Sunday, 21 December 2014

Super Easy Christmas Baking: Gingerbread brownies

Here's a super easy recipe for some Christmassy brownies, full of festive spices and chunks of stem ginger and sweetened with some white chocolate buttercream icing. They last particularly well, up to a week in the fridge, so make for good gifts for pals and for you to munch on throughout the Christmas break. I was originally thinking of a gingerbread latte brownie when making these so these are best enjoyed with a strong cup of coffee.

Gingerbread brownies

Ingredients:
250g unsalted butter, chopped (at room temperature)
300g dark chocolate, chopped
4 eggs
330g brown sugar
200g plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup (35g) cocoa, sifted
4 pieces of stem ginger, chopped

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celcius (150 degrees for fan ovens). Grease and line a brownie pan or square cake pan.
2. Melt butter and 200g chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water), stirring until smooth or melt together in short bursts in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, to the chocolate mixture, beating well after each addition until combined. Add sugar, flour, baking powder and spices, then fold in the cocoa and the stem ginger.
4. Spread batter into the pan and bake for 25 minutes or until just set. Cool in the pan, then turn out and cut into squares.
5. Cover with white chocolate buttercream icing.

White Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Ingredients:
110g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
250g icing sugar, sifted
150g white chocolate

Method:
1. Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave in short bursts, mix until smooth and leave to cool.
2. Beat the butter and half the icing sugar together until smooth (about five minutes with an electric mixer). Keep adding the icing sugar in heaped spoonfuls and mix until smooth and pale.
3. Beat in the melted white chocolate, making sure not to beat too much or the mixture will go runny. It should be a spreadable consistency and you may require more icing sugar if runny or add some milk if the mixture is too stiff.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Shopping 2014!

It's mid-December and the big day is just a week away - exciting times! If you're super organised, you'll have smugly finished your present shopping weeks ago. If you're not and are still to tick everyone off your lists, there's still time! Here's a bit of Christmas gift inspo if you're still buying or if you're all done some things to add to your things to buy with your Christmas money.


Clockwise from left

When the weather is this chilly, some lux knitwear is always appreciated. Donna Wilson has super soft hats, scarves and gloves in sweet designs, all knitted in Scotland using the softest lambswool. Her gorgeous gloves would bring warmth & joy to the darkest days, with the prettiest flower and circus designs. She's also made a range of children's clothes for John Lewis which are perfect for the little ones in your life - as long as you can live with the strange feeling of envying the wardrobes of the under-tens.

Hotel Chocolat always have gorgeous gifts ready to give, from their chocolate wreaths to the cute Christmas jumper slabs. But I especially love the dinky Christmas stocking, filled with adorable penguin and reindeer chocolates, at a bargain-tastic (and Secret Santa friendly) £10.

There's a huge variety of cool stuff from Pedlar's that's perfectly present-worthy but this cosy blanket would be top of my list. A warm grey fleece with brightly coloured stripes, it's absolutely gorgeous and their number one best seller for a good reason.

Hannah Zakari is a favourite place to browse for gifts for girlfriends and it's actually harder to narrow down potential gifts for girlfriends from their beautiful jewellery. Two stone-cold winners would have to be this super fun origami unicorn brooch or, if you've got the cash to splash or your BFF has donated a kidney to you or something, this cherry crush necklace would be a stunning gift.

Book binding specialists Owl & Lion on West Port is a haven for notebook fiends. Their notebooks come hardbound with the finest quality paper and their own screen printed decorative covers, including beautiful swirled seashell designs and Scando-inspired flower prints.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Taking My #DuoBootTribe Boots for a stroll in Leith

A few weeks ago I was very lucky to be invited along with some other local bloggers to Duo Boots for a little fizz and a little squizz of their beautiful autumn winter collection. For anyone not familiar with the brand, Duo Boots specialise in high quality, made-to-measure boots, with up to 21 different calf sizes and 3 width fittings – bringing some tailormade luxe and super-attentive customer service to the high street, not to mention some very welcome relief to the often not-very-fun exercise of boot shopping (anyone ever suffered the floor-swallow-me-now embarassment of bursting a boot zip in a shop?)

