Monday, 31 December 2018

MEET UDON!

Are you ready to see the sweetest angel? Meet Udon! She's an African Pygmy Hedgehog, she's just turned eight weeks old, and she is the very cutest ball of spikes.


After Soba passed away I wasn't expecting to get another hedgehog any time soon, but given that there's only a few breeders in Scotland, I thought it was probably sensible to see if I could get on a waiting list. The only breeder I could find near Edinburgh said it might be December 2019 before she had available hoglets, but somehow I got lucky, and within the month I heard there was a tiny blonde girl available.

Fast forward a few weeks, and here we are! With the exception of stubbornly sleeping in her wheel instead of her lovely cosy bed, she's been a dream. Moving homes is, understandably, an overwhelming experience for a tiny hedgehog, but she's been so good! She has been friendly (!) and active, and straight away was happily eating her food and exploring her new home. What a good baby!


After years of owning Soba, it's so weird meeting a new hedgehog, with a very different personality. She's CONSIDERABLY less huffy than he was (bless you grumpy Soba, I still love you), she seems really into digging, and she's not really worked out she's meant to be nocturnal yet, but like Soba she's got all the signs of growing up into a very inquisitive tiny explorer.

She's going through her quilling stage at the moment, where she sheds her baby spines and grows new ones, which will also determine her adult colour (I hope she stays light, but who knows!). Soba will always be my o.g. but I am delighted to have Udon in my life and cannot wait to see her grow up!

Monday, 24 December 2018

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

What's that saying? The best made plans of mice and men! Obviously I was giddy on my blogging spree (9 posts in 8 weeks! I'm practically a professional), and had dreamt up all sorts of interesting festive things to write about, and then the lurgy struck. Not just any lurgy. A horrific cold that lasted for WEEKS, and coincided with my poor/very brave boyfriend being struck with flu which turned into an intense few days in hospital (!) with pneumonia.

But it's Chrrrrrriiiiiiistmas, and I am very ready for it.


Life has picked up. Our never-ending sickness has finally, finally lifted and I remember what it's like to not be sniffling constantly. Thanks to the December gods, we even managed to be better(ish) in time to escape up north for a few days for my birthday, and it was so so nice to get time to just read, tend a fire, and laze about, after the most frantic of months.

Now it's bedding in for Christmas time! We've got our tree up and it's a beaut - it's a real one from Ikea in their buy-a-£25-tree-get-a-£20-voucher deal (bargain). I love real Christmas trees, I think it's because I'd gladly fill my house with full size trees if I could. Plus they smell amazing!

Presents are wrapped, gingerbread is baked (and burned, but whatever), and I'm planning to spend the next few hours drinking Bailey's, watching Christmas movies, and attempting to build a gingerbread house. I've also got someone very special to introduce you to, but that's for another day.

Have a very merry Christmas, I'll see you on the other side!

Monday, 10 December 2018

A TRIP TO FUERTEVENTURA

It's absolutely freezing outside, so if you are dreaming of some winter sunshine, I have just the place for you. Boasting an average temperature of 20°C in December, beautiful coasts, easy direct flights from the UK, and a whole heap of quirky and interesting places to stay, Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands, is lightyears away from the Brits-abroad island I thought it was.


We went in January this year, hopping on cheap-as-chips Ryanair flights for a week of much-needed sunshine and it was glorious.

WHERE WE STAYED


We were there with a big group of pals for a birthday trip, which meant we were able to splash out and book this amazing Airbnb villa (which was still a bit of a bargain, given the size it was). It had a huge garden filled with loungers and hammocks, a beautiful pool (that admittedly, was a bit too cold in January, but we did go in it!), a massive kitchen and lovely rooms.

The villa was in the small surfing town of Lajares, which had lots of little bakeries, interesting shops, a market, restaurants and bars. I am not a fan of places that are too touristy, so it was nice to find this little town that was super welcoming with lots of local charm.

I found loads of lovely Airbnbs in Fuerteventura, when we were looking for this villa. How nice is this super quirky guesthouse? Ugh, take me back! (If you haven't tried airbnb yet, use this link to sign up and get money off!).

WHAT WE DID


We hired a car (pretty much a must in Fuerteventura), so we had lots of opportunities to explore the island. The whole place is beautiful - it's volcanic and rocky, which makes from some incredible scenery, with huge gorgeous beaches.

Hands down my favourite thing, was discovering that the island was inhabited by tiny adorable ground squirrels, who would eat from your hand! We climbed up a volcanic crater near Lajares armed with some monkey nuts, and were instantly covered in very brave squirrels, who knew exactly what they wanted and had zero fear in getting it. As a lover of small animals, this was my dream come true, but maaaay be something to watch out for if you don't want tiny animals descending on you.

We explored a lot of the island. We went to Morro Jable, visited the turtle sanctuary and saw wild stingrays looking for scraps from fishermen in the harbour. We went to massive beaches, which were beautiful, but a bit windy to sit out on (instead we found nice beach bars, and hung out there instead). We stood under the giant statues at Morro Velosa, and learned the reason that most of the island's towns are inland is because the coast used to be threatened by pirates. We climbed rocks and followed adventurous trails, and it was so much fun.

WHAT WE ATE


As there was a big group of us, we cooked a lot at our airbnb, hanging out there in the evenings to play games and catch up. The house had a massive barbecue, so it was perfect for big cookouts with loads of food from the local shops.

Lajares was peppered with bakeries, so it was a total delight to try every one of them. My favourite moment was going into one and buying everyone of their 'fuerte' goat-shaped biscuits (delicious, would eat again). We found lots of excuses to stop for jamón and goats cheese (when in Spain!), and ate loads of amazing fish in tiny restaurants by the sea.

The hardest place to pick food was in Corralejo, the island's largest resort town. Everything seemed a bit bland and touristy, but we came across Single Fin, a really cute burger place that was tiny but packed full of personality and flavour.

