The Pros and Cons of Living Off Campus

Here at Edinburgh Uni, we don't really have a choice in terms of living on or off campus after our first year- we're pretty much forced to live in non-student accommodation. Still, since moving into my flat this year, and living here for almost two months now, I've come to realize that there are some very significant advantages to apartment life- but there are definitely some drawbacks as well.

Your meals are healthier and more varied (if you make the effort) 
While the dining hall last year made the question of "what's for dinner?" as easy as could be, those unlimited sweet potato fries and endless soda fountains weren't too kind on my waistline. Being in control of what I eat has been a major factor in my personal health this year- there's no pasta with cream sauce to tempt my tastebuds as long as I don't keep any in the flat. With this newfound mealtime independence, it's no wonder that avocados are always on the menu- as is wine.  

I couldn't just choose one photo sorry.

But... Shopping, cooking, and cleaning up takes a lot longer than you might think
Back in halls, I could easily be in and out of the dining hall in under a half an hour, leaving me plenty of time to have an early start on my work in the evenings. But unless I'm ordering in food, making some type of instant meal (*cringe*), or heating up leftovers, I'd be lucky if I could cook a nutritious meal in that amount of time. It's also important to factor in the time it takes to walk to and from the grocery store and pick up everything I need- and that's not even considering the possibility that I might have to go to a second shop to buy anything they didn't have in stock. Also, not that I'm living the dishwasher-less life, I've learned to properly clean dishes. Yes, that's right folks, I- the girl who has to be told multiple times to simply put my plate in the dishwasher at home- actually pick up a sponge and find myself elbows deep in soap and water on a regular basis. Shocking, isn't it?

Your apartment (probably) has more character
Let's be real- if you live in on-campus student accommodation, you most likely live in a box. At least, that's how my room was last year. White walls, matching furniture, and a single tiny window. Ah, those were the days (not). What made matters even worse about these box rooms is that everyone's room is the same- it kind of freaks me out to walk into one of my friends rooms that has the exact same set up. Now I consider myself very lucky to be living in a flat that's just bursting with character. The details of my room- from the molding on the ceiling, to the old fashioned doorknobs, to the butler buzzers by the fireplace- make the flat a lot more home-y than our hospital-like rooms last year.

It's the little things in life.
But... You won't have the best washer/dryer system
I was actually quite horrified when I realized that my flat didn't have a dryer. Was I seriously supposed to air dry my dripping wet clothes? I really should've known better considering I go to school in Europe, but the idea of not having something that I deemed so necessary was completely foreign to me. Even though it was kind of annoying to pay £3 every time I had a pile of dirty clothes, I honestly miss the luxury of having toasty socks to put on when the temperatures start to drop.  

A tragedy.

You feel more like an adult
Living with so much responsibility has definitely come with a steep learning curve. Once I moved into my flat, I realized how many life skills I didn't have. Of course, my parents did properly prepare me to an extent- but there's only so much they could teach me before throwing me into the deep end of adulthood. And while they're only a text of FaceTime call away, I prefer to not nag my parents every time I have a question or problem. And that's where Google comes in. If you look through my recent searches it probably looks like something along the lines of "how long do mushrooms keep for," "how to air dry jeans in one day," and "cheap meals that don't include pasta." But despite my lack of intuition, I'm really glad that I'm learning these skills- and learning them a lot earlier on in my life than I ever expected I would.

I kid you not!

But... You're in charge of paying your bills on time
And along with that adult-like feeling, living off campus provides you with the lovely burdens of adulthood as well. Gas and electric need to be paid- and on time. And what's more is that you can't just take super hot shower for a half an hour because you feel like it- unless you're willing to pay for it. It may be difficult, but it's important to realize that every light you flick on, and every second you leave the tap running factors into your bill at the end of the month. So if you're still living on campus, take advantage of those extended showers while you can!

How cute/awkward.

Much like any decision you make in life, there are advantages and disadvantages. I'd say that over all, I enjoy living in an off campus flat far more than I did living in halls. I think what it comes down to for me is that there's really nothing like waking up in a place that truly feels like a home, even when you're 3,000 miles away from the place you've called home all your life.


Life Updates: Grandparents, Giving Thanks, and Great Improvements

The last few weeks have been eventful, hectic, and downright busy to say the absolute least! You'd think that as a second year who already knows the ropes- yet doesn't have the workload of a third year- I would have tons of free time on my hands.

But despite my fairly lax class schedule (my flatmates hate the fact that I only start before 2 o'clock twice a week), I've kept myself occupied by joining two new societies in addition to running club and choir. That, on top of running my blog and keeping up with schoolwork, has made me one busy girl. To be honest, though, I'd rather have a substantial to-do list than be sitting in my flat wondering how I should spend my day. 