The lovely Duo team generously gifted us each a pair of boots, and after much umming and ahhing over several gorgeous designs, I settled on the truly luscious tan suede Sanna, officially making me part of the Duo’s ankle boot “boot tribe” (#duoboottribe). I’m currently a little obsessed with the idea of a capsule wardrobe (having decided I’m maybe a little old to be exclusively wearing sequins and squirrel print dresses) and these were the perfect wear-with-anything classic.

I took my Sannas for a wee whirl down in Leith last weekend and they get my wholehearted tick of approval – both stylish, warm and fabulously comfy for trotting over the cobbles. If you’re looking to invest in a pair of top-notch boots I couldn’t recommend Duo more highly so make sure you (or Santa) head over to pick your own boot tribe soon.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Beautiful crafts at Dovecot Studios' Selected 2014 exhibition

I was delighted to be asked to take part in a wonderful recent initiative by the lovely people over at Dovecot Studios, a beautiful tapestry studio, cafe and exhibition space housed in an old Victorian baths on Infirmary Street. #MatchedMakers is a fantastic project that matches locals with gorgeous craft pieces to highlight the ways craft makers connect with their audience. 

These pieces are currently on show at Dovecot Studios as part of their fantastic Selected 2014 exhibition, featuring 27 Scottish designers hand-picked for their beautiful and unusual design and crafts.
I was thrilled to be matched with a stunning statement silver necklace by Misun Won, and loved seeing our wee blog Edinburgh Etiquette’s name up on the wall at the exhibition’s opening last Friday. 
There was a gorgeous array of items on display (and available for purchase), ranging from ceramics to textiles to silversmithing. Particular favourites were these striking arrowhead bags and cute cycling-themed pottery.
If you’re sick of the hordes of Princes’ Street shoppers or just looking to do something a little different of a weekend afternoon, then head along to check out Selected2014, on till 21 December. Thanks again to the fabulous team at Dovecot for inviting us to be involved!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Meet the Locals: Illustrations by Zyzanna


Just how awesome are Edinburgh-based illustrator Zyzanna's creations? Answer: very. The mix of naturalistic birds, sharply dressed animals and gorgeous jewellery in Zyzanna's Etsy shop creates some serious want. Her creations first caught my eye at a Craft Reactor exhibition where, as a feline lover and fan of animals in jumpers generally, her drawings of cats in Christmas jumpers charmed my socks off. These little guys are joined by some dapper dogs bearing candy canes, Christmas pudding and presents - all in Christmas card form. There are some other cute characters available on print or by textile, such as a berry-picking bear cushion or the tea towel featuring a labrador making a fry-up. Another covetable item is the illustrated origami jewellery, brightly coloured and fashionably geometric. There's a lot of variety in Zyzanna's work, including some beautiful drawings and simple leaf design jewellery.  If you visit Hula Juice Bar on Victoria Street you'll be able to see an exhibition of her work and pick some up for yourself or as a lovely Christmas gift.

Zyzanna is also one of the Edinburgh Etsy Team who have arranged a pop-up shop to be held this weekend, from Friday 5th until Sunday 7th December on Rose Street. There will be an array of work by local designers, including furnishings, art, fashion, jewellery and millinery.  It's a perfect opportunity to buy something unique and local if you're in town doing some Christmas shopping.

We were thrilled that Zyzanna was kind enough to answer our questions on her illustrations, inspirations, animals and Edinburgh!

(1) How did you get started as an illustrator?
I always knew I wanted to do something arty as a job. When I went to the open day at Edinburgh College of Art I was convinced that illustration was the one!

