Every so often you stumble upon such an aesthetically pleasing Instagram page that your scrolling thumb eventually begins to stiffen in protest. This is what happened when I discovered the glorious profile of Emma McDowall – the brain child behind Edinburgh-based homeware brand Studio Emma.

KK and I went along to her studio to find out more about how Emma’s business has developed from experimenting with materials in her parents’ garden shed to shipping her concrete creations to household names around the world.

 

Humble beginnings 

Like most people of our generation, at some point post-uni Emma found herself making the obligatory move back in with her parents to figure out Life’s Next Chapter. It was during this period that she was able to exploit her spare time and lack of uni commitments to start creatively experimenting.

“I didn’t have access to all the textile equipment and materials I had at Art School which was frustrating”, she explains.”But it led me to source other materials and make new processes so I could satisfy the craving I had to just make!”

After discovering cement in her dad’s shed, she began experimenting with it, mixing together different materials and using objects she’d found to create forms.

After this of course came the introduction of her trademark bright colours. “I found the contrast of concrete as a solid, industrial material and the playful colour palettes an interesting concept, and it was something I wanted to experiment with further”, says Emma.

 

Concrete and colour

I find Emma’s designs so intriguing because they’re simple yet mysterious, with an end result that is so far removed from the mental idea most people would have of concrete (for me: ’60s architecture and road maintenance.)

One of the most popular pieces she makes are the square vessels, whose shape is quite industrial but whose sides resemble what Emma describes as “tiny abstract paintings”. Of course it’s this deviance of concepts that makes her art so eye catching and unique (…as I said before, an Instagrammer’s dream).

…how does she do it? “I mix the concrete adding vivid colour before pouring the moulds in layers”, Emma explains. Leaving them to dry, she then removes the pieces from their moulds – the part of the whole process which is Emma’s favourite. “The surface pattern and texture is unpredictable so that makes it exciting – no two pieces are ever the same.”

The colour, the texture, the sheer unpredictability of it all. Instagram is one thing, but it proved too much for me in the flesh.

And that, readers, is how I ended up buying an entire box of homewares to adorn my flat with.

 

Home and away

When we arrived at the studio and immediately began fawning over all the different shapes  and colours of some of her finished products, we found out that lots of them were on their way to Iceland for stockists there.

When prompted by two excitable fangirls masquerading as bloggers, Emma listrs in casual nonchalance some of the exclusive brands who stock her products, and it’s clear her products command a universal appeal.

But what is it about the brand that attracts both a domestic and an international following?

“I think people like the use of colour in the designs. Colour makes people happy and they find the products to be fun.” If anyone’s looking to practice better modesty as a New Year’s resolution, we’ve found your gal.

“I also think sometimes in our culture full of cheap, mass produced design people find craftsmanship refreshing. They like something which has been made with consideration and passion, it makes the product feel special and with each piece being complete unique – it is special!”

 

 

 

Find Emma’s designs online at www.emmamcdowall.co.uk and follow her excellent Instagram account at @_studioemma 

Photos by KK Land 

 

 

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Back in August, myself and fellow blogging comrade KK (whose photos I have appropriated for this blog post, FYI) were invited to try Hemma’s brunch menu for the first time. I’m sure you all remember me waxing lyrical about the unforgettable Eggs Brando, and if you don’t, here’s a reminder – IT IS EXCELLENT (no I won’t make that tired old pun. So don’t tempt me. Ok fine. IT WAS EGGCELLENT) and you must try it.

So when we were invited back to sample the restaurant’s new additions to the menu, we quite literally ran into the place. Joining fellow bloggers Leanne, i.e., L’appetite foodie and the girls from Edinburgh Food Club, we sat down to an array of foodstuffs I can only describe as positively saliva-inducing.

First off, we had a couple of sharing plates. The first was a simple but tasty mini bread tower with mixed olives, red pepper pate and pea and avocado smash.

The other sharing plate had fishcakes, mushrooms on toast and terrine (which I didn’t try as I have an inexplicable mental block about it and can’t eat it, but it seemed to be pretty popular!). Lastly there were molten wedges of deep-fried brie, served with cranberry sauce.

Yes, it was as good as it sounds. I have in fact been returning to that brie in my dreams for many nights since. Joking, joking. Okay maybe like once or twice.

