It Starts Now

I’m so excited that I arrive half an hour early and have to sit in the lobby of the uber stylish Hoxton Hotel, people watching and becoming increasingly frantic that everyone walking past looks infinitely cooler than I do. The beloved imposter syndrome sets in but has to take a back seat; there’s nothing in this here world that would make me miss one of my favourite writers in conversation with one of my favourite websites, especially when the odds of free cocktails are high.

Photo provided by the lovely folks at Aperol UK.

Photo provided by the lovely folks at Aperol UK.

The event is called It Starts Now, a name that runs up my spine and reminds me of that whispered promise that the New Year brings. It’s run by the Debrief, sponsored by Aperol and plays host to three amazing bloggers who will be telling us exactly how to grab 2016 by the unmentionables.

I’m at the event solo. This is the undeniable downside to having cool friends…they are literally always booked out. I tentatively introduce myself to another girl in the corridor, Hannah, and by the time the doors open, we are already cheerily discussing micropenises. We are ushered into a bar that looks like it leapt directly out of Pinterest: black and white chequered tiles, bright orange everything, squashy armchairs, warm white fairy lights, bottles of stinging orange Aperol scattered artfully around. We’re given a cocktail each and advised to hang onto our glasses for top ups. This is excellent news.

Hannah’s plus one, Sarah, arrives shortly after and turns out to be just as excellent as Hannah. They very nicely let me gatecrash their evening and it is definitely their fault that I don’t have a single non-blurry photo of the night. I’m far too busy giggling and drinking Aperol Spritzes to stand still enough for a photo.

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After a little mingling, we are brought into a tiny cinema room and this is where the fun really starts. Jo from food blog Jo Eats London, Laura from lifestyle blog Superlatively Rude and Zara from beauty blog Mouldy Fruit sit in front of us and reveal the secrets to making 2016 a truly great year. Laura’s blog has been one of my favourites for a very long time. She’s one of the most stunning, truthful writers that I know, and if you haven’t read her blog before, you absolutely should. When I meet her, I instinctively throw myself at her, before panicking a split second too late that she isn’t a hugger. Of course, she is, so when I say goodbye, she gets a proper hug. Jo and Zara are both new discoveries for me but hearing them speak is amazing.

Jo talks about what’s going to be hotting up and what’s going to be cooling off in our kitchens. Cupcakes are over, thank the lord. Give me a slice of proper cake any day. So are spiralisers. Pasta is the way forward, says Jo. I think we’ll get on just fine. Jo is warm and sweet and funny and completely succeeds in making me very hungry. Apparently, in 2016, we need to be eating cauliflower. And doughnuts. And I’ll raise a glass to that any day.

Laura chats about life, love and social media, not necessarily in that order. Chat really is the right word for it. She goes off on tangents and laughs at her own notes when they get pompous – “I regularly prune my social media garden…what does that even mean?”, she chuckles at one point – and has all of us in stitches as she mourns the loss of her slightly uncool imaginary celebrity BFF Khloe Kardashian. Her message is the same one that rings out through her writing: do what feels good. She talks about authenticity and truth and beauty and I feel like standing up and doing a little victory dance every five minutes.

Zara is talking beauty. More specifically, beauty trends that will look just as good on your actual face as they do on Instagram. As she so aptly puts it, we’ve all gotten to the stage where we feel like we should have five Instagram filters on our faces before we even walk out the door. Excessive contouring is swapped for dewy, glowy skin, nude Kylie Jenner lips are replaced with bold cherry lips and swipes of turquoise eyeliner. I’m excited. Like the others, Zara started her blog because she felt like somehow, she had something to say. And she certainly does. I take a full page of notes of beauty products that I want to buy.

Zara, Jo and Laura.

Zara, Jo and Laura.

All three are warm and fun and gorgeous in every sense of the word. I leave the room feeling like 2016 is probably going to be the year that I take over the world. Sarah, Hannah and I head back into the bar where we sit and put the world to rights, drink a few more Aperol spritzes than is really appropriate for a school night and swap social media links and story ideas, before being politely ushered out after everyone else has left. What else are ya gonna do on a Wednesday night, right? Take a deep breath, my darlings. 2016 is here. It’s going to be a big one, if you’ll let it. Relax. Do you. Do what feels good. Introduce yourself loudly. Throw yourself in for the hug. Order another drink. Laugh too much. Get inspired. This is your life. It starts now.

