Wednesday 4 August 2021


It's been a pretty intense year working in festivals and events. We started talking about what the 2021 Edinburgh International Film Festival might look like way back in Autumn 2020, when we were just about to go into another lockdown, no one was vaccinated, and the idea of organising anything where people gathered (!) indoors (!) just felt pretty impossible.

But, bit by bit, we started to plan and think about what the Film Festival could look like if we brought it back to basics (one indoor venue, one outdoor venue, a whole lot of great films), focusing on a simple model which celebrated the return of cinema, and kept things as safe as possible.

And we did it! The 74th Edinburgh International Film Festival launched its programme last week and (yes, I am totally biased), it is great! This year's Festival runs 18-25 August, and is a hybrid event of in-person and digital screenings, with 31 premiere feature films and 73 shorts, and 50% of the new films are directed or co-directed by women! We've even managed to sneak in a couple of very fancy galas at Festival Theatre too!

It's also going to be my last Film Festival, as I'm off somewhere new in September (but we'll chat about that later).

So, here's my top 10 picks! Tickets are moving pretty quickly with a few things already sold out, so if anything catches your eye, I'd recommend booking as soon as you can.

1. Pig This year EIFF's opening with the new Nicolas Cage film, where he stars as a reclusive truffle hunter whose beloved truffle-finding pig goes missing. Nicolas Cage is meant to be incredible in this, as he goes on a journey to track down the pignappers. It'll be screening in the very fancy Festival Theatre!

2. Everybody's Talking About Jamie A special preview of the movie based on the West End musical, based on the documentary following the real life story of Jamie - a teenager who overcomes prejudices to fulfil his ambition to become a fierce and fearless drag queen. Such a feel-good film, great songs, and actual real-life Jamie will be there, so I think it's going to be a really special event.

3. Film Fest in the City EIFF's outdoor screenings are back, and this time they are running for seven days from 19-25 August in St Andrew Square. A few films are sold out already, but there's loads on including the original Star Wars trilogy, Clueless, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show! Plus it's all free!

4. Prince of Muck A beautiful documentary about the Laird of the Isle of Muck - Scotland's smallest inhabited island! The location is incredible, and it's just such a moving reflection on heritage, tradition, family, and getting older. The director will be in town for an in-person Q&A too! 

5. EIFF Youth I'm a big fan of our EIFF Youth programme, which is all about inspiring and helping young people get into film and the film industry! This year the programme is a mix of screenings, watch-parties and online events, helping you get into film and tv, film journalism, and much more! (plus, as it's online, it's open to anyone - whether you're officially a youth or not!). The schedule can be seen here and online events will be on EIFF's Youtube channel.

6. Annette Straight out of opening Cannes, who doesn't want to watch Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard in a sexy, edgy rock opera? 

7. Mad God During the planning process for EIFF, I felt very smug that I was filmy enough to recognise the name of director Phil Tippett, until I realised I recognised him from the Jurassic Park meme. He's a ground-breaking Oscar and Emmy-winning visual effects director and supervisor who has worked on incredible things - Jurassic Park! Star Wars! Indiana Jones! Robocop! - and he's worked on this film for 30 years. 

8. The Night House I love a creepy psychological thriller, and this looks great. Rebecca Hall stars as Beth, a woman living alone in an idyllic and isolated lakeside house, reeling from the unexpected death of her husband. Things get spooky, she starts looking into his past, it turns out things are not how they seemed to be! 

9. Fathom Another beautiful documentary, this time about the study of humpback whales: their song, their culture and how they communicate (did you know that the systems that process emotions are more complex in whale brains, than in humans? That they are one of the oldest cultures in the world? That they carry songs around the world? Ahhh, I love it!). This screening will be accompanied by a discussion with Dr Ellen Garland from the film.

10. EIFF Fan Club Finally, we've got one last surprise in store! The programme will be announced just before EIFF starts on 18 August, but the EIFF Fan Club will be pairing some very cool Scottish cultural folk with some of their favourite film stars. A new Fan Club event will be available every day of the festival on Youtube

In-person events? Who would have thought it! See you there!

Monday 14 June 2021


When we got Beanie, we realised she wasn't quite like other cats. Sphynxes are known to act a bit like dogs (they are known as puppy cats!) which means that they like to follow you around, they are total sooks for physical affection and want to be on or near you at all times, they are friendly to other animals, they are happy with baths, and they don't have any hesitation about walking with a collar and lead.

As Beanie's so relaxed about everything and we live in a little flat without a garden, we thought it would be nice for her (and us!) to get outdoors. We got her a little harness and lead (I thought she'd need loads of time to get used to it, but no, she was instantly fine), and started off with little walks in the car park behind our flat. These went well, so we ventured a little further afield! Before we knew it, Beanie was happily coming along to parks, and we've started taking her on bigger trips too.

We didn't have any trouble getting her used to her harness or lead, she adjusted straight away. If you are walking a cat you have to accept that they'll go at their own pace, and that isn't always the direction you want to go in! We've found that if she's on a woodland path Beanie's quite good at following the trail, but when we take her out in the city, we usually carry her until we get to a park or a cat-friendly space where she can just explore as she likes. It's important we don't force her to do anything, and keep the experience positive for her.

As Sphynx don't have a proper fur coat (they do have a peachy fuzz which is incredibly soft), they can easily get cold, so we only take Beanie out on warm days, and will put on her jumper or tshirt if she needs it. We always take water and some treats - she's never tried to wriggle out of her harness or get away from us, but you never know, so we have Dreamies to reward her for being good and as an emergency bribe in case it's needed. 

Exploring heather

We've got a little cat backpack (this one!) which makes us officially cool guys, but it's really great. We let her get used to it in the house first (she loves sitting in things, so she took to it really quickly), and it's a convenient way to carry her whether we're on our way to somewhere, or if she's got a bit tired of walking. If we're just chilling out in a park or stopping for a rest she'll often use her cat backpack as a little den too, and takes herself to sit in it for some shade or if she wants to just look at things.

