lockdown mental health

Well Covid has been a real treat, hasn’t it? Lots of uncertainty, anxiety and stress for everyone, with the added bonus of a killer virus! Which won’t go away! Hooray!

Quite understandably, I’m losing it, and — even with a few months of reduced restrictions under Britain’s belt — everyone else I’ve spoken to is, too.

Still, we’re all trying our best, and with lockdown two on the horizon, I think this might be a better time than ever to share a little lived-and-learned survival guide for the next few weeks (dare I say months?) of uncertainty.

Don’t worry; I’m not here to tell you to start exercising and eating healthy food. You don’t need any more of that. This Lockdown 2 Survival Guide won’t be as bad as the others.

  1. Validate your feelings

    Before doing anything else, take a deep breath and tell yourself it’s okay to feel the way you do. Because it is. Feeling anxious or worried is inevitable in moments filled with anxiety and worry. Give yourself a break.

  2. Don’t listen to the fashion advice

    Most people got their first taste of working from home in Lockdown One and, in turn, were told it was essential to protect their mental health by getting dressed for work every day. It isn’t. But you know what is? Wearing the things that bring you joy. It could be cosy PJs one day, a leather dress the next, and a sweatshirt and leggings the next. You can hide a lot on Zoom with the right angle, so follow your impulses.

  3. Keep a record of the good things

    Write down every single thing that makes you happy each day — and I mean everything. A song? A voice note from a friend? A good workout? An oatmeal and raisin cookie? Put it all down. When it all gets a bit too much later on, these lists will not only put a smile on your face but make this period feel a little less bleak.

  4. Watch absolutely terrible TV

    I know we’re all supposed to be watching documentaries and reading important novels, but honestly? They can wait. If you want to watch (or, dear God, rewatch) something like Emily In Paris, do you. There’s plenty of time to do it all.

  5. Buy yourself something practical

    While becoming a runner helped me stay active and get some fresh air, I only run every other day, so I’ve spent more than few ‘rest days’ walking in rough weather — and ruining my Chelsea boots in the process. Swapping the ruined pair out for a an upgrade (the faux fur-lined Dr Martens’ Leonore boots, seen above) was, in my opinion, a long-term investment in good vibes.

  6. Buy yourself something impractical

    In April, I bought myself a ridiculously sparkly party dress that there was quite literally no reason or space for — but I love it. Every time I look at it, I look forward to the world beyond all this madness. Impractical things have that effect.

  7. Look after your black friends, neighbours and colleagues

    Allyship is more than black squares and hashtagged History Months. Go ask your black peers what you can do to support them, then do it. There is no better time than right now to start.

  8. Download an app blocker

    Though we’re all aware of the negative effects of social media, it’s easy to lose hours on apps when there’s little else to distract us. A good app blocker, many of which are available for free on iOS and Android, will limit the time you can spend on apps like Instagram and Facebook (and save your sanity in the process).

  9. Pimp up your environment

    Upgrading your living space doesn’t require you to paint walls or buy new furniture. Move your bed around. Have a clear out. Light those expensive candles you’ve been saving ‘for the right moment’. When spending a lot of time in one or two rooms, the environment in those rooms can make us feel positive or negative. Choose positive.

  10. Follow the bloody rules

    I know they’re no fun and I know government flip-flopping is making them even harder to follow; just remember, doing so is a pretty small sacrifice to save lives. They’ll be a distant memory soon enough and, when they are, the things we’re missing out on will feel more enjoyable than ever before.

marcos new york italian
Somewhere between dining at Marco Pierre White’s Marco’s New York Italian and sitting down to write this review, my memory card got well and truly corrupted.

I spent more than a few days trying to repair the little square’s wrongs, to no avail, before I released my growing indignation wasn’t very, well, Marco of me. And everyone could stand to be a little more Marco.

Pierre White is, and will always be, the enfant terrible of celebrity chefs. I knew it the second my bored teenage curiosity sat me in front of a copy of White Heat, I knew it the fateful day I somehow shared a kitchen with the man, and I – unexpectedly – knew it when I left his new Milton Keynes restaurant impressed.

Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much. The shiny-but-simple New York Italian is attached to the Holiday Inn Milton Keynes and, if experience has taught me anything, I know to keep most hotel-connected restaurant expectations to a minimum.

As the fact that I’m even blogging this might suggest, I had to surrender my caution almost as soon as I sat down. The staff were lovely. The food was lovely. The drinks were l- well, actually…the drinks deserve an adjective of their own.

Marco’s new menu is Pierre White done unobtrusively; classic American starters, mains and desserts dusted with Italian flavour and flair. Affordably. It fits the perfect hole that Bardolino, Mr. White’s, Wheeler’s of St James, Koffman and Mr White’s and his eponymous steakhouse had yet to fill in the chef’s portfolio.

We started with as-you’d-expect calamari fritto misto (with salsa-ed mayo) and buffalo wings before being blown away by the surf ‘n’ turf – a rare 10oz ribeye, New Orleans blackened shrimps in garlic and rosemary butter, with some subbed-in sweet potato fries.

The dish – and the bloody behemoth wine list – was incredible. We took our time with the Amarone della Valpolicella Classico throughout the meal – an incredibly elegant and rich Venetian made for red meat. Though it wasn’t a two-bottle sort of night, the Waipara Hills Sauvignon Blanc, – one of my favourite Kiwi wines – stood out as another unexpectedly fantastic option.

It’s not a restaurant I’m going to travel to Milton Keynes for, but it is absolutely a restaurant I’m going to want to visit when I’m in Milton Keynes. It’s an experience that sent my eyebrows up to the high heavens in an oblivious candid. And that counts for something.

* A decade later, it would be described as “the most influential recipe book of the last 20 years” by my equally-beloved Jay Rayner.

leopard coat
HAPPY NEW YEAR, TRIBE!

I’ve been having a bit of a ponder about New Year’s Resolutions; their importance (or lack thereof), their success rate (or lack thereof) and their true intentions (yep, same again). It is the latter, specifically, which sent my brain a-spiralling.

More people seem to berate those making resolutions than make ones for themselves these days and I’ve decided to avoid becoming that person. Instead, to get on board with the resolution makers. To support each desire spurred by the simplicity of a spinning planet. If there’s one thing we don’t need at the moment, it’s a world where people feel belittled for attempting to better things themselves and, increasingly more so, others.

I don’t need a real public declaration of the things I hope to achieve or people I hope to help in 2019 (not my jam), but I do promise to increase the frequency of your oft-request outfit posts. And I genuinely wish you the best with everything you’re setting up to achieve.

What I Wore:
Karolina embellished heels from Ruby Shoo
Leopard coat from ASOS (similar here)
Premium tights from New Look (best bargain everyday pair I’ve found!)


leopard coat
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toblerone christmas
Christmas quite literally crept up out of nowhere, didn’t it?

It’s been a little bit different to the traditional ‘sands through the hourglass’ surprises of yesteryears for 2018. I have been so genuinely bogged down in work, life and their inconsequential demands that the shops seemed to trade their bikinis for baubles in the blink of an eye.

Stress, naturally, set in. While I’m fortunate to spend Christmas with some of the most unbelievable people this universe has to spare me, I am an impossibly idealist gift giver. My partner needs perfection. My Secret Santa needs every sensation £50 can afford. The children in my life need Christmas magic.

They’re not unattainable ideals. But they’re not really Christmas, either.

Through most of my adolescence, Christmas was marked by transit. Being chaperoned to people across land and sky. Always hoping snow would be a halcyon. And always gazing longingly at duty free Toblerone bars.

It seems a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? That triangle-shaped blocks of chocolate could form memories that last decades. But they did.

Sadly, long security queues and no money to call my own worked against me. I would scuttle past the mass of mini-mountains year after year with just enough time to question how I might, one day, get my hands on the holy grail.

