Monday, 4 March 2019

MOTHER'S DAY GIFT GUIDE

This week's weirdly warm weather means it definitely feels like Spring is here! I loved the big snow we got this time last year, but it is so nice to see some blue skies and spring bulbs coming up (although this cartoon very much sums up my feelings about the unseasonably nice days we've been having).

Spring also heralds the month of many presents I have to buy! In March it's my mum, sister and niece's birthdays, followed by Mother's Day, so I've been on the lookout for cool gifts for the women in my life (that aren't going to annihilate my poor wallet). So, take this as your annual reminder that Mother's Day is just around the corner (March 31st! Mark your diary), and please stop reading if you are likely to get a gift from me in the next 4 weeks (mum! This means you!).

For everyone else, here's some mum-friendly gift inspiration.

mothers day gift guide quirky independent gifts

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Monday, 25 February 2019

10 THINGS TO SEE AT EDINBURGH SCIENCE FESTIVAL

Somehow it's that time of year again! The wonderful Edinburgh Science Festival have launched their 2019 programme, which takes place from Saturday 6th - Sunday 21st April, Sci Fest's 31st edition!

Taking inspiration from the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings, this year's programme explores the theme of Frontiers, pushing the boundaries of what we think we know, and stepping into new territories (including loads of cool space things, obviously).

As always, the Science Festival has something for everyone (even you, person who thinks science is boring!). This year they've got 270 events on offer at 31 venues across Edinburgh (including their shiny new Festival Hub, the Pleasance), with loads of funny, creative, hands-on events for adults, as well as millions of things for kids. Fancy drinking gin while getting told cool gin facts? Or discussing if Jurassic Park could actually happen? Or getting the secrets behind the Moon landing? Of course you do.

There's loads to choose from, but I've picked out my top picks from this year's programme.


1. Life on Mars Grab your pals and join this pub quiz, board game and sci-fi mashup to build a new life on Mars.

2. The Science of the Sesh An evening of delicious drinks, boozy experiments and cocktail history. You'll discover what factors and senses affect how we taste, how to make amazing cocktails at home, and get to sip on some great Scottish spirits as you learn. Win win!

3. Secrets of Seafood Sci Fest are well-known for their great food events, and this looks no exception. This event promises some surprising science as you try out Scottish seafood, discover what other edible treats the sea offers, and debate how we make sure our stocks are sustainable.

4. Fake Moon Landings and Other Persistent Conspiracies Conspiracy theory experts (what a cool job) Prof Knight and Prof Sutton chat conspiracies, how they take root, and why people believe them. Lizard people! The Moon landings! Fake news?

5. Where the Hell is My Hoverboard? It's 2019 and we don't have flying cars yet! This panel, featuring a robotics researcher, future tech enthusiast and engineering researcher, look at where technology is at, and what we have to achieve before we can live our sci-fi dreams. There will also be the chance to taste 3D printed food!

6. Bring Back the Dodo Did someone say Jurassic Park?! Zoologist Jules Howard chats to the director of the Frozen Ark project, exploring what extinct creatures could be brought back and how. Guys remember, just because we can, does that mean we should...?

7. Thinking Through Animals Over the last century, cognition research has revealed a variety of advanced mental abilities in animals. Experts in philosophy, genetics and anthropology discuss what this means and how it links to human self-understanding.

8. The Science Behind Humanity's Dark Side Fellow murder-podcast-obsessives unite, this is one for us! Learn about the intricacies of criminal psychologists, how similar your brain is to a psychopath's, how many people think about murder, and why we do evil.

9. The Science of Egyptian Mummification: A No-Brainer? I've been studying Ancient Egypt in evening classes this year, so hi, yes, I am very excited for this! Discover the latest ground-breaking research on how the ancient Egyptians dealt with death (and to warm up, pop into the National Museum of Scotland's brand new Egyptian collection, which is meant to be amazing).

10. An Evening with the Moon Science writer Philip Ball, cultural astronomer Daniel Brown, and very funny person Susan Morrison host a whimsical evening of laid-back lunar activities and celestial cocktails, all under the glow of a lunar landscape. Sounds dreamy.

This year's Edinburgh Science Festival runs 6th - 21st April, and you can browse their full programme here.

