What’s in my bag?

In case my earlier post sparked your interest in the contents of my handbag, here is a quick look at what I cart around with me everyday. I am quite a neat freak when it comes to my bag, years of grappling around amonst receipts and chocolate wrappers drove me to be very strict in keeping it organised and tidy.

Prada wallet – from back in the day when I earned proper money (but wasn’t happy – the self inflicted pay drop was worth it, but more on that later). Every girl needs a bit of Prada in her life and I snapped this up for a steal on eBay.

Clean perfume (in Shower Fresh) – I read that this was the perfume Jennifer Aniston wears, and have it from multiple sources that she smells divine. This perfume is as it is named, it smells exactly like you just stepped out of a shower at a five star hotel; clearn, fresh and light.

Burberry sunglasses – in design these are similar to the classic Raybarn shape, with rims in a dark brown tortoishell.

Atrixo handcream – I adore the scent of this cheap, effective moisturiser and keep it in my handbag at all times to enrich my dried out hands.

Scarf –  I always carry a scarf in my bag as I often end up staying late at work or going to parties which means I get caught walking home late at night. This one is from the Liberty sale, a soft cashmere number with white tips.

Red and pink polka dot mini carry case – from my beloved Superdrug (cheap and cheerful cosmetics for the cash strapped who want a shopping spree of sorts).

Book – currently J.D.Salinger’s awesome Franny and Zooey, which I highly recommend.

Liberty vouchers – gift from my old employer, I like to know I have £100 to spend at my favourite shop in London if the mood grabs me!

Finally the hilariously OTT bag I am currently sporting, bought at a work sale for £1.  As it has not tags I am not sure if it was shockingly cheap or really expensive, either way I love the heavy gold strap and the camp take on patriotism.

Misc: Umbrella, chewing gum, hairbrush, lip gloss and Nurofen – all vital parts of my everyday kit.

Posted in Bags, Beauty, Cosmetics, Fashion, Musings | Leave a comment

An insider’s guide: how to secure work experience at a magazine

As Editorial Assistant at a popular magazine, I receive an average of 15 applications a day from people wanting to carry out work experience in our office. Being a women’s magazine the vast majority of applicants are women aged anywhere between 15 and 35.

As someone who was once in the unenviable position of wanting to break into print media I do try my best to offer opportunities where I can. But I also feel that to offer people work experience with us if I know they are going to spend 90% of their time filing magazines, getting breakfast, transcribing and doing mailouts, is just not on.

Many of us started at the bottom of the ladder, making tea and sorting the post and acting as if we were over the moon to be doing so, yet I believe we do have a responsibility as an industry to make sure those on work experience get some real experience of life at a magazine.  That might be by spending time on shoots, shadowing a journalist or sitting with the pictures team as they create a new page – however we do it, I now have a policy of not taking people on work experience unless I know we can offer some element of involvement in the creation of the magazine, however minor that may be.

Work experience can be a great way in, I was lucky enough to get my job after doing two week’s w/exp where I work currently. I do make a note of people who stand out, I will share my contacts so they can secure their next place and I may ask them to cover for me when I go away, so there’s no denying its a good way in.

I thought it might be useful to share some of the things I have learned from the applications I see every day, to share the good, bad and ugly in the hope it might give someone out there a chance to get into the industry.

1) Do your research – look at the website of the magazine/newspaper you want to work at as there will probably be instructions for how to apply. If not then the best route is to email the Editorial Assistant whose details will be on the masthead of the publication (generally at the top). I would suggest you email rather than call, Editorial Assistants get a LOT of phone calls and if they are efficient they will read and get back to your email when they have time.

2) Do not email multiple publications at once – each one will feel that you are not particularly loyal to their magazine and will also be less inclined to respond to a group email. We all know that you will be applying to lots of places but we still want you to make us feel special!

3) Within your email there are some key details to include. In the first paragraph put your age, when you are available (dates and for how long), specify if you are keen to be in a certain department (although be aware this may not work in your favour) and put a little about yourself, focus on how helpful you are and your awareness that you may need to do any type of job but are more than happy to do so. It is also good to include why you like the publication you are applying to, just a sentence will do.

4) Keep it short and check your spelling and grammar. It is so obvious to say, but we receive so many badly spelt and poorly written applications and even if people won’t be writing immediately it doesn’t show a genuine commitment to being a writer if you can’t actually write.

5) Other relevant information – It is fine to send a CV or covering letter although we are pressed for time so the likelihood at looking at attached documents is slim. Put the information listed above, and anything you feel is really relevant, in the body of your email so there’s no chance it will be ignored.

6) Chasing?! This is a tricky one, ideally your application will be acknowledged in some way but if it isn’t should you chase the contact or not? I would suggest sending an email seven days later (if you haven’t heard back) acknowledging how busy the person may be and gently checking they received your original email.