All in all, it was an excellent and pretty affordable escape from winter.

Monday, 3 December 2018

THE HOLY GRAIL OF TIGHTS: SNAG TIGHTS

Like many women/tights-wearers, I feel like I've been on an eternal hunt to find tights that look nice and, more importantly, fit properly! For years, I've been plagued by irritating tights. Tights that fall down, tights that bunch around your ankles, tights that ladder immediately, tights that sit too low or too high, tights that need pulling up ALL DAY LONG. AAARGH.

I would have given up on tights a long time ago, but I a) wear dresses all the time, and b) live in Scotland, so going bare legged just isn't an option. I had accepted my irritating existence, then one day I spotted an advert for Snag Tights, and it got my attention. Their tights were only £6.99 too so, not expecting anything, I ordered them. And reader, at the risk of hyperbole, they changed EVERYTHING.


I can hand on heart say they are the comfiest, best fitting tights I have worn in my entire adult life. They don't fall down! You just put them on, and they are comfy, and you don't think about your tights all day. That should be the norm, but it made me realise how uncomfy I've been on a daily basis, and how I've just accepted that it's the only option for me. No more.

Normal tights vary in length, but not by width, which is why it can be such a struggle to find tights that actually fit if you don't have a cookie cutter body shape. Snag tights are genuinely different sizes, which are sized based on your dress size, height and body shape.

They are a small UK-based brand, and bit-by-bit they've been expanding their range so now they offer 80 denier, 50 denier, sheer tights, fishnet tights, shorts and kids tights, plus all of their products are really affordable. I've thrown out all my old tights and won't look back, bye baggy denier, hello (not so) holy grail!

Monday, 26 November 2018

QUIRKY CHRISTMAS
GIFT GUIDE VOL. 2

It's Chriiiiiiistmas! Well, obviously not quite yet, but there's a chill in the air, Christmas lights are sparkling all over town, and I've already scalded myself on glühwein.

With only four weeks to go, it's time to get cracking if you've still got Christmas shopping to do! I've put together a list of lovely things, with ideas for most budgets, to give you some Christmas inspo.

Stocking fillers

1. How cute are these sleepy moon pin badges? They come hand-stamped with your choice of initial for a personalised touch.

2. These are aimed at new mums, but as someone who is a fan of staying up late and dozing all day, I loooove this So Tired pin.

3. Got a coffee lover in your life? Get them hand-roasted coffee beans from all female coffee company Girls Who Grind.

4. Fusing art and chocolate, you won't go wrong with beautiful chocolates from Glasgow-based Sugarsnap Chocolate.


£15 and under

1. An adorable gift for anyone with jewellery or trinkets to store, this ring dish is personalised with your choice of name or word.

2. I got this Prick Book last Christmas and it is brilliant! It looks beautiful, is packed full of interesting information about cacti and succulents, and is a great guide for your green-fingered friends. 

3. You can't go wrong with a really pretty mug, and this celestial print mug is lovely.

4. Featuring artwork from the first edition of the book, buying this Wizard of Oz tote bag helps to fund literacy programs and book donations to communities in need, so you can get a gift and help others out! What a wonderful wizard win/win.


£30 and under

1. How cute is this chubby ceramic rhino planter? Very cute, that's what.

2. I'm a big fan of  indie jewellery label Wolf & Moon's aesthetic, and this eclipse necklace is particularly pretty.

3. I love dinosaurs, so I'm a big fan of this lasercut T Rex necklace. It comes in gold and silver too!

4. Okay, have you guessed I like personalised things? I think it all stems from having a slightly unusual name, and never being able to find anything with my name on it when I was little. Anyway, Papier have a beautiful range of stationery, including this beaut 2019 diary, which can all be personalised!


£50 and under

1. I'm a sucker for anything rainbow, and this bright orange bag ticks a lot of boxes. It's got compartments! Everyone likes bags with compartments!

2. I'm pretty pleased I've managed to only pick one thing from Anthropologie on this list, I am obsessed with that whole shop (although I can never actually afford it, weep). This statement necklace looks giant and great.

3. Brighten up wintery days with this adorable handmade fair-isle knitted hat. The pom poms are detachable too!

4. Perfect for the book lover in your life, this Joanie Sense & Sensibility jumper looks cute and cosy.


£100ish 

1. You can never have enough plants, and geo-fleur's Plant Post Club is a super cute way to surprise plant lovers each month. This subscription delivers an exclusive package of an unusual and beautiful plant, in a handmade pot, or plant related accessories each month. Everything's made in geo-fleur's Yorkshire studio.

2. I know this is a massive list of actual presents, but I am definitely of the opinion, that if you are going to treat someone, there's nothing better than gifting a trip or experience. In Edinburgh, we're lucky enough to have beautiful artisan florists dotted around the city, and I've always wanted to do a Flower School workshop - you get to learn a new skill and take home a beautiful bouquet!

3. Okay, back to commercialism! I can't help being a sucker for MAC, and I'm clearly a makeup magpie, so look, look at the shiny pretty things advent calendar

4. Like octopuses? Like being cosy? I do! I'm obsessed with this giant octopus blanket, hand-knitted by illustrator Kristina Micotti.

Monday, 19 November 2018

OUTFIT: GIRLS ON TOPS

Have you heard of Girls on Tops? A t-shirt celebration of female voices in film, this tee brand started last year when a small group of friends wondered “wouldn’t it be cool if women in film were treated like rock stars…if Greta Gerwig and Annette Bening had their names on t-shirts too?". Why, yes, yes it would be.

Recognisable as clean white tees with simple black type, Girls on Tops have taken the world of film by storm, popping up on red carpets, and becoming the unofficial uniform of film festivals worldwide. Edinburgh International Film Festival was no different - it was so cool to spot staff, filmmakers, industry guests and audiences in them everyday, and I was chuffed to wear my love for Laura Dern very proudly on my chest.