On the Razz

One of the best and worst things in my life is that I’m surrounded by people who encourage me to pursue the things I’m passionate about with absolutely zero fear and often, zero consideration of whether they’re actually a good idea.

So when I say things like “Hey, I could totally throw a blogger event for Cancer Research”, I frequently find myself standing in a basement bar in Dalston, surrounded by goody bags, helping a lovely beauty therapist set up a mobile massage chair.

The Razz for Life was on.

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I put on my party dress, laced up my converse, inked up for the Pink Army and casually took 30 goody bags on a rush hour bus in 25 degree heat. Not for the first time, I feared I might be slightly mad.

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We would be Razzing it up in the basement of the fabulous Farr’s School of Dancing in Dalston, which is every bit as cool as you would imagine a basement bar in Dalston to be.

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Of course, I couldn’t entertain a big bunch of bloggers all on my ownsome, so I enlisted help from some of the coolest cats I know.

First up was Richard from Sniffy Wiffy, a body lotion brand that I absolutely adore. I met him and his wife last year at a blogger event and have raved about them to anyone who will listen at every available opportunity since.

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Their lotions are made with just five ingredients, smell incredible and each label contains instructions on how to perform self-exams on your breasts and/or testicles (delete as appropriate). They also donate to Cancer Research UK and Ballboys every time you buy a jar. My guests barely got through the door before I was wheeling them over to the Sniffy Wiffy table and thrusting pots of Kiwi and Lime body lotion in their faces. Luckily, they all seemed to enjoy it.

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I knew that all this talk of body lotion would put my ladies in the mood for a little pampering and luckily I had the lovely Sarah from Spa by Car on hand to help me spoil them rotten.

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As well as charming the pants off us with her gorgeous South African accent, Sarah was treating us to mini manicures and amazing Lava Angels hot shell massages. Hot. Shell. Massages. I know. I was too busy running about the place like a mad person to take advantage of this, but I have it on good authority that it’s probably the best damn massage you’ll ever get. I’m totally booking one in as soon as I get paid this month.

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Getting spoiled is hungry work, so I’d arranged some sweetness to tide us over. I met Polly from the Cake Diaries at the Benefit Pop Up Bar back in March and immediately fell in love with her scrumptious blog. When I first got in touch with her about the event, I suggested an idea that I thought might be a little out there, expecting her to say no. Instead, she took it and ran with it, making me doughnut kebabs instead of cupcakes, but retaining that all important message that rang out through the event:

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Look me in the eye and tell me that those are not the coolest cakes you’ve ever seen ever. I think I ate about seven sticks of these.

I’d also put out some Race for Life back signs, some glitter glue and some transfer tattoos, worrying that I was being painfully uncool by expecting people to be into arts and crafts. I went upstairs to get a drink and came back down to this:

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Everyone was totally into the arts and crafts. And I got to pass on my plentiful transfer tattoo knowledge to a non 90s kid.

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The goody bags inevitably drew everyone’s eye and after much shuffling and peeking, they were doled out, along with some fabulous raffle prizes. I’d like to say a huge thank you to the brands who donated to my goody bags, as well as the folks from Sniffy Wiffy, Spa by Car, Lava Angels and Farr’s. Their generosity meant that I was able to put on my event completely for free, meaning that every penny of donations went straight to Cancer Research UK. And my ladies got some amazing treats as well as helping out a great cause. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have undoubtedly seen my brilliant sheet mask selfies at the hands of Timeless Truth Beauty Masks. These babies aren’t just good for scaring the life out of your partner though, they pack a serious skincare punch. I love to use them to give my skin a quick pick me up if it’s looking sad. They also got some lovely samples from Inlight Organics, including the night balm, which I literally kissed for a photo in my bumper skincare post a while back. Hifas da Terra, one of the quirkiest beauty brands I’ve come across, donated a whole load of their magic serum, which utilises the healing power of mushrooms to perfect your skin. They’ll also get the chance to try out Forever Living’s Aloe skincare range, which I haven’t had the chance to sample yet. Report back, ladies, you know how I get about skincare.

