Broke Folks’ Guide to Self-Care

Money can’t make you happy. But a lack of it can make you pretty unhappy. Being skint sucks. It doesn’t matter how cool being poor becomes, how many warehouse bars you open, how many pairs of ripped jeans you buy, the realities of actually having no money are pretty horrible. Even if you’re not actually living in poverty, which I never have been, thank goodness, having to obsessively count your pennies and swither over every purchase you make can take a nasty toll. And it’s easy to forget about looking after yourself when you’ve got bills stacking up. But honestly, self care is the most important thing. The most important. If you don’t take care of yourself and be kind to yourself, you’re going to burn out. Here are some of the things that I do to keep myself happy and healthy, even when my budget looks bleak.

1. Get the basics right.

Eat five pieces of fruit and veg a day. Drink two litres of water. Get eight hours sleep. Take 10000 steps.

Getting the basic stuff like this right is probably the easiest and most effective way of improving your physical and mental health. All of the things I listed up there are things that aren’t hard to do, they just take a little bit of effort. I know that I need to micromanage myself, or I would never do anything with my life. So I bought a 1.5 litre bottle for my desk. I fill it up in the morning and I make sure I finish it before I leave work. I have a pedometer which allows me to see exactly how much or how little I’ve done. When I’m feeling particularly organised, I make myself little lists where I can check off each glass of water or portion of fruit and veg. I’m basically a gigantic toddler, but I know how to make that work for me.

2. Make your space beautiful.

flowers decoration wellbeing

Not loving your home is absolutely rubbish for your state of mind. Your home should be somewhere that makes you feel safe and happy and…well…at home. But on a budget, a lot of us aren’t exactly living in Buckingham Palace. I’m really lucky that I found a beautiful flat in London, but I’ve dealt with some horror stories in the past. A university halls room with salmon walls, a resident tarantula and a carpet worthy of a penny arcade. A flat where the mouse infestation stopped us worrying about the seemingly unstoppable cracks in the ceiling and walls. An endless parade of heinous mouldy bathrooms. It might seem like putting lipstick on a pig, but dress your home up. I promise, it’ll make more of a difference than you’d think. I have an enormous, brightly patterned bedspread and it makes me smile every time I look at it. I love to buy fresh flowers and put them in my bedroom, even if it’s just a 95p bunch of daffodils in an old peanut butter jar. I put photos of people and places that I love on every surface, on pinboards, on the walls. A set of fairy lights across my desk took my halls room from magenta nightmare to cosy boudoir. Candles can change the whole feel of a room. Surround yourself with things that make you feel happy and peaceful. And try not to worry about that weird stain on the wall.

3. Move your body.

Most of the time, there is nothing that I want to do less than move my body. I sometimes think I was destined to be a large shrub rather than a person. And this only gets worse when I’m feeling low. But my very wise mother, who taught me most of the clever things that I know, taught me that everything feels better after a little dance in your kitchen. Grab your laptop and put on a song you love. You Shook Me All Night Long, Little Bitty Pretty One and the Power of Love (the Huey Lewis one) are my guaranteed brain pleasers. Now start dancing. Really dance, with your arms flailing about and everything. If you’re feeling down, this will probably feel totally contrived to start with, like some awful teambuilding exercise. But persevere, by the end of the first song, you’ll be loving it for real. Nothing gives me a bigger boost more immediately than an emergency danceathon.

4. Don’t move your body.

We spend most of our lives rushing around, doing a million things at once, competing with each other to be the most busy. This, shockingly, is not very good for you. Spread a blanket out on the ground. Put on one of those 10 hour meditation music mixes on Youtube. Lie down. Close your eyes. Take deep breaths. Let your mind wander. Don’t feel guilty about pressing pause for a little while. It’s amazing the good that taking ten minutes to be still and shut the hell up can do for you. Some of my best epiphanies come from lying on my floor with my rabbit licking my forehead and wondering whether he can start eating me yet.

5. Go outside.

clissold park london

Fresh air and sunlight and exercise and pretty things are all totally good for your wellbeing. Know where you can find all of these things? OUTSIDE. I know, outside sucks. If I was a shrub, I’d be an indoor shrub. But once you get off the sofa and through the door, outside is actually sort of great. If you live near a park, go and take a wander. Trees are good for the soul. If it’s a nice day, take a picnic. Food tastes better outside. Bonus points if the park has a pond or a lake…being near water makes me instantly about 42% happier.

