's tapir has such a great look on its face.

This is just begging to be painted blue...

 And this, even with branding, is just brilliant!

* There is currently the new one being looked forward to in eager anticipation (and concern that it might be another version of something else).


Perambulating Penguins

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Even penguins sometimes want to get away from it all...

Picture: Drysafemarker

While there aren't any tropical islands on the horizon, this penguin has packed up and headed south for the weekend. On an expedition to visit the lesser-spotted trifle-eating timeshare cat.


Suffering Genius vs Worried Gardener

Friday, April 23, 2010

Picture: Monkeys Always Look on Etsy (what a great name!)

There’s an old chestnut about whether you would rather be a suffering genius or a happy gardener*. Presumably the armchair psychologists have all kinds of fun evaluating the responses (because pigeonholing the world into two buckets is always highly enlightening). But it does assume that you put up with one thing to get something you want, and that the trade-off you make defines you in some way. Which is great, all the time there’s actually a trade-off to be made. But, as a hypothetical, it doesn’t help terribly much with the (probably at least as likely) choice between two pretty unappealing things (or that cautionary tale of being-careful-what-you-wish-for, two fabulous but mutually exclusive things).

It does set up whether the suffering is necessary to be a genius (or maybe results from being one)**. There’s a bit of an entrenched relationship*** between pain and creativity (artistic, scientific, inventive, whatever). The image of the tortured soul producing astonishing beauty or staggering insight, and the inherent suspicion when somebody happy (or, increasingly, somebody young, because to suffering apparently requires a proper amount of time, however much that might be) produces something meaningful, because others wonder where they got those ideas from without having a bottomless well of lurking dark thoughts to draw upon (Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights springs immediately to mind).

But, much as the image of Van Gogh / Oscar Wilde / Marie Curie / whoever else sitting there in a warm, comfortable living room, eating toasted crumpets in the company of their beloved pet or partner while scribbling furiously in a notebook might be janglingly incongruous, you also have to be pretty specific about the lurking dark thoughts themselves. Some of them might be a pathway to genius (or at least, to creative output), but others are just a pain in the behind (to say the least).

Picture: Choos and Chews

Which leads to where this was trying to get to (Finally! There’s a point! Surely not!****)... which is that worrying, in case it wasn’t annoying enough already, seems to be the death of creativity. The suffering genius pours out their anguish into their art, but the worrier gazes into space (or worse, at the blank page or screen) and wonders where to start. And worries that what they’re thinking of isn’t going to work. Or is so full to bursting with worrying about other things that there isn’t even a squashed cloakroom of thought left for an idea to try to wriggle around in. Which means that the worry can’t escape, adding to the eep!-about-to-self-combust! feeling that comes from too much worrying.

Picture: Simple Up

Having cupboards in your house that threaten to drop everything out on top of you if you even think of opening the door is one thing. Having your thoughts organised like that is something else entirely...

* Gah! I really don’t like when you can’t find where something began!
** Not, maybe unfortunately, something I am ever likely to discover first hand...
*** Which is probably like being a bit pregnant – I’m not sure how you could only be a bit entrenched. Unless it was a small trench, and only came up to your ankles, perhaps...?
**** Ah, an overly long set up for a point. This only ever seems to result in a disappointing point (there’s a thought all by itself...), like those jokes where they go on forever and you finally reach the punch-line and wonder if that was it after so much effort (over-training for performances also seems to have that effect...).


Small (But Expanding) Wonder

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Picture: Old School Stationers on Etsy

Somewhere far away, there is a castle, and heady plumes of smoke billow from the turrets from a thousand bewitched cooks inventing dishes ever more impractical and irresistible than the last. Actually, maybe it isn’t a castle; maybe it’s the MasterChef studio and I’m just hallucinating from the thought of all that food...

But still, when there are things like this to be come up with, is it really any wonder that there are studies showing that people are expanding at ever increasing rates?*

Picture: The Kitchn (and don't believe it looking innocent... it's all about how it's made)

* Yeah, I’m sure there are a million and one ancient recipes for honey-smeared confit of woolly mammoth, but back then they didn’t have escalators. Or cars. Or remote controls. Or blogs with beautiful photos making all those unthinkable things look impossibly delicious. Harrumph.