Somewhere between the airports and adulting, I forgot. I forgot how the smallest gift would have meant the world to me. A £9.99 mountain of milk chocolate and nougat. A super-value selection pack of milk, white, dark or fruit and nut chocolate (at £7.99). To this day, I still think of these simple Swiss chocolates as the perfect gift; for Secret Santa surprises, for stockings, et al.

A sweet gesture, at one time, would be more than enough for all of us. Whether you’re buying for one or one-hundred this Christmas, gift with that in mind.

(Just please don’t buy me any more Toblerone, friends and family, because this realisation has instigated something of a hoarders situation.)
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hearts in hair
The Pevonia Jumeirah Sensory Wellness Journey Treatment at The Peak, Knightsbridge

Don’t worry, babe – I didn’t have a bloody clue what a ‘wellness journey’ was either. All I knew was that it was a 75-minute spa treatment at one of my favourite hotel clubs from one of my favourite brands. And that’s promising enough to be awarded an afternoon.

The massage-focused ‘journey’ ended up being a wildly indulgent combination of meditation, kneading, body wrapping, and facials. It was my indecisive dream.

To start, you pick a scent (coconut & pineapple, jasmine & lavender, or peach & vanilla) to be used across all the treatments. Then, in my case, you kind of fall into a dream and wake up completely restored.

Though I’m a glutton for a massage, this club-exclusive treatment of scrubs and rubs takes it to the next level. Every part of my body felt like it had been anti-aged, restored, and pampered.

It also didn’t hurt that a finishing slather of Pineapple & Coconut Body Moisturizer was as soothing (thanks, Calendula flower and aloe leaf extract) as it was tantalising – four strangers asked where they could buy the ‘fragrance’ I was wearing later in the day.

When you book in, make sure to schedule in a little extra time for the club’s 20 metre indoor heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms. You won’t regret it.

Milk and Blush Hair Extensions

I am beyond non- committal when it comes to hair extensions. I’ve trialled a number of different brands as a journalist but nothing has ever really wow-ed me on the consumer side. Even the high-end, celebrity-endorsed options.

Milk and Blush, however, make phenomenal hair extensions under £100. I have been using a 16-18″ Deluxe set to jazz things up every now and then (be it as a bridesmaid or just for a night out with the girls) and the super-soft hair blends perfectly. Not only that, but the 160g “seamless” set feel like nothing more than a few clips in the hair. So much so I accidentally slept in them one Old Fashion-fuelled night.

The ‘Luxurious’ 200g set would, undoubtedly, offer more volume with its quad wefts but I don’t think I need anything more for my little pea head.

(For reference, my shade is Sweet Like Chocolate and I’ll definitely be purchasing longer lengths as my lob continues to grow out.)

Etmore

Etmore’s range of cruelty-free and natural extract-infused beauty products just launched in the UK and they’re some of the best I’ve got my hands on in months. Discovering Etmore was like discovering a pot of gold…en dupes.

My hero product is the argan oil-packed Liquid Illuminator (RRP £11.99). You genuinely need less than a pea-sized amount for a fully strobed or nontoured face, so I’ve started rubbing the excess on my legs to give them a much-needed winter glow.

Next up is the Forever Fibre Brows set (RRP £8.99) – again, with argan oil. The little brush picks up 100% cellulose fibres to fill and define brows in a single swoop. Each coat adds a little extra drama and you can build to smudge-proof, sweat-proof Delevigne brows in no time. It even has a little vanilla flower extract included which feels crazy luxe for the price point.

Last but certainly not least, the Mineral Complexion powder (RRP £7.99). It only seems to be available in one caucasian shade, but has colour-correcting infusions built into the base in small circles. The brand claim it can be used as a foundation or a finishing powder thanks to buildable – but sweat-proof – micronised minerals, but I assume it’s more of the latter as it matches my own skin so perfectly. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic little powder to balance and brighten the complexion and offers a flawless photo finish when used on top of anything heavier than a tinted moisturiser.