An Evening Devoted to Caring For You

How do you chill out after a busy day? Can you unwind easily or do you still find yourself scrolling through Facebook an hour after you got home? Do you spend all night refreshing work emails and going over in your head what you said in that meeting (why did I say that? Cue panic!) I do too. But recently I’ve noticed there are a few things I can do to take a step back and look after me…

Things have been really busy recently (and unfortunately I didn’t hit my goal of one blog per week) and my little book of ideas keeps growing as I jot things down but actually writing up my ideas is another story.

It is okay though. I always told myself that blogging would not be another pressure to my life but more of an outlet to practice my creative writing and explore things that shape my life, capturing the developments that usually so quickly pass me by. Most certainly not another thing on the to-do list.

So in a sort of no pressure kind of way I wanted to share my steps to destressing, relaxing and having the ultimate self-care night for all you busy 20 somethings out there. There’s no denying we live in a very hectic world, where we are constantly bombarded by notifications popping up on our phone (snapchat, facebook, twitter, instagram… i’m looking at you) and I have really begun to understand the benefits of stepping away, or at least taking the right steps to having ‘down time’.

So here goes… as always, this is just my view from my own experiences and I’m a big believer that reading blogs on the internet can inspire you to make little changes. So even if you didn’t follow exactly the steps I follow, I’m sure you can adapt it to suit your lifestyle:

Scenario: Busy weekday evening (usually a Monday after typical Monday stress in the office… but all days can be as challenging!)

*Bonus Step* – Do your workouts in the morning, before you head off to work – that way you’ll feel more rested in the evening and that’s a chore ticked off the list (#sorrynotsorry – workouts are unfortunately a chore for me at the moment)
**Bonus Step Numero 2** – I usually spend half an hour running around the house when I get in, tidying up and doing any chores, before I start my chill out routine. This can be organising my gym kit in the morning to washing dirty pots from a rushed breakfast that morning.

Step 1: Get out those work clothes – whether you’re donned in smart business wear or have more a casual office look, nothing shackles me more psychologically than the outfit I’ve sat at my desk in all day (plus, restrictive waistbands – ‘aint nobody got time for that!)

woman clothes.jpg

Step 2: Run a bath/ have a soothing hot shower – wash the day away and you’ll instantly feel more relaxed (I usually bubble bath it up to the max)

Step 3: PJs!

Step 4: If my day has taken it out on me I try not to put too much emphasis on cooking up a storm – it saps energy that I just don’t have! Instead I opt for something healthy and simple… like an omelette or a piece of fish (that I can easily bake in the oven) with some salad or veg (frozen veg is the saviour here!). The reason I also opt for light and healthy, and having done my workout in the morning, means I can treat myself later if I wish, as that is certainly part of my unwind game!

Step 5a: Set the scene – Lighting. I’m talking smelly candles, tea lights, incense and fairy lights… whatever you have at your disposal to create that cosy and warm lighting.

candle

Step 5b: Set the scene – Comfort. For me my ultimate cosy corner is quite simply in my bed (fresh linen just puts the cherry on the whole experience) but you may prefer to get snuggled up on the sofa. Either way, I’m talking pillows (as many as you can physically surround yourself with), soft blankets, duvet and the ultimate accessory – cosy socks.

Step 6: Interest (and distract your mind). Our minds are full of chatterings (Does my boss actually like me? Is that meal out next week going to be awkward? Have I got enough couscous in to make a healthy lunch tomorrow? What time do I need to get up to make the gym tomorrow? etc. etc.) so I find it is really important to distract my mind before sleeping. Whether I watch a crime thriller, my favourite comedy box set or tuck my head into a good book, being taken into a world of story is so important to step away from your own life’s chatterings.

bed book

Step 7: No electronics half an hour to an hour before sleep – no need to explain, we all know the benefits!

Zo Creative X

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Sparkling Nails While Pinching Pennies

From the age of five I was an avid fan of watching my mum put her makeup on. I was fascinated. All the colours, the glitter (I’m a 90’s kid), the way each compartment opened to reveal pretty powders and soft creams and, most notably, how pretty my mum looked as she slicked on her lipgloss and donned her sparkliest heels.