Other animals LOVE Beanie, and luckily she's very relaxed about meeting people and animals, probably because she's been used to this since she was a kitten. She used to be quite curious about dogs, but now we think the excitement has worn off, and she's less bothered about them, but very patient and calm when they come to say hello. Obviously we're hyper cautious when dogs approach, but normally dogs are on the lead and their owners are polite and make sure their dog is being careful.

A rare no-harness moment when we were in the Highlands last year

People love to say hello to Beanie too, but even if they don't come over, people will NOTICE - so prepare to get a lot of attention if you have a cat out on a lead! At first I was a bit nervous about feeling embarrassed about being such a massive weirdo (let's not sugarcoat it, walking a cat is pretty unexpected) but other than getting a few strange looks, most people are just really pleasantly surprised to see her and have lots of questions! People tend to assume she's a tiny dog at first, and often it's the first time they've ever met a Sphynx - Beanie's super sociable, so she's happy getting lots of pats from strangers.

Beanie's an energetic, super inquisitive cat, so it's so nice to feel like we're giving her a more interesting life, and it's so nice for us to get to take her places! A few weeks ago we hired a car and drove up to Killiecrankie and she was just such a good girl in the car, on the walk, everywhere. It is like having a little dog, except on rainy days you don't have to worry about leaving the house. We're hoping to try going camping with Beanie soon (we are just fully obsessed with her, so why not), so we shall see if we can take our adventure cat to the next level!

Monday 7 June 2021


 Can you believe that we are actually allowed to go to things again? Since my last slightly-nervous-about-everything post, I'm starting to feel a bit more relaxed about the return to normal life. I'm still being pretty cautious, but the idea of doing things with other people isn't the big stress it was for a while.

So on that note, it's very exciting that this year's Science Festival is just around the corner! This year's Festival (running 26 June - 11 July) is themed around how science connects us - from how we've relied on technology to keep us connected in the last year, to the scientific breakthroughs that have guided us through the pandemic, and how we're all connected to Planet Earth and the wider Universe. 

This year's Festival boasts 160 online events and experiences (so many) for people of all ages, but they've also got a fun programme of live experiences with outdoor events, walks, exhibitions and installations. This year loads of their events are free too! 

There's a lot to choose from, so here's my top picks from this year's Festival.

1. The Dead Interesting Tour Take a journey back in time to Warriston Cemetery and hear the tales of its fascinating tenants and the trails they blazed during their time on earth. This is hosted by science storyteller (and my pal!) Sian - I can confirm she is wise and funny, and definitely worth following around a graveyard.

2. Women in STEM street art trail I am ready to get out of the house and this art trail encourages you to go explore the city, discovering 9 remarkable women who have made amazing achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths. 

3. Elemental This event promises a magical, multi-sensory journey through an intriguing, immersive digital world where magic meets alchemy and alchemy meets science. I don't really know what that means, but it sounds fun and it's free!

4. SciMart A Science Festival favourite, SciMart is a farmers market with a scientific twist! This year it's hosted in Edinburgh's beautiful Royal Botanic Garden, and will be packed with local producers, artisans and scientists who'll reveal fascinating facts about food. 

5. Ask the Experts at Edinburgh Zoo Imagine working at the Zoo and getting to hang out with penguins, lions and zebras all day! At this event you can find out what it's really like behind the scenes and ask whatever you'd like (for starters, I'd ask - do the penguins like doing their little parade? Do you think any animal has wanted to eat you? Do animals secretly ever escape?).

6. Glitter Bar: A Makeover Takeover! Promising to teach you how to sparkle without shame, this event sounds ace! Hosted by Dr Nicole Seymour, a queer ecology scholar, and Mystika Glamoor, the high priestess of Edinburgh drag (what a title!), this event showcases biodegradable alternatives to microplastic cosmetic glitter. You'll get glitter and glues to try on at home - this ain't your usual Zoom call.

7.  Botanicals - The Heart of Gin Imagine the scene: it's a balmy summer evening, you're walking through a beautiful Botanic Garden with a Botanist who's showing you a unique blend of botanicals that have been combined to make a lovely gin. You then get to drink that gin and learn cool facts from Edinburgh Gin's Head Distiller, followed by a private viewing of an art exhibition. Culture is baaaack, and I bet it tastes amazing. You can do all of that at this exclusive gin tasting! 

8. Spacewomen I always scout the SciFest programme for space (and dinosaurs), so I'm pleased to see this online talk, taking place 60 years after the first woman was launched into orbit. This panel of cool space women talk about their experiences and hopes for the future as we enter an exciting new space age.

9. Cheeseology at Home It's fair to say that the Science Festival loves cheese, but don't we all. If you're not quite ready to hang out in public spaces with strangers (fair), elevate your at-home entertainment with an evening of cheese facts and a special cheese tasting (I.J. Mellis are producing a special SciFest cheese box so you can eat-a-long as you learn). 

10. The European Stone Stacking Championships If you fancy a day trip, you can head out to sunny Dunbar and watch some champion stone stackers! Stone stacking takes materials found in nature and works with Earth's gravity to create sculptural towers, archways and over awe-inspiring structures from rocks and stones. You'll see some cool things, and can have a go yourself!

This year's Edinburgh Science Festival runs Saturday 26 June - Sunday 11 July, and you can browse their full programme here.

Monday 31 May 2021


When I first set up my little instagram art account (@julietpaint), it was mainly because I didn't want to spam my personal account with drawings, but I still wanted to have a little space to show them off! What I hadn't anticipated was how nice (and inspiring!) the insta art community is - I still have a tiny following, but I've connected with really cool artists, and it's so encouraging to get nice comments or messages about what I've been making.

Prompt: Watchful eye/stars

I've also discovered the wide world of instagram art challenges and it's been great! Even though I'm painting and drawing pretty prolifically, I sometimes worry I'm not a particularly imaginative person - I can't really picture anything in my mind (I mean, I literally can't - I discovered aphantasia last year and it blew my mind), so I tend to scour pinterest for interesting reference photos before I can feel inspired to draw something.