Unofficial EIFF uniform:
Tee - Girls on Tops
Skirt - New Look
Boots - Primark
In the short space of a year, Girls on Tops tees are sold nationwide, and have been worn by Lynne Ramsay, Greta Gerwig, Rooney Mara, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Annie Clark and more. But what's even better, is that money from t-shirt sales now goes towards funding female-lead film projects and commissioning female-lead film writing.

Did you know that women only make up 16% of film screenwriters? That 78% of reviews from 205-2017 were written by male critics? That British cinema's gender imbalance was worse in 2017 than 1913? The film industry is dominated by men, so I am very here for anything that shouts about and celebrates women's achievement in film, and helps people break into the industry. And if I get to look cute doing so? Yes please!

Monday, 12 November 2018

SOBA THE HEDGEHOG

It's fair to say I didn't know what I was doing when I first got Soba as a pet. I had only recently found out that you could even get hedgehogs as pets, and I made the decision to buy him one late Friday night in the pub, several drinks down.

Fast forward a few weeks later and I had just collected the grumpiest little hedgehog, who huffed and puffed the whole journey back to Edinburgh on my lap. His first night I woke up to the sound of tiny footsteps running through the hall, as he'd already worked out how to get out of his house. The second night, he fell asleep on my lap (the only time he ever fell asleep on me!) and I knew we'd be alright.


Hedgehogs take patience. They're wild animals, and they haven't been kept as pets that long, so they aren't naturally tame. They're covered in spikes and pack a nasty bite, although hedgehogs are unlikely to bite through aggression, instead smell and taste are how they explore the world (so you've got to keep an eye out in case a curious hedgehog wants to find out how you taste!). They are nocturnal, so you can only hang out with them at night, and there's no guarantee they'll ever be happy to be held. But oh, they are adorable.

It took, literally, years to get Soba to like me. But bit by bit we got there. He learned the sound of my voice, and that I wasn't a scary predator out to get him. He'd be patient enough to be held, but was always happiest when he was running. He litter-trained himself (what a clever hedgehog), so he got free run of the living room at night, going in or out of his house as he liked, via a giant cardboard tube that was the perfect size for him. We made mazes and hedgehog obstacles for him to play in and explore, and he was brave and curious and perfect.


Soba was almost 4, and I was starting to worry about what might happen at the end. African Pygmy Hedgehogs on average live around 3-6 years, and I just hoped, whatever happened, would be quiet and pain-free. It was not to be. Older hedgehogs can have trouble with their eyes, and within a very short space of time poor Soba went blind in one eye, and then scratched the other in a small injury that suddenly turned very dramatic.

In the course of a week, everything changed. Our little pal stopped running, he lost a lot of weight, and his world wasn't going to be the same. The vet was very kind and helpful, but it was quickly very clear that there was only one thing to do.

It's hard to explain the bond with a pet, never mind the bond with a small, spiky animal, but I'll try. He fitted perfectly into my life. He was curious and so, so cute, and worth every minute it took to win him round. He was a wonder, and in the end, he learned to be patient when handled by people he didn't know, who were so pleased to get the chance to hold a hedgehog for the first time. He was little, but I loved him so, and I am so incredibly sad that he is gone.

For such a little thing, the flat feels so quiet without him. It's been weeks, and I still go to check on him at night, and spot phantom movements in the corner of my eye that look just like an exploring hedgehog. There's no sound of small paws pattering on the floor. I know he had a good life, but I miss him so.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

HALLOWEEN BAKING IDEAS

I'm a pretty lazy baker these days (my previous applying-for-Bake-Off-self wouldn't be proud), but if there's anything that's going to motivate me, it's Halloween inspired baking. I just love themed things!

I've been busy on pinterest, picking out the creepiest cakes and the most devilish of desserts, which would all be a delight, whether you are throwing a party, hanging out with pals, or just want to creep out your colleagues.

I'm particularly in love with the brushstroke ghost cake (so cute! so on-trend!), the blood-splattered cookies are simple, but very effective, and I have a sweet spot for gory things, so the gruesome anatomical heart cake is definitely a showstopper (ahem, and I'm possibly biased because I baked that myself). Whatever you choose to do, have a delicious Halloween!


Top row

Middle row

Bottom row

Monday, 15 October 2018

HALLOWEEN WISHLIST

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I'm a big fan of Halloween (which you'll see if you scroll through my old Halloween tutorials), and I always love it when October rolls around.

October means ghost stories, scary films, dark, cold nights, witchy dressing and spooky accessories, so with that in mind, I've put together a wishlist to celebrate the creepiest time of year...


1. Who you gonna call? I love this ghostbusters-inspired tote bag, which is perfect for this time of year!

2. I have long had my eye on a pair of beautiful Rogue Matilda brogues, but look how beautiful (and perfectly Halloween themed!) this black patent pair are.

3. Award-winning poet Amanda Lovelace muses on the magic of women in the witch doesn't burn in this one - a collection of poems mixing mysticism and lore. It's been called a "fiery, accessible call-to-arms in a time where young women need every rebellious spark", which sounds pretty magical to me.

4. One of the best 90s Halloween movies, I love Hocus Pocus! Put a spell on everyone with this cute slogan sweatshirt.

5. Some people don't like the clocks changing, but I'm a fan of properly dark, crisp nights. Perfect for lighting candles and cosying in, so what better than a smoke & musk candle - a bespoke blend of green balsam fir, with wood smoke and deep, musky patchouli.

6. Tatty Devine have a whole range of halloween-themed jewellery (that anatomical heart brooch!) but I'm very into their witchy magic hands necklace, inspired by protective charms.

