TEAM ZOELLA OCTOBER 22, 2020

Let’s Talk about Trying to Get Pregnant: Four Women Share Their TTC Journey

We spoke to four women willing to share their TTC stories and offer some first-hand advice and reassurance for anyone trying to conceive.

We spend the best part of our youth doing all we can to avoid getting pregnant but when you’re ready to start a family, it’s not always as simple as coming off the pill & going for it at the right time of the month. It can be one unexpected emotional rollercoaster and a whole lot of effort.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how long it takes to conceive, and everyone’s fertility journey is different.

It is estimated that one in seven couples may have difficulty conceiving. Whether it’s PCOS, low sperm count, endometriosis or unexplained infertility, the struggles of trying to conceive are still rarely spoken about and whilst there can be a whole host of reasons why couples may choose to keep their experience private, knowing what to expect can help debunk preconceived ideas of TTC and help others feel less isolated in the process.

After all, we are the ones peeing on eye-wateringly expensive sticks and feeling completely belittled when our period shows up uninvited, we should at least be able to talk about it.

We spoke to four women willing to share their TTC stories and offer some first-hand advice and reassurance for anyone trying to conceive.

Maddie Barsch – @maddiechester

Our very own Maddie, Talent Director at Gleam Futures is currently expecting.

Did you have any preconceived ideas of what the TTC experience would be like based on other people’s stories / things you’d heard?

To be completely honest I was quite pessimistic about the whole thing which is quite unlike me as a personality trait, I just really didn’t think it would be easy for us. I had previously been told by a gynaecologist that I have Polycystic Ovaries (PCO) and it also took me about 2 years to get my period back after coming off the contraceptive pill about 5+ years ago. Those things combined with me being in my 30s (god forbid) I thought meant that it wouldn’t be that straightforward. I’ve also had quite a few people close to me that have really struggled so I was aware that the journey could be a long one.

There’s an assumption that falling pregnant happens pretty quickly, possibly because the majority of people trying to conceive are doing so privately and will only share the news if they become pregnant. How long did it take for you to fall pregnant / how long were you trying to conceive?

Rather miraculously we got pregnant very quickly. We were on our second month of trying when that second line popped up, I was completely shocked and was not expecting it to happen that fast whatsoever.

Did you have any useful tools / apps to help plan your pregnancy and connect with your body?

The app that was often recommended which I used and thought was brilliant is the Ovia Fertility app. It’s brilliant at tracking your cycle and tells you when statistically your most fertile days areMaddie Barsch

I watched A LOT of TTC YouTube videos and took on board a lot of the tips that kept reappearing. The app that was often recommended which I used and thought was brilliant is the Ovia Fertility app. It’s brilliant at tracking your cycle and tells you when statistically your most fertile days are, it’s also full to the brim with information which I found really useful in those early days. In terms of other “tools” I also used ovulation strips, the cheap ones from Amazon which let you know when you’re about to have your “LH” surge ie you’re about to ovulate. Finally, and a little TMI but it’s what we’re here for, I also paid much more attention to my cervical mucus (google it). It turns out that’s also a great indicator for ovulation and I actually found that to be the easiest way to track my most fertile days.

Did you make any lifestyle changes to help improve your chances of getting pregnant?

I took baby making quite seriously and didn’t go into it with a “let’s see what happens” attitude at all. If there was anything I could do to speed the process along I was going to try. Disclaimer, I have no idea if any of these things would have made ANY difference had I not done them but they obviously didn’t hurt. I cut out caffeine and alcohol, started taking folic acid supplements, included maca powder in my morning smoothies, drank raspberry leaf tea during the first half of my cycle and tried to stay as active as possible.

Trying to conceive can be a stressful time emotionally, do you have any pointers for trying to stay positive and relaxed when you’re feeling discouraged?

In all honesty I don’t feel like I have the right to give advice here, I know friends who really had such a difficult time trying to conceive and I saw how frustrating and hard that was for them. I asked one of my good friends who spent over a year trying what she would say and her top tip for when you feel at a low point is to plan a trip. A little getaway (even if that’s just to a hotel an hour from home!) somewhere to just enjoy being with your partner and take your mind off the routine that can become incredibly unromantic.

The commitment to love-making can be a lot and sex can become a bit of a ‘task’ when you’re trying to get pregnant, how did you deal with that / what advice do you have for anyone struggling to connect with their partner and keep things fun?

