Procaffeination (Edinburgh)

Welcome to beautiful, sunny Edinburgh!

Today I had a wonderfully lazy afternoon at Edinburgh’s Procaffeination just off the Royal Mile. Sure, caffein conjures the image of coffee, and sure, they do coffee – but tea also has caffein. I’ve walked past this little cafe several times and finally decided to nip in.

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The cafe is quite small and there’s only 3 tables and 2 bars for people to sit at, so if you’re coming to visit with a big group that could be an issue. The decor is a bohemian shabby chic kind of rustic, with a pretty cool wooden floor and designs. The staff is really nice, especially the owner who is totally fine with people asking silly questions about Czech cakes.

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The brand  they sell at Procaffeination is Suki Tea. I went for a lovely Apple Loves Mint infusion with apple, papaya, peppermint, and rosebuds. I’ve recently been in a peppermint tea kind of mood, and although this tea is absolutely delicious, it’s not very minty (just for your information!) For a nice complementary bite I went for the fruit scone – yes, I am one of those fruit scone loving people. Strangely the scone came toasted? Also there was no clotted cream, just butter and jam. It was all very fine, just some choices I had never seen made before!

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(Picture from our Instagram tea.and.tales)

Overall I recommend Procaffeination. The tea, although I have only sampled one kind, is great, the scones, although mine came toasted and without cream, and the staff is lovely. It’s a cute little cafe, and it being situated just off the Royal Mile makes it easily accessible and a good pitstop on an Edinburgh city trip.

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The Pinhoe Egg – Final Chrestomanci Review

Oh here it is! The final review of the Chrestomanci series is finally here – don’t worry dear reader, I found it.
Remember how I said this would be a review month theme for February? Yeah..

So anyways, now let’s get to the review!
This story is about a village next to Chrestomanci castle, where the Pinhoe family, made up of magicians, is greatly misusing magic. They are led by Gammer, an old lady who has gone a little cuckoo. They have a feud with a family from a neighbouring village, and things are getting a bit out of hand. They hate the people working/living at Chrestomanci castle, because they know that if it was found out what they are up to there would be massive consequences.
Marianne Pinhoe, destined to become the next Gammer, thinks Gammer hasn’t lost all her marbles yet and is in fact fueling the feud. She also befriends Cat (remember Cat, from the first book in this series?), who is currently in training to become the next Chrestomanci – except she doesn’t know that. Together, they find an egg in the Pinhoe attic, which she gives to Cat.

I really like the dynamic between Marianne and Cat. It’s not romantic, it’s just two kids who are on the road to become friends, in the innocent way only children can do it. Their lives are also quite similar in a way: both are very strong enchanters, and are being trained to become the next leader of their respective groups (by somebody who’s a bit odd). They bond over their shared experiences and love for animals, which is so adorable! Also, Cat gets a horse. Now I am not a horse person and I never got the horse thing, but imagining cute little Cat falling in love with an animal – any animal – is just adorable.

This book is so sweet. I actually don’t really want to talk about it more than I did here, mostly because it’s a sweet, small story about two kids becoming friends and fighting the powers that be. Also, one of the main plotlines is a bit confusing in its twistiness and I totally didn’t see it coming (except for the obvious resolution at the end), so I don’t want to ruin it for you. You’re welcome! It’s a wonderful book, one of the smaller Chrestomanci novels, and I wholly recommend it to everyone.

Now the way I want to round off this short review is a bit different from usual. The thing about the Chrestomanci series is that you can read it in any order you wish. The stories are all stand alone, but I do recommend a certain order to maximise your reading pleasure.

  1. The Magicians of Caprona
    1. In my mind this is the weakest of the Chrestomanci novels. It’s fine, but it’s not got the quality that the others do. Also the character of the Chrestomanci only makes a small cameo in this novel, which is unsatisfying if you have read the other books first, but may be a nice taster for what’s to come in the rest of this series.
  2. Witch Week
    1. It’s fine, but also not as spectacular as the others. I also recommend this one before the ones as those are all linked together better. The Chrestomanci in this novel (and the above) is Christopher, and maybe it’s nicer if you know less about him first.
  3. Charmed Life
    1. The first, the classic. This is where the “main” storyline, following Cat, starts. It’s also better than the above, so it’ll keep you invested!
  4. The Pinhoe Egg
    1. We keep following Cat on his journey towards becoming the Chrestomanci, and keep getting more and more confused by this current Chrestomanci guy. Why is he acting so aloof? Why is he always wearing such outrageous dressing gowns?
  5. The Lives of Christopher Chant
    1. We go back to the start of Christopher Chrestomanci, and find out why he is how he is. After being confused and attracted by this guy for 4 novels, it’s so cool to read about his background! It really gives depth to his character and the series as a whole.
  6. Conrad’s Fate
    1. A continuation of Christopher’s story, and the point where all his mannerisms and characteristics start falling into place. It’s not about him in the strictest sense, but I mean it basically is. Give me more Christopher!

