Saturday, 20 August 2016

Rock & Roll Carpentry & Fabulous Posters

I usually blog every Friday afternoon but had to miss this Friday because I was loading up a truck with all my goodies for Formex. That is Scandinavias biggest interiors and gifts trade show. I've been doing it for about 8 years and it starts on Wednesday so I had lots to do. Not least because I decided on a last minute stand display idea the day before load in. The result of that last minute decision meant lots of painting and rock n roll carpentry. When I say 'Rock & Roll' carpentry, what I mean is shoddy rubbish hasty bashing together of bits of wood, filling in all the obvious gaps and cracks with chemical wood filler and hoping that the result will be acceptable. There is some measuring going on, but not much. It's too boring. Same reason I was always really bad at making curtains.... Anyway, I digress... I hope it will all look good after the final paint job.
I am starting to get quite excited about the show now as I love launching my new cushion and fabric designs but I also have a new product, posters. I only decided to get them made last week, also another last minute decision, so was very happy to get delivery on Thursday and they look super!
Here is one of the designs and there will be lots more and bigger sizes too...

I won't be blogging next Friday because I'll be at Formex but I'll do a bumper one the following week with all my top picks from the show and a recap of the  trends as I see them....

Friday, 12 August 2016

The Majesty of Nature Vs The Majesty of His Majesty

Sorry there was no blog last Friday and that is because I was away on holiday up in the mountains of Sweden, in Jämtland. It was a wonderful week of hiking and nature appreciation...
We have been going to the family cottage up there for 10 years and still there are new things to discover.
I was totally blown away by the Fröå Copper mine. There was a 90 meter deep hole into the ground, straight down, with a water driven pump, pumping out the water so that miners could go beneath the water table to get out copper. An incredible engineering achievement and unbelievable working conditions. They went down there in pitch blackness with burning torches! This is pre electricity times don't forget... What a job! The whole site was peppered with cute buildings and had the most fantastic food in the cafe. A must see if you are ever near Åre in the summer.



This is the view from our cottage. We were given the most incredible display every day by Mother Nature including rainbows galore!


Another thing we discovered was the lake called Blankstärn. It has totally crystal clear bright turquoise water. Breathtaking! We had to go on a 12 kilometre round hike to see it, but it was worth it


The sheer scale up there and the vivid colours and changeability of the weather was very inspiring, so much that I designed my new collection whilst on holiday... well, in my head. Now I have to actually make it all, but the ideas are there...

When we got back to Stockholm we decided to have a day out at Drottningholmsslott Castle, where the King and Queen live. There are 2 floors open to the public and we had a great wander around. I loved all the blue and gold colour combos..



But all that gold twirly stuff made me feel like I had visual indigestion. I couldn't help but compare the majesty of nature, which I had so recently experienced, to the majesty that the castle interior designers were trying to achieve... Nature wins hands down. It made the interior seem a bit silly somehow. I can't really explain it.
Anyway, my holiday is nearly over now, the kids will soon be back at school... I've seen so much art and exhibitions, amazing things and places that I feel full to the brim and can't wait to start this next season, with lots of creative energy...

Friday, 29 July 2016

Time saving Delicious Cous Cous Recipe

I love healthy food, and really naughty food too, but that's another sorry... today I want to tell you about a great time saving discovery. When I was down in Helsingborg visiting my friend and colleague Malin from the fashion label E.MallaS, we were setting up a big party together and were in a big hurry to get everything done. No one had time to fix a special lunch but we didn't need to, she had already pre made some delicious cous cous, so we ate a mug of it and got on with what we had to do.


When I got back home I thought, what a great idea! Make a batch of this healthy stuff, store it in the fridge and that is lunches taken care of for the next 3 - 4 days.
You can put what ever you like in but this is what I did...
I fried onion and courgette in a little butter then when they were a bit golden I added the cous cous and water and cooked as per the packet instructions.
Once it had cooled down I added chopped feta, coriander, peppers, cooked beetroot, sweetcorn, kidney beans and butter beans but you can add whatever you like.

I hate thinking about food but I want to be healthy and eat well. This stopped me just grabbing a cheese sandwich or whatever. Really good for the summer too, light and fresh.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Van Asch...Cushion Designer, Mother, Animal Lover...Saver of Bees

Yep, I'm all those things and more no doubt, but lets just concentrate on the last parts of that title...
It's the summer holidays and I've got to keep the girls amused so I took them to Parken Zoo in Eskilstuna Sweden. It was horrendously expensive but we had one of the best days ever!

