A novel Christmas tree

 

book-tree

Sarah writes…

If you love books like I do and fancy a pine-free tree – or just another tree to add to your collection – how about giving this book tree a go?

It’s pretty easy and only a little bit fiddly – and it’s guaranteed to make your festive poppers-in think you’re really literary and clever.

 

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Here’s how…

1  Get all your books together – it’s good to get a mix of large hardback, paperback and smaller books. A metre-high tree, like this one, requires about 30 or 40 books

2  Lay your foundations by arranging 6 books of a similar size and thickness into a flower shape. If you’re doing a massive book-off tree then you might want to use 10 or even 12 books in your first flower layer

3 Start building, bringing your books towards the centre of the tree a bit more with each new flower layer. Make sure to use books of a similar girth (oo-er) on each level to prevent the wobbles

4 When you’ve gone as far as you can with your flower layers, you can start using one large book or two smaller books to build up your tree, getting narrower as you go

5 When you’ve reached a height you’re happy with, add a few smaller books to finish it off – Jasmine’s tiny pop-up books came in handy here. At this point, you might also want to prettify your tree shape by shifting books around here and there

6 Drape your tree in lights – I’m a sucker for a retro coloured light as it reminds me of being a misty-eyed kid in the 80s and 90s. I topped off the tree with a flickering LED tea light, too, but you could go for a pine cone, or an angel or whatever floats your Christmassy boat

Important aside: if you have a marauding toddler like I do – you could secure your books with a bit of blue tack to stop it from being smashed over. Or even better, build your tree on a surface they can’t reach. Building your book tree on a low bookshelf means double the book-y joy

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Will you be decking your halls nice and early? We’d love to hear your DIY deco ideas..

You might have noticed that WMBL has driven back for Christmas – yup, we had a very extended summer break and didn’t blog during that time, which we’re slapping our own wrists for. No excuses other than we’ve all been manically busy with jobs and kiddos etc. But we’re back now and won’t be going away again! Thanks for bearing with us and see you again very soon. Merry early Christmas! 

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Midweek salmon supper


Oh, if only fish ‘n’ chips were fat-free, gluten-free, zero-calorie, organic, paleo, suitable for a 2-day on the 5:2 diet, full of healthy endorphins… Only 4 more school nights ’til Friday, though.

In the meantime, if you’re also having a non-stuff-your-face day then try out this quick little salmon dish for dinz.

It’s served with garlic spinach, spiralized veg, sprinkled with soy sauce and lemon and baked in paper – en papillote, as Greg Wallace would say. Yes, the spiralizer’s been partying again.

Oily fish + mountains of spiralized veg + select condiments = a surprisingly yum and filling dinner that might make you forget about your need for stodge for a while.

Here’s what you need to make this for two:

2 courgettes, spiralized (or grated or peeled)
2 carrots, spiralized (or as above)
1 medium/large onion, spiralized (same again)
Bag of pre-washed spinach leaves
Fat clove of minced or grated garlic
2 salmon fillets
1 lemon, sliced in half
Soy sauce
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Baking paper

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Here’s what you do:

Preheat your oven to about 160C

Rip 2 sizeable sheets of baking paper to create your parcels

Place half of the mound of your spiralized veg in the centre of the paper

Place your salmon fillet on top

Sprinkle soy sauce on your salmon and over your veg, as much or as little as you like, according to prefz

Grab your lemon half and give it a massive squeeze so it rains over your ingredients

Sprinkle on some pepper

Now create a loose parcel by scrunching up the corners of the paper

Place parcels on a baking tray in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes

About 15 minutes in, splash some olive oil into a frying pan and heat over a moderate setting for 30 seconds

Throw in your garlic and heat for a minute or two until it’s translucent

Chuck in your bag of spinach and, with a spatula or wooden spoon, press it down and turn it until it’s wilted to your favourite wilt setting

Pull salmon from the oven, and still in its parcel, plonk on a white plate and open carefully – this is not the time for a steam facial

Add spinach, salt and pepper, and serve with a very cold glass of wine

Or water. It’s Tuesday. God. Tuesday. But perhaps just one very cold glass of wine because it goes really well. Not two glasses. No. Never.

Decorating Elsie

Author: Sarah-Louise

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Hey, all. Welcome to a post that’s a bit of a hybrid, like a cronut. It’s both a coffee shop review and the tale of the secret screen prints. Sorted? Right let’s get started… I love nothing more than a piece of cake and a skinny cappuccino in a takeaway cup with a straw.

However, working from home while simultaneously entertaining/making sure my 16-month old doesn’t stick her fingers in plug sockets does not afford much time for cake-baking. And coffee at home is never the same.

So, yay for Elsie, a new cafe-bar and deli, that’s just opened around the corner in my ‘hood, Hornsey. (The bit between Muswell Hill and Crouch End in north London, for those who don’t know.)