I was always in awe, wanting to emulate my glamorous mum. By the age of ten I was fully image conscious, knowing exactly what I liked to wear and, more importantly (cue more tantrums), what I would absolutely not wear. I remember going on holiday to Lanzarote and my grandma bought me this beautiful lilac three quarter length legging with a matching top… and… the highest of high (in my head anyway – a whole 1.5cm) diamante embossed wedged heels.

And that was that. From that day on I was sold. Sold into a not-so-cheap world of branded makeup, shiny manicures, hairdressers, and… the strongest vice I must admit… ASOS’s premier account (“I’ll definitely send all of this back” *doesn’t send anything back*).

The thing is I’ve never berated myself for this lifestyle. I work hard for my money so if I want to have pretty painted gel nails while I type away, then why not (you can’t take it with ya!)? However… recently I wanted to save a bit of money and soon realised that my beauty habits were costing me a fair amount per month (sob!) which could be spent elsewhere.

How did I come to that decision?

It wasn’t something that came to me overnight. It wasn’t super profound either and definitely was not some kind of awakening to the fact these things weren’t making me happy.  It was simple really. I had a think about what really made me happy and realised there was something else that gave me that content feeling MORE than having glam nails and the latest ASOS edit.

The purpose of this blog article is NOT to tell you that you should give up everything material for more freedom (financially). Nope. I still want to paint my nails all the colours of the rainbow, experiment with all the Pinterest inspired hairstyles and feel the buzz of working an outfit because that is part of my personality (something that started when I was five years old) so it would not be practical – or beneficial – to do that.

The purpose of this blog is to advise on some simple everyday changes (that I’ve found really easy to do) that you will find useful if you are like me and adore beauty, fashion and sparkles but also want to save a few pennies. I’ve been doing this for the past few months now and have found a balance between ‘treating myself’ and budgeting for something special in the future.

  • Gel Nail Fanatic

Before

I got a new set of gel nails every two weeks. I would try a new colour each time (or go for an old favourite) and that feeling of glossy, neat nails was pretty addictive.

Cost = £40 a month

After

I’ve reverted to painting my own nails. Okay the cons are obvious – they don’t last as long, they definitely don’t look as neat and tidy and I don’t have such an extensive collection but I’ve found ways to compromise. Firstly I keep a nail file handy and always keep them short, neat and rounded. Secondly I’ve invested in nude colours as they are easy to wear and again they always look tidy and smart. Thirdly, I have a few statement colours for when I want to have a bit of fun. Keeping all this on my bedside table means I can do it last thing at night when I’m settled in bed with a good book and a cup of tea (rock n roll).

I also treat myself to the odd general manicure for a holiday or special occasion still! 

Cost = £10 to buy nail polishes and nail files (no more spends after this!)

  • Pinterest Inspired Hair

Before

Professional salon, every two months.

Cost = £100 every two months

After

Dying your own hair (especially when it comes to an ombre or balayage style) is no easy task.  Hence, why I always would pay for a professional to do it. That’s until I really thought I couldn’t afford it anymore so I looked for hair tutorials. There are loads of really helpful step-by-step tutorials out there from all those lovely vloggers out there. I’m a fan of Ellie Hanger’s vlogs, especially this ombre one, which I followed: https://youtu.be/OQLrvWgkF0M

Cost = £8 every 2 months

  • My Art Palette… Makeup

Before

A big mixed bag of makeup. I have to be honest, I’ve never been one of those with EVERYTHING from high-end Makeup brands. Instead, I’ve had a few staple pieces (such as my Mac Studio Fix Foundation) that I’ve sworn by. It’s never been a huge expense but I felt my makeup bag was disorganised and I ended up buying more new stuff as I didn’t look after my existing stuff.

Cost = £30 a month average

After

I had a huge sort out and chucked out anything that I rarely used (including all those many brushes that I have no idea what they are actually for) and I’ve ended up with staple pieces that I use everyday. I find now that, simply due to the simplicity of my collection, I don’t tend to lose stuff and overcompensate and another huge bonus is I feel a lot less disorganised (and a lot more peaceful when rushing around getting ready for work again – “where is that bloomin’ brush?”). Anything I was low on, I have now sourced cheaper alternatives online or the same brand but I will shop around for offers online (especially introductory offers – these are a great way to save a few extra pennies). It’s a more systematic approach and means no more sporadic shopping trips where I end up buying a lot more than what I need, and half of it will be panic buys and won’t be right anyway.

