The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Exercise #NationalFitnessDay

As it’s National Fitness Day, I thought I’d share my tips and tricks on how to quit being a Full Time Lazy Cow and actually do some exercise now and again. Now, I’m not exactly an expert (I did once eat a burrito while walking on the treadmill after all) but I have learnt a few #LifeHacks over the past couple of years that can help you get your arse into gear.

Here’s the 10 Step Lazy Girl’s Guide to Exercise:

1. cheap Topiramate online Join a gym 

Yep, step one is literally ‘join a gym’. The first hurdle most people fall at is convincing themselves they’ll save a bit of money and exercise at home. We all know any workout in your house results in lying on the sofa in your gym kit, eating biscuits instead of doing burpees. You might tell yourself you’ll use The Body Coach’s YouTube channel rather than fork out for a fancy gym membership but come on, can you actually listen to his voice for longer than 10 minutes without wanting to saw your ears off with a rusty knife? Really?

Me 'exercising' at home

Me ‘exercising’ at home

Nope, the only thing for it is to see that twenty quid leave your bank account every month to remind yourself that you should be at the gym, getting your money’s worth. Don’t fight it, just get it over with and join.

2.  http://shandycreative.com/gallerycategory/abstract/ Spend all your cash on gym accessories 

Make exercise and fitness your new obsession and spend all your cash on it. Get yourself fancy leggings, ridiculously complicated water bottles that you don’t really know how to work, expensive heart rate monitors you’ll never use – go all out. Once you’ve spent all your money on workout accessories, you’ll have no cash left to do anything else but exercise. Goodbye social life, hello gym.

In all seriousness though, a little investment in your workout kit can make all the difference. When I first started back at the gym, I had threadbare shorts and an old t shirt that should have been resigned to being slept in and nothing else. I felt self conscious as it was and not looking the part didn’t help. You don’t need to break the bank to get kitted out – most of my gym wardrobe is from Matalan and whatever the adidas shop has put in the sale.

One thing I would suggest investing in is some decent trainers. I was lucky enough to be sent some Ride 9 Running shoes from Saucony and oh my, they have really changed the game for me. I never thought that what you wore on your feet made that much of a difference to be honest; I wasn’t exactly jogging in a pair of Converse but I hadn’t upgraded my trainees for a good couple of years. A few runs in these babies and I realised how naive i’d been. Towards the end of my run, my feet are almost as fresh as when i first tied the laces – fewer blisters, better support, comfort and, most important of all, they look cute too.

Women's Ride 9

Women’s Ride 9 Running Trainers

3. Seroquel ohne rezept Lash a ‘Before’ picture up on Facebook

You’re going to feel a right divvy if you don’t lash up an ‘After’ picture in a few weeks showing some progress – give yourself the fear. If you’re not trying to get into exercise for weight loss reasons, maybe you’re wanting to improve your fitness levels, use a print screen of the times of one of your runs or something similar.

4.  Sign up for something you’re defo not capable of doing 

Back towards the end of 2013, I successfully managed to do a decent run on the treadmill every other day for about two weeks. So naturally, I signed up to do a half marathon happening a few months later seeing as I thought I was the new Paula Radcliffe. At the time of setting up my JustGiving page I hadn’t even so much as run a 10k so God knows why i thought I was ready for 13.5 miles. But it worked. Had I not committed to such a big event my running phase would have been over within weeks. I managed to get through Christmas still fitting in a few jogs, or at least feeling guilty when I didn’t do any form of exercise for a few days, and in March 2014 I actually did the Liverpool Half Marathon without doing a Jade Goody and needing an ambulance at any point during the run.

Phoebe Running

 

That being said, the day after I ate loads of burgers and pints and pledge to have a few cheat days and rest but it accidentally turned into a year of eating crap and lying in bed rather than getting back to the gym. Oh well.

5. Think about the likes 

“Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels” – Wrong Kate Moss. Wrong. Nothing feels as good as all those notifications blowing your phone up after you post your latest picture deadlifting your biggest weight yet.

6. Move in with a PT

I really hit the jackpot when my new flatmate turned out to be a personal trainer; nothing is more motivating to get up and do some exercise when you’re living with someone who smashing a 10k before you’ve even woke up and been knocked sick by the smell of your morning breath. Of course, this isn’t the option for everyone but you can surround yourself with like minded people who’ll keep you motivated. If none of your friends are keen to go all #FitFam with you, take part in classes at your gym or join a club that will introduce you to others on the exercise graft too.

7. Have a goal 

It might be an appearance related goal, like getting back into those jeans that have been gathering dust at the back of your wardrobe for years. Perhaps it a fitness target you’d like to achieve – making it up a flight of stairs without being covered in sweat is always a good one. Whatever it is, have something in mind to spur you to spend the miserable winter nights you’d rather be in bed watching TV spent down the gym instead.

8. Do it bit by bit 

I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. I’m forever pledging to cut out meat, dairy, ciggies and alcohol all at once and it lasts about 4 days before i’m guzzling prosecco, shoving pizza down my gob and chain smoking all my money away.

Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Start with promising yourself you’ll hit the gym at least one day a week and see where you go from there.

9. Get a personal trainer

Read all about why I love my PT in this piece I did for The Metro.

10. Find something you enjoy 

Personally, I like the gym – it works for me. However, loads of people despise it and that’s cool – find another way to exercise. Go climbing, walking, try pole dancing – take up Zumba classes if you’re still stuck in 2013. There’s always something out there that can help you improve your fitness and release those endorphins.

But most importantly, don’t sweat it. Exercise and fitness isn’t the be all and all. I exercise for my mental health and because I feel better when I do. You don’t need to become obsessed with eating clean (Urgh, horrible saying) and your life resolving around exercise. Just swapping one night at the bar for a different kind of bar in the gym is more than enough!

See also: Katie Hopkins: A Weighty Issue

My Employee Went to Croatia & All I Got Was a Lousy Resignation Letter

“Oh without a doubt it was when I worked in a call centre. Sometimes, when driving to work, I’d fantasise about my car crashing so i’d have an excuse to not turn up for my shift. When it got to the point where I’d rather be hospitalised than go to work, I knew it was time to quit.”