These furry little fellas were our favourite out of all the animals there. They were cute and inquisitive and calm and clever looking, just adorable..
video

And I realised an important thing whilst I was there... I was so happy and content and in the moment wandering around looking at the animals.

I never felt rushed, my mind wasn't wandering off. I felt really calm and unstressed. I'm kind of stressy as a person, always wanting to get on with the next thing, always busy, but being with animals calms me down more than anything else. It is part of the reason I have a dog. With my wee friend I can just sit and play with him or pat him and it totally clears my mind. I would very much like to have a whole menagerie of animals in the house but half my family are allergic to most furries so I have to content myself with just the one dog and lavish all my love and cuddles on hime alone...

We also went into Stockholm to see a free exhibition in the Konserthuset along with a free mini concert. You notice I use the word 'free' here a lot, that's because after the financial hemorrhage that was Parken Zoo, I was looking for more economical entertainment choices...The exhibition was photographs of Milles Gården by photographer Yanan Li through the seasons.


Some nice moments but we whipped around it in 2 minutes. The concert was nice, trendy young string trio, but we only watched about 10 minutes of that before we all got fidgety and wanted to get on... The toilets were nice though ;-)

We also visited Grönsöö Palace which is lovely spot to take the dog for a walk by the water and eat outside. I do recommend the chocolate banana cake, it was delicious... and I know a thing or 2 about chocolate cake (see last weeks blog ;-) ... anyway it was a lovely wander around the grounds of a stately home. The staff are the family that live there and they are super helpful and knowledgeable. I took this really weird picture through the window of the shell house folly. You can't get in there but you can look in the windows at the bonkers shell encrusted interior...


This is what it looks like from a distance...


Oh yes, the saver of bees part.. I keep seeing bumble bees on the ground, either totally still or slowly wandering. I know this is because they are very tired, they are busy bees after all, so I like to pick them up (carefully on a card or something) and put them somewhere out of harms way. One landed on a spinny go roundy ride thing at Parken Zoo and afterwards, when we stopped I scooped him up and put him on a flower but I felt that what he really wanted was a bit of sugar water... I didn't have any on me, unsurprisingly, but I'm going to remedy this oversight and get a dropper from the pharmacy and make some, carry it in my purse, and save the bees as often as I get the opportunity...which is nearly daily around where I live.

I wish my love of animals extended to spiders but I just don't get that warm cuddly feeling...

Anyway, on the theme of free entertainment, I took the girls to see Shakespeare in the Park last night... we were late to get there and had a rubbish spot where we could see more of what was going on backstage than on stage. The play was set in the 60's and I think the kids got a bit of a shock when they saw one of the actors take all his clothes off back stage and also his long wig. The sun was so intense I felt like I was being melted and desiccated simultaneously... the kids gave it up after the cake ran out and went off to find a shady spot no where near the actual thing, so we just gave up and hung out in the very lovely park for awhile... I forgot how much I don't like a Midsummer Night dream... reminds me of school work...
Enough high culture for one week... I think the whole family needs a dose of Americas Funniest Home Videos and a bunch of Pizzas to balance things out!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, 15 July 2016

The Very Best Chocolate Brownie Recipe EVER!

I don't normally blog about food although I am a great appreciator of it... but I just have to share this recipe with you. My husband was given it by a work colleague who told him that it was the best she had ever tried, so I had to try it for myself. I changed things a little, to make it more to my taste and now I truly believe that it is the best brownie you will ever eat. There is a gluten free option too, which is what I usually bake as I think it tastes better.

Naughty Creamy Topping:
150g dark chocolate
1.5 dl whipping cream

Moist Delicious Bottom:
150g butter
2.75 dl granulated sugar
1.5 dl cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla sugar
2 eggs
1 dl flour (gluten free option is to use a mix of almond and coconut flour instead)

1. Make the naughty topping... break up the chocolate and melt it in a bowl over boiling water. Heat the cream slightly in a pot. Once the chocolate is all melted add  it to the cream wisp to mix it all together.  Put it to one side to cool down.

2. Put the oven at 160 degrees C and cover a 20x20 cm baking tin with butter and lay baking paper on the bottom.

3. Melt the butter in a pot then add the sugar, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla sugar. Mix it up. It will be a bit grainy but  don't worry about that...it will eventually be smooth at the end of the whole process. Mix in an egg then the next one, use a wooden spoon. Then finally add the flour and mix together until it is a nice smooth consistency.

4. Pour it into the baking try and bake for 20 - 22 minutes. Let it cool.

5. Put it upside down on a flat board, peel off the baking paper then smooth the naughty creamy topping on with a spatula and pop in the fridge for an hour. Yum!




