Expat Diaries: Six Months In London Leave a Comment

All photos in this post were taken by my Annemari.

Under my “The Diaries” category, the expat subcategory is still called Expat Wannabe. It’s not inaccurate. I’m still feeling my way around this whole living in a different country thing — though then again, that’s a lie. It’s not living in a different country that throws me. It’s making ends meet for my ridiculously expensive London rent. Ultimately, finances and housing are the two things that are keeping me from calling myself a proper expat, from believing I’m here in London to stay.

But I am. And I’ve been here six months, today.

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I wanted to mark this moment in some way because I’ve been missing all my previous month Londonversaries — a week before the 28th, I’d be like, ooh, in four days I’ll have been here five months, and then it’d be the 29th and it would have completely slipped my mind. But it didn’t yesterday, even if I didn’t get this post up then. It’s been a week of low-level mental health downs — tachycardia on Friday, anxiety, sobbing. Always, always about money.

But I also didn’t hit rock bottom, and you know how they say the one good thing about rock bottom is you can only go back up? That’s never helped me in the slightest. I’ve never had a change of heart or a change of routine after hitting rock bottom. But this weekend, I somehow kept it together despite feeling incredibly, utterly dejected and hopeless, and that wobbly stability somehow allowed me to go through the motions — to get some work done, even go to bed at a semi decent hour.

There was an attitude shift somewhere, and I can’t put my finger on it but I want to make the most of it before it fizzles out. The goal here is to strengthen my work routine — acquire one, on some levels — and I’ve never felt this inclined to work hard and regularly before, but I’ve always, always been better at doing things when I did them every day as opposed to once every two weeks, and never skipped a day (unless it was planned beforehand, see: Sundays). This post is taking me ages to write and it’s probably partly because I skipped Monday — which, you know, I was moving my blog from its blog.lixhewett.com subdomain to www.lixhewett.com, and finishing up the mockup for my new design so my friend Leila could get started on it, and pushing my work on Twitter, and… working, too, at that.

It would be a lot easier to get things done if I didn’t get up so late. It got dark today while I contemplated getting out of bed. This is what I’m trying to avoid.

Lix pokes installation art at Tate Britain

This picture isn’t me poking installation art at Tate Britain in April. Nope. This picture is a metaphor. The installation art is obviously my brain, or my life, or something equally transcendent and a shambles, and I… am poking it. Gingerly with one finger while holding my camera in my other hand.

It exemplifies everything, obviously. Mainly the fact that my life and my brain somehow keep going even through the meltdowns, and I am mystified by this. I’m still standing. I mean, I’m lying down right now, but my anxiety and depression haven’t gone anywhere, and I’m still in one piece. It’s mystifying.

One thing that’s changed here in England is my eating habits. I don’t know if it’s the going off antidepressants, or no longer having my parents around pushing me to eat when I’m nauseous (or triggering nausea by pushing me to eat when I’m not hungry). I don’t know if it’s the reduced daily pressures — despite everything, and even though I’ve been taking lorazepam every day in halves or wholes for a week right now, it is different. It’s definitely not my sleep schedule, because that’s still shot. But the fact of the matter is I’m eating at least one proper meal every day, and enjoying it. That’s kind of huge.

I’ve also sort of cut back on coffee, but that’s mostly because I started going to Starbucks every day and that was more than enough. Now I’m trying to cut back on Starbucks, so I got a pack of Azera latte sachets that were half price today. Gotta find a balance. Even if I have a workspace where I live now, I still find Starbucks incredibly comforting. Even when I choose the one I need to walk thirty minutes to reach —

— which is another thing that’s changed. Most people, even in my small town, are used to ten-minute walks. Twenty-minute walks, even. I used to be used to these things, but then I dropped out of college and became a bit of a hermit who only went out of the house roughly once every four months, and that is not hyperbole. So coming to London was a learning curve. A training curve, in fact. But now I can walk those totally normal distances without dreading it or getting tired, and can even get to Hampstead without breaking a sweat walking uphill.

