Magic & Musings has a new home!

4:44 pm

Hello, friends! Long time, no speak. How many of my posts have started with that?

I've popped by briefly to say that Magic & Musings has a new home over on Instagram: @magicandmusingsbooks. I'll be chatting about books that I'm currently reading, book covers that I adore, and anything else literary that comes to mind. I find having a conversation with people about books is a lot easier on Instagram rather than a blogging platform these days - I don't think blog comments ever fully worked properly. So pop over for a chat if you're interested!

And, if you're an eco-lover like me, you'll also find me over at Sustainable Snippets, my newer website about plastic-free swaps, DIY beauty recipes, and more.

I hope you're all happy and well, and hopefully we'll speak again soon.


A Mini Vegan Food Tour of Vienna

9:35 pm

I won't lie - a lot of my holiday planning comes down to the food. I mean, remember Berlin? It was going to take a lot to top that, and this year our city break took us to, granted a place I knew very little about, Vienna! My pre-holiday reading did not go as well this time round. I buried myself in histories of German flânerie and memoirs of Isherwood living life in the capital before we went to Berlin, but one 500-page book about the Habsburg dynasty absolutely flummoxed me this time around. I went in completely unprepared, Vienna a complete mystery to me (besides a very last-minute ravenous read of The Third Man, a well-chosen birthday present). Needless to say, it was an absolutely stunning city, quiet and relaxed in pace, and an absolute dream food-wise.

Whereas Berlin was a veritable feast of vegan food, new discoveries to be found on every corner, Vienna was a little better at keeping her secrets. We spent a lot of the trip having lunches at the extraordinary Veggiezzz, a vegan cafe of sorts, specialising in enormous burgers, the world's greatest fries (I will die in this hill), and even vegan bratwurst. There were three or four of these establishments in the capital, but somehow we kept accidentally stumbling upon the same one at just the right time of day. I even found myself enjoying the sauerkraut, after telling myself I wouldn't like it. If you're in Vienna, this place is an absolute must.

I'm not kidding about the fries. Look at them.

Another cannot-miss on your vegan Viennese adventure is Veganista, another chain, but this time ice-cream. And I'm not talking sorbet. This is proper ice-cream, made from a variety of non-dairy milks, including soy, coconut, and rice. The flavours are absolutely stunning, my favourite being the hazelnut, and the staff were happy to give away samples if you weren't sure whether you were going to like a flavour. The price wasn't too bad either, especially if you're used to London gelaterias charging you a fiver a scoop. Like many other places in Vienna, they had a poppyseed flavour (which I didn't try), but it was near-impossible to go into a Viennese establishment without finding something peppered with this. I must research why! 

I am still dreaming about this hazelnut ice-cream...I was so hypnotised by it, I actually cannot remember what the other scoop was of.

Look, it's another burger! This time from Swing Kitchen, just a few doors down from a Veganista joint, so that's dinner and dessert basically begging to be had. Vienna was pretty much burger heaven the whole time we were there - I don't think I've ever tried so many different kinds of vegan burger. I've never been a huge fan of seitan. The similarity to real meat texturally really puts me off, but so many of the patties were made in a way in Vienna where that wasn't an issue for me. Topped off with some moreish fake cheese and zingy salad, you couldn't really ask for more from a burger. 

Those were the big hitters of Vienna, but there were many other places that still rated highly. Gorilla Market did a mean latte, with their neighbour establishment Gorilla Kitchen selling delicious burritos, burrito bowls, and sandwiches. Many bakeries on the market boasted both vegan and gluten-free goodies, and the nearby Voodies was yet another place that specialised in meat-free burgers.

Vienna is a stunning city, with plenty to do without being absolutely heaving with people, and everything feels beautifully laced with history. Take your camera, some comfortable trainers to walk in, and a healthy appetite.

(Skimming over the fact I haven't posted anything since last October. Hello again!)


Interview: Vivian Mineker on Freelance Illustration, Art as Comfort Food, and Being Proactive

11:00 am

Welcome back to the interview series! It's been a while, and a very busy year, but there are still more interviews to come, before moving on to new things...

Today's interview is with Vivian Mineker, a freelance illustrator with an adorable art style, and some fantastic answers to my questions! This interview was conducted last year so please excuse any inconsistencies, and I hope you enjoy finding out a little about Vivian, her ideas on art, and how she stays proactive.


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Vivian! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do? When did you first get into illustration? Is this something you’ve been formally trained in?