“Mine was working at Fatso’s – never again do I want to use a spoon to butter loaf after loaf of bread.”

As me and my friends from university sat around the pool in our Air Bnb in Croatia, discussing our worst ever jobs, it suddenly dawned on me; my current place of employment had slowly but surely won that title. I was barely earning any money, working more hours than I was being paid for and getting stressed and nearly crying almost every single day.

Sure, not everyone loves their job, sometimes you just have to get on with things, but when you look back more fondly on your time stacking shelves in The Spar for £1.50 an hour and being held hostage* by the owner, it’s a pretty clear sign something has to change.

So I quit.

I did the one thing you’re not meant to do when you’re working class – I walked out of a job without having another one lined up. I didn’t even have so much as an up to date CV ready.

“It’s easier to find a job while you’re in a job”, a favoured saying from my father that I’ve heard over the years. Whenever I’ve toyed with quitting a job, he’s sandwiched that phrase into a lecture and it rung in my ears as I typed up my resignation letter on the balcony. I pushed these thoughts to the back of my head and reminded myself of how happy and supportive my friends had been when I said I wanted to jack it in. They had seen first hand over the past few months how miserable the job was making me. I hit save on the draft of the letter and promised myself I wouldn’t go back on this.

Within hours of landing in England my resignation letter was sent to my boss and that was it, I was home and unemployed.

And here we are.

I’ve finally done what I always wanted to do – given myself the time to have a go at pursuing a career I’m actually passionate about and you know what? I’m petrified.

I’ve no savings, in fact I’m in debt, I have no rich family to fall back on and sadly, no wealthy aunt who’ll pop her clogs soon and leave me an inheritance. I have rent to make, burritos to buy and a new fondness for having fresh flowers in the house; an indulgence I’m keen to keep up. I haven’t left a well paid job so It’s not that much money I’ll be missing each week but I still can’t believe I’ve actually done this and finally taken the risk.

This could be the best thing that’s ever happened to me, I could go all #GirlBoss and thrive on being self employed, or I could end up back working behind a bar once again. Either way, what I know for sure right now is this working class guilt and nervous feeling in my stomach sure beats the feeling of crippling anxiety from working a job that was slowly sending me crazy.

*another story for another time – promise. 

Quit job

See also: GRAZIA: Welcome to my Heartbreak Hotel

 

How to Behave in the Bar on Mad Friday

Mad Friday.

The last Friday before Christmas, where tradition dictates that office workers celebrate clocking off for the year, and inhale copious amounts of alcohol in their local pubs and clubs. 

If you work behind a bar, chances are you have a very different definition of this festive ritual. Yes, while you’ve just about managed to secure Christmas Day off, you’re having to spend the evening serving part-time drinkers toasting the fact they don’t have to even think about work until next year. If retail staff thought they had it hard on Black Friday, they’ve certainly never had to endure a bunch of solicitors running around a pub; donning novelty reindeer ears, giddy on Baileys and trying to kiss you under the mistletoe whenever you try to glass collect from their table.

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but when you’re working five 16 hour shifts on the bounce and listening to Mariah Carey for the 35646th time in a month, the festive feeling can bypass you. Yes, bar staff sacrifice their social life in order to make yours better, so lets all vow to make their lives a little more bearable this Friday. Here’s how not to act like a dick in a bar when you clock off for Christmas this week.

  • Know your drink. This isn’t the night to be asking about the bar’s selection of gin and taking forever to make a decision. No. This is the evening for basic house spirits or a pint. Don’t ask for a tester of the guest ale – ain’t no one got time for that. And whatever you do, when the bartender asks you what you want, don’t suddenly forget what everyone ordered and start yelling across the pub to check if Sharon wanted slimline or regular tonic? Fuck Sharon and her diet. If she didn’t specify, she gets what she’s given. She’ll only order a massive kebab a few hours later so what’s a few calories in a mixer between friends?
  • “I’ve got the exact change here, love.” The bar staff really don’t care that you’ve managed to get rid of all your slummy. All it means is that they’re having to listen to you being proud of this ‘achievement’ rather than getting a tip.
  • Whilst we’re on the subject, make sure you tip, alright?. Spare me the ’I don’t get tips in my workplace just for doing my job’ speech. Guess what you get instead of tips? A living wage! Just leave a couple of quid after you’ve ordered a big round and don’t be a mingebag.
  • Try to avoid having sex in the toilets. It’s awkward for everyone when the bar staff have to hand you a novelty Christmas thong from the cubicle floor and ask you to leave the premises.
  • When you’ve ordered 17 drinks, one by one, don’t finish things off with ‘Oh and a Guinness too please, babe.” Look, maybe you genuinely forgot (or perhaps you get your kicks from winding up bar staff) but for the sake of the bartender’s blood pressure, just get Barry a pint of mild instead and tell him the Guinness was off.
  • Do not, I repeat DO NOT, moan to the staff about the cost of your order. If you think they have any say of the pricing of the ale, do you really believe that they’d be spending their Friday night enduring your ‘should have worn a mask and a stripy jumper’ gags? No. They’d be on the other side of the bar with you, buying over priced beverages.

    n 3

    What bar staff think about every other customer.

