Category Archives: Bookish Hankers

Tinned Fear

I’m not a big Halloween fan, I’m normally hiding with the lights off pretending I’m not home when Trick or Treaters come knocking. This year I bought a few oozing eyes from Poundland but I’m hoping no-one comes so I can eat them all myself.

I might be tempted to host a children’s Halloween party if I could give tinned fear away instead of party bags though.

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies - Range of Childrens' Tinned Fear

The tins contain sweets and children’s’ stories by bestselling authors.

There is tinned fear scary enough for adults too. I love the names especially ‘A Vague Sense Of Unease’…

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies - Range of Tinned Fear

Both versions are £35 for a set of five or £8 each from Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.

I also love the Salt Made From Tears range.

Happy Halloween!

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Masquerade

Do you remember the book Masquerade by Kit Williams?

Masquerade - Kit Williams

Published in 1979 it gave clues to a buried treasure, a jewel encrusted hare in a ceramic pot apparently worth around £5000. If you’re interested to know how to solve the puzzle, Kit Williams published a follow-up book with the solution.

Many a morning I spent eating my Shreddies flicking through the pages of this wonderful book in the mid 1980s. Although the treasure had been found by then I marvelled at the illustrations and loved how the text framed the pictures, this book is probably responsible for my appreciation of typography.

The British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age exhibition at the V&A is displaying the golden hare jewel from Masquerade for the first time and available in the V&A Shop are these gorgeous hare stud earrings and ring.

Hare Stud Earrings - V&A ShopHare Ring - V&A ShopThey look less like the jewelled hare treasure and more like the beautiful illustrations of the hare. Which I think is the right way around. Both are available to pre-order at almost 1979 prices of £5 for the earrings and £6 for the ring.

The exhibition is running until 12th August 2012. Will you be making a trip to London to see the treasure?

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A Little Light Reading

Books make me really happy. When I’m feeling a bit down, I like to seek solace among books.

Book shopping is one of the rare occasions that I favour physical shopping to online shopping. I have a method. I work my way round the shelves alphabetically gathering books as I go until I’ve got a nice stack. I read the blurbs of each of them again, compare them in my mind and put a couple back.

I delve inside the remaining books and skim a paragraph or two to taste the flavours of the writing. A couple more books will find themselves nestled back on the shelves. Finally, and I know I shouldn’t, I’ll look at the covers and naughtily judge them before reading the blurbs again.

I can lose hours whittling my pile down to the one or two books that I will eventually buy. It gives me the same pleasure I used to feel as a child choosing my weekly sweets in the newsagent on a Sunday.

I blame my mother, the librarian. She brought me up to love and cherish books, as well as instilling in me the importance of alphabetisation. So when I see products made from books, I can’t help but flinch a bit. It seems wrong somehow but they’re so often very beautiful. Like this Light Reading Chandelier.

Light Reading Chandelier - Lula DotBut Lula Dot make an excellent case for upcycling disused books. For example, I had no idea that there’s no infrastructure set-up to recycle books because of the low-grade paper and the gluey spines. When you consider the huge number of books that will only end up in landfill sites it seems such a terrible waste not to make something beautiful out of them instead. Especially when the result looks like this…

Light Reading Chandelier close up - Lula Dot

The Light Reading Chandelier is by Lula Dot and sold for £340 for delivery in the EU or £440 for international shipping. I’d love to have a peek through some of the pages and see what books have been used.

Have a look at Lula Dot’s project on book partitions, I’d like a corner of my house set up with a couple of these, a comfy chair to curl up in and my favourite book to read. What’s your favourite book?

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A Mouthful of a Cake Exhibition

At the weekend my friend Cristina and I went along to the Squires Kitchen ’26th Annual Cake Decorating, Chocolate and Sugarcraft Exhibition’ in Farnham. Cristina is a wonderful baker and she was looking to expand her cake decorating tool kit and I tagged along happy to look at the cakes with the motivating factor that there would probably be free cake.

There was a whole hall exhibiting cakes of all shapes and sizes including suitcase cakes, ring pillow cakes, birdcage cakes, lace cakes and any other shaped cake you’d care to imagine. It was awe-inspiring to see what can be done with a little patience and a lot of skill. There was also lots to buy; books, magazines, cake tools, moulds, cutters and a huge variety of paste, paints and glitters.

After my initial disappointment that there wasn’t any free cake, I perked up when I saw there were free workshops run by some big names of the cake world. As it was a sell-out exhibition it was very difficult to get into any of the workshops. We couldn’t get into Debbie Brown‘s mini class, but we did manage to have a chat with her afterwards and she gave us an overview of how to make these gorgeous sugarcraft babies out of Rice Krispie cakes and she made what looks very difficult, sound surprisingly easy. Her book Baby Cakes has some amazing recipes for any baby-related events you may have coming up.