Vivian Mineker:
Thank you very much for chatting with me, it’s a pleasure! I have been working as a freelance illustrator for about a year and a half, before that I was also in the creative field but in another capacity. I’ve done work as an illustrator before as a side business. As I built up my portfolio and clientele I decided to quit my job and do this full-time. I went to school for animation; a lot of the same principles and techniques from that applied to my illustration, so it was somewhat of a natural transition for me. 
Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your illustrations in three words, what would they be?

Vivian Mineker:
Emotional comfort food. 

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start sharing your illustrations online, and did you find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence?

Vivian Mineker:
I don’t quite recall my first illustration post, but I started pretty early on, just putting my work on social media, mainly for friends and family so they could see what I was working on. As more and more people discovered and liked my work I started a separate Instagram account just for my illustrations, as well as Tumblr and Behance accounts. The support I got from social media definitely helped me feel more confident, and also just knowing what people like was a tremendous resource for my growth as an artist.

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Vivian Mineker:
Yes! There has been so many extremely talented female artists who have influenced me over the years that I can’t name them all right now. But I’m currently obsessing over Ira Sluyterman van Langeweyde (Iraville), Victo Ngai, and Cinta Vidal Agulló’s work. They constantly amaze me with the level of awesomeness of their work every time I look at them, I aspire to be on their level someday. Everybody check out their art! 

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Vivian Mineker:
That is a tough one, I have several. But if I have to pick one now it would be the one of the girl hiking with the avocado family (see bottom!). That one was particularly fun to draw and I just love avocados. I’m really happy that I was able to portray one avocado as a family of three! And also it just feels great every time I get to do a landscape scene and it turned out well. 
Magic & Musings:
I’m interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Vivian Mineker:
So I was travelling for about six months by myself not too long ago, and I discovered that I could draw and do work in a lot of different places and situations, as long as I was able to get a few specific things in place: a quiet corner where no one minds that I’m there for a long time, my art supplies (a few pencils, papers, and watercolor kit), a cup of coffee (preferably accompanied by some delicious dessert) and my phone for some music or a podcast (usually something nostalgic or relaxing, to get my mind into an easy place). 

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Vivian Mineker:
Usually I’ll put on some music and take out my sketchbook and just clear my head and start drawing whatever comes to mind. This is kind of my palate cleanser, when I’ve been too caught up with work and deadlines, doing this help me clear my mind and get back into the creative zone. I think the most important thing is to just relax and let my artistic mind wander sometimes, without judgement or pressure of having to be productive all the time. 

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your illustrations? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Vivian Mineker:
I can’t live without my collection of pencils, colored pencils, and watercolor set. My work is quite mixed media, I usually create the base illustration on paper with watercolor and colored pencils, then finish the rest on digitally. My favorite step in this process is at the end when I’m finishing and polishing everything up in Photoshop, and it just all comes together. It’s very satisfying. As far as books go, I highly recommend The Book from the Society of Children's Book Writers; they have a large collection of resource to help illustrators of all levels with the business of working for yourself. I also recently discovered books on watercolor technique written by Billy Showell, which are very insightful and useful for any artist looking to advance their watercolor skills. 

Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Vivian Mineker:
I found social media to be very helpful as far as my confidence and insight to what people like. I have been fortunate enough to have majority of the responses of my work to be positive on social media; it’s been a great confidence booster as well as a source of motivation. However I still believe in finding business and building network the old fashion way - sending out postcards, calling publishers, going to book fairs etc. People appreciate the proactivity and it is always better to give a personal touch to every potential client. That being said, a few jobs I’ve had so far were direct results of my social media presence, so it is still a great resource to have, I just would not recommend relying on it as the only mean of getting work. 

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Vivian Mineker:
Always work on a project. Doesn’t matter if it’s for a friend, a family member, an acquaintance, or just for yourself. Always work on something that you like and set goals. It will help you keep motivated, inspired, and get you drawing/painting everyday, and I think those are some of the most important things to keep in mind as an illustrator. 

Magic & Musings:
Fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you’ve enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Vivian Mineker:
I’m in the middle of reading the first book of the Remembrance of Earth's Past series - The Three-Body Problem; it’s a pretty mind blowing book, I’m loving it so far! I just recently watched Deliverance for the first time (gasp!) and it was great! Not the pick-me-up movie of the year for sure but I really enjoyed it. As far as music goes, I’ve been listening to a lot of The National lately, especially their most recent Trouble Will Find Me album, almost on repeat. Can’t wait for their new album coming out soon! Also I have to mention my love for the artist Adna, her music is amazing. 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Vivian Mineker:
I just want to thank you for all the wonderful questions, they were great and I really enjoyed chatting with you! There are several ways to follow my work, the most updated is definitely my Instagram @vivian.mineker. Also my website at, my Tumblr, and Behance. Again, thank you very much Megan, it’s been a pleasure! 