  • Have you ever stood at a busy bar, watched the staff being rushed off their feet, and waited for your 5p change? There’s a special place in hell waiting for you.
  • Also, don’t make a big deal about leaving a 5p tip, or less. It’s not a tip, it’s an insult.
  • Maybe don’t piss in a pint glass and leave it on your table for the glass collector to find. You may think no one would ever be this sick, but I had to pick up the dirtiest of dirty pints back when I was a barmaid and the smell never leaves you.
  • Are you familiar with the word ‘please’? You are? Great. How about the popular phrase ‘thank you’? Good stuff. Now make sure you use these words when barking your order at the bar.
  • Here’s a crazy idea – why don’t you place your money into the bartender’s hand rather than chucking it down on the soggy bar mat for them to pick up? Just a thought – it’s a bit ‘out there’, I know but let’s all try it and see how it goes.
  • Please don’t get huffy about the coke being Pepsi, not Coca Cola. And for the love of God, don’t ask if Monopoly money is okay as some kind of hilarious response. We’ve all heard. Even your Uncle Knobhead has heard that one. Let it pass without comment.
  • The only thing worse than recently turned 18 year olds getting sassy when being asked for ID, are middle-aged men and women giggling their way through saying ‘Don’t you need to see any proof of age from me?’ As a Christmas gift to hospitality staff everywhere, retire this ‘joke’ for just one night. Please.
  • Don’t become an obnoxious angry drunk and refer to anyone as ‘just a barmaid’. To you, they may just be minimum wage workers, not worthy of your respect, but they have the power to cut off your ale supply for the evening so maybe think twice about being a dick eh?
  • When the bartender is yelling at you to drink up and leave, there probably isn’t must hope for a lock in, so don’t ask – no matter how ‘sound’ you think you are.

I think that just about covers everything. Have fun, drink and be merry, and most importantly, don’t be a dick.

And bar staff? My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Katniss Hunger Games Saulte

 

See also: 5 Reasons You Should Always Tip

 

 

The Alternative Annual Goop Gift Guide

I love my girl Gwyneth Paltrow, I really do, but my God she doesn’t half make it hard for me at times. With every Goop newsletter* that drops into my inbox, a little bit of my adoration for the woman who taught me how to cook the shit out kale departs.

* You may mock me for being a subscriber, but I was one of the first to know about her split from Chris Martin thanks to her chirpy emails. There is no way I’m Consciously Uncoupling from her mailing list. 

I don’t roll my eyes too much; of course a lifestyle blog, aimed at middle class ladies who brunch with too much time on their hands, is going to advocate things like steaming your fanny – bottomless mimosas can only last so long, they need to fill their day with something.

But it’s the Annual Goop Gift Guide that always gets up everyone’s back the most – with 18k Gold Dumbbells ($125 thousand dollars!) being touted as a stocking filler, Gwyn really plays into her haters’ hands. But, in my girl’s defence, it’s not all obscenely priced stuff – there’s the likes of a box set of True Detective, and basic bread bins from Amazon amongst all the gold-plated juicers and $45 packets of nuts.

Con Couple

Consciously Uncoupled Keyring $15

As I boxed off all my Christmas shopping before November was even over, I had some extra time on my hands. I have spent that time wisely; being smug and also sifting through the Goop Gift Guide and finding cheaper alternatives for you. But I’ve mostly spent the time being smug to be honest.

Here are a few suggestions for your festive shopping this year; inspired by Ms Paltrow, made actually fucking realistic by me.

Happy Holidays!

The Classic Duffle 

Goop 1

Classic Duffel $395

Goop call this personalised duffle bag ‘a monogrammable classic’.With luxurious leather detailing the stylish canvas and leather carry on, no one is doubting the fact that this T.Anthony piece would be the perfect gift for the man in your life who likes to travel with class. But, with a $395 price tag, it’s not exactly the cheapest thing to add to your shopping list.

The Alternative? 

Look at this offering from ASOS and then tell me if you love any man enough to spend nearly 400 quid on a bag for him, when a copy cat is available for just £35? Granted, it won’t be as luxurious, but it certainly will be kinder to your credit card.

Asos

ASOS £35

The Candle

Tom Dixon London Copper Candle  According their description, this candle is ‘blended to smell of red brick, London parks with crocuses and nettles and the salty smell of the Thames at Dagenham’. Look, I’ve been to London – without being too harsh on our nation’s capital, it does not smell of something I am willing to spend 80 dollars on.

candle

Tom Dixon $80

The Alternative?

If you really must buy someone a candle for Christmas (it just says ‘I don’t really know your personality that well – here’s some smelly wax’) then get your arses down to Home & Bargain. At this point, I should stress I am not paid to promote this glorious discount store – I just love it so much I talk about it an unhealthy amount. Whether it’s cleaning products, shampoo half the price of what Boots charge, or homeware, Home & Bargain has my back all year round. I’ve been onto their blag Yankee candles for a few years now; they smell just as, if not better, last for hours and are a snip at just £2.99 for the extra large ones. Yes, for less than three quid you’ve got yourself a scented stocking filler.

wickford

Wickford & Co candles From £1.99

Playing Cards

The Standard for Josephier Toiletries ($956) Want to feel poor? A pack of playing cards, that retail at almost a grand, are currently out of stock! The demand for this product has actually exceeded what the retailer expected. Rich people have far too much money.

cards

Currently out of stock, in case you had a spare few hundred to waste.

The Alternative?

Playing cards should be purchased when you’re in Benidorm, it’s raining and the only in-house entertainment is an ex pat pensioner running a group line dancing session. Yes, three euros on a deck of pornographic cards is the absolute maximum you should spend.

Here’s a stunning, creative alternative to a playing card based gift. This Personalised Family Name Framed Vintage Playing Card Wall Art (£17.95)  from Ivy Joan. All the frames are on a hessian background with wooden people detailing; with the words made from original vintage playing cards.

smith

Personalised Name Frame (£17.95)

The Plate

Purple Dahlia Flower Dinner Plate Astier de Villatte $108.00 John Derian teamed up with Astier de Villatte to add his iconic imagery to their classic white tableware.

The perfect present for your lovely granny – as long as she’s been giving you 100 quid pocket-money for the past few months.

plate

Purple Dahlia Flower Dinner Plate Astier de Villatte $108.00

The Alternative? 

What your gran really wants is a plate filled with your selfies from the year; so she can be reminded of what beautiful genes she’s passed down generations. Giftsta make personalising your presents super easy; uploading images straight from Instagram (Gift..sta – get it?) to be transferred onto your choice of plates, mugs or coasters.

plate

10 Inch Plate with 9 Images £9.99

 

The Museum Membership

With membership starting at $2500 annually, Goop have quite rightly classed this pass to cut the line in their ‘Ridiculous (But Awesome)’ section of their guide. The Cultivist Museum Membership has two stages to the application and in general, it all seems like a lot of effort just to skip the queue.