6. Treat yo’self.

One of my favourite things in the world is a really scalding hot shower. Yes, I know it’s bad for my skin, but you can pry it from my crusty old hands. Buy yourself a really incredible smelling shower gel and take time to relax in the shower. I’m still eeking the last out of a Rituals shower gel I got for Christmas, but Dove and I Love have genuinely gorgeous scented products for brilliant prices. I’m a sucker for anything scented with peach, orange or jasmine. Cover yourself in gorgeous bubbles, close your eyes and pretend you’re in a Japanese spa. This is one of my top everyday pleasures, and I refuse to berate myself or feel silly for taking joy in such an insignificant moment. There are no little pleasures. There should be no guilty pleasures. Don’t be afraid to take happiness at every available opportunity. A lot of people might make fun of this, but that’s only because being cynical is the easiest way to pretend that you’re smarter than everyone else without actually having to learn stuff. Cynics suck. If people are trying to dim your happiness, it’s usually because they’re unhappy themselves. I will never stop being delighted by hot showers, long, long hugs, swipes of red lipstick, lazy cups of tea. I know I bang on about this all the time, but that’s because it’s important. Happiness is a choice, and you should choose it every single time you can. It’s also a habit, which you need to practise. And the more you practise, the easier and more reflexive that choice will become.

7. Feel grateful.

gratitude wellbeing

This one comes right off the back of the last one. Just because happiness is a choice doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. It is so, so tempting to mope instead. This seems like a fundamental flaw in the human psyche, but it’s true. We would rather be right than happy. We would rather be the martyr. We love a moan. For the past two weeks, I’ve been having a really rubbish time. With the exception of a completely life changing holiday, I have been miserable. Every little thing that could go wrong, did. Over and over again, and it really wore me down. These things pile up, and they can really get to you. So on my lunch hour, I went to a cafe, bought a hot chocolate and made a list of things in my life that make me happy. They ranged from travelling to new places, to having freckles, from Facetiming my mum, to baking apple pies. And actually, I found that I had a lot to be grateful for. I filled two notebook pages. Nothing had changed, the crappy things had all still happened, but suddenly the good was shining through. Lying on the floor like in number 4 is also an excellent time to have realisations like this. I don’t want to sound self righteous, or like I’m suggesting that if you’re unhappy, it’s your fault. It absolutely isn’t. And I’m no Pollyanna, it took me a fortnight of sulking and some very good advice before I got my head back on properly. But you can choose to see things differently. It’s really hard, and requires a bit of sacrifice, but it’s possible. Give it a go.

Life can be hard. It can be really, really hard. And when it is, it’s tempting to think of yourself as unimportant, and spend time focusing on everything else. But taking the time to do something good for yourself is so, so vital. You are important. You’ve got this. You deserve to be happy. Be gentle with yourself.

The North Remembers: Visiting Reykjavik

This weekend, Niall and I decided to escape the harsh London winter and head to the northernmost capital in the world, Reykjavik, Iceland.

Undeterred by the maximum temperature prediction of 4 degrees and the notoriously unpredictable weather, we packed our longjohns and woollens and hopped on a plane.

Despite being so cold that it was literally painful almost all of the time, the three days we spent in Iceland housed some of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen.

northern lights visit reyjavik

Yeah, including those. But first things first.

We started our time in Reykjavik with a trip to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa nestled among Iceland’s seemingly endless lava fields. The Blue Lagoon comprises an enormous pool of geothermally heated seawater. The seawater contains the active ingredient silica, as well as minerals and algae which heals and softens skin. And it’s gloriously, beautifully warm.

blue lagoon reykjavik iceland blue lagoon reykjavik iceland

I’ve always loved hot outdoor pools. There’s something so satisfying about feeling the cold air play around your shoulders and then ducking into gorgeous, scalding water. The Blue Lagoon takes it to another level, with a spectacular setting, buckets of silica mud to rub into your face and body and an in water bar. We floated around the lagoon for two glorious hours, feeling all our tension wash away. It was busy, but because the lagoon is so big, it was easy to find quiet spots to relax and make out. A word of warning, the water in the lagoon is very good for your skin, but not awesome on your hair. I loaded my hair up with conditioner before I got in and it still took five shampoos and a whole travel sized conditioner bottle before I could even get a comb through it. And even then, it was a struggle. I dread to think of the damage I did to my hair. Smother your hair in deep conditioner and try to keep it out of the water as much as possible.