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Not only does Elsie do coffee and cakes, it does pastries, savoury muffins, chocolate croissant bread pudding slices (top left), breakfasts, sandwiches, soups, sharing platters and big steaming bowls of chilli. And booze.

Because it’s a deli, it also does takeaway organic loaves, posh chocolate, panettone in glamorous boxes, quirky handmade cookies and chunky chutneys with amusing names.

Owner Claire has also adorned the place with her own quirky artwork, bedecked it in fairy lights and fills the airwaves with a cockle-warming mix of crackly jazz, show tunes, Bowie and James Taylor.
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The result is a twinkly, relaxing little haven. You can eat here, drink here, work here – and take your toddler without causing too much chaos. There’s a mini library for you to help yourself to books, a menu of nighttime events coming up – Time Traveller’s Wife author Audrey Niffenegger is hosting an evening at the end of March –  and a primary-coloured portrait of Jeremy Corbyn in one corner. He’s promised to visit the place soon. He wouldn’t need to do up his top button here. Anything goes. Baby J and I practically live here.

Anyway, one day Claire produced a bulging Ikea bag of fabric from behind the counter and asked if we could do anything creative with it. She explained that it had come from the daughter of a local lady named Irene Kent Gouly, who had sadly recently passed away and left behind a secret stash of gorgeous handmade screen-printed fabrics.

Apparently, screen-printing was Irene’s not-shouted-about hobby rather than her profession – but judging by the sheer volume and array of beautiful, bonkers and brilliant designs she’d left behind, she could have opened her own shop or gallery.

My mum, Maria from We May Be Little, was suitably impressed and very excited by all its creative potential. She carefully opened up each new piece with an ooh, an aah or a wow – her imagination well and truly revved.  “We could do this! And this! And this! Throw! Curtains! Cushion cover! Blouse!”

The upshot of all this was that we’d thank Claire, and Irene’s daughter, back for their generosity and beauteous threads by making something decorative for the cafe. Having Irene’s work on display in a public space, in the area in which she’d always lived, felt a fitting tribute to her secret talents. My mum suggested bunting and Claire decreed it so. “Bunting is just what this place is missing,” she said.

And so, we decided on a huge swathe of abstract print fabric, splashed in neons, pastels and black brushstrokes. It was kind of 80s but kind of 2016-ies too. We figured it’d take the bunting from twee to edgy (c’mon, bunting can be edgy) and that all the random colours and patterns would give each flag its own unique look.

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After knocking up a long piece to festoon the length of the bar, Maria – being the unashamed bunting-basher that she is – whipped up some mini flags for Elsie’s dressers, too. All that was left to do was get it in place.

And happily, Claire seemed chuffed with the results. We must admit, this funky bunting does look right at home in this little joint. It was like it was meant to be. Take a look and see. And if you ever find yourself in this part of north London, treat yourself with a stop-off at Elsie.

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A big thank you to the ridiculously talented Irene and her generous daughter for the inspiration. We think there might be more where this came from.

Elsie, 10 Priory Road, London, N8

 

 

 

 

New in: chunky bangles, fat-free Doughnut 

author: Alice 

  
Hello, loves! January is over at last. Woo hoo.

During that gloomy month, we did as much eating, Netflix-watching and crafting as we could to lift the gloom: From more bunting-for-local-businesses projects (news of which is coming to the blog, soon), to bespoke commissions and new products for our li’l shop.

One of which is Doughnut the Cat, above. She’s a leggy, 21-inch long cordroy cat (which I made for niece Jasmine for Christmas). She’s now also in our Etsy shop and comes in cool white cord, with or without bow. We’re also taking bespoke fabric orders. So if you fancy a Doughnut made from your baby’s first babygro, for example, your wish is our command!

We’ll also be adding these chunky paracord bracelets with gold clasps that I’ve been working on, below. They’re a luxe take on the sporty jewellery trend and they look nice on their own or stacked up. With a casual tee or a little black outfit.

  

What else? Well, Maria’s been busy bunting-ing and macrame planter-ing and Sarah’s  in New York with a toddler. Look out for the planter how-to and ‘how to do the Big Apple with a baby’ blog posts soon!

Happy Saturday.

 

Shakshook for the weekend?

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Author: Sarah-Louise 

Meet, shakshuka. Or, as it’ll be known here, shakshook. It’s a spicy, oniony, tomatoey, baked-eggy dish of dreams that originally hails from Turkey and is a breakie fave in Israel.

I first had it in New Yoik and now it’s starting to pop up on breakfast menus over here (though not on as many as I’d like). I recently had it at Nati’s on Priory in Crouch End, third pic on right, below. It’s a real international affair.

Anyway, the weekend is the best time to get acquainted or re-acquainted with it. As this baby, while easy to knock up, is best prepped sloooooooooow and with lots of TLC. And with crusty sourdough. And endless coffee. Or Mimosas.

Take a look below the pics for the how-to.