The Alternative?

What’s the point of being a VIP, wandering around galleries and vineyards, if you haven’t got a clue what it is you’re looking at? The Bluffer’s Guide books take a light hearted approach to many culture vulture topics and give you enough information that, by the end of the quick read, you’ll be an expert in your chosen field. Learn what makes a tipple palatable with their Bluffer’s Guide to Wine, or get up to speed on how to beat the bookie with the Bluffer’s Guide to Horse Racing; Arts & Culture, Food & Drink, Lifestyle and Hobbies – there’s something for everyone. Even a Guide to Sex if you’ve got your ex in the office Secret Santa and want to have a little dig at his bedroom skills.

bluffers

3 for 2 on creating your own Bluffer’s Gift Set

 

The Toothpaste Squeezer

Okay, have I been on Goop too long or does this actually seem like a good idea? Even if I have gone over to the dark side, there’s absolutely no way I can spend £153 on something to squeeze the dregs out of my 99p Home & Bargain bought Colgate.

This clever chrome plated brass device by specialist manufacturers Cedes Milano ensures you get the most out of your toothpaste, every single time. Adding a touch of class to your bathroom, this stylish toothpaste squeezer. 

toothpaste

Toothpaste Squeezer £153

The Alternative?

Well, the obvious is pretty simple; if you’re looking after your oral hygiene but ballin’ on a budget, get acquainted with a pair of scissors to get the last out of your tube.

If you want to brighten up your bathroom, these absolutely adorable Creature Toothbrush Holders £8.00 available at Utility are the perfect little extra to add to your shopping list. Bagsy the green Dino.

toothbrush

Creature Toothbrush Holders from £8.00

The Glass Milk Carton Creamer

So much fancier than a paper cartoon, according to the Goop gift curators. To be fair, this glass milk cartoon creamer is only $12.95 so they must feel like they’re endorsing a pound shop product with this one.

milk

Glass Carton Milk Creamer $12.95

The Alternative?

I concede, you can have this one Gwyneth – it is Christmas after all. This isn’t the most ridiculously priced gift and I’ll be honest, It is kind of cute. Sure, I can’t be bothered to transfer my milk from one vessel to another for aesthetic reasons, but if you know someone whose breakfast routine is a little bit more civilised than eating last night’s curry whilst running out the door, this could be the perfect stocking filler for them.

Happy Shopping!

See also: Christmas Gift Guide: Sex Toys

#BiteMeDublin A Halloween Weekend in Ireland

Scarlett and I really don’t have the best track record when it comes to European jaunts. As you may have read in previous blogs, our trip to Belgium a couple of months ago proved that while I may have many talents, none of them lie in event organisation. From arriving at the wrong airport, to not having any accommodation booked for the last night, it’s safe to say I won’t be taking the reigns again any time soon when it comes to holiday planning. 

Luckily for us, our recent visit to Dublin was overseen by Ireland’s tourist board who planned absolutely everything for us. Things went a lot smoother this time; a hell of a lot smoother. Well, they couldn’t prevent us from making Horrible Life Decisions ™ but to be fair, no one can.

Here’s our diary from what went down when we did Halloween festivities Ireland style.

Friday 23rd October

With a 6.30am flight from John Lennon Airport starting our day off, you’d think we’d be sensible and get our heads down early on Thursday night. But no, this is us; we don’t make choices that actively make our lives better – we make decisions that involve copious amounts of prosecco. When the alarm pierced my ears at 4am, Scarlett had managed a good three hours kip, while I had dozed off for a grand total of zero minutes and conjured up some stupid idea that I would catch up on all my sleep on the half an hour flight. Fast forward a few hours and we’re in a taxi to the hotel, stuck in horrendous traffic, with me sticking my head out the window, like a dog, in order to stay awake. Good start, Zoe.

Severely sleep deprived and ratty, my mood soon picked up the second we arrived at The Morrison. I was already excited to stay at the luxury hotel, just across from the River Liffey and only minutes from the famous Temple Bar quarter, but things really stepped up a notch when I learned we’d been given separate rooms for our stay! I love Scarlett, I really do, but after a week of having friends crash at mine, I was ready for some alone time. I bailed on her in the hotel lobby and ran up to my room where I got excited over the fact the telly had my name splashed across it when turned on and by the complimentary embossed umbrella in the wardrobe. Yep, basic umbrellas with hotel logos embossed on them impress me more than they should.

penthouse

One of the gorgeous penthouse rooms at The Morrison

Where We Ate 

After attempting a quick nap, we headed over to The Church to grab some lunch and meet the rest of the press group. Dublin is twinned to the city of Liverpool (as well as Barcelona) and converting old churches into breathtaking social venues is just one of the many similarities the two places share (Alma De Cuba being the Scouse equivalent.) The Church is at the heart of Dublin’s thriving bar and restaurant scene and the history surrounding the building means that you get so much more than a bite to eat when you call in.

We were lucky enough to have a guided tour of the listed grounds, even down to The Burial Crypts; where extensive excavation work had to take place during the conversion of the church in order to remove the skeletal remains. We also learned some interesting facts and anecdotes* along the way; such as the tale that the famous Arthur Guinness’ wife pushed out 21 children during her time on this earth. Yes, you read that correctly – twenty one. She must have spent the majority of her adult life sober and raising kids – every glass of Guinness should be toasted to her, the poor woman.

*Apparently many weren’t that interesting as Scarlett informed me I was boring people with my excessive tweeting of these supposedly ‘fun facts’. Apologies to anyone following me that day. I guess apologies 

What We Did

Kayaking! Yes, I know what you’re thinking – just what one wants on a cold, October afternoon; severely sleep deprived and full from lunch. It’s also an activity in which you should wear something more durable and warm than flimsy leggings and a cardigan. However, even with all the odds stacked against me (those mentioned, and the fact I struggle to walk without falling over on dry land) I was psyched to get on the water and see Dublin from a different perspective. I managed to last the full session without capsizing and making an absolute show of myself  – I am half considering updating my CV to include this fact.

