itsallaboutmimes.com has finally arrived

It’s here.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this is years in the making. When I first started travel blogging in Spain I had wanted to redesign the old blogger site into something more modern and personalised.

itsallaboutmimes.wordpress.com had a lot of tweaking in that time, and trialed a few themes. I settled on this one but was never truly happy with it. But a combination of making good content and real life pushed any aesthetic concerns to the back of my mind.

For the last year, I’ve been trying to take blogging more seriously. And I think my work has got better. It still has a way to go (and indeed the new site still needs some work), but the better posts deserved a better website. Something without the host after my name. Something that highlighted what I really cared about instead of just showing the most recent post.

From now on, all new blog posts will be posted at itsallaboutmimes.com Check out the bottom of the new homepage to sign up for email updates from that site, so you can continue getting notifications to the shiny new site.

Hope to see you there,

Keira x

Living in London: Central London

Are you living in London or just living? This series is an inspiration to live a little, through showcasing some of the great bars and cafes available in our busy city. This month we visited John Lewis’ Rooftop bar and Yauatcha in Soho.

This trip started with dread, as a friend asked me to meet her in Oxford Circus. What right-minded Londoner goes to Oxford Circus? This central shopping street is for tourists and buskers. Confirming my fears, I was accosted three times upon exiting the station – “Are you friendly, Miss?” No.

Passing over the first cafe we went to (I’m not a fan of pink, or girly, or places designed solely for an Instagram post), we did have a good evening out. My friend is a Time Out enthusiast and had found a couple of cool places to go, starting with John Lewis’ Roof Fest. Apparently London’s biggest rooftop bar, it was split into cosy corners and several dens, making it feel smaller than it probably was. We squished onto a bench in the sun and took in this upmarket beer garden.

The cocktails were okay – the Bloody Mary was mostly tobasco and lemon juice, but my ‘Summer of Love’ was a very good gin and soda, the garnish here making all the difference. Hats off to the virgin cocktails – I could have stuck to the Woodstock Virgin all night and not known the difference. Drinks like this make me wonder why I even need the alcohol.

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So how does one dress to dine in Central London? The same way I do for drinks in Fulham or going to work. Tracksuits might not fly, but more or less anything else goes. My friends dressed up in a cute summer dress and wedge heels, or a satin skirt with a simple vest. They looked great and it did give the night a little special vibe. I wore a tshirt and midi skirt which I’ve worn to work, and to bed, and now to a sophisticated Chinese restaurant in Soho. The staff greeted us politely, we had a reservation, they showed us to the table. Their service was top notch, and slightly more formal than my usual preferred bars. But they weren’t ‘snooty’. There were no judgmental looks. People don’t pay as much attention to you as you think, and anyway, Central isn’t that posh.

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The food was fantastic. Dishes were brought out as soon as they were ready, meaning everything was hot and fresh. We shared a few plates of dumplings which is definitely the best way to try as many things as possible. Cheung fun turned out to be a rice noodle rolls, filled with perfect prawns, the char sui buns were as amazing as I could ever have hoped (I’ve been sucker for dumplings ever since I went to Brick Lane market) and my personal favourite were crispy duck and pumpkin puffs. Totally cute, they came out garnished as mini pumpkin. Sticking with the mocktail vibe, I had a cucumber and lime iced tea, which frankly made the perfect meal.

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It was pricey. We were in Soho and the food was that good that I don’t even mind. And I’m glad we went on a random Monday, rather than trying to make it a special occasion with all the underlying pressure that brings. Just great food and great company and all the things that accompany a great life. Could I afford it often? No. Not on my bartenders budget. But did it make an ordinary Monday into a special night out? Yes, definitely and that is worth spending a bit more every now and again.

We finished the night in an ice cream parlour, a late night craving for waffles and crepes. It was weirdly busy at ten o’clock on a Monday, so apparently a lot of people get these cravings. A video call to a friend who couldn’t make it and some nutella waffles were the end to a casually fantastic evening. These are the days I live for, the semi-spontaneous, explore-somewhere-new nights which are all too easy in London and yet still too far between. It reminded me that even areas of the city you don’t go to still have something to offer. And there are still so many areas of this city I don’t know at all.

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Skirts and Self-Confidence

This skirt is too tight. It’s physically uncomfortable to wear for a long period of time.

So when I woke up, slightly hungover and just generally feeling low, this probably shouldn’t have been the skirt I went for. But dressing up usually lifts my mood, and my pencil skirt feels loose and doesn’t look as good, so too tight lace skirt it was.