Insta art challenges have really helped me focus and think creatively. Sometimes it's a set theme or idea, other times it's artists asking you to recreate one of their artworks in your own style (which is also super interesting, as you can see how lots of people, of all different abilities, approach the same subject). This month I took part in Mystical May - a weekly prompt of spooky subjects! 

Prompts: Keys, mirrors, witch

The weekly prompts had several suggestions each week, giving you flexibility to focus on one subject or mix and match. I'm still obsessively drawing women (one day I might draw a man, but that is not this day), but I think I ended up with a cool group of portraits.

Week 1 was phoenix/keys/wings and I pictured someone keeping their heart locked up tight.

Week 2 was forest/mirror/twilight and I loved the mirror concept so much I ended up doing two drawings, a reflected woman (which was HARD, I had to draw each face separately!), and a hand holding a mirror (also hard - hands are hard!).

Week 3 was witch/phases of the moon and I was a little unsure how to do this, so I just painted a cute pastel witch. I thought this was a bit basic, but it's gone on to be one of my most-liked posts on instagram?! 

Week 4 was stars/crystals/watchful eye, and I wanted to do a cute take on a third eye. I definitely gravitate to bright colours, and I think I'm finally starting to find my style with digital drawing. It's been a fun month!

Monday 24 May 2021


I've been painting again for about a year and during this time I've slowly been weaning myself off beginner art supplies,and investing in artist-grade materials, and I cannot believe what a difference it makes! I got some fancy watercolour paper from an art shop last Autumn, was a bit skeptical at first, but it blew my mind and I've not looked back. Having proper paper that lets the paint pool and blend and layer without buckling is a game-changer.

Painted using Paul Rubens watercolour and Opera paints
So I had nice paper, I got a nice new mechanical pencil, and lately I've been on the lookout for new paint! Up until now I've been using a Winsor and Newton student set, which I've had for years. It's been a great set to learn with and it was super affordable, but I hadn't even thought about the difference between beginner and professional paint until now. I learned that student/beginner sets tend to be cheaper as the paints contain less pigment and more filler, which means they can be trickier to blend, can get muddy, and it can be difficult to make vibrant colours. Artist grade paints are more pigmented, meaning they dilute and mix easily.

The problem was that professional paint sets can cost over £100, and the more I looked online, the more confused I got! I saw a lot of love for Schminke, Sennelier and Rembrandt paints, but as I tried to delve into the differences of these paints, I saw a lot of art reviewers/bloggers/youtubers highlight Paul Rubens watercolours, and remark on how Paul Rubens paints were much cheaper than the big European brands, but really held their own.

That was enough to convince me! It felt significantly less scary paying £60 for a new watercolour palette, than paying £120 (I also had a weird imposter feeling that I didn't 'deserve' the very pricey paint as I wasn't a real artist, but that is a weird insecurity for another day). 

Paul Rubens are a Hong-Kong based brand (which is possibly why I could only really find them on Amazon?), who boast that their watercolour paints are produced with high-purity and finely ground pigments, using natural gum arabic as the mixer. This means the colours are vibrant, easy to use, and easy to mix!

I ended up buying the 48 colour watercolour pan and LOOK how beautiful it is! It came packaged beautifully, and is a perfect pastel pink metal tin, with loads of space for mixing colours. All of the paints can be removed individually, so you can swap around the colours to suit yourself and add new colours in. The packaging is in Chinese, but that didn't bother me, and it includes all of the pigment numbers in English if you want to refer to them.

I also bought (because I'm a sucker) their bright neon Opera paints which were £20. I've been painting a lot of portraits lately, and I've really wanted to be able to capture bright make up in my paintings, and I thought this might do the trick!

I was quite nervous using them for the first time - what if they didn't live up to the hype and it was just a pretty tin? Pleased to say, they were a dream! The colours were rich and flowed beautifully - up until now I've thought my paintings often looked a bit pale or muddy, and I really noticed a difference with these. A little bit of colour went a long way too and they mixed really well together. I use a lot of yellows, reds and pinks, so it was nice to have a much bigger range to work with, and I'm excited to make my way through the palette and discover all the many colour possibilities it offers!

The neon Opera paints were amazing too - just look at them (first photo!). The photo barely captures how bright they are, it's like using highlighters on the paper. I found they blended well with the normal watercolours too, so I think they'll be quite useful when I want to add a bright pop to a painting, and it's just quite fun to have them in my art supplies!

Overall, I'm really pleased. I think I'll get loads of use out of them, and I'm happy to have found a product that's affordable, great to use, and looks super cute! Exactly my kind of thing.

Monday 17 May 2021


Okay, I know this isn't the usual topic I'd write about, but I've always tried to blog about the kind of things that I want to read online, and I cannot tell you how many hours of my life have been spent trying to find the perfect couch co-op video game! 

I've been playing video games my whole life - I grew up attempting to play The Lion King on my friend's Nintendo before I got a Playstation of my own, and most of my life's been spent navigating one RPG or another. Luckily my boyfriend is a massive video game nerd too, so we love playing co-op games together.

Remember events? Photo from the National Museum of Scotland's super cool video game party

The problem is that I have a pretty narrow set of parameters that games have to meet, before I can get into them. I cannot COPE with games where we don't have equal control (it is torturous if Player 2 has no control or agency), I have limited interest in platformers, I can't be bothered with twin-stick shooters, I want a story, not just a party game, and I want a game with good artwork - nothing that feels too kiddy, or feels like ridiculous animation pitched at teenage boys! 

So, on the off chance you ALSO want these things, here's my favourite couch co-op video games. We played these games on Nintendo Switch or Playstation, but I'm sure a few are on Xbox too.

Eternal Sonata

I'm going to start with my favourite - WHAT A GAME. Eternal Sonata is a fantasy RPG centered on the life of composer and pianist, Frederic Chopin. The story is set in a fictional world that Chopin is dreaming of in his dying hours, influenced by his life and music, where you can play as Frederic (with appropriately music-themed attacks and moves) through a tale of magic, corruption, political espionage, rebellion and escapism. Throughout the game there's Chopin's music, and cutscenes featuring real paintings and photographs, so you travel through Chopin's life as you play and learn about the real man and his life.