(2) Do you have a furry inspiration at home for your cat and dog illustrations? What or who inspires you most?
I don't have a pet at the moment because my flat is too small for that (I have a jungle of plants though!) But I grew up surrounded by animals: we always had animals at home and my grandparents had a farm. My dad used to run a pet shop too! My biggest inspiration is definitely the natural world. I love watching documentaries, especially Sir David Attenborough ones! You can also sometimes see me drawing animals in the museum on Chambers Street.

(3) You've got a great exhibition on at Hula Juice Bar right now, do you have any exciting plans for 2015?
Having some rest to start with! But I really want to expand my brand and pretty much do more of everything: cards, prints, cushions... There have been talks about some collaborative projects too, but it's all very hush hush now. I also started teaching art recently and would definitely want to do more of that - it gives me great satisfaction.

(4) Do you have any other favourite Edinburgh/Scottish illustrators?
Yes! Aimee Lockwood who does most beautiful drawings using inks (they are not watercolors!) and Ell Walker who is currently working on her first webcomic - Galdr. Have a look! 

(5) What's next for the Etsy Edinburgh team?
At the moment we are still pretty overwhelmed by the Pop up shop which is running this weekend! But a craft party will possibly also be happening, as it's a big one on the Etsy calendar and this years was a great success!

(6) When you're not busy drawing, what are your top Edinburgh spots to visit?
It's a bit hard to say because I often end up drawing there anyway! The Camera Obscura is a place I always go to when friends or family come and visit and want to do touristy things. I actually really like it, I think I have been there about 8 times in the past few years!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Edinburgh is Delicious: Spoon Cafe

You know a cafe understands hangovers when they provide chips with a full Scottish breakfast. Spoon Cafe is exactly that place and it has the perfect mix of feed-me-sausage-now-I'm-dying and super-healthy-detox brunch menu that your weekend needs. Their relaxed vintage style cafe is a large airy room on Nicholson Street with plenty of covers (so you're likely to always get a table) and has a dedicated Sunday brunch menu which has soothed many of my hangovers. With a mighty full Scottish brekky (with aforementioned chips!) as the star of the brunch menu, there's also a variety of healthy options too for when you want to do your body some good. Berry and melon fruit salad, pancakes with yoghurt & bananas and granola with fruit are some of the saintly selections and they have proper fresh orange juice too. On Sundays there is a specials board with the soup, roast and fish of the day, keeping your options simple but delicious. It's always a real pleasure to visit Spoon, their decor is super cool with retro finds like g-plan dressers to store newspapers, brightly coloured bubble lighting, 60's wallpaper and vintage crockery. A particular delight are the walls of the ladies' toilets plastered with pages from Woman's Realm magazines from the 1970's. Spoon opens at 10am on a Saturday and 12pm on a Sunday which is perfect for both shopping trips into town and my lazy stare into a tea mug type of weekend.  Guaranteed good brunch times ahead!





Wednesday, 26 November 2014

New beauty launches from Smashbox, Bumble & Bumble and Ojon

Christmas parties are always fun and they are doubly so for beauty junkies  - there are always so many launches, gift sets and opportunities to try new products! The party season is essentially an excuse to be sparkly, glam and sleek from pretty much mid-November. The lovely Estee Lauder brands, Smashbox, Bumble & Bumble and Ojon recently sent their experts to Edinburgh to show off their latest products to help us get party-ready and looking fabulous.


Bumble & Bumble launched their Hairdressers Invisible Oil Trio a few months ago, with a shampoo, conditioner and oil. These products are infused with six different feather-light oils which transform your hair into a silky, frizz-free mane without the usual heavy feel of using oils.  Of particular interest in this range is the new Invisible Oil Protective Primer, which is used in a similar way to a face primer - it is sprayed onto hair before other products which makes styling easier and also provides heat protection. They've also extended their Blow Dry styling creme so there are options for straight, repair and all-style. All of these will help make your hair super soft, shiny and blow-dried to perfection.