As long as it’s not raining and I don’t have an umbrella, anyway.

(I got one yesterday, finally. It’s a PR sample so you’ll see it on the blog soon enough, too.)

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I don’t know. It’s been six months and I have fewer moments when I look at myself and think, exhilarated, “I am living in London.” But then that’s in large part because I don’t get to experience London very much. I get to experience Belsize Park and Hampstead, and I love it; I’ve actually always had a thing for Starbucks, I could talk about that at length, and I’m so happy I now live in a place where I can sit at a coffeehouse for hours with my laptop — or a book, hypothetically; I should make this real sometime, like I always did when I was in Oxford the summer of 2008 and work hadn’t consumed my life — and just enjoy that. It’s so good for my sanity, that minimal excuse to get out of the house. I’m cutting back because it’s not as good for my wallet, but still.

I like it here. I like this place. I like my neighborhood, and I like London — a lot. I go back and forth on whether I’d like to maybe move to Oxford for good one day or if I never want to live anywhere else, ever. London wins more easily when I’ve actually been to central recently; I guess my memories of loving Oxford are just that strong.

It’s weird as hell to be an adult — completely responsible for myself — for the first time ever in a different country. It’s a learning curve, for sure, and there’s so much I have left to do. I’m not good at making friends offline, and it’s too expensive to go back home even for a holiday — the train from Madrid to Ciudad Real is actually more expensive than a return ticket on a low-cost flight, figures. I miss my cat so, so much sometimes, and some other times I miss simply not being singlehandedly responsible for my own well-being. Miss raiding a kitchen somebody else has stocked.

But I’m not going anywhere, so I guess I’ll have to get used to it. And it’s encouraging to know I’ve managed this long despite the first two months with their weekly moves and the public breakdowns and the days that threw me for a loop and the weekend I truly hit rock bottom. It’s encouraging to know I’ve managed to shoot people, and model for people, things I would never have done back in Spain — even if the bulk of my work at the moment is still on a laptop.

It’s all taught me something, one way or the other, and it’s all helped me stay afloat. That’s still my main goal, staying afloat. Maybe in six months, my finances will be stable enough that I will no longer be losing weekends to worrying about rent, and I will actually be living off my work with absolutely no help from anyone. I’m so, so grateful to the people who have helped me, and I don’t think that part of my life is behind me yet, but I want it to be

Maybe in six months, I’ll be heading down to London every week to experience the things I love about it — the museums, the photo walks along the Thames. Maybe I will have settled into a good work routine that keeps me well ahead of my workload, instead of dragging behind.

But I can’t imagine not being in London still, regardless of any of that. And I’m so fucking proud of myself for making it this far, and so thankful for the people who are proud of me, too, knowing every bit of my journey so far. That’s mostly Annemari, to be honest, which brings us full circle.

Happy six-month Londonversary to me.


Reader Survey & Ask Me Your Questions Leave a Comment

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I guess it’s time to put a big “construction zone” sign on this blog, or at least admit I’m working on it. To that end, I’ve put together a reader survey that I’d love for you to fill in if you’ve got a couple minutes to spare — none of the answers are mandatory, you can do as many or as few as you’d like, and it would help me out hugely as I figure out the direction I want to take with this blog.

Click to go to survey.

In addition to the above, I’ve also included a form for submitting questions that I will be answering (if appropriate!) in a vlog or several vlogs, and may include in the FAQ (“frequently asked” of course being a figure of speech) in my upcoming redesign.

For the questions, I’d like to encourage stuff about my personal life, my situation, my freelance work, this blog, and the whole expat in London bit. But you’re free to get creative!

Ask me your questions here.

I’m afraid I’ve got nothing to give for your time, but if you leave your name and blog link in either of the forms, I’ll definitely pay you a visit — and I may put your name in the hat for some sponsor spots I want to give away during November to test-run my new sponsorship program.