We left the Lagoon after a couple of hour because we wanted to squeeze in an afternoon nap before catching the late night light show. At 10pm, we headed out into the freezing Reykjavik night in the hope of catching a glimpse of the elusive and magnificent Northern Lights. As we drove South towards the coast, the snow which had been fluttering down all day thickened and threatened to envelope the bus completely. Eventually, all we could see was white in all directions. After two hours of shivering in the blizzard, we got back on the bus, cold, wet and thoroughly miserable. Having been obsessed with the sky for as long as I can remember, I was desperate to see the lights. I reached peak grumpiness on that bus ride home. But then, about half an hour into the journey, the bus pulled over to the side of the road. A thin grey band stretched from the horizon into the night sky, dotted all around with stars. Fun fact: the lights appear grey to the naked eye most of the time, due to how we perceive colour at night. It’s only when we look at them on a camera that we see the bright colours. The grey band slowly split in two and started to twist across the sky.

northern lights reykjavik iceland

And then, out of nowhere, the band split and went shifting and skipping across the sky. The lights were dancing. And it was probably the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

northern lights reykjavik iceland northern lights reykjavik iceland

They might have been fashionably late, refusing to show up until 2am, but they were so worth the wait.

We arrived back at the hotel at 3am, begrudgingly set our alarms for 8am and fell into bed.

Early next morning, we got up and got on another bus to go explore Iceland’s Golden Circle. Comprising of Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir’s geysers and Thingvellir National Park, this infamous route takes in the most spectacular and bizarre of Icelandic scenery. We also added a stop to a tomato greenhouse, which was powered entirely by geothermal energy. They boasted a massive collection of tomato plants, which they grow all year round, boxes and boxes of bumblebees, adorable basil plants on each table and a cafe serving fresh tomato soup and bloody marys, made fresh from their tomatoes.

visit reykjavik iceland visit reykjavik iceland visit reykjavik iceland visit reykjavik iceland

After warming up with some soup and fresh bread, we headed back out into the cold to explore Iceland’s amazing natural landscape.

geysir iceland golden circle geysir iceland golden circle

First stop was Geysir, where we watched the enormous Strokker shoot boiling steam metres into the air. All the way to the burny boil. We lasted approximately three minutes in the cold and then made a dash for the visitor centre cafe. The Icelandic have a word for days like this: Gluggaveður. Literally translating as “window weather”, this word described weather that is beautiful, but best enjoyed through a window. We figured that the natives know best, so decided to follow their advice.

geysir iceland golden circle DSCF1041

Having consumed our second bowl of soup of the day, it was time to head for the Gullfoss waterfall. The waterfall cuts through an incredible snowscape, and is impossible to see until you’re right on top of it.

gullfoss iceland golden circle

Freezing our butts off.

gullfoss iceland golden circle

Again, we lasted about a minute outside before retiring to the cafe for hot chocolates and a slice of apple pie. It’s important to keep your energy up in these low temperatures you know.

The last stop on our tour was the incredible Thingvellir National Park. The park is situated in the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian continental plates, making for some incredible views. Lava fields and earthquake canyons stretch out as far as the eye can see, surrounded by dormant volcanos and cut through with icy blue rivers.

thingvellir iceland golden circle

I wasted no time in establishing myself as Queen in the North, ignoring Niall’s suggestion that the Young Wolf probably wouldn’t be shivering under her four layers of clothing.

thingvellir iceland golden circle

The snow which had been floating in the air started to fall with a bit more abandon, and it wasn’t long before we were stuck in our four hundredth blizzard of the holiday. So we made our way back to Reykjavik in search of alcohol to numb the cold. Having read a recommendation for Snaps restaurant on Tripadvisor, we decided to go check it out. And I’m so glad we did. Enormous windows, bare lightbulbs and hanging plants gave the place an almost dreamy, greenhouse feel. The atmosphere was warm and informal, and the food was to die for. I had a warm duck salad with pear, pomegranate and sweet potato, and Niall had an open porkbelly sandwich. Both were completely delicious and they definitely weren’t shy with their portions.

snaps reykjavik iceland snaps reykjavik iceland

Honestly, I ate until I was absolutely stuffed and still had a full plate of food in front of me. We passed on dessert, opting instead for another round of drinks to prepare us for the walk home.