7. Lasercut wonders Black Heart Creatives have an full Season of the Witch collection, with shadows, shrines and crescent moons. I like these tiny cat earrings, a sweet nod to the season.

8. Show your love for everyone's favourite paranormal duo with this cute Mulder & Scully collar clip set.

9. And finally, how adorable is this tiny bat enamel pin

Monday, 8 October 2018

SHORT HAIR DIARIES

It's been eight months (!) since I cut all my hair off. I chopped a pixie cut on a bit of a whim, after having a long bob for ages, and it's the first time I've ever had hair this short. So, how am I finding pixie life?


The Good
Overall, having a pixie cut has been the BEST experience. 

I'm a lazy person, and a pixie cut has been a game changer. It's SO easy. I have so much time! Washing it takes seconds, and as it's so short (and I barely touch it), it stays cleaner for much longer, meaning I basically wash my hair every 4-5 days now. I don't dry it or use any heat on it, so my hair's much happier, and I don't even brush it, I just roughly style it with my hands and use a tiny bit of product to give it definition. I've easily shaved 30 minutes off getting ready each day, which is amazing. I can't imagine returning to the horror of having to dry and straighten my hair in the morning.

And pixie cuts are cool! People say nice things to me about my hair the whole time, which is such a joyous little boost when you're just going about your day. I had slightly worried if I had the 'right face' for short hair, because I'm not a chisel-jawed model, but I'm so glad I didn't dwell on insecurities and just went ahead and chopped it. I've liked having it super short, and I'm liking having it a bit scruffier, and that's the cool thing with pixie cuts - they grow so quickly, it's easy to play around and find the right version for you. 


The Bad
I realise that I've always used my hair as a bit of an accessory. I loved wearing it curly or doing interesting plaits, or even just wearing it up in a big messy bun with a headscarf. You can always change up your look when you have hair, and it's weird not having that option - every day my hair pretty much looks the same. It's the same when I'm going to a fancy red carpet event, and it's the same when I am slumming it in my pyjamas on a Sunday.

That's both good and bad. It is SO nice not having to worry or think about your hair ever. It used to drive me mad when I wanted to look nice and my hair would frizz up in the heat - now, there's no hair to frizz! And if you're rushing to go somewhere after work, it's a total delight to not even think about having to do anything with your hair - pixies look cute at all times of the day. 

I'll admit to having two major hair pangs - once when I came across a photo of me with a curly bob, and instantly missed the feeling of having swooshy hair (I haven't swooshed in months!), and on holiday, when it dawned on me that no hair also meant no magically-perfect-seasalt-holiday hair (my secret best hair move). It's been weird at those points realising that I am VERY FAR AWAY from  having princessy locks again.


The Ugly
And the worst bit currently? If I brush my hair into a centre parting, I literally have 90s boyband curtains. I look like a scruffy version of A1, which isn't exactly on my pinterest board. I've been getting my hair cut every two months, which is just enough to curb the risk of a mullet, although I should probably go a bit more regularly - this isn't a haircut you can cut it and then leave to grow out happily (luckily my hairdresser is great, and I'd go all the time if I could afford it, but I know not everyone is as snip-happy as I am). 


Would I recommend it?
Without question! The things that annoy me about it are minuscule compared to how much I've loved this haircut. Convincing people to cut their hair off has been added to my regular soapbox topics (along with: why hedgehogs make the best apartment pets; why Star Trek Deep Space Nine is actually one of the best political dramas of our time; and how Mamma Mia 2 is the best film of 2018). You should do it!

Friday, 5 October 2018

WHAT TO SEE AT THE FESTIVAL OF PHYSICS

I'm a fan of all things clever and curious, so it's safe to say that I'm looking forward to the Festival of Physics - a celebration of the wonder of science, the power of curiosity and the inventions and discoveries that shape our world and our future.

From Friday 26th - Sunday 28th October, the Institute of Physics have a packed three-day programme of scintillating science shows, hands-on workshops and inspiring experiences, plus creative conversations from the domains of music, theatre and art alongside talks and lectures for all ages.

Taking place (with one exception!) at Edinburgh's Dynamic Earth, the majority of the programme is free of charge, making it super easy for everyone to explore the universe, learn something new, and take a chance on some science fun.


There's loads of events on for people of all ages, but here's the stuff that's caught my eye:

Astronomy on Tap
I like space, I like pub quizzes, and I like having my mind blown by cool science facts, so this sounds great. This night has three local scientists doing informative and exciting short talks, with fun pub quizzes and space-themed goodies up for grabs.
Saturday 27th October, 9pm

Space & Time
Ever wondered what the heck space-time is? Astronomers from the Royal Observatory Edinburgh chat about the fundamental components of the universe and how scientists use them to uncover its secrets.You'll find out about how they are creating new technology to look at ancient galaxies, and track changes in space-time. Space secrets!
Sunday 28th October, all-day drop-in activity

Cooking with Science: A Culinary Arts workshop
Ever wondered why store-bought ice-cream can stay out of the fridge for longer than home-made one? Looking at this, and all sorts of innovative fancy cooking things made possible by science, this interactive workshops dives into the culinary arts and shows you how to make bubble tea, as well as lots of other delicious demos.
Saturday 27th (2pm) and Sunday 28th October (3pm)
Buy tickets (£3) here

Photography at the Speed of Light
Get an ultrafast portrait taken using a camera with frame rates so high they can see light move at 300 million meters per second! This super-cool technology shows you the physical effects when you're hit by a pulse of light, and is going to be used for all sorts of interesting things in the future, like driverless cars.
Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th October, all-day drop-in activity

Physics Wizardry: Potions Class
Yeah, yeah, I know this is definitely an event aimed at kids, but I want to learn how to make magical potions! With the power of physics, this workshop shows you how to make spectacular potions with unexpected effects, learning how to turn some boring liquids into some much more impressive, intriguing and beautiful substances.
Saturday 27th (12noon) and Sunday 28th October (3.30pm)

Prof Fay Dowker: Past, Present and Future: The Science of Time
Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London, Prof Fay Dowker knows a thing or two about time. This (free!) talk explores the history and future of time from Newtonian-model physics to quantum gravity, and the fascinating possibilities emerging from the world of cutting-edge theoretical physics.
Saturday 27th, 7pm

Modern Times 
Science comedian Helen Keen presents a very special screening of Chaplin's 1936 classic comedy Modern Times, followed by a discussion and Q&A (with lols) inspired by time - how we conceptualise and measure it, the relationships between human, industrial and deep time, and what the future holds for our understanding of space-time.
Saturday 27th, 5.45pm, Filmhouse
Book tickets (£10) here

View the full Festival of Physics programme here.

