Archive by Author

Christmas with Narwhal & Co

5 Dec


Not only does Narwhal & Co, my new papercutting venture, now have a shiny new website, but also some snazzy business cards, just in time for Christmas. That means I’m totally legit, right?

I’m exhibiting at a couple of Christmas markets over the next few weeks so please come along if you’re based in London – find the details on the Narwhal & Co blog!



A Passionate Affair

14 Nov

Move over lemon curd, there is a new preserve in town. We’re not sure how it happened, after the first slice of toast topped with The Bay Tree Passion Fruit Curd, Pick Me Up thought hmm this is nice, but then the second quickly followed…and the third… and then there may have been some spooning directly from the jar to mouth and then sponge cakes had to be made purely so the king of curds could be folded through cream and sandwiched in the middle…sigh.  Passion Fruit Curd + Pick Me Up = True Love Forever.

But then the jar was empty.

Dark times followed.

A quest for a new jar sent Pick Me Up to Devon. Yes, Devon*, and all was right with the world again. It is amazing, but you probably wouldn’t like it. Especially not in the middle of a sponge cake. Or even folded through whipped cream and mixed with broken meringues.


*Ok this was not the sole reason for the trip to Devon. But nearly.

Bookshelf Porn

6 Sep

Inspired by the incredible images on Bookshelf Porn, Grace rearranged some of Pick Me Up’s books.  A couple of us work in the industry and are very fortunate to have access to a stream of new free reading material.  The turnover in books is pretty high, as we all like passing on a good read or sending on to charity shops the titles that don’t quite make it in to the permanent collection.  What I find interesting is how much we all appreciate books as physical objects: not only do they give a room a comforting homely feel (and hours can be spent rainbowing them) but they bear physical traces of our lives – one very faded and slightly battered copy of One Day by David Nicholls has made it round a friendship group, has grains of sand from various beach holidays embedded in the spine and slightly crinkly patches toward the end where someone spilt a drink (definitely not tearstains).

I’ve spotted the book I’ll be reading next in this photo (if I can resist the overpowering urge to bathe in the nostalgia of rereading Harry Potter, that is)


Narwhal & Co: The Beginning

5 Sep

pick me up - NarwhalandCo Eiffel TowerBeing pretty handy with a scalpel is something I never thought I’d discover myself to be.  I’d had some previous attempts at papercutting which I was quite happy with so when it came to coming up with a wedding present for my beautiful friend Beth and her lovely husband Nick, I thought I would create something personal and hopefully pretty. Nick proposed to Beth halfway up a mountain overlooking a castle, so I used that image along with their initials, the wedding date and clinking champagne glasses in my design. I first cut it out on some vintage sheet music.

pick me up - NarwhalAndCo papercut

I liked the embellishment the music added to the design but in the end decided on a vintage map of the town in which they met in order to add another personal layer to their story. And so started my obsession…

I love rescuing old things and giving them a new life and have always been fascinated by maps. Combining this with the great story telling tradition of papercutting (Hans Christian Anderson would fold and cut a sheet of paper as he told a story to unveil a pattern of the characters and images from the story at its denouement) seemed only natural. Scouring charity shops and carboot sales is strangely addictive and I have amassed a stack of maps with stories to tell. Friends and family have been long suffering recipients of handmade presents and so it seems only fair to give them a break and set my sights on pastures new. I’m keeping my ambitions modestly global (ahem) and have set up shop on etsy. Narwhal & Co stocks hand cut papercuts on vintage maps, books and sheet music. Greetings cards and art pieces are being added daily.

pick me up - NarwhalAndCo literary lovers

My shop name sprang from a Pick Me Up obsession with Narwhals and their magical tusks (another post, I think).

Do stop by


When Life Gives You Lemons

12 Jul


At Pick Me Up we love a bit of women power. Watching the incredible mini series Mildred Pierce strarring Kate Winslett (who we’ve frankly loved ever since seeing Titanic at an impressionable age), got us a more than a little inspired. Ok Mildred has more than her fair share of troubles to contend with (cheating husband, bratty daughter, dying daughter, another cheating husband, the Depression, a corporate coup…) but she finds out what she is good at and enjoys and builds a successful business from the ground up. So she might not end up rich with a happy family at the end but her talent and resourcefulness remains. And the lemon meringue pies look amazing. So we are taking our life lemons and making some pie (and fresh lemonade).




23 May

wpid-20130522_145254Advance tickets are sold out but you can still turn up early, queue and be rewarded with a same day ticket to the incredible David Bowie Is show at the V&A. Boy is it worth the wait. Head sets play you music and voiceovers triggered by proximity to the exhibits as you wander around the packed exhibition so that the experience is as immersive and over the top as Bowie’s work. The head sets also make for the odd amusing scene as visitors forget themselves in their own little Bowie world – a middle aged man obliviously belting out ‘Ground control to Major Tom…’ was met with smiles by everyone. The exhibition is a smorgasboard of the influences on, early incarnations and many metamorphoses of Bowie. I spent two hours wandering round and could have spent a lot longer. The double height screen-packed room is particularly transfixing – how can a museum recreate the spine-tingling power exceptional performers have? The V&A have got as close as possible with the clever combination of costumes, lights and footage innovatively deployed here. The span of generations I saw visiting the exhibition underlines quite how relevant and transcending Bowie still is. Go!



9 May


We generally try to eat pretty healthily here at Pick Me Up but on some occasions are happy to acknowledge that only cheese will do. Not least because it allows us to run through all the cheese jokes we know (there are a lot and unfortunately some of us ahem forget the actual jokes and can only remember the punch lines – importantly we still find ourselves hilarious). A whole baked camembert has got to be one of the most indulgent ways to eat cheese and is a lot easier than making fondu. We stuck a couple of cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of thyme in the top of out camembert before baking it in the oven until runny. Then dipped toasted baguette, chorizo, ham…whatever else we had lying around into the delicious melted cheese.