Tulle Brittania

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Picture: Ghostlings on Flickr

While it isn’t my own style (what would you wear with it?), I think this is just a great photo, and a good change to see the Union Jack without the usual red, white and blue.

Although I also love that Chanel has done a version of their classic 2.55 bag in a Union Jack print. There is something appealingly contrary about a French fashion house using a British flag for a design...

Picture: Mahalo Fashion

And these photos from Cachemire et Soie (who has some of the most beautiful and stylish pictures I’ve come across...) have a fabulous combination of French / British style – one of those looks that so shouldn’t work that it just does...


Not Just For The Birds

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What has happened to feather icing? I know when I was younger, it seemed the last word in sophistication to have a cake with feather icing. So simple when it’s done well, and such an utter dogs’ breakfast* otherwise.

This dessert table (now there is something ubiquitous that is, at least, both beautiful and tasty!) has chevron-striped icing, and it brought the feather icing back to mind. I think it looks quite good as an updated, more design-focused look.

Amy Atlas

* So, when something is a dogs’ breakfast, it is a dog’s breakfast or a dogs’ breakfast? Does that distinction depend on just how bad it really is – for something truly awful, it reaches 101 Dalmatians proportions... And does it matter what sort of dog it is? There could be a whole world of difference between a pug’s breakfast and a Newfoundland’s breakfast...


The Gossip

Monday, April 19, 2010

Picture: rubberhedgehog (they make stamps)

Didn't you always wonder what happened when hedgehogs get together?


The Knights Who Say "Ni!"

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Picture: Style Me Pretty

I can’t quite believe that in the whole three-ring-circus that can be planning a wedding, the groom at this one had to make quite such a compromise over quite such a harmless and whimsical desire as having penguins on the wedding cake. The very idea of banishing penguins to the shrubbery seems to exemplify a lot of what I don’t like in the bride-must-have-her-own-way approach to so many weddings. And I've looked and looked at this cake and, beautiful though it is, I just can't see where those penguins have been hidden away...

Picture: Style Me Pretty

The replacement of “wedding” with “bridal” seems to go along with this idea as well – doesn’t the guy get a look in? I do get that, on average, women may have more details they care about when a couple plans their wedding, but the groom seems to be bumped to some sort of secondary supporting role, which I find very odd. And I can imagine there must be a few people out there who would be thrilled to bits and pieces if their partner (or person A, person B or whoever) had an interesting little detail they wanted to include.

Can it go in the vows? “I promise never to banish my husband / wife’s ideas to the shrubbery...”. Penguins. Shrubberies. Weddings. All risking getting far, far too silly for words...

Now this might be too many penguins...

Picture: Prime Number on Etsy


Moose. Caribou. Elephant. Rabbit.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It has really felt like a week and a half. The kind where the weekend feels ominously like it might merge with the other five days under a heap of Things To Do (albeit salvaged by the prospect of good company and pancakes).

And then Friday evening brought unexpected perking up... including beautiful flowers to brighten the flat.

And the no-surely-that-can't-be-down-the-road-from-here discovery of a very intriguing looking new café. It's not only local, and promisingly tasty-looking. It not only has a signature brownie. It is called Moose. What more could you want?! (And it has little understated moose antler logos).

Picture: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry (always a great source of interesting new places...)

Well, you could want enough time to check it out on the weekend. But it is always good to have something to look forward to...


How Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk?

Friday, April 16, 2010

That, I don't know, but a rhino and a writing desk... done.

Picture: Lionheart Design

The amazing rhinoceros is the work of Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne. I can only try to imagine the sort of house that you might need to have to be able to actually have this. And to clutter it with bills, cables, papers and stuff would just be criminal...



Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Fox And The Polar Bear might just be the best thing I can remember coming across online ever. Which is a pretty big call. There are things you sometimes find where you wish you’d thought of it before somebody else did, because you know you think you could have. And there are other things where you are just happy that they were thought of at all. And a gluttonous, tempestuous polar bear with slightly questionable ethics... well, that is a bear after my own heart! Is it possible to be reincarnated as a very opinionated plush animal? (It's not just the photos - the stories that go with each one are like whole little episode... just fantastic!).

For a variety of reasons (some more justified than others), there seems to have been a crashing fall off the bandwagon of self-control lately. Easter. Baking to procrastinate. The sudden and pressing need to sample almost every Italian restaurant within a reasonable radius of Paddington (no, really!).

This seems like just the sort of thing that makes complete sense when taking the in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound approach to that bandwagon. Not quite a deep fried Mars bar, but very probably almost as lethal...

But this would be the sensible approach to take to all those crème eggs... 

Picture: The Fox and the Polar Bear on Flickr

Listen to the polar bear, and step away from the crème eggs...


Happiness And Cheese*

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

 Illustration: Garance Dore

I love Garance Dore at the best of times. The style. The illustrations. The wonderful French-ness of it all, that feels so remote from the other side of the world sometimes. But I especially loved a recent update, which spanned the before and after of a party, and made the sometimes very glamorous sounding life sound that bit more like the stream-of-consciousness rest of us, in translation at least.

Quote of the week... “Love! Bisou! Fromage! Sacrebleu!” – think that covers all the bases just about perfectly!

* Or should that be, Happiness Is Cheese?


I Came Here For A Reason

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Milk. In the dishwasher. (Not to be confused with milking the dishwasher, which would be, I suspect, difficult and spiky, if less so than a hedgehog). There are days when the words that come out bear no resemblance at all to the words inside my head. But, almost as often, there are times (usually when thinking of something else, half asleep or otherwise distracted) when what I’m doing doesn’t equate to what I intended to do. This usually dawns on me when I’m standing at the dishwasher with a bottle of milk in my hand and a confused look on my face, wondering what I’m doing there. Going mad, apparently...

There needs to be a word for that sort of thing – putting the wrong thing into the wrong place. Yet another thing for the list of words that should exist but haven’t been made up yet.

To add insult to injury, I was trying to explain the milk in the dishwasher problem to somebody recently, and confused myself into such a circle that I ended up talking about trying to put the fridge into the dishwasher. I think this is the sort of hedgehog that is required...



Monday, April 12, 2010

This might be the perfect thing for a procrastinating penguin... Love this Lola & Bailey bag. Of course, I need another bag like I need a poke in the eye with a wet ferret...


Singing Llamas Make It Good

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Singing llamas, apparently, make it good (how could they possibly not?). The singing llamas (this definitely stands to be corrected) began as a mondegreen from an Alex Lloyd song (which I think was Lost In The Rain, and was meant to be "sing it loud now, make it pure").

Sharon Montrose does amazing animal photos - it really is all about the subject. They've been getting a bit of attention lately, so I know I'm hopping firmly onto a fast-departing bandwagon. It's not just the photos themselves, but also the mixture of animals that Sharon's selected - sure, there are a few kittens and a scattering of geese (honk!), but there is, overall, an amazing mix of the cute and obscure, or at least the slightly-less-obvious.

So, in the interests of over-indulgence (and, after Easter, any over-indulgence that isn't supposed to be eaten has got to be a good thing), here are a few more of my favourites...

Singing llamas lemurs: 

Squirrels (and there is never a justification needed for squirrels):

 And prairie dogs:

I love the way the prairie dogs are standing - it makes me wonder what one might have been sating to the other. It's almost like they're bobbing alternately up and down, like half a barber shop quartet (but smaller, furrier and without the singing...).

Not sure that I'm even close to being finished with these photos... think there will be a few more sneaking out in the next little while.


Icing On The Cake

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cupcakes (the kind that are everywhere) seem to all be drowned under a mound of buttercream icing. Now, I love buttercream icing at least as much as the next penguin (and, having previously made extra solely so that it can be eaten without the bother and distraction of cake, think it’s pretty evident I’ve got nothing against it at all), but it just doesn’t belong on a proper cupcake.