We packed so much into our two and a half days, paying the price in sleep. Honestly, I’m still reeling a little. But I feel so lucky to have experienced this amazingly beautiful, volatile and completely quirky country.

Skál, to Iceland!

reykjavik iceland reykjavik iceland reykjavik iceland phallological museum

 

P.S. If you’d like to watch me taste all the weird assed Icelandic alcohol we bought in duty free, click here!

At Home Facials For Broke Folks

One of my favourite things to do in the world is to treat myself to a bit of pampering. In an ideal world, this would mean escaping to Gleneagles every other weekend for mango oil showers, facials and massages. Unfortunately, until somebody decides to publish my book and make it into an amazing blockbuster movie, that’s not really an option. But I hate to let a tight budget get in the way of some good me time.

So this is for you, my fellow broke girls. A step by step guide to my super budget at home facial.

at home facial skincare

1. Light a gorgeous candle.

This is very important. Also, stick on some chill out music or an episode of Don’t Tell the Bride or something. It’s time to relaaaaax.

2. Cleanse your face.

First, remove any eye makeup. I use a cotton pad soaked in Garnier Micellar Water. Be gentle with your eyes. Scrubbing at them can irritate your eyes and pull out your eyelashes, and tugging at the delicate skin underneath can cause premature wrinkles. Use soft sweeping motions to remove makeup. Then you can cleanse the rest of your face and neck. I have really dry skin, so I like thick, oily cleansers like Lush’s Ultrabalm. I smooth it into my face in circular motions and then wipe clean with a microfibre cloth. Coconut oil also makes a great cleanser but because it’s quite comedogenic, it can block some people’s pores, so listen to your skin on this one. But if it works for you, it leaves skin feeling super soft and clean and helps grow long, fluttery eyelashes.

3. Exfoliate.

Exfoliating removes build up of dead skin cells, allowing product to penetrate more thoroughly and leave your skin fresh and glowing. But be careful, you don’t want to overdo it. Don’t sand your face, you don’t want to take all your skin off, just the dead stuff. I’m still using my resurfastic, a microdermabrasion stick that was gifted to me a few months ago. But soft microfibre cloths also provide good exfoliation without damaging your skin. I picked up a stack of 6 of these for a pound in Savers. Again, use gentle circular motions and rinse.

4. Steam things up.

Fun fact: pores don’t open and close. They’re just little openings in your skin; they don’t have the muscles needed to open and shut. So all the stuff about steaming your face to open your pores and splashing cold water to close them is basically a myth. But steam can loosen all the junk that is hiding in your pores, which makes them appear smaller. Fill a bowl with some boiled water and leave to cool for a few minutes. Seriously, don’t stick your face over freshly boiled water. Steam that temperature will have no hesitation in messing your face right up. Once it’s at an acceptable, non-scalding temperature, cover your head with a towel and hover above the bowl for about ten minutes. Only your face has to hover. No worries if you can’t hover your entire body. If you have a cold, put a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil into the water and breath in healing goodness. Be warned, this will get a whole lot of crap out of your lungs. After ten minutes, rinse your face.

5. The mask.

Ah, the most satisfying and instagrammable part of the whole facial: the face mask.

at home facial face mask

Everybody loves a bathroom selfie.

I am currently obsessed with the Body Shop’s Warming Mineral Mask, which uses kaolin clay to draw out impurities. Unfortunately, there has been no scientific research that definitively proves kaolin clay has benefits for the skin, but I’m willing to overlook this for how awesome this mask feels on my face. It warms up on your skin and gives the feeling of stepping into a hot bath, but on your face. My skin always looks brighter after I use it, but take any miracle claims with a pinch of salt. If money is super tight, you can make your own face masks using ingredients that you probably already have!

Stuff not to put on your face, even if the internet tells you to:

  • Lemon. Lemon’s spot zapping powers have nothing to do with its antibacterial properties and everything to do with its bleaching abilities. The acids in lemon juice can reduce the appearance of spots by bleaching away some of the redness. They can also give you face burns. Don’t put bleach on your face.
  • Sugar. Sugar is a great scrub ingredient for your body, but is waaaay to rough and jagged for the skin on your face. It will scratch your face right up. And ain’t nobody got time to try and apply makeup on a scratched up base.
  • Bicarbonate soda. Ooooh, I am guilty of this one! I used to use baking soda to exfoliate my face and was thrilled with how smooth it felt afterwards, oblivious to the damage I was doing to my skin. Bicarbonate soda is far too alkaline for use on your skin, as it disrupts your skin’s barrier. And the more you use it, the more damage you do. Yikes.
  • Toothpaste. Don’t put toothpaste on your damn spots. Toothpaste gets rid of spots by drying out your skin, which I’d imagine isn’t really what you’re going for. Also, all that minty fresh menthol can be seriously irritating on your skin.