As we sailed under the 18th Century O’Connell Bridge and the iconic Ha’Penny Bridge, I soon learned that, despite my enthusiasm and positivity, I am horrendous at kayaking. I somehow struggled to oar in a straight line and spent half my time stuck against side of the bank; angrily splashing about and trying to catch up with the rest of the group. Special mention to the heckler on the bridge, who when seeing me struggling, decided to yell “This is the spot where all the murderers dump the dead bodies.’ Thanks mate.

 

FullSizeRender 4

On our way to steal your man….

Where We Drank

Okay, spoiler alert for the rest of this piece – we drank a lot. I’m talking even Lindsay Lohan in her prime would deem our drinking a bit excessive lot. From the minute we went for lunch at The Church and got a large wine down our necks, we were pretty much on it until we got on the flight home on Monday. When in Rome do as the Romans do, and when in Ireland, do as the Irish do – drink!

Now on possibly my 38th hour awake, it would same a safe bet to assume I limited myself to a couple of night caps after cocktails and dinner at the gorgeous Woollen Mills. But no, 3am and I’m still going strong with the group in The Temple Bar; downing tequila shots and attempting to dance to the live music. FOMO works better at keeping you awake than any energy drink and pro plus could ever dream of doing.

I stumbled back to my room and proceeded to raid the mini bar. Drunk Me thought she was the height of stealth, carefully placing back the empty tubs and bottles into the fridge; thinking the hotel would be none the wiser. Drunk Me is an absolute idiot.

mini bar

Good on, Zo – I’m sure they won’t notice that those tubs no longer contain any sweets

Saturday 24th October

It’s 9am. I’m trying to ignore the pounding at my door, courtesy of Still hammered from last night Scarlett but that girl is one persistent bitch. Eventually I grab my dressing gown, answered the door (still sporting full smokey eyes and red lips from the night before) and politely declined her offer to join her on a walking tour of Viking Dublin. She may tell you a different tale; one that involves me slamming a door in her face and mumbling “Fuck the Vikings” but she’s lying. She once told me kale cooked in the oven is a great alternative for kettle chips – she can’t be trusted, that one.

Anyway, if you’re at all interested in the history of Ireland and the Vikings then go for a drink with Jen; I’m sure she’ll love to tell you all the knowledge she acquired whilst stumbling around Dublin with a tour guide, still bladdered from the night before.

What We Did (Once My Hangover Disappeared)

After getting a Guinness pie in me at the Norseman Pub, I was a lot keener for the next group activity; a Food and Fashion Walking tour. Guided by The Irish Time’s Fashion Editor, Deirdre McQuillan, we wandered around the city; sampling bagels and exquisite chocolate, learning all about Dublin’s up and coming designers and discovering that my big head can even make a 2 grand Phillip Tracey masterpiece look horrendous.

The evening saw us attend the event I had most been looking forward to since I first scanned the itinerary: ‘Hushed’ at Marsh’s Library. The whole reason we had made the speedy flight over to Ireland the weekend before Halloween was to experience The Bram Stoker festival. Across the city, events took places during the day and night; 4 Days of Living Stories and 4 Nights of Deadly Adventures. 

dubs

Artwork from Oscar winning designer Annie Atkins

Taking place at Marsh’s library, where Dracula author Bram Stoker spent many a night researching ghouls, legends and mythology, ‘Hushed’ was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience of Dublin’s most famous buildings, cloaked in the dark of night. Led by an all singing, and chanting, emsemble, we made our way round with only the candle light to guide us. With no cameras or mobiles allowed, there were certainly no distractions and we got the Heebie Jeebies during our after hours tour.  

Sunday 25th October

You know that kind of hangover where you wake up and the minute raise your head from the pillow you consider calling an ambulance to come save you from the hell you know you’ve got in store for the rest of the day? Well, that’s how I started our last full day in Dublin. Surprise surprise, we had overdone it on the ale yet again the night before. I’d gotten so drunk in the fabulous Liquor Rooms that I managed to lose they key card to my room. Not a problem, the reception kindly provided me a another card which I then proceeded to lose while making my way to my second floor room. Massive respect to the night porter for not even rolling his eyes at me as I sheepishly asked for a second replacement card in less than seven minutes.

What We Did

“The fresh air will do you good, blow away the cobwebs” everyone told me, as I scolled at them.

Yes, in the midst of The Hangover From Hell ® I was about to embark of a light cliff walk to the fishing village of Howth. Turns out, despite my claims at the time, they were indeed correct. As we made our way across the cliffs, towards the restaurant we’d be dining at (That’s how you trick me into physical exertion whilst I’m hungover – the promise of food at the end) my pounding headache and nausea vanished – so much so I decided to order a wine with my oysters at Ivans.

#LifeHack If you have never tried oysters before, and are unsure to whether you will like them, DO NOT, i repeat, DO NOT order them for the first time when you’re starving and hungover. 

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The evening saw explore the weird and wonderful events that have taken place in times gone by; unearthing legends and ghosts from the past on the Gravedigger Ghost Bus Tour of Dublin.

Given the fact my travel sickness once saw me vomit on top of a Barcelona tour bus, the real horror story could have been me transforming into the little girl from The Exorcist but luckily for everyone on board, all was fine. Making our way round the city, we learnt all about phantom pigs, haunted jails and Scarlett and I even got involved as look outs* for the some rogue body snatchers before ending up having a drink at the Gravedigger’s Pub. God bless the Irish for managing to get ale involved with absolutely everything.

*Finally, skills acquired in my misspent youth come in handy.

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We sat at the back of the bus and stole everyone’s dinner money.

We then pottered down to the Project Art Centre for New Blood – a hedonistic vampire party to mark the end of The Bram Stoker Festival. When we’d spoke to the artistic director, Tom Lalor the night before, he had given us the brief for the dress code: “Imagine if FKA Twigs and Rihanna opened a strip club in Vegas.”