Cost = £5 a month average

  • We Need Some More Clothes in Here (errr… do we?)

Before

Monthly ASOS orders and then some…

Cost = £150 – £200 a month

After

Okay, so I do still love ASOS but have curbed my spending significantly by reinvesting in the clothes I already have. I love jeans but I must have four pairs of near identical black jeans and the reason I keep buying – they just look so good for so many occasions. Then I heard about JEAN DYE… pop it in the washing machine and your darkest charcoal jeans are back (and they do a full range of dyes for different colour garments)! So upcycling is my biggest tip. I’m also a huge fan of discount websites such as everything5pounds.com – did you know that these clothes are, of course, cheaper but not poorer quality… they are simply cheaper as they are usually end of the line. You can find lots of great high street clothes on there and things really are only £5!

Cost = £75 per month (MAX budget… this month I’ve spent £7 on my jean dye and that is it!)

  • Smellin’ Fine – Shower Gels, Bubble Bath and the (Expensive) World of Toiletries

Before

Very guilty of picking things up on the weekly shop and usually sticking to my favourite brands. Oh, and big high street brand shops that specialise in toiletries. Not. Cheap.

Cost = £20 a month

After

A very very simple switch so I will (simply) say it. Budget supermarkets do fabulous imitations (I mean even the packaging!) and I now swear by them all. They smell just as good and do exactly the same job, while being up to 50% cheaper!

Cost = £10 a month


So, none of this is rocket science but I hope I’ve shared a few ideas on how to cut back and curb those expensive beauty bills, while still keeping your passion for all things gorgeous burning bright.

Zo Creative X

 

Celebrating Someone Special (on a budget)

This year my boyfriend and I had promised each other that we weren’t going to buy excessive gifts for birthdays and Christmas. We kind of managed it at Christmas but about three days before we both admitted we wanted something to open on Christmas morning so didn’t completely stick to it (cue panic buying and a lot of money spent on Reese’s Peanut Butter chocolate).

This month it was my boyfriend’s birthday. He assured me he didn’t want a fuss and no gifts. And, this time round things have changed and we now have a concrete reason of why we need to save our pennies (more information on this minor detail later!).

I’m a big believer in celebrating life though and when people turn their nose up at the commercialism of things like Valentine’s Day and Halloween I simply think isn’t it good that we have these odd days that are supposed to have a certain meaning, designed to get us all together and do something a little bit different (especially when society is… let’s face it… quite routine-y!)

That’s why… despite our strict budget… I was determined to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday one way or another. There seems to be a lot of information and advice online about how to celebrate children’s birthdays on a budget… but what about us adults? We need to have fun on our birthday too, and if anything, our birthdays can cost more (alcohol, anyone?) So I’ve tried and tested and the results are in – we had a brilliant evening and all in all my loved one enjoyed his special day.

I’d like to share my top 5 ideas on celebrating an event, on a budget, and most importantly making someone (or some people) feel special and loved.

Budget: £40

Weeks to prepare: 2

  • Buy in Advance

Order a card online with customised images of your recent holiday snaps and have it sent direct back to you (in advance so no speedy delivery costs required). Using a customised card is a really ‘thought inspired’ gift in itself.

I ordered a card from Funky Pigeon, costing £2.99.

  • Personal Gifts

Design a poster or canvas and get printed online for a reasonable cost, or speak to a local printers who will likely have off cuts for use and should be able to offer a good price. As with the above point, it’s a ‘thought that counts’ kind of gift that doesn’t need an expensive price tag to demonstrate your sentiments.

Using the website Photobox, I designed a poster of all our recent holiday snaps. My boyfriend is a passionate ammateur photographer and is constantly behind the lense. He’s very old school and likes to get 100s of holiday snaps printed and we frame them around our house or scrapbook them. He recently lamented that we probably should cut back on photo prints to save money so ordering this poster for him felt like a special gift that would speak to him. Poster costs (inc delivery) = £13.

Bonus tip: Printing websites ALWAYS have promotions on, check vouchercodes.co.uk or simply google ‘NAME OF WEBSITE special offers’ for even more pennies saved!

