After almost 9 months living in Vancouver, in July Dave and I finally took our first ferry over to Vancouver Island. Celebrating my (significant) birthday, we decided to drive to the far side of the island to spend a few days in the small but mighty town of Tofino. With less than 2000 residents during the year, the population swells in the summer, when visitors descend on the town to soak up its surfing culture and incredible landscapes. Not to forget the local wildlife, which can be spotted both on land and under the sea.

About a 3 to 3.5 hour drive west from Nanaimo ferry port, Tofino is a magical place brimming with creatives, surfers, adventurers and zen-seekers. Here are some of our highlights over four days.

Food and Drink

Breakfast

There are loads of places to choose from in Tofino, but some of the places we decided to check out were:

  • The Schooner

    Based on the main road, this cosy, family-run restaurant is a Tofino institution. Known for its impressive seafood menu (and the large ship built into the restaurant entrance!) , The Schooner also offers some excellent breakfast fare. The first time we went, we shared a big fat cinnamon roll, which was up there with the best. The second, I had a delicious Eggs Benedict, enjoyed under the sun on the restaurant’s patio.

  • 1909

    1909 is a part of the Tofino Marina Resort we stayed in, so it was a handy stone’s throw from our room, as well as the Adventure Centre where you can book local activities on Tofino like bear watching (more on that later), whale watching, the hot springs cove tour (this was still closed due to Covid-19 when we stayed in early-mid July), guided fishing and paddle boarding.

    But back to 1909 (or 1989, 1990, 1919 as it was also known…). We went here on my birthday breakfast before heading out surfing, and it was so lovely. The restaurant has circular windows for an added nautical vibe, and offers a great breakfast menu. I had Eggs Benny (an all time fave) and a blood orange mimosa, which was a fairly ideal morning scenario.
Breakfast at 1909
  • The Common Loaf

    I loved this little place! We only popped in for a quick couple of breakfast paninis before heading off bear watching (more on that later!). They were delicious though and the coffee was great. The inside looked really cosy, so I’ll definitely be back for a sit-in experience on our next visit to Tofino!

Lunch

  • Shed

    It was sunny, so we headed into this spot on the main strip for some lunch on their decking. It gets pretty busy and has space limitations due to Covid, so we put ourselves on the wait list and wandered around the nearby shops until we got a call about half an hour later.

    Since moving to Vancouver, I’ve developed what one could credibly describe as a slightly obsessive relationship with poke bowls. I’d never previously eaten one or actually even heard of them, so it’s been a bit of a zero to sixty experience. So of course, when I saw a poke bowl on the menu it was decision made, and this little poke stack was particularly delicious. Paired with a grapefruit ale, sunshine and an outward facing table for optimum people-watching, Shed delivered a gorgeous lunch experience.
  • Wolf In The Fog

    Wolf In The Fog is an extremely popular dinner spot in Tofino, so you need to be organised and book a few weeks in advance to get a reservation! Needless to say, we are not those people. Luckily for us, Wolf In The Fog does a daily happy hour of 3-5pm. We took advantage of their famous Cedar Sours cocktails and some pre-dinner gigantic (and very delicious) tater tots.
Cedar Sours at Wolf In The Fog
Several drinks deep at Wolf In The Fog
  • Shelter

    This great little spot can also be found on Tofino’s main road, similar to Shed with a big outdoor patio and lots of indoor seating. It was dry but a bit chilly when we went, however we were able to sit outside thanks to the restaurant’s really effective outdoor heaters. They serve up a great frozen berry daiquiri and impressively good calamari, for pre-dinner indulgence!

Dinner

  • The Pointe

    This was far and away the most beautiful restaurant I have visited in BC so far. We went a bit all out because it was my birthday, but this place was 100% worth the extra dollars. The service was incredible and the views across Chesterman Beach and the Pacific were, to cliche the hell out of it, absolutely breathtaking. We were boring and ordered the same lamb main, which was genuiely one of the best meals of my entire life.

    If we were visiting on our usual budget, it’s not a place we could normally justify going, but for a special occasion, or just a treat-yoself, it’s a complete must visit.
  • The Hatch

    We didn’t actually eat here, but it’s a gorgeous spot for pre or after-dinner drinks (which were, apparently, a major theme of our Tofino trip…). Perched on the marina front, this place has great views and serves up a frozen pineapple margarita, which I enjoyed many of…

Activities

  • Surfing

    …Because you can’t reasonably visit the surf capital of Canada and not do it! We booked with Tofino Surf School, who were great. Due to Covid, to get to the beach (about 10 mins drive), we had to follow the school’s van in our own vehicle rather than riding in the van itself. Most people drive to Tofino when visiting anyway, but it’s worth bearing in mind if booking at this strange time!