Now that I'm done thoroughly complaining about my self-imposed busy-ness, I should probably update you all on some fun happenings in my day-to-day life! (because we all know that's what you came here for)

My grandparents came to visit! And their trip really snuck up on me. When I came to uni back in September, I remember thinking "Oh, they're not coming for another month!" And what do you know, that month passed and my grandparents and I were taking on Edinburgh together. I love playing tour guide, so even though having them around took up a lot of my time, I really enjoyed their company! We did everything from exploring the National Museum and Galleries of Scotland, to experiencing a classically British afternoon of high tea. 

One of the best parts of having my grandparents around (other than taking advantage of their complimentary breakfast at the hotel), was that they wanted to see some sights that I never had the time or opportunity to visit before. Over the weekend, the three of us took the bus down to the Royal Botanic Gardens. It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city, and gave us the chance to take a lot of beautiful photos. Despite Edinburgh's lack of tropical weather, there were plenty of towering palm trees and blooming orchids in the glass houses to warm our spirits. 

I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving for the first time! There's nothing like having some turkey, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes a month early, huh? One of my flatmates is Canadian (we're a really diverse bunch), so she whipped up a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for us last week. I was in charge of dessert, as per usual, and what better way to properly celebrate Thanksgiving than with pumpkin pie? 

I was in way over my head given that I had never made pumpkin pie before (or any pie for that matter), and could not for the life of me find any pumpkin puree at any grocery store. Instead of giving up and giving in to my Plan B of making apple pie, I decided to throw caution to the wind and buy an entire pumpkin to roast and puree myself. Luckily, I opted for pre-made frozen pastry to make my workload a little bit lighter, and was able to pull off the dessert with moderate success!

Despite my refusal to admit that Canadian Thanksgiving is any better than the American version (to be fair, they're really no different!), I had a really enjoyable first Canadian Thanksgiving, complete with an incredibly tasty dinner and a lovely group of friends to share it with.     

I finally finished decorating my room! One of the worst parts about renting a flat is that there are so many regulations regarding what you can and cannot do to your space. In my flat, we're not allowed to use blu-tack (a gum-like adhesive) on the walls, because it leaves a greasy mark on the paint when you remove it. But, trust me, nobody wants to live in a room with bare walls! 

My solution? I had my mom send over some Command Strips (which promise to never leave a mark) via my grandparents. Once I received these little life-savers, I could finally finish up a few of my room-improvement projects! The first item on my list was to put up my giant American flag. I'm honestly not the most patriotic person when I'm at home, but putting it up here while I'm living in the UK seems a little bit cheeky in the best way!

I also was able to mount these hooks I bought from Anthropologie over the summer (on sale, of course!). I love how they're white and blue- such a classic combination! Not to mention, I'm always game for anything with my initials on it. 

Please ignore how uneven the hooks are... I cringe!

Another big project that I finished up was sticking up all of my photos! This is probably my favorite part of my room, as it displays all of my favorite people. 

Now that my room is officially done, I think I can finally consider my flat in Marchmont my second home :) 


My First Blogging Event: Molton Brown

A beauty blogger I am not. That's why I was surprised when one of my favorite bloggers, Hayley, from Water Painted Dreams, invited me along to an event at the Molton Brown store on George Street here in Edinburgh.

It can never hurt to try something outside of your comfort zone, right?

Not only was this event uncharted territory for me because of its focus on beauty products, but it was also the first time I would have the opportunity to meet and chat with other local bloggers.

Being surrounded by bloggers who you simply assume have more followers, pageviews, and all around success than you can be intimidating. But the truth of the matter is, no one is scoping out the room to judge you on your analytics.

Once I met up with Hayley at the train station, it was easy to shake off those initial nerves. At least I knew one person coming to the event! Hayley and I had contacted each other over this past summer when I stumbled upon her blog. I was so pleased to have found out that there was another blogger at my University! And after months of reading along on each others blogs, the two of us finally met up this week.

Upon walking into the brightly lit store on Edinburgh's premier shopping street, we were greeted by some staff member's with a little bit of bubbly (which, despite my four classes the next day, I just couldn't refuse). We had a look around the store, snapping loads of pictures along the way. I felt a little unprofessional next to Hayley who was using her fancy Nikon camera, while I was just using my iPhone- I'm looking forward to seeing how her photos turned out!

After about a half an hour of taking photos, chatting up other bloggers, and sipping on champagne, one of the staff members gave a little presentation on the brand and its new products. We were even given the opportunity to try out a few samples!

Molton Brown is an English bath and body brand based out of London, that specializes in high-quality, luxurious shower gels, perfumes, and lotions. All of their products are not only beautifully scented, but they're also packaged perfectly for gift-giving! While I'm not particularly picky about my bath products, Molton Brown is definitely at the top of my list for treating my loved ones.

