Saturday, 12 April 2014

An Interview with Magasin

Ma Magasin Cross Stitch

a Rafflecopter giveaway When I was but the tender age of 22 and working in a city pub during a busy Sunday lunch, my manager pulled me aside and exclaimed "You can't go around wearing a badge that says DICKHEAD on it, Sally. Take it off immediately."

He was referring to my very purchase from Sarah at Ma Magasin, which is still fondly worn from time to time when I am feeling brash or discreetly want to get my message across without having to say it to anyone's face directly.

Sarah Fordham Berk, Twat, Jerk Badges
 Sarah is the kind of girl that is impossibly funny and after meeting through the world of social media and online shopping, we realised we also had mutual friends and so began many years of emailing and chit chat - we finally met at Renegade Craft Fair this year and so you could officially call us pals. 

Her shop is one that I always refer to for pretty bits and pieces to give to friends - her style amongst my circle is iconic and her tenacity is admirable: releasing her first book last year and cropping up in Liberty's shop window, she has been on the crafty scene for many years now.

Sarah, where are you from and why do you love where you live?
 I'm from the sunny south-east of England. I have lived in various bits of Kent and East Sussex over the years, but in the last decade I have mainly found myself 'up north'. I currently reside in very rainy Manchester. As much as I miss the countryside, it's nice to have so many things to see and do here...and the luxury of public transport (seriously, at one point back home there was only one bus that came once a week!!)

Ma Magasin Cross Stitch Shop
Why and when did you open Magasin?
Once I finished my Fine Art degree many, many moons ago, where I taught myself how to stitch and things...I wanted to carry on making and my dream was to make money from what I made. I foolishly set up an ebay shop, but at that time I hadn't heard of Etsy or anything like that. I chose the name 'Magasin' on a whim as it is French for 'shop' but I have never liked it, and am too lazy to change it. I may start working under my own name soon
Cross Stitch Face Badge  
What makes you different?
There are a fair few people working in cross stitch and embroidery and making similar things now, but we all have our own different take on it. A customer who follows my work recently said they could tell something was still 'me' even though I'd tried making something new, so I suppose I must have my own style, which is nice to know!

What's your favourite thing to do?
Apart from stitching (what a geek) I like to watch marathons of films and tv boxsets...and eat chocolate.
Ma Magasin
 How did we meet?
Back in the days of Myspace...a chance encounter in Debenhams and a proper rendez-vous at Renegade Craft Fair!

Describe your shop in three words
Stitched. Quirky. Silly.

Thanks, Sarah! Quite kindly, she has made The Cafe Cat readers their very own cat-themed giveaway prize - a copy of her Cross Stitch Book, a set of cat badges, a pair of earrings and a little ring.
Cross Stitch Cats
By Sarah Fordham

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Fish at La Boqueria, Barcelona

The Cafe Cat Barcelona
There's plenty of things I love to do but none so much as pulling on my shoes and taking to the city. 

For this reason, I do miss Barcelona dreadfully, especially since I lived moments from La Boqueria, the city's biggest and most vibrant food market. 

On days where I hadn't much planned, which was most of the time, I would trot on down there simply just to look, feel and think.

A marketplace is so full of stories. You can be alone but surrounded wholly by words, sights and inspiration dancing majestically, often mischievously around you- whirling through your senses. 

At La Boqueria, I was always drawn to the centre where the fishermen and women would sell their daily catch. There was something intricate and so very fascinating about the expressions on the little fishy faces and I would walk ever so slowly, making up tales for the most beseeching of eyes, or the saddest of stares.

There was something quite horrifically beautiful about them all piled up, glimmering and frozen in the last vision of their final heartbeat, the lights and shadows dancing on their dead, glassy eyes. 

Fish at La Boqueria

Fish Faces

Fish Faces Barcelona

Fish Faces

Fish Expressions

Monday, 31 March 2014

A Cat's Life: March

Kentish Orchard Playtimes
It both frightens and excites me how much can come to change in just a year. 

