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Lovely things: stylish bike helmet, bird-print backpack, honey & hair pins

Lovely things: stylish bike helmet, bird-print backpack, honey & hair pins

lovely things 17 May


Some beautiful things I’ve discovered lately.

01 // Goody Hair spin pins / Now that my hair is a bit longer, I have realised the beauty of these things. Twist your hair into a bun and screw one in at either side – it holds everything in place so much better than plain old hair grips/bobby pins.

02 // Sahn bike helmet / Vancouver-designed stylish bike helmet in a gorgeous matte blue. [buy from Walrus online]

03 // Herschel ‘Little America’ backpack in limited edition Bad Hills print / Beautiful watercolour birds of the Pacific Northwest print make this big rucksack a little less utilitarian. Includes an integrated cushioned laptop sleeve inside, I love this. I’ve had so many compliments on it. This print isn’t available online, so you’ll have to hunt it down in person.

04 // Mellifera Bees honey / Honey collected from backyard hives across Vancouver, this stuff is not only beautifully packaged, but tastes incredible. We tried the lemon-infused one, but I’m really intrigued to try the cardamom one. Mmmm.


We have beehives on the roof!

We have beehives on the roof!


If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you probably have heard about the bees. I can’t stop talking about them, because I have been fascinated with the idea of keeping bees for ages.

When I worked at the arts centre in London, we had a hive on the roof of the concert hall. Hilariously named the Royal Festival Hive, it was also in the shape of the Festival Hall, and looked after at least partially by one of the guys from Saint Etienne. These crazy mashups are why I particularly miss working there. Anyway, we had artists in residence come up and sing to them, our poet in residence Lemn Sissay recited poetry for them – they were very cultured bees. Occasionally we hooked up microphones to the hive and ran cables down to the ground so people could hear the hive. The hive-keepers even had the National Poetry Library (located inside the Hall) look up bees in poetry. Apparently Sylvia Plath’s father was a beekeeper and she wrote quite a few bee poems herself. My favourite was a trio of singers who performed a selection of bee-related music, including a traditional English round first written in 1260.

We even had a party, and our one of our on-site bars made honey cocktails. It was a long night, I remember that much.

When the possibility arose that we could have a hive in our communal roof garden here at our co-op, I was beyond excited. Thankfully everyone else was keen, and from there things moved quickly. Late one evening last week, I helped Sarah from Hives for Humanity carry one of our hives up to the roof. The bees were so quiet, I couldn’t feel them at all.

The next morning, Elliot and I went up to put out the bees’ water dishes. I had no idea they need water dishes, but if you don’t put out somewhere suitable to drink, they will drown in fountains, or perch on the hosepipe scaring the landscapers. We used terra cotta plant saucers with different sized rocks in, as well as a few twigs for sitting on close to the water level. They seem to enjoy it, when I came out the same afternoon there were four or five on each one.

Our hives are sponsored by both Legacy Liquor, a lovely local neighbourhood shop, and Hives for Humanity. We will have the chance to watch the Chief Beekeeper from Hives for Humanity work on our hives, and hopefully learn a bit about beekeeping ourselves. After our first beekeeper visit, our bees have been pronounced happy and healthy. I admit, I sing to the bees when I bring them their water in the morning, in a bit of a homage to the old arts centre hive.


Our new {old} reclaimed wood table by Vancouver Reclaimed

Our new {old} reclaimed wood table by Vancouver Reclaimed


When we moved into our new apartment, we had the chance to get a proper dining table. I was beyond excited, because I am a dining table kind of worker. I have fond memories of setting out my books to plan out things at my parents’ table, and in the few places I’ve lived since that had space for one. I love feeding others, and it just doesn’t work with little cramped gateleg things.

I’ve wanted a reclaimed wood table for ages. I started doing research, and got it into my head I could make my own if I just got the wood. I was downloading schematics of legs built with plumber’s pipe and everything. Sense made its way slowly into my brain, pushing past pages of Pinterest boards filled with homemade tables. Right, I don’t own any tools of any kind. And have no space to work on the wood. And, well, we’re moving.

