I have always adored coffeeshops.
For me, living my dreams is writing in coffeeshops, every day. Growing up, my AIM screen name was coffeeshopauthor. I had this bookmark that said Cafe Girl, and admired this cool illustrated lady as exemplifying my aspirational life.
[This still is my lucky bookmark, although the tassel fell off, and I’m terrified of losing it so I swap it out for traveling bookmarks when my book is leaving the house…]
So while I’m living in my favourite city, with my favourite coffeeshops, it would be silly own a coffeemaker.
I see no point in taking up precious kitchen space, when I enjoy spending time in cafes so much.
I want my conversation over the counter with my Americano. I want the coffeemaking noises whirring over the music, the delight of a favourite song of mine popping up on a random playlist and making my day.
If I had a coffeemaker at home, I’d feel badly for spending extra money on drinking coffee out – I do feel this way about tea sometimes!
Maybe one day, if I don’t live in walking distance to so many options, I’ll invest in a coffeemaker. I’ll shop for coffee beans and tools, and educate myself on the top coffeemaking tips.
It’s like not having Disney Channel.
Growing up, my sister and I didn’t have Disney Channel. We would look forward to going to our friends’ houses to watch Disney Channel with them. We happened to be in Walt Disney World during the ever-anticipated premiere of Phil of the Future, and guess what? They had Disney Channel there.
So perhaps this went a bit far, because there we were, in our hotel room, watching Disney Channel, but one cannot theme park all day, and hey, it was memorable, wasn’t it?
It was a big deal if our friends had MarioKart.
And really, even though we had both fooseball and air hockey tables, we enjoyed them most when friends came over to enjoy them with us.
So these days, it’s such a luxury when a hotel or friend has a coffeemaker. It’s a luxury to go over to a friend’s house with an actual tv screen, rather than watching Netflix on our laptops.
There are certain things that don’t suit our lifestyle right now, certain tradeoffs for living in the heart of the best city ever, that don’t feel like deprivations when I think of it that way.
Sometimes we fall into the trap of wanting more and more, dwelling on what we don’t have instead of appreciating what we do have in our cosy little home.
The nesting feels forever incomplete, but we’ve chosen to draw the line somewhere, and on the other side of that line is a cottage.
There are some things, some luxuries and nice things, that simply don’t fit in our tiny flat, and therefore into our current lifestyle.
When we identify a thing like this, we say ‘save it for the cottage’. We can dream about it. We can picture it. But we can’t have it yet. And that makes anticipation for the next phase in our lives even more exciting.
Some things we’re saving for the cottage:
A coffeemaker at home
A home office
Or, a desk that’s not the kitchen table. There isn’t space for a home office, and the best spot in the flat to write is in the big window in the living room anyway.
A guest bedroom
We would love to have a nice, private space for our friends to stay. At the moment we have a sofa and an airbed, but they fit in the living room that’s also our kitchen, dining room, and, as you know, office.
A home cinema
Maybe one day we’ll have a proper screen (or a projector?) with proper speakers that doesn’t dominate our living space, but is available for cinematic use.
A record player and small collection of vinyl
I long for the simpler, more mindful days of a CD player with buttons and tactile appreciation for what we’re listening to. I don’t enjoy the faff of opening Spotify and selecting selecting selecting. One day we will have a record player, and live every day like we’re dining at the Gardener’s Cottage. But for now, we dream.
Save it for the Cottage.
Sometimes enjoyment comes from opting out. Save some things for later.
What are you ‘saving for the cottage’?
P.S. Shoutout to my favourite cafes in Edinburgh with wifi.
P.P.S. For constant photos of my portable coffeeshop workspace, find me on Instagram :)
It’s festival season in Edinburgh!
With the Fringe, International Festival, International Book Festival, and Book Fringe upon us, the question of the month is: what to see?
This is my sixth time at the Fringe, and fourth as a local. When I open my calendar and the festival guides, here’s what I’m looking for.
There are thousands of options, and my priority is variety. I want to see new and exciting shows that will inspire in ways I can’t even imagine yet.
^^ Oh I’m getting excited just attempting to describe the magic that’s about to happen here!
So here’s a challenge – a checklist, a Fringe Bingo, if you will – of types of shows to see. How many can you see?
1 – Something at the nearest venue to where you stay
I used to live across the street from a great free fringe venue. I could have walked out my door and into the venue in 20 seconds. But I never went. Why why why?
