The Haven Cafe Review



After a weekend spent partying in Glasgow for a wedding, I knew exactly how I wanted to recover on my return to Edinburgh. I've been stalking the Haven cafe on Instagram for some time and drooling over their amazing looking cakes. So my sister and I took a blustery walk down to Newhaven to get some brunch and boy was it worth it!

The cafe has a vintage and quirky decor, packed full of interesting bits and bobs to look at like beveled mirrors, typewriters, and leather suitcases - so of course I felt right at home! It has a lovely relaxed vibe and we took a seat on some wing chairs by a fireplace. It took us a while to decide what to eat (which I always think is a good sign for a menu), and eventually we both opted for simple scrambled eggs on toast, my sister with added bacon and smoked salmon for me, saving ourselves for the main cakey event afterwards.


The breakfast was utterly delicious (would seriously love to know their secret how they make egg on toast taste so good!) and then came the main event - cake. I had a slice of white chocolate and raspberry cake and my sister had a poppyseed and raspberry loaf. Needless to say they totally lived up to their Instagram worthy hype - my cake light and creamy, and I may have snuck a bite of the poppyseed loaf too which was equally tasty with a suitably dense texture. We came away stuffed and happy to include ourselves as new Havenettes!



British Art Show 8 Review



This weekend I went along to see the British Art Show 8 at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and as a lover and champion of contemporary art I'm sad to say I was a bit underwhelmed. The one stand out piece for me was this stunning sculptural rug pictured above, a collaboration between artist Linda Sterling and Dovecot Studios titled 'Diagrams of Love: Marriage of Eyes'. Always a sucker for a retro vibe, I was instantly drawn to the vibrant colours, patterns and movement of the piece.

In fairness, I did go along without knowing what the exhibit was about and I'm not much of a fan of film installations (despite being an utter cinefile) so with such an emphasis on this medium it was never going to be a major winner with me. But in their own words:

"The curators of British Art Show 8, Anna Colin and Lydia Yee, have selected the work of 42 artists who have made a significant contribution to contemporary art in the UK over the past five years. The result is a wide-ranging exhibition that encompasses performance, film, sculpture, installation and painting and design."

For me the exhibition didn't gel that well and I just didn't feel engaged. I took my Mum along with me who is a major art skeptic (once unarguably describing a Jim Lambie exhibition as 'just someone's wacky ideas', which still makes me chuckle), and I do normally enjoy the discussions we have together and the challenge of attempting to explain the value of contemporary art. However, even I struggle to justify a room full of rusty nails. Maybe I was having an off day.

It's that age old question of 'what is art?'. My friend and most fabulous Scottish contemporary artist Abigail Beeley is currently working on a project along a similar vein This Is (Not) Art; a participatory project asking people to literally make that decision about the environment around them. I've been armed with pocketful of stickers for weeks and it really does make you look at your everyday world in a whole new way!

We finished our visit in the cafe so here is a picture of the cake selection which is always thing of beauty in itself, and unequivocally a work of art.


British Art Show 8 is taking place across 3 venues in Edinburgh (Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; and Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh) from 13 February – 8 May 2016.


Another Minimalism




Finished off the year with a visit to the Fruitmarket Gallery to see 'Another Minimalism: Art After California Light and Space'.

"Bringing the work of a select group of current-generation artists together with that of two pioneers of West Coast American minimalism, this exhibition examines the impact of California Light and Space art on artists working today.

Robert Irwin and Larry Bell are two of California’s best-known artists. In this exhibition, two of their signature objects – one of Irwin’s iconic discs and a Larry Bell cube – signal the radical and ground-breaking art made in California in the 1960s and 70s"

It is a really stunning, colourful exhibition, and myself and my friend Abby (pictured above) both came away brimming with inspiration. One of the video exhibits in particular (must find out the name of the piece) had us both transfixed - enough to watch it fully through 3 times in a row, which for me was a big surprise as video art isn't usually my cup of tea. The exhibition is on until 21st February 2016 and I will definitely be back.

Courgette and Lemon Cake

It seems to have been the summer of courgettes for home growers this year. Last week I made my family this courgette and lemon cake to help use up my mammy's supply a bit.




Ingredients:
  • 250g pack unsalted butter, very soft, plus extra for the tin
  • 3 unwaxed lemons
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 medium courgettes, coarsely grated (you'll need 300g/10oz flesh)
  • 1 tsp poppy seed, plus extra to decorate
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 100g plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 85g icing sugar
  • 200g pack full-fat soft cheese
  • 4 tbsp lemon curd (optional)


Method:

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Butter 2 x 20cm sandwich tins and line the bases with baking parchment. Zest 2 lemons, then squeeze their juice into a separate bowl. Put 200g butter, the caster sugar, eggs, courgettes, poppy seeds, vanilla and lemon zest into a mixing bowl. Beat to a creamy batter. Stir in 1 tbsp lemon juice, the flours, baking powder and ¼ tsp salt. Spoon the mix into the tins, then bake for 25 mins or until risen, golden and springy in the middle.