This time last March, I was living between three places and working countless jobs - by day, making soup in the sticks of Kent and by night, serving up cocktails. At all other opportunities, I was copywriting, helping some small Kentish businesses with their social media and blogging away about the things that I was up to

I've always loved adventuring and discovering new things and places. While I love the countryside preposterously more, I can't say that London hasn't offered some incredible things to me, which is why I'm restarting my series 'A Cat's Life' to try and keep track of all the wonderful things I have had the opportunity to attend or discover- like the time my pal Gareth and I ripped apart computers and built a scale city of the future.
Rowan Arts North London
 Of course, with the opening of London's very first cat cafe, Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium, I promptly made a booking - did you know it's booked up all the way into July? You didn't? Well, you'd better start planning ahead. The cafe itself costs £5 to enter but guarantees a controlled atmosphere for the cats and also means there's less people to contend with for the kitties attention.

Naturally the cats are adorable and our early slot meant they were awake and geared up for playtime.
I have heard in the press that people have complained that the cats aren't very entertaining, which, if you ask me, is quite ridiculous.

Kitties will be kitties.
Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium
 The cafe itself is lovely and relaxing, my only qualms being that the food could be better. The salads were delicious but attention needs to be turned to all other areas if the cafe wants to secure return visitors. Sometimes cats just aren't enough.

Speaking of pastry, the crunch on these 'Ebi Deluxe' from See Sushi was something of a talking point the night I was invited to enjoy some of their menu. 
See Sushi
A waterside restaurant in Paddington, See Sushi provides incredibly delicious and fresh sushi at around an average price of £20 per head. The food was faultless and thoroughly enjoyable. 
What also made the venue rather special is their range of Koshu - sparkling wines- which are paired superbly with the food and speak of floral, citrus and spicy notes.
 Sushi is one of those things that I have never quite got around to mastering and so for a reasonably priced and delicious dinner, See Sushi is certainly a venue I'll be visiting time and time again.

When it comes to cooking, I love preparing and sharing food and so my invitation to the Underground Cookery School was a pleasure to receive and to attend. 

Blogger Event at the Underground Cookery School
While the food and skills we learned were generally quite basic, I learned a few new things such as deboning a chicken, which will doubtless come in handy next time I'm stripping one off for a Sunday night feast, just like the owner Matt Kemp is doing below.
We prepared moules marinieres, a ballotine of chicken and tarte tatin. Best of all, we all got to sit down and eat it together at the end - a perfect place for team building or a fun event as a group.

 And finally, I had the pleasure of attending Hoxton's latest cocktail venue 'Made in the Shade' with Caribbean-style cuisine to boot.

Paying extra careful attention to detail, the fellows at Made in the Shade bring a huge amount of global experience with them and what's more, they're thoroughly friendly gents.

You'll find your sweet and long choices but also special shorter numbers with ingredients like thyme-infused agave and lavender and pine syrup with fresh turmeric.

What's more, hosted within the building comes a wealth of interesting evening like Sunday's 'Gaslights' - a perfectly romantic evening blending the spoken word with music.

What about you all? What have you been up to in your city lately?

Monday, 17 March 2014

Brown's Coffeehouse, Canterbury

Canterbury is a city of sorts and of curiosity. The young, the old and the somewhere in between, interweave with each other- some permanent fixtures, others a fleeting presence and the rest just trying to establish themselves in a city that doesn't always have economic prominence on its side but a beauty that is captivating and difficult to evade.

For me, Canterbury is a master storyteller and a source of inspiration.

When I am wandering the streets, I always pay a visit to Brown's Coffeehouse to gather my thoughts and take a while to jot them down.

Often I'll take a coffee on the little steps by the riverside or wander a way into the Greyfriar's garden but just inside the door is a warm and friendly welcome should it be pitter-pattering, and you'll be greeted by quiet faces bent over books or leaning towards each other in creative conspiracy.
 If you're looking for a hub of interesting characters, conversations and good coffee, Brown's is perfectly located for just that. Tucked away from the tourist trail, you could be forgiven for failing to know that it's there but once you do, it's hard to forget.

Comfy chesterfields, an abundance of natural light and leafy green touches make it a wonderful place to integrate or isolate- it's a freelancer's dream if, like me, you like to work alone but with some semblance of control over pleasant distractions such as a little cake, an overheard conversation or an unexpected face.

What's more, the coffee is really, really good and in a city with countless chain cafes, it's a welcome burst of independent character- a genuine establishment.

 It's certainly one of my favourite place to be indoors in Canterbury- where's yours?