    It’s a 3 hour lesson, including getting into your wetsuit (no mean feat at the best of times) a quick demonstration on the beach and travel there and back. We definitely had plenty of time in the water and it wasn’t cold at all when in the wetsuit.
  • Beach walks

    In my head, Tofino’s beaches would all be within walking distance of ‘downtown’ Tofino, but they’re mostly a short drive away (10-15 minutes), so again, unless you’re camping beachside or staying at one of the pods on Chesterman Beach, it’s good to have your own car here.

    FUN FACT: Tofino was used as a filming location for The Twilight Saga: New Moon in March and April 2009. I don’t know exactly which part it was, but with the moody skies and expanse of shoreline, it’s definitely well suited. We saw a few groups roasting marshmallows and having beers round fires on the beach, which looked so lovely. The weather was slightly unpredictable when we were visiting, but I’d love to do this next time we go.
Chesterman Beach
  • Bear watching

    This was one of the absolute highlights of our time in Tofino, when we saw our first ever bears! Booked through the Adventure Centre, this was a three hour session in a boat around Tofino to check out the bears’ favourite hangouts. It sounds long, but with the amazing views, a guide who was really knowledgeable and obviously passionate about the species, AND six bear sightings, the time really flew by.

    I was surprised (and a bit amused) when we had to step into our strange, gigantic floatie suits before the tour, which need to be worn throughout the duration of the tour, but was really grateful of them when the rain and wind chill from the boat really hit!

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Although their eventual collision promises almost certain mayhem, some things just can’t help but spin recklessly towards each other.

Hen dos and tequila shots.

Driving lessons with your mum.

Sid and Nancy.  

Covid-19 and my upcoming 30th.

Ah, let’s say the last part again, for dramatic effect. My. Upcoming…30th.

It’s a birthday that, without the planned distraction of family, friends and a good old knees up, feels like it’s coming at me like a freight train, a tonne of rattling emotional cargo in its wake.

At school and throughout our early and mid twenties, we all feel invincible. Old age? What’s that? Surely, we think, they will have found a cure for decrepit by the time the crows feet hit. Even looking at the lined faces and increasingly stooped postures of others, somehow the ageing process still seems like something that happens to, well, others. It’s this mindset, of course, which keeps the cosmetic surgery machine slick with oil. It’s why people take botox lunch breaks, cringe through chemical peels and challenge gravity with ‘lifts’ – any, or all. We’re offered self-confidence and fulfilment with one hand, while the other works furiously to feed our insecurities. 

I try not to pay too much attention to the seemingly overt significance society places on ‘30’. Stretched life expectations mixed with a dash of financial crises means that, in social terms at least, we are staying younger for longer. We’re buying houses later, getting married later (and less) and delaying parenthood. But pressure is still applied from all angles by well-meaning friends, family and even colleagues who playfully refer to you “settling down” soon. It was even suggested on a couple of occasions that Dave and I would surely, at age 29 and 30 respectively, be “at least be engaged” before we move to Canada? For two people who don’t care much about marriage we laugh it off. But please, people. This is not the ’50s.

Hollywood is arguably the guilty party behind the slow burning anxiety the big 3-0 landmark tends to galvanise. Who can forget Jennifer Garner portraying Modern Womanhood in ‘13 Going on 30’? A problematic movie from various feminist perspectives, the scenes of Garner sashaying around Manhattan in immaculate business suits, holding to-go cups and giving effortless presentations are the ones that really stuck with me. Sitting in the cinema age 13, a precedent was lodged in my adolescent brain that this is what successful, grown women look like. And many times they do. But what we too often forget is that there isn’t one singular portrayal of success.

“Am I successful”? is a question we begin to ponder as our career train chugs down the tracks, bound for a destination we can only hope is worth it. For some reason, approaching Decade Three makes us seek more urgent answers. It ramps our curiosity – and our anxiety levels – up to beyond normal protocol, playing into the unwritten rule that by the time you’re 30 you’re a bonafide adult, a seasoned life-liver who has it all figured out.

The fact that leaving my twenties has collided with a global health pandemic, resulting in limited work projects and a huge amount of free time, has given me perhaps too many daydreaming hours to reflect on how unfigured out I sometimes feel. While I am happy and love my life in Vancouver, I’m sure if this were a film, directors would note my lack of corporate employment, comparatively sparse wardrobe and dwindling bank balance, and have me chugging wine straight from the bottle, hugging my close pals Ben and Jerry and waiting for a crinkly-eyed man to come along and turn my life around.

Being financially pushed and without much semblance of a five year plan is glamourised when you’re 20, but turn 30 and it becomes a thing to be pitied. Because let’s face it, as much as we all loved Bridget Jones, none of us ever wanted to be her.