So although Hemma does a great range of healthy foods, including salads and vegan/gluten-free dishes, I of course chose a less healthy but more glorious Croque Madame. I am obsessed with these things. Especially when they’re done well – and I’m pleased to report back that Hemma has indeed ticked that box.

In case you’ve been living under a rock until now, a Croque Madame is the piece de resistance (imo) of traditional French bar cuisine, and is basically a ham and cheese sandwich covered in bechamel sauce and crowned with a fried egg. It can also be referred to as the Meal of Hungover Dreams.

I mean just look at it.

KK went for the avocado, pea and mint smash on brown bread with crumbled feta on top. It may be more photogenic than mine but I think the two performed pretty equally in terms of taste and textures. (Getting a bit giddy poring over these photos again…)

I imagine at this point in the post you’re starting to worry we won’t have room for dessert. Well let me allay those fears, dear reader.

Champs that we are, we fitted in an array of delicious sweet treats, including vegan chocolate brownie (yum), carrot cake (yummier) baked vanilla cheesecake (ooooft, so good) and a new one for me – “Kladdkaka”, a Swedish cake whose name translates to English as “sticky cake”. It’s made with chocolate and served with caramel sauce. So of course it got a 10/10 from me.

Finally, we were treated to one of Hemma’s new range of winter cocktails. I can’t remember the name of ours, but basically it was (heroically) modelled on the taste of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. We expected it to be really rich and creamy but when it arrived it was transparent and tasted absolutely gorgeous. The fact it wasn’t really heavy was potentially dangerous, as I could’ve quite happily sunk half a dozen of those bad boys.

Thanks, Hemma, for another beautiful meal, and the welcome opportunity to escape a few hours of the day in your cosy, homey, delicious surroundings.

If you haven’t checked them out yet you are, quite frankly, mad.

We will be back v.soon….

Skål!

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I know this is a controversial way to start a blog post, but I think you lot can probably deal with it.

You know when you quite like someone and then realise they vote Tory?

Well, this is exactly the feeling I get when I realise people have bought their Instagram followers.

It’s that sinking feeling of disappointment, pursued by a creeping feeling of disdain. I know that makes me sound like a bit of a bitch, but at least I’m being honest. I judge people who buy their Instagram followers.

Big time.

I started my Instagram page when I moved to Leith in the middle of last year, because I was so excited about the area and its non-stop happenings. Street food, cool bars, amazing restaurants, great second hand shops, the list goes on and on. As a passionate writer, I thought I’d link my Instagram to my blog and become a more active member of the online Edinburgh community that I get so much pleasure from being a part of.

I’ve grown my followers organically, and from engaging with people whose interests align with my own (or at least, I like to think they do. Most of the time they’re much more interesting/fashionable, but what’s a gal without her dreams?). From being primarily about Leith and stuff going on there, the blog has evolved into what I loosely term “life and style”, featuring photos and articles on places around Edinburgh – and, when I’m lucky enough, places outside of the UK too.

I get such a buzz knowing that the majority of people who follow me have chosen to do so, because for whatever reason the content they see appeals to them. So it sounds heavy, but for me, realising that a person has bought their followers leads me to question their integrity, and the extent to which it’s been compromised. Yes, everybody likes seeing their follow count go up, but I don’t think Instagram should be used as two dimensionally as that.

It’s such a powerful tool to connect with people both on and offline. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of meeting some inspirational people doing amazing things because I have an honest, organic following and whatever perks or benefits I get out of my Instagram page and blog is earned from the effort I put into it.

Fine, it’s Instagram,  whatever way you look at it there is a degree of self-indulgence, but to use it as a platform to falsely influence another person’s perception of you screams insecurity and vanity all at once. Surely your online presence should reflect you as a person, to at least some extent?

We’re all guilty of projecting a degree of fallacy in our posts, but I think we’ve now reached the point where we all accept that, and still choose to appreciate what has become a sort of an art form. The bent leg, the candid pose, the false smile, the perfect lipstick, the moaning boyfriend/sister/mum behind the camera. These are just some of the measures deployed in the effort to achieve an insta-worthy photograph, but anyone with a slither of sense knows that this stuff isn’t real – especially when the very people in such photos keep telling you so.