Take a chance on the venue nearest you, and watch your neighbourhood transform into art.
2 – A performer you’ve heard of, but never seen live
Go to Edfringe.com and search for some of your favourite performers – they might just be here! We’ve seen Axis of Awesome and Reduced Shakespeare Company this way.
- This Year I’m Seeing: Amanda Palmer at Queen’s Hall (not technically Fringe)
3 – Something site-specific
Immersive, preferably, but see something that embraces its venue in a unique way.
- This Year I’m Seeing: There’s a free two-hour talk on the history of immersive theatre which is exactly my idea of fun. I’m hoping to get some ideas for actual theatre to attend from there.
4 – Something with food
5 – Something improvised
My personal preference is literary improv, but you can find every flavour of improv imaginable, so seek out your favourite niche.
- This Year I’m Seeing: Adventures of the Improvised Sherlock Holmes (for the second time) and Austentatious (I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen them).
6 – Magic
- This Year I’m Seeing: Colin Cloud (Psycho)Logical (a Fringe fixture for Steve and me) and Kevin Quantum: Vanishing Point.
7 – Children’s Theatre
Some of the most imaginative and fun theatre is family theatre. Half the joy of the experience is the kids’ unabashed awe, a reminder to have a great time myself.
8 – A Musical
Not just an improvised musical, although I suppose that counts.
- This Year I’m Seeing: Vulvarine after enjoying Fat Rascal’s Buzz: A New Musical and Tom and Bunny Save the World.
9 – Your friend’s show
Support your friends!
- This Year I’m Seeing: Bohemians Reimagined!, Laugh Out Loud (Cry Quietly) and The Mould that Changed the World.
10 – A free show
Arrive early to ensure that you get a seat, and plan to go attend early in the festival just in case. I’m sad to say that I missed Dave Chawner’s show last year because I didn’t prioritise it early enough. Bring cash to tip the performer afterwards!
- This Year I’m Seeing: Dave Chawner: Mental
11 – Music
Take a break from theatre and comedy and enjoy music. A few years ago seeing Karine Polwart was the mindful, folk break I needed to refuel mid-festival.
12 – Something at the International Book Festival
Don’t forget about the Book Festival! At the very least, get a sampling at Ten at Ten: free, ten-minute readings every morning (but book your ticket in advance).
- This Year I’m Seeing: Carol Ann Duffy, Keith Hutson & Mark Pajak
13 – Something at the Book Fringe
While you’re at it, check out the Book Fringe at Lighthouse and Golden Hare! Events are free and unticketed, with a lot of author overlap with the International Book festival.
- This Year I’m Seeing: Twenty Theatres to See Before You Die
14 – Something at the International Festival
The Fringe may have surpassed Edinburgh’s original festival in size, but don’t overlook the International programme!
- This Year I’m Seeing: Home
15 – Something from the Korean Season
I adore the enthusiasm and spirit of the Korean Season performers. Every year they are first on the Royal Mile in the morning promoting their shows. This attitude carries through their performances, which are full of zest. And I like to celebrate my heritage :)
- This Year I’m Seeing: Black and White Tea Room – Counsellor
16 – Something at Summerhall
The centre of the festival, in my opinion (and I’m not alone in that), with a thoughtful and diverse programme. If you’re ever overwhelmed by all the festival has to offer, just narrow it down to what’s on at Summerhall.
17 – Something at the Traverse
Edinburgh’s New Writing venue has a particularly exciting lineup this year. Go to their breakfast plays for a double tick!
It’s worth mentioning that shows are not always on at the same time at the Traverse. Check the listings to get the full picture.
18 – Something from a flyer, especially if the performer handed it to you
Dedicate an afternoon to embracing the flyerers. Walk down the Royal Mile shopping for theatre.
Chat with the people handing you the leaflets, especially if it’s the performer flyering for their own shows. This is unbelievably tiring and I like to reward their effort.
19 – Your friend’s choice
Go to something just because a friend is going. Let them introduce you to something they’re excited about. This is how I found out about Josie Long and Chris Gethard.
20 – A genre you’ve never seen before
A new type of dance, physical theatre, circus, spoken word, opera… There must be something completely new and strange that you’ve never seen before!
21 – Something from a country you’ve never been to
Take advantage of how many productions from different countries are here at the same time, and travel the globe via their performances. I’ve never been to Argentina but I’ve seen Un Poyo Rojo. (Thanks Katie for this idea!)