To move on from unfair movie comparisons, 30 is the first big birthday where there seems to be more of a “heaviness” attached. For myself, and I’m sure many other women, I imagine our old friend the Biological Clock is responsible for much of this weight.

Yes, I’ve always loosely said that I want children, but it’s been something I’ll do “one day”. Now the decade in which that “one day” is approaching, when I think about having kids now I’m mostly, in all honesty, overwhelmed by a sense of suffocation. My life won’t be my own anymore, and I’ll be responsible for not only keeping small humans alive, but in shaping their emotional and intellectual development; their feelings; their future. To give them everything they could ever want and more.

Parenthood sounds difficult, heavy, scary. When I’m struggling to even establish a reliable income stream, the thought of supporting kids threatens to bring me out in hives. But above any of that, procreating spells out the end of my lifestyle and the traditional notions of youth clinging to its core. I live a life with endless freedom, a bounty of choice and lighter responsibilities. I’m not ready to part with this life I live, so why does society whisper that I should be?

But alas. Although the big 3-0 is negged on for being an emotional trigger, I realise that while this birthday may bring with it some anxiety, it is also wonderfully life-affirming; an opportunity to look ahead. With a new decade comes new hope, new dreams, new desires to be fulfilled. It should make you not anxious or sad, but thankful for where you have been, proud of what you have achieved and focused on what you want your future to look like. It’s in your 30s where arguably some of your biggest life changes can occur. Whether you decide to have kids or not, follow an existing career path or choose a different one, buy a house or travel the world, the beauty in it all is that whatever life you carve out for yourself is the one of your choosing.

In fact, you finally realise, where your adult life has led you up to this point has been the one you have chosen all along.

Turning 30 doesn’t change a bloody thing.

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Every passing day brings rocketing new cases of COVID-19, with death rates on the rise, and vital public resources working in overdrive in an attempt to stem the tsunami of sickness. Bad news is on the rise, and with it, public anxiety.

Also on an upward trajectory is the number of social media posts imploring us to use this period of global crisis as a launchpad for our productivity levels. The newly listless may worry no more, as lists they are a-coming. From keeping a journal to learning a language, no Instagram ‘explore’ page is free from a seemingly endless range of self-improvement suggestions.  

While admittedly some of these sound appealing – almost comforting, in fact (‘How to Bake The Perfect Quarantine Banana Bread’) – there’s a risk that we are unwittingly applying mounting pressure to those already ten tonnes under it. When you’re dealing with the very real and very scary impact of this disease on yourself and people you know, alongside the crippling financial challenges a pandemic like this brings, the suggestion that your new “at home” time should be used to get more squats in or finally master Excel, can send already spiked anxiety levels into New York skyline territory.

It’s common, even for people not dealing with anxiety, to freeze up when they already feel mentally overloaded. How many times, for example, have you spent days putting off sending or replying to a text, a task whose entirety would likely take less than a minute? Or sat on your phone for an hour instead of just doing that 10 minute HIIT workout? It’s taken me over a week to actually write and publish this blog post. Why? Because I decided that hitting up the McDonald’s drive-thru was the priority. And then going for a long walk. And then FaceTiming a friend for 3 hours. And watching multiple movies under a duvet on the sofa. Was this because I was trying to manage the low level anxiety I currently feel, being away from home and not knowing where my next pay check is coming from? Maybe. But I also felt I needed to remind myself that things very rarely NEED to get done in the restricted time spaces we often set aside. Just because we’re not necessarily spending our working hours in the same way we once did, doesn’t mean a new, ‘higher’ standard of productivity has to set a new precedent for how we spend the day.

In the global quest to protect society’s physically vulnerable, our mental vulnerabilities are being pushed to the limit. The response to tragic consequences of tabloid targeting has led to the Be Kind movement – but are we forgetting to be kind to ourselves? As somebody who has struggled in the past to control my constant mental “striving” ; of moving life’s goalposts and therefore keeping happiness and fulfilment at arm’s length – the circulation of social media posts suggesting we should be doing more can trigger those just trying to be happy in the moment, despite the circumstances. (Because isn’t that what this thing called life all boils down to, anyway?).

For everyone out there weathering the effects of this pandemic, who are juggling the new challenges born of home schooling kids, perhaps while simultaneously trying to work from home themselves, or identifying and chasing new sources of income, or attempting to tolerate your partner’s presence (!), worrying – on top of everything else – about whether you should have nailed a new yoga pose or cultivated a thriving new herb garden by now shouldn’t be necessary (unless of course you already had a burning desire to do those things.) Since I began freelancing full-time in November, what I personally find helpful is writing out very basic to-do lists for the day, to maintain some form of structure and have a visual record of achievements. These include time slots for things as simple as making and eating lunch, going for a walk, FaceTiming friends and family and putting laundry on. Basic as they are, this is what keep me sane.