Monday, 18 February 2019

A LOCAL'S GUIDE
TO EDINBURGH

Gifted post: Spending money was gifted by Hotels.com but all views are my own.  

Edinburgh Scratched map - Fruitmarket Gallery shop
I'm pretty lucky to live in Edinburgh, a city that is frequently lauded for being such an all-rounder of culture, history and good times (in 2018 Auld Reekie was voted the best city to visit in the UK for the fifth time running AND named the best city in the world to live in! Go Edinburgh). It's a city famous for its festivals, and there's an abundance of interesting spaces, places, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and hotels in Edinburgh to choose from. Phew!

But like any local, I can get a bit lazy about actually making an effort to get out and explore my city! So it was much appreciated to get a prompt challenging me to go on a day out and find Edinburgh's best spots and hidden gems. 

Buff Nails | Bada Budan
I started off my day by heading to the Arches at New Waverley - a super cute street of renovated Victorian arches, that's tucked away just between Waverley Railway Station and the Royal Mile (a perfect antidote to the tartan shops that crowd the Old Town). It's packed with independent businesses and hipster delights to eat, drink and shop.

I headed to my favourite nail salon, the Scandi-inspired Buff Nails for a shellac manicure, opting for a grey/neon yellow fade which felt fairly appropriate for the is-it-winter/is-it-spring weather we've got going on. I couldn't recommend Buff more - they do classic manicures alongside cool, custom nail art, and it's such a nice way to treat yourself!

After Buff, I wandered along to independent doughnut and coffee shop, Bada Budan. They offer an ace looking brunch menu, but I couldn't resist going for a salted caramel chocolate doughnut (playing tourist is a good excuse to eat doughnuts for lunch, right?). It's a really cute little coffee shop - I cosied in with my book for a while, but they also have a nice outdoor spot, perfect for sunnier days.

Other ideas to treat yourself: the Lush SpaOne Spa (they have a rooftop pool!)

Creative Connections - Fruitmarket Gallery
Next up, it was time for some culture! I have been dying to go see the National Museum of Scotland's new Egyptian exhibit, but I probably don't need to tell you to go there - the Museum is the most visited attraction in Scotland (but it is amazing, and you should absolutely go).

Instead I popped into Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery - a contemporary art gallery based right next to the train station, to look at their current exhibition, Creative Connections, a programme showcasing the work of groups working with diverse communities from across the city. I'm a sucker for bold, bright installations, so loved this piece by Scottish artist Juliana Capes.

The Fruitmarket Gallery also houses a cute cafe and an excellent book and gift shop!

Calton Hill
It's fair to say Edinburgh doesn't always have the greatest weather, but I was lucky today as the sun was shining as I made my way up Calton Hill - the home of the Nelson Monument, the City Observatory, Edinburgh's half-finished acropolis (aka Edinburgh's disgrace!) and the very best views in the city.

I was headed that way to check out the newly-opened Collective Gallery (who moved to their new home on Calton Hill at the end of last year), but was completely distracted by the view. I've lived in this city for years, and even though I've been up here many times, I realised I've actually never walked up on a clear day (instead it's been a destination for firework-watching or Beltane-partying - all fun, but not quite the same!). It's only a 10 minute walk from Princes St, and it's just incredible. You can see Edinburgh's Old and New Towns, the Castle, Arthur's Seat, the Palace at Holyroodhouse, down to Leith and over the Forth to Fife. If you're visiting Edinburgh, it's worth doing this on day one to take in the whole city and get your bearings.

The Gallery was also good though! They have restored the City Observatory, creating a new space for people to engage and think about contemporary art. They also have an amazing gift shop (I'm such a sucker for nice art gifts). 

Want more suggestions? Edinburgh's packed with amazing cultural spots. Watch arthouse films at Filmhouse Cinema, explore the beautiful National Gallery of Modern Art and its amazing grounds, venture out to Jupiter Artland, or discover Edinburgh's creepy medical history at Surgeon's Hall

Aurora
One of Edinburgh's best neighbourhoods is Leith, a historic port district that houses creatives and colourful characters, ace bars and cafes and quirky shops. In recent years, loads of amazing restaurants have popped up, as Leith develops a reputation for being home to some of the best restaurants in the city. It also houses me, so yeah, you could say I'm biased, but it is a brilliant place to live and I love it so.