To look at accounts with thousands of followers only to notice suspiciously low engagement fills me with a sort of disappointment, because it reflects a much bigger message: that people are increasingly unable to appreciate what they have, rather than the things they don’t. Yes, Instagram can be used for both personal and business pursuits, but I don’t think it should be the dogged recepticle of a tireless masquerade.

So let’s stop caring so much what everyone else thinks about our follower count and keep using Instagram in the way it’s meant to be used: for fun (with a side of self-indulgence).

Over and out,

Charlotte McRanterson

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Every gal who follows fashion to any extent has A Thing. Admittedly, my list of ‘things’ covers many bases (shoes, jumpers, bags and jeans all make the top lust grade) but there’s one area I’m particularly obsessed with. Ever since the wardrobe rail in my childhood bedroom caved under the weight of my many coats, it became obvious that I had somewhat of a fixation for outerwear.

You can therefore imagine how excited I was when I discovered the range of Autumn/Winter delights Biscuit currently has in stock. So for those of you wanting to keep cosy while looking longtime fab-yoo-luss during those short winter days, read on for my top 3 pieces.

The chic day-jacket 

You know when you want to be really toasty but don’t want to compromise your silhouette? This leather and fur jacket by Oakwood settles any form over function disputes by doing both extremely well.

It’s really flattering and comfy to wear, and gives an effortless outdoor chic to any outfit. The perfect complement for long, Sunday walks – or, as I thought when I first laid eyes on it – hanging out in an exclusive ski resort. (Aviemore will have to suffice for me this winter.)

I wore this with blue jeans but due to its flattering fit it could go with pretty much anything, and is smart enough to rock as a night out jacket too.

The stylish boucle

I love, love, love a boucle number – and this coat by Dutch brand YaYa simply strengthened my feelings. Since I pretty much live in skinny jeans/trousers I like wearing slouchy/oversized coats and jumpers to balance my outfits out a bit more.

This is so lovely to wear and is made of really soft, cosy material. I paired this with monochrome to bring it out the unique colour, but it would also work well with blue denim or leather.

YaYa describes its brand as “a way of living”, rather than just clothes. And believe me, I’d happily live in this coat.

The statement parka

Everyone’s got an inner diva. I brought mine out in this in-ya-face parka by Popski London, complete with pink fur hood.

I love adding a fur texture to casual outfits to give them a bit more of a “pop”(ski) and this jacket is just so fun to wear. As you can see we were battling with some gale-force winds shooting this but I was so snug under my ma-hoosive hood.

If you love a bit of fur luxe but aren’t sure about such a bold colour, there are also navy, grey and natural fur options for a more toned down feel.

All of these beauts and many, many others are available in store at Biscuit – find them at 132 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, or 22 Thistle Street (look for the custard cream!).

Opening hours at the Thistle Street store are 10am – 5:30pm Monday-Saturday, and 12pm -5pm on Sunday.  Bruntsfield is 10am – 6pm Monday-Saturday and 12pm – 5pm on Sundays.

You can also check out their website – and, if you’re also a knitwear fan (because quite frankly in Scotland you can’t afford not to be) – KK has put together some of her Biscuit faves. Cosy chic is waiting for you – go go go.

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Ah – another Monday, another week ahead scattered with pieces of all the broken promises I made to myself over the weekend. It’s occurred to me that for much of my adult life, I lie to myself on a regular basis. Not sinister lies obviously, I’m not harvesting bones in an allotment. Just sometimes I’m guilty of promising great things for myself, allowing myself to momentarily envision a more fulfilled, harmonious me.

Although I achieve the odd glimpse of triumph, much of the promises I make to myself are lost in transience. So in the spirit of unified Monday blues, let me share with you some of my most regular expectation-versus-reality offences – normally made on a hungover Sunday evening. I hope some of you relate. And if not I hope you at least manage a sneaky laugh.

1.

Expectation 1: I shall make my lunches up for the next week, be virtuous and not blow newly-acquired pay packet on luxurious midday meals.
Reality 1: Goes into M&S on Monday with a dangerous #treatyoself mentality. Spends £8 on lunch and snacks.

2.