Stuff you should totally put on your face:

  • Honey. Honey is antibacterial and hugely hydrating, so is a great ingredient in DIY face masks. Just stay away from beehives. And hungry bears.
  • Porridge oats. Oats are an extremely gentle exfoliant, and their healthy fats also help to moisturise and boost your skin’s protective layer.
  • Yoghurt. The lactic acids in yoghurt make for a great chemical exfoliant – perfect if your skin isn’t up to physical exfoliation.
  • Avocado. Okay, if you’re buying avocados, you probably aren’t broke. But in case you just fancied getting hands on with your skin care, avocado’s vitamin A and D content can help to repair damage in the skin, leaving it nourished and comfy.

Leave your mask on for the recommended time and then rinse well.

6. Toning

Swipe a cotton pad soaked in alcohol free toner over your skin. This removes any traces of dirt or face mask, and helps prepare skin to absorb your moisturiser. I use Garnier’s Micellar Water again, because obsessed.

7. Moisturising.

Now that you’ve spent all this time cleaning your face, it’s time to put some niceness back into it again. I’m currently using Inlight’s Organic Night Balm, which I was gifted a sample of, and which I rave about here, but it’s pretty pricey. On my budget days, I use E45 cream. Seriously, I slather my entire body in this stuff and it’s magical.

And you’re done! Sleep on your beautiful clean skin and try not to ruin it the next day by stroking your face incessantly.

Do you have at home spa days, or is this a weird Fiona thing? What do you put in your DIY face masks? Have I missed a vital facial step? Get in touch in the comments or at EscapologistGl!

All of the Flowers, All of the Time

I love flowers. I really do. Having fresh flowers in the house makes me about 72% happier. I keep a jar of flowers by my bed, so I can see them in the morning, before I have the chance to get grumpy. So I was pretty excited to be moving so close to Columbia Road’s famous flower market.

Of course, this excitement translated into me completely failing to go for my first six months in London. But this weekend, we finally made it!

columbia road flower market

Gee, thanks cloudy sky for making all my photos totally blown out.

Picking Mother’s Day for our first visit probably wasn’t the best idea we’ve ever had. It was so completely packed that at points we literally just had to stand still and wait for the crowd in front of us to move. So that wasn’t ideal.

But the flowers. My lord, the flowers. They erupted in every colour from every direction, and the air was filled with the most incredible scents. I could get drunk on the smell of jasmine, it’s so damn beautiful.

columbia road flower market columbia road flower market columbia road flower marketI think my favourite thing about the market was that, despite the fact that they were selling flowers, the sellers were such market sellers. They flirted, yelled and cajoled their way into any sale they could. They berated passers by who had empty hands or frowns on their faces. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen an enormous man holding up an orchid and bellowing “Cor, look at the size of this one! Three stems!” in a thick North London accent.

White roses were definitely flavour of the month, blooming from almost every stall, but no matter what your taste, I’d bet you’d find something you like. In fact, I was absolutely thrilled to find big bunches of white iris, my favourite flowers, which I can almost never find in florist shops. I took a bunch of white and a bunch of blue for my bedroom.

columbia road flower market columbia road flower marketThis day definitely didn’t showcase the market at its best. We probably picked the peak time of day, on the peak day of the year to go, so it was hard to get a proper look at the flower stalls. We got kind of swept along in the middle of a big crowd, having to crane our necks to get a look at the wares on show. And once we got to the end, it started to rain. Not ideal. But even at its worst, the flower market was pretty incredible. I’m a sucker for beautiful flowers, and it was pretty special to be completely surrounded by them. Not to mention the chintzy cafes and vintage stores that run up and down Columbia Road itself. I’m definitely going back, as soon as the weather picks up…and I might even make a habit of it. It might even be worth getting up early for.

columbia road flower market

Magic Star Deep Dish Cookies

You know those days where you just need a bit of comfort food? Where all ideas of health and calories go right out the window. Where you want something warm and sweet and lovely.