Cute skirt, simple outfit. It could have been a simple OOTD post on Instagram, except when I set up my tripod outside my new house, I hated every photo. Each pose was awkward, the lighting was constantly wrong. It took at least ten pictures to get the focus right (my face’s Blurryface and I care what you think). I looked fat. My make up was wonky. You name it, I saw the flaw.

Terrible photographer, terrible model. I questioned why I even bothered. I should just delete my Instagram and be done.

Later, I looked at the photos again, hoping to salvage one from a bad lot. As I clicked through I picked out one. And another. And another.

They weren’t as terrible as I thought. I’m still no model but I don’t look as fat as I felt. And I learnt how to focus my camera eventually, so the shoot was worthwhile, regardless of the photos.

It took eating a mountain of potatoes and taking off that skirt to realise maybe I judge too harshly. Putting yourself in uncomfortable positions is key to self growth but you need to take the time to look after yourself. Self care and reflection are also key to self-growth. On some days, self-confidence is a fragile thing that needs nurturing, rather than harsh words from your inner critic.

I’m glad I did the shoot, discomfort and all. Because without it, I might have spent all day feeling a little bit ick, and not as amazing as this skirt deserves. But most of all, I’m glad I took a moment to recharge and then carried on, because that’s when I rebuilt my self-confidence. It’s something Sorelle Amore preaches in her Advanced Selfie series and something I’ve come to believe more and more with each set of self-portraits. They are both motivational and healing. We judge selfies as self-obsessed and detrimental, but it depends how you use them. Like all tools, they can be used for good or for bad.

In this harsh world, it’s good to take a step back and consider all angles, like you would for a photo. Whats the best angle, and how can I make that work for me?

My best angle? Definitely a 3/4 twist, looking the other way.

Easy Changes – Top Tips for *Less* Waste

So you’ve listened to David Attenborough talking about wildlife on One Planet and you want to help. You care about the planet but you’re not quite ready to go full hippy and live off nature in the wild. Zero waste sounds intimidating and you don’t want to inconvenience your family or flatmates with your new found love for the environment (or say, the whole of London by protesting for nine days over Easter. Yes, climate change is a problem. But I need to get home from work at 2am).

So here are a few changes that are easy to make. No consequence to your life but a slowly increasing benefit to the planet.

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Make a ‘Zero Waste Kit’

  • Shopping bag
  • Water bottle
  • Reusable cutlery (also known as, your normal cutlery)
  • Coffee cup if you drink hot drinks on the go and…
  • A reusable straw, if you really insist on using a straw. Or if you need to.

Making this kit won’t immediately make you zero waste, but it does tackle four or five of the biggest disposable single use plastics. The absolute easiest is a reusable shopping bag. Fold it up, stuff it in your pocket or at the bottom of your bag, never have to pay 5p for plastic bag again. Plus, if you go fabric, it is much less likely to split when you fill it with heavy items like milk, potatoes or say, alcohol.

 

Say no to straws

Some people genuinely need them. Fair enough. Try bringing your own metal or bamboo straw, you won’t even notice it tucked into your bag. For people who don’t need a straw, stop asking for one. I’m seriously tempted to ask my work to stop providing them, its infuriating how unnecessary they are.

Prep your own lunches

Getting food on the go is one of my personal biggest producers of waste and could be avoided if I did some meal prep and took a lunch box with me. You’re also likely to be eating healthier food, with more control over what goes into it and it’d cost less.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, check out a bulk store and get a load of pasta or couscous in your own jars to make a really low waste lunch.

Buy loose veg…

And bring cotton bags for buying bread. I’ve admitted it, food shopping is a struggle. But one easy change you can do is buying loose vegetables rather than plastic wrapped or bagged. It’s a tiny change that you won’t notice but will add up over time and if enough people do it, eventually supermarkets will stop wrapping so much in plastic. My local Morrisons has taken the plastic shrink wrap off cucumbers and lets people buy meat from the deli counter in their own tupperware which is a great start and shows that consumer power makes a difference.

Try a plastic-free period

Menstrual cups are a fantastic alternative to tampons. For those who are worried about inserting a little cup into themselves, get yourself some washable pads or underwear. Underwear may feel more secure to you, bamboo pads are more affordable with some brands offering up to 6 pads for £24. On my simple bartenders budget, that was more achievable than having to buy several pairs of underwear at £30 a pop. Shop around, find something that suits your budget and flow. The numbers on how many period products you use are pretty staggering – some people estimate a woman uses 12,000 pads or tampons through her menstruating life. So if you’re looking for a simple change that will really make a difference, get yourself some reusable pads or a menstrual cup.