Monday, 1 October 2018

LIFE LATELY

If there's anything that years of blogging has taught me, it's that I am completely incapable of juggling fun hobby deadlines (i.e. weekly blogs) with actual serious work deadlines. I had felt like I had done a pretty good job of resurrecting this blog, but then film fest life took over, I had loads of deadlines, then we had to deliver the actual thing, then I went on holiday, crashed, holidayed again, and here I am!

I reckon I just need to get comfortable with the fact that this is how I handle my work-life balance. I'm always going to be a sporadic blogger when real-life amps up, and I think that's okay. So rather than make a big fuss about returning to blogging (again), I thought I'd catch you up on my summer!

Here's what I got up to:

We ran a film festival!


It was my third Edinburgh International Film Festival, which took place in June this year, with over 500 screenings, absolutely loads of filmmakers in town, 20 venues across Edinburgh, and 1 slightly disruptive heatwave. I'm the Festival's Head of Development, which means my team & I bring in and look after all of our funders, sponsors, partners, donors, and anyone else kind enough to want to donate to us, or cool enough to want to be part of the action (and why wouldn't you? Support your local festival!).

The most common question you get working in festivals is 'so what do you do the rest of the year?', as if the whole thing pops up overnight, and then is packed away. We were working on EIFF 2021 (ahh!) before we delivered this year's EIFF, so it is a bit of a never-ending task, but it's fair to say that it properly ramps up a few months before it takes place, and completely takes over your life.

Despite the stress/lack of weekends/general dehydration, I love festival life. I'm so lucky to have wonderful festival pals, and this year I got to see loads of amazing films, meet really interesting people, attend fascinating events (how Pixar design costumes! So cool), and the very best part of my job - reading the nice comments from our audiences each year (always guaranteed to make me a bit teary). I am quite glad there's a while before the next one though.


I went camping!


I'm a total camping convert these days, and for the last few years have ventured up north to the Highlands for a week of wild camping. This year we went the furthest we have ever gone, and drove up to Loch Assynt, a beautiful loch with a ruined castle on its banks and the legend of a mermaid in its waters, about 5-6 hours drive from Edinburgh.

There's a wee road that goes around the loch, but we squirrelled ourselves out of sight by its banks, and it was the most perfect week. I read loads of books (including the perfect book to read while camping), we ate amazing campfire food and drank wine out of boxes, we paddled to the loch's tiny islands in seek of firewood, and spent days just soaking in the quiet air and beautiful views. It's trips like this that make me want to up sticks and move somewhere very quiet and a bit tucked away from the world, I didn't want it to end.


It was the Edinburgh Festivals!


A bit of a change of pace, but as always, August in Edinburgh means Festival time! I think this was possibly my least enthusiastic year - I was still feeling a bit zoned out after film fest when tickets went on sale, which meant I missed out on a few things, and I didn't quite have the energy to try and navigate the 1000s of events that were on (although I was happy to sample the 1000s of festival bars that popped up).

Edinburgh International Festival stole the show with their opening event, Five Telegrams - a super cool and very beautiful event inspired by telegrams sent during the first world war - with digital artwork projected onto Edinburgh's Usher Hall, live choirs, and a moving orchestral score. They keep setting the bar higher for their opening events each year - I can't wait to see what they do next.


I went to Croatia!


And finally, I'm just back from a trip to Croatia... which will be the third time I've gone on holiday to a Croatian island, as I just love it there so much!

This time we went to Brač and stayed in this amazing, quirky cottage which was also a total bargain (thanks Airbnb!). The weather was beautiful, even hotter than I had expected for this time of year, so we spent a week exploring the island, reading books (in that hammock!), eating seafood, and just switching off from the nonsense of the everyday world. Can I go back?

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

COLOURFUL KITCHEN IDEAS

It's been two and a bit years since I bought my lovely little flat, and I've only just got round to fixing up my kitchen. I was so good when I moved in! I spent hours painting and transforming each room - the bathroom had to be completely rebuilt from scratch (so depressing, but so worth it), I had to paint over intense lime green walls to create a calm, neutral bedroom, maths was needed to get the candy cane striped wall in my study just right, and the living room was pretty much pain-free but still took an age to paint.

The one room I just hadn't touched was my kitchen, which wasn't AWFUL, but it definitely wasn't great. It had off-white walls (that needed painting), off-beige vinyl flooring (that looked grubby constantly), and blue, but-not-nice-blue-more-denim-blue, cabinet doors. And that's how I left it. For two years!

But I've finally worked up the courage to tackle it (on the world's smallest kitchen budget), and here's what I'm thinking...

Colourful quirky bright kitchen ideas
Kitchens: Pinterest
I know they're all over pinterest, but I'm pretty bored of white kitchens. I want something colourful! I'm lucky that my flat get loads of light so it can pull off having colours in each room, without it feeling too busy... or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

I love the idea of bright cabinet doors, against a bright, white room - I've already painted the walls white (whyyy did I not do this years ago?), and have had fun photoshopping different colours onto the existing cabinet doors to see what might work. I'm pretty obsessed with those red cabinets (and it's nice to see a red kitchen that isn't boring grown up dull red), but that geometric bench is also super cute!