We tried, we really did, but our efforts with black eyeliner acting as lipstick looked pathetic in contrast to some of the stunning creations wandering around the place. Had Miley Cyrus had wandered in, wearing one of her most creative outfits, she’d have gone unnoticed – the costume game was strong.

Spread out across four spaces, one minute you’d find yourself immersed in an art installation, the next an electro rave, then on the terrace enjoying b(lo)body tonics at the shot bar. Needless to say, staying true to our form for the whole weekend, we full embraced the bespoke cocktails whilst admiring such a sharp bite of contemporary Irish culture.

New Blood was the perfect way to end our trip; we had learned so much about the history of Ireland over the three days we were there but this was a great insight into Ireland’s bright, modern future.

Dublin, you were an absolute ball and we will undoubtedly be back in the very near future*. Well, as soon as my liver as recovered.
*We really do have to return soon – we didn’t have time to visit the Leprechaun museum and how can I go on in life having not visited such a place now I know it exists.

See also: A Weekend In Birmingham

How To: Make a Ticket Stub Shadow Box

I don’t know when it happened, I’m not sure how or why, but it’s about time I admitted something: I am becoming a Pintrest Mum. I’m carrying out little #lifehacks, I’m framing postcards as a cheap way to brighten up a room, I’m making salads in Kilner Jars – i’ve skipped my twenties and gone straight to my ‘I’ll just make one myself as it will be cheaper and more personal’ thirties.

When you receive a wedding invitation that states the soon to be betrothed couple would like money towards their Honeymoon, in lieu of a wedding gift, you know what they’re really saying is; “We don’t really want cash – we want you to make us a Ticket Stub Shadow Box for all our Honeymoon souvenirs.”*

Yes, I well and truly reached peak ‘Pintrest Wanker’ when I created a ticket stub shadow box for one of my oldest friends as a wedding gift this summer. I’d had the idea as soon as I saw they were going to two destinations for their Honeymoon but Etsy’s offerings were either naff or ridiculously expensive, Home & Bargain (my normal saviour) haven’t yet got onto this trend and eBay was no help – I had to get my arts & craft on. There aren’t many decent guides online on how to go about creating your own so I’m stepping in to save the day! Here’s how I created mine and just how simple, cheap and easy it was to do so.

*I of course give some money in a card too, I’m not a total monster.

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Everything you need to make the perfect Ticket Stub Shadow Box

What I used:

1. Photo frame £6.50 (Wilko) (Finding this was the hardest bit)

2. Wrapping paper: £2.95 (Paperchase or Waterstones)

3. Painters touch £3 (Wilkinsons)

4. Brushes £1 (Poundland)

5. Misc £4 (Poundland)

  1. Finding a suitable photo frame was my hardest task. Firstly, It helps if you know what you’re looking for – you don’t get many results for typing ‘kinda box photo frame with a slot in the top” into Google. They’re called shadow boxes and they’re like gold dust in the UK apparently. Either suck it up and pay a fortune for a plain one online, or get a frame like mine and drill the slot in yourself. I got myself a bargain for £6.50 from Wilko (1) – the perfect size and shape. You just need to be prepared to get out the tool box and create your own drop in slot.
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Before: The original frame, pre painting

2. Before you start painting and making a big old mess, get your background sorted and put to one side. It’s as simple as it looks: line out the wrapping paper (2) and cut the amount you will need, then seal down using glue dots (5). That’s all there is to it.

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You don’t need to go purchase a spirit level – I just didn’t have a ruler to hand.

Once you’ve finalised it, put to one side – far away from any potential paint splashes the next few steps may cause.

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Glue dots are a God send

3. Now it’s time to paint the frame. I’m lazy and got in some spray paint (3) but you can do it the old fashioned way with a brush and tin of paint. This step took seconds – I simply covered the floor with a paper table cloth (to prevent ruining my carpet), opened a window, and sprayed until I’d covered every nook and cranny.

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I used the brush to even out any ‘globs’ of paint that formed

4. Once the paint is completely dry, you can stop putting the frame back together and add the first few pieces to the box. As mine was a wedding gift, intended for holiday souvenirs, I kept it minimal and just included the wedding invitation and an image I thought the bride would like. The rest of the filling is down to the recipient.

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Postcards, invites, little greeting stamps…

I also used the back of the frame to make a little ‘Made By Zoe’ tag and include a map of the world for the couple to tick off the places they visited that fill the box. I did all this solely with Poundland purchases and left over wrapping paper.

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Poundland is amazing!

MAKE IT EXTRA SPECIAL…..

I originally planned to transfer a photograph onto the frame but time didn’t permit for this one. It’s super easy and all that’s needed is some specialist gel which you can order online for less than a tenner. This great blog will tell exactly how you do so.

Hopefully you’ll have more time available than me but here’s my, albeit rushed, final product….

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Ready to be filled with memories….

With Christmas just round the corner, and my bank balance nowhere near ready for it, I suspect a lot of my friends and family may be getting festive variations of this cheap and cheerful gift.

See also: 15 People You Meet at Every Wedding

How To Make Spooky Halloween Cocktails

The lovely people at Red Square Vodka sent me over some alcohol to get creative with in the kitchen and come up with a couple of spooky Halloween themed cocktails for this weekend.

I’ve tried to keep them as simple as I can and without too many expensive ingredients. There’s nothing worse than looking at the perfect cocktail recipe and then realising you need to splash out a tenner on a bottle of bitters, just to use a couple of splashes.

Happy Halloween!

Charlottes Poisoned Web

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A (liquorice) twist on the classic Cosmo recipe.

2 Parts Red Square Vodka
2 Parts Triple Sec Liqueur
1 Part Cranberry Juice
A Squeeze of Lime
Liquorice Sticks (As many, or as few as you want – depending on how strong of a taste you want)

Shake with ice then strain into a chilled glass. Finish off with a few sticks of liquorice which act as the spiders legs in the web. I was a bit pressed for time and could only get hold of thick liquorice sticks but personally I think 8 thin string like pieces would be more aesthetically pleasing and apt.