At this moment we should all recognise that we’re doing exactly what we need to to get by. If that means brushing up on French irregular verbs, then cool. If it means single-handedly sinking half a box of Malbec (guilty) or watching hours of footage of a mulleted tiger breeder on Netflix (again, guilty) – that’s also sweet. I’m not suggesting that society should allow itself to spiral into a permanent state of ennui. But I do think it’s important to pause, ground ourselves, remember this isn’t going to be forever, and give yourself ourselves damn break. Because the world certainly isn’t going to.

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It’s now been just over a month since two pasty-faced, jetlagged Scots landed in Vancouver, blinking against the strip lights in Richmond Airport’s baggage carousel. After a brief struggle to the taxi rank with four big bags of both the luggage and under-eye variety, we were on our way to our Airbnb in West Vancouver, where we spent out first 3 weeks in the city.

Every time I’ve moved to a new country, I’ve found it difficult to know how to answer the slow drip of  messages from friends and family members, hungry for feedback on what my Brave New World looks like. I always tend to reply perfunctorily, outlining accommodation details or employment progress, neglecting the actually interesting stuff: observations, experiences, one-offs – i.e., the very reasons I moved continent to begin with. So let me now share some of the main things I’ve noticed since landing in this new, foreign land.

  1. Trucks. Are. Life.

    For months before we left Edinburgh, Dave used to regularly wax lyrical about his plans for a pick-up. About how we could chuck our skis in the back, throw on some snow tyres and head on up the winding road to Whistler. To be honest, he went on about it so much that by the end I was just as enthusiastic about getting one. However, I dare say there is a chasm of titanic proportions between our idea of a truck and Canada’s idea of a truck. Because thundering through Vancouver right now is a swarm of monsters masquerading as entirely sensible vehicles, with aggressive sounding names to match their bulk. The car parking spaces in the supermarket in West Van are about six feet wide, leaving a few marked for use of “Small Cars”. And yep, they’re still bigger than the standard car parking spaces back in Scotland!

    After studying the drivers of these (exquisitely polished) RAMs, TITANs and GMCs, we’ve started to think that there may be some overcompensation at play. If you know what I mean. 
    Personally, we’ve since settled on a 2007 Ford Edge SUV, sourced from a Facebook group (I’m nothing if not resourceful.) You can fold the seats down and comfortably get about 9 sets of skis plus a small hostage in the boot, so Dave’s satisfied. 

  2. Everything. Is. Big.

    I know this is a common observation from Brits who land in transatlantic territory, but having walked around for just a week I am very much joining the bandwagon. We’ve already touched on the cars, but it’s the streets, the food, the buildings, the malls, hell I swear even the sky is bigger here. Vancouver’s unique in that even in its big city buildings have big nature mountains towering over them, a combination which works together to get you feeling really, really small. And it’s pretty magnificent.

  3. People are thee best.

    It quickly became apparent that personal connections are paramount in Canada. On our connecting flight from Toronto to Vancouver, we were seated next to a lovely guy called John. Immediately he took an interest in us, our lives and our work. Long story short, a contact he set Dave up with has now landed him a job. How’s that for a first impression of Canadians??

    When we arrived at our Airbnb, our host Trina couldn’t have been more welcoming and helpful either, and has been speaking to her friends about us to see if there’s any way she might be able to help us get set up with jobs/an apartment.  In cafes, restaurants and bars, servers take an interest in our accents and ask what brought us to Canada. 

    There’s just a lovely sense of curiosity and helpfulness from people, which I’d heard about from others but was still a lovely boost to my already positive expectations. 

  4. Asian culture is huge. 

    It’s estimated that around 20% of the population in greater Vancouver comes from Chinese heritage, while places like Richmond, just south of Vancouver, counts more than half of its inhabitants as Chinese. This means that walking around the city and its suburbs, Chinese restaurants are ten a penny. I’m not a huge fan of Chinese food but I can imagine the city would be a gastronomical Aladdin’s cave for those who relish it!

    Saying that, we did go to a Chinese restauant called Dinesty in Downtown Vancouver a few weeks ago and oh my god I still have dreams about those dumplings. A must visit for anyone looking for gorgeous, authentic Chinese food.  

  5. They love a bridge

    Road, rail, suspension: you name it, Vancity’s got it. Because of the way the city is laid out, with “Downtown” being the epicentre of sky-skimming offices, banks, bars, restaurants and shopping, and everything else kind of satelliting off it, bridges connect the different areas. Travelling from West Van to Downtown you go over the glorious Lions Gate bridge (below), Second Narrows Bridge will take you to East Van and Burrard Street Bridge to reach West End from Downtown. It reminds me of a much more chilled out version of Manhattan. 

