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One nice thing I did when I was in England last month was to meet up with a fellow blogger I had previously only met virtually. Sonia found my blog through our common work of painting harpsichords. I paint sound boards and she decorates the cases- two entirely different specialities. Sonia’s skills involve hard physical work sanding and finishing large areas, as well as gold-leafing and faux finishes. Mine entails designing and painting flowers.

Anyway, we became online friends and have followed each other’s projects for awhile. I was really impressed when Sonia conceived of, wrote, and self-published her travel, photo, and cookbook, ‘Androula’s Kitchen, Cyprus on a plate’.   And when we met in Brighton, she told me of the doors this has opened for her to new opportunities such as lecturing and cooking demonstrations.
Neither of us are out for the fast bucks, and subsequently are discovering the hidden treasures that come from doing something well because you love it. Then gifts come pouring in-  experiences that lead to making new friends, developing new abilities, and building community. It is inspiring to share stories.

Below are a few more general shots from the London part of the trip.

nose

nose

Above a detail from one of my most heart-lifting sights in London, the meters high horse head sculpture at Marble Arch. The first time I saw him while passing by on a bus, he took my breath away. And this time I made a point of getting up close.

Horse head

Horse head

One of the snazzy new double deckers:

new double decker

Another horse’s head sculpture I stumbled across near Oxford St.

Bronze head

Bronze head

One of the other things that made me smile every time I saw it was the placing of public pianos in various locations inside St Pancras International railway station. They were there for anyone to play, and there was always someone noodling away- sometimes shyly, sometimes performing, sometimes good , often haltingly searching out the notes. I loved the idea. There is always live music now when you walk along the busy indoor shopping boulevard, it makes it warm and homey instead of impersonal like an airport lounge.

playing piano at St Pancras

playing piano at St Pancras

And finally, here is the outside of St Pancras on my last day in the UK, the sun finally came out! I adore this building, it is the old Euston station, and part is now a posh hotel. I always like looking out on the warm red bricks from the hostel, which is the  building on the right hand side of the photo. Across the street, not shown is the British Library.  Despite the heavy traffic on Euston Road, I love this area, it is busy and vibrant and a great mix of architecture and things to see.

St Pancras station and Hotel

St Pancras station and Hotel

Sonia Demetriou’s new book

Sonia, whose blog I’ve been following for awhile now, has recently self-published a truly beautiful hybrid cookbook. It is a great mix of reminiscences as well as new discoveries of her family’s heritage on the island of Cyprus.

Androula’s kitchen, Cyprus on a plate, contains a wonderful variety of  personal anecdotes and practical information about current and lost ways of life on Cyprus. Sonia also follows up her passion for the island’s traditional skills such as pottery, weaving and basket making, letting us see current examples of the crafts through beautiful photos accompanied by informative explanations. You really get a taste of daily life on the island, and we haven’t even got to the recipes yet.

The second half of the book is given over to ‘Food glorius food”.  What makes it unique is the personal element- nearly all of the traditional recipes were either made in Sonia’s cousin Androula’s kitchen, or given by relatives and friends in the village. Where the recipes are more general, various friend-cooks give handy tips and snippets of history and anecdote to accompany the bread, soup or pudding being made.

I love to read cookbooks, and this one is my favourite kind to have- you get all kinds of background stories that put the dish in a context and add so much more to its enjoyment.

In Sonia’s own words….

‘…this book is a record of my journey in search of some of the island’s local traditions and crafts, which have been integral to the Cypriot way of life for centuries. It is a tale of the people I met, the food we made and enjoyed in Androula’s kitchen, and some of the Cypriot’s best loved recipes, which I collected along the way. The ancient history of Cyprus is well documented; I wanted to find out about the mundane life of yesterday and its place in modern Cyprus’.

This book is brimming with spices, landscapes, stories, characters, seasonings, sweets, art, and handwork, but most of all a lot of heart and soul. It is a  real gift, and it makes an ideal one as well.

No I’m not getting a cut, this is an unsolicited endorsement of a fellow writer’s worthwhile and beautiful creative product.

Ingrid and Stuart outside of Bon Papillon Gallery,Café, Framers, & Shop

I was lucky enough to stumble on Bon Papillon last summer when in Edinburgh. I’d just visited the wool shop nearby and needed a cup of tea and a place to just chill for awhile.  It was festival time, and my search for knitting wools had brought me onto a side street off busy Prince’s street, a good way down the hill. It was a relief to get away from the intense bustle and crowds, and when I saw the little terrace and art gallery offering cake and coffee, I couldn’t resist.

Bon Papillon had just opened a few months earlier. Once inside I sat down at a wooden table in a lovely, warm and intriguing interior and had the best cake and coffee I can remember having in a long time. And the prices were as friendly as the owners. I chatted a bit with Ingrid Nilsson about her art and this new venture she was embarking on with her partner Stuart Allan. It turns out Ingrid is an exhibiting artist, and Stuart has 20 years experience in catering. Judging from the deliciousness factor of the food there (11 on a scale from 1-10), that’s not hard to believe.

How can you choose????

Stuart's Beet & Ginger cake with lemon frosting

I have mixed feelings about sharing this here, because part of the pleasure, of course, is the surprise in discovering a gem like this. I’d hate to see it overrun and the owners start to consider expanding; the appeal is in the intimacy of a small 2 person place with so much attention to detail. For me the charm lies in the combination of amazing, food made with  pure, natural ingredients, the friendly ambiance which leads to conversation between tables should you wish (people bring their knitting and sketchbooks), the reasonable prices, and the great selection of art. I should add that Stuart has started a framing shop in the back, and it looks like this too is done with the same care and high standard as his cooking. Even though it is not edible!

Café interior

Stuart framing

So, when you are in Edinburgh, do go to this little haven on Howe street, say hi to Ingrid and Stuart,and eat some cake for me.

Oh almost forgot to say, they carry my felt brooches.
Tip- they’ve got some wonderful art shows coming up, see their blog .