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.

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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

Ellie

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Pick Me Up in Paradise

28 Aug

20131203-215104.jpgNothing better than a good old-fashioned holiday.

X Loulou

Bruschetta

13 Aug

Bruschetta is one staple lunchtime treat that has appeared on our plates all summer, in various forms. It makes a simple, thrown-together summertime lunch; toasted slices of fresh bread are scraped with a garlic clove, then topped with a delightful mix of cherry tomatoes, capers, basil, prosciutto, a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a squeeze of lemon. Another popular variation involves a combination of smashed avocado, chilli, garlic and lemon. Delicious.

I’m already thinking of ways to adapt this into a hearty autumnal snack – topped with a warm chilli or crispy pancetta and chestnuts, perhaps.

X Loulou

The Novel Cure

23 Jul

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I loved this idea at Latitude Festival this weekend – a bibliotherapy ambulance administering literary remedies for common ailments; the novel cure. Sign up for a consultation, share your ailment – stuck in a rut, heartbroken, stressed – and a book is suggested to help you on the road to recovery.

It got me thinking about which books have acted as a cure for me in the past. There are those which struck me in a particular way at a particular time, some so devastatingly sad that they trigger a ‘life’s not so bad after all’ reality check and then those so unashamedly uplifting that I turn to them again and again as pure escapism, a comfort blanket, a distraction.

The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
A psychological thriller to get wrapped up in. Tom Ripley is cold and calculating, yet endearing, and you end up willing him to succeed as he ends up in predicament after predicament, swapping comically between identities in a bid to survive at all costs. The description of 1950’s Italy is delicious.

Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding
A huge cliche, but I don’t think there are many women of my generation for whom Bridget isn’t some kind of icon (dare I say role model?). Returning to read this book is like catching up with an old friend for a good, ridiculous gossip.

The Secret History, Donna Tartt
I think the first time I read this was just before I went off to university. I really enjoyed it. Not sure what that says about my expectations of uni, but I’ve loved this book ever since.

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
Magically nostalgic, this is an epic story of dysfunction and demise. I wish I’d had a teddy bear called Aloysius.

One Day, David Nicholls
Whatever you do, don’t watch the film. Anne Hathaway very nearly spoiled my reading of this book forever. Oh, Dex and Em, Em and Dex. My faded copy has been read and re-read, passed around to a dozen or more people and somehow made it back to me. Best consumed in one sitting, in one day.

x Loulou

Quesadillas

14 Jul

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Were it not for the fact that we were ravenously hungry and keen to get back out in the Sunday sun, I would have photographed the delicious broad bean, pea and new potato quesadillas that we rustled up this afternoon. A photograph from the recipe book, Thomasina Miers of Wahaca’s Mexican at Home, will have to suffice until next time…

To make, tortillas are half-filled with a cheesy mixture – onion, garlic, green chilli, crushed new potatoes, broad beans, peas, tarragon, mint, lime juice and feta – and then folded in half and fried or griddled until lightly toasted on the outside. To serve, the quesadilla’s are quartered and eaten with homemade salsa, guacamole and a green salad.

Ours were all the more tasty due to the proud inclusion of homegrown legumes.

x Loulou

When Life Gives You Lemons

12 Jul

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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).

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Ellie

A Touch of Glamping

2 Jul

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We tried our hand at glamping this magical weekend. This tipi in the grounds of the beautiful Barn on the Coast just outside Bridport, Dorset, was ours for one night. It felt so good to be out in the countryside, surrounded by nothing but rolling hills and with the sea just over the brow of the hill. Stay too long in the city and you forget how clearly you can see the stars when there are no street lights around. Returning to our little tipi in darkness, we were guided by the light from the moon and lanterns made of glass jars (my late-night attempt to download a torch app failed despite the wi-fi connection). We drifted to sleep to the hooting sounds of barn owls, slept surprisingly comfortably, and awoke to a cooling early morning mist, before spending the day on the beach in the glorious sunshine.

x Loulou

Layer Cake

21 Jun

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Laced with cream, strawberries and pomegranate seeds, this four-layer victoria sponge answered the cries in my office for something especially sweet and summery to celebrate the solstice this week.

x Loulou

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Field Day

26 May

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I’m all for seizing last-minute opportunities, so when the chance to go to Field Day presented itself an hour before the gates opened, I took it, didn’t I?

I love camping but usually after three nights under canvas the call of my own bed tends to become overwhelmingly strong, which is why day festivals are so appealing to me. The idea that you can dance about in a field listening to live music by bands that you love and still catch the last tube home is just perfect. And the overpriced food and drink (although actually the falafel and arancini were really good) and obligatory queues for the portaloos remain a novelty by the end of the day!

Highlights were Solange, Chvrches, Fout Tet, Stealing Sheep.

X Loulou

Bowieee!

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!

Ellie

Colour Blocking in Pisa

21 May

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An imposingly dark rain cloud was no match for me this weekend in Pisa, when I scared it away with some powerful primary colour blocking. The sun soon reappeared in time for aperitivo.

x Loulou

Cheeeeeese!

9 May

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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.

Ellie

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’.

Ellie

Baileys Brownies

17 Mar

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To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, I adapted our classic chocolate brownie recipe by adding a little Irish cheer – 4 tablespoons of Baileys, to be precise. The Baileys gives the gooey brownies a really indulgent kick – . Having set myself the challenge of giving up drinking a while ago (luckily it was the general Pick Me Up consensus that cooking with alcohol was allowed), the amount of Baileys was just right for me, but you can add a little more if you like. Sláinte!

X Loulou

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