Make a drizzle by mixing another tbsp lemon juice with 25g icing sugar. Put the remaining icing sugar and butter into a bowl, add the soft cheese, remaining lemon juice (about 2 tbsp) and grate in the final lemon’s zest. Beat to make a creamy, smooth frosting.

When the cakes are ready, cool for 15 mins in their tins, then turn onto a cooling rack. Prick several times with a cocktail stick, spoon over the drizzle and cool completely. Can be frozen at this stage for up to 1 month. Put one cake onto a serving plate and spread with just under half the frosting. Spread over the lemon curd, if using. Top with the second cake, spread the remaining frosting over the top and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

***

If you want to give this a go, I would definitely recommend that when the recipe says 'very soft' butter not to ignore this (as I did!) and I think it would also be a good idea to ring out the excess water from the courgettes, but I was getting a bit excited and impatient to get to the eating part! It was just a bit of a stodgy texture but tasted great, and the best part is you can pretend you're being healthy!

Amigurumi Totoro


I finally finished crocheting Totoro as a big brother present for my wee nephew, because my niece Ella was born on Wednesday! I'm fairly pleased with how he turned out; I had to skip a few rows halfway down the body because I was running out of yarn but I don't think it affected the proportions too much. It was great fun making something 3 dimensional. The pattern is available for free on Ravelry.

I'm still working on some booties for Ella. I have made these before for a friend, and it's a really nice simple pattern. I'm using the leftover grey/purple yarn that I used for Totoro - no gender stereotyping pink parade for my niece!

Bee inspired


For the past ten weeks I've been attending screen printing evening classes at Edinburgh Contemporary Crafts, which offers access to fully equipped studios to both professionals and the public, as well as a gallery and shop.

It's been so inspiring being part of a working studio surrounded by professional artists and crafts people. Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend a lot of time on my final design as I'd missed a crucial class due to illness, so I ended up sketching up my bee in about 10 minutes! But I'm relatively pleased with how he turned out. The main part for me was learning the process rather than the final project anyway, and it's been fantastic fun. And the best part is once you've attended at least one course, ECC offer Open Access to their workshops to work on your own projects independently. 

As well as screen printing you can take classes in pottery, book binding, dressmaking, jewellery and upholstery. The only problem is deciding which!



Vintage Love


I've finally gotten around to opening up a vintage shop on Etsy! I've always been a magpie for anything retro or quirky and, as well as being able to thin out my collection a wee bit, this is giving me the opportunity to hunt for even more interesting pieces. The only problem I'm having is finding bits for the shop and then not being able to part with them! So this venture may end up expanding my own collection more than anything else. We shall see!

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

A Spiritual Awakening


This weekend myself and a couple of girlfriends attended The Spiritual Sessions - a gin tasting and cocktail masterclass ran by Solid Liquids here in Edinburgh. I'm a lifelong whisky lover and gin has never really been my thing, until recently trying the beautiful Pickerings Gin (one of the featured gins). Pickerings is handcrafted at the local arts venue Summerhall, and is in fact the first gin to be made in Edinburgh for over 150 years. It has completely converted me, and so we went along to the tasting to see what other delights the gin world has to offer!

The tasting introduced us to Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin, Darnley's View Spiced Edition, The Botanist, and of course, Pickerings. The range of flavours across the different gins was amazing, I really had no idea they tasted so diverse. (Of course, this is compared to my very limited past experience of mere bog standard gin and tonic - and I HATE tonic.) 

We started with a welcome punch of a tea infused gin (pictured above) and after tasting a few neat samples, moved on to a three course cocktail making masterclass with matched nibbles.

My personal favourite of the day was the 'dessert' cocktail 'The Lord's a' Jammin':
50ml Darnley's Spiced Gin
20ml Fresh Lemon Juice
2 spoons of Raspberry Preserve. 
Shaken and served in a champagne flute with a raspberry floated on top.
So simple, but really delicious and looks gorgeous.

And after so much afternoon gin, we went on to grab some food and I then needed a lie down! Immensely enjoyable and informative afternoon. The guys also run similar whisky and rum sessions, so I'd definitely recommend the experience whatever your poison. Just remember, unlike me, to eat lunch BEFORE you go...

Hummingbird Red Velvet Cupcakes


I was recently given the lovely Hummingbird Bakery cookbook as a gift, which is full of some really gorgeous looking cakes and desserts which I can't wait to try out. I've been trying to master red velvet cupcakes which has become a firm favourite with some of my co-workers! The trick I've found is to use good quality red colouring and don't be afraid to use A LOT to get that striking red look once baked.

Every time I've ever eaten red velvet cake I've felt very sick afterwards, which I had put down to the richness, but I've finally found out that red food colouring often contains paprika which I am pretty allergic to. So that solves that little mystery. It does make these cupcakes good for me to practise my baking with, without being tempted to eat the results!

Push the button


A very very small selection of my vintage button collection,photographed for a give away from the ever lovely Emma Lamb

I don't know what it is about buttons. My sister and I spent many a happy hour playing with my mum and Granny's collections as bairns, and I can't say I've grown out of it!