22 – Something recommended by Edinburgh Fringe Review
I wrote for them back in the day, and that’s how I know they’re great ;) They cover lesser known productions and are great for finding hidden gems. I discovered Lucy, Lucy, and Lucy Barfield through them *before* Lyn Gardner wrote about it. Speaking of which…
23 – Something Lyn Gardner said to see
My favourite theatre critic, Lyn Gardner, is a true champion of theatre. Last year half the things I saw were by her recommendation. I’ve bookmarked her profile on The Stage to read every morning. Here’s her guide to the festival this year.
- This Year I’m Seeing: Casus: You & I, Daughter, The Greatest Play in the History of the World… and Underground Railroad Game
24 – Something awful
Don’t try to see something awful, but if you do leave a show going this is terrible, congratulations, you get to check it off this list! It’s all part of the experience.
Anything I’ve missed? How do you decide what shows to see?
P.S. A lot of my favourite performers from 2017 are back!
P.P.S. If you need to get some work done between shows: Best Edinburgh Cafés with WiFi by Neighbourhood
Traveling in style is a state of mind.
When I think ‘traveling in style’ I think stacks of Louis Vuitton luggage, a smart peacoat, kitten heels, and a cute little hat.
While this dolled up vision is aesthetically admirable, what it signifies to me really is a sense of control, of poise, of un-rushed-ness.
When I travel I like to make every part of the journey a stretched-out and lavish event.
Every heroine needs her favourite spot by the train station.
I have a fear of being late. At school when we had 10 minute breaks between classes, I would first navigate to my next class before sitting down with my book. It’s the same mentality with travel – I prefer to get to the station hours in advance, and to make this process as pleasurable as possible.
A favourite pre-travel ritual of mine is to meet a friend for coffee and breakfast on the way to the train station [or by the tram on the way to the airport].
While the station itself is rammed with passengers squeezing their luggage into Starbucks, I like to look just outside instead.
A well-travelled woman has her pre-travel rituals, location-specific to whichever vessel is taking her on her next adventure.
Here are a few of my favourites, ‘at the station’, or just outside:
- By Edinburgh Waverly Station, I’ll stop by Baba Budan for espresso and doughnuts, or Fruitmarket Gallery for a light lunch and culture fix.
- By the York Place tram stop on the way to Edinburgh Airport, I’ll stop by Fortitude for their own roasted coffee, or The Basement for a taste of Mexico.
- On the way to London Euston Station, I’ll stop at Store Street Espresso for coffee and breakfast.
- Before catching the train from London King’s Cross I’ll stop at Caravan or Drink Shop Do, and allow plenty of time to swing by the Platform 9 3/4 shop for Fairtrade chocolate (thanks Harry Potter Alliance!) and browsing for house pride accessories. It feels extra magical to take the train from King’s Cross to Scotland with wizarding sweets, I must say.
- If flying from Paris Charles de Gaulle, I arrive early to play their free arcade games (YES REALLY. Paris’s geek chic is such an underreported story) and pick up a macaron to go.
- London Heathrow Airport also has a Ladurée counter. The perfect sized snack for a layover.
- At London Stansted Airport, my spot is Joe & the Juice.
- Delayed at Washington Dulles Airport for 5 hours, we ditched Terminal C (which has &Pizza, for future reference) for the much more pleasant and spacious Terminal B, which has Five Guys and Dior.
- And don’t forget to take advantage of first class lounges if you have access to them!
Start a pre-travel tradition.
I love inviting a friend to meet at the station before I travel, but when they are off on an adventure I ask them to meet before. I’m happy to watch their bags while they collect tickets and such, and I get to sample a bit of wanderlust fairy dust by seeing them off.
When I visit my parents in Boston, my mom and I have a tradition to stop at the MFA before my flight. After loading up my bags in the morning, we peruse the galleries, enjoy lunch in the courtyard, then head off to Logan Airport.
If Steve and I have an early morning plane to catch, we make a dinner reservation the night before. This gives us a soft deadline to be packed and ready to go before enjoying dining out. This saves us the hassle of cooking and cleaning up, and gives us an earlier packing deadline in the form of a pre-travel treat.
Tuck your flat into bed.
After packing my bags, I change the towels and sheets, feed the plants, generally tidy, and empty bins. When I return from my travels, it’s to a fresh and tidy abode [although perhaps a bit dusty].