  6. It feels smaller than it looks (which is good)

    In fairness, it is massive but it’s largely spread out. The skyscrapers and high rise buildings you’ll see in a standard Google search are probably taken in Downtown Vancouver (sandwiched betweeen greater Vancouver and North/West Van.) 

  7. Groceries will bankrupt you

    I’m talking 2 CAD (£1.16) for a cucumber. And cheese is tragically, tragically expensive. We “treated” ourselves to a tiny block of cheddar the other day which cost us about £6. SOS. 
     
  8. It’s the greenest city I’ve ever been in 

    There are massive parks dotted around the city and half an hour from downtown Vancouver are major hikes and trails. The whole city is overlooked by three mountains (Grouse, Cypress and Seymour) which are a short bus ride from the city. 

  9. Craft breweries are everywhuuur (and I moved from Edinburgh.) 

    We’re not complaining. 

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It’s approaching six weeks since two pasty-faced, jet-lagged Scots landed in Vancouver, blinking against the strip lights in Richmond airport’s baggage carousel. After a brief struggle to the taxi rank with four big bags of both the luggage and under-eye variety, we were on our way to our Airbnb in West Vancouver, where we spent our first 3 weeks in the city.

Every time I’ve moved to a new country, I’ve found it difficult to know how to answer the slow drip of  messages from friends and family members, hungry for feedback on what my Brave New World looks like. I can get trapped in replying perfunctorily, outlining accommodation details or employment progress and neglecting the actually interesting stuff: observations, experiences, one-offs – i.e., the very reasons I moved continent to begin with.

So let me now share some of the main things I’ve noticed since landing in this new, foreign land.

1.Trucks. Are. Life.

For months before we left Edinburgh, Dave used to regularly wax lyrical about his plans for a pick-up. About how we could chuck our skis in the back, throw on some snow tyres and head on up the winding road to Whistler. To be honest, he went on about it so much that by the end I was just as enthusiastic about getting one.

However, I dare say there is a chasm of titanic proportions between our idea of a truck and Canada’s idea of a truck. Because thundering through Vancouver right now is a swarm of monsters masquerading as entirely sensible vehicles, with aggressive sounding names to match their bulk.

The car parking spaces in the supermarket in West Van are about six feet wide, leaving a few marked for use of "Small Cars". And yep, they're still bigger than the standard car parking spaces back in Scotland!

After studying the drivers of these (exquisitely polished, rarely mud-flecked) RAMs, TITANs and GMCs, we’ve started to think that there may be some overcompensation at play. If you know what I mean.

Personally, we've since settled on a 2007 Ford Edge SUV, sourced from a Facebook group (I'm nothing if not resourceful.) You can fold the seats down and comfortably get about 9 sets of skis plus a small hostage in the boot, so Dave's satisfied.

2. Everything. Is. Big.

I know this is a common observation from Brits who land in transatlantic territory, but having walked around for just a week I am very much joining the bandwagon. We’ve already touched on the cars, but it’s the streets, the food, the buildings, the malls, hell I swear even the sky is bigger here.

Vancouver’s unique in that even in its big city buildings have big nature mountains towering over them, a combination which works together to get you feeling really, really small. And it's pretty magnificent.

Case in point: an enormous block of cheese on sale in the local supermarket...

3. People are thee best.

It quickly became apparent that personal connections are paramount in Canada. On our connecting flight from Toronto to Vancouver, we were seated next to a lovely guy called John. Immediately he took an interest in us, our lives and our work. Long story short, a contact he set Dave up with has now landed him a job. How's that for a first impression of Canadians??

When we arrived at our Airbnb, our host Trina couldn't have been more welcoming and helpful either, and has been speaking to her friends about us to see if there's any way she might be able to help us get set up with jobs/an apartment.  She's now even invited us over to her place for Christmas Eve!

In cafes, restaurants and bars, servers take an interest in our accents and ask what brought us to Canada.  There's just a lovely sense of curiosity and helpfulness from people, which I'd heard about from others but was still a lovely boost to my already positive expectations. 

4. Asian culture is huge.

It's estimated that around 20% of the population in greater Vancouver comes from Chinese heritage, while places like Richmond, just south of Vancouver, counts more than half of its inhabitants as Chinese. This means that walking around the city and its suburbs, Chinese restaurants are ten a penny. I'm not a huge fan of Chinese food, but I can imagine the city would be a gastronomical Aladdin's cave for those who relish it!

