Saturday, 30 October 2010

In Season | Figs

As far as I'm concerned, the fig season is all too short, so come autumn I'm always on the lookout. I picked up these beauties from Brick Lane after work on Sunday morning, and at five for a pound they were an absolute steal.

I like to eat them as they are - fresh. But not everyone in the household finds them as palatable this way. So rather than gorge on them all by myself (a tempting thought), I find baking them with some honey and spices and serving them with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts (also in season) a simple way to share the love.

Baked honey-spiced figs

Serves 2

4 figs
4 knobs of butter
2 tbsps runny honey
1 cinnamon stick + 2 star anise (or a teaspoon of ground cinnamon if you don't have whole spices handy)
Greek yoghurt
Handful of shelled hazelnuts

  • Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F
  • Cut a criss-cross in the top of each of the figs to about about halfway down the fruit, and open them up slightly.
  • Arrange the figs snugly in a small baking dish, and add a knob of butter to each.
  • Nestle in the whole spices (or sprinkle over the ground cinnamon), drizzle over the honey and add 2 tbsp water to the dish.
  • Bake in the oven for 15 mins. 5 mins before the end of cooking time, spoon the cooking juices over the figs and pop the hazelnuts onto a small baking tray or piece of foil to toast in the oven next to them.
  • Remove the figs & hazelnuts from the oven. Spoon more of the hot syrup over the figs and set aside - I like to wait until the figs are warm rather than piping hot before I eat them. In the meantime roughly chop the hazelnuts.
  • Serve topped with greek yoghurt, a spoonful of the rose-coloured buttery syrup and the toasted hazelnuts.

Monday, 25 October 2010

European Month of Photography

© Peter Lindbergh 

By a happy coincidence I am in Berlin while the European Month of Photography is on. I have to admit I'd never actually heard of it - apparently it's the fourth - but it turns out it's a bit of a gem. Basically, photography has taken over the galleries of the city. There's a little booklet, a website & an iPhone app that list photo exhibitions on subjects as diverse as the changing face of the centre of Berlin over the last 170 years and colourful electron microscope photography of tiny bugs blown up to be the size of monsters.

© Sebastian Klug

There are so many exhibitions it's impossible to see them all but a couple of my favourites so far have been Sebastian Klug's photos of nightlife in Berlin taken on a mobile phone - I think it captures the feeling of clubbing more completely than any other exhibition I've seen; and Ortzeit, a collection of pairs of photos by Stefan Koppelkamm of streets in East Germany: the earlier pictures were taken just after the fall of the wall, and the later ones anything from 10 to 14 years later. It really encapsulates the dramatic change (and in some case the dramatic stagnation) that has occurred in this part of the world over the last two decades.

© Stefan Koppelkamm

The other great thing about this set of exhibitions is that it gives you the chance to go into all sorts of galleries and museums that you would probably never visit otherwise - the German post museum anyone? If you find yourself in this part of the world between now and February (despite being called a Month many events are going on far longer) I urge you to check out at least one or two of these great shows.

Friday, 22 October 2010

A Stitch In Time

What to write in my first ever blog post? Natalie is of course the seasoned hand at this and can reel off the most wonderful blog posts in the blink of an eye. As for me, it’s been a head-scratcher.

So I’m keeping it simple and starting with a fabric keepsake - my grandmother’s Peranakan blouses from the 1950’s. I should briefly explain that Peranakan refers to the 15th century descendants of Chinese traders who settled and intermarried in what is now known as Malaysia and Singapore - and from whom both my parents’ families are descended. One afternoon, on a visit to Singapore over a decade ago, my maternal grandmother and I were poring over old photo albums while sipping Chinese tea. I was particularly taken with the black and white photos of Nyonya (Peranakan women) elegantly posing in their traditional dress of sarong kebaya – a long sleeved buttonless embroidered blouse (kebaya) tailored to skim over the figure and worn over a colourful batik sarong. “I still have my old nyonya kebaya”, my grandmother told me walking over to an old wooden armoire in the corner of her bedroom. Pulling open a drawer she held up to the light several of the most exquisite blouses I had ever seen. I was smitten.

Made from delicate cotton voile each kebaya varied in colour from pristine white to vibrant turquoise, mossy green to buttercup yellow. The intricate embroidery (known as sulam) on each was of flora, richly detailed around the edges of the seams and sleeves either in contrasting coloured threads or matched to the same hue of the cotton voile.It could take a highly skilled seamstress up to six months to painstakingly stitch just one nyonya kebaya and was an expensive outlay even in the 1950’s. It made me curious about the Peranakan culture I knew little about. Rooted in Chinese tradition and strongly influenced by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. They were known for taking great pride in their appearance and for being skilled artisans in needlecraft, ornate embroidery and intricate beadwork that they used to embellish clothing, shoes and all manner of textiles for the home.