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Fun story: I had a colleague ask me if I had a spare pad the other day. I panicked for a moment and then remembered I had a couple of disposable ones leftover in a back pocket. But I also showed her my (clean) reusable ones and she seemed interested. Give it a go people, it may well lead to some very feminine conversations.

And try other plastic free hygiene products

Bamboo toothbrushes. Recyclable and reusable metal razors. Shampoo bars rather than liquids in bottles, almost anything from Lush.

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Fighting climate change, one toothbrush at a time

If you stay at my house, I will likely offer you a compostable bamboo toothbrush. If every person in London switched to a bamboo toothbrush that’d be 8 million less plastic sticks heading to landfill, which really demonstrates how important it is to get lots of people to make tiny changes. As a famous supermarket says, every little helps.

Shampoo bars are a dividing topic and work for some hair better than others. Lush have a great selection (I’m using Montalbano, which is a really tough wash because my hair gets really greasy. Others are gentler) and they carry loads of other hygiene products in recycled plastic pots. Not quite plastic free, but you can take tubs back to the shop where they get reused, so pretty damn close. Plus they haven’t ever used micro-beads and fight animal testing which are both great things. My face wash and salt scrub are the only things my skin needs, which also saves on pointless bottles of moisteriser and primer and shit in general. I’m lucky. I have good skin. But I also don’t coat it in layers of crap.

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See this experiment for what happens to your skin when you don’t use any beauty products, by two people with psoriasis and acne. Or read this recap here

And finally, think about what you’re doing and buying

The most important part of being eco-conscious, is simply being conscious. Think about whether what you’re buying is really necessary, and then if there is an easy alternative that produces less waste. Think about where you’re throwing your rubbish, and whether it can be recycled. Does your council offer food waste recycling or could you compost? Take a little time to think through your actions and whether you could implement some simple habits. Then implement them.

June Favourites

Favourite Blogger – Sorelle Amore

Sorelle Amore is life goals, who conveniently has a channel on YouTube showing you how to do everything she does. She’s an eco-friendly minimalist, but mostly she’s all about self-improvement and giving others the tools to improve themselves. It’s such a positive and empowering attitude, with the bonus that each video has nuance and acknowledges that multiple points of view exist. She’s open-minded and striving to be better and is a real inspiration for living your best life.

Check out her Advanced Selfies series for tips on upping your selfie game and to see how taking selfies can be an art and a way to love yourself.

Favourite Book – How to Win Friends and Influence People

With a title like that I was expecting some Machiavellian style advice, but the main gist of the book so far is be nice to people and they’ll do the same back. Do unto others, what you would have done to you. There’s a lot of carrot rather than stick motivation techniques and stuff that should be common sense, but if you’re not great with people (holla!) then it doesn’t come naturally. I’ve been thinking a lot about self-improvement recently, and even only a few chapters in, this book is helping. It’ll need rereading many times, I suspect, before the lessons truly ingrain themselves but for anyone working with people, I would recommend this book.

Random Topic of Interest – Dungeons and Dragons

Not specific to this month, as I started playing almost a year ago. But I’ve had a lot of regular sessions this month and am vaguely gathering people for an afternoon when I’ll run the campaign, so that’s how I’ve spent most of my free time.

Artistic Inspiration

Lo-Ireese’s Aesthetics on Tumblr. I love aesthetics more than ‘real’ art sometimes, the balance, the mood, the tiny focus of each image.

Zero Waste Challenge

If you ask my family, they’ll tell you I’ve always been pretty eco-conscious. But as news shows us pictures of plastic islands covering the Pacific and suffocating shorelines across the globe, I asked myself if I could do more. Was there a way to prevent any more plastic entering the sea, and how could I personally help?

Enter the Zero Waste Challenge. A challenge to get through a week with no plastic rubbish whatsoever, and even minimal recyclable waste. Was a week even possible, and if so, how long could I carry on?

Some of it is easy. Like, ridiculously easy. Carrying a water bottle and a reusable shopping bag aren’t exactly challenging, it’s more a case of habits. In fact these are habits I’ve had for a long time, thanks to my mum who is pretty amazing and has been eco-conscious for way longer than it’s been trendy. She also recycled for as long as I can remember, and possibly regrets training me into it as I ‘was’ a somewhat precocious child. Sorry mum, but at least I’m not being disingenuous.