Saying that, we did go to a Chinese restauant called Dinesty in Downtown Vancouver a few weeks ago, and oh my god I still have dreams about those dumplings. A must visit for anyone looking for gorgeous, authentic Chinese food.  

5. They love a bridge.

Road, rail, suspension: you name it, Vancity's got it. Because of the way the city is laid out, with "Downtown" being the epicentre of sky-skimming offices, banks, bars, restaurants and shopping, and everything else kind of satelliting off it, bridges connect the different areas. Travelling from West Van to Downtown you go over the glorious Lions Gate bridge (below), Second Narrows Bridge will take you to East Van and Burrard Street Bridge to reach West End from Downtown. It reminds me of a much more chilled out version of Manhattan. 

6. It feels smaller than it looks (which is good)

In fairness, it is massive but it's largely spread out. The skyscrapers and high rise buildings you'll see in a standard Google search are probably taken in Downtown Vancouver (sandwiched between greater Vancouver and North/West Van.) Downtown is where most of the 'city' is concentrated, but Greater Vancouver is a different story. There are huge parks and nature reserves, smaller communities and an overall quieter, more laidback feel to it.

7. Groceries will bankrupt you

I'm talking 2 CAD (£1.16) for a cucumber. And cheese is tragically, tragically expensive. We "treated" ourselves to a tiny block of cheddar the other day which cost us about £6. SOS.

8. As will your mobile phone

For some reason, most mobile phone providers here only offer about half the amount of data you could get back home, for twice as much money. The cheapest deal I could find was $50 CAD (around £33) for 10MB of data per month, whereas back home I paid £15 per month for 15MB. Oh, and don't leave the province as your provider will essentially stop providing. Weirddddd. 

8. It's the greenest city I've ever been in 

There are massive parks dotted around the city and half an hour from downtown Vancouver are major hikes and trails. The whole city is also overlooked by three mountains (Grouse, Cypress and Seymour) which are a short bus ride from the city.

9. Craft breweries are everywhuuur (and I moved from Edinburgh.)

We're not complaining.

As much as I love the long nights, warm air and al fresco dining opportunities that summer offers, I’ve always looked forward to the change its closure brings. The bite of autumn in the air, the brisk, crisp walks, log fires and and steaming mugs of mulled wine all fill my inner child with boundless joy.

A by-product of colder, shorter nights is of course the powerful desire to stay in and cosy up; a combination I unashamedly support. As an interiors addict, with a penchant for 1970s-style ski chalets which borders on the obsessive, kitting out my home with seasonally appropriate décor is one of my favourite and most satisfying pastimes. And you could A/W is when I’m in my prime.

So with summer and its long shadows cast firmly behind us, here are some of my favourite hygge (or in Scots, Colsie) starter for tens.

 

Throws (obv.)

If I was more of a hygge purist, I would advise sticking to a neutral colour palette as is favoured by authentic Scandis. However, I think a flat with splashes of colour allows more scope to inject a bit of fun (and less ‘holistic’ vibes) and can act as a successful counter to bleak weather.

On a recent trip to Store 84 (the boujee little shop next door to the popular Mhor 84 motel off the A84), I enjoyed a lengthy perv over dark pink and turquoise sheepskins by Danish company Dyreskinn. You know that thing when you don’t buy something but proceed to think about it from that point on? Enough said.

While it’s doesn’t feature a dyed sheepskin, below is one of my favourite corners of my little Edinburgh flat, including a reindeer skin we picked up at the markets in Krakow a couple of years ago.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lighting

Across the street from me is a flat which is perpetually lit by “the big light”. No table lamps, no side lamps, just a bare wall illuminated by the harsh glare of the ceiling light.

And honestly, seeing it makes me sad.

It sounds dramatic, but my mood is very much governed by my surroundings, and I can’t stand being in a room for too long which has either no light on or only the ceiling light for company. As far as I’m concerned, you can have all the other pieces in place, but soft lighting is what really seals the cosy deal.

This is why I have fairy lights strewn across shelving, a curved floor lamp with a gold bulb in my living room, a lightning bolt light mounted on my wall and, most recently, this gorgeous little pineapple light I picked up from Lidl for £12.99 last week.
pineapple light .jpg

Cushions

While I can never have enough cushions in my flat, I’m quite picky about textures, sizes, colours and designs. These two cushions are among my favourites. The red one is from trusty Oliver Bonas and the lobster is Juniqe [gifted].

I have had my eye on some Tibetan wool cushions I spied a while ago in the aforementioned Store 84, but at £65 a pop I’ve had to control myself (which is unusual if you are aware of my needy relationship with homeware.)

img_1807

 

Bar

I’ve always loved the idea of these, and in my student days my flatmates and I rescued a vintage (‘Pat Butcher’) bar from an alleyway in the west end, decked it out with fairy lights and then ruined it by populating the shelves with various brands of value vodka.