But the best thing about this event wasn’t the goody bags or the doughnuts (although both were pretty damn good), it was getting to hang out with so many totally awesome people all at once. I got to see Tara and Jo, who I became friends with during the Beach Body party, I got to finally meet Hayley from Curves ‘n’ Curls in person. I got to know a whole lot of fantastic, inspiring, sunshiney women, and I really hope I get the chance to see all of them again.

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Since I threw the Razz for Life one week ago, I have had three separate run ins with cancer. Some are people that I care about dearly, some are people that I only know by association. I get defiant about cancer a lot, and most of the time it’s a real positive, passionate defiance. But in reality, cancer doesn’t care how sassy we are. We talk about bravery and strength when it comes to beating cancer, but the truth is, cancer doesn’t care about that either. Every day, cancer takes incredible, courageous, wonderful people from us, and the only thing that will stop that is research. I am so, so proud to have raised over £200 with this event. That’s 6000 microscope slides. That’s a cancer support nurse. That’s a clinical trial. And if we managed to throw a little sass its way at the same time, all the better. Cancer, I am coming to get you. And I will never, ever stop.

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If you would like to support Cancer Research UK, my donation page is still open at https://www.justgiving.com/Fiona-Longmuir/. Thanks!

The Razz For Life

So. I’m throwing us a party.

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I don’t know about you guys, but I am way, way over cancer getting all up in our business and taking away the people that we love.

For anyone who doesn’t know my history, my mum was diagnosed with cervical cancer when I was just 16. My sister Sophie was 11. This completely sucked. But amazing advances made by organisations like Cancer Research UK meant that 15 years after my dad lost his mum to cancer, I didn’t lose mine. She beat its ass and now spends her time drinking cocktails in her Spanish apartment, taking hilarious selfies with our dog and cruising the Norwegian fjords.11243676_921685944537392_512823715_n

Awesome.

But I’m not through with cancer yet. Because while I was lucky enough to keep my mum, lots of people haven’t been. And this is not over until no mother ever has to sit her kids down and tell them she has cancer.

So I’m doing what Glasgow girls do best: picking a fight and throwing a party.

On the razz:
out enjoying oneself or celebrating, especially while drinking freely.

We will be taking over the fabulous basement bar at Farr’s School of Dance in Dalston.

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We’ll be filling this sexy speakeasy with flashes of hot Race for Life pink, decadent treats and amazing people.

We’re gonna have cupcakes from the fantastic, gorgeous Polly from the Cake Diaries.

We’re gonna have goody bags for every guest, featuring amazing products from Timeless Truth Beauty Masks, Inlight Organic Skincare, Hifas da Terra and Race for Life.

We’ll have the chance to win a massive bumper goody bag worth over £100, with goodies from the Body Shop, Nails Inc, Essence and more.

We’ll have glorious heated massages from Lava Angels.

You’ll be able to chat to the folks from Sniffy Wiffy about their amazing products and how they can help you check yourself for the early signs of breast and testicular cancer.

And we’ll have more surprises to be announced closer to the time.

Fancy coming along? Of course you do! Just drop me a line at theescapologistsdaughter@gmail.com. Places for the event are limited, so get in touch!

Cancer, we’re coming to get you. And we’re gonna party all over you.

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!

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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.

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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.

The Lyndsey Loves Launch

Last week saw a brand new pretty things company launch onto the scene, and it was celebrated with a suitably pretty and glitzy launch at Chloe’s Beauty Bar in Essex. We passed through the velvet ropes and across the red carpet into a veritable wonderland of balloons and bubbles.

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There was glitter everywhere, the champagne was plentiful and in true Essex fashion, the girls looked like they’d been photoshopped. A table at the back showcased the best bits from Lyndsey’s fab collection.

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Everything was beautiful, and I could have scooped everything off the table into my handbag and gone home happy, but here are a few of my favourites:

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Everything was seriously girly and pretty, with enough quirk and edge to stop it becoming twee. I was seriously trying to come up with reasons that I would need a dinosaur lunch box in my life, beyond “I just want it”. And I really do. A lot. As well as the quirky novelty pieces, there was plenty of stylish homeware, including some of the most delicious candles I’ve come across in a while. In fact, I might ask for one in my Christmas stocking this year, if Santa is listening.

