a souvenir giveaway : natural dye and block printing - NOW CLOSED

I thought about you a lot on my travels, you know. Wondering what you were all doing and whether you would like me to bring you back a souvenir .. that kind of thing. So I decided to bring back a token from each of the three cities I visited.

In Vancouver there is an amazing shop on Granville Island called Maiwa. I discovered it last summer when we were there, so made a bee-line there once again. Twice in fact. It would have been more, only the family already knew what I was up to! The supply store is a treasure trove, filled with all sorts of goodness to get the textile creative juices flowing; be it knitting, crochet, felting, sewing, painting, natural dyeing or printing. It was the latter two that had me transfixed mostly and I thought it may be of interest to you, too.

I picked up a special natural colour kit that the shop had put together on the back of one of the courses it runs. The set comes with nine pre-blended colours, all from natural plant dyes and extracts such as logwood, madder root, cochineal, lac, henna, chlorophyll and pomegranate, together with alum which is used to set protein fibres such as wool and silk. However, if you got yourself some tannin, you could also use this kit to set linen, cotton and other cellulose fabrics. There is a concise instruction sheet, which will help you through your experiments, and it is completely safe to use in the kitchen and get the children involved. Also included is a natural dyed/block printed organic cotton tote (chosen by the Model) and a leafy hand carved wooden print block (as carefully chosen for you by the Boy). And just to prove it was a completely family affair, the Husband picked up the bill. Ha!

Secondly, the seriously fabulous and groovy Space Needle celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, so from Seattle comes a retro 60s style tin filled with mints. The perfect for your handbag tin was made especially for the Space Needle to commemorate the iconic landmark's milestone this year.

And finally, from Portland comes a Larabar. Now, this may seem an odd thing to include but, believe me, these things are seriously delicious. So much so that we ate our way through the entire range and back during our visit. We even ended up bringing home a box each of the apple pie and cashew bars to keep us going until we can send the Husband back again for more. Free from gluten, dairy, soy, peanut and added sugars but unfortunately not available in the UK, you can choose which flavour you would prefer. Believe me, if it were up to me I'd include one of each but there's no way the kiddos will buy that idea. Not a hope!

So if you would like to win this souvenir, all you need do is leave a comment on this post. If you put the button on your sidebar, or mention it on your blog/twitter/facebook, then let me know and I'll enter you a second time. I am prepared to send to anywhere on the globe and will leave the giveaway open until midnight GMT on Saturday 12th May. A winner will be announced on the Monday. Good luck!

The Model has an important celebration on Friday so I must put all my energies into that now. See you next week!


slight change of plan

We woke up especially early this morning, all bleary eyed we were, for our first day back to school. But oh dear, when we arrived at the suspiciously quiet gates it didn't take long to find out school starts tomorrow instead. But just about long enough to be spotted by several members of staff! Oh well, at least we had a little longer to finish the homework project that didn't quite get done because of our trip. This morning the children made up a song - that'll be a music lesson to tick off, I reckon. Followed by a spot of impromptu baking (cookery: tick) and photography (art: tick).

These delicious cakes were knocked up in next to no time but despite them being so quick to make, no expense has been spared on taste. They are scrumptious.

almond and coconut cakes

170g ground almonds
scant 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
30g coconut oil, melted and cooled
2 tblsp runny honey
2 large eggs

creme fraiche to serve

makes 6

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the ground almonds and bicarb into a large bowl. Put the remaining cake ingredients into a separate bowl and whisk till combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir to incorporate. Spoon the mixture into six muffin cups and cook for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and a cocktail stick comes out clean when tested. Allow to cool in the tin before coating with a spoonful of creme fraiche. 
Best eaten soon after eating but will keep a couple of days or so in an airtight container, or alternatively freeze.

I'm not too sure what the harmony and rosie school will be doing this afternoon but it may possibly involve a field trip.