Of course, you’re also welcome to enter my media kit giveaway after filling out the survey — or instead of it, mind, I don’t judge. And of course, the code YAYFALL is still valid for 10% off anything in my design shop until October 31st.

Thank you, everyone! Y’all are cool and stuff.


Recent Work: Lo Bosworth Media Kit + Giveaway! 47

Lo Bosworth Media Kit - designed by Lix Hewett (preview)

As part of my attempt to share more of my work on this blog, I wanted to show you guys some of my print design work. The bulk of it is media kits for bloggers, and it is genuinely one of my favorite things to design.

If you’re a blogger or an influencer of some kind, you probably already know how convenient having a media kit is; it’s so much easier to offer up or attach a media kit than list your stats over and over, not to mention it’s cleaner, harder to lose, and more professional — and it gives you the chance to show off your blog and branding and really catch people’s eyes.

But today I am not just showing you a sampling of my media kit design work — I am also giving away a 2-page custom media kit design, valued at £75, to one of my readers!

I’m lucky to be joined by a few lovely ladies who have graciously agreed to co-host this giveaway and introduce their readers to my work. In return, I would love if you guys checked out their blogs as well. It’s a very diverse group, which I love because it shows that media kits aren’t for just one particular type of blogger or social media influencer. Bloggers small and big can benefit from one, and I am really really excited to punctuate that sentence with one of the most recent media packs I created — my longest, my first horizontal one, and my first for someone whose blog isn’t any more important than her other social media channels.

Media Kit Design for Lo Bosworth by Lix Hewett Design

Some pages taken out and details blurred for privacy.

These are some other media kits I have designed:

Media Kit Design by Lix Hewett

And many can be viewed as PDFs on Issuu.

And without further ado, here is the giveaway!

Media Kit Design Giveaway with Lix Hewett Creative

(In the spirit of sharing my work, that is my photography, my design and my freehand writing.)

It is open until October 31st at midnight, and open worldwide to anyone who has a blog or social media influence of some kind. Basically, if you could use a media kit, this giveaway is open to you. Winner will be emailed within 48 hours of the giveaway ending, and will have 28 days to claim the prize before another winner is drawn.

Co-hosts: Marielle / This Flooded Sky · Miranda / A July Dreamer · Abbie / The Pink Paper Doll · Samantha / Coco Butter Blog · Dawn / Leroy Lime

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! And if it’s something else you’re in need of — a blog design, some category buttons, a logo — feel free to head over to my Etsy shop and use the code YAYFALL to take 10% off your entire order!


Inspiration: Dream Kitchens With MyAppliances.co.uk 1

I’ve always wanted a proper kitchen. Not a big one necessarily, just something clean and well-equipped where I could bake without going, “oh right, the oven doesn’t work,” or, “oh right, the replacement oven doesn’t bake things evenly because it only heats from the top,” or, “oh right, I can’t fit a pie in the donut-shaped Dutch oven my mom borrowed from the elderly lady she takes care of,” or, “wait, if I want to make a pie, I need a pie pan…” (Okay, the last one doesn’t really have to do with interior design, but it’s been on my mind lately.)

My favorite kitchens I’ve had access to in London were the ones in Streatham and Crouch End. I think all owners were foodies — Crouch End girl definitely loved to cook, and in fact one of the reasons she didn’t think we were compatible is she wanted someone who wasn’t a weird picky eater to cook for. I miss that kitchen. And her Sunday roasts. I haven’t had roasted potatoes in an age. I did have fries in Hampstead Heath, and then I moved here and didn’t have a freezer. That’s what I’ve missed the most.

It turns out however that you can keep french fries in the fridge for a week before they go bad, so I’m definitely going to do that as soon as I find some goddamn french fries. They’re always out of stock. I don’t know what’s up with that.

Sometimes I still think about how I really want a proper kitchen, though, and how I want to rewatch Julie & Julia, which is probably the first time I found myself wanting a proper kitchen in the first place, and I think about my great aunt’s kitchen that she had redone last year and the kitchen in Streatham, and I’m struck by how much I like those towers of integrated appliances where the oven is stacked atop the microwave stacked atop a cupboard. That shit is awesome and it’s so great to have the oven at eye level, like — so great.