Pictures two, four and five sourced from Alaric King

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Copa de Cava, London

In Catalonia where 95% of cava is produced, this bubblesome beverage is not just a sparkling wine but very much a reflection of the culture and landscape. It also happens to pair perfectly with the typical flavours of Catalan and Spanish grazing plates, aka tapas.
Having spent two most colourful years in Barcelona, supping cava was once an integral part of my lifestyle, from haunting the local Xampanyeria to cracking open a bottle (or five) over some shareable delights with pals, as below.
 I have quite mourned the loss of this part of my life since I relocated to London and so when a little invitation from Copa de Cava popped up in my inbox, I rearranged everything I was up to and eagerly pulled an old friend along by the collar.

Quite aptly set in the brick cellar of a Spanish restaurant in Blackfriars, Copa de Cava is shrouded with that 'tucked away' ambience that comes with cosying up under the city streets and harks of the caves from which cava hails: intimate and lit dimly, perfect for hushed conversations or clandestine tables of conspirers and nibble lovers.
And so nibble and chatter we did, our words racing out of our mouths as fast as the cava that was washed down it, with shadows surrounding us and lights flickering on the others in attendance, illuminating snippets of their own conversations and pleasure for the food.

Dishes from chef Nacho del Campo were presented with his own flourishes - from
deconstructed tortilla de patatas to ceviche with corn kernels, and typically-rich ribbons of excellent quality Jamón ibérico.
Patatas Bravas, Ceviche and Pan con Tomate
Particular highlights included the earthy tones of slippery aubergine on crispy pastry and firm, fleshy octopus.
Setas, Steak Tartare, Pulpo

Conversation flowed as readily as the cava - I have to hold up my hands and confess that I might have done a better job of networking had I not been so enraptured with eating and brimming with bubbles of deliciousness such as:


 ...all the way through to the familiar peak of RESERVA DE LA FAMILIA GRAN RESERVA, JUVE Y CAMPS


While not as 'rough and ready' as some of the cava bars of Catalonia, it blends easy London chic with good flavours and makes a very fine place to catch up indeed. 

Friday, 28 February 2014

An Interview With Daydream in Blue

This is Tom from Daydream in Blue.

He's my fave blogging and adventure boy pal.
We met at a Nuffnang event back at Christmas and have since set forth on delightful dalliances together at markets, cookery schools and cafes, slurping on flat whites and discussing all things blogging and digital.
That's the best thing about the blogosphere, all the people you get to meet. You meet the odd tit but generally, the possibility for friendship is infinite so if I could give you one reason why you ought to start a blog (apart from sharing) it would be to meet new people, like my pal Thomas here.

Where are you from and why do you love where you live?
I've lived in London my entire life and I have absolutely no problem constantly letting people know that it's the best place on Earth. There's a non-stop rush of new things to do, new people to meet, new places to explore... if you become bored in London you've either seen it all (unlikely) or you're doing it wrong. 

To me, London is home, London is friends and family, London is excitement and opportunity and life. I have very little urge to move anywhere else and feel totally blessed that the place I call home is one of the most diverse and busy cities in the world. 
Why and when did you start blogging?
I started blogging back in September 2012. I'd finished school by then and was embarking on a gap year before attending Gloucestershire Uni to study Psychology. There was something about blogging that had always interested me but I'd never been able to find the right niche, courage or time to give it a proper go. I loved the idea of having my own little online magazine where I'd be able to publish whatever I wanted and have people actually read it. The process was slow but eventually I gained a bit of a following; I'll never forget the excitement I felt at the beginning knowing that real life people (a.k.a. not my parents, friends or teachers) were reading something I'd written... it astounds me even now! 

Starting my blog turned out to be one of the greatest decisions of my life so far as it has opened so many doors, I've gained a growing bunch of lovely new friends and it's taking me in directions I never thought possible. Finally finding a pastime that I absolutely loved and wanted to pursue gave me the courage to say "No, actually, I won't go to uni", which is something I'd struggled to put into words for three years. 
Describe your blog in three words
Laid-back, refreshing, inspiring
How did we meet? 
I first met Sally very briefly at an event in December last year. I don't know exactly what it was, but in some way I felt drawn to her* and I was over the moon when we began emailing and eventually met up again for a fun morning at Borough Market a couple of weeks ago. Spending time with Sally is like spending time with someone I've known for years and, what with the majority of my friends running off to uni and meeting new friends of their own, I'm really happy to have Sally to add to my little collection of London buddies. 

*not in, like, a creepy way, just in a "I want to be your friend" kind of way...

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