Thursday, 31 October 2013

A week in Scotland: Eating & drinking

We spent last week in Scotland and Bob the Bunny visited some lovely new places in Edinburgh, Perth, Aberfeldy and Inverness.
We start our eating and drinking by seeking out a newly opened veggie place in Perth called Spring Greens Bistro.

A lovely little place and I think the highlight after a tasty light bite starter was the dessert. We found rocky road with vegan marshmallows, yum, and below you can see their version of a 'healthy' granola style peanut butter cup, very moreish!

The next day we went to Edinburgh and on the list of things to do was seek out a particular coffee shop who do fab coffee of course and a good range in veggie food. The place was Brew Lab and the plan didn't exactly go smoothly.

It was pouring with raining and we had a long way to walk to find this place, near to a college. Of course we got there very wet and it was full of students, there was no room whatsover to stay and eat so we had to make do with a take out brew  (which was nice) and a long walk back to Princes St. Now I don't object to it being full of students but I do get a bit mad when I see them all sat at the tables, laptops open not buying any food and probably only bought one drink which has been consumed hours ago in order for them to stay there and use the free WiFi. I also felt very old and uncomfortable in that environment so I comforted myself by saying if there had been some space, I would've no doubt felt very awkward sitting and feasting alongside the young people.

Here are some Brew Lab pics.

Slightly more successful on the Edinburgh trip was a visit to Hendersons, this place is often to referred to as Scotland's first veggie restaurant, dating back to 1962. It was huge  so we easily found a table and we didn't feel old in here so big tick!

It was quite late in the day so we just had a little salad bowl followed by a rather tempting vanilla gateau with fresh fruit.

Onwards and upwards north to Aberfeldy, I've saved the jewel in the coffee crown until last. One of our coffee friends has a cafe called the Habitat in Aberfeldy and it sits nicely in prime position in the square.

The cafe has won the BSA (Beverage Standards Association) National Award for Best Espresso in the UK 2013, this is a fabulous achievement as they've only been open a year. We couldn't wait to get inside and offer our congratulations but what a shame, our friend was off that day, maybe he'd run off if he'd heard we were coming! 

Not to worry, the staff made us wonderful coffees, I enjoyed this brew followed by a delicious flat white and then of course an amazing Costa Rican espresso.

We also tried the food, the feta salad was lovely and then I tried some gingerbread which seemed to go very well with my coffee.

I liked the Habitat Cafe, nice atmosphere and Aberfeldy is a lovely place with some quirky little shops and galleries.

Lastly, but there's no food pic, we found a little whole food, organic cafe in a natural therapy centre at the other side of this bridge in Inverness.

It was a bit more of a socks and sandally sort of place, tiny, but we had a lovely sweet potato and coconut curry.

I think that's it for our eating and drinking around Scotland, thanks for sticking with me to the end!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Laura Ashley 60th anniversary

I was a big Laura Ashley fan in the early to mid 80's. I had a beautiful collection of summer tea dresses, winter cord and tartan dresses, skirts, jumpers and then homewares, fabrics and even perfume. (still have some non fitting dresses packed away!)

It is quite amazing that Laura Ashley is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and with the reissue of one of my favourite fabrics, Emma.

Imagine how delighted I was to find a special 60th Emma mug the other week to enjoy my Earl Grey in!

I used to have the fabric, the table linen a lamp shade and the Emma perfume. I went rummaging in my vintage stash and found some of those items. Below, alongside the 'new' Emma mug is the original Emma tea pot cosy, napkins and table cloth and still in good condition.

I think Laura Ashley clothes lost their way a bit in the 90's and lost my interest, and what with the passing of time, I can't afford to look at their clothes these days but I'm happy to hunt down a LA garment in a charity shop!
It is a joy to see some of the old fabric designs being reproduced again for the anniversary and it brings a warm nostalgic glow for those of us of a certain age I suspect!

Whilst I was rummaging, I also found my lovely, vintage Liberty tea towel which has suffered in one of the damp houses I've lived in these past few years. We were lucky enough to have a Liberty shop in York which was a real treat to go in but that has long disappeared.

Here is my teatowel.

It seems like a weather storm is brewing, Bob and myself have been traveling for a few days so we must go and unpack. The clocks are changing so maybe we will put the central heating on for the first time tomorrow, been hanging on as long as poss but I guess winter is upon us.

Batten down the hatches folks! 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Free food without the forage!

I met up with my friend who builds straw bale houses this week for a long overdue summer catch up. She has been setting up a new organic vegetable growing business this year and this is the logo I designed for it.

