Unlock Art
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Iconic Swedish photographer JH Engström is currently exhibiting 'From Back Home' in Berlin, a collection of images tracing his childhood memories back to the province of Värmland READ MORE...
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There's something so irresistible about miniature food, the treats we love made into tiny packages you can just pop into your mouth - virtually guilt-free! READ MORE...
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"Three friends taking pictures of themselves in a photo-booth as they go off to Glastonbury festival''. This was the brief John Galliano (remember him?!) gave to Nick Knight READ MORE...
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As an amateur photographer, I'm fascinated by the universe of possibilities we can explore in creating images with our digital camera - why limit ourselves? I read a debate a while ago READ MORE...
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Since 2007, Montreal photographer Nicolas Ruel has been refining an in-camera double exposure technique, where with a quick swivelling motion of his device, a second plan is overlaid on a main READ MORE...
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Lula is about to pretty up Japan even further this October with its unique mix of memoir, philosophy and fantasy, as interpreted by editor Kazuo Sazuki READ MORE...
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October 25, 2013

Artisanal Treats at Le Méridien Piccadilly

DSC_4276Franz works his molecular magic in the Terrace Grill & Bar at Le Méridien Piccadilly. He created many scrumptous drinks for us including his twist on the classic cocktail, the Manhattan. 

One of my favourite things from my visits to Le Méridien Piccadilly is the food and drink. Every opportunity to make a moment special is explored and executed in a way that makes me squeal with glee (literally, I have to muffle it if that moment happens outside of my room). During Le Méridien's recent event in which they hosted the debut film of the Unlock Art series, made in collaboration with Tate, we were spoilt with so many sweet and savoury treats and I was determined to taste them all, whether I had room or not. As others politely declined as the trays came around the umpteenth time, I soldiered on to show my appreciation for the seemingly endless generosity of refreshments. There is no such thing as 'too much' when it comes to special things, and so mine was a display of pure gluttony. It's a rare opportunity to be able to gorge on molecular cocktails, miniscule croque madames and *gasp* candied bacon lollies, and I took full advantage! It was all presented to us by a team of smartly dressed servers in black, bespectacled with cool lensless glasses. (I loved them and went home with a pair - thank you, Laura!)



Sweet, salty and savoury at its indulgent best were the bacon lollipops, candied in a crunchy, sugary shell and served in a pot of baby peppers. 


If food can be adorable, the mini croque madames certainly were. Is that a fried quail egg on top? (I had four. I regret nothing!) 

Previous images © Dave Watts

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The presentation of chocolate-dipped strawberries hanging from colourful tags off umbrellas was pure joy! 


Specially made fortune cookies were my 'greet treat' that welcomed me when I arrived in my room. (See them open here.)

There was an incredibly unusual and wonderful dinner event later that evening which was so special it deserves a post of its own so we'll save that. When I returned to my room I found a little package tied in cord resting on the door handle. It was a map:


And then I saw this set up on the table:

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Hot chocolate! Piping hot, too, and exactly as I like it, semi-sweet. But what was in the treasure chest? I referred to the map and it gave me hints as to where the key was. I found it hanging from the doorknob on the wardrobe and I opened the chest to find a cinnamon stick, nutmeg, chocolate and a grater to top my hot chocolate with fresh spices. I was already so full from the fantastic dinner but you know my philosophy - when at Le Méridien! I settled happily into my big comfy bed with my cups of hot chocolate. (I would love to say I drifted off on cocoa clouds but the truth is I blogged until 2:30am!) 


Afternoon G & T was also a treat I found in my room that day, it's a Le Méridien specialty and the last time I was there we were given a masterclass that introduced us to infusions and how to make their unique and lovely twist on the classic cocktail. You can see that here, and if you want to experience one yourself I highly recommend a visit if you're in London!

October 16, 2013

The #UnlockArt Film Series Experience Begins...

TheSwelleLife_3D (1 of 1)Upon arrival I was given 3D glasses so I could find my room which had my name encoded on the door - a new way of seeing things? This set the tone for what was to follow....

