Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Edinburgh Events: Scottish Ballet presents The Nutcracker

The Scottish Ballet's Christmas production of The Nutcracker is an utter delight that will make the most grinchy of folk feel like giving in to festive joy. Based upon Peter Darrell's 1973 production, it mixes traditional Christmas nostalgia with bright bold colours and sparkle, resulting in stunningly beautiful sets and costumes. It's a sumptuous visual feast, taking in Beatrix Potter-like dancing mice, delicate snow fairies in tutus and hundreds of shiny tree baubles that are incorporated into the sets. The choreography, strictly based upon the original production, is flawless and Tchaikovsky's music enchanting; the amount of detail that has gone into all aspects of the production is breathtaking. It has a sense of innocence and wonder that makes it very suitable for all ages and would be such a lovely show to take children to form some special Christmas memories. The Nutcracker is at the Festival Theatre until 3 January, a perfect time for this most beautifully festive performance.

We sat next to Edinburgh Sketcher and were thrilled to see him at work, you can view his drawings from the Nutcracker on his website.

Photos courtesy of Scottish Ballet

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

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

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

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

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!