A Mini Food Tour of Berlin

9:10 pm

We went to Berlin back in April and it's pretty much my favourite place on the planet now. The architecture, the greenery, the food. Never did I think I would go to Berlin and experience such a fantastic range of food from all over the world. It was absolutely spectacular, so here's a mini lowdown of the best food we found in Berlin during our time there:

Pastel - Kreuzberg
This is the tiniest of tiny coffee shops tucked away in a side street in Kreuzberg (cue Bloc Party), potentially my favourite district. They serve the best decaf coffee I've ever experienced, but they also serve your regular caffeinated brown bean juice too, as well as vegan pastel de nata Portuguese tarts, their namesake. Vegan!!! This place was an absolute delight, with cool music, a friendly barista, and sweet little window seats where you could watch the day-to-day world of Berlin pass you by. The woman across the street dropped a basket out of her second-floor window on a pulley so a man street-level could pass up her groceries. This stuff actually happens in real life.

Royals and Rice - Mitte
Asian cuisine and Vietnamese coffee. I've never heard of a coffee and rice bar before, but what could go wrong? We experienced a lot of fantastic Asian food in Berlin, with Royals and Rice being a standout find. We only went in the evening so didn't get to try any of their coffee, but the food was bloody marvellous. Alongside sushi, they serve a wide-variety of tofu-based dishes, including the ever-enjoyable steamed bao bun and sweet potato curries. There's a huge amount of seating room and the staff are very friendly. We even considered going here twice because the food was so delicious. Try the bao buns if you're feeling indecisive!

Talking Beans - Charlottenberg
If you're into waffles, this is the place for you. Located in BIKINI BERLIN (it's a sort of of shopping centre, but with a pop-up food market, and lots of slightly-alternative clothing stores), it's run by a South African duo who have a knack for making the best crepes and waffles you'll ever taste. Each dish is topped with more delicious items than you can imagine, but with flavours that compliment one another and don't overwhelm. The man who served us was ridiculously friendly, so it's also a lovely place to visit if you also want a good chat about the world, as he was very well-travelled and had some fantastic advice about the many countries he'd lived in.

Sons of Mana - Charlottenberg

Also located in BIKINI BERLIN, this is where I fell in love with the Hawaiian poke bowl. A poke bowl is a delicious combination of rice, fish (if you're a fish-eater), edamame, avocado, seeds, sweet potato...anything you could imagine, with a very strong Japanese influence, as with a lot of Hawaiian cuisine. These are such fresh and healthy dishes, but also incredibly filling - I wish I could have had more than one! There's options for veggies and vegans, all perfectly-seasoned and beautifully presented. We've already attempted to recreate one of these at home, but the way they cook their sweet potato will forever remain a mystery. Find yourself a poke bowl ASAP!

Salut Backwaren - Alt-Treptow 
You will never understand how long it took me to find the name of this bakery we stumbled upon one day on our way to the East Side Gallery for breakfast. I had to retrace our steps on Google Maps despite not knowing the route we walked to the Gallery at all, trying to find a tiny bakery located under one of Berlin's numerous U-Bahn stations. Nevertheless, I'm now happy to report that Salut Backwaren is the name of the bakery that served the most beautiful and delicious pastries I've ever experienced. I still don't know what I had for breakfast that day; all I remember was that I want more. There are pastries for every diet and palate, so dive in and discover something totally new on your way to some top-notch Berlin culture. 

dean&david- Everywhere 
When we first got into the centre of Berlin, we were starving and needed somewhere to pass the time before checking into the hotel. This is when we stumbled upon dean&david, a chain of cafes in Germany (as well as Austria and Switzerland) that serve brilliant toasted sandwiches, salads, and, my new true love, matcha lattes. Their food is affordable, fresh, and there's something suited for all diets, plus they are located all over the city centre, so it's easy to find one on your route to somewhere exciting. I've tried matcha lattes since and none of them live up to the dean&david standard, made with soya milk and maple syrup to sweeten. My best advice would be to stay away from the ones right in the centre, like Potsdamer Platz, around lunchtime as they seem to be everyone's number one choice! Our personal favourite was on Nürnberger Straße, right near our hotel.