My grandmother’s kebayas had lain forgotten in a drawer for decades. A garment once synonymous with Peranakan heritage and identity had long fallen out of favour with fashion (though I now hear they are enjoying a bit of a revival). Surprised by my admiration for her ‘old blouses’ she gave them to me, and said they needed someone to appreciate them. Even at my slimmest there was never a chance I was ever going to fit into them tailored as they were to my grandmother’s petite frame. Instead I see each kebaya as part of a lost art form and have carefully stored them away for posterity. But on occasion I like to take them out of their tissue paper, run my hand over the embroidery, slide an arm through the sleeve to feel the fineness of the fabric, give a nod to the seamstress who toiled over it, and daydream about the stories hidden in their stitches.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


I have recently moved and seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about wallpaper, paint and curtains. What has come as a bit of a surprise is the way I have found myself inexorably drawn to all things chartreuse. I don't really know where this has come from. I have always been a fan of sister colour lime green but yellow is most definitely not my thing. I'm not sure how easy it would be to live with but I suspect I may be about to find out.

Oh, and just to keep in the spirit of the thing I've also been indulging in a little of the original. Perhaps that could explain the recent obsession?

[Images above from top: Harlequin Wallpaper - Elodie 30203; Romo - Rubani Collection Seraphine fabric in Dijon; Chartreuse liqueur]

Friday, 15 October 2010

Fabulous Furoshiki

A pile of furoshiki
I recently visited Japan for the first time and it wouldn't be too much of an overstatement to say that it completely blew me away. Of course I was expecting to see some breathtaking temples, drink some amazing teas and hold some beautiful ceramics in my hands but what did surprise me was the plethora of absolutely gorgeous fabrics everywhere. From the elegant: who knew so many women still wore kimonos? To the simple: a square of patterned cotton stuck to a bathroom window as an alternative to a blind. But my discovery of the trip were furoshiki. Simple squares of material originally used to transport clothes or goods (think Dick Whittington without the stick) they are now more usually used to wrap presents. Apart from being a green option I think this is one of the most fantastic ideas ever. I mean, who wouldn't want to receive a gift wrapped in a beautiful piece of cloth?

A gift wrapped in a furoshiki
But furoshiki are no niche fancy schmancy thing in Japan. I first became aware of them standing in a queue waiting for the loo. I kept noticing that rather than standing waving their hands under a lacklustre air dryer women were pulling lovely cloths from their bags, drying off their wet hands, then popping said cloth back into their bags. After a little more observation and some investigation I found out what was going on. Japanese people have used thin, rectangular cotton hand towels called Tenugui for centuries. Clearly, a number of people still carry these cloths with them (don't you love that continuation of tradition?). But mobile hand-drying has also moved on: some people are carrying a different type of cotton cloth, one backed by towelling, but many others are improvising and using their furoshiki instead. Perhaps they were given to them as gift wrapping or maybe they've just treated themselves - and they wouldn't struggle to find them, they're for sale everywhere.

A display of furoshiki
Obviously, I was sold on the whole idea and bought myself one immediately. OK, when I say one I mean about twelve. But in my defence these little squares of cotton cloth are about the handiest thing ever. Need something to dry your hands on? Check. Need to mop your brow whilst on the tube? Check. Enjoying a picnic lunch and need a handy napkin? Check. I mean really, what's not to love? And when you get home at the end of the day you just pop it in the wash basket and pick up a new one. Who needs a load of tissues or stolen paper napkins when you can have a gorgeous piece of fabric to do the job?

Part of my furoshiki stash
Not only are furoshiki an eco-friendly choice, I can pretty much guarantee carrying one will make you happy. Each time that gorgeous little square of fabric comes out of my bag it makes me feel all warm inside. Never did I ever imagine a visit to a public convenience could leave me feeling so joyous! So that's my plan from now on, gifts wrapped in furoshiki - well, if I can bring myself to actually part with the lovely things that is.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Hello and welcome to our new blog. We've been talking about getting this thing up and running for ages and finally we're doing it. We are two Londoners who cemented our friendship via a shared love of cake, fabulous design and beautiful fabric. During one of our afternoon tea outings we got to talking about writing our own blog featuring the kind of things that inspire us - and here we are! You can expect to read about everything from interiors to music and from crafting to fashion; basically if it catches our eye or interests us we'll be writing about it. So, a little bit more about each of us:

I am Natalie and I'm lucky enough to split my time between London and Berlin. I love cycling to appointments: whether it's clad in a helmet and hi-vis gear (in London), or on a Dutch bike with the wind in my hair (in Berlin), I can't get enough of life on two wheels. My other big obsession is tea and cake; and to keep me sane I write about my adventures over at Afternoon Tea Total. But hours spent trawling the internet; reading design mags; gazing longingly at beautiful things; and taking photos everywhere I go has meant I need another outlet - before I burst under the weight of accumulated bookmarks, printed material and bits of fabric. Oh, and did I mention that I love sewing? Or film-making? Or baking? Or a million other things that fill my head at any one time? No? Well I'm sure you'll be hearing about all that soon enough...

I'm Trudi and I enjoy rooting around for beautiful design and lovely fabrics for my home and wardrobe. Browsing and rummaging have been a lifelong passion wholly encouraged by a previous job sourcing interiors and tableware for Alan Yau. I absolutely adore food: cooking it; eating it; and sharing it. It makes me happy! I'm incredibly lucky to be doing something I love - teaching yoga - which allows me to meet wonderful people from all walks of life every week. So many gorgeous things, so little time. Let's get to it!

So that's us. We're both glad to finally be here and we hope you will enjoy our musings as much as we'll enjoy sharing them with you.

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