So! I changed tack and started getting some quotes in for someone else making a table for us. A few were a bit crazy, but then I happened upon the Vancouver Reclaimed site. I don’t know, I just liked the look of his work. All the pieces were simple, but well-proportioned. It’s hard to describe, but have a look through Etsy at the furniture and you’ll see what I mean. Anyone can stick four legs on a piece of wood, but it takes someone with an eye to make it look lovely.


Brooke Wingrove, the man behind Vancouver Reclaimed, made us a table and a bench out of wood rescued from a Steveston marine netting warehouse. The wood is around 75 years old. If you’re keen on pristine tabletops, reclaimed wood is not for you. Our table features knots and whorls, marks and gouges, nicks and scrapes. It’s finished and sealed, of course, but it has character. Brooke makes these beautiful metal hairpin legs for his tables and benches (if you like, he makes others as well), and it makes our table float. None of that chunky heaviness you sometimes see.


When Brooke drove our table and bench round for delivery, we got to talking and of course, he is an ex-Londoner as well. He moved back a year after we moved over there, and we had a good chat about missing pubs, Saturday supplements and Muji. He turned his hand to furniture making when he returned from the UK, after being dissatisfied with what he could find to furnish his own place. Friends saw his work and started asking him to make pieces for themselves, and so it went.

I’m not sure what else we can get Brooke to make for our house, but we’re having a good think about it, because I love his work.

Disclosure: None. I found Brooke through the oracle of Google, and we paid for our furniture. It’s too good not to share.


iPad app review: Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra

iPad app review: Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra

Naxos Records' My First Orchestra app

As a musician myself, albeit a keen amateur one, I’m always looking for ways to involve Elliot in listening and talking about classical music. We watch concerts on TV, we listen to it around the house and talk about how the music makes us feel, maybe about which instruments we can hear. Sometimes if I’m feeling brave, I get out my cello and let him bow while I stop the strings, or we drag out the accordion for a bit of a polka party.

When I spotted Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra iPad app, I had to try it.

Tormod the Troll takes you on a journey around the orchestra, learning about the different instrument families and what each one sounds like. You get to hear a few composers talk briefly about their music, and Tormod even has a go too. The app is for ages four and up, though Elliot is only three and a half, he is quite interested in it. There is a lot of text on the screen most of time, and I was sure this would turn him off, but it doesn’t seem to. He goes back to it quite often of his own accord –  I have to admit I was thrilled!

photo 2-1

A price of $4.99 CDN is likely to stop a few people in their tracks, but let me tell you why it’s worth it.

Naxos Records has an interesting story – they are relatively new as record companies go, beginning only in the late 80s. Starting out as one Hong Kong entrepreneur’s idea alongside his high-end audio equipment business, Naxos grew into one of the most innovative and interesting classical record labels out there. They commit to recording new classical music, which is something spectacular in itself as the market for these recordings isn’t huge, and they keep their prices low. It’s incredibly important now, because without Naxos we wouldn’t have the ability to hear some of the newest composers at all. Within traditional classical music, they tend towards young performers and lesser-known orchestras. These are not substandard recordings, by any means.

Of course, this means they have an extensive catalogue to draw from when it comes to an app like My First Orchestra, and for your $5, you get full recordings of over 30 pieces of music. Full-length ones, not just clips. Whether your child will sit through an entire recording is something else of course.

There is loads to explore here, and I would happily recommend it. No wonder both the Sunday Times and the Guardian picked it out in their best apps lists.

Note: I just spotted this isn’t available in the US, but it’s good to go for the UK and Canada.

Disclosure: None, I spotted the app myself and paid for it.