Here I am again at one of my most favourite places, Le Méridien Piccadilly in London, this time for their UNLOCK ART film series experience. It's only mid-afternoon as I'm writing this and already we've had a day packed with all kinds of wonderful delights ('we' is me and six other lucky bloggers), and we've been told there's a surprise to come before our "immersive" five course dinner experience with A Taste Full Space this evening. We've received instructions to be in our rooms at 6pm for the first surprise and I can't wait to find out what they have cooked up - if I know Le Méridien, it will be out of this world. 

Click the image to watch the film at the Le Méridien Unlock Art site

This morning at the hotel we were treated to the Unlock Art debut screening of Bringing Performance Art to Life, the first of a series of eight exclusive films created by Tate in partnership with Le Méridien. It was brilliantly presented by Frank Skinner who delivered the most clever of scripts, written by Jessica Lack (with a bit of improv we've been told). The objective of the films is to make art inclusive and accessible to everyone, taking it from 'high brow to street level', to Unlock Art for those who may not otherwise have paid attention for whatever reason, be it they don't understand the art, or think it's not meant for them. Delivered with the perfect dose of respectful humour, this historical survey of this provocative genre was entertaining, engaging and educational, and I wasn't bothered about whether I understood at that moment exactly what performance art is - yes even as an art student I struggled to get my head around it - I just wanted to keep watching. For me, it opened the mind and bridged the gap between 'us' and 'them', and hopefully it will do the same for many others as well. This afternoon we had the opportunity to chat with Susan Doyan who directed and produced the series, and she was lovely. What a talent. This easily digestible tour of the arts, from Surrealism to Pop Art, will continue to roll out monthly at the Le Méridien Unlock Art site. In addition, The Guardian will also be posting the videos. 

Update: The BBC has also featured the story and video which you can see here

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And what better to follow than actual performance art? Pil & Galia Kollectiv's 'A Guide to Office Clerical Time Standards' is an instructional piece based on a corporate manual from 1960. The pamphlet is focused on the time necessary for the accomplishment of minute labour procedures in the office, from the depressing and releasing of typewriter keys to the opening and closing of file cabinet drawers. In the performance, seven costumed performers represent the different levels of management and employment while performing the actions described in the guide, accompanied by a live musical score. It was a very rhythmic performance that captured and held the attention of the audience throughout its repetitive acts. 

Now let's talk about the food. Jumping back to my arrival, I found a treat in my room after I entered be-spectacled in 3D. A trio of fortune cookies were waiting to be opened, and in them were these messages:


I ate them up and was so excited to see what art was going to be unlocked for us. 

After the performance, a unique array of tiny cocktails and food, both savoury and sweet, were served. Never passing up an opportunity to make a moment special, they presented chocolate covered strawberries hanging from umbrellas which was just so neat!

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After the lovely talk with Susan Doyan I came up to my room and found this:

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Being a three-time (and counting I hope!) veteran of these Le Méridien experiences I knew what was in that teapot: an infused gin, one of the hotel's specialties, and tonic to mix for a totally unique G&T. (See more here.) I was so full after my Caligula-like ravaging of the mini foods (and drinks) but there was no way I was letting that pot sit idle and I poured a delicious cup (and kept going until it was all gone). And I ate more than that one bite missing from the macaron. As you can see, I really had no choice. 

Next up: Our immersive dinner. Hint: Hackney, locked cages, dancing zombie girls...

October 01, 2013

Essential Kitchen Gadget: Umbra's iSpoon


When I first saw the iSPOON from Umbra, the Toronto-based designer and manufacturer of houseware products (I can't help but highlight the Canadian-ness of a great company), I'll admit I paused to get my head around it as I'd never seen anything like it. It's both a stylus and a wooden tasting spoon meant to help out in the kitchen in equal measure. If you've ever tried to follow a recipe on your tablet while cooking, you know that it's impossible to touch your screen without getting it all smeared from your goopy fingers (gross!). I thought maybe that was just me, one who is prone to slovenly ways, but this scenario is exactly what prompted designer Jordan Murphy to create it; he knew he wasn't alone. Our expensive tablets were not meant to be around bolognese sauce, but they sure are handy for recipes, so the iSpoon seemed well worth a try. 