 

So is The Pinhoe Egg a good conclusion to this wonderful series?
My answer is no – it’s not a conclusion. The Pinhoe Egg is set in the middle of the main storylines, and is a stand alone novel in its own right. It is more than an entry in this series, and even as such, it simply isn’t the ending. This series can be read in any order you wish, and there is no end to it. In a way, it’s kind of unsatisfying. I want to have a nice, clean rounding off of the Cat/Christopher Chrestomanci training thing. Closure is nice. But on the other hand, this handing over of one’s position is not something that ends in 1 move. It gets passed on again and again – you could in theory write an infinite amount of Chrestomanci novels. By not giving the series a traditional final novel, Diana Wynne Jones plays with form once again, and allows us to keep living in this world for as long as we want.
The story goes on, you can simply pick it up where she left it.

Have a nice Easter everyone, and if you’re doing gifts, you can’t go wrong with a Chrestomanci novel (especially order numbers 3-6). See you on Monday!

Whoops, I went away

Oh dear reader, there’s a little bit of a gap on the blog here, and I’m sorry. The thing is that the previously mentioned exciting developments are still…developing, I went to the first SYP Scotland conference, and we went on a wee trip down south.

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I won some books!

The conference was wonderful; I went to talks on publishing, bookselling, and the interplay between word and image in (children’s) picture books. I met up with some lovely people (you know who you are), ate some amazing food (best vegetarian and vegan conference food ever), and just had a great time!
After the conference I had to rush to catch the train down to Cambridge – feeling rather fancy (and almost important) I must admit – where we met up with a friend and had a graduation to attend. My partner became a Senior Member of King’s College! Hurrah!

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Dinner at King's College

It was all hilariously pompous and intensely enjoyable, and we basically spent the weekend partying. We met up with friends, spent many hours playing Avalon (we’re that cool), and did a bit of sightseeing and punting.

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Homerton College

We had a wonderful time and I quite frankly forgot to blog..so I’m hoping this blatant filler travel blog can fill the gap adequately! I hope you all had a great weekend as well, and I promise the final Diana Wynne Jones review will come out properly this Friday, and that I will provide updates on the mysterious developments as soon as I can okay Mum??

See you all here on Friday!

Forsyth’s Tearoom (Edinburgh)

Ooph, it’s been a busy couple of weeks here behind the scenes of Tea & Tales!

The sun is out, birds are singing and spring flowers are blooming – spring has sprung and this beautiful city is becoming lovelier and lovelier. When you’re working hard in these conditions, it’s easier to bear – but there’s still not much that beats a stroll through the sunlit streets of Edinburgh followed by a relaxing Cream Tea. Today, we went to the tourist hub: the Royal Mile, and had a stop at Forsyth’s Tearoom.

Forsyth's Tearoom

Forsyth’s Tearoom is a wee little tearoom hidden in a wynd just off the Royal Mile. It continues last week’s theme of your grandmother’s living room, as the interior full of a plethora of crochet decorations, jokes relating to Scotland and Scottish – oh, and it’s run by a lovely purple-haired eldery lady. When you walk into the tea room you are immediately faced with the counter, displaying yummy freshly baked goods, and the owner doing the dishes behind.

Forsyth's Tearoom

I opted for a Cream Tea, as I was feeling particularly stressed, and was handed the cutest kitschy china I’ve seen so far. There was, unfortunately, no choice of tea (or at least not that I noticed), but there is nothing wrong with a generic tea every now and then. It’s cheaper than a loose leaf tea, and although it lacks the nuanced flavouring of a loose leaf tea, it can still be comforting and warming. The scone was still warm and smelled absolutely delicious. It came with butter, jam, and whipped cream – no clotted cream unfortunately, but the jam was more than good enough to make up for it. The flavouring of the scone was perfect, exactly the right amount of sweetness and quantity of sultanas – but the texture was a bit dense.

Forsyth's Tearoom Cream Tea

That said, having a quick Cream Tea at Forsyth’s Tearoom is very relaxing. Maybe it’s because it looks like grandma’s living room, maybe it’s the lovely service, or maybe it’s just because you’re having tea in a beautiful city surrounded by lovely people.