It definitely feels a bit more routine than normal when you know that there’s a human you’re trying to create out of all the sex and also because the timings of it are so important to get right which normally you would never even consider. On the subject of timings, there’s only really a week window where it’s vital that you’re getting the sperm where it needs to go so once you’ve worked out your ovulation patterns it turns out you don’t need to be having sex all day every day to make a baby. I think knowing this really took the pressure off a bit and it meant that when it was my fertile days we made extra effort to have date nights and enjoy spending time together so it didn’t feel too routine.

One thing you wish you knew at the start of your TTC that you know now…

If I had a crystal ball that could have shown me that we would get pregnant quite quickly I would love to go back and tell myself to worry less and be more chill about it. I was so convinced that it was going to be really hard for me, so I became incredibly clued up on everything to do with TTC. In reality I could probably have relaxed more and just let nature do its thing. I think that’s what’s quite daunting about the whole thing, you have no idea what your journey is going to be like until you start to try.

What NOT to say to someone TTC? (how can friends check in with you without asking the obvious?)

It’s such a personal journey and not everyone is comfortable sharing it so in this instance I would let your friend lead the conversation, not the other way around.Maddie Barsch

The chances are if someone has been trying to conceive for a while there is likely nothing you can tell them that they won’t have already read about, heard from a doctor or considered themselves. So, unless they have asked you for your advice or opinion I wouldn’t offer it. Similarly, I would be cautious of false hope success stories from a friend of a friend that took a magic potion that produced a baby. Instead, I would offer support and find out how they are feeling, it’s such a personal journey and not everyone is comfortable sharing it so in this instance I would let your friend lead the conversation, not the other way around.

How do you deal with a friend’s happy baby news if it hasn’t happened for you, yet?

This must be so difficult. I would of course be so thrilled for my friend and then privately I would probably pour a very large glass of wine, let myself cry and be sad, confide in my closest and surround myself with people and things that bring my life joy (like my dog). It breaks my heart that some people struggle so much and often are struggling in silence as infertility and fertility problems are still something that don’t get talked about enough. I really loved Desi Perkin’s YouTube series where she was so open and honest about her fertility journey. I think a lot of couples would really relate to their story.

Carys Whittaker – @busybee.carys

Carys is a content creator, YouTuber, ray of sunshine, and she’s currently expecting.

Did you have any preconceived ideas of what the TTC experience would be like based on other people’s stories / things you’d heard?

So when I started TTC using ovulation kits and having sex on the days with the highest rate of conception, I was surprised that it didn’t happen for us more quickly!Carys Whittaker

I had an idea that TTC wasn’t easy based on certain things I’d seen in films or heard in podcasts. None of my friends or close family have young kids, so I’ve never had a conversation in person with anyone about their personal TTC experience! I always assumed it was seen as ‘not easy’ based off people ‘having sex regularly and seeing what happens’. So when I started TTC using ovulation kits and having sex on the days with the highest rate of conception, I was surprised that it didn’t happen for us more quickly!

There’s an assumption that falling pregnant happens pretty quickly, possibly because the majority of people trying to conceive are doing so privately and will only share the news if they become pregnant. How long did it take for you to fall pregnant / how long were you trying to conceive?

It took us 5 months to conceive. I definitely agree that it feels like everyone just ‘falls pregnant’ straight away based on the fact there’s not a very open conversation around TTC. I think there is a lot of shame and embarrassment attached to TTC and how long it takes, which sucks. The more people that can share their stories and normalise the conversation around it, the less of a struggle it would be for a lot of people.

Did you have any useful tools / apps to help plan your pregnancy and connect with your body?

I used the clear blue digital ovulation monitor and sticks to track my ovulation days. I also used the Femometer app which is synced up to a BBT (basal body temperature) thermometer. This tracks your BBT and shows you when exactly you ovulated, and how your temperature then responds after ovulation which can be a sign of pregnancy. I think the ovulation sticks are great for understanding more about your body and your cycle but I found the thermometer to be a negative for me.

I become obsessed with the app and analysing my temperature chart when it ended up being no help and just made me feel more anxious about the whole process. The month I fell pregnant was actually the month we did a ‘month off’ any ovulation tracking or temperature tracking. I did still know a lot about my body and cycle from all the tracking I had done previously so I don’t regret doing it but I think a month off was needed for us.