7) Don’t be downhearted – if you don’t get offered a work experience placement it could be for so many reasons, timing and a lack of places on offer being primary examples. Do try a number of places, milk your contacts (we expect to be asked for help by friends of friends) and don’t give up!

Finally…if you are lucky enough to secure a placement you need to realise how fortunate you are (and talented, of course!) This is a placement that hundreds of people would love and could be your one and only chance. Arrive ten minutes early, thank the Editorial Assistant when you arrive, bring a map of the area as you will likely be sent out and about (or a GPS phone), offer to get lunch and make tea. Accept every job with enthusiasm and a smile and you will not be forgotten.

Posted in Magazines, Starting out, Work, Work experience | 2 Comments

Do you care what is in my handbag?

Because I am absolutely fascinated by what is in yours.

One of the dismissive accusations that is often thrown at social networking sites, and for the sake of simplicity let us group blogs within that category just for now, is that it’s a big ole pile of self indulgent dullards telling each other what they had for dinner. And who cares what some random stranger who lives half way round the world had for dinner?

This strikes me as an odd question. Primarily because if you spend more than anything more than a rudimentary amount of time following people with shared interests on twitter, or seeking out interesting and well written blogs, you will be aware of the journalistic value and varied and interesting content of both these forms of new media. Essentially this question exposes the person who has asked it as having a badly formed opinion based on no research whatsoever (ironically another claim often made about blog authors).

Social networking provides a truly exciting new way of interacting with people all over the world, from all walks of life, who have fascinating and well informed views on topics from religion and politics to fashion and cookery. At its best it creates sharp, insightful and lively conversation between people that otherwise would never have the chance to take a peep inside each others world. From stand up comics in Jerusalem to Mormons in Utah by way of supermodels in Canada and stylists in Paris.

That being said, naturally there is an element of self-involvement in most blogs; personal photos, diary like descriptions of daily routine, confessional accounts of the trauma of divorce or horrors of grief. And to this I say so what?

Did you never sneak a look at a sibling’s diary? Don’t you look over the shoulders of fellow passengers when they are writing a text message or letter? Do you not love the chance to listen in to conversations between strangers and their friends? And if you have managed to do the right thing (i.e. not be nosy) weren’t you the least bit tempted?

I make no apology for the fact that I am fascinated by other people’s daily routines, personal lives, their love stories, the contents of their handbags, account of their nights out and what they had for dinner. Whether they be scholars from Yale or waitresses from Glasgow, it matters not to me, I love glimpsing into the lives of others.

Blogs do not go through subs and sign off processes, and many do suffer for this. There are thousands of blogs that are sloppily written and give a voice to self-centred droners who really should zip it. But conversely blogs have democratised the world of writing. Every single person, with access to a computer and Internet connection, can have a voice. They can do with that what they will, and you can choose whether or not to listen or move on with just the click of a mouse.

Finally, dear readers, I give you my dinner of a mundane Monday evening – Jacket potato, Spinach and roasted tomatoes. Now tell me, what could be more delightful?!

Posted in Blogs, Musings, Social media, Twitter | 1 Comment

Can’t sleep, won’t sleep

I have recently given up smoking, one of life’s great guilty pleasures. This, coupled with the humid mugginess that has enveloped London over the last few nights, has meant a very serious bout of insomnia that I am struggling to overcome. I have tried Herbal Nytol, valium, lavendar baths, eye masks, ear plugs, going to bed super early and also disgustingly late.

This morning, I find myself barely functioning and fantasising about the idea of a good night’s sleep. These beautiful pictures, found on Flickr, are bringing me some reassurance that my bed can again be a place of calm and tranquility as opposed to frustration and rage!

Photos from top: (1) TLC, (2) unknown, (3) femme run, (4) unknown, (5) Ally Jade

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sugar and Spice and all things nice

“Moderation in all things” decried Aristotle, and what wise words they were.

Like every woman in the Western world I fret over my size and shape. I love food, and I will never be a girl who goes out to dinner and orders a side salad and a glass of water, but this means I must demonstrate self control when it comes to both exercise and cooking at home.

The blame for the growing obsession with women’s weight has been placed at almost everyone’s door from magazine editors,  fashion designers and the male species to Nicole Ritchie, Lady Gaga and Kate Moss. Correctly there should be concern over the number of young girls who see stick insects such as Taylor Momsen and Nadine Coyle and aspire to achieve similarly emaciated frames, whatever the cost. But equally there is no denying that for centuries now, women have gone to great lengths to look slim; whether it be through donning corsets or ditching carbs.

I do believe that us girls waste far too much time and money thinking, talking, obsessing about what we eat and what we weigh…and that we have become infatuated with the idea of a quick fix in the form of new diets such as Atkins, GI, South Beach, Dukan..the list goes on and on. It is so utterly ludicrous, and I include myself in the group that have done it, because the solution for all of us is simple, obvious and free.