I mean... that's bonkers, right? But AMAZING The gameplay is great, the characters are fun and cute, it takes you to all sorts of fantastical lands and interesting levels, and the co-op battles are challenging and fun as you can link your attacks and take part in fast-paced strategic battles! When you are navigating the world you can only have one character moving, so we took turns to be the person walking about, but otherwise the co-op is fairly balanced. We loved it so much, we ended up doing a little pilgrimage to visit the town Chopin lived in and felt emotional, because honestly it was like we knew him. Wild.

Dragon's Crown 

It's fair to say that some of the character's outfits/attributes are questionable due to the stylised illustration, but we had a lot of fun with this game! It's a beat 'em up action RPG, where you can pick your character and head off on some dungeon adventures, getting treasure, fighting dragons, chasing thieves and going on quests. It's a lot of fun to play as a co-op as you get to blast through dungeons together, the fighting is satisfying, it feels like a really nostalgic old-school RPG game, so it's a good Sunday afternoon choice. You can also team up with random online players, and we had a happy couple of months playing with some random French person who often was online the same time as us. 

But the thing that makes it stand out for me? The surprisingly brilliant cooking minigame! Some dungeons trigger a little campfire scene where you can cook little meals that increase your character's statistics and it is SO weirdly satisfying and fun to play, we used to cheer when the sizzle of the campfire started. Worth it just for that.

Divinity Original Sin 2

You'll notice a theme with these games, I like an RPG! This game is hyped up, but it deserves it - it's a beautiful, complex, challenging game with a great story, interesting characters, a massive world to explore, and satisfying turn-based battles. Each character has a unique story, meaning you'll experience a different journey than your co-op partner, and throughout the game you are faced with choices which all have consequences and lead to different endings, so you have to think hard about who you want to be in this world! The whole world feels alive - you can pretty much go anywhere and interact with anyone (even animals), there's so much thought and detail put into it. 

Kingdom: Two Crowns

We played through Kingdom: Two Crowns in 2019 on the Switch, and we loved it so much we've started again on the Playstation. This is a side-scrolling strategy game where you build your kingdom, recruit subjects, and protect your town from the monsters that attack each night! It's a super cute game with pixel artwork, which is nicely atmospheric - and pretty scary if you get caught in the woods after nightfall! 

For us, this works so well as a co-op game as we both will pick a side of the town to look after - so I'll have one side to explore, build farms, build defensives and look after people, and my boyfriend will have the other. We'll team up to take on baddies and share resources and building costs, but it totally fulfills my need for independent gameplay in a co-op! It's hugely addictive, and even though it's pretty brutal if it all goes wrong (and it can! This game can throw pretty tricky things at you), we keep coming back to it. 

For the King

This is a super fun tabletop adventure game where you have to navigate around a map to battle enemies, go on quests, find cool new weapons and armour, and save the kingdom! It's a turn-based game which works great for co-op, we pick complementing character types and we can team up to take on challenging enemies, or go off and explore on our own. The game is cute, but it is hard, and you constantly have the clock ticking towards something bad happening so you have to be super strategic about how you spend your time. It's got a good sense of humour, and is a lot of fun to play.


If you're looking for a very gentle co-op, this is it. Based on classical Greek mythology, this is a game about dying, but it's sweet, poignant and surprisingly soothing. You play as Stella, a ferrymaster who has to guide spirits across the seas to release them into the afterlife, but as you journey you can build a boat, go fishing, cook and care for your new spirit friends, explore islands to collect resources and even hunt jellyfish. There are a couple of things that annoy me - as Player 2 I play as the cat (which is great), but the cat can't talk to spirits (which is annoying), meaning I have to wait while my partner does some of the important parts. But it's beautifully animated, with lovely music and good vibes.

Monday 10 May 2021


I've been painting a lot of people lately, so I think I'd mix it up and go back to my first love - ponies! 

I was a horse-obsessed teenager, and so lucky to have a horse of my own (the wonderful Max!). I spent my teenage years pretty much exclusively drawing horses, and even had a wee business, doing £10 commissions at my local riding school, and selling pastel ponies at school art fairs. I think I got pretty good at it (I wish I still had some of my old drawings), but over the years I got out of the habit of painting, and then, when I picked up my brush again, I was pretty horrified to realise that I'd forgotten how to do it.

Painting horses is such a fun challenge. They are such beautiful animals, so full of personality and movement - a lot can be captured in the shape of their muzzle or position of their ears! But they also have all sorts of weird muscle shapes, bones and veins, which can be intimidating at first, but I find so fun to paint! I'm still learning how to do this, but the best thing I've learned is not to over-paint, but instead use lots of light transparent layers to gradually build colour, and to take advantage of blank space - which all combines to give a lovely sense of light and depth (well, I hope it does, anyway!).

This painting ended up being the biggest thing I've ever painted - I got some amazing massive watercolour paper at Christmas, and it was a lot of fun to use it, although it did take two days! I also massively felt the pressure after completing one horse head and then having to start the next from scratch - was very aware if I did something wrong, I would ruin the whole painting. Luckily, I'm really happy with the final painting - phew!

Monday 3 May 2021


We made it to May, and we're actually allowed to do things again! Anyone else feel a big ol' mix of emotions about it all? Anyone?

Best girl Beanie!

I've spent the last year, like everyone, going through a whole rollercoaster of emotions, stress, worry, anxiety and anger about what's going on, and what it's doing to our lives. I've been incredibly lucky - I am safe, my family are safe, I've kept my job, I've been working throughout so I've been kept busy (although the furlough jealousy was real), I live in a nice wee flat so my living situation has been under my control and comfortable, and we got Beanie (our beautiful sphynx cat) so the last year has been filled with a lot of love and joy too. 