Colourful quirky bright kitchen ideas
Kitchens: Pinterest
The other big kitchen update that's happened so far is that the grim flesh-coloured floor is gone! It's been replaced by a fun black and white vinyl floor (which was only £40 from Online Carpets!). Next I've got to change the cabinet doors, mayyybe extend the worktop so it runs the full length of the kitchen, and then the fun bits start. Plants! Shelves! Anthropologie's entire kitchen collection! (Ahem, I can but dream).

So wish me luck on my budget kitchen! I'll keep you updated on how it develops (which, hopefully, won't take another two years...).

Monday, 12 March 2018

HAPPY THOUGHTS

Last week was a challenging week. I generally manage to stay pretty zen about the stresses in my life, and I try pretty hard to not obsess or dwell on stuff that gets me down, but I've been totally rubbish at that lately. Work suddenly stepped up a notch and is Busy and Hard, and I'm feeling the pressure of the millions of things I've got to get done before the next Festival rolls around. Aah!

So here's an effort to remember that life doesn't just revolve around work, and there's lots of nice things to be happy about! I remember reading about how making a note of things you were grateful for actually contributed to feeling better in your life, and that's what my happy thoughts series is all about.

These are three of the things that are cheering me up right now...

1. Riley

Riley cat is coming to visit!

If you're a long-time reader you might recognise this furry face - he's my very lovely, fluffy cat, who due to life-happenings, now lives with my ex's parents. For the last few years I've been Riley's holiday home, and it is such a treat to get to hang out with him (even if he covers my flat in cat hairs). Riley's here for the next week and I am so excited for purring cat times!

2. Stardew Valley

Help me, I am OBSESSED. My very nice boyfriend downloaded Stardew Valley for me (which has resulted in me taking ownership of his Switch) and honestly it is the only thing I want to do with my time. I only want to tend my tiny adorable farm, and look after adorable animals, and harvest adorable crops. When I'm not playing it, I'm reading the Stardew Valley reddit, or thinking about my planting strategy.

I am a 32 year old woman! This is not how I thought actual grown ups behaved! But I don't care, it's so much fun, and if you ever enjoyed Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing or SimFarm, you have to give it a go.

3. Queer Eye

If you haven't watched Queer Eye on Netflix yet, girrrrrl what are you doing with your life? I was not prepared for the pure emotion of this show - it's taken all the fun of a makeover show, but added amazing emotional depth and maturity and PURE JOY. It's a spin off from the original show, but this time they battle toxic masculinity and encourage positive self-reflection, and it's so pure and joyful and emotional - I was sobbing in the first 20 minutes of the first episode. It's so good!

I was delighted to discover that Jonathan, the show's groomer and definitely the best one, also has a podcast: Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness. He's just a lovely person to listen too, and I am super into the variety of really interesting subjects he covers - he's got pirates! AI! Politics! Gender identity! Fashion! Sort-of everything! And it's earnest and funny and interesting.

So, it's a new week. I'm going to put my energy into the nice moments, and do my best to not over-analyse or dwell on the stressy stuff (and if I do, I'll just rewatch Queer Eye until I have some perspective and feel better again!).

Monday, 5 March 2018

MOTHER'S DAY GIFT GUIDE

Have you remembered it's Mother's Day this Sunday? March 11th for everyone in the UK! If you haven't, don't panic - there's still a week to get something ordered and pretend you were prepared all along.

I'm lucky in that my mum (who I very much hope isn't reading this post and seeing all my present secrets!) is pretty easy to shop for. She's always delighted when she gets flowers, doesn't seem to mind when I gift her endless candles (which in my opinion, you really cannot go wrong with), but she's also into more quirky styles and gifts, which means picking presents for her is really fun (and I can pretend that I'm shopping for me).

Here's a few mum-friendly gifts that caught my eye, and will hopefully inspire you if you're a little bit stuck!

quirky mother's day gift guide

Top row

Middle row

Bottom row

Monday, 26 February 2018

HELLO PIXIE CUT

Oh hi. I cut all my hair off.

I've been gradually going shorter and shorter over the last year or so, but I've never been this short. It's SHORT-short. Don't have to brush or dry my hair short. Shorter than a guy's haircut short! And it's GREAT. I'm now 100% a pixie cut aficionado, and I can't quite believe it's taken me so long to join the short hair crew.

Here's what I've learned in my month since getting the chop...

pros cons pixie hair cut

Do your research! Deciding to cut my hair was a bit of a spur-of-the-moment decision, but I did make sure I did my Pinterest research and went to the hairdresser armed with photos of what I loved, and what I didn't. I am very lucky to have an ACE hairdresser who kept me right (the brilliant Linden from Dean Jones Hair), but it definitely helped to know what my hair boundaries were.

Not having to dry your hair is the BEST. Oh my god, I cannot state how strongly I despised drying my hair before, and how glorious it is to not have to do it now. These days I just wash and towel dry my hair and that's it! It's saved easily 30 minutes off my routine every day and it's SO EASY to look after.

I don't care if I look like a boy. One of the weirdest comments I got was 'oh, you'll need to wear make up everyday'. Um, okay. I saw this online too, with loads of people worrying that you'd lose your feminine qualities if you chop your hair off. To that I say, WHATEVER. I don't need a mane to feel like a woman, and I don't actually care if I look like a tomboy. It's been really refreshing to realise this!

Everyone will ask you why. This threw me. I had known I wanted to change up my long-ish bob, figured why not?, and then a couple of days later got it cut. But almost eveeeeeryone asked why I did it, and I didn't have an answer other than - I wanted to?

pros cons pixie hair cut

Phantom ponytails are a thing. I got my hair cut weeks ago and WITHOUT FAIL every night I go to take it out of a ponytail. I also still go to put it up if I'm about to go in the shower, and one particularly stressful board games evening (ahem), I found myself trying to tighten my ponytail in concentration. It's a bit of a surreal feeling!