Expectation 2: I shall be virtuous this week and not drink. Respect thy body.
Reality 2: Gets to Thursday. You know the rest.

3.

Expectation 3: I shall go to the gym in the mornings so the idea of an evening gym session doesn’t hang over me all day crushing me under the weight of self-pressure.
Reality 3: Presses snooze repeatedly at 6am. Does not go to gym. Comes in from work at 6pm still tired and does not even manage evening gym sesh. Eats chocolate to self-medicate.

4.

Expectation 4: “I don’t care how much you e-mail me and haunt my sidebar ASOS, I don’t care about your sale.”
Reality 4: £80 later in the basket and hell let’s bump it up to £100 to claim that sweet next day delivery.

5.

Expectation 5: Realises how broken and damaged my dyed blonde hair is. Won’t dye it again until the damage has grown out. Will have glossy head of virgin hair.
Reality 5: 2 inches of natural dirty blonde later and it’s a trip to the hairdressers. Tames damaged, frizz hair with heated styling tools. And on and on it goes.

6.

Expectation 6: Will save money so I can at least convince others if not myself I am an adult with the ability to scrape together a house deposit and other adult-y things.
Reality 6: You’re only young once. Book that spontaneous holiday. Buy that £4 coffee. Shoes down from £100 to £50? Can’t pass on a bargain like that. #YOYO.

7.

Expectation 7: Heard so many good things about these meditation tapes people seem to be doing. Will go home, download some and get my zen on. Yes.
Reality 7: Sits in front of TV painting toenails and wondering for the tenth time if I do, maybe, actually fancy Noel Fielding. Just, like, a wee bit?

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The fading of tans, layering of clothes and packing away of novelty inflatables make Autumn a bit unpopular to die-hard Summer fans. Sandwiched between summer (yay!) and Christmas (double yay!), Autumn, for some, is probably a bit like puberty: awkward, unpredictable, neither here nor there… Lots of people probably want it to just end already so they can get onto the good stuff (Santa. Or his damn beard.)

Personally, I love the Autumn. It’s something to do with the intangibility of it – the shifting of colours and smells. Living in Scotland, that tired old villain Rain will predictably be a force to contend with too- but for me that’s a small price to pay for the ability to layer up, crunch through leaves, consume hot beverages (alcohol optional but generally recommended), carve pumpkins, and finally light that spiced-something candle you bought in July.

Before I get too carried away in my romantic Autumn daydream, let me share with you 5 things that can convince any fence-sitter to “fall” in love (sorry not sorry) with this cosy season.

So here’s what’s on my Autumn ’17 to-do list.

 

ONE. The Enchanted Forest, Perthshire

I’ve been wanting to go here for years, but have never actually made it. So I’ve decided. 2017 is my year.

In case you haven’t heard of it – from 28 September to the 29 October, Faskally Wood near Pitlochry is transformed into an “Enchanted Forest“, with incredible lighting, visuals and music. I plan to go, buy many glasses of mulled wine, perhaps eat some sort of unhealthy burger thing, and appreciate the glory of nature in the Autumn (and some cool jazzy lights).

TWO. The Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh

I’d just moved to Edinburgh when I made my first trip here in 2014, and it was one of my boyfriend and I’s first dates, so I’ve got a particular fondness for this spot. I’ve been to the Autumn light show here for the past two years, but this has now been trumped in favour of a Christmas event. The gardens are still one of the most beautiful places you can be on a sunny day in Autumn, though. Go at night and you can get a mulled vino from their booze van, too… (do I have a problem?)

THREE. Oktoberfest

As if I need to convince you that drinking beer and eating bratwurst is a great idea. (I have a problem, don’t I?)  OK so it’ll never be Munich, but Edinburgh’s got a wannabe in Princes Street Gardens and that’s good enough for a non-German, non-beer connoisseur, comme moi. Although I’m in London later in October so will be hitting up Erdinger Oktoberfest at the Greenwich Peninsula. Prost!

FOUR. Samhuinn/Beltane fire festival

So I feel like this is regarded as one of those Edinburgh myths, much like that well-known “best place in the world for new year” patter. My reasons for this? No Edinburgh local seems to have actually heard of, or been to it. But this is the year I plan to test this “Celtic New Year” out for myself and get lost among the, er… fire sticks and hooded people. (It’s not a KKK gathering, I swear.) Read more about it on their page….