Conrad’s Fate – Chrestomanci 5

Alright, so last week’s review didn’t happen – but in all fairness, I have some pretty exciting life stuff going on at the moment (squee fingers crossed!) that has been taking up a lot of energy and time, that I will only disclose when it’s done (and it’s super exciting)! Also I downloaded and finished Undertale over the weekend, so I’ve been busy.
But this week we’re back again, and it’s time for the 5th* instalment of Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series: Conrad’s Fate.

Conrad’s Fate tells the tale of ..well, Conrad. Conrad lives with his feminist author mother (wouldn’t mention it if I wasn’t going to make a point, no worries) and uncle in Stallery, in the English Alps. He works and lives in his uncles bookshop, which his uncle claims is always on the verge of bankrupcy. After school Conrad wants to go to university – but to no avail. Money is too tight and he will have to work. Oh, and minor detail, his entire life his uncle has been warning him of his fate, which is a bad thing and caused by some evildoer in Stallery Mansion. This mystery person is somebody Conrad was supposed to have killed in a previous life – the failure to do so cause major bad Karma and bad, bad luck. Oh, another minor detail – somebody at the mansion is pulling possibilities, causing tiny changes in the world, like changing book titles, colours of mail boxes etc. Conrad is sent to Stallery Mansion to work as a lackey, and to find and kill the person responsible of his bad fate – or else he will die in a year’s time. His competition/coworker? A mysterious chap who goes by the name of Christopher “Smith”, who seems to be there for reasons other than work as well…

This plot is probably one of the more interesting ones in this series. It’s got really high stakes – Conrad’s life – and horrible choices: as far as Conrad knows he will have to murder someone to save himself. His life is kind of bad too, he has no control over it whatsoever and seems to be stuck in his little village, working for free in his uncle’s bookshop and taking care of the two adults in his life – his lazy uncle and his mother, who believes that housework is the yoke of all women and therefore does not do any of it – ever – and leaves it for her children. That’s not feminism. That’s being a bad parent. (Seriously, what is Jones’ deal with dysfunctional families?)
Like too many young kids he cannot further his education due to monetary reasons, and has to give up his talents to go for a surefied income doing something he hates. This issue is so relevant, especially here in the UK where going to university will throw you neck deep into debt. Many gifted students will not get their chance to shine just because of their financial background, and that sucks.
I love the bit of humour Jones throws in with the possibility changes – nobody cares to a point further than annoyance. ‘Ugh, that box was red yesterday, I like red’ is about has interested as the average Joe is in their entire world changing on the daily. This complete lack of interest in the world is hilarious, and a typical example of Jones’ humour.
Another thing I love? The so incredibly not subtle Christopher “Smith”. Dude is shady as can be, has obvious strong magical capabilities, seems to know exactly what’s going on, has nightly adventures, charms the socks off of everyone, and doesn’t even convince Conrad (who is rather gullible) of his last name. Bless this legendarily charming lad.

Right, you know the drill. All those who do not want to read spoilers for this story, rendez-vous at the pretty picture! See you soon!


So Conrad’s uncle? Straight-up evil lying scumbag. The shop is making loads of money and Conrad could easily have gone to university or whatever instead of working for free and having to beg for anything. Oh, and Conrad doesn’t have bad Karma. In fact, he doesn’t have any at all. He doesn’t have to kill anyone, he isn’t going to die within a year – it’s all a lie so his cowardly uncle can have a child do his dirty work. He even brings Conrad to a meeting with some “important” people from the village, who all claim that they can totally see Conrad’s bad fate and it’s totally real. Yep, you better taint your life by committing murder.

On a more fun note, Christopher “Smith” is actually Christopher Chant, the protagonist of last review’s novel The Lives of Christopher Chant. At this point in the series’ jumbled timeline he is in training to become the next Chrestomanci and is not yet together with Millie but you know they’re totally going to. Millie ran away and hid in this universe, and Christopher followed her to try and find her, infiltrating Stallery Mansion to do so. He’s also interested in stopping the universe shifts I guess, but really it’s all about finding Millie and bringing her home to him – so cute! Conrad and Christopher have a very natural and fun buddy cop dynamic going on, where neither one truly trusts the other and Christopher is the charming, not-a-care-in-the-world jerk with a golden heart, and Conrad is the more timid and serious one. They become true friends towards the end, and together they find Millie and stop the shifts, which were caused by the lord of the mansion posing as the butler to make money and sustain the mansion. When the machine is destroyed, the mansion reverts back to its true, degenerate state and that’s it. Christopher and Millie go back to Chrestomanci Castle, and Conrad gets to go to school with his friends. Oh, and they have his uncle banished to an alternate universe where he’s trapped with a cold demon. All’s well, ends well.

