Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hand-Painted Decorative Pillow

"Live in the sunshine, Swim the sea, Drink the wild air" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes I come across an art/craft project idea and I make it immediately. I don’t know why that is really. Inspiration, possibly? Confidence that I can create a similar result? Then there are those projects that I start preparing for but then they sit dormant for months, sometimes even years, like my tie-died shirt project, or my type-setters draw project… Sigh… I have all of the materials to get going but something stops me. Perhaps it is a fear that it won’t turn out “Pinteresting” enough, or perhaps it’s just plain old procrastination. Most likely a combination of the two. 

So anyway, I don’t remember exactly where I came across the idea of “writing a quote on a pillow” but I've had the idea and the materials for several weeks now and I finally decided that it was time. I’d already pre-washed the pillow cover and selected my quote. Now it was just to set up my work space and complete a test on paper. 

The test actually turned out better than I expected. Especially given that I am not the type to pre-write the quote out in pencil, erasing and rewriting until it fits perfectly. I like to just jump in and start painting, eye-balling the distance and space as I go. It was surprisingly symmetrical. However, once I started painting on the fabric, I learned something valuable for the next time. 

Yes, it may be that linen cloth looks nicer than plain cotton, but it is definitely not as easy to paint on, especially compared to brown wrapping paper. Which makes keeping your spacing a bit difficult. Ugh. Needless-to-say, the project turned out okay but not as nice as I had hoped or envisioned. In retrospect I would say that I should have conducted my test run on a similar material and not paper, even though I now have a nice piece of hand-painted wrapping paper to show for it. 

I am just proud of myself for not allowing yet another project to sit dormant for a year out of fear of it not turning out well. And I now know how to improve this project if I were to attempt it again. It isn’t completely horrible. Once the pillow is inserted, the spacing isn't quite as obvious. I mean, no one is going to sit there and analyze the spacing (hopefully!). Plus, the artist may have meant for it to be that way. ;-)

Materials Needed:

 - Pillow cover of choice - 100% cotton or linen is best. Other fabrics or blends may not absorb the paint as well.

- Acrylic paint & thin paint brush

- Wax paper to put inside the pillow cover to keep paint from bleeding to the back side.

- A fun quote or saying. Even just one simple word could be fun. 

Helpful hints: 

It was much more difficult to paint in cursive on my chosen fabric (100% linen). I found that blending the paint with a bit of water to thin it out helped. 

I also discovered that using a smaller brush than I planned to use worked best.

If possible, paint on a scrap piece of fabric first to get an idea of how the paint absorbs and applies to the fabric. 

Wait 24 hours to heat set the paint. Using an iron on a low to medium setting, cover the painted area with a thin cloth (such as an old t-shirt), and iron for 3-4 minutes, concentrating on small sections at a time. 

Insert a pillow form and enjoy your finished product!

Monday, June 16, 2014

It's Pimm's O'Clock!

Summer to me is sunshine, fresh berries, picnics and a swim in the sea, soft breezes blowing as I ride my bike, and cool refreshing beverages to break up the heat. Okay, an ice cream cone now and again can’t hurt either. But a recent re-discovery (in London, of course) of a classy English cocktail has reminded me of another lovely association with summer: The Pimm’s Cup Cocktail. 

Many years ago while traveling back to the US from Sweden we had a 24-hour layover in England. Deciding that one day wasn’t really enough to see much of London, we opted to go down to Brighton for the day instead, to visit my husband’s goddaughter and her parents. They took us to dinner at a lovely little restaurant called Bill’s (I wrote about the London location in my Breakfast in London post), where I discovered, or rather was introduced to, the Pimm’s Cup Cocktail. It was so delicious, fruity, and refreshing that as soon as we arrived back home to Texas and settled in, I headed to the liquor store to purchase a bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 so that we could re-create this lovely summer drink.

On our recent London excursion, I was reminded of this tasty beverage and, even though we did not sample a Pimm's Cup Cocktail while there, I was inspired yet again to make one myself. 

Here it is...

Pimm's Cup Cocktail:


8-10 fresh mint leaves
8-10 slices of English cucumber
10 cubes diced watermelon
10 cubes diced nectarine
8 frozen (or fresh) strawberries
Fresh squeezed lemon juice (approximately 1 lemon)
Agave syrup
Pimm's No. 1
2 mint sprigs
Makes 2 cocktails

In the bottom of two glasses, place a small handful of mint leaves, crushed gently with your fingers, several slices of cucumber, 4-5 cubes of diced watermelon, 4-5 cubes of diced nectarine, 4 frozen strawberries, then fill with ice. 

In your cocktail shaker:

2 parts freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 part agave syrup
2 parts Pimm’s No. 1

Shake and pour evenly into the two glasses. Add seven-up, ginger ale, or sparkling lemonade. Top with a sprig of fresh mint and enjoy!

You can also serve your Pimm’s Cup Cocktails with a small spoon, for enjoying the fruit at the bottom once your drink is finished. Refreshing, light, summery. What else could you ask for? Aside from a warm sunny day to enjoy it with?

*Use other fruits of your liking as well. I'd like to try making one with rhubarb syrup and sparkling water in place of the seven-up, ginger ale, or sparkling lemonade. ;-)

Happy Summer!