FIVE. Jupiter Artland 

Okay fine so technically this isn’t an exclusively “Autumn” experience, but the grounds look absolutely beautiful and I’ve been meaning to go for ages. And what better season to feel smug and cultured than in the arms of a crisp, autumnal day, in somewhere that alarmingly resembles Tubby land. No, YOU’RE uncultured. https://www.jupiterartland.org/

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Sweden has always been on my visiting hit list, but it remains a country my heavy heart has not yet made it to. However, it is my good fortune that I live in Edinburgh, which has been the receptacle of a Scandi takeover for some years now.

The culprit behind Scandi-gate? Swede Anna Christophersen and her husband Mike, who together run Akva, Sofi’s, Joseph Pearce’s, Boda and Victoria. I love all of these places individually, but today’s blog post is about one I hadn’t visited until very recently…. The glorious Hemma.

Hemma – meaning ‘home’ in Swedish, is the perfect marriage of name and concept. Located at the bottom of Holyrood Road, this gorgeous venue is spread out over two spacious floors. On the bottom floor, you’ll find various cosy little corners with mismatched furniture, and huge windows the length of one side. The spiral staircase in the centre of the floor leads up to shelves filled with books, antique lights, lots of plants and vintage-style decor.

While I always appreciate a well thought-out aesthetic, myself and fellow blogger (and honourary Swede) KK, had a much more urgent mission: to see what the new brunch menu was all about.

There are quite a few options, so we sought the advice of our lovely waitress, and together decided on three things: Eggs Brando, the full vegetarian breakfast and a sweet potato and lentil salad.

Let me tell you a thing or two about each.

VEGETARIAN BREAKFAST 
Veggie haggis, poached eggs, veggie sausage, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and hasselback potatoes and toast

Although I’m not a veggie, I’m not a humongous meat eater either and quite often choose veggie options because they look the most appealing to me.

Hemma’s veggie breakfast did not disappoint: everything tasted amazing and the veggie haggis in particular was beautiful. Traditional breakfast food can sometimes be dry and tasteless, but this was all TYdelicious and the textures worked together really well (after my second sausage, perhaps slightly too well…)

 

 

 

EGGS BRANDO

Sweet potato scone with scrambled eggs, feta, chilli and honey

This dish was something I can only describe as a palatable epiphany.  Oh my God. Seriously. One of the best brunch dishes I’ve had the fortune to consume.

A hardy Scottish food, the tattie scone normally takes on the role of the accompaniment. Kind of like the best friend in a movie, tattie scones are often only there to complement its other breakfast plate pals. So to experience it stepping up to the plate (hoho) and taking that leading role for itself was something of a revelation to me – and ooooft did it perform well.

 

I’d never think of mixing this particular combination of things together (though I’m not a hugely adventurous cook so this is probably not overly surprising) but it worked together like an absolute dream. I can say fairly certainly it’s the dish that will feature heavily in any of my future brunch visits to Hemma. Srsly. Go try it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slow roast tomato, sweet potato and lentil salad
With asparagus, toasted pine nuts, feta, chorizo, rocket and basil dressing

This is the perfect salad for any time of the day, and for any season. The sweet potato and lentil bulk it up so it doesn’t leave you feeling unsatisfied (nothing worse than salad sadness, amirite). The pine nuts and feta are a winning combo, and the chorizo gave it hemma salad 2that added spice so it wasn’t at risk of any blandness. Fab. Yoo. Luss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course it wouldn’t be an indulgent brunch without a splash of alcohol… assume your positions, Bloody Bodas.

Made with the same base ingredients as a traditional Bloody Mary (tomato juice, Worcester sauce, tobasco, salt and pepper) – the Bloody Boda has a Swedish twist. Instead of vodka, the drink is made with Aquavit, Sweden’s national spirit. Although I’d been warned Aquavit is somewhat of an ‘acquired’ taste, the Bloody Boda tasted absolutely delicious, proving itself as the perfect accompaniment for our brunch medley.

 

Want to experience the brunch of dreams for yourselves?

Find them at 73 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh.

Follow them on Instagram at @hemmabar or check out their website.

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