Did you make any lifestyle changes to help improve your chances of getting pregnant?

Going from your normality to suddenly NO alcohol, a new diet, overthinking everything you eat, taking your temperature every morning and peeing on your ovulation sticks, it almost takes over your whole day!Carys Whitaker

For the first 2-3 months, I stopped drinking alcohol completely and looked into all sorts of foods/diets that could improve my chances of getting pregnant. From my experience, I actually found any extreme changes reminded me and my body daily that we were not only TTC but that I was REALLY trying hard. This was such a negative reminder daily for me. I had endless advice from my mum who is a GP and does a lot of family planning. She would always say how important it is to relax and not stress. At the time you might not feel over ‘stressed’ but I think it all adds up with you realising!

Going from your normality to suddenly NO alcohol, a new diet, overthinking everything you eat, taking your temperature every morning and peeing on your ovulation sticks, it almost takes over your whole day! I eventually decided to start living as ‘normally’ as possible and that helped me so much mentally. You have to keep living your life alongside TTC because otherwise, it can so easily consume every inch of you!!

Trying to conceive can be a stressful time emotionally, do you have any pointers for trying to stay positive and relaxed when you’re feeling discouraged?

I think I the first good thing to remember is that so many women are in the same boat as you and feeling exactly the same way. It’s Bloomin’ HARD!! For me, half the struggle was feeling alone and feeling guilty about struggling. Finding someone to talk to and open up to about how you’re feeling can help so much. I know it can be really hard to find the right people to talk too, if you’re struggling with that you could always look up TTC communities/forums online and see if that works for you. However you’re feeling, you’re not alone.

The commitment to love-making can be a lot and sex can become a bit of a ‘task’ when you’re trying to get pregnant, how did you deal with that / what advice do you have for anyone struggling to connect with their partner and keep things fun?

It’s so easy to feel bad when Sex becomes less enjoyable and more of a ‘task’ but it’s good to remind yourself, that’s totally normal! Most couples will go through that when TTC, we certainly did! Things I found helpful were:

  • Accepting that planning sex is okay when TTC. It doesn’t make you ‘unsexy’ or ‘less in love’ saying things like “we haven’t had sex yet today, maybe we should” is okay, it’s just being busy and being human!
  • Talking to each other and communicating about how you’re feeling and how you could spice things up for each other.
  • Take a month to step back and have sex less. This can be REALLY hard because you immediately think you’ll have less chance of conceiving but I think quality over quantity is important to try now and then!

One thing you wish you knew at the start of your TTC that you know now…
That certain lubricant brands can kill sperm!!! So if you use lubricant get a TTC friendly one like ‘preseed’.

What NOT to say to someone TTC?

Ask them how they’re doing and how TTC is going for them. Let them open up to you as much as they feel comfortable with. Try to create an understanding environment where they feel they can say things they might be embarrassed about or nervous to talk about. Refrain from phrases like ‘oh it will happen’ ‘don’t worry about it’ ‘the more you worry the less likely it is to happen’ ‘it always happens when you don’t want it too’ ‘stop worrying’.

How do you deal with a friend’s happy baby news if it hasn’t happened for you, yet?

Firstly, it’s never going to be easy so it’s a good start to be kind to yourself and know that it may hurt. Just because it hurts, it doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you human.

I believe that the emotions you put out into the universe and give to others are the emotions that fill up your soul and mould you as a person. I try my hardest to see the good in situations and people and pour out as much kindness and love as I possibly can to myself and others… that being said, sometimes it’s just really hard and that’s okay too.

Ruth Crilly – @ModelRecomends

Ruth has two children and is the founder of The Night Feed app which connects and entertains new mums during the long, sleepless nights with a new baby! Download on the App Store or Google Play.

Did you have any preconceived ideas of what the TTC experience would be like based on other people’s stories/things you’d heard?

Do you know, it sounds terrible to say it, now, but it just never crossed my mind that I would have any problems. I assumed it would happen quickly and without incident; I think then when I started TTC, social media and sharing personal experiences hadn’t really kicked off online and so I had very few stories to refer to. I had obviously had friends who had struggled or had bad times, but it wasn’t really talked about that openly.