Proper cupcakes are the kind that are (or taste like they were) made by a mum. Preferably your own. Like these ones (not by my mum, but still lovely):

Picture: beehandmade

The best (bought) cupcakes, I think, come from Blackheath Bakery Patisserie (and as that is a long way to go, even for wonderful cupcakes, they become even more appealing as they are so infrequent).

The Kitchn asked just the other day where the line is between cupcakes and muffins – perhaps this is a low tolerance (moi?!), but once you put buttercream on it, I think it’s an iced muffin. Kind of the opposite of the lipstick-on-a-pig argument...


The Cat And Custard Pot

Friday, April 9, 2010

Picture: Andrew Orange on Flickr

Although, to be strictly accurate, it should be the Cat and Yogurt Pot. One of the funniest sights I know is a beautiful, elegant lilac point Siamese with his nose in an almost-empty yogurt pot... although custard seems to come a pretty close second. Not sure whether he was a goat in a past life, but there are few things he doesn't like to eat. Citrus flavours are apparently one category to be snubbed. 


Free Your Mind

Further proof that Bears could serve as a useful example to a lot of people.

PS: This is far too reflective, and quite possibly far too twee. Maybe it's just that sort of day (the sort, for instance, where you take what cheering up you can get where you find it...)


Little Things and Little Minds - Worrying About The Small Stuff

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Picture: Moleboy04 on Flickr

No two ways about it, I'm a worrier. The natural state of this penguin is in a state somewhere along the continuum from mild unease through bothered, flustered, agitated and right on to full blown reduced-to-inarticulate-heap stressed out. Causes vary significantly in type and seriousness; although the worry level doesn't necessarily pay much heed to the type and seriousness. To the befuddlement of those around me, I have been known to worry that there wasn't anything to worry about, and that I must have therefore missed something. Yes, I know, it sounds utterly daft out loud, let alone committed to writing (in the quiet and space of my own mind, it seems perfectly logical, I swear).

The practical solution, as far as I've found, is to worry about the lowest common denominator. Hence, if an exam looms large on the horizon, concern drifts towards things like what to have for dinner, what to pack to take on holiday, and what music to use for dance routines. It seems to occupy the worrying requirement enough to keep it occupied while the rest of the mind gets on with whatever it needs to do.

Trying to track down quotes online, I came across (ah, online distractions), some thoughts on worry, which jumped out in their various ways. It never stops surprising me that something which you already know is true and have been told a thousand times in slightly different ways suddenly prompts an "aha!" moment (and the associated clang of understanding) when expressed in some very similar, but minutely different way. The thing that did this as far as worry was concerned was this one:

“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”*

It strikes me as a very Piglet-y sentiment. I love how fabulously visual it is - it just makes sense put that way.
 Picture: Return to the Hundred Acre Wood

The other things that were interesting were definitely accurate and ways I hadn't thought of it before, but fall a bit too much into the "pithy epithet" category to be useful rather than just clever. Not that clever is at all a bad thing, just that clever without being useful or entertaining tends to escape me...

“Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.”
(W. R. Inge)

“Worry is like a rocking chair--it gives you something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere.”
(another proverb)

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
(Leo F. Buscaglia, and yes, if it was cheesier it might come in a can, but we worriers need the obvious pointed out to us, occasionally bluntly)

* It is attributed as a Swedish proverb... would love to know a more specific source if it exists...


Everything Has To Start Somewhere

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

 These photos are of an electricity sub-station, and I took them on my iPhone (they haven't had any editing or anything -  I thought I'd see how they came out, and am not too disappointed with them). I really love industrial buildings and the interesting angles and textures they can have... am starting to wander round bits of the city taking random little photos of bits and bobs... There is a long way to go before the things I imagine when I look at something in real life translate to the things that end up as a photo, though.


  © Blogger template "Shush" by 2009, changed to bits and pieces by the Sticky Penguin