Food For the Soul (or Some Pretty Lights)

29 Mar

A visit to the Light Show at the Hayward Gallery provided not only ample opportunity to indulge in hand shadow puppets but some uplifting aesthetic indulgence too. Some pieces were frankly underwhelming, I did not get the romance and clarity of moonlight from Katie Paterson’s blue bulb and, James Turrel’s Wedgework V left me bored and numb of behind. But amongst the many explorations of light were some pieces that scored the hat-trick of art goals (in my very sophisticated critical system) by being pretty, cleverly made and thought-provoking. (I’d take just the former, truth be told). My favourite was definitely Model for a timeless garden by Olafur Eliasson – otherwordly and beautiful. The flowing streams and cascades of water frozen in the strobe lighting evoked, for me, crystals, icebergs and b-movie monsters. It was very hard to resist the urge to touch the water.

Walking through the different colour sections of Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturation was a visually disturbing experience (in a good way). Winning commendations for pretty, in a yeah, I’d have that in my house way, were Leo Villareal’s twinkly Cylinder II and Jim Campbell’s Exploded View (Commuters).

And the gift shop had cute ‘jars of sunlight’.


Elderflower Fairy Cakes

5 Mar

A glimpse of spring sunshine has got me yearning for more today. As we turn down the heating at Pick Me Up HQ and try not to get too carried away discarding winter layers, we are officially starting the countdown to warmer times with the taste of English summer in a fairy cake. Evoking sunlit hedgerows, garden parties and pretty picnics, the delicate flavour of the elderflower sponge is ramped up by lashings of elderflower icing with a zing of lemon.

Cream together 4oz of butter with 4oz caster sugar, beat in 2 eggs then fold in 4oz self-raising flour. Finally, stir in 3 tbsp Elderflower cordial (I use Belvoir Elderflower cordial as the bottles are so pretty). Divide the mixture into 12 fairy cake cases in a fairy cake tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees / gas mark 4 for 12-14 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch. Leave to cool.

For the icing, cream together 2 tbsp Elderflower cordial, 1 tsp Lemon juice, 8oz icing sugar and 4oz butter. Spread generously on to the fairy cakes and top with sugar flowers and mint leaves.


Letterpress Printing

27 Feb

Letterpress printing is having a bit of a moment.  Championed by some of my favourite bloggers (Jordan Ferney at Oh Happy Day, I’m looking at you) beautiful fonts are everywhere. After falling in love with this Pause and Wonder print by Aardvark, discovered in the V&A shop, and not a little inspired by the ideals it champions, I decided to give letterpress printing a whirl. A one day course at Ink Spot Press in Brighton saw me using wood and metal type to lay out basic card designs and print off small runs (with varying levels of success).

In this age of instant information overload and disposability there is something charming about cards and posters produced in a slower more measured fashion. Laying out type takes time, forces consideration of the content and space around. That said, I got overexcited by the fonts on offer (over 180 cases of type) as my icing card shows.


I’ve a way to go to learn the elegance of restraint. Remembering where all the letters had come from when it was time to tidy up was a real struggle.


On Bitter Winds and Cosy Ears

22 Feb


In the face of frosty February, more than a few Pick Me Ups are needed to keep us smiling and cosy. Solving the hair-up hat dilema that gets us down this time of year is this vintage style knitted headband from the talented fingers of Pick Me Up’s Grace.  As the living room steadily fills with balls of beautifully coloured wool and parcels reveal more new needles (who knew there were so many different types of needle?), we are slightly concerned that Grace has become a knit-nut but, if the result is unique cosy hats, headbands and scarves all round, I think we’ll live happily with this vice.

Clickety clack



26 Jan


Inspired by this week’s Great Comic Relief Bake Off, a reinterpretation of the bakewell tart in cake form. The combination of almond and flour in the sponge keeps it light but moist.  Sandwiched together with a pippy raspberry jam in the middle and flaked almonds and glace icing drizzled on the top. Delish.


Christmas Crafting

19 Dec

pick me up - christmas decorationDays of Christmas crafting in the Pick Me Up household. Fueled by lebkuchen and accompanied by cheesy christmas tunes on the radio, biscuits were baked, hats knitted and decorations fashioned. I pursued a papercut theme with christmas cards and clay  decorations in the same rabbit and bird designs.

pick me up - christmas craftingAfter rolling out air-dry clay I cut out my designs using a scalpel, a couple of days drying out and they were ready to paint with acrylic and seal with a spray matt varnish.

Family and friends are long accustomed to receiving homemade (or should that be bespoke) presents from me so I’ll not ‘disappoint’ them this year.


I Capture the Castle

12 Sep

Some books provide the same reassuring comfortable feeling as curling up in your childhood bed or putting on a favourite snuggly jumper. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is one such book for me. First encountered in my impressionable years I’d say it had a profound effect on my character but its legacy was also some romantic affectations (to this day I harbour aspirations to live in a tumble-down castle). Cassandra is one of the most charming narrators I’ve ever encountered and the lightness of touch with which Dodie Smith handles her coming of age belies the wisdom of many of her observations. The line about noble deeds and hot baths being the best cures for depression has lingered with me as has the idea of the importance of satisfying creative urges. I hold the eclectic yet entirely convincing cast of characters in great affection.

The film version is pretty good (with Bill Nighy, a Pick Me Up favourite, on incredible form as Mortmain) although nothing beats reading and re-reading it.


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