Jennie Roberts, the lovely Ojon UK Treatment Technician

Ojon are a newer brand in the UK, but have been in the US for years and use hero product ojon oil which is brilliant for thick or damaged hair. One of their latest developments is a new light version of their Damage Reverse Restorative Hair Treatment Plus treatment, a thick paste which turns into oil when you work into it and transforms your hair back to health from any heat-styling hell you may have put it through.  There's also a new Moisture Rich Cleansing Conditioner, designed for people that wash their hair every day. It does look like a conditioner, but it's used as a shampoo with a very low lather and it still cleans your hair wonderfully without stripping or weighing your hair down. And finally, they've released what I think is likely to be my new handbag staple, the Rare Blend Tamer Wand. It's their feather-light serum in a mascara wand, which means that it can target those unwanted bits of frizz, split ends and baby hairs that stick up for absolutely no reason. Genius!

Smashbox are known for their primers with good reason.  They're one of the first companies who developed the product, and now have a range of primers that do different things, but all provide a beautiful base so your foundation can go on smoothly and stay on.  Their latest offering is a Photo Finish Pore Minimising Primer which is a thick paste which goes on smoothly and really does make pores disappear. They've also got a primer spray which is going to be released next year in February, Photo Finish Primer Water. It's charged with electrolytes so perfect for perking up skin before applying foundation and then afterwards to set makeup and freshen up. It's got a beautiful scent and silky texture and is going to be a fab multi-tasker.  Onto the more glamorous makeup launches, Smashbox have added some gorgeous new colours to their Long Wear Lip Lacquer range for the party season - After Dark, which has very dramatic dark reds and plums.  Perfectly matched to the After Dark colours are their new Always Sharp Lip Liners, which sharpen themselves whenever you twist their lid - how clever! Another new launch from Smashbox next year comes in January when they release the Double Exposure eye shadow palette (the follow up to their Full Exposure palette).  It has fourteen shades of shimmery and matte coloured neutrals which can be used dry for a wash of colour or wet for a dramatic look. It's a really gorgeous palette and will be well worth spending the Christmas money on come January.

All of these brands are at John Lewis and Boots on Princes Street, where they have lovely staff who can help you select products for your hair & make-up needs! Are you getting excited for the festive party season and, more importantly, getting ready for the party season? Do you have trusty hair & make-up favourites that you'll always rely on or will you be trying some of these products out?

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Meet the Locals: Flower Loveliness from Pyrus

Photo: Ann Kathrin-Koch Photography
I first came across the gorgeous nature-inspired wedding and event styling and botanical installations of Pyrus when I got lost down a classic "Instagram rabbit hole" on my bus journey to work one day. 20 minutes of scrolling through their gorgeous flower-filled feed later, and I was in love. Wind forward a couple of months and I'm running around one of their workshops like a puppy in a pile of leaves, arms full of lovely just-foraged foresty goodies ready to transform into an autumn wreath (and not a supermarket tulip in sight). So when Katey, Jen and I decided we'd love to do a wee "Meet the Locals" series on the blog about our favourite local businesses and the talented people behind them, I immediately knew I wanted to feature Edinburgh's very own advocates of the new flower power.

A huge thanks Fiona and Natalya of Pyrus for the interview! (and check out the end of the post for details on upcoming workshops!)

(1) We would love to hear a bit about how Pyrus started. When did it begin and what inspired you? 

Pyrus is Fiona Inglis and Natalya Ayers. It all began in 2011 when we took on a walled garden in East Lothian. Having progressed from art school to floristry, we shared a love of locally-grown and British flowers, having becoming tired of the lack of seasonality and variety available from the Dutch suppliers.  It was virtually impossible to buy the unusual or specialist British flowers we wanted for our work, so we decided to grow our own.

(2) What makes Pyrus unique?

We are studio florists which makes us different from a high street florist and specialise in creative weddings and events. We are not bound to a shop and spend a long time finding the right flowers and materials, focusing on the little details and botanical treasures which makes an event so special.  We like to think our uniqueness lies in our love of everything in the natural world and we don't restrict ourselves to just flowers in our work.  We will use anything that we find that has the right aesthetic, from wings and bones, mosses and lichens, to seaweed, branches and even weeds. If it has a natural beauty then we put it to use.
Photos: Left - Ann Kathrin-Koch Photography; Right - Caro Weiss
(3) What plans for the business do you have coming up?