But it's been tough! (obviously). My pay got cut, work was intense and stressful, I love my partner, but living and working and only socialising with each other 24/7 is pretty intense. I missed my family, my friends, getting to go places, getting to travel, getting to live my life how I wanted. I was worried about my health, about their health, about what might happen and how long it would take, how much worst things might be. Last March I'd got into a great routine of going to the gym and trying to be healthy, and then I spent my summer attempting to find the motivation to do online exercise videos, feeling frustrated and annoyed at myself. 

So I should be over the moon that everything's opening up again and we can go back to normal, right? And I am! But also, at the pit of my stomach, there's a little voice that feels weird about things. I am excited to get to see people, I've already had my first vaccine (wahoo) so I feel a bit safer to be around, and I am ready to spend time in a place that isn't just this flat. I want to go to the cinema, to wander around a gallery, to eat food that I've not made, to bump into acquaintances in the street again! I went to the gym last week and it was so lovely to just get out of the house (my standards are so low these days), and find a bit of my old routine. I didn't feel stressed, everything felt clean and safe, it was good.

But somehow, things already feel a bit too busy, a bit too much. Maybe there's just too many options after a year of having none? I'm not used to having plans! I feel like I want to baby step my way back into socialising, because I'm nervous that if I just charge back in, all the stuff I don't want to return will be inescapable. I don't want to go back to being crammed on a bus every morning,  I don't want to feel like it's a novelty to have a night in, I don't want to lose the time I've found for painting (and I definitely don't want to lose my days spent with Beanie!). But also, I don't want to be scared of normality! 

I guess I just want the best of both worlds, and after a year of reflecting and thinking about what matters to me, it's about prioritising quality time and quality experiences. What that means to me in 2021 feels different to what it meant to me way back at the start of 2020. So I guess it's just about taking things a day at a time and being okay with the fact that some people will be buzzing about life post lockdown, some will be nervous, and some, like me, will be sitting in the middle, wondering if they are being losers by fretting at all.

Monday 26 April 2021


If you've been with me for a while, you may recall my brief attempt at running. I tried Couch to 5k way back in 2012, managed five weeks of it (and pretty much hated every moment), and I just didn't have the motivation to keep going. 

Then fast-forward a couple of years, and Cancer Research got in touch, asking me to take part in their Race for Life event and help encourage others to do the same (I was a proper blogger then!). This time I still didn't actually enjoy running, but I was extremely motivated to not let a charity down, so I managed to train and complete a 10k race without dying! I felt good for it, but as soon as that goal was complete, I again lost all interest in it.

But now look at me! I'm now on week five of Couch to 5k and I feel great for it, but more importantly, I'm actually enjoying it? I've been using the official Couch to 5k app with Michael Johnson as my coach (his soothing tones are so encouraging!), and it's been great. I can't quite believe it, but honestly - great!

Race for Life shoes still going strong. Probably time to buy new trainers!

Here's what I think has made a difference:


Every time I've tried running before it's been a strictly solo experience, but this time, even though I'm still running alone, my best pal (who lives in London) is also doing Couch to 5k at the same time. It's so nice to have someone going through the same challenges - we send daft running selfies to each other, I don't want to skip a running day because I don't want to let her down (even though I know she wouldn't mind!), and it's just nice to know we're doing something together!

I'm (a tiny bit) fitter

I'm pretty sure the success of Couch to 5k is because it's engineered to help anyone start running, regardless of starting fitness level, but I am definitely finding it much easier now that I'm not such a couch potato! 

Over the last year I've started to take my health a bit more seriously, and when gyms were open I got really into it! I think it's finally dawned on me that I'm not in my 20s anymore (lol), so I want to be more active, and I've been doing a lot of online yoga and cycling over the last few months. Learning to run is still super tiring, but it's not as sore as I remember from before. Doing yoga 1 or 2 times a week is also really helping my achey legs, which then makes it easier to go on the next run!

Flexible working

I think this is the biggest one for me. Since the pandemic I've been working from home, and I've been surprised by how much I love it. I know it's not for everyone, but I feel so much more focused and productive, and I love that I can manage my day based on what I need to achieve, rather than being locked to a desk 9-5. 

These days I try and go on lunchtime runs, and it's so good - it lets me stretch my legs and clear my head, I've got energy, and it's a nice excuse to get outside. When I worked in the office my only choices were running in the morning before work, which I HATED, or running after work, which I also hated/found hard to find time for! It's so much easier to run during the week, which means I can keep my weekends for chilling out, or going for a cycle instead.

It is just nice to be outside

I've spent lockdown in my wee flat which has no garden, so I am loving any reason to be outside. I discovered pretty quickly that I'm not a huge fan of going for a walk if I'm not actually going anywhere, but going for a run feels like it has a purpose. 

In the past I was only motivated by post-running endorphins, but the actual run was always a slog, so it is definitely a big improvement to feel like the whole thing is quite fun! 

I think the pace of Couch to 5k is definitely going to step up from now on (I looked ahead and somehow I am expected to run 20 minutes in one go this week? Excuse me?), but I'm just going to take it a day at a time, and not feel stressed if I want to repeat a run - keeping it slow, steady and manageable is definitely my approach this time round! I'll let you know how I get on in a few more weeks!

Monday 19 April 2021


I don't know about you, but for the first half of 2020 I found it IMPOSSIBLE to concentrate on a book. Normally that's one of my favourite go-to hobbies, but I just could not settle, and kept getting distracted after just a few pages. In the end I just had to stop worrying about it, and I eventually lured myself back to reading with a few trashy adventure novels, and finally found the brainspace for it again.

Since then I've been on a roll, and I thought I'd share some of my favourite books I've read lately.

Transcendent Kingdom - Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi's first novel, Homegoing, was one of the best books I read last year, so I was excited to finally get my hands on this! Transcendent Kingdom is a really moving and poignant story of a young neuroscientist who is trying to carve out her career and step into her adult life, while haunted by the grief of losing her brother to addiction, and looking after her mother who is suffering severe depression. I found it very heavy at parts, but it's such a beautiful look at love, family, faith, science and religion. Can't wait to read whatever she does next!