How to make naturally dyed easter eggs

How to make naturally dyed easter eggs

Naturally dyed easter eggs | Erin at Large

I remember dyeing eggs with my mum when I was little. I remember her blowing out the shells, and the state of the egg carton after it was dripping with food colouring. I remember the year we tried to draw on the eggs with melted wax and then dye them.

This year, I was gripped with the urge to dye eggs at about 3 in the afternoon. Elliot was busy painting at the kitchen table, so I grabbed a few eggs from the fridge, a pin and a bowl and got started.

Only, I couldn’t remember how to do it.

So – after phone calls to my mum, consulting the oracle of Google, and some trial and error, I present you my new-found knowledge on the subject of natural easter egg dyes.

It’s a bit messy. It is a bit time consuming. On the plus side, you can usually get started with minimal planning as you’re sure to have some of these things around the kitchen already. One thing I love about these dyes is how well they look together. With commercial dye kits you can make god-awful looking collections of things, and despite no real thought to how it would come together, my eggs look gorgeous.

Blowing out the eggs

I am the only one in my house who eats eggs, unless they are well-concealed in a cake, so I chose to blow out my eggs so I could freeze the innards. There are loads of instructions on the interwebs for how to do this with egg blowers (?) etc, but this is the quick and dirty I-didn’t-plan-ahead version.

You will need:

  • eggs (I used a mixture of brown and white, which looked lovely)
  • a pin
  • a hairbrush (or something else hard to knock the pin in)
  • paper towels
  • a bowl
  • wooden skewer or something else slightly larger than your pin, ideally with a pointy end

1. Wash your eggs, you will be putting your mouth on the shell.

2. Hold the pin on one of the pointy ends of the egg, then carefully and gently knock the pin into the egg with the flat side of the hairbrush. It shouldn’t be difficult. If it’s not working, try a different spot on the egg.

3. Push the pin in and out a few times to make a decent hole, then repeat on the other end.

4. Pick whichever end looks easiest and then gently work your skewer into the hole to break the yolk inside. You may need to work with the pin first to make the hole bigger.

5. Hold the egg over the bowl, bigger hole facing down. Put your mouth on the small hole and blow! Eventually all the egg insides will come out. You can freeze these for later.


Dyeing the eggs

I tried to make dye with the red bits of rainbow chard – it didn’t work. I tended to be liberal with my sloshings of white vinegar, it seems to act as a fixer for the dye as well as making the colours brighter. As the eggshells will still have a bit of egg inside, I put my shells in the dye when the water was still close to boiling to both sterilise them and satisfy my impatience. You will need to leave most eggs in the dye overnight to see a decent colour change, except for purple cabbage which is crazy stuff.

Dark pink: Cut 1 beetroot into quarters and boil with 4 cups of water for 15 minutes. Fish out the beetroot chunks, add 2 tbsp of white vinegar. I also did this with red onion skins, which was purported to produce jade green on one site I looked at. It didn’t, but I got a lovely dark reddy pink.

Blue: Take a quarter of a red cabbage and cut into chunks, boil with 4 cups of water for 15-20 minutes, add 2 tbsp of white vinegar. The pale blue eggs in my photo I did by using the dye right away. If you leave it to cool with the cabbage in it for longer, the dye becomes much stronger, and turns a darker purple colour. The mottled-looking purple egg above was in water I left cabbage in overnight, and only put the egg in for about 15 minutes!

Green: I have yet to find a decent green. What I have tried that didn’t work: spinach, grass clippings, kale. Suggestions gratefully received below.

Yellow: Add 3 tbsp powdered turmeric for 4 cups of boiling water. Add 2 tbsp of white vinegar. The beautiful dark yellow egg is a brown one I put in the turmeric dye.

I found the best way to do this, as blown-out eggs float, is to put the eggs in an old yoghurt container, pour the dye over, and then put another container of the same size on top, filling the top container with a bit of water until it holds the eggs under the surface of the dye.

Originally posted on my old blog last year, but I’ve edited and updated for this year. Enjoy!