In that spirit — the Julie & Julia spirit; I may have started reading the book, and I’m trying to push through the first chapter and see if she stops using weird mental illness-based hyberbole and metaphors — I’ve put together a collage of some of my favorite kitchen pins from my interiors board, and a wishlist of appliances from MyAppliances.co.uk that I’m certain would not only make it easier for me to bake, but actually motivate me to do it.

Kitchen Inspiration (Pinterest Collage)

Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / Follow me on Pinterest!

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Weekly Wishes: Not Falling Under 1

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Last Week

 
Last Monday I shared a blog design instead of doing a Weekly Wishes post, so I’m recapping the past two weeks today. The last time I posted, I’d just come off a sick week, and to tell you the truth, the whole week following the post is better forgotten. I was behind on work, I was behind on money, I was depressed for days and I had a meltdown on Thursday.

I made it through somehow, with a little help, and last week was hard, but better. As for the goals I set on October 6, I’ve been steadily working through them. My blog redesign is becoming realer… though it’s still mostly in my head. I’ve had some breakthroughs — I’m moving the blog to my homepage, wwwlixhewett.com, and I have my AmeriCommerce storefront to work on. That should have me sorted website-wise for a while. I’m also talking to a friend about outsourcing my development work to her, as my coding skills are limited and I find it quite restrictive for web design work.

My backlog plan is being worked on as well — I finished editing a shoot yesterday (absolutely can’t wait to share them! There are sneak peeks on my Instagram and Twitter), I’ve posted a couple of things I owed for months, and I keep designing and working. My blog folder looks like a camera exploded in it, but whatever, I’ll tidy up when I tidy up.

I haven’t put together a business plan or an income plan yet, but I’ve bookmarked some links off Regina’s site, so at least I have a starting point now. I’ve also been keeping up my logging of expenses into YNAB.

My big success from that Weekly Wishes post was in blogging, though — I posted an outfit and shots of my current (temporary) business cards (plus a “what’s in my bag” video!), and the week after, I posted another outfit and shared the blog design I linked above. I’ve got plans to share a media kit this week or next — and possibly give one away! Stay tuned. And yesterday I posted the first installment of a new monthly or biweekly series where I offer free advice to bloggers (and businesses of course!) on the topics of photography, design and writing. You’re still welcome to submit your link! I’ll get to all comments throughout the week.

I also may have got another little writing gig like my contributorship at Photodoto.com, this time reviewing apps and tech. Excited about that. Just need to keep going, keep working, not fall under again. At least not until I’ve built a safety net!

Today

 
It’s, er, Monday. I’m looking at my 25 Before 25 list and thinking I haven’t made as much progress as I felt I had, but I have read a book — reviewed it too, in fact! — and I read another one last night. I feel like I’ve made a ton of progress on my website and blog just by deciding I want the blog to be my homepage and the AmeriCommerce shop to be the rest of it. Simplifying! I designed a calendar template and uploaded it to my Etsy shop.

My sleep schedule is still shot, to the point that I’ve now made it my goal to get up before 2 PM. I still haven’t managed. I’ve been getting up during 2 PM, i.e. before 3 PM, and that’s already a major improvement. I don’t want to push myself too much because that obviously leads to disappointment.

And on that note…

Weekly Wishes

 

  1. Straighten out what I want my blog to look like (pinnnnnning), and create a mockup.
  2. Load my work onto my website!
  3. Continue to blog daily — since the schedules I plan out never stick, just use the editorial calendar and try to stay a couple of days ahead.
  4. Write four articles for other sites.
  5. Just keep up this pace re: design and photo editing, because I know how hard it is to recover when I stop.
  6. Tap into the exciting bits of my work. I love it and I get so caught up in what I have to do that I often forget to enjoy it, and that is just not on.