I regrettably haven’t purchased a newer model for the flat yet, but one day I hope to own this beaut from Oliver Bonas.
oliver bonas drinks trolley

Which brings me nicely on to my next point…

Whisky collection

‘Cos nothing warms you up better than a dram of the good stuff. Best enjoyed by a fire, where possible.

Bedsheets

Bed is a welcome location any time of the year, but it certainly holds a heightened allure during the cold winter months – which is why proper bedding is one of the easiest and most satisfying ways to cosy up your space.

Splash out on the cotton thread count, use plenty of throws and invest in piles of wool cushions. Brushed cotton sheets and a couple of sheepskins go a long way too.

Life goals include owning a bedroom like this one. Attic conversions are, quite simply, everything.


cosy bedroom

Scent

Smells are a powerful gateway into accessing some of our earliest memories, or associations of a time and a place. Autumn/Winter is famous for scents such as apple and cinnamon, mulled wine, oranges, firewood, ginger, pumpkin spice, pine needles and musky perfume.

I picked up some apple and cinnamon room spray from Lidl last week, and (in September…) I’ve become obsessed with spritzing it around rooms and feeling all excited for colder climes.  I also like to burn incense sticks in the evening, which I normally pick up from Cloud 9 in Edinburgh.

It’s also become a bit of an annual tradition for me to buy tiny vials of “refresher oil” from Marks and Spencer which, simply put, smell like Christmas in a bottle. You’re meant to add them to an oil burner or diffusive, but I add it to candles or put a couple of drops on hot water bottles or my bedding (sounds weird, probably is) but the smell captures childhood Christmases of the ’90s and frankly you can’t argue with that.

Texture

Nothing cosy ever came out of clinical perfection. Embrace the dodgy bits of your house by hanging wall decorations over exposed brick, put Persian rugs down over marked floor boards, brighten up tired upholstery with a handful of throws and hang fairy lights over old fireplaces or beaten up bookshelves.

Et voila! Your home is now hygge-fied.

 

 

 

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It’s here. Dawn has broken over the day we’ve all been waiting for: the day when order is once again restored to British society. It’s February 1st and the Dry January veterans can imbibe the demon drink without betraying their solemn promise to jaded post-Christmas souls and New Year broken bodies.

Now that I’ve successfully completed my first ever attempt at Dry January (or, indeed, of cutting out booze for longer than a week in approx. 10 years), I thought I’d share my experience on all the ways it affected me across the spectrum.

Lesson one: Survival of the Fittest

If you can forgive my loose comparison of not drinking for a month to Darwinism, let me tell you – when you’re a socially active city girl in your twenties grinding that 9-5 life, Dry January can be a jungle. Get to the second weekend of the month and you’re gasping over a large glass of Malbec like a camel for water.

While this may serve to some as a reason for not doing it (“Why put yourself through that? On the bleakest month of the year?”) once you prove to yourself you won’t give in, there’s actually a higher satisfaction – at least for me – that comes from saying no to something your mind and body falsely tells you you need.

Basically, aside from snubbing a big glass of red, there’s a much more important lesson to be learned within it all.

Lesson two: Productivity prevails

For someone who, from time to time, has been guilty of using the fact I’m a bit hungover as an excuse to do, frankly, SFA, suddenly I find myself more productive than ever at weekends – and therefore more satisfied and fulfilled in general.

I’m not saying that you’re not satisfied or fulfilled after a night of drinking moderately, but at 28 I now feel the effects of even 2 glasses of wine the next day (woe).

Lesson three: Social events = alcohol (or do they?)

If you don’t wish to spend every January evening hidden beneath a rock, you’re going to have to accept that if you want to socialise after work, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in a bar/pub/drinking hole of some sort. Sans alcohol.

As a life and style blogger, I get invited to a lot of events – 90% of which I’d say involve tipples. Now, the old me would probably have avoided most of these because the thought of mingling/socialising/staying awake on a mid-week evening after 7pm without a drink was, to be frank, somewhat grim.

Writing this I realise there is a certain level of tragedy attached to the above confession. But it’s only with distance (i.e., not drinking) that the concept has even risen out of my subconscious and I’ve been able to challenge it. So, out of all the social events I’ve been to in January (including dinners, launch nights and birthdays) I’ve imbibed nothing but water and “virgin cocktails” (who am I) and it’s actually been completely fine. Sure, alcohol has a good way of taking the edge off but 20 minutes in and your focus turns to the good time you’re having, not your empty hand.