Earthlings - Sayaka Murata

This is an absolutely bonkers book, and I'm not sure how to describe it (and a huge part of the joy is just the wildly surprising journey it takes you on, I don't want to spoil it!). It's dark and twisted, it covers pretty shocking, intense and taboo topics, it's totally unsettling (do not be fooled by that adorable cover), but it also just draws you in, and is a super entertaining coming-of-age story. It's definitely not for the faint of heart, but it's a bold, magical, unique novel that uses pretty grim imagery to explore questions of love, family and what it means to be human and be part of a society. 

The Vanishing Half - Brit Bennett (not pictured, read on kindle!)

 I loved this book! It follows the lives of the Vignes sisters - identical twins who grow up in a small, Southern black community and run away at age sixteen. More than a decade later they are living completely different lives - one sister has returned to the town she grew up in, and the other is passing as white, with a white husband who knows nothing about her past. This is a really complex, powerful, beautiful and poignant book, which deserves all of the hype it's been getting.

I've had this book on my shelf for years, and I am so glad I finally got round to picking it up. It took a little while to pull me in, but when it did I was transported to the streets of Barcelona! It's an incredibly immersive and atmospheric tale of a young boy who discovers a mysterious book, hidden in a secret library, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He starts an innocent quest to find the author, and gets wrapped up in a plot of mystery, murder, love and revenge. The memory of the book has sat with me, it feels like a wild adventure I went on a few summers ago, or as if I was told the tale by a stranger in a smoky bar, drinking wine on a rainy evening. Just a beautiful experience! 

Monday 12 April 2021


 If you follow me on my art insta (julietpaint), you'll see I've had a wee flurry of Animal Crossing inspired activity! 

I'm really enjoying finding my feet in instagram's art community (although I am such a tiny fish in a huge pond), but I'm keen to share some of my favourite paintings on this blog too - I always thought of it as my little corner of the internet, and now this little corner is obsessed with drawing!

The trend of drawing Animal Crosssing characters as if they were people, was definitely a big thing in 2020 when Animal Crossing New Horizons came out (I'm just going to assume you know what the game is!), so when I started thinking about this I did wonder if I'd missed my chance... but then I reasoned that yeah, sure, others have done it, but I haven't done it yet!

I've spent most of this year practising portraits, so this felt like a fun step to keep practicing faces and poses, but this time add a bit of creative thinking into the mix, as I tried to capture the spirit of each little animal character.

I tried not to look at what other people had done (I wanted to use my own interpretation, not be influenced by others), but the few Coco-as-a-person drawings I had seen were pretty creepy! In the game she is obviously quite a spooky character, with big black eyes and an empty head... but her personality is pretty chill! I imagined her as more of a hippy girl, with big round sunglasses, and I thought the peace sign was a nice nod to her rabbit ears.

Pango is one of my original villagers, so I felt obliged to paint my girl! She's a peppy character that wants to be a pop star, so I pictured her as a very cool girl, super sure of herself, with bright bold eye make up. 

On each painting I tried to include a little detail that was a specific nod to Animal Crossing or the character, so human Pango is wearing ant earrings (a little nod to AC Pango being an anteater). On reflection, while there's a lot I like about this painting, I think it's the least successful - the pose is a bit too stiff. Wah, sorry Pango! I still think you are cool.

Celeste, the star-gazing owl, is an Animal Crossing fan favourite, and there's loads of beautiful Celeste art out there! I really like the wistful expression, I think it captures her vibe, and it was easy to include the character's outfit (the big pink bow and argyle top). I added a star earring and necklace inspired by her wing feathers. It took me a while to get her nose right, that is a surprisingly tricky angle to draw!

Finally, it's Merengue! I think this is my favourite painting - the sketch was pretty hard to do (eyes! Mouth! Hand!), but it just feels so friendly and full of life. Definitely a good lesson to pick reference photos that aren't super serious staged shots!

In the game, Merengue is a baking loving rhino that looks a bit like a strawberry shortcake, so it was an easy theme to translate to human Merengue. I kept the colours pink and peppy, added a strawberry hair clip, and drew the fruit on the cupcake in the same style as the cherries in the game. 

This little series was SO FUN to do, I could probably just keep going, but I know it's good for me to mix things up, so I don't get bored. I'm just feeling so lucky I found this hobby! Keeping me sane while lockdown goes on and on. 

Monday 5 April 2021


Hi! It's been a while since I just chatted on here, so I thought I'd share a wee update on how life is going.

It's weird to think back to this time last year. The reality of lockdown was kicking in, we had a tiny brand new kitten (obviously brilliant, but a big addition to our lives), my partner was about to be furloughed for months, and I was about to go through some of my most stressful days at work (being a fundraiser for an arts charity was pretty stressful in 2020!). 

In comparison, this year, while I'm obviously not loving lockdown life, I feel much more zen about everything. Work is busy and pretty stressful still, but in more of a predictable way, I've settled into working from home (please don't make me go back to an office full time), we've found new routines, and I'm starting to feel a bit more hopeful about the future.

Self portrait, March 2021

A big part of that is that I got my first vaccine in March! I was surprised to be called so early, but it seems that there are some advantages to the various health dramas I've been through over the last two years. I felt surprisingly emotional getting it, then surprisingly horrible for 24 hours of flu-like side effects, but I'm buzzing to be a big step closer to normal. It's not just that I feel safer, but that I'm less likely to pass it onto others - living in the city means that it's been hard to properly distance at all times (try going to big Tesco without people charging past you), so I feel much better that I'm (hopefully) less likely to infect others when I'm just out and about.

Because outdoor adventures were my highlight of 2020, I'm feeling motivated to get fitter so I can venture further afield when we are allowed. I've already talked about my new bike (which is a dream!), but I've been doing Yoga with Adriene videos, and I've started Couch to 5k again! If you've read this blog for a while, you might recall that I have a rollercoaster relationship with running, but this time around I actually feel motivated to do it! I think I'm just so glad for an excuse to get out of the flat for fresh air, and it is so much easier to do it when I can run at lunchtime as I'm at home (trying to get the motivation to run before commuting to work was truly impossible in the past). I'm only on week 2 of Couch to 5k, so we shall see, but I feel good about it, and I am embracing the small moments of goodness these days.