Minds out of the gutter, you folks sniggering at the back.

I was having one of those days last week, and in my sweet toothed madness, managed to create probably my greatest invention ever. Milky Way Magic Star Deep Dish Cookies.

I’ll say that again. Magic. Star. Deep. Dish. Cookies.

magic star chocolate chip cookie recipe

Yes. Yes that is an enormous chunk of melted, gooey Magic Star. Wedged in an inch thick layer of sticky, golden cookie dough. Still soft and sweet on the bottom, crunchy and toffee like on top. Basically, this is a whole lotta heaven for such a little bowl. And they can be all yours in less than half an hour.

If you fancy making your own (of course you do), here’s what you’ll need to make four:

125g self raising flour
100g soft light brown sugar
50g caster sugar
100g melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
50g Milky Way Magic Stars

Cream all the ingredients except the Magic Stars together in a mixer until they form a soft dough. Add the Magic Stars and mix with your hands to get them evenly through the dough. Really get your hands in there, this is an awesome way to get general world-rage out.

chocolate chip cookie recipePreheat your oven to 160C. Lightly grease some 3 inch ramekins and half fill with cookie mix. Don’t put too much in, these babies will rise up like Godzilla and swamp your kitchen given half a chance.

chocolate chip cookie recipeStick your cookies in the oven for 20 minutes, until the top starts to go golden brown. Don’t overcook them, you still want them to be moist underneath. Drown in cream and serve with a big mug of tea and a hug from your favourite person.

chocolate chip cookie recipe

The Anti-Pinterest Guide To Getting Up In The Morning

how to wake up in the morning

This post is for the duvet hoggers. The just-one-more-push-of-the-snooze-buttoners. The people who could sleep for 11 hours and still take a nap mid afternoon. The people who have 40 morning yoga routines growing dusty on their Pinterest boards. Basically, this post is for the people like me.

We thought it would get easier as the mornings got lighter, but it just hasn’t. And this month, the clocks go forward, robbing us of a precious, precious hour. What’s to be done?

I’ve read a million articles that claim to hold the secret to bouncing out of bed in the morning. This is not one of those articles. I can’t turn you into a morning person, but I can tell you how I, the least morningy person ever, make my mornings more bearable. Wrap yourself in a blanket, stick on the kettle and read on…

1. Love rolling over and going back to sleep? Do that. 

For me, the best thing about a lie in is that sort of sleepy, half awake time where you can snuggle back into your duvet and just drift in and out of sleep. So every morning, I set an alarm for an hour before I need to get up. This lets me have a sort of fake lie in every day. Just remember to set an actual alarm for when you inevitably fall back asleep.

2. Give yourself something beautiful to look at.

I’ve started buying myself bunches of fresh flowers and putting them on my bedside table. This means that I see them as soon as I wake up, before I get the chance to get grumpy. Buy yourself some gorgeous flowers or put a photo that makes you smile by your bed. Again, it won’t make you bounce out of bed, but it might stop you swearing before you’ve even properly opened your eyes.

3. Cut out the unnecessary stuff.

In winter, I shower at night time because doing it on cold mornings makes me so miserable. I also don’t put on makeup on weekdays, because to be honest, I’d rather have the extra 15 minutes in bed. Don’t force yourself to do yoga, make smoothies or keep a dream journal if it’s making you miserable. Delegate to the night before, when you hate everything less.

4. But keep something nice.

Every morning, no matter how rushed I am, I always make time to enjoy my cup of tea. I will rush around like a mad person trying to get my clothes on and my breakfast made, but I will sit for 15 minutes minimum, sipping my tea and getting used to the fact that I have to be awake for like 15 hours now. Pick a part of your morning that you actually enjoy and dedicate some time to it. Take a long, hot shower, if showering in the morning doesn’t give you the sads. Read a chapter of your book. Paint your nails. Whatever you like. Take a little time away from being enraged at your own existence.

5. Do what you gotta do.

I eat breakfast in bed. Truth. I get up, get dressed, make my breakfast and then get back into bed to eat it. And why not? It’s warm and cosy and it makes it so much easier to get out of bed when I know I’ll be climbing back into it once I’m dressed. Hey, I didn’t say this list was gonna be pretty. If there’s anything you can do to make your morning more bearable, just do it. Ignore those people over there doing sun salutations and judging you. We fellow duvet monsters have your back. Unless you’re having a glass of wine to ease you into the day. Then we probably have to talk.