I’m also thinking about running a reader survey, but I may hold out on that until the redesign so I can gauge the readability and accessibility of it as well.

So how was your week? Got any plans for the new one? Also, feel free to share your favorite blog/site designs in the comments, or if you have a board for design inspiration, share that! I need all the ideas I can get!


Quick Tips #1 / Free-For-All Advice + Ask Me Anything 16

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Mug from Zoz Pots | Notebook by Ted Baker

I’ve been meaning to put this up for weeks, but hey — there’s no time like the present. (I may be feeling a little trippy — mixing my lorazepam with a vanilla latte had a strange effect on me today.) Welcome to the very first edition — the inaugural edition, if you will — of a feature I’m hoping to run either monthly or biweekly on the blog from here on out — Quick Tips, or:

1) Ask me anything related to the work I do, and I’ll try my best to help solve your quandary!

2) Leave a link to your blog/website/business cards/photography/bit of design work/whatever you want me to take a look at, and I’ll reply with some brief constructive criticism.

If you find yourself wanting more from my critique, you’re welcome to pre-book a blog/brand visuals consultation, where I will sit with you one-on-one and go through everything you need to do to make your blog visually perfect — from design to photography to perfect writing!

If you’re interested in hiring a photographer or a graphic designer, look no further than my design shop and my portfolio (new one coming soon!). Or look further and make an informed decision — don’t let me tell you what to do!

So go ahead — leave your link or question in the comments! I’ll be answering all relevant questions and giving critiques throughout the week, and you’re welcome to submit your links for 48 hours, until 8 PM UTC+1 on Tuesday, October 21.

Disclaimer: I am only an expert in that I have experience with these things — with photography, graphic design, WordPress blog design, WordPress in general, writing and proofreading — and have gathered some good useful knowledge along the way.


Photodoto Articles: Shooting In Manual Mode + Essays! Leave a Comment

Today on Photodoto.com, I’m sharing a starter kit/basic guide to shooting in manual mode, largely inspired by bloggers who are afraid to dive in… much like I was. Click on the image or the link below it to go to the article and see the infographic I designed — or read the transcription, because it does of course come with one. I care a lot about accessibility.

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Shooting In Manual Mode: The Starter Kit [Infographic]

This is the first article I’ve written for the site since the previous editor left, and it marks the beginning of me writing about photography tips and tricks again. Before Marc left, I published three meta essays about photographers and the creative industry; I’m still quite proud of those, and will repost here eventually, but for now, you’re welcome to read them here:

That’s it! My previous Photodoto articles (from February) are linked in the manual mode post, as they’re guides to ISO and white balance. Next on I’ll be telling you the things any photographer should keep handy, a good three or four of which I still don’t have. But I need them, you see? Also, this weekend I’m working on my business, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop me.

I hope you like the articles! While I’m here, I would like to share my new comment policy as well, since it was in part prompted by the comments on the photography models essay and how it all made me feel. And if you like the above articles, feel free to check out the essay I wrote for this blog on misogyny, harassment and coercion in the creative industry.

Finally, if anyone has any requests for articles from me, for either this blog or Photodoto, feel free to ask! I aim to help.

Have a good weekend!


Halloween Style: Little Witch Costume Leave a Comment

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I have this admittedly ridiculous problem where I don’t like parties, but I love to dress up. Cosplay is obviously the best option, but costumes and cons are expensive, which is why closet cosplay is always on my mind — dressing up in your day-to-day life using items that you can wear in the rest of your day-to-day life is a winner in both my heart and my budget.

But sometimes it’s fun to really, properly dress up, and I like that modeling allows me to do that. In that spirit, a while back, I was sent a witch costume — a tiny colorful witch costume with a Playboy logo on the ribcage. I’m not much for sexy Halloween costumes because they don’t remind me of anything, and like I said, I’m into cosplay — and what I like about that is portraying characters, not generic archetypes. Generic archetypes bore me to tears.