Happy Monday to you, I'll be back in a couple of days with a souvenir giveaway. I hope your day is drier than ours here!


about easter

Did you have a happy Easter? I do hope you did. We spent ours by crossing the Canadian border for a brief trip to the US of A, the beautiful weather following us every step of the way from Vancouver.

We had a mighty long drive but eventually, well into the evening, a tempting display of twinkling lights guided us over the many bridges the Columbia river has to offer and we found ourselves downtown Portland, Oregon. It seems to be a relaxed, laid back city with an edgy, creative feel to it; shortly before our trip I read that there are more Etsy sellers in Portland than in any other city in the world. It's also very clean, far more so than London.

Sadly we had only a limited time to explore but our first stop was the vibrant farmers' market on the University campus. It was such a happy experience, with so much life, colour and happiness going on there. An array of tempting organic food on offer, lots of delicacies to try, several bands playing on the grass, balloon makers fascinating the children and so much more. We then took advantage of Portland's free inner city tram system and whiled away a good long time in Powells. It's not the sort of place that can be done quickly because it claims to be the world's largest book store at over 68,000 sq ft retail floor space. They sell a mixture of new and used books, and are visited by thousands of book lovers each day.

But I have to say, the highlight of my time in Portland was spending Easter Sunday morning sipping hot drinks in a rather trendy coffee bar with my new bff, Alex of Lola Nova. The husband dropped me off, waiting for the a-ok thumbs up before whisking the kiddos off to the Science Museum. Of course I had an advantage over Alex because I knew what she looked like and as I peered through the window I could see her sitting there, waiting. It was so exciting and also rather surreal because, even though we had never met before, I felt like I knew her so well through many months of visiting her lovely blog. So we hugged and laughed and sat down with our 'cuppas' for a chat.

But after what seemed like a very short time, I felt a tap on my shoulder and saw the family looking rather confused to find us still deep in conversation as they announced that three hours had gone by since they had dropped me off at that coffee bar. Three whole hours and we hadn't stopped talking over the two cups of coffee and tea that lasted the distance.

I must tell you that Alex is such a beautiful and warm, easy going lady. She makes gorgeous dresses for cute Pony Girl and offers brilliant tutorials, some of which have already been snapped up by Mollie Makes. She makes delicious preserves with the glut of food she grows or finds at the farmers' market and more, but I'm sure you already know that if you're familiar with her wonderful blog. And because of this intoxicating mix, you won't be surprised to hear she has written a soon to be published book, Simple Sewing with Lola Nova, featuring 25 of her very own crafty designs. I know this book will be a winner and you can bet I'll be buying it when it comes out in the UK this September (publishing in the US, Spring 2013). Can't wait.

After I'd said a reluctant goodbye to Alex, the family and I headed off up the freeway to Seattle. We had even less time there but enough to get a general (good) feel of the place, plus fit in a ride on the monorail to the Space Needle, which is what makes Seattle's skyline so instantly recognisable.

When I come back next week I will have a very special giveaway because, as is good holiday tradition, I brought back a souvenir ... the only catch is, unfortunately only one of you can have it. Meanwhile I shall leave you with these lovely ladies who stand guard at one of my all time favourite stores in North America. The one in Kensington is nothing in comparison!

See you next week, everyone.


long haul

Have I mentioned that the husband travels a lot on business? Because he visits a variety of far flung places it means he can be away for a couple of weeks at a time, which is quite tough on the kids (me too, actually).

Anyway, about three weeks ago he had to go out to Nairobi. Then to Miami. Then to Houston. So when he suggested the children and I joined him in our favourite city, we leapt up very high at the chance. It was an extremely long journey which involved a lengthy stop over. But once there, it was all most definitely worth it and quickly forgotten because we visited a city where you can spend the morning up in the snowy mountains

afternoon, cycling to the beach

and perhaps a spot of shopping in the evening

right here ..

As well as revisiting Canada, we crossed the border into the States and drove down into Washington and Oregon for a couple of days over Easter. It was whilst in Oregon that I met up with a very, very special lady, and I shall tell you all about that next time.

Happy Monday to you, it is a fabulous day here.