  • Home Cooking

Don’t book to go out for a meal, cook to celebrate. Popping down to your supermarket you can easily pick up fresh ingredients and cook up a storm. Also keeping with the ‘thought inspired’ way of thinking this is a lot more effort than picking up the phone and booking a restaurant.

An italian feast was on the menu for my boyfriend’s birthday and I know his all-time favourite is carbonara. I picked up a jar of carbonara sauce (it tastes better than my homemade attempts… sorry, not sorry), bacon, rocket, garlic bread, antipasto platter & bottle of prosecco from Lidl, totalling £12. I also had a few ingredients already at home (eggs, tagliatelle pasta, salad bits).

  • Buy a Birthday Cake from the Supermarket (don’t forget the candles)

No one can deny the fun nostalgia of a birthday cake – it never gets old. Buy a chocolate cake and customise it yourself with smarties or strawberries. Even if it’s just the two of you, bringing the cake to the table while singing ‘Happy Birthday’ always makes someone feel special (and if not a little embarrassed).

I bought a small chocolate cake (perfect for just the two of us) and candles from Lidl, total cost = £3.89.

  • Plan a Theme for the Night

Give your evening a special twist by planning a fun themed evening at home. You could throw an 80s movies night, complete with popcorn and Netflix selection or for those wanting something something a bit more romantic how about lighting candles, rose petals on the bed and serving a “bed picnic” of bubbly and strawberries (imagine how much a bottle of bubbly will cost in a hotel…)

The weather forecast was rainy (quelle surprise) so I planned a spooky movie evening. It’s pretty light in the evenings now, so I shut the living room curtains and brought our duvet downstairs. I had popcorn (Asda sell the cinema style bucket for £2) and put sweets in sharing bowls.

Movie night – total cost = £4.50 on sweets & popcorn.

Total costs

£36.38

And, voila! Enjoy. Zo Creative X

Brewing up a nice cuppa ideas

I’m meticulous about tea. A good brew needs to be exactly that, ‘brewed’. At least three minutes and no more than five. My previous work colleagues have been subject to my tea snobbery but I know I’m not the only one. Anyway… why am I talking about tea? This is not a tea blog (is that a thing?) I can assure you…

It’s the metaphor of the brew that got me really thinking. Over the past week or so I’ve had hundreds of ideas fly into my head and hundreds fly out. I try and write them all down but probably only manage to scribble five down, before forgetting the rest. I don’t think that’s a bad thing though… I think arriving at an ‘ideas’ requires you to try loads of little ideas to get there. Rethinking and over thinking is all part of the brewing process… and even forgetting things.

img_0208
As I mentioned in my first blog one of the reasons I’ve set up a blog is to ‘get creative’ and at the moment it’s simply a way of me trying out different topics and developing my writing style while experimenting with different ways of getting my writing out there. As each day goes by I think of different topics to blog about and realise I’m quite easily inspired at the moment. I also realise that any potential readers would be easily deterred by my stream of consciousness, so it’s about finding a compromise and narrowing it down.

That’s why I’ve (kind of) decided the topic/ structure that my blog will follow… Here goes…

I’m a ‘9-5 girl’ who has a busy job and a busy life. I’m constantly striving to find balance between my career, home life, love life, friendships, family, health, fitness etc. And I know, I’m certainly not the only one but I do want to create something positive out of this constant strife adventure for balance. I want to document my journey over the following months as I learn to accept that balance isn’t always possible but there are ways to improve it, maximise your happiness and head towards your ambitions, while not feeling totally overwhelmed by it all.

Nobody ever got anywhere by sitting still.

Coming up with ideas (and certainly good ones) is sometimes harder than what we expect. My day job involves a lot of copywriting and content creation everyday so I know the feeling very well but here are a few top tips that may spark your match:

  • Do some loose research and read around a topic

So you want to start a blog? Great stuff. Where do you start? I think doing the simplest thing is often one of the most useful. I started off by researching those blogging about topics that interested me. I examined their structure; their presentation; their frequency; their style; what they ate for breakfast (joke, although I probably would find that out easily *waves at Instagram*); their social media posts; their social media following… the lot.