The twists here are kind of obvious, except for the butler thing, and will most probably not catch you off guard. That said, they’re still very enjoyable and I found myself eagerly awaiting the moment that Conrad finds out exactly what’s been going on. The whole Christopher plot is so much fun, from his foppish introduction to the very end. His friendship with Conrad feels genuine, and he is just so laughably out of place – also the whole Millie dynamic is just wonderful, especially if you’ve read the other books. I do wish it were possible for a family to just be nice instead of straight up mean though!


 

Conrad's Fate Stallery Mansion

Final thoughts? This is a good book, and a solid entry in the Chrestomanci series. The humour is there, the adventure is there, the friendship is there. It’s simply wonderful, and I highly suggest you read this! Although maybe it’s best to read after The Lives of Christopher Chant and Charmed Life, just to make sure you fully appreciate Christopher on his route to being Chrestomanci.


 

Most of this story takes place in Stallery Mansion, a very lavish, decadent place. The Countess and her daughter eat around a gazillion cakes every day, and use slimming spells to keep their figures – and I’m wishing I could be them. Because the story is so fresh, and the surroundings are so over the top aristocratic, I decided to match this read with a lavish, fresh, and cake inspired tea (with Sansa inspirations): Yumchaa’Lemon Sherbet. This is delicately fresh rooibos infusion, with lemon, lime, and orange peel which give it a hint of fruity freshness. It’s light, it’s sweet but not over the top, and makes me feel like I’m living my dream of stuffing myself with lemon cakes and not gaining a pound. Rooibos, of course, is not strictly a tea as it comes from a different type of bush – and suits the Diana Wynne Jones style where nothing is quite what it seems. Yum!

So enjoy your decadent cuppa Yumchaa Lemon Sherbet, enjoy this excellent entry in the Chrestomanci series and I will see you next week (hopefully with some amazing, earth-shattering news)!

Yumchaa Lemon Sherbet

 

Clarinda’s Tea Room (Edinburgh)

It seems like finally, spring has sprung up here in cold, foggy Scotland!

The sun is shining, Arthur’s Seat is glistening in the sun, and I feel super cool in my sunglasses (alright, maybe not that cool, but still). There’s not much that can beat a walk through a sunlit Edinburgh, except maybe having an afternoon tea break. After going for a wee wander through this beautiful city, my partner and I sat down for a quick break in yet another Edinburgh tea establishment: Clarinda’s Tea Room.

Clarinda's Tea Room

Immediately upon walking into Clarinda’s Tea Room you are hit by the one main impression the decorations leave you with: that of a grandmother’s living room. It doesn’t really matter how hip your grandmother is, you’ll reckognise this style at once. The crochet table cloths, the plates and portraits on the walls, the fine china cups and saucers – everything fits. Even if you prefer the more modern, Eteaket-style interior designs, you will most probably feel comfortable here. There’s a party in your grandmother’s house, and you’re all having fabulous tea and cakes – what’s not to love?

As we had not eaten anything yet that day, we decided to share a Club Sandwich and both have a Cream Tea. Unfortunately, they’d run out of chicken, so we had a BLT instead. We got it all at the same time, so our table was (grandma-style) crammed with yummy looking food. The BLT was good, and came with a very English side of crisps – we’ve not seen that anywhere else so far, so it’s like encountering an old friend when we do. The scones were perfect: a bit crumbly, a bit buttery, a tad vanilla-y, and the fruits were not overpowering. The star of the show, however, was the strawberry jam. All in all, the food was delish.

Clarinda's Tea Room Edinburgh

The tea I had was a Lady Grey, a variation of the famous Earl Grey. Both Earl and Lady Grey are black teas flavoured with bergamot oil, but Lady Grey has additions of orange peel oil and lemon zest, which gives it a fresher and fruitier flavour than its counterpart has. The tea here comes as loose leaf, which is very nice – but you can’t take it out of the pot, so you’ll have to drink it fast if you don’t want it to get bitter.

This place is so nice. I would especially reccomend it to foreign students living in Edinburgh who are feeling a little bit homesick. Eat your feelings away, whilst imagining you’re back home visiting grandma! This tea room is located all the way down the Royal Mile, so it’s a nice place to catch a breather from all these tourists (especially if you’re visiting the city yourself!).
So do yourself a favour this spring, go to Clarinda’s Tea Room!