There’s an assumption that falling pregnant happens pretty quickly, possibly because the majority of people trying to conceive are doing so privately and will only share the news if they become pregnant. How long did it take for you to fall pregnant / how long were you trying to conceive?

It was when I miscarried that I really started being quite preoccupied with it – as every month passed, and every test came up negative, I just felt more and more despondent.Ruth Crilly

When we got married in 2008 we started trying in a very low-key way. After a couple of years, I realised that it just wasn’t happening, but just as we were about to go and see the GP about it properly, I got pregnant. It was when I miscarried that I really started being quite preoccupied with it – as every month passed, and every test came up negative, I just felt more and more despondent. I thought that it would never happen. It did happen, wonderfully, but I didn’t have my first baby until the summer of 2015, so almost seven years of trying!

Did you have any useful tools/apps to help plan your pregnancy and connect with your body?

I would absolutely track ovulation, but track it accurately. I remember my Mum saying to me for years, “I used to ovulate on day 9!” and me going “blah blah ok, yeah right” and I never used to start my ovulation sticks until about day 10 or 11 because I didn’t want to waste them! But I must have been completely missing my window every month for YEARS. I worked out that I conceived my daughter on day 9. Obviously, I haven’t told my Mum this because I hate being wrong. Haha. It’s actually not that funny really because it was YEARS of heartbreak. I wouldn’t blame the whole thing on ovulation miscalculation because we would try all through the month, not just “on the right days” but still. Get a tracker, get the monitor thing with the sticks, do it all!

Did you make any lifestyle changes to help improve your chances of getting pregnant?

I went to see an amazing Chinese Medicine Practitioner and he sat and quizzed me for ages about obvious and obscure parts of my personality and lifestyle. It opened my eyes to many bits of behaviour that were probably not helping in the whole TTC journey. I started taking Vitamin D, getting outside more, eating a better diet and I virtually stopped drinking and I also went for regular acupuncture sessions with him. I was pregnant within about six months of making the changes. I was actually due to go for my first IVF consultation when I found out I was pregnant!

Trying to conceive can be a stressful time emotionally, do you have any pointers for trying to stay positive and relaxed when you’re feeling discouraged?

Yes, I think that seeking help as soon as you can is really important for positivity, once you get past the time-frame that the experts usually set as being “normal” for getting pregnant. It’s just a massive weight off when you can share your worries and once the tests are booked it feels as though you’re actively doing something to help things along. I think that this is enormously beneficial. I’d also say that although I did change my lifestyle, you don’t want to stress yourself out and live like a saint for the whole time you’re trying – you can become obsessed with “getting things just right” but in the end, I think we conceived when we were blind drunk at a wine-tasting evening on holiday in Greece.

The commitment to love-making can be a lot and sex can become a bit of a ‘task’ when you’re trying to get pregnant, how did you deal with that / what advice do you have for anyone struggling to connect with their partner and keep things fun?

Oh, it just really wasn’t fun six years down the line. Nothing could have made it fun. We just sort of nodded at one another in a silent assent. “You may begin.”

One thing you wish you knew at the start of your TTC that you know now…

Try wearing a pad instead of using tampons/mooncup so that you have a good idea of your flow and the length of your periods because you will be asked this ALL THE TIME if you seek help!Ruth Crilly

You can ovulate on a really weird day and those sticks can be impossible to read – they always look SLIGHTLY positive, so start testing on day five or something for a few months so that you really get a feel for your cycle. Also, sorry if this is TMI, but try wearing a pad instead of using tampons/mooncup so that you have a good idea of your flow and the length of your periods because you will be asked this ALL THE TIME if you seek help!

What NOT to say to someone TTC? 

I think pretty much any question about it gets your back up and makes you feel inadequate and embarrassed, so it would be better for them to just ask how someone is generally and let them take the lead, I think. Saying that I used to LOVE talking about it with other people who were trying to TTC and not having a great time, because it used to make me feel less alone, so if you have anecdotal material that someone will relate to then that can be a good ice breaker. It’s a really tricky one. 

How do you deal with a friend’s happy baby news if it hasn’t happened for you, yet?

I don’t think that you ever do deal with it very well if I’m honest. Sorry, some of these answers aren’t ideal but I remember how raw it was when I heard people’s news – I was never jealous, per se, and I was always absolutely thrilled for them, but it would always throw up a “why me!” sense of self-pity and so I just used to embrace it and wallow for a while. I don’t think we need to be positive all the time – sometimes it’s OK to just feel incredibly hard done by.