Once I was actually holding it properly - correct is with the fingers gripping the silicone which will activate the screen - it flips pages seamlessly and doesn't drag. I tend to use the Epicurious app which lays out the recipes with the ingredients listed in a tab, so there is always some back and forth between pages while preparing the meal. The stylus proved to be effective in performing its mess-saving function, but I did wonder if I would actually use the spoon end. It turns out that I do. I keep the iSPOON in my utensil jar by the hob and often find the smaller size perfect for stirring up concoctions cooked in small pans, whereas a larger utensil would be awkward and send sauces flying out. And I've grabbed it a few times for tasting which is just nicer than getting a mouthful of metal when you're trying to determine whether your dish is seasoned enough. If you get any food on the stylus you simply wash it off later. Mine got sent through the dishwasher yesterday and it was perfectly fine, though I think it's always better to handwash wood. 

Verdict: I use it regularly, therefore it's a success! 

You can buy the iSPOON for under £10 in the UK at various retailers.

September 07, 2013

Sweet Paul Summer: Gelato, Happy Homes & Sri Lanka


Technically it's still summer, right? Again I'm late, as this is the Sweet Paul summer issue and we're just a couple of weeks away from autumn, but as always there's too much of the (really, really) good stuff not to mention. So let's not waste any more time and get to it with a scrumptiously styled story on Gelato:



Charlotte Gueniau tells us all about her passion for colour, evident in photos of her harmonious, rainbow home, in the story Color Me Happy! I thought I was great at living with colour but Charlotte is giving me serious house envy; I would love to visit and never leave! She sought to create a joyful home and clearly, she's achieved that. Notice how she's cleverly grounded the rooms with white so the colours pop and flow rather than compete for attention and make us cross-eyed: 


Lotta Jansdotter takes us to her native home of Sweden and shares some of the traditional recipes she made for a special Sunday lunch in the garden for her friends and family:


While amenable, I'm not a huge shrimp person (that sounds funny together). But these seafood recipes look so delicious they have me wanting to devour pounds of the meaty little creatures. If you love your fruits de mer you must take a look at Sun, Surfers & Seafood:


 How gorgeous is this deco-styled summer cocktail story? Heaps. 



If that Pancake Cake with Wild Blueberry Jam, from Nordic Summer Cooking, made you salivate (I literally did each time I saw that photo, and by 'literally', I do mean literally) and you need to switch to savoury temptations to save shorting out your keyboard with drool, there's also a gorgeous Sri Lanka curry story, with recipes of course:


You can read the whole issue here, and get ready for fall - I've just seen a preview and it's already got me feeling better about the shorter days and chilly weather. 

Also, there was the loveliest peony story in this issue which I had planned to feature separately for Floral Friday, then I saw the fall issue flower spread (Sweet Paul never forgets the flowers regardless of the season), so it will join the peonies for double gorgeousness when it's out, which is very soon! 

September 06, 2013

Champagne Picnic with Wild Blueberry Pancakes & The US Open

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We've been having such great extended summer weather recently (we really don't hold much hope for warmth and sun in England once August has passed) and I really wanted to take advantage of it, even if it meant not leaving the back garden. So I prepared a picnic with the intention of enjoying it on the grass with my daughter after school. The treats in this lovely spread are out of Fortnum & Mason's Piccadilly hamper which came courtesy of Ladbrokes to promote their Centre Court Slot Game. It's a scrummy selection of lemon curd biscuits, chocolate, handmade preserves, teas, pickles and even a bottle of sparkling. But you know what happened, don't you? We had beautiful weather all day, and then when we got home, it turned dark and gloomy. Not to be deterred (after a few vigorous fist shakes at the sky), we moved the picnic indoors and it was all good because we got to catch up on the US Open tennis (the time zone difference means many of the main matches air live when we're sleeping). I follow the men's tour religiously and pray at the altar of Federer, but it's been a rough week of upsets with 'The Swiss' going out in the 4th round, in straight sets no less, to Tommy Robredo whose Lazurus-like showing has made us feel sheepish for having forgotten about him; he's obviously got a lot left to give. And then poor Andy Murray seemed to suffer from Federeritis last night in the quarter-final; the pressure of defending the title may have proved too much, though Stanislas Wawrinka played what was probably the best match of his life, so it seemed to be an unwinnable day for the Scot who just never was able to get his emotions under control after each frustrating unforced error. But it's the surprises and unpredictable nature of it all that makes it so exciting, right? 