Debbie Brown Cakes: Baby Cakes

Unfortunately we didn’t get into Carlos Lischetti or Alan Dunn’s workshops either as they were too full. However, for the last workshop of the day we arrived super early, queued for 45 minutes and managed to get ourselves a great view in Peggy Porschen‘s mini class ‘Boutique Baking – Raspberry & Rose Dome Cake’.

Peggy made a beautiful dome cake by lining a dome mould with joconde sponge and filling with layers of fresh raspberries and German buttercream (a custard based buttercream). She then talked us through icing the finished cake and showed how to make sugar flowers and decorate the cake to perfection.The mini class was 45 minutes long but was very detailed and I was impressed with how much she covered. I was also impressed that we all got to taste the cake at the end which was utterly divine and convinced me to buy her new book. Alas, they had sold out so I will have to wait for the general release of Boutique Baking on 24th May.

Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen

For those of you who are serious cake makers, Peggy is running a full length workshop on how to make the same cake later in May. It’s pricey at £385 but you get the book included and you will learn some fantastic skills. Or choose from a whole raft of other courses at her Academy.

For those of you who are serious eaters (I fit into this category) and would like to try some of Peggy’s cakes, then pop along to her Parlour in Belgravia.

Until tickets go on sale for the ’27th Annual Cake Decorating, Chocolate and Sugarcraft Exhibition’ in 2013, have a look at Squires Kitchen’s huge array of goodies and tools to help turn your cakes into works of art.

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Folded Heart Book Decorations

When I came across these book decorations, I thought ‘how clever’ followed by ‘they hurt a book!’ but then I read that they don’t cut the pages they fold them down, which makes it even more clever.

Folded Heart Book Decoration by Stuff by Losy Posy

There are three versions each at £25, a children’s book, a romantic novel and another version with more manly titles. Each version has a choice of two titles with corresponding coloured ribbon.

Children's Book Folded Heart Book Decoration by Stuff By Losy Posy

I think the Water Babies one would be lovely for a christening or first birthday, they also include the original dust jacket which would be nice to frame separately. The other versions could make nice wedding or mothers/fathers day presents.

What do you think, pretty decoration or grievous book harm?

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The Case-Book of Sherlock Hankering

This year Sherlock Holmes has been a regular fixture in my life. But now the BBC’s series has ended and I’ve seen Guy Ritchie’s latest Holmes offering, I miss him. I’m hankering for more of the consulting detective.

I pretended it wasn’t me that was missing him and bought this Wordsworth Library Collection of The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes for my husband. As the name suggests, it is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories in one book with Sidney Paget’s wonderful original illustrations. Nearly 1500 pages of Holmes and Watson should keep me going.

The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes - Wordsworth Library Collection

I love this book entitled ‘Elementary, My Dear Watson’ written and beautifully illustrated by Amber Whitney. It’s an ABC book so is really meant for kids but it’s so lovely, I’d definitely have a read before letting any kids get their hands on it…

Elementary, Mr Dear Watson - Amber Whitney

Also entitled Elementary is this typographic print by Typaprint on Folksy, a modern take on the classic Holmes silhouette.

Elementary! A2 Typographic print - Typaprint

Maybe I could bring the stories to life and host a Sherlock Holmes night, I could assign characters with these wine glass charms. Although the person who gets 221b Baker Street might not have much to do… I’ll take that one.

Sherlock Holmes Wine Charm Set - Winslow Rye

I can remember being terrified as a little girl at my Granny’s house watching The Hound of the Baskervilles on television, it certainly didn’t help my fear of dogs. Oh dear, this is bringing it all back to me.

Which Sherlock Holmes story is your favourite?

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Hawksmoor at Home

Hawksmoor serve the best steak I have ever tasted in their three restaurants in London – Covent Garden, Spitalfields and Guildhall. I mean it’s melt-in-the-mouth amazing.

We went to the Covent Garden restaurant a few weeks ago as a treat for my husband’s birthday and it was glorious. We started with cocktails in the bar area from their extensive list, it took about 10 minutes to choose as the descriptions were all so wonderful. In the end I went for a Hawksmoor Fizz and my husband was won over by the description of shipwrecked oak barrels that the brandy for his Shipwreck Sour was aged in.

The decor of the basement restaurant is stunning, with dark wood parquet floor, leather chairs and solid tables it is what I imagine a gentleman’s smoking room to be like (but with no smoke). I almost expected to smell sandalwood when I walked in. There’s a beautiful row of mismatched sliding doors that separates off part of the restaurant and had me hankering for our own version at home.