Chaneen Saliee – @chaneensaliee

Chaneen is a content creator, founder of @wearetheempowered – Law of attraction manifestation coaching and @chicanddiscreet – affordable breastfeeding clothing.

Did you have any preconceived ideas of what the TTC experience would be like based on other people’s stories/things you’d heard?

I did have some preconceived ideas of what the trying to conceive experience would be like. I thought it would be very difficult and I thought potentially I wouldn’t be able to have children. That was a really hard reality or something for me to accept quite early on in my life. I didn’t plan then to have children because I thought I didn’t want the disappointment of trying and potentially facing disappointment over and over.

I was told at about 16 that because I had used the IUD I have likely ruined my chances of ever getting pregnant because ‘that’s the contraception they only give to women who have already had children and do not want anymore.’ This was told to me by a family friend who was a trained nurse and so I took her at her word and live with that belief for almost 10 years.

There’s an assumption that falling pregnant happens pretty quickly, possibly because the majority of people trying to conceive are doing so privately and will only share the news if they become pregnant. How long did it take for you to fall pregnant / how long were you trying to conceive?

I was able to conceive, but there was still a lot of fears surrounding what would happen throughout the pregnancy and to my life thereafter. Chaneen Saliee

So as I mentioned I never did try to conceive because I was afraid of the disappointment of not being able to conceive. And so when I did fall pregnant it was a surprise and it was a welcome surprise because I was able to conceive, but there was still a lot of fears surrounding what would happen throughout the pregnancy and to my life thereafter. 

I do think that the idea of trying to conceive is skewed and the experience is had often in private because of this heartbreak and this fear of it never happening and so we think that it is quite easy for women to fall pregnant and evidence of this is in the way that people often ask the question, “so when are you having a baby?” For women who are trying to conceive or who think they may have no chances of doing so, it is painful to hear this and then act as if it’s just a casual conversation, when really it dredges up so much pain, doubt and a heavy feeling of loss or of failure. 

Did you make any lifestyle changes to help improve your chances of getting pregnant?

I will say that while I never made any lifestyle changes to improve my chances of getting pregnant because I never tried to get pregnant I did make lifestyle changes once I knew that I was pregnant because I wanted to ensure that I could remain pregnant. It was always at the back of my mind the fear I had of never being able to get pregnant and then being pregnant and not knowing if I’m going to be able to maintain that pregnancy. 

Some of the things that I did to change my lifestyle really was to just rest more I set massive boundaries and I did not let anybody cross them and I didn’t push them aside for any reason. So my most important one I would say was resting and removing all stress if I needed to rest I would rest. At the time I was training to be a teacher which was a very heavy responsibility but I made the decision to put my career potentially on hold, on the back burner or maybe even give it up entirely so that I could ensure that I would be able to maintain my pregnancy. That was huge because I’d worked so hard to get to that point and all I felt I had to hold onto was my career and my love of travel but maintaining my pregnancy was far more important. 

Trying to conceive can be a stressful time emotionally, do you have any pointers for trying to stay positive and relaxed when you’re feeling discouraged?

Research unconventional alternatives and keep an open mind. There are some incredible stories of women who have tried alternative or holistic methods that helped them conceive.Chaneen Saliee

Watch lots of funny movies, research unconventional alternatives and keep an open mind. There are some incredible stories of women who have tried alternative or holistic methods that helped them conceive. Most importantly though I would say find a community of supportive women who are living through this experience too. 

How do you deal with a friend’s happy baby news if it hasn’t happened for you, yet?

Try to have the outlook or perspective that their happy baby news is a sign that it is possible for you too – our journeys are all very different.

TEAM ZOELLA OCTOBER 21, 2020

Between You And Me: Answering Your Problems Part 9

Whether you’re a people pleaser at heart and in need of some advice about how to stick up for yourself, or you’re scared of a pandemic future, this month’s BYAM blog tackles all those concerns, matters of the heart and more.

It’s time to answer your Between You And Me problems – a little slice of the blog dedicated to sharing your life dilemmas from the menial to the mammoth.

Whether you’re a people pleaser at heart and in need of some advice about how to stick up for yourself, or you’re scared of a pandemic future, this month’s BYAM blog tackles all those concerns, matters of the heart and more.