Nestled on the otherwise-uninspiring Great Junction Street, is Aurora, a tiny restaurant that's been getting rave reviews on trip advisor. Aurora aims to create delicious and genuine food with great respect for the ingredients they use, using locally sourced, seasonal and unprocessed produce.

I'd guessed this was going to be good, but holy moly. The menu is made up of smallish-plates so you can try many things - we had the braised pork cheeks with langoustine bisque and scampi, wild mushrooms with smoked almonds and confit yolk (this was so good, take me back), pan fried sea trout with lobster cappelletti, pigeon breast with pear, and honey pannacotta to finish. It was a delight and all very reasonably priced (between £8-12 a dish), given how beautifully prepared and delicious it all was! 

If you're travelling to Aurora, make sure you make a booking in advance. It'll take about 10 minutes to travel there in a taxi from the city centre.

Monday, 11 February 2019

BOOKS I'VE READ LATELY

I realise I'm pretty late to the party with this one, but this year I finally got introduced to Goodreads, and guys, it's really good?

If you are stuck in the past like me, let me introduce you. It's a social media site just for reading, so you can track the books you've read, make lists of the books you want to read, set yourself reading challenges, and easily discover things you might like. No more panicking that you're about to go on holiday and haven't worked out what books to take! Or being hopeless at remembering exactly what you've read (I am bad for this - if I like a book, rather than love or hate it, it sort of disappears in my brain. I have read Girlfriend in a Coma twice without realising until the end, because I thought it was 'fine' so it disappeared into my brain's netherworld).

So it's great! And as I'm paying a bit more attention to what I want to read next, I think it's making me read more, which is wonderful! Here's a little recap of what I've read lately.


The Sunlight Pilgrims - Jenni Fagan
I was lucky enough to read Sunlight Pilgrims in the very perfect place. I was up north, staying in a tiny yurt with a crackling fire, tending the logs and reading this book while the wind whipped the tent and rain lashed overhead.

Set in a Scottish caravan park during a freak winter, this book tells the tale of a small community living through what people think may be the end of times. It feels like you are going on an adventure, that you're looking for yourself in the stars, that you are standing in deep snow, about to take your next step. It was a delight, and I can not wait to read more of Jenni Fagan's work.

Normal People - Sally Rooney
Let me join the entire world's chorus: I loved this book. Somehow it reached into my head and my heart and articulated every moment of hopefulness and anxiety I have ever had. It described the exact moment that I kissed my first boyfriend, the emptiness of my break ups, the feeling of steadying your heart and mind, ready to take on the world again. How?! It's perfect, oh my god, you need to read it.

The Way of All Flesh - Ambrose Parry
My expectations were always going to be sky-high after Normal People, so I think The Way of All Flesh got a slightly short stick in my world. It's a really fun 19th century Edinburgh medical thriller, where we follow a scrappy-but-well-meaning medical student who is sent to train under the intimidating eye of the famous Dr Simpson. There's scandal and murder and suspense and it's set right where I leave (I can't tell if it's fun or distracting to read your own street-name as the scene of the crime! Maybe both?). I liked it.

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott 
I have owned this both for YEARS, but have never managed to motivate myself to pick it up. I have just finished it, and WAHHH, what took me so long? Sometimes old classics can be a slog to read, but it is sweet and funny and surprisingly progressive! Yes, the religious morals are a bit much and it can be overly saccharine in places, but I was surprised by how much I liked the characters and how quickly the story trotted along. I'm looking forward to Greta Gerwig's hipster remake of the movie now too!

If you'd like to follow me on Goodreads, you can do so here!

Monday, 4 February 2019

QUIRKY VALENTINE'S CARDS

Despite my general apathy towards the hype of Valentine's Day (which genuinely feels like the worst day to go out for a meal?), I cannot help but continue to love Valentine's cards. I'm a sucker for cards in general, really. I think it's just SO nice to take the time to write something special and give it to someone you care about. Cards are cool!

Valentine's cards are also, on the whole, pretty twee (and so pink!). So here's some cute and quirky ones I found! It's a great way to support your local maker/indie stationery shop, and get that sweet dopamine hit as you spread some love and think good vibes towards others.


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