We are actually planning a flower revolution! We want to make local flowers accessible to the wider market; not only are there multiple environmental issues in the flower industry (over 90% of flower shop flowers come from all over the world, heavily sprayed with herbicides and pesticides and transported in articulated trucks) we also firmly believe that local flowers are far more beautiful then their mass produced cousins, often with an intoxicating scent.  We are finishing off our working year with a stint in London at Christmas and then the planning starts for new creative projects in 2015.
Photo:Zoe
(4) What are you most excited about for the autumn and winter?

Autumn is our favourite season by far; the glorious colours and texture of the berries, seed heads and leaves stop us in our tracks and the low light in the sky makes everything appear magical. The truth is that Autumn is exciting enough for us in itself!  This winter we are looking forward to displaying our newly honed taxidermy skills and incorporating lots of ethically sourced wings into an installation for a wonderfully adventurous and creative bride.

(5) What are your top tips for anyone who wanted to create a little Pyrus-inspired styling in their own home?

At home we tend to keep things simple. We'd suggest a few simple stems of something foraged, look for flowers and foliage that are full of movement with lovely bendy shapes, imperfect qualities that stand out from commercially grown blooms.  A scattering of conkers, shells or cones are always a nice botanical touch and a large, lichen covered branch will provide a focal point above a fireplace or on a shelf.


Photo: Caro Weiss
(6) When not tending to your beautiful garden, what are your top Edinburgh spots to visit?

We are big fans of Blackfriars - good drinks and amazing food.  If you haven't tried the amazing chocolate by Edward and Irwyn this is a must - chocolate to die for made by very talented ladies. We spend a lot of time in Lovecrumbs for their amazing cake and coffee and Gardener's Cottage is a great little gem for delicious food and relaxed atmosphere.   Can you tell we like our food?!  For shopping, head to the Century General Store in Marchmont which stocks a great range of unusual gifts and magazines. Edinburgh has so many wonderful, creative independent businesses that we could give you a whole top ten and more besides.
Photos: Left - Zoe; Right - Caro Weiss
(7) What's your favourite natural space or area in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is blessed with lots of natural spaces; Arthur's seat on a windy day always clears the cobwebs out and gives you such a great view of the city, surrounded by naturalised plants and trees. However, nothing make us happier than seeing a little flower peeping through a crack in the pavement in the middle of the bustling, urban sprawl . Nature will always win out in the end.


Photo: Craig and Eva Sanders Photography
A huge thank you again to the incredibly talented and lovely Pyrus team for sharing their inspiration, tips and gorgeous shots with us!

Pyrus will be running workshops at Coulson on Friday 28th November (garlands) and Friday 5th and Sunday 7th December (wreaths) - email info@coulston.co.uk to book or you can join their city centre wreath workshop at Lovecrumbs on Thursday 11th December - email yoohoo@lovecrumbs.co.uk to get your place - it's well worth it!

You can also follow/drool over their beautiful creations on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Let the Flower Revolution commence!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Edinburgh Events: Out of the Blue Drill Hall Monthly Flea Market

There are all kinds of awesome events that take place at Out of the Blue Drill Hall - live music, art classes, ping pong tournaments, film clubs to a whole lotta vintage sales. Their monthly flea market is one of our favourite rummages, combined with a yum brunch at their cafe. It's held on the last Saturday of every month and has more vintage and craft than you can shake a stick at. Some of our favourite pick ups from there include 1960s geometric mirrors, random childrens annuals (including my childhood fave, Count Duckula) and some beautiful original artwork. There's always awesome vintage dresses, fur coats and retro jumpers as well as old typewriters, kitsch statuettes and art deco cocktail glasses - everything that will make your life a little bit better. Highly recommended to pop into if you fancy a good rummage, bargain or just a lookaround with a good brunch!