Now, it’s over the team to lend you an ear, a shoulder and whatever else you need to get you through 2020.

TEAM ZOELLA OCTOBER 20, 2020

13 Questions With Lauren-Nicole

Model, content creator and founder of Fashion Killer Lauren-Nicole is a super stylish babe we wanted to know all about!

First of all, how are you and how are you coping in 2020?

I would be lying if I didn’t say things have been hard this year. While I’ve experienced some incredible highs in terms of my career, the world has been on its knees. Between COVID19, the political and social upheaval it’s hard to say those things don’t weigh on my spirit. But, I constantly have to remind myself that I have my health, a roof over my head, food on the table and the love of my family and friends – something not all have – and for that I’m grateful.

Tell us about how you got into modelling?

I started modelling when I was 17 and still at school. I started a blog when I was younger and through that bag to show my personal style and post images online Instagram. At the time the brand manager of an independent plus-size brand reached out to me about being a brand ambassador and that included modelling for them. And I modelled their SS16 and swimwear debut collection alongside Felicity Hayward.

What inspires you?

My family and my peers. But more recently than ever, the needs and desires of my younger self. I’ve found myself doing and creating opportunities my younger self needed to see herself in or desired to do. There’s real beauty and inspiration that comes from appeasing the fantasies of the child that lives within me.

We’re in love with your style; how would you describe it?

Thank you so much. It’s really about my mood. But the easiest way I’d describe on a visual level is, imagine Olivia Palermo, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Rihanna had a plus size fashion child – I’m not sure how three people make a child, but go with it. That’s my style. It’s slightly mature for a 22-year-old but is fresh, fun, and bold.

Can you tell us more about Fashion Killer and how it got started?

Yes, Fashion Killer is a platform I started while in secondary school at the age of 15. I was obsessed with all things fashion and loved writing, so started a blog. I wanted to be the black Tavi Gevinson. In 2020, it became less a personal blog and more a lifestyle platform with various writers.

What is your current night-time skincare routine?

I have been loving Kiehls’ products recently. I use the Calendula cleanser and toner, then apply the Vital Skin strengthening Hyaluronic acid, followed by the dark spot solution and finally moistures with Dr Jart Ceramidin cream and Dr Paw Paw on the lips. I also use Antipodes Kiwi Seed Gold Luminous Eye cream.

How do you shop at the moment and what is your process for discovering trends?

I like to use Pinterest in terms of finding new trends and styles. But generally, I’m not a massive trends follower. I like wearing what makes me feel good. So, if that’s a bright orange faux fur coat, then I’ll wear it.

What are you currently working on?

There’s a lot of exciting things happening at the moment. I’ll soon be announcing a new role that I’ve been appointed in a few weeks, that I’m very excited about. On top of that, I’m just trying my hardest to continue to advocate and represent women and bodies that look like mine, whether that be by creating opportunities, space or editorial. I think it’s important all women feel represented and seen.

Who are some of your current favourite follows online?

Oh, there’s so many. At the moment, I’m inspired and enjoying following creatives and photographers. Photographer and muse @NimaBenati, Bajan wardrobe and editorial stylist @thechicaddict, photographer @Nadineijewere, @vetrova_k and Tiktok and Instagram star @Everettwilliams. Each of them inspires me greatly, I love seeing what they create next.

What do you always carry with you?

I don’t go anywhere without my power bank charger.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

More so recently, around those I love. I really miss times when I could laugh, hug and kiss my family and friends carefree. My ideal weekend would be spent around my dearest in a cabin or cottage somewhere. Lots of music, lots of games, lots of laughter and probably a few debates about life, and everything wrong in the world. That’s perfect to me.

If you could only eat one meal again what would it be?

Damn only one?! Something Lebanese or Mediterranean. Light but super filling. Grilled meats with some good sides.

If you could give one positive message to our followers what would it be?

At the moment, you feel like you can’t go any further, that’s the moment a breakthrough is just about to come. So be gentle with yourself, take your time, understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day and whatever you’re working towards whether that’s career-wise, personal healing or relationships with others, take time with it, enjoy the process and eventually that thing you once dreamed about will become a reality. You’ve just got to have the belief, determination and strength to execute. 

Follow Lauren-Nicole on Instagram here!