Back to the food. For the picnic I made a recipe that I found in Sweet Paul magazine which was the perfect feature dish for the spread because not only is it easy to make, but the topping it calls for just happend to come in the hamper: Pancake Cake with Wild Blueberry Jam. Wild blueberry jam is not a common cupboard item so this was quite a fortuitous match-up, and it's a nice alternative to the usual maple syrup (usual for this Canadian, anyway). Wimbledon's celebratory companion is strawberries and cream, so maybe this can be our US Open ritual. 

The indoor picnic was such a lovely thing to do that I may just repeat it a few times during the winter to break up the monotony of the hearty crockpot stews and casseroles. I can see an Australian Open living room picnic making January much more bearable come 2014...


August 29, 2013

Snacking Japanese: Miso Soup and Wasabi Glaze Popcorn


Miso soup is not the most photo-friendly subject, but it sure is a tasty dish. It's been one of my cupboard staples for years, so I was happy to receive a few packets of a new instant miso soup from itsu's 'Eat Beautiful' range. It's a paste that you mix with boiling water instead of a powder which is what I had been buying, and although the dry one was a premium brand, it doesn't even come close in terms of flavour and texture. (I recently was invited to dinner by a Japanese friend and she served homemade miso soup, and I couldn't tell the difference between hers and itsu's.) The bonus is you can also use the paste as a flavour enhancer in cooking, and it makes a great on-the-go snack if you can get a cup and boiling water. I tried the Original variety which contains bonito fish, and there's also a Vegetarian option, with each coming in at just 44 and 42 calories, respectively. This is hard to believe considering that one bowl - a good size bowl filled up - can actually satisfy you enough to keep you from immediately scavenging the fridge for something to top you up (and this is coming from a remorseless eating machine). However, Metcalf's Skinny Topcorn makes a great accompaniment if you're allowing yourself a little indulgence. I received a sample of two flavours (made with only natural ingredients), Sea Salt and Wasabi Glaze, and I have to admit that I ate the Wasabi Glaze in one go, dutifully but grudgingly sharing with my husband, until it was gone. It was so tasty with its perfect blend of tangy and sweet that I forgot to save some to photograph and had to buy more! This flavour comes in at 118 calories per 25g bag (popcorn is very light), so if you can practice some restraint (please teach me how you do this) and save half for later, you can have a nice snack for around 60 calories. Stockists include Sainsbury's and Waitrose. 

I have already got myself more of the soup as well, I can't go back to the powder again. You can buy itsu miso soup at Sainsbury's for £2.25 for three pouches and I highly recommend it, served up in a colourful Tayo bowl if you have one.  

August 26, 2013

Treats in Toronto: Chococrêpe!

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Whenever I'm in Paris I eat an Eiffel Tower's worth of crêpes, but I'd never had one in Toronto. This occurred to me when I was walking on Queen St. west of Bathurst and passed by a sandwich board for Chococrêpe. I knew I had to come back with my daughter. She devours them, now. But that wasn't always the case. The first time we visited Paris she was three-years-old and we stayed in Montparnasse which I nicknamed The Crêpe District because our street had at least a dozen crêperies, and it wasn't that long a street. We told her we were taking her for crêpes and she was very excited. So we ordered a sweet one for her and when it arrived we expected her face to light up. Instead she burst into tears and we were perplexed as to why, as was our server. It turned out that she thought we were saying 'grapes' and being the fruit freak she was, and still being pretty much a baby, nothing else would do. Telling her that this was a pancake with fruit on it which was even better only seemed to make her madder because none of those words were "here's some grapes!" But crying children in Paris is great fun so it was all good. 