But I saw this costume and I immediately thought of two things:

  1. Bubble Witch Saga, the kids version
  2. Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the cartoon version

Plenty of reason to play around with it, right?

It got a bit cold before I was able to get the shoot I really wanted in, but I did have a shoot with photographer Darren M Gomes one night in Hampstead/Hampstead Heath, and we did get some cool shots!

Photography: Darren M Gomes
Model, Makeup, Styling, Some Retouching: Lix Hewett
Witch costume c/o Joke

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An Autumn Wishlist With LoveSales Leave a Comment

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Anthropologie / AllSaints / Fenn Wright Manson / Boohoo / ASOS / Hollister / Habitat

If you know me, you know I don’t do a whole lot of shopping. It’s not that I don’t want to — I am absolutely the kind of person who gets a thrill from getting nice new things, and I’d definitely do a lot more (online) shopping if I had any sort of budget for it.

One thing I’ve noticed when I do shop, though, is that sometimes I’ll think, okay, I could get this if it went on sale, and sometimes I’ll bookmark it, and then completely forget to check back, because let’s be real, I don’t have time or the presence of mind to pay that much attention to a piece of clothing on the off chance it’ll go on sale with stock in my size when I’ve got money to buy it. At this point, if I can’t afford something, I write it off for good.

Enter LoveSales: a sale guide that shows you every sale that’s going on from your favorite retailers, as well as allow you to save things to your wishlist — which can be conveniently divided up into boards — and notify you when the price drops.

lovesales-website

You can add a bookmarklet to your sidebar to add products to your LoveSales list as you windowshop online, and set your email frequency to weekly, daily, or never (if you’d rather check manually when you’ve got money to shop!).

Besides a long, long list of clothing retailers, LoveSales also features sales from home and furniture retailers — hence the chair in the board above! Which is currently 20% off — which is rather a large saving considering the original price is £650. Meanwhile, the jeans, black dress and cardigan are all on sale at over 60% off.

I’m really hoping this site will stick around and still be there in the future when I’m a little less choked financially — I can see myself using it on a regular basis. I get a little thrill of excitement just thinking about it.

See, I told you I totally like to shop.

Disclosure: This post is a PR collaboration.


Reading: The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook Leave a Comment

Cover from GoodReads

Cover from GoodReads

I’ve been a fan of Eileen Cook since I read my first book by her, Unraveling Isobel. Unraveling Isobel has a little bit of mystery set on an island near Seattle with a side dish of stepsibling romance, so obviously I was hooked. Her writing is simply and engaging, just how I like my YA, and it’s extremely easy to read and read and not put her books down at all. Seeing as my attention span is limited, this comes in handy.

After Unraveling Isobel, I read Unpredictable, which was awful. You can read my review on GoodReads, which is appropriately tagged “enraging fail.” The main character is painfully lacking in self-awareness, and she pulls all these awful stunts that are unnecessary at best and plain old gaslighting at worst.

But I’m a sucker for YA (Unpredictable was adult), and I like to read things by authors I already know are capable of writing things I like. So after Unpredictable, I read The Education of Hailey Kendrick, which, despite some casual slutshaming here and there, was a freaking joy. It has a love triangle that’s more like a quadrangle, and it makes it work. I love when books do that.

So next I picked up Getting Revenge On Lauren Wood, which I believe is the book Eileen Cook is best-known for writing, judging by how it always says “Author of Getting Revenge On Lauren Wood” under her name on all her other book covers. Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood is revenge fantasy, which I find impossibly eh, but it’s revenge fantasy moored in high school tropes, which I find impossibly comforting. I was pretty into it from the beginning, and then it went better places than I thought it would. It was just nice lighthearted entertainment.

I read all of these books in 2012. Yeah, it’s been a while — and it’s been a while since I read a fiction book at all. But I was scrolling through my ebook library on Saturday night, and feeling a bit giddy looking at all the covers since I finally uploaded all my ebooks to Google Play Books, and my eyes fell upon The Almost Truth.

I basically inhaled it.

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