  • Daydream

Never underestimate the power of staring into space. My bathroom window looks out onto my little yard and I’m very lucky to have no houses directly in viewpoint, just a couple of horses in the field behind me (no I do not live in a Cheshire mansion, quite the opposite… it’s just a very lucky layout due to where the railway lies). I usually look out onto it and just let my mind wander. I always find the mornings really tranquil too and try to get up around 20 mins earlier than my other half just so I can have a cup of tea and I’ll sit in quiet and just let my thoughts accumulate and dissolve. When these thoughts you daydreamed up creep back that’s when you need to scribble them down (see next point)…

  • Dedicate a notebook

So when an idea does keep coming back to you it’s time to take pen to paper. Or even if it’s fresh but you can’t shake it, jot it down. I usually have a notepad at work and if a thought pops into my head I’ll scribble it down and deal with it later when I have my own time.

  • Take inspiration from your life events

Everyday we are faced with things that we don’t particularly enjoy doing. Instead of filling your mind with negative ‘I don’t want/ like’ thoughts how about take what you are doing and have a think about remedies, solutions, positives… force your mind to look away from the negative feelings and be active in thinking around the task in hand. It’s surprising how much will come to you as you bustle your way round a busy supermarket.

  • Don’t be afraid to start somewhere

A personal favourite and exactly what I’m doing now as I type up my blog. Start somewhere. I’m not saying it’s in exactly the right place but as long as you get on the track and start moving you will eventually get to the destination (even though you might not even know where you are even going yet). I started this blog knowing that it will develop. I know I will look back on post number three (this one) and probably think EEK that is not my style, that is not my content, that is not me and that is okay. I am fully prepared for that because starting somewhere will inspire you to change and develop your style.

And most importantly, don’t overthink it! I don’t know about you but the best ideas usually come to me at 5am, waking up from a dream suddenly.

If you want a bit of advice or help with generating ideas (or even content creation) don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Zo Creative X

Spring Clean Your Space

Switching on the TV this afternoon, I noticed how much of the TV Guide is occupied with health programs. Too fat, too thin, healthy diet advice, celeb boot camp – you name it, one of 74 programs on my TV will have done it. Being ‘healthy’ is something, that due to improved knowledge, we all acknowledge is vital for a long and happy life.

Anyway I’m not – and I certainly don’t intend to be – a health blogger so why am I talking about being healthy? Well all theses health-obsessed TV programs got me thinking… how can I be a ‘healthy’ blogger? Like many people, I have a pretty busy life running here there and everywhere and if blogging is something that I want to succeed at and eventually branch out into content creation for businesses I need to ensure it fits into my schedule, otherwise, I risk skipping a blog, forgetting to update my social media and my dream will simply stay a dream.

So I’ve stripped it back to think about the basics. What do I need to do to be a ‘healthy’ blogger? What are my ‘5 a day’ admin tasks required to keep my blog fit and healthy?

Administration.

It’s like the cardio of business world. We need to chip away at it to keep the heart of the business healthy. So this week I’ve jotted down five top ‘exercises’ (tips) for keeping on top of everything:

1. Dedication

Pick one day a week and stick to it, where you can get on top of any outstanding paperwork. If a day is too much time and it’s eating into your personal life too (even a small business start up, we all need some down time!) dedicate a certain amount of time. ‘On Wednesday at 3pm I am going to spend 2 hours going through paperwork’.

2. Filing

Invoices, remittances, delivery notes, letters for the bank – we all get them and sometimes it’s natural to shove them on the side and think ‘right, i’ll file these later’. There is nothing wrong with that, but invest in a dedicated tray in the office/ home for your ‘file later’ paperwork. This way you’ll have a nice dumping space and when the time comes to do some filing, you’ll know everything is in one place.

3. To Do list

Never underestimate the power of the list. Scribble down your tasks for later and you’ll instantly feel less stressed, without the pressure of remembering what you needed to do. Keep a handy notepad with you at all times for adding to the list, oh, and crossing things off, because that really is a great feeling Phew!

4. Clean up your computer

Sticking everything on your desktop is going to be a nightmare in 7 months time, when you need to find a copy of your flyer to send to the printer. Creating some labelled folders on your PC will make tasks in the future a lot easier when working from your PC.