I'm in total denial about growing it out. Everyone's agreed that growing out a pixie cut is HORRENDOUS. But I kind of feel optimistic? It can't be that bad, right? Plus, that's in the future! It's ages away! Ask me again in a year or two...

It's just hair. At the end of the day, there's only two things you can count on - change is the only constant and hair grows! If you're swithering over a pixie cut but worry that it won't suit you, does it really matter if it doesn't? Your hair will grow and at least you've tried something new.

Did I say it's the BEST? It really is. You should definitely cut your hair.

Monday, 19 February 2018

10 THINGS TO DO AT THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE FESTIVAL

If you've read this blog for a while, you'll know I'm a big fan of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, who have just announced their 2018 programme - marking 30 years of EISF (and 2 years since I left the sci fest tribe!).

Themed this year around Life, the Universe and Everything (with a nice nod to Douglas Adams), the Festival will transform the city into a celebration of science and technology with talks, experiments, exhibitions, parties, activities and events to entertain and educate all ages. This year they're looking at where we've come from, where we're going, and how science is going to save the world, and as usual the programme is packed full of fun, creative experiences (as well as more of the serious talks and lectures you might expect from a science festival).

There's loads to choose from, but I've picked out my favourite events to point you in the right direction. Bring on the sci-fun!

What's on at Edinburgh International Science Festival 2018
Jason Hackenworth - Existence: Life and Beyond 

1. Science Festival Lates Sci Fest's Opening Party takes over their family venue, adds in some bars, and let's you get hands on with slime, surgery, space and psychology. It is so much fun, and this year it promises some extra 80s-themed fun to celebrate the Festival's 30 years!

2. NASA's Newest Recruit I secretly want to be an astronaut, so sign me up! The very funny Marcus Chown chats space jobs - want to be a Moon miner? A galactic architect? An alien cultural exchange officer?

3. A Panel of Ice and Fire Game of Thrones meets science and tech, in this chat about how the worlds of science and fantasy collide, hosted by comedian and author Helen Keen.

4. Dreading Friday the 13th  Taking place (of course) on Friday 13th, this event takes you on a journey through the psychology behind superstition... is it harmless? Can it help you? Science will explain!

5. Cheeseology 3.0 Back to the Festival for a third year (as everyone bloody loves cheese), this night teaches you about cheese as you eat cheese, giving you a win/win of leaving both smart AND satiated.

6. Existence: Life and Beyond Taking over the National Museum of Scotland's beautiful Grand Gallery, this free interactive exhibition will look back at the origins of life on Earth, and forward to the horizons of what life could be in the future. It'll also feature a new MASSIVE balloon sculpture by artist Jason Hackenwerth, who was last at the Festival with Pisces in 2013 (pictured above). I'm so excited to see what he'll make!

7. Frankenstein's Legacy: Who Are You Calling Monster? This year marks the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, and three writers from Scottish Book Trust's New Writers Awards programme have been commissioned to create new stories and poems inspired by this iconic book. These writers will read their own takes, and chat about the role of science and technology in creating and controlling life (which seems pretty important now they are cloning monkeys and teaching scary robots to open doors!).

8. Baking in Space Baking and engineering combine, in this event with Andrew from the Great British Bake Off (!!!!), who just happens to be an aerospace engineer as well as an adorable baker, and scientists and guests from the European Space Agency.

9. Get Your Hands Off Me You Damned Dirty Alien! More space! Aliens! Ethical dilemmas! A gang of astrobiologists, theologists, philosophers and theorists debate how our world will change in the (ever-increasing) likelihood we meet alien life.

10. The Lab of the Ludicrous Part stand-up comedy, part journal club, and part science project, this night leads you through some of the strangest science studies ever conducted.

Edinburgh International Science Festival runs 31st March - 15th April, and you can browse their full programme here.

Monday, 12 February 2018

WHAT I READ ON HOLIDAY

Ages ago I used to write a monthly Book Love feature, where I chatted about what I'd been reading each month. It was a great way of keeping track of what I read and what I loved (and I am amazed at how quickly I powered through books! Past Juliet was definitely a better reader and puts current me to shame).

This year I'm pretty determined to make more time for books (particularly as I'm bad at wasting time looking at social media, when I could actually be reading something interesting...), and I'm off to a great start - thanks to going on a mega indulgent January holiday where I spent a joyful time hanging out in a hammock, 60p beer in hand (thanks Fuerteventura!) and catching up on books I've wanted to read for ages. Here's what I thought...

Book recommendations what to read on holiday

A Darker Shade of Magic - V. E. Schwab
Reminding me slightly of China Miéville's Un Lun Dun, A Darker Shade of Magic is the tale of a world of parallel cities, those that can travel between them, and what happens when power travels to the wrong places. It's got cool elemental magic! Pirates! Amazing jackets! Peril and danger and flirting and messed up heroes! Aaaaand I really liked it.

I'm a big fan of fantasy novels that create worlds that both enchant you with exciting, interesting world-building AND manage to feel gritty and dangerous and pretty real, and this book does a good job of feeling magical but not childish, and full of depth without being self-indulgently complex. It's a bit of a slow starter (the first few chapters I wondered what the fuss was about), but when I got into the story I had a really fun time.

The Snowman - Jo Nesbo
The 7th book in Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole series, I read this out of sync as I was so keen to see what all the fuss was about, after hearing loads of praise for the book when the terrible film adaptation came out last year. You follow the (slightly cliched) dysfunctional detective Harry Hole - he's a bit of a drunk, he's got serious avoidant issues, and he can't play by the rules... but he's still likeable enough to root for.