Anyway, back to August 2013, I was feeling like something savoury so I ordered the Chipotle Chicken crêpe which was really delicious, and it came with an arugula salad on the side. My daughter went full-on and ordered a mango sorbet milkshake - they have lots of ice cream and sorbets flavours to choose from - at the same time as a Happy Apple crêpe which is very large and open and topped with green apple slices, chocolate cinammon bits and dark chocolate drizzled all over. There was no convincing her that this was too much at one time, and hey, if you don't get a few reckless stomach aches as a kid you're not doing it right. (She ate a quarter of the crêpe before admitting defeat, but all of the milkshake. We took the remainders home.) 

Chococrêpe is an intimate and welcoming place, and they played Carla Bruni's Quelqu'un m'a dit and Bebel Gilberto's So Nice, which was perfect for the atmosphere on a hot summer day. You can visit Chococrêpe at 620 Queen St. West, and they do brunch on weekends. 


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Photos © The Swelle Life

August 05, 2013

Anges de Sucre Launches Limited Edition Macarons for Macmillan Cancer Support


Anges de Sucre, a London-based patisserie specialising in artisan macarons, is set to launch a limited edition collection of macarons in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

The gift box range was created in memory of Anges de Sucre founder, Reshmi Bennett’s close friend, who tragically lost her life to cancer at the young age of 27 earlier this year.

The collection features seven macarons with a playful array of flavours inspired by cocktails such as the Cosmopolitan, Mojito and Pina Colada. Each macaron is crafted with fresh fruit and fine liqueurs. 

Reshmi says: “My friend was such a fan of cocktails and good times, it seemed befitting to put together a collection that is as fun and colourful as she was. It’s been a pleasure to create this gift box in her memory and to support a great charity like Macmillan Cancer Support makes it even better.”

Carole Heffernan, Local Fundraising Manager for Macmillan Cancer Support, thanked Anges de Sucre for its contribution, saying, “Macmillan Cancer Support provide emotional, financial, and practical help to the 2 million people living with a cancer diagnosis in the UK today. Last year our benefits service reached 95,000 people across the UK in need of financial advice, our healthcare professionals gave 527,068 people much needed face to face support and we gave £10.7 million in grants to over 31,716 people affected by cancer. 97% of our income comes from loyal and committed supporters, such as Anges de Sucre and without their support we would not be able to continue the work that we do.”

#MacaronsforMacmillan is set to be launched in October 2013 and will be available for purchase from www.angesdesucre.com.


Good news if these gorgeous photos are inspiring you to create your own treats and decorations, the team behind the shoot have shared some DIY tips and a cocktail recipe to make your next fete extra special:

DIY Décor Tips by Jodie Vigor from Boutique Blooms

  • Pick out a key ingredient from your favourite cocktail and incorporate that into your party décor.
  • Any fruit with a hard skin or peel looks fabulous with a layer of metallic spray paint, purchased from your local DIY store. Make sure you have covered a large open space (preferably on a dry day!) with newspapers as protection, and spray from the recommended distance with a steady even hand. Allow to dry completely before displaying in bowls in the bar area.
  • Attach fruit or paper umbrellas onto florist wires and use them as a finishing touch in any flower arrangements.
  • Cocktail glasses and shakers make great vases for flowers; fill a martini glass with flowers, fruit segments, pop in a paper umbrella or flag and you have a great decoration for your drinks tray.
  • Fill a tall vase with fruit (lemons or limes work well) and place your flower arrangement in the top for a striking cocktail inspired floral display.


DIY floral ice cubes by Anges de Sucre

  1. Purchase some edible flowers (available from stockists online)
  2. Fill a clean ice cube tray 1/3rd full with water, preferably distilled, and place 1 or two flowers on top of each ice cube section and freeze
  3. Once 1st layer is frozen, fill with another 1/3rd layer of water and place another flower or two on top of each and freeze
  4. Once frozen, fill upto the top with water. The layering helps the flowers stay within the ice cube rather than float to the top. Distilled water helps achieve a very clear cube.