When I booked the table I mentioned we were celebrating a birthday and the staff were so friendly and gave us each a glass of Prosecco and my husband’s pudding on the house. Ordering is slightly different here if you are having steak. You choose from the different cuts available on the day and order and pay by the weight so that everyone at the table eating steak shares the same cut of meat. Be warned, if you start ordering the Chateaubriand it can get expensive quickly, but there’s also an express menu so it is possible to spend much less.

We had a fabulous birthday lunch, the highlight for me (apart from the steak) was the peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel ice-cream. Heaven in each salty, nutty, creamy, caramel mouthful.

This was our second visit to the Hawksmoor but for us it’s the kind of place we’d only go to as a real treat. But now Hawksmoor have put their recipes in a book ‘Hawksmoor at Home’ I can try to recreate the dishes at home.

Hawksmoor At Home

Don’t think it’s just steak in this book, the recipes are so varied and there’s lots of information. The sauces are inspiring, the Stilton Hollandaise recipe is at the top of my list to try. As I’ve mentioned before I’m quite scared of cooking seafood but the guides on preparing seafood in this book are clear and not at all scary looking. The cocktails sound delicious and there is a whole chapter on trifles.

So far I’ve made the Potted Smoked Mackerel which was very fishy but creamy too and had a nice tang of horseradish. The pickled cucumber to go with it is really simple but tasted wonderful and cut through the buttery fish perfectly.

You can order Hawksmoor At Home for £20 and all proceeds go to Action Against Hunger. It says on the website that shipping is ten days but mine was delivered within four days.

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Pancakes & Mrs Pepperpot

Pancake Day always makes me think of the Mrs Pepperpot books from my childhood and how she managed to make her and her husband 30 pancakes for dinner when she was the size of a pepperpot.

As I whisk the batter I remember the quirky illustrations by Bjorn Berg and the flyaway wisps of hair that had escaped from Mrs Pepperpot’s bun. My favourite bit was when her cat licked the plates clean so she didn’t fall in a sink of washing-up water. I’m still not sure why her husband didn’t help her?

Mrs Pepperpot's Busy Day-Alf Proysen

I’ll let my husband wash-up the pancake pans tonight after I’ve finished making them as the cats’ mouths are still a little mousey from the little present they brought in earlier.

If you’re hankering after a copy of Mrs Pepperpot’s Busy Day there are some copies on Amazon with the 70s/80s cover from a few pence.

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A Fervour for Fonts

I’ve just got around to reading ‘Just My Type’ by Simon Garfield, a great book about fonts that was given to me for Christmas. It’s a really interesting look at the language, history and use of fonts and how they influence us. Great stories and facts fill this book, such as that Steve Jobs studied calligraphy at college and how this influenced Apple’s products.

'Just My Type' Simon Garfield

You could lose hours gazing at these intricate typographic illustrations of London by Vic Lee; available in West, East, South and North each word is made up of and surrounded by themes from that area. Although my heart really lies in the south and west of London, East London is definitely my favourite of these.

East London by Vik Lee

This Modern Wooden Alphabet Necklace by Little Red Lantern makes me imagine letters dropping from the wearer’s words and collecting round her neck.

Modern Wooden Alphabet Necklace - Little Red Lantern

I’ll leave you with this beautiful video ‘Refraction – The Alphabet’ by Jesse Zanzinger.

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I Heart Sylvia Plath

I’m reading Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel ‘The Bell Jar’ about Esther Greenwood’s year when she finds herself under a metaphorical bell jar suffering from a mental breakdown. The description of depression as “struggling for breath under a bell jar” really resonates with me. Unable to make people hear her soundless screams from within the vacuum of the bell jar Esther is driven to act out her feelings to communicate them.

Earlier this year I heard a recording of Plath reading her poem ‘Lady Lazarus’ and her voice, both staccato and drawn out in turn seduced me with a wonderful tone that I associate with a time gone by. While reading, I can hear this voice coming out of the pages of ‘The Bell Jar’, drawing me into the story.

There is a remake of the 1979 film coming out next year starring Julia Stiles and Rosie McGowan which I’m interested to see. I hope I won’t be disappointed by it, which is so often the case with film versions of books I’ve read (‘The Golden Compass’ was a particular let-down in contrast to Philip Pullman’s amazing ‘Northern Lights’).

The imagery on the original front cover of The Bell Jar, published in 1963 under pseudonym Victoria Lucas, is so perfect for the book and if you were to judge the book by its cover, gives a real sense of the story within. In fact, I’m hankering after this first edition available at Abe Books so much that if I had a spare £7000 I would surely make it mine (is there such a thing as a ‘spare’ £7k?).

The Bell Jar - Victoria Lucas, 1963 First Edition

I may have to make do with this £10.95 poster of the 1966 cover design instead from The Literary Gift Company.

The Bell Jar Poster - The Literary Gift Company

I’ll leave you to be hypnotised by Sylvia Plath’s wonderful voice reading her amazing poetry.

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