Friday, 8 July 2016

The Bonkers Art of Yayoi Kusama

This week my family visited the Modern Art Museum in Stockholm, to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition. I had heard great things about it so my expectations were high. That is never a good starting point for anything, because in my experience, the reality rarely lives up to the expectations. Such was to be the case again...
Things started well, we ate the most delicious food in the outside cafe and I liked the trees wrapped in spotty fabric...

The theme of spots was to continue in obsessive fashion...


Which was sometimes quite fabulous....
video

And other times just silly... ok, these are not polka dots exactly but a room full of silver balls ? I don't get it.

But at least is wasn't actually disgusting, unlike the room full of phallic growths... clusters of them, protruding and bursting through things and encrusting things in a most disgusting fashion. I couldn't bare to look at most of them but I had to take a photo of one of the lesser revolting pieces just to show you what I mean... Phallus encrusted shoes and ladder on a bed of pasta...Now there is just no need for this is there? Yes, I understand that in the 60's feminism was a big topic and I can totally empathise with the position that masculinity dominated everything and the male perspective permeated every part of life. This, combined with the artists general disgust of the male anatomy (apparently) would result in this kind of art. I get all that, but I don't like the feeling of disgust. I feel it on a near daily basis looking at the news. I would rather the artist had cooked the pasta and fed it to the hungry. Now that art I could get behind! 


Yayoi Kusama is a very intriguing character, born in 1929 and still painting today, albeit from a mental hospital in Tokyo where she voluntarily admitted herself in 1977 and has been living ever since...very eccentric, to put it mildly. She suffered from hallucinations since her childhood and clearly some kind of mental instability, but successfully channelled that into artistic creativity, and is widely thought of as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan...respect.

There was actually one piece of art that I quite liked, which did not have a single spot or phallus on it, just lovely colours and natural forms...




...but in truth, the best part of the day was going through Kungstragården T-bana underground station. I love it in there! So weird... but in the way I understand which is dark, moody, atmospheric, surreal and most importantly... beautiful.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Art Meets Fashion at Stockholm's Kulturhuset

It is the summer holidays 
and I need to fill up the days 
in edifying ways 
showing the children exciting things to make them grow
Weirdness and wonderments and new things to know
But where to go? And what to see?
I'm pretty open minded but best if it's free!

Ok, my poetry is rubbish, but the sentiments are fairly honest. I had hoped that in the socialist paradise that we live, the Kulturehuset would have free art exhibitions, for the people, to edify them and all that stuff, but sadly, we had to pay actual money to visit the exhibitions there. It wasn't much though and it was quite entertaining. First up was the weirdest that is Henrik Vibskov. Danish designer that moves between art and fashion seamlessly and very very weirdly. These puppets were props for one of his catwalk shows...

Then we get into a giant yellow banana caterpillar thingy. The kids thought it was brilliant and even more so when they realised that one of them could be outside and put their hands into the tunnel and try to capture the other one inside...hilarity ensued.


There was also a hall of his clothes displayed amongst boobs. not even realistic looking boobs, but kind of joke shop boobs. That was a bit crap.

Then we went upstairs to a fashion exhibition. I lament to say that I didn't read the blurb on what the whole exhibition was about but I would guess it is some kind of studenty thing... had the  brashness and perplexing nature that only students bother with...just guessing though. Most of it could be captioned:
 'Just because it is physically possible to make this, should you really though? I mean really?'

A lot of indulgent ugly pretentious nonsense... however there were some pearls of light.
I loved the embroidery work by Karin Holberg who is exploring the juxtaposition of traditional craft with modern street fashion.
And also exploring the similar juxtaposition of traditional dress and modern clothing is designer Mariana Silva Varela
It's funny because I had gotten all excited about the pocket of a traditional dress the weekend before at the Midsomar festival and I really love what Mariana has done here as a modern interpretation of that...

I also loved the prints by designer Linea Matei...
here is a video of her work... You can see that the print designs are the thing here, the garments themselves don't bare up to much scrutiny and are just vehicles for the fab prints...

video

The last room held what I can only describe as urban samurai fashion. This was a blend of American Football uniforms, samurai warrior armour and urban riot gear. Perfect protection for that bizarre uprising when all the fashionistas take to the streets throwing petrol bombs... yes, well obviously that is as likely to happen as someone actually wearing these outfits, but at least these were beautifully made and interesting as conceptual fashion...well only for  about a minute before I got bored of that sort of silliness.


video