Blood of a Virgin Mary

A spicy twist on the hangover favourite, Bloody Mary.

2 Parts Red Square Vodka
4 Parts Tomato Juice
1 Part Worcestershire Sauce
½ Part Lemon Juice
6 Dashes Hot Sauce – It’s recommended to stop at 4 but where’s the fun in that? Make it HOT!
1 Teaspoon Horseradish
Salt To Taste
Ground black pepper 
Hot Pepper
1 Wedge Lemon

Lash everything into a shaker and then pour into a tall glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish with the lemon and pepper (instead of celery) and test your taste buds – can they handle the heat?

Save this one for your hangover on Sunday.

Have fun!

See also: How To Drink On a Budget 

GRAZIA: Welcome to my Heartbreak Hotel

I’ve only gone and got myself a feature in this week’s Grazia magazine, a cover story no less, and I’m really, really psyched about it. If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed my excessive retweeting of all my loved ones and their copies of the magazine. If you don’t, than lucky you – you’ve been spared my spam.

It’s out to buy in shops until Tuesday but if you don’t love me enough to spend 2 quid to read it, here’s the PDF version!

(But you should buy it, even if you hate me – it includes a voucher for 25% off River Island!)

Little anecdote: When I excitedly lashed a picture of the article on my Snapchat story the first person to view it was my ex boyfriend who inspired the article which I thought would be the most awkward person to view it but I was wrong. A few hours later one of the Icelandic boys we met in Brussels (read the story about them here) had a look at my story. The one whose face is plastered all over the magazine. I hadn’t mentioned he would be in a UK magazine. Jen had also told him I was 20, not 26 like it says in bold in print. He had no idea we were on some heartbreak bender.

I wonder if he managed to get a copy in Iceland?

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Medication – The Iconic Liverpool Student Night

Back in 2008, my biggest concern was that I’d be cursed with 9am lecture on a Thursday morning. It should have been the fact that I was penciling my eyebrows in all wrong and wearing some pretty questionable outfits exclusively from Primark, but hey, we’ve all been there.

My fear of on early* start on campus was solely down to the fact Medication, Liverpool’s iconic student night, was held on Wednesday and rising from bed before midday after a night at Nation was never really an option.

* early? Bless my lazy student heart.

A few years on** and Medication is now on Friday nights – much to the relief of universities across the city; campus will no longer be a desert on Thursday mornings while every under graduate across Merseyside is passed out in halls, rather than attending lectures.

**Seven. SEVEN whole years it’s been since I was a Fresher. My God I’m getting on.

With their new night convenient for adult me and her future hangover the next day, I was able to accept an invitation down to Wolstenholme Square for a chance to relive my misspent youth.

Balloon drop at @medicationclub Liverpool last Friday 🎈🎈🎈

A post shared by ZoeYak (@zoeyak) on

 

Uni fees may have trebled, my eyebrows may now be constantly be on fleek, and I look a show in H&M numbers, rather than Primark these days, but one thing that’s managed to stay the same is Medication. Actually no, scratch that – it’s better. We may have been looking enviously at all the teenagers downing luminous alcopops without the fear of heart palpitations* but we still had the time of our lives; the next day wondering if that dodgy bloke from the pub could do me a fake student ID so I can go every week?

My favourite part of the evening was being able to get in the DJ box with the legendary Matt Hibbert on the decks and watch the balloon drop (see the video above!) One of my friends had such a miserable look on his face the whole time we were in there dancing, I couldn’t understand it – he’d been having a ball earlier. When I pulled him up on it the next day he revealed he was absolutely buzzing but deliberately looked moody so anyone looking up would think “God, that guy’s so lucky to be up there but he’s fed up. Ungrateful bastard.” He’s an arsehole but an elaborate, funny one.

*is there anything more mid twenties than learning you can’t have a blag WKD without feeling like you’re going to die?

Last year’s Med

If you’re lucky enough to still be a student, here’s some life advice courtesy of me, a 26 year old who’s kinda got her shit together:

1. Start going to ALL your lectures and seminars because it’s going to hit you like a bus when you enter the real world and you’re used to only churning out three hour weeks, at most. All you have to do is put on sweats, attempt to wash off the previous night’s club stamp and sit at the back smelling – easy.

2. Sleep with whoever you want. Seriously, sleep with your next door neighbour, if you want. Sleep with your ex if you fancy it. Because as soon as you graduate and become a proper grown up, getting laid just isn’t as easy. You can’t sleep with your neighbour as he’s most likely married, and you sure as hell can’t sleep with your ex without opening yourself up to a few days of self loathing about what direction your life is heading in. No, have fun at uni and don’t let anyone judge you.

3. GO TO MEDICATION WHILE YOU CAN. It’s not going to be their forever *sobs* and neither will you be a student forever. Sure, you’ll have a bit more disposable income when you’re older and be sipping elaborate cocktails in fancy bars with names you can’t pronounce, and that’s fun too, but nothing compares to those nights in Medication.

Vodka RedBulls in Plazzy Cups > Any Fancy Cocktail. IDST.

Halloween is always special at Medication so head over there tomorrow in a boss costume and have an absolute ball.

It’s never ticketed (don’t believe any club promotor mings from other venues that say otherwise) so there’s room for 2000 of you to pay on the door but they do lock out so don’t leave it to the last minute to head over.

Here’s Matt Hibbert’s Halloween Med Mix to get you in the mood.

See you there tonight, if Dodgy Gaz from the pub has got my blag Student ID sorted.

See also: Myths About Liverpool

My Big Fat Greek Holiday

My last trip to Europe, if you recall, was to Brussels (Belgium) and was a bit of a disaster, culturally. Not much got done, bar one museum trip, other than excessive drinking, making bad life decisions, and learning all about Iceland’s weird incest problem via a night of boozing with some fellow tourists. In our defence, when a city’s number one attraction is a tiny statue of a boy pissing into a fountain, maybe our decision to basically just get on the ale for two days was for the best.

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Manneken Pis – Just a 5 minute walk from the Irish bar we were drinking in….and we still didn’t see it.