It's really creepy, and the author does a wonderful job of keeping you guessing right up until the very last minute. It felt a little surreal to be stuck into a murder mystery set in freezing snow while I was basking in the sun, but it makes for a pretty perfect holiday read.

The Silent Companions - Laura Purcell 
I loved this book so much! I am such a sucker for creepy gothic horrors, and The Silent Companions was BRILLIANT. You meet Elsie, who's newly married, recently pregnant, and suddenly widowed, who moves to her late husband's creepy old country estate. The servants don't like her, the villagers actively despise her, so Elsie's trapped with a mysterious locked room, an old family diary, and a wooden figure that looks bizarrely just like her.

It's SUPER CREEPY, I would not have been able to read it at home alone, and I am very excited to discover that the author's also written a series following the lives and loves of Georgian era queens (I'm equally a big historical fiction fan).

Monday, 5 February 2018

MY 2018 CREATIVE GOALS

I'll be honest - for the last few years, most of my new year's resolutions have been pretty wispy. I've focused on positive thinking and stressing less... and that has clearly been a Good Thing, but this year I am also keen to set myself some creative goals and actually MAKE things.

One of those goals is finding a happy blog balance (since my blog comeback I've been posting roughly once a week) and I think I'm getting there. It's not too much to commit to, it's easy to schedule a few in advance if I'm going to be busy, and bit by bit my readership is increasing so I'm not just chatting to myself (hello and thank you!).

My next project is painting. If you've been following this blog for a while you may remember that I've said this before... painting is the hobby that I keep coming back to, and keep giving up when the going gets tough. But this year I've got a goal! I'm going to paint once a month in 2018. That's not that hard, right?

learning to paint

One of the things I've always been a bit scared of painting is people, but when I picked up a paintbrush again (back in 2013!) it was the main thing I wanted to learn, and it's all I've really wanted to paint since.

The problem is I'll have a little flurry of enthusiasm, and I'll paint one or two things, then I'll get distracted and run out of energy, and feel like I need to wait on my next creative spark... which in my case, seems to only strike once a year, and then the whole cycle starts again.

So, for 2018 I am going to power through the creative block. I'm going to (try to) stop worrying about being good enough, and remember that the only way I'll ever get better is by practising! One painting a month is totally achievable.


I use watercolours, mainly because they are what I painted with as a kid, but I feel like I am finally making steps towards getting a little better with them? I used to paint with seriously harsh outlines (there was almost something quite comforting in shadowing something to death), so I've tried really hard to elimate black lines from my work, to think about light and colour, and to let the paper show through.

I was given some watercolour masking fluid which I finally worked up the courage to use with this piece and it is a game changer! I used it to pick out the whites of the eyes and light across the skin and hair, and it made such a difference (it was also weirdly super-satisfying peeling it from the paper).

Next time I'm going to really focus on light! I always paint from pictures, but was given the good advice of looking at my own face in a mirror when I'm doing a portrait so I can get a more realistic depiction of light on a face. There's so much to learn! 

watercolour pastel girls
January 2018 | September 2016
It's all a bit intimidating, but I can see the difference a year has made in these pastel gals. I've just got to remember that and keep going! Wish me luck.

Monday, 29 January 2018

HOW TO: COOKIES OF CATAN

It's been an age since I last shared a baking post on here, so I wanted to share my absolute favourite thing that I baked last year... an entirely edible (and playable) Settlers of Catan cookie board. Cookies of Catan!

Cookies of Catan edible Settlers of Catan playing board

If you've never heard of Settlers of Catan, where have you been? It's a seriously-addictive German strategy board game. You play as a settler on the island of Catan, building houses and roads while trading and getting resources from the land you've built. It's really competitive, and you have to try and outwit your pals, whilst also keeping them on your side so you can trade with them. Does that sound mega complicated? I promise it's really fun!

My friend said she wanted to have a chilled birthday, staying in and playing Catan, so Josh and I decided to do one better and surprise her with a totally edible board. It took us HOURS to make, but it was so satisfying, the surprise totally worked,

Cookies of Catan edible Settlers of Catan playing board

I used a simple sugar cookie recipe to make the biscuits, as we needed something that would keep its shape pretty well, and would be sturdy enough to hold all the decorations. We actually made half the batch using a chocolate sugar cookie recipe (this one, I believe), but Nigella's was far better - if you're going to do this, I'd keep it simple!

The Catan board is made up of hexagonal tiles. I used a 3D printed cookie cutter (the benefits of being pals with Edinburgh International Science Festival!), but you can buy hexagon cutters online easily enough.

We cut the dough into hexagons and went over each cookie with the cutter again, once it was out the oven and had cooled slightly, just to make sure the lines were sharp and the cookies were the same size - the board had to slot together, so it was important to try and be as precise as possible!

Cookies of Catan edible Settlers of Catan playing board how to

The board is made up of six different types of tile: wheat, sheep, wood, red brick, stone ore and the sea (with one extra desert tile where the robber lives). For each type of tile we made a fondant base: light green for the sheep, dark green for the forest,  yellow for the wheat, a red brick pattern for the brick, and swirly grey for the stone ore and swirly blue for the sea. This obviously took AGES, but was well worth it, and much better than just using icing - I think it's so much cleaner looking and it's obvious what each tile is meant to be!

The fun bit was making decorations for each tile. We made tiny sheep out of marshmallows with fondant heads, tiny fondant trees (with little red icing dots for apples), and little fondant stones with silver decorative balls.

Each tile had to have a number - these match the dice you roll during the game, so these were made out of fondant using an edible ink pen.

Cookies of Catan edible Settlers of Catan playing board

It took an entire day to bake and assemble, but it was so much fun, and it totally worked as a playable board (it's a little rough around the edges, but shhh, it doesn't matter). Definitely worth trying if you also happen to share a love of intense board games, biscuits, and fiddly decorating!
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