The event also gave me the chance to catch up with the utterly wonderful Tara from Headline Beauty Blog and Vicky from Rambling Makeup, as well as bumping into a whole host of new blogging faces who I hope to see again soon. I had such a lovely night that I stayed far too long and had to run for my train in my completely unsensible shoes. Thanks for having me Lyndsey – I had a ball!

Can you think of a reason I would need a dinosaur lunchbox? This is important guys. Get in touch in the comments or @EscapologistGl.

The Escapologist’s Daughter is up for two UK Blog Awards! You can vote in the Lifestyle category here and the Young Person’s Recognition category here. I’m not above bribery and I make really delicious cakes.

Build-A-Beauty-Blog Workshop, With Antonia Mariconda*

Today, I went to my first ever blogger event.

*Humorous sound effect of cherry being popped*

I put on my best beauty blogger outfit, packed my notepad and my grown up girl lipstick in my bag, and headed for the Soho hotel.

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Apologies for the blurry photo – my mirror is dusty because I am a sham of an adult.

I arrived at the very chic Soho hotel, tucked away behind the hum of Oxford Street and was directed to the Indigo room. The Indigo room was basically the pinkest room I’ve ever been in, but I’ll forgive it since it boasted the snazziest wallpaper in the world.

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Get a load of that. The room was buzzing with beauty bloggers and industry professionals, all here to learn how to build a successful beauty blog from a serious beauty heavyweight.

I picked a table, and somehow, in a room of 40 people, in the middle of London, managed to pick a seat next to a fellow Glasgow girl. We chatted and got to know the other ladies at our table, all while tucking into some lovely breakfast goody bags.

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The bag contained loads of yummy snacks, and I wasted no time in scoffing a white chocolate and macadamia Clif Bar and a carton of pineapple coconut water. That’s right, I got to drink coconut water and pretend like I was fancy. Will let you know if I wake up looking like Beyonce tomorrow.

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I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the texture of coconut water, and I have to say, I kind of see what they mean. It’s almost oily in texture, but it tasted pretty good, plus, you know, Beyonce.

Then our host, the lovely, lovely Antonia Mariconda took to the stage, and spent the next 3 hours explaining, inspiring and giggling with us. With the help of tech wizard (official job title), Mark Bugg and freelance PR Jenny Pabila, Antonia took us through the basics of building a successful beauty blog from the ground up.

Confession time: I had a preconceived idea of what Antonia was going to be like. Despite absolutely adoring beauty products, spending far too much time reading beauty blogs and being a staunch lipstick feminist, I still had a harmless, but undeniably prejudiced idea of what she would be all about. And she absolutely blew me out of the water. By talking about her own experiences, as well as those of some inspirational women in the room, she reminded me that blogging is about growth and inspiration, about your journey through the world, and that sometimes, something as simple as a beauty product can turn everything around. She was so much more than the glossy, superficial beauty queen I had expected. And she reminded me that beauty and blogging can both be good for the soul. Yes, I got mushy. I went there. Deal with it.

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Mark doing his thang.

The trio covered every stage of blogging, from knowing when you’re ready to blog, to using WordPress correctly, from developing your voice, to managing your relationships with brands and companies. Antonia cut in with anecdotes of the things that she had done right, as well as things she had done very, very wrong. She was brilliantly, hilariously candid, and wasn’t afraid in the slightest to use herself as a bad example. The presentation managed to contain tips that were as relevant for bloggers just starting out, like me, as they were to bloggers with 5,000 followers who were looking to take it to the next level. All three speakers were warm, funny and I totally wanted to take all of them for a pint afterwards. I learned some amazing tips, but more than that, I left feeling like I could take on the world. I felt like everything was out there, just waiting for me to reach out and grab it. I wanted to write. I felt…oh god, I don’t even want to say it but there’s no other word…empowered.

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To save this post from being approximately 4000 words long, I decided to chop it up into sumptuous little bites that you can peruse at your leisure. Stay tuned for the next post, what you all really wanted to know…what was in the goody bags (Part 1)(Part 2)?

What’s the best blogger event you guys have ever been to? Who gave you career changing advice? What inspires you to blog? Chat with me in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.

*I was given a complimentary ticket to this event for the purposes of review. All opinions are completely my own and completely truthful – promise!