6. If you have a partner who is allowed to sleep later than you, leave them.

My boyfriend doesn’t have to get out of bed until after I have to leave the flat. And I hate him for it every single morning. That he brings me breakfast in bed at the weekends is probably the only reason I haven’t killed him in a fit of morning rage yet. I am exceptionally grumpy before 10am.

Have you got a secret to getting up in the morning? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @EscapologistGl!

Shine Bright Like A Diamond: How To Be Your Own PR, with Antonia Mariconda

I stepped down the stairs at the Soho Hotel to the now familiar sound of heels clacking, cameras clicking and new connections being made. This was the third of Antonia Mariconda’s workshops that I’ve been to, and as usual, she didn’t disappoint.

Antonia is an award winning media professional and safety in beauty campaigner, who began her interest in beauty after significant reconstructive surgery following a car accident. She took this tragedy and turned it into a wildly successful career.

Basically, this is a woman who knows how to grab life by the balls.

And this workshop was all about how we can learn to do that too. How to find our inner sparkle and make it shine bright enough that everyone else can see.

antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshopWe settled in with the usual gorgeous breakfast spread and exciting goody bags…just what I need at ten on a Saturday morning!

antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshop

Armed with my notepad, a cup of tea and a whole lot of ambition, I couldn’t wait for Antonia to get started. On seeing Antonia for the first time, I couldn’t help expecting a certain personality to follow. I expected her to be fluffy. To be ditzy. To be shallow. I literally could not have been more wrong if I tried. You don’t get where this woman is without having some serious steel in there. She is determined, she’s smart and she point blank refuses to take any nonsense from anyone. Her criticisms and anecdotes are blunt and sometimes brutal, but cushioned in the genuine warmth of someone who truly wants to see you succeed. She’s a woman who lifts others up, who wants to share her knowledge and help others achieve what she has. She’s also brilliantly relatable, quipping throughout the presentation about the beads dropping off her skirt, and handling an impromptu Rihanna outburst with typical grace and aplomb.

antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshop

Seriously, why this room is called the Indigo Room, I will never understand.

The presentation lasted for three hours, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here. If you want to know all the secrets, get yourself booked onto her next workshop. But since I love you all very much, I’ll share just a few of the gems (see what I did there?):

1. You have to know who you are.

Sounds obvious, I know. And yet, when Antonia picked on workshop attendees and asked them to pitch themselves in one sentence, most struggled. And when she asked for the two words that they’d write under our names on TV shows, we struggled even more. When I worked in marketing, I had product pitches that described our service in 250 words, 100 words, 140 characters, one sentence and a tagline. I prepared pitches from lengthy investor presentations to 60 second elevator pitches. I knew it inside out. So why should it be any different when you’re marketing yourself?

2. You have to know who you’re talking to.

Again, seems obvious. But it’s so important to know your audience. It affects everything from the visuals you use, to your tone, to how you choose to communicate.

3. You have to know what you want to say.

Everything that you do in the public domain is PR. Every tweet, every comment, every picture is PR, and it all comes together to create people’s image of you. So make sure that you know what you want that image to be. Make sure you know what message you want to put out there.

4. You have to believe that you are awesome.

Let’s be honest, if you don’t believe you’re awesome, why should anyone else? You have to be your own absolute number one cheerleader, and not be ashamed to shout your achievements from the rooftops. I’m Fiona. I’ve been published in a number of online and print media sources. I single handedly ran a marketing department for a year, at the age of 22. I’m a pretty talented writer. I once starred in a national media campaign with Cancer Research UK. Let’s have a brag off! Leave your best brags in the comments, or tweet me. Be your own champion. Back yourself.

5. You have to put yourself out there.

This is an old cliche, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. But like so many, it’s a cliche for a reason. Pitch a story to the Huffington Post. Ring up ITV and ask if they need an expert to go on This Morning. Don’t keep yourself small because it feels more comfortable. You’d be surprised how much you can blag with a bit of confidence. Believe that you’re important, take the risk of putting yourself out there, and you bet that people will believe right along with you. Fake it til you make it, and you will. Okay, that’s enough cliches for one bullet point.