Recipe for Sicilian Sour Cocktail by Anges de Sucre

20ml premium vodka
20ml limoncello
Juice of ½ a lemon
Sugar syrup (or gomme) to taste
5 strawberries
A dash of organic egg white (to create a little froth)
1. Muddle the strawberries, lemon juice, vodka lemoncello and sugar syrup together in a cocktail shaker.
2. Add the dash of egg white and shake vigourously.
3. Strain the contents into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a halved strawberry or some edible pansies.
Photo shoot credits:
Macarons, Marshmallows, Cocktails and Styling Concept: Anges de Sucre 

Photography: Anneli Marinovich 

Floral design: Boutique Blooms 

Stationery & Packaging: Berin Made 

Styling: Always Andri

July 10, 2013

Summer Cocktail: Gin and Tonic with Mint

Theswellelife_g&T_resizeSome of the best things are the simplest. And because I have the oddest habit of forgetting my favourite things unless they are in front of me on a daily basis (what's my favourite film? book? I'll get back to you in a few months when I cross paths with them again), I forgot how much I love a gin and tonic. (It's not like I drink it like water or anything.) Never a beer drinker and not one to go for wine until fairly recently (and still then just a glass), I used to like a G&T. It's a clean drink with subtle flavour that won't have you sugar sick at the end of the night, though I must admit I've never sought to make note of the qualities of gin beyond 'oh yes, that'll do just fine'. Then I was sent some Bulldog, a premium English gin, and have now been schooled as to how complex the spirit can be.

One of the lighter style gins around, it is distilled with 12 different rare botanicals from nine different countries, such as Dragon Eye (the cousin of the lychee, sweet in flavour), White Poppy from Turkey (Earthy aroma, Sweet nutty flavour) and Lotus leaf from China (Fruity aroma with a perfumed flavour), as well as organically farmed Juniper from Italy, to give a distinctive harmonious flavour, smoothness with a balanced finish. Who knew? Made from 100% British grain and bottled at 40% abv, it is distilled in a copper pot still from a distillery steeped in 250 years of tradition. In a bizarre twist for any spirit, the brand is also a certified Kosher product by KIR, and completely gluten free. 

It so happens that a new gin bar has opened in Newcastle, and so I've stopped in a few times with friends. I'm the only one who's actually ordering gin but that's ok, they'll come around eventually. Now I'm not sure if I should be a purist when a gin such as Bulldog has so much to offer in itself, but a G&T with mint was suggested to me and I'm not sure if I can go back; it's pretty damn refreshing. I made the one above with Fever Tree tonic, a premium brand which was also sent to me, with some muddled mint and a giant sprig to pretty it up. 

Should you want something a little sweeter, you can try making:

London Lemonade


50 ml Bulldog Gin

Top Cloudy lemonade

Sprig of Mint

Lemon wedge


Pour in Gin over cubed ice, top up with cloudy lemonade and garnish with a lemon wedge and sprig of mint. 

A refreshing drink for an English summer that has finally arrived!

June 04, 2013

Fresh Ideas: Sweet Paul's Spring Issue


I'm very late to the game on doing a show and tell on Sweet Paul's Spring Issue. I saw the dreamy beach-themed edition in preview and was so excited, and have now finally found the time to truly indulge; getting lost in those pages is one of my favourite things to do. Here are some of my favourites in terms of fresh spring colours, fantastic styling and photography, and of course, yummy - and easy! - recipes to try:


Keep salads interesting by using a colour story to create your healthy spring plates, such as this Red Cabbage Salad with Feta and Blueberries


Why isn't everything topped with mini macarons?! Make this Raspberry Swiss Roll for a standout dinner party dessert. 


Exploring the Creative Heart of Paris takes us on a most daydreamy tour of one of the most inspiring cities in the world. See and read about the best places to eat, sleep and shop from a personal perspective. Sweetpaul_5

Paul does this 'happy dish',  a colourful spring salad, justice, with his fresh and vibrant styling. 


Some of the tastiest concoctions that come in a glass - spring cocktails that are perfect for outdoor entertaining or as a special treat just for yourself. 


Salmon is a great warm weather dish; this lovely, healthy one is served with a cool Asian cucumber salad



Lotta Jansdottir tells us the story of her porcelain collaboration with Manhattan's Fishs Eddy, a great visual tale for lovers of blue!


Cakes that impress - this issue is full of them! Get the gorgeous recipes here

The Sweet Paul summer issue is out soon, and in the meantime we've also had the super fun Kids issue which can be enjoyed by any age, really. 

Images from Sweet Paul Magazine

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