Ps. A couple of other suggestions for enjoying Pimm's No. 1:

Pimm's Royal Cup: 

Equal parts Pimm's No. 1 and champagne. Drop a strawberry or two into the bottom of the glass and garnish with a mint leaf.

Pimm's Midsommar Cup:

Same ingredients as the Pimm's Cup Cocktail above only use all strawberries for your fruit and sparkling lemonade instead of seven-up or ginger ale.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Breakfast in London

(One of hundreds of the red double-decker buses zipping around the city)

Let me just say, London is amazing. It is highly diverse, has tons to offer and, in general, is a huge city spread across, what feels like, a very large portion of great Britain. Even if you tried you couldn’t see all of it in a week, let alone a few days. But even so, we spent three gorgeous days trying our hardest. And succeeded somewhat. However, given the vastness of London and all of the wonder it encompasses, I will be blogging about our trip in digestible bits and I've decided to begin with what feels logical, and so happens to be my favorite: Breakfast!

I have always loved breakfast but I guess my love affair with dining out for breakfast began when I lived in Los Angeles. Back then, my favorite haunts included The Backdoor Bakery in Silverlake (Best scones and oven pancake with berries, and which I've learned has since closed and re-opened later in a new location), Figtree's Cafe at Venice Beach (Cool, healthy vibe with a clear view of the Pacific Ocean), and Millie’s Cafe on Sunset Blvd in Silverlake (Amazing pancakes and seriously the best biscuits around!).

So when I started planning our trip and asked some friends for advice on what to see, do, and eat, I was happy to hear the suggestion to skip the hotel breakfast and eat out. (Yes!) As luck would have it, our hotel was a stone's throw away from a wonderful open-air market called Borough Market, which had tons of stalls peddling fruit, vegetables, exotic imported goods, cafes, juice bars, bakeries, restaurants tucked into nooks and crannies, pubs with eclectic beers, and the list goes on and on. Needless-to-say, we had a blast exploring and our taste buds are still savoring the delectable morsels we consumed. Here is a breakdown of our London mornings:

("Dropped scones")

Bordering on fine dining, though lacking just slightly in service for such status, we sat down to a nicely set table overlooking the market below. We both ordered regular coffee, which arrived in individual French presses. My husband opted for "The Veggie Borough," while I selected the "Dropped scones with stewed Yorkshire rhubarb and yogurt cream". Envisioning a basket filled with mini scones, I asked our server how many scones were served. He replied, "About nine." I figured the scones must be pretty small, so I ordered the dish. Well, in case you are wondering, "dropped scones" are the English equivalent of American pancakes. They weren't exactly silver dollar-sized but they were not regular sized either. And there were in fact 9 total pancakes/scones served. The Yorkshire rhubarb was superb and the yogurt cream added that just "over-the-top" decadence. I ate everything. We would be walking everywhere that day, so... I needed my energy, right?

Day 2: Bill's

After a long first day of walking nearly twenty kilometers (!!!) we headed back down to Borough Market with breakfast at "Bill's" in mind. I'd been to their Brighton location some years back when we had a 24 hour layover in England, on our way home to Texas from Sweden. The Brighton location was open across the entire front of the restaurant/cafe and had the feel of an open air market, as we were surrounded by shelves of specialty products and food goods. A slightly different to the feel of their London bank side location, though there were specialty products on shelves here and there around us. 

We were moving somewhat slowly that morning but my cappuccino and scrambled eggs with toast hit the right spot. And aside from the portion being much bigger, it was almost like eating breakfast at home. The food was fresh and tasty, the service pleasant and prompt and we were fed and out of there in just about thirty minutes exactly. It worked out perfectly for meeting our friend at the train station nearby. And getting on with our second day of walking nearly 20 kilometers!

Day 3: Elliot's Cafe, Borough Market

Hands down this was our favorite breakfast in London. Everything was homemade and fresh and incredibly tasty. Feeling at this point like we'd eaten plenty, we thought we'd try for a "lighter" start. We ordered a side of brioche toast (with honey butter!) to share and we each got a yogurt with homemade granola and stewed rhubarb. Hello?!!! The rhubarb was To Die For. It had been "stewed" in a syrup scented wtih star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, and orange peel. Holy moly it was good! I'm going to try to replicate it for sure.

(I love the red steer peeking in from the roof across the way)

Then to top it off we each had a fresh pressed juice of apple, carrot, & ginger, which was a lovely refreshing boost to our "light breakfast." The host was a bit annoyed that we came in with our own coffee, understandably, but he allowed us to bring it in anyway. What can I say, we simply had to try the coffee at Monmouth Coffee Company, which was just next door and had been recommended by a friend. Overall the service at Elliot's cafe was superb. They were friendly and helpful and they even gave us a complimentary slice of their chocolate chunk brioche bread, that I saw sitting out in the bar and had inquired about out of curiosity. Which, by the way, was also to die for.

Needless to say, breakfast in London was excellent and I am very happy with our decision to forgo hotel dining in favor of exploring neighborhood haunts and favorites.

We would definitely return to all of these places, especially Elliot's Cafe. 

Ps: Borough Market, located in the London Bridges/South Bank area, is simply amazing. I highly recommend a stop, or two, here.