Top 5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste

  1.  Carry a water bottle to refill.
  2.  Keep a reusable shopping bag (or two) in the bottom of your bag for whenever you go shopping.
  3.  Bring a resuable coffee cup. Some places will even give you a discount for using your cup.
  4.  Where possible, buy without plastic. Loose veg, bring your own cotton bags. Unwrapped bread from a baker. Some of it is easy, some is harder, but there are little things everyone can do.
  5. Question whether you really need to buy something. Will you be able to wear that skirt multiple times? Will you really use that waffle maker all that often? If it’s for one occasion, can you borrow from a friend? Think through purchases before you make them.

 

Food shopping was probably the most difficult. I managed two plastic free shops, but there are a lot of things you simply can’t buy. Anything snacky or convenient to get on the go comes in a plastic wrapper. Sweets, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, basically anything that we consider junk food (but is delicious and we want to eat) comes in plastic. In supermarkets, most meats come in plastic; if I ate cheese, it would be in plastic. Even the more environmentally friendly vegetarian options usually come in plastic. Nothing frozen. Basically supermarket shopping is a long list of things I couldn’t buy. I managed two plastic free shops, getting some stuff in tins and eggs in cardboard that can be easily recycled. It’s not perfect but it sustainable for my life style.

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It’s very easy to get caught up in being perfect, and that can make you both preachy (definitely guilty of this) and very judgmental of yourself and others. When you preach to people they’re less likely to listen (a hard lesson to learn, but I’m trying), but more detrimentally, if you judge yourself or others too harshly, you and they are more likely to give up. It’s better to make small contributions that slowly build up, than no contribution at all. And if we focus on being better than before, rather than some unrealistic perfection, we’re more likely to achieve our goals.

Kathryn of Going Zero Waste sums this up with way more experience in two posts – Why The Trash Jar is Bullshit and What I Still Buy In Packaging. Kathryn’s whole blog is a really useful resource for people looking to more toward a zero waste lifestyle, and she accepts that the ‘zero’ part is very much an ideal goal and not entirely plausible. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. (Other blogs I really enjoyed when I was starting this challenge were Trash Is For Tossers for more sass and Near-O Waste for achievable lower waste tips).

” It’s not about perfection; it’s about making better choices.” [X]

So what have I learnt from this week? A) That food shopping is a ballache, but probably my biggest contributor of plastic. And B) that other changes are way easier to make, often making no impact on my day but making a tiny impact on the planet. I’ll be making a checklist of easy changes to make before plastic-free July. And together we can make lots of tiny changes that eventually add up to something greater.

May Favourites

Favourite Blogger – Sedona Christina

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the environment and how I can make a positive impact. So when a Zero Waste Swaps to Save Money video showed up in my recommended watch list I was curious. Sedona Christina is really relatable and non-judgemental, and has loads of videos about low-impact living. She’s just super cute and friendly. I particularly liked the one about alternatives to fast fashion, especially when she said she just stopped buying clothes for a while. That has to be the most logical and obvious change you can make, and yeah it’s going to be temporary but nobody mentions that just not buying clothes is a simple way to get out of the fast fashion cycle. Definitely my eco-inspiration for this month.

Favourite Book – Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht

Complete with sketch for my sister from three years ago

It’s a couple of years old, but this is THE BEST career advice book I’ve read. It’s full of tough love and real advice rather than the usual ‘hustle harder’. Reading it makes me feel like I can do anything whilst also reminding me there’s a lot of stuff I need to work on. It’s a confidence boost and an ego-check at the same time. And she really understands the sociology of a work environment. She acknowledges image as important because it is. She knows people judge and advises you how to deal with that and use it to your advantage. It’s a PR’s insights into how to do PR for yourself.

 

 

 

Random Topic of Interest

Italian grammar… or Italian in general. We had an Italian chef join us for a while and it inspired me to pick up Italian again. Which lead to the rabbit hole of grammar for a few afternoons – gli, le, lo what? – but I’m the kind of nerd who loves that.

Artistic Inspiration

Ana Ye

Living In London: Coffee Zee

Are you living in London or just living? This series is an inspiration to live a little, through showcasing some of the great bars and cafes available in our busy city. This month we visited Coffee Zee in Holloway.

It’s a beautifully sunny day, my coffee is perfect and I’ve just been served the biggest slice of carrot cake possible. Fairly sure it’s two pieces stuck together.

Sunshine notwithstanding, this is a typical aftenoon in Coffee Zee, an East-End quality coffee shop smuggled into North London. A few other locals have tables set up with Macbooks – arty creative types who care about their coffee. One is even wearing a beret.

Living in Holloway, your choices for coffee and dominated by three or four Costas between Holloway Road and Finsbury Park. One of these is great, and my regular haunt, but when I don’t want chain coffee and the high likelihood of loud children, I go to Coffee Zee.