Exercise and moderation – two little words we have all heard time and time again, but they really are the key. It is a matter of getting into the habit, and habit is the important word here, of exercising as regularly as your schedule allows and moderating yourself whenever it won’t hinder your happiness to do so. What I mean by that is, if you’re in the pub and you want a pie and chips (like I did on Friday) then order it. If you have friends around and want to eat 10 of the delicious roast potatoes you slaved over (like I did on Sunday) then do so. And savour them, don’t beat yourself up afterwards.

But to justify this glorious indulgence in the week, when you can, take healthy lunches to work, buy soup and fruit for lunch, walk to the office, go swimming with a friend after work, have salads and grilled meat for dinner. Do what works for you, but trust me there is no quick fix. Yes, you can lost 7lbs in a week on Atkins but I promise you will put it back on within a fortnight off Atkins.

It has taken me a very long time to accept this myself, and I have a towering stack of diet books in my bedroom to prove it, yet once you  get your head around the idea and plan for your days of moderation – making sure you have healthy food in the fridge, finding a running route near home, keeping fruit on your desk -it becomes so much simpler to do. Yes it is nice to think a quick fix will solve your battle with your waistline but it just isn’t realistic.

Heed Aristotle’s advice and those days of indulgence will be so much happier, more enjoyable and worth a little bit of hard work.

Posted in Fashion, Food, Magazines, Musings | 1 Comment

Simple summer salad recipe

A salad like this one makes healthy eating a whole lot easier. Packed with roasted vegetables, feta and chicken it may not be totally sin free but it makes a cheap, easy and relatively healthy dinner in less than an hour and with barely any effort needed.

Serves 2

1 bag mixed leaves
1/2 block feta
2 red peppers
1 onion
1 courgette
1/2 large butternut squash
2 chicken breasts
1 lemon

Chop the courgette and butternut squash as desired and add to a roasting dish with a large glug of olive oil, place in an oven at gas mark 8.
Cook for 25 minutes before adding peppers and onion, thickly sliced (onion can be diced or in rings)
At the same time, put chicken breasts in a hot dish and cover with 2 tbsps olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon

Check vegetables are not drying out every ten minutes, if so add a splash of stock or tbsp water
After a total of 55 minutes remove the vegetables and place aside to cool for 10 minutes
After cooking chicken for total of 30 minutes remove and place aside to cool
Chop feta, prepare leaves, place in large bowl
Chop/strip chicken into thick chunks, add to salad and top with roasted vegetables
Add dressing of choice (balsamic is good)

Posted in Food, Recipe | Leave a comment

Pizza Perfect

Last Tuesday, after an uncharacteristically gruelling day at the office, I was enduring the daily horror that is Tottenham Court Road at rush hour when my friend and colleague AK (who was my partner in commuting for the day) persuaded me to accompany her to a press event for the evening.

It is a credit to the loveliness of AK that despite an overwhelming desire to slope off to bed with my book I could be found, not fifteen minutes later, apron clad with a face covered in flour in celebration of the search for a new pizza topping combination by the jugernaut that is Pizza Express.

Like many Brits, I have a lifelong affection for Pizza Express, purveyor of simple, well made pizza and pasta sold for reasonable prices at stylishly designed restaurants around the UK. A chain that gets it right, it is my go to option when I don’t have the time or energy to seek out an independent restaurant when visiting a new English city, when I am hungover and need something stodgy and when I feel the need for a familiar and comfortable space in which to dine.

No doubt there are better places to eat Italian food in most towns across the country, and I am a huge advocate for hunting out restaurants run by the people who have grown up cooking, and learning to perfect, their national cuisine. However sometimes you need a fail safe option for a meal where you know what to expect, particularly when dining with a large and fussy group, and this is where a chain like Pizza Express works.

AK and I joined two dozen other journalists at their Charlotte Street branch to roll thin dough bases, slather them in a thick tomato sauce and then select our  toppings from a range that included Haribo sweets, silver baubles and chocolate.

I went for slightly more traditional ingredients; building up from a thin layer of green pesto, topped with crumbled goats cheese, sun roasted tomatoes, peppers, red onions and finally strips of pancetta.

As anticipated it was delicious (though I can’t feel hugely smug about scattering a selection of pre prepared ingredients on to a pizza paste). The pancetta crisped on the top and the much loved combination of goats cheese and sweetened tomatoes created a perfect mix of savoury and sweet.

I can’t claim mine was a particularly creative entry, and I suspect a far more madcap concoction may be selected as the eventual winner (if Walkers’ search for a new crisp flavour is anything to go by, cajun squirrel flavoured snack anyone?).

The Create Your Own competition is open until 13th September, and the winner not only has their pizza features on menus around the country but gets £5,000 to boot.

We were generously gifted a huge bottle of olive oil and a gift card at the end of the evening. Now I just need to select which lucky friend I want to spoil.

Posted in Eating out, Food, Work | Leave a comment