The advice that Antonia gives is like gold dust, and I always leave her workshops feeling ready to take on the world. But actually, I haven’t touched on the most amazing element of the workshops, for me at least.

antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshop antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshop antonia mariconda cosmedic coach workshopSix months ago, none of these women knew each other. And on the surface of it, we don’t really have much in common. In this group, we have mums, bloggers, scientists, business owners, make up artists, aestheticians and more. We are scattered from all over the country. And each of us are at a different stage in our stories and our careers. But Antonia’s workshops seem to attract a certain type of woman. Strong, ambitious, warm, going to Antonia’s workshops and connecting with these women on Twitter and in real life, I have surrounded myself with a network of women who want to see each other succeed. All of us have different areas of expertise, and we use them to build each other up. They inspire me every single day, and I feel very lucky to have a support group like this in my life. Not to mention that they’re mean craic over a bottle of wine.

Despite my insistence on Twitter, Antonia isn’t a fairy godmother. She doesn’t wave her magic wand and make your life better. She does something much more important. She shows you that you are the one holding the power, the magic is inside you, and it’s been there the whole time just waiting to be unleashed. Go forth and sparkle, fellow fairies. Yes, even you guys.

Benefit Cosmetics’ Curls Best Friend Pop Up

Nestled in the heart of Theatreland, Benefit’s Curl’s Best Friend pop up parlour is a warm, welcome respite from the grey wintery weather outside.

benefit curls best friendThis isn’t the first pop up venture that Benefit have launched in London…I was devastated to be moving to London just a couple of weeks after their world cup bar closed its doors. So this time, I booked myself a table as soon as I saw it on Twitter. Gladrags on, I hopped on a tube straight back to the 1950s.

benefit cosmetics curls best friend

I took a bunch of serious versions of this picture, but liked this accidental shot better. Some girls just aren’t meant to pout.

I got that skirt for £2 in an Oxfam shop. Can we just take a second to appreciate that? And our awesome Six Nations setup, of course. Paired with my Kate Bush t-shirt and the patterned tights I bought for the Gossip Girl party.

Benefit have dolled up their pitch on Greek Street in full 1950s glamour, with pink tables and plush sofas straight out of Grease, hairdryer themed lights and a big, bright bar serving all manner of delights.

benefit cosmetics curls best friend benefit cosmetics curls best friend benefit cosmetics curls best friendWith staff as bubbly as the drinks, Francesca and I immediately made ourselves at home and set about sampling everything the menu had to offer.

benefit cosmetics curls best friend benefit cosmetics curls best friendHow gorgeous are those cocktails? Now refusing to drink anything that doesn’t come in a milk bottle with a stripy straw. Also, they serve popcorn as a bar snack along with the drinks. I might ask if I can move in.

After a few hours putting the world to rights over many glasses of bubbles and even more jars of popcorn, we were whisked away by the gorgeous Rachel, who was playing the role of Benefit’s Honest Leah for the evening.

benefit cosmetics curls best friendTo be honest (Leah), if I looked like that, I’d dress like that all the time. Just doing my shopping in Tesco in a sequinned Jessica Rabbit ballgown.

Anyway.

The pop up is actually in honour of Benefit Cosmetics’ new mascara, Rollerlash. Ohmygod, if you haven’t tried this yet, get on it. It is genuinely life changing. I’ve got a mascara post coming up in the next few days and you can bet your ass it’s playing a starring role. So, in honour of the new mascara, the second floor of the parlour is dedicated to heaven.

Sorry, did I say heaven? Slip of the tongue. I meant Benefit makeup.

benefit cosmetics curls best friendThe beauty parlour offers a range of treatments, including brow shaping, makeovers, faux blowdrys, fabulous discounts on Benefit products (yes, including Rollerlash. Get on it) and a photobooth to enjoy the fruits of the team’s very hard work. This tiny pink room is what dreams are made of. I may have shed a silent tear.

After gawping at the parlour for a good ten minutes, we headed back downstairs for a final glass of champagne to toast Francesca’s birthday. And Rachel confirmed her status as national hero by bringing us some cupcakes for the birthday girl.

benefit cosmetics curls best friendBasically, go here. Get a cupcake. Try both cocktails. Take a selfie with the Rollerlash sign. I command it.

I had an absolutely amazing time at the bar, it was the perfect way to while away a very rainy Saturday afternoon. In fact, I’ve already booked a table to try out the late night third floor Noir Bar…

benefit cosmetics curls best friend noir bar