My favourite hobby these days is still painting, I cannot get enough! I recently tried a self portrait, which feels like a big improvement from my last effort (which you can see here). I'm alternating between watercolour paints and digital art and drawing loads of faces these days, it's just so nice to have a satisfying hobby and create things! On my art instagram (julietpaint) I am currently working my way through an A-Z challenge of alphabet portraits (so far I've painted Awkwafina, Billie Eilish, Claire Saffitz, Dana Scully, Emmy Raver, FKA Twigs, Gwen Stefani, Helena Bonham Carter, Idina Menzel, and me - phew!), but next up I actually quite fancy revisiting the paintings I did YEARS ago for my Illustrated Blogger series. I feel like I owe them a nice portrait! 

Other than that, we're using the time to start putting things into motion for our future, and while I'm pretty sceptical that things will just magically go back to normal in the summer, I am excited for lots of things. Can't wait to sit in the sunshine with my pals, to go to the cinema, to wander around a gallery and look at things that aren't on a screen (!), to go to spin class again (a surprising joy in my life), to go camping, and that sweet, sweet moment when we're allowed to go to beer gardens again. It is nice to feel things are a little brighter again. 

Monday 29 March 2021


One of the highlights of last year was the time I actually got to go outside - I live in a flat without a garden, so the first lockdown felt particularly hard - I longed for outdoor space of my own, and I've never appreciated fresh air more! When I look back at last year my best days were definitely the ones where I made an effort to get out and go exploring.

For the last 7 years (!) I've owned a Dutch-style bike (this one!). It looked very beautiful, but it was very heavy and only had 7 gears which meant I was pretty limited whenever I wanted to cycle up hills. Living in the city, it's too risky to leave my bike locked up outside at night, which means whenever I want to use it, I have to carry my bike up and down three floors of stairs - not fun!

I've been swithering for a while, but as the weather has got nicer I decided it was time to finally bite the bullet and buy a proper bike - so say hello to my new steed, a Raleigh Pioneer Grand Tour!

My beaut new bike parked outside lovely Filmhouse Cinema

I hadn't planned to buy a bike online, but I went to a couple of bike shops (which are actually open, even in lockdown) and both had barely any bikes left in stock - apparently there's been a massive demand for them since last year, and manufacturers are struggling to keep up! I knew I wanted to buy a good bike (which meant spending a bit of money), so I really wanted to make sure I wasn't settling for whatever was left in stock, and I took time to find the right bike for me.

I've always like Raleighs, I've had them before and the brand has a great rep for making high-quality bikes. I knew I wanted something light (to make lugging it up stairs a little easier), that I wanted something with a low bar (I'm pretty short and I want to be able to cycle in a skirt if I want to!), and importantly, something with lots of gears to make it easier to get around Edinburgh's hills. My last bike had been beautiful but impractical, so I was trying to look past aesthetics, but obviously I'm a sucker for a nicely designed bike. 

I also needed a bike that was good for both city cycling and country adventures - so decided that a hybrid bike was the way to go.

Looking like a happy potato

I spent AGES looking through all the options, watching videos, reading reviews, and obsessing over the difference between a 14kg bike and a 15kg bike. It was also tricky trying to work out what frame size I wanted - it would have been nice to be able to try some bikes out, but I just had to make do with sizing guides online.

In the end I took the plunge and bought the Pioneer Grand Tour in Low Step. It pretty much ticked all my boxes: it's got a light aluminum frame; 24 gears; big grippy tyres that are happy on pavements and country paths; and it came with mudguards, a pannier rack and a bell, so I didn't have to pay extra for those. It was £525, which feels quite expensive to me and was definitely the top of my budget, but I know I'll get years of use out of it (and we don't have a car, so it really is my main mode of transport these days!).

The bike is an absolute DREAM. I was worried that I'd get carried away imagining how much better this was than my old bike - like, how much difference can a few extra kgs and gears make? Turns out, it's LOADS. The gears are a life-changer! Hills are so much easier, I'm much faster, and I feel so much more confident cycling in traffic. The bike doesn't have suspension, but the seat is fitted with mega springs, so it's much comfier going over cobbles or uneven ground. It looks great too!

Now the weather's improving, I've been able to go out for a few rides already, and I love it. Such a great decision to buy! I'm really looking forward to going farther afield on warm sunny days - bring on the summer! 

Monday 22 March 2021


As you might have spotted I am a big Star Trek fan, so I am over the moon to get to be part of Women Make Trek - an amazing fan art celebration of the women in Trek!

Women Make Trek was born from a love of Star Trek, art and design, and the incredible artists who have been collectively making Star Trek art for over 55 years.

The exhibition is packed with beautiful portraits of Star Trek women - from the iconic female stars (look at these beautiful portraits of JanewayUhara and Dr Crusher), to characters who may have had smaller roles, but still made a huge impact on screen (like these beaut portraits of Keiko O'BrienEzri Dax and L'rell).

Each artwork is accompanied with a story of what the character and/or actor means to the artist, so you really get a sense of how much these cool, strong, inspiring space women have impacted people's lives. That's really the ethos of Star Trek, and why I like it so much. It's about adventure and exploration, sure, but it's also about celebrating the diversity in the universe, and using our differences to build a better future. I grew up watching and loving it, but even now as an adult I'm learning things from re-watching it that are helping me be a better boss, pal and all-round person. That's pretty high praise, isn't it? I just love it!

Tilly - painted by me!

And that brings me to Tilly! You can see my story of why I love Tilly here. I still can't quite believe that my little portrait is sitting alongside so many amazing artworks, but it's been so lovely to be part of it, and get to connect with so many cool fans. 

Alongside their amazing art showcase, Women Make Trek are doing a couple of great things: they are fundraising for Breast Cancer Research, and they are collecting letters for Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) to spread a bit more love in the universe!

Monday 15 March 2021


Our menagerie has expanded! Say hello to Beanie, our Sphynx kitten.