5. Declutter

Do you sit at a desk or perhaps use the dining room table to tackle the month’s paperwork? Before doing this, ensure your space is clean and only has what you really need on it. A pen and a couple of highlighters usually does the job! It will maximise your productivity levels as you won’t be distracted to flick through that magazine you dumped on there three months ago.

So these are my top housekeeping tips… based on my experiences but hopefully can translate to a few people out there. When starting to blog simply as a creative outlet you still need to keep on tops on things to make your goals remain attainable. Even more so if you’re a small business startup, these are the things you probably need to keep coming back to as a health check reminder every now and again, among all the madness of being a startup company!

It’s all about operating as effectively and efficiently as we can. Minimising the time spent and maximising the quality of our output (I’m determined to write a post on the famous 80: 20 rule soon!).

Oh, bonus tip: Don’t leave it all to Sunday afternoon… like I’ve done… it’s not that fun, especially when the sun is shining in Cheshire like it is today!

Zo Creative X

The First (of many… I hope!)

Everyone blogs nowadays. Well, not everyone but A LOT of people blog. It’s become more than a creative outlet and has created booming businesses and even a celebrity circle unique to blogging (oh… and vlogging, of course!)

Why do people blog?

Am I right in thinking that it started off as simply a journal or diary, yet online? A quick google search pretty much confirms this (although apparently the first blog created on Links.net, by some guy called Justin Hall, was not actually called a blog and was recognised as a ‘personal homepage’ – anyone remember Piczo?).

Blogs have changed a lot nowadays and can range from being simply a creative outlet but more than likely (the successful ones) evolve into a whole business or at least a very important element of a business’ marketing strategy.

So, why have I started to blog?

Admittedly jumping on the bandwagon a little late, why would I suddenly decide that I want to blog? There’s a few reasons that spring instantly to mind but I’m not entirely sure myself at the moment and I’m just really endorsing the ‘if you never try, you’ll never know’ feeling.

Here are why I think blogging is a good idea…

1. I like writing.

I like to call myself a ‘creative writer’ and have so far built part of my career around creative writing and it gives me a real sense of achievement to turn words into an inspiring, interesting and innovative piece of literature – it can be so powerful.

2. I write for a career and love it, so, why not write for pleasure about things that actually really interest me?

I spend a lot of time writing about things that probably aren’t at the top of my ‘love it’ list (I’ve worked in a range of industry spanning accounting to IT) so I just want to try writing about my ‘passions’ in life for a change.

3. I’m a digital marketing enthusiast.

The way we can learn the ways of Google and use the internet as a powerful marketing tool really fascinates me. I not only want to share this knowledge, I want to practice what I know and learn more skills in this fast-paced online world.

4. I want to remember.

Blogging is a journal or a record of what you knew/ know and although I’m a Facebook, Instagram and Facebook user I want to develop that to incorporate words too.

5. I’d like to eventually freelance.

Again, this one doesn’t need explaining but to make it possible I need to practice, demonstrate, learn and hopefully inspire. Mobility and flexibility is just as important as having money in the bank (thanks to Tim Ferriss and introducing me to the NR – new rich – in his book ‘The Four Hour Work Week‘)

So, these are my top 5 reasons that spring to mind. I’m sure these will develop over time but I needed a starting point and sitting around on a Bank Holiday Monday seemed like the time to get started.

What am I going to be blogging about?

Again, without sounding wishy-washy I’m not really sure at the moment. I’ve jotted down a few things that could be classified as leisure topics including travel, positive body image and lifestyle right through to what I would class as more a professional side aimed at marketing practices and strategy from the digital world (I’m an SEO enthusiast) right through to graphic design (I’m also a total InDesign fan and love sitting down with a good cup of coffee at my desk with a flyer to design).

Edit: Hm, at the moment it really does sound wishy-washing, I know, but the truth is I just want to write about things I enjoy and see where it takes me (I’m a big fan of creative flow by just getting your ideas down first). And I think the above initial ideas will be interchangeable.

Anyway, it’s short but sweet but this is my first blog and I feel like I’ve jumped a big first hurdle. When you’re presented with a standard WordPress template and NO content it can be a bit daunting but when I press the publish button I’ll be all ‘woohoo!’ and I’ll feel like it’s been a productive Bank Holiday Monday! Next post coming soon…

Zo Creative X