When we met she said she would bring me some leeks and carrots, that was a bit of an understatement, she brought 2 bags of veg and a bag of apples and pears, plus some eggs which have been lovely.
This is the haul, it's such a treat to receive all this lovely home grown veg for free so thank you Carol.

I had to use the apples first as some were a bit bruised and I juiced them, they were slightly sweet cooking apples but made a lovely sharp juice.
I also made leek and onion soup.

Look at the squashes, the funny bendy ones are summer squashes, I've roasted one. The taste was a little earthy and dare I say meaty so not quite to my liking, I'm much more looking forward to the butternut squash.

There was a bag of beetroot so I have pickled that and the spices smelt lovely. This was done to a Mrs Beeton recipe.

There's a huge bag of carrots to get through so I'm planning some more juicing today with the surplus.
And with the weather being so miserable I think the Nigel Slater onion and lentil stew (which also has carrots) will go down very nicely.

Have a good weekend!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

SCAE Barista training

Firstly thank you all so much for the kind words regarding the ongoing peculiar situation of living here! 

Well I've had an interesting week thanks to taking 2 days out for barista training with the Northern Academy of Coffee.

It happened here in York at The Attic above Harlequin.

You get a good view down into the works currently going on in Kings Square where there has been a bit of an archeological dig.

Back to coffee and I'll try not to be a coffee bore. 
I was keen to further my knowledge and skill in preparing speciality coffees, maybe for my own coffee shop one day. The obvious next step was barista training proper, with a recognised accreditation through the SCAE (Speciality Coffee Association of Europe). 

There were 4 of us and we worked in The Attic on their equipment.

This is Jon our trainer, a legend in the coffee and tea world!

We did theory, history and plenty of practical hands on coffee making and preparing espresso based drinks and the milk to go with them.
A rare shot of me pulling my espresso shots.

We experimented texturising different milks including goats and soya, to say I'm a soya milk drinker I wasn't that impressed with it in the drinks, however I was pleasantly surprised by the goats milk which was palatable.

Here is someone practising latte art. I think my own technique has improved since having more milk training.

We sat our written test at the end of each day which is a points gathering exercise and I'm pleased to say at the end of day 2 I had enough points and had passed as a certified level 2 barista. 
This is great news for me and I will get a little certificate to hang on my coffee shop wall one day!

Thanks to our excellent trainers Jon, and Gordon from The Attic, lunch was wonderful too (courtesy of Harlequin).

Hope this wasn't too painful for any non coffee drinkers!!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A belated hello October!

The month has got off to a peculiar start for me, lots of bad with a bit of good (Facebook friends may have seen my rantings on the subject of landlords!).

As October arrived so did my first bad cold for a couple of years and it knocked me for six for a couple of days last week (I wouldn't use a word as strong as flu but I did spend a day in bed), I seemed to be over the worst when I relapsed yesterday, but it's the least of my worries what with everything else which kicked off last week.

Out of the blue we had a written warning from the landlords to the effect that the gardens were not being upkept with due care and attention. What a load of rubbish, I challenge anyone to look at our garden and say it's a typical garden going into autumn, nearing the end of the grass cutting season and so it was needing a quick trim but it was too wet, all the shrubs are pruned hard back and bar a few weeds I can't see anything wrong. This is a letter from someone who just wants to have a go now and again out of badness to exert their authority.
If the landlords, who live next door, wanted to appear a slight bit friendly and communicate with their tenants, they would find out that grass cutting and weeding have been challenging this last year as one of us has had a foot injury and the other is still nursing a hand injury.

Even spookier, a second letter arrived the next day, this time they had decided to put the rent up. What a coincidence, call me a cynic but I wonder if they are trying to claw the money back for the roof we've just had replaced!!! It's a joke really as they do nothing to maintain this heap. 
Anyway dear readers, I will rant no more about this, change is afoot, the straw has broken the camels back and I will be making this my last winter here. By hook or by crook, I can't say too much yet, but next year I'm getting the hell out of here and never looking back.

Let's talk conkers, there are some wonderful specimens dropping out of the trees here, it must be a good year for them.

I took lots of pics so I must do something with them or design a conker fabric.

Did anything good happen last week I hear you ask, yes something brilliant but it was all such a rush I've worked all weekend finishing it.
Another thing I can't reveal just yet, but I have done some work for one of our favourite craft magazines and all will be revealed in the Christmas issue, very exciting.

I hope it comes out ok, the pressure was really on with a tight deadline.

And something good to look forward to this week, I'm going on a 2 day coffee training course at the Northern Academy of Coffee, I can't wait. I hope this will take whatever coffee skills I have to the next level.

Have a good week all!