A few weeks later, towards the end of September, I found myself in Greece for a week with an old Uni friend. You may have thought, given the fact I barely saw any of Belgium other than inside bars, I would perhaps try and see the most of Greece; maybe some ruins, visit a famous lagoon, or even pop over to Athens for the day.

You didn’t really think that of me, did you? Shame on you.

No, we had one aim for the holiday, and it was to spend as much time of it in the sun; reading and eating until our bikini’s became snug. 7 days and 5 books later, I was tanned, full of feta cheese and struggling to put my jeans on for the flight.

Here’s a few things I learnt while basking in the heat:

1. Running for a plane is scary

Before any of you smug sorts start, I am one of you – I have no time for anyone that turns up at an airport without a passport and I judge people who seem to think that being on the last minute is something to be proud of. Hear me out. We arrived at the airport a handsome six hours early – so bloody early that we couldn’t even check in and get through security. We had no choice but to get bladdered in a Wetherspoons and miss our calling hours later. As we ran past 70 gates to catch the plane before it departed without us, I thanked God I’d hammered the gym for the past few weeks.

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It’s not as fun as it looks in the films

2. Raki tastes like paint stripper but is strangely addictive 

We were first introduced to the Greek’s drink of choice via a resident piss head at our hotel bar. It burnt the back of my throat and I wondered why everyone was so keen for it. Fast forwarded seven days, I’m in the local offy buying water bottles filled with the stuff. Apparently the honey flavoured stuff is great for keeping colds at bay *Hiccups as writing*

3.”The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry”

With me being into my politics (aka boring all my friends at 4am after a few drinks and droning on about the impending privatisation of the NHS), I have had a passing interest in Greece’s politics of late. Realising they were to have an election of sorts while we over there, I had some grand ideas; maybe I’d take my dictaphone and do some crowd sourcing of the locals opinions? Perhaps I’d do a live blog of the results as they happened?

The reality? I noted that they were many A for Anarchy signs graffiti around the place and that’s about as deep as I delved into Greek politics. Also, I got out of the pool and toasted Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory with some dirt cheap prosecco with my friend. Champagne Socialism at it’s finest.

Secondly, prior to landing in Greece, I had well voiced my intent of getting at least 20 lengths done in the hotel pool before breakfast (a healthy fruit option, of course) and perhaps a few hikes – coming back with a tanned, toned body.

That was the plan. What actually happened was that I managed 12 laps on the first day and then started having Barcadi Breezers for breakfast….

4. As soon as you’re out of the country, all your taste leaves you

I like to think of myself as a classy drinker; after years of working behind a bar, turning my nose up at anyone ordered a WKD (and pronouncing it Wicked – the worst sort), I’m the kind of girl to order an Old Fashioned on a night out these days.

Get me in the sun with a cheap bar metres away and I’m all about the Orange Bacardi Breezers and a cheap Marlboro Light. Bloody Brits abroad, eh?

Most shameful thing about all this is that our small, quiet apartments had to actually make a run to the local wholesalers to get more Breezers in, solely for us. Don’t worry – I’m writing them a glowing Trip Advisor review as soon as I’m done.

5. I’m an accident waiting to happen

I hurt my knee quite badly one day. Did I fall over drunk? Get too into Greek dancing?

No. On a bus back from the old town, my thunder thighs had become quite sweaty. When I stood to get off, the sweat on my legs caused me to slip and fall, quite dramatically, onto a step.

It’s a shock I’m single.

6. Greece’s economy is great for a tourist

I feel for Greece at the moment but once I learnt I could get basically half a bottle of wine in a glass for 2 euros, I quickly stopped thinking politics and switched my thoughts to just how much food and drink I could get into my system.

We ate like kings for a week and I still spent way less than I had done in Malia nearly 10 years ago.

7. Karaoke is fun

At our local restaurant, where we had dinner every night (it was a choice between three places and one of those had an pissed up owner who would forget to bring you your order), we made friends with the two young girls working there. They begged us to do karaoke, as they’d only ever heard their manager’s rendition of Frank Sinatra’s hits every week for the past six months. We protested, claimed it wasn’t our thing, but then a few wines and rakis later and we were giving one hell of a performance of Alesha Dixon’s ‘classic’ The Boy Does Nothing.

We then hogged the mic for the remainder of the night and argued with Pam and George (The Ex-Pats in charge of the evening) when it was time to wind down. If you happened to be dining there that evening, I can only apologise.

8. Working by a pool is amazing 

I still had work to be done while I was away (don’t feel too sorry for me, I’m cramming a lot of jaunts abroad this year) so I had to take my Mac Book* with me and crack on by the pool a few days. It was amazing – give me some sun and the incentive I can take a dip once I’ve hit 500 words and I’m the most productive woman in the world.

*Apologies I said Mac Book when laptop would have sufficed. I’ve only recently got one and can’t stop showing off.

9. It’s great to switch off

Although I had to work now and again still, it was actually great to switch off. My job requires me to constantly be on my phone and connected to the internet. It was boss to be away with someone who barely checked their phone which rubbed off on me.

While on one my little browses of Twitter (well, I wasn’t going to go cold turkey), I found this great post from Girl Lost In The City about how to handle your time online. I’m still yet to get the correct balance but it was a great blog.

10. Buying actual reputable sun care products is grown up and wise 

I’m normally a girl who gets the cheapest sun cream on the shelf. However, I spent a couple of quid over my normal 99p budget and reaped the benefits. Reaching the end of my twenties (*gulp*), ageing of the skin is a number one concern and these beauties from Nivea and Euceriin were worth every penny. Same goes for splashing out on a decent bikini – as I mention over on my blog about boobs. Big up Bravissimo.

Hotel, Flights & Transfer (which was just a taxi for two of us): £300

Spending Money: £280 changed over into Euros. A couple of presents and duty free treats put on card.

Total: Roughly £600 for a week of non stop eating and drinking in the sun.

Greece, you were an absolute pleasure. Maybe one day I’ll come back and actually explore a bit of you.

Next, Berlin….