Just in time for Christmas, Molton Brown is promoting a new range of scents that are sure to get you into the holiday spirit! What I loved most about the products that they had us try out is that they're not necessarily your run-of-the-mill holiday scents- we're not talking the cliche peppermint, gingerbread, and pumpkin-spice flavors.

Instead, Molton Brown features fresh and sophisticated scents such as pink peppercorn. This little perfume initially caught my eye because of its bright color. I was skeptical of the scent at first, but once I sprayed a bit on my wrist I wasn't disappointed! It's just the right amount of spice, with just a touch of sweetness- far from being too abrasive like many perfumes can be.

Molton Brown's range goes beyond just bath and body products, offering gifts such as scented candles, aroma reeds, and even shower gel baubles to hang from your Christmas tree.

At the end of the evening, Molton Brown generously gifted each of us bloggers with two mini shower gels, and a voucher for a free hand and arm massage.

While I don't have a ton of experience when it comes to beauty products and blogging events, I'm so glad I attended this fun evening! Not only was I able to try out some new-to-me products, but I had the opportunity to talk to some inspiring bloggers about how they run their blogs!

And, most importantly, I met Hayley of course! She was great fun to be around, and I hope that we'll be seeing a lot more of each other soon.

Many thanks to the lovely staff at Molton Brown for hosting this event!



Hill Running, Falling, and Crawling

Something I learned- and learned quickly, for that matter- from being a runner here in Edinburgh is that what we in the Northeastern United States would call "small mountains" are considered to be "hills" in Scotland.

So, at the start of last year when I mindlessly decided to  sign up to go for a run in the Pentland "hills" with my running club, I horrendously underestimated the pain I ended up putting myself through. But despite the achey muscles that plagued me for the better part of a week after that fateful day, I found myself signing up once again this year to conquer the Pentlands. 

Call me crazy- because anyone who finds running in these hills fun truly is crazy. Myself now included because I do, in fact, consider waking up at 8 o'clock in the morning to slosh through muddy puddles and huff and puff up steep inclines to be a rather fun way to spend my Saturday. 

The group that trekked out to the Pentlands this past weekend was a unique one in that, as opposed to last year, not all of the participants were in the Hares and Hounds running club. As an EdEx event organized by Edinburgh Uni's Sports Union, the event was open to all students- meaning there were plenty of naive non-runners to scare. 

We split up into three different pace groups, and headed our separate ways, each with a couple of Haries leading the troops (I was not one of them as I don't frequent the Pentlands and my sense of direction is horrible).

The group that I went with took a fairly gentle route on some narrow trails around one of the hills before ascending the peak. And while I do say "trails" I think it's important to mention that sometimes our fearless leader led us way off the beaten path, testing the limits of the range of motion of our ankles and arches. 

I found the view above to be particularly stunning in the way that the light is filtering through the clouds in a very celestial manner. It almost made up for torture I put my feet through. Almost.   

As you can see, my trainers took a right beating from the mud and dirt that the hills graced us with. My shoes were actually pretty pristine prior to Saturday. But any hill runner (or cross country runner) will tell you that there's no avoiding the aesthetic damage to your shoes- hey, it makes them look well-loved! 

This photo doesn't actually do the steepness of this incline justice- I was essentially crawling up to the top, hence why I'm sitting down. 

This photo gives you a little bit of perspective on how vast the Pentlands really are: there are multiple peaks to explore, and the whole area is about 20 miles across. I was told that there's actually a race in which runners take on the entire Pentlands, covering every single peak in the range. And you thought I was crazy. 

This rather glorious selfie was taken at the top of the highest peak that we reached that day. I was clearly very excited to be at the top, but I certainly wasn't thinking of the impending doom of going back downhill. While you might think that downhill is easier, you have to keep in mind that these aren't gradual hills. They're not only long, but steep.

As one of our leaders put it, running downhill is basically "controlled falling" in which you should let your arms flail out to the sides so you look like a maniac, and give in to gravity. Apparently, "the worst way to run downhill is to walk." This couldn't be more true, since every time I started to walk downhill, I fell. 

Of course, pictures like this were necessary. I mean, why else would I put myself through this ordeal if I didn't get a photo out of it? One of the things that amazes me about the Pentlands is how close it is to the city center. I mean, after just a 15 minute bus ride, we were running through some pretty darn beautiful nature. And I think that's what makes Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular, so unique: that you can be having this wonderful urban experience one day, and then the next you can hop on a bus and find yourself in the rolling hills. It is truly incredible. 

To end this blog post, I'll leave you with a rare, unflattering, bonus-selfie of me with my Sainsbury's chocolate chip cookies and some crazy-eyes because I was so enthused to have them in my possession. And this moment captured here, ladies and gentlemen, is what made those many miles of running up some pretty insane hills completely and entirely worth it. 

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