It’s slightly pricey (£3 for a latte, £6.50 for avocado on toast) but not beyond what you’d expect from an independent coffee shop. And its a real case of you get what you pay for. They roast their own beans, make a lot of their cakes in house (including that delicious carrot cake) and their baristas are properly trained. No rushing. No screaming milk jugs. (Plus, no screaming children.)

Too much carrot cake in the end. I’m in here a while watching tables come and go. One Macbook leaves, another takes their place. A couple of gentlemen who remind me of my old Hackney customers arrive. There’s a definite vibe, quiet and understated. Hipster, but maybe a little older. Like the hipsters have grown up. It’s less pretentious,  just unapologetically snobbish about coffee. It’s not on trend. It’s just good.

Coffee Zee is about the daily living in London. Nothing novel, but reliable. A visit there feels like I’m spending my time well, (living that best life) and that makes it worth the slightly higher price. It’s more than just a needed caffeine boost, it’s a tiny slice of me-time. A tiny slice of living rather than existing.

One Skirt, Four Ways

I don’t *get* Instagram (thanks to the 110 followers who know this and stay). One of the trends I’ve seen recently that I really don’t understand is the short styling videos showing an item of clothing in a few different ways.

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Firstly, the outfits aren’t that different. Like I’ve done here, they simply switch out a top or a pair of trousers and call it a new outfit. Technically it is, but there’s nothing hugely original going on there.

Secondly, this is how everyone should approach clothes shopping anyway. If the item you’re about to buy can only be worn in one specific combination, why are you buying it? I don’t have the money to waste on one-time wear pieces or the wardrobe space to keep lots on non-interchangeable outfits. My clothes need to work as hard as I do, and whilst we’re being preachy, might as well mention that the Earth can’t sustain that kind of consumerism either.

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I wonder if part of the problem is that bloggers are gifted items rather than choosing them specifically. The red skirt you’ve been sent might be beautiful, but it will take more thought to style it if you’ve collected a wardrobe of gifts instead of curating a wardrobe of daily wearables. It may suit your Instagram life, but not your real life. Plus four outfits is better value content for the brand.four outfits e (1 of 1)

Same skirt, same winged eyeliner, same overexposure. One day I’ll learn how to take photos

On the plus side, it does normalise the practice of wearing clothes more than once. Which most people do, you know, in real life. But impressionable young audiences don’t see online. And who are they going to idolise and try to emulate, the cool Instagram influencer, or their sensible mum who understands budgeting?

Maybe I’m old-fashioned. I’m part of the millennial group who chooses reusable straws , so naturally I rewear my clothes. Do Gen Z really have a completely different mindset, after growing up with YouTubers as their older siblings?

Or I might be overthinking an innocuous Instagram trend. Perhaps someone who like these posts can explain their appeal? I’d love to hear your opinions

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Living In London: Mr Fogg’s House of Botannicals

Are you living in London or just living? This series is an inspiration to live a little, through showcasing some of the great bars and cafes available in our busy city. This month we visited Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals in Fitzrovia.

If you’ve ever wanted to step back in time, say to the late 1800’s, then Mr Fogg’s might be the bar for you. Especially if that desire came with the caveat of wanting the modernity of flushing toilets and great cocktails.

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Like stepping into a Victorian hothouse, the bar on Newman Street is filled with palms, ferns and vintage decor. And I can honestly say that I’ve never seen patterned wallpaper and dark wood go together so well without looking like an abandoned museum. Maybe it was the crowd, maybe it was the neon lights, but Mr Fogg’s definitely felt alive.

So forgive the worry that it would be all style and no substance. Especially when the bartender started flairing. But worries assuaged, the cocktails were good. Short, strong and well balanced like the menu, they slipped down like a botanical dream.

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Surprise favourite? The Flight of the Hummingbird. All the cocktails were designed with this specific bar in mind, featuring herbal liqueurs and exotic names. The Hummingbird was almost too drinkable, a rum libation that barely tasted of alcohol. For those who enjoy to taste their alcohol, my Monkey Puzzle (served in a tea cup) definitely contained tequila which perhaps should have slowed me down but didn’t. We ended up a little drunk. If you wanted to avoid that almost inevitability, they have a small food menu which appears to have been given as much thought as the drinks and decor. We’re tempted to go back and make a meal out of the bar snacks.

This is the stand out quality of Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals. Everything has been considered carefully to craft a whole experience. It might not be your local for every Friday night but its definitely a destination worth visiting, and what are we Londoners looking for if not an experience?