 

Ingredients for 4: 2 or 3 tins (depending on appetite) of organic chopped toms; 6 organic eggs; 3 cloves of garlic, minced; 3tbsp olive oil; whole red pepper; whole red onion; 1 tsp paprika; 1tsp cumin; a pinch of cayenne; 1 1/4 cup of feta; sourdough; rock salt and pep

How to:

1. Whack on your oven to 190C

2. De-seed your peppers and slice into tiny cubes. Slice your onion super thinly

3. Heat your olive oil over a moderate heat in a saucepan then add the peppers and onion.

4. Cook gently for 20-30 mins until they start to get all nice and mushy

5. Add your garlic and cook gently for another couple of mins

6. Add your cumin, paprika and a sprinkle of cayenne and cook for another min

7. Chuck in your toms, seasoning with your salt and pep as you go, and cook for another 10 to 15 mins

8. As soon as your toms start to look all thick and slushy, crumble in your salty feta

9. Now the tricky bit, for me anyway: make sort-of hollows in your toms, then crack in your eggs

10. Season again

11. Now pop your pan into your nice hot oven. Depending on how runny you like your eggs, you can leave your wondrous concoction in there from 7 to 15 minutes. Just keep an eye on it and judgez for yourself

12. Relieve your pan from the oven. Sprinkle with something green like coriander, if you like it. Eurgh. Devil’s food. I didn’t.

13. Serve with warmed-through slices of sourdough and if you fancy giving your shakshook an extra kick, sprinkle it with tabasco

14. Consume with mugs of coffee, glasses of cool water and/or Mimosas – a simple-yet-super mix of Prosecco and OJ (Mimosa! Mimosa!)

Et, voila. What’s your favourite indulgent breakfast? We’d love to hear.

 

 

Sunday Snaps

From hot coffee to a great big neon jelly fish in the sky, it’s our week in pics…

 


Clockwise, from top left…

1.Alice: “This giant light-up sculpture (London by Janet Echelman) greeted me last week as I left my job at Top Shop at 7am, after a busy night shift. It reminded me of a huge jelly fish and looked eerily beautiful floating over a very dark and quiet Oxford Street. It was part of the Lumiere London light festival, which ran for four days last week. The artist’s inspiration was the 2011 Japanese Tsunami and this piece is actually a 3D representation of the effects of the quake, which momentarily sped up the earth’s rotation and shortened the day.”

2.Sarah: “I was taking Jasmine for an afternoon walk through our local park in Crouch End and it was icily cold but the colour of the sky was beautiful and hopeful. I’d also just been reading that this year’s official Pantone colour is Rose Quartz and Serenity – pale pink and blue – and here it ruddy was, out in the natural world.”

3. Sarah: “My ballet shoes on the church hall’s parquet flooring. First Saturday of term and I was more than a little rusty.”

4.Maria: “Sometimes all it takes is a flat white and a good croissant to feel that all’s right with the world. This was at one of my favourite London coffee shops, Coffee Circus in Crouch End.”

5.Maria: “This is a snapshot of some baby name-bunting I made for one of Sarah’s friend’s nieces. I haven’t take a pic of the whole thing as the baby in question hasn’t received it yet and we want it to be a surprise! I used red and white strawberry-print fabric and crocheted some little red flowers to sit on the white cord.”

 

Dealing with… January

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Author Sarah-Louise James

Hello, how’s your January going?

Yup, and ours…

But we’re attempting to combat the blues with the following: gallons of coffee, walks in the park when it’s not raining, wine, good TV – Spin on More 4 is on record and Netflix’s Making a Murderer is on the to-do list – concocting recipes that are both healthy and tasty (watch this space), making billions of yards of baby-name bunting and coming up with new products for our shop.

One of which is Doughnut the Cat. Please see pic of the prototype Doughnut, below – made by Alice for bebe Jasmine for Christmas. Doughnut was so named by Jasmine the other day. “What’s your cat called, Jasmine?” I asked. *15 seconds’ frowny face* “Doughnut,” came the reply. Well it sounded like doughnut, anyway. So doughnut it is. (Jasmine also has a toy dinosaur called Kevin, a fluffy white bear named Bacon and a rag doll called Hedgehog.)

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Doughnut will be a bespoke item when she arrives in the shop and we’re currently working out ways to make her very, very personal to the person who buys her. So they love her just as much as Jasmine does. Even though Jasmine chucked her out of her cot and trod on her yesterday. That’s tough love. Or maybe it’s just because it’s January.

Oh, and while we’ve got you, we wanted to draw your attention to the main image in this post. Yup, it’s a small request to follow our blog! All you need to do, if you’re not doing so already (thank you, lovelies, who are doing so already) is pop your email address in the box at the top right of the screen and you’ll get an email pop up in your inbox whenever we post a new recipe, craft how-to or style tip. Go on, follow us, you might like us!

In the meantime, stay strong. We’re almost half-way through January already…