Here’s one I took from Gossip Girl. When Serena and Dan are traveling back to the city from the Hamptons via Jitney, Serena brings a pile of glossy magazines and – get this – a luxurious box of chocolate covered strawberries as her travel snack. Consider the bar raised for travel style inspo.
While Steve finds the First Class upgrade on Virgin Trains utterly worth it [for the legroom and comfy seats], I prefer to travel coach and allocate that extra budget towards fancy snacks. I pick up a basket at M&S and allow myself to select a juice, wrap, snack, and dessert, all for far less than a First Class upgrade.
‘But I have enough to worry about without adding all this extra stuff to do!’
I hear you. Be super ambitious about these rituals. If you don’t have time for them, that’s fine. But it creates a buffer so that the important stuff does get done sooner. And think of it this way: enjoying every morsel of the chocolate cake that is travel prolongs the enjoyment of it.
P.S. My Heroine’s Guide to Packing is coming soon. Sign up to be the first to hear when it’s available!
P.P.S. Let’s put our heads together, heroines, and make the comments section a collection of global resources. What are your favourite outside-the-box favourites near train stations and airports?
As an Edinburgh resident, I’ve had the pleasure of attending the world’s largest performing arts festival for three straight Augusts.
With over 2,000 shows to choose from, even a day trip to the festival is full-on. This year I’m limiting myself to two shows per day; pacing is important.
One of the best things about the festival is that you can sample the entire spectrum of what performing arts has to offer.
Through seeing lots of shows here, I’ve been able to identify what kind of theatre I like most: inventive and multi-genre storytelling, insightful and clever comedy, performers who radiate passion, and theatre that gives you food (as in literal, edible food. Not just food for thought.).
What to see at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival:
in order of start time; updated live throughout August
Roundabout, 12:00 (18-20 August only)
The premise is fascinating: a bill is going through parliament that would limit each citizen’s daily spoken word count. The latest piece of new writing to really excite me lately, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is about love, articulation, and human rights.
Underbelly George Square, 13:30
The first year I saw Austentatious at the Fringe, I ended up going three times, which is huge for my carefully curated Fringe calendar. This group performs an improvised Jane Austen novel, inspired by an audience-generated title drawn out of a top hat. I’m picky about my Austen, and they live up to her wit.
Assembly Rooms, 15:15
The last show I saw last year was Tago, a Korean drumming performance. It is loud, energetic, and powerful, and the performers are so joyous and present. An even better finale to the festival than fireworks.
Counting House, 19:00
A thoughtful yet not-too-serious voice on mental illness and wellness, Dave Chawner gives me hope with the way that his shows raise awareness for the topic. This year his free show is about vegan.
Will Pickvance at the piano is magic – not only because of his incredible ability, but for the passion and attentiveness that he has for his art, and how he monologues about his life as an artist while he plays. Like a cup of tea, but a show. An enlightening and relaxing hour.
Pleasance Grand, 20:00
Assembly Roxy, 21:00
The quippiest way to get you to see Chris Turner is to rave about his signature improvised raps, but I return to his shows every year for the life insights woven into nerdy comedy. Plus this year he’s doing a show about cats.
Summerhall, various times
I have yet to see this year’s show on Dolly Parton, but Sh!t Theatre’s clever, comedic, and poignant 2016 piece on London’s housing crisis has stuck with me all year. While I left their two-woman show laughing and feeling entertained (they have great props, and there were some musical theatre bits), the facts surrounding important issues really sunk in.
Further places to research:
When in doubt, consult Summerhall‘s progamme. – their curated events calendar often includes the most thoughtful pieces, and narrow your shortlist from ‘super overwhelming’ to ‘almost manageable’.
Lyn Gardner, my favourite theatre critic has led me to many a good play. Consult her Fringe preview for suggestions, or look up reviews for your favourite play and see which critics are on the same page as you with their opinions.
Ed Fringe Review – the student-run publication that brought me to my first Fringe as a writer (so am I biased? Maybe. But I still think they’re great) – catch some of the smaller, ‘fringier’ events that might not get covered by bigger names in press. They send two reviewers to each show, so you can get multiple opinions at once. Great for spotting hidden gems.
P.S. I’ll be posting my favourites during the festival on Twitter. If you’re looking for something to see, get in touch! I love helping people pick out shows.
This guide is filed under RAVENCLAW for featuring thoughtful shows that will expand your mind.