Lesson four: Haters are rife

While the gratification of proving your own mental strength gives off a good buzz, you’ll need it to fend off the equal amount of negativity coming from the impressive crew of Dry Jan haters.

Quitting booze for a month to give your body a rest shouldn’t be a difficult concept to grasp, but give it a week and you’ll find yourself faced with friends, family and colleagues who either question your motives, accuse you of being boring, or try to persuade you to quit.

This for me has been the toughest part of Dry January. As my boyfriend pointed out the other night, it’s got to the point I’m beginning to treat it as a kind of “Us versus Them” stand-off. But in all seriousness, although I did expect some resistance to my decision not to drink for a month, it’s been really disappointing to be made to feel constantly on the defensive by people who should be encouraging your decisions.

As one of my good pals pointed out, if you said you were cutting out sugar, or caffeine, or any other ‘indulgent’ food and drink group, people would probably be interested to know why rather than primed to shoot you down, or tell you all the reasons why you shouldn’t be doing it (which are, incidentally, largely to do with themselves.) As our friends across the pond would say, go figure.

Lesson five: Alcohol free beer actually has a purpose

Until literally this January, I would say I still questioned why such an invention exists. Beer does not taste as good, as, say, ginger beer, or Irn Bru, or any other fizzy, non-alcoholic drink. But let me tell you, don’t knock this shizz until you’ve tried it.

I had alcohol free Erdinger during a meal out in Glasgow about half way through January, and it definitely trumped Diet Coke in the “naughty” league – despite being, at 0.5%, about as naughty as a nun. It definitely activates the placebo effect to some degree, and, at 10 days without booze, that was good enough for me.

Lesson six: It’s easier (and you’re stronger) than you think

In fact, in a very bizarre way, it’s almost enjoyable. The amount of events I’ve been to or times I’ve drunk where I’ve thought I’ve been having fun, but in fact can’t remember a lot of details the next day, or get the fear because I can’t quite recall what I’ve said to somebody or if I’ve offended them, or just generally acted like a bit of a tit.

It’s been really nice to take the expectation of drinking away altogether and just focus on the people you’re with, what they’re saying and – shock horror – actually remembering the majority of it the next day.

Lesson seven: Mental benefits outweigh the physical

…If you can stay sober at a manic children’s party with tipsy adults telling you to quit, you can do anything. Similarly for Lady Libertine’s glitzy launch event I attended recently. It is quite something, after all, to see everyone else drinking champagne on tap while you’re drinking the product of, well, an actual tap.

But in all honesty, it really wasn’t that difficult. Sure, I left a bit earlier than I probably would have had I been drinking, but that’s not to say I didn’t have a really good time. It would have been nice to enjoy a glass or champagne or two but the fact I now know I’m able to say ‘no’ (and be a tiny minority) was actually hugely liberating.

Lesson eight: Omg it’s January and I’m rich

Christmas is expensive and alcohol is a financial hoover. Amen to having more money for nice food and clothes.

Let’s see how February’s finances fare.

Over and out, DJ!

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For me, the ballet evokes a unique kind of festive nostalgia. There’s a grandness to it. A sense of occasion. There’s excitement and grace and beauty and hypnotism. The ballet promises escapism; a temporary portal into a fantastical world.

You can therefore imagine my child-like glee when I was offered tickets to see the Scottish Ballet’s showing of Cinderella at the Festival Theatre last weekend.  

I’m always fascinated by the different ways a classic tale can be told and re-told, and this version was no disappointment. Choreographed by the Scottish Ballet’s artistic director Christopher Hampson complete with set design by Tracy Grant Lord, we watch as the dancers movements, costumes and backdrops evolve from the sparse surroundings of Cinderella’s home into an increasingly magical aesthetic. 

The dresses develop from basic material, design and colour before peaking at Cinderella’s embellished tutu in the ball scene – a sight my inner wannabe ballet dancer was basically in tears at. Roses were the theme woven throughout the performance, which drove the visual experience into beauty overdrive while reinforcing the implied idea that Cinderella’s story itself mirrors that of the rose: at first fragile and ordinary before flourishing into her true and beautiful form. (If you’re thinking I’m not normally this deep then you are absolutely right. But what can I say, Christmas is a time of romantic reflection and the ballet gets me all sentimental…)

It’s easy to immerse yourself watching Cinderella, when the dancers, set design and music (performed live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra) all work together in such impressive harmony. In line with the Cinderella narrative we all know and love, the performance balances depth with comedy. It’s visually arresting and emotionally moving, factors which together played deftly into the suspicion I’d carried all along: that Cinderella was going to be a very magical experience indeed. 

Congratulations to the Scottish Ballet for putting on such an excellent performance, both on stage and behind the scenes. A perfect (almost) end to 2018! 

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