I didn't think I'd ever get to  be a cat owner again, as my boyfriend is very allergic to cats... but one day we started talking about hairless cats - maybe they wouldn't be so bad - which led to visiting Sphynx cats to see if he'd be okay - which led to reserving a tiny black and white kitten (because it is impossible to "just visit" kittens, without falling in love!).

So in December 2019, we paid a deposit to reserve our new Sphynx, who we would collect three months later when she was 16 weeks old. Back then, we had no idea what the next few months would hold and so alongside all the pandemic anxiety, I was also super stressed about whether we'd actually be allowed to go and get her! But we got her just in time, and it meant there was at least one upside of lockdown - we had loads of time to bond with our lovely new kitten.

It's coming up to a year (!) since we got her and she is just the perfect girl, I am utterly obsessed. I've never met a cat so friendly and brave - there is zero aloofness in this kitten! She's like a little cat-dog cross, she's super social, she loves people and other animals, she wants to be cuddled all of the time (they call Sphynx velcro lap cats and it is totally true!) and she is never phased by anything!

We have fully embraced insane Sphynx owner life, so we do treat Beanie like a mini dog. Last summer she hung out with us in the park on sunny days (she was the very best girl, saying hi to loads of surprised dogs and little kids), we went to the Highlands and even took her on holiday with us! She calmly slept through a 5 hour drive, walked on her lead on a big ramble through the forest, and even visited Urquhart Castle - much to the lols of the other tourists there.

Being hairless means she NEVER SHEDS, which is honestly a delight, and makes me wonder if I could ever go back to a moulting pet. No more endless lint rollers! 

I've always wanted a dog, but couldn't really justify it because of flat-living-life, but honestly I think Beanie perfectly fits my pet-loving heart - she's just amazing!

Owning a Sphynx is a little more high-maintenance than other cats. Firstly, she was pretty pricey - we had to save up for a long time, but it felt worth it as she was the only kind of cat that wouldn't trigger allergies (worth noting that there's no guarantee you won't react to a Sphynx if you are allergic to other cats, but it worked out for us). 

They aren't completely hairless - she's covered in a peachy fuzz which means she's super soft to touch, but she does need fairly regular baths as she gets a bit grimey! Luckily, because she's an angel, she is incredibly chill about bathtime, so it's actually pretty sweet when she gets her bubble bath. You also have to clean their ears pretty regularly (those big ol' ears get grimey too) - I just use cotton buds and coconut oil. 

Sphynx have a slightly higher body temperature than other cats (which is great in the winter, but in hot days it can feel like you have a sentient hot water bottle stalking you), but they do get cold easily which means on colder days she has to wear little jumpers to keep her cosy. 

We also feed Beanie a pretty varied diet of wet and dry cat food and raw meat - a high quality diet helps maintain the oils in her skin. 

Pints in the park with Beanie

I just could not recommend a Sphynx more, they are such brilliant creatures and she has brought so much love and joy to our lives!

If you'd like to see more of Beanie, I made her an instagram (of course I did), and you can follow along here: sphynxbeanie

Monday 8 March 2021


Three years ago I cut all my hair off and it was great! I did it on a bit of a whim (I'd lingered too long in long bob territory, and I was bored), and I didn't regret it for a second, although I was a little concerned about what a faff it would be when I fancied long hair again. 

Everyone is pretty universally agreed that growing a pixie cut out is The Worst... but I'm here today to tell you that the internet is wrong, it's totally easy, you should definitely chop your hair!

2018 vs 2021

Here's how I went from short short short to shoulder length hair (yes, lockdown helped). Hope you're ready to see loads of photos of my face! 

If you are just looking for my main tip, it's this: go to the hairdresser loads! More than you usually would! It might seem counter-productive, especially if you are trying to grow your hair out, but it means you'll navigate the choppy world of regrowth with dignity (and minimum kirby grips).

September 2018 / October 2018
February 2019 / April 2019

After I first got it cut I started going to my hairdresser approximately every 8 weeks, to get it reshaped and to top up the colour (I'm naturally ginger, but as you'll see, I like to just bounce around different red tones). The whole point of getting it cut short was to keep it short, and as I'd never had haircut below my chin before I was excited to try out all sorts of crops and bobs along the way.

I'd say probably most of the year (Feb - September) I kept it pretty close to the original pixie length, then in October I started to think about growing a bit more hair for winter (short hair is cold!), which meant letting the sides grow in a little for a 60ish bob. This round bob was maybe a little bit awkward (little round cheeks and little round hair combine), so I think this was possibly the trickiest stage... but really, it was totally fine.

At the time I joked about having Princess Diana hair, but looking back I really like my Feb 2019 hair! My hair is pretty thick and feels like it grows quite fast, so I definitely was saved by regular haircuts which kept it neat and in shape - if I'd just let it do it's own thing, I imagine it would be pretty terrible, but this stage was plain sailing! I kept it roughly around this length for the rest of the year.

May 2019 / July 2019
October 2019 / December 2019

Loved my summer 2019 hair! At this point I felt like I'd got through the worst of post-pixie life (which again, WAS FINE), so now I was just making my way through various bobs, mixing up the colour, sometimes wearing it straight, sometimes letting it naturally go a little wavy.

In December 2019 I figured it was time to start aiming for the long-side again, although after a couple of years of minimum styling, I was not super thrilled about having to spend ages drying my hair again.

February 2020 / May 2020
July 2020 / September 2020

Then 2020! I started the year off with a slick sharp cherry red bob, ready with loads of plans of how I could do cool dip-dyes and vibrant shades so I wouldn't be bored getting it past shoulder-length, and then lockdown kicked in. I've been working from home all year so I have properly embraced my natural wavy hair, I actually like the pale ginger it's faded to (is it my natural colour? Who knows) and it's had peace to just keep on growing, and is pretty happily past my shoulders again.

Was growing out a pixie cut much easier than I thought it would be? Yes! Is my hairdresser a superstar? Yes! (She's Linden at Dean Jones in Edinburgh, and I would highly recommend her!). Would I cut my hair all off again? Yes! But maaaaybe not when we are in total lockdown.