TEAM ZOELLA OCTOBER 19, 2020

Halloween Cocktail Ideas

Halloween celebrations might look a bit different this year due to the one who shall not be named but these freakishly good cocktails will keep your spirits high, even if you’re taking part in witching happy hour from home. You’ve got your costume sorted, there’s a faux spider’s web hanging from every corner and spooky […]

Halloween celebrations might look a bit different this year due to the one who shall not be named but these freakishly good cocktails will keep your spirits high, even if you’re taking part in witching happy hour from home.

You’ve got your costume sorted, there’s a faux spider’s web hanging from every corner and spooky snacks piled high in cauldrons. Now it’s time to serve the sauce!

Gather round ghoul-friends – abiding by the rule of six of course – it’s time to quench your thirst with these bewitching brews.

Witch, Please

A wintry spin on the classic Screwdriver cocktail. The blue curacao is what lends this zesty tipple its enchanting green hue, making it the perfect Halloween beverage to serve to your ghoul-sisters in high ball glasses.

You will need: 2 Shots Vodka, 1 Shot Blue Curacao, 2 cups of Orange juice, Edible shimmer and sugar to decorate rim of glass

• In a cocktail shaker, add ice and pour in all the liquid ingredients. Shake until combined.

• On a plate, spread out enough sugar to cover the surface, and sprinkle out the edible glitter. Using a lemon, take your serving glasses and coat the rim in the lemon juice. Turn the glass rim-side down on the plate and coat the edges in sugar.

• Pour and serve your cocktails!

Creep It Real

If prosecco is usually your party beverage of choice then this sparkling number might be your spirit animal in cocktail form. Vivid, eerie and irresistibly sweet, it’s the closest thing to sippin’ on witches brew IRL.

You will need: 2 Shots Apple Vodka, 1 Shot Chambord, 1 Shot Grenadine syrup, 1 Shot Blue Curaçao, Prosecco

• Mix all the ingredients minus the Prosecco in a shaker. Pour into your glasses and top up with Prosecco for a perfectly sparkly drink!

Break Up With Your Ghoulfriend

A very drinkable hot apple cider simmered with fragrant spices and packed with flavour. It’s the perfect winter warmer to welcome your cronies with. Less scary, more soothing on the soul and best enjoyed with a sheet mask and a movie marathon.

You Will Need: 1 ltr Dry Cider, 7 tbsp Calvados, Apple juice, 75g dark brown sugar, 1 Orange (zested and sliced), 4 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

• Add all the ingredients to a pan. Bring it to the boil and then turn to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes to allow the spices and fruit to infuse with the liquid. Serve and enjoy whilst hot, in mugs garnished with fresh orange slices.

Will you be giving these festive cocktails a go? Let us know which is your favourite below!

TEAM ZOELLA OCTOBER 18, 2020

Weekly Wants: New Season Essentials

From beanies and boots to shackets and snuggly jumpers, there’s something about cosy clothes shopping that feel like the ultimate self-care purchase.

Oh hey autumn! It’s all systems go as the high street brings out the best of the best of its cool weather offerings, and this year more than ever we are living for the small joys of an ASOS order in the post or morning scroll through ‘New In’. The summer to autumn wardrobe changeover is complete, and our desire for new pieces that add a certain je ne sais quoi to our clothes rail has well and truly been piqued.

This year’s essentials, as demonstrated by our daily Insta scrolling, are chunky boots, embroidered and grandad knitwear, OTT collars and XXL coats and trenches.

From beanies and boots to shackets and snuggly jumpers, there’s something about cosy clothes shopping that feel like the ultimate self-care purchase. This year’s essentials, as demonstrated by our daily Insta scrolling, are chunky boots, embroidered and grandad knitwear, OTT collars and XXL coats and trenches. Click through to see what team Zoella have been lusting over in the month of October

Shop the post

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TEAM ZOELLA OCTOBER 16, 2020

The Best Topical Halloween Costumes for 2020

We’ve compiled a list of topical costumes inspired by light-hearted entertainment and quarantine life to make sure your Halloween is a holiday to remember.

All things considered, it’s been one scary, hellish year but we are not prepared to let 2020 cock its leg all over our Halloween costume, too.

With all the doom and gloom, it’s easy to forget that the good times did exist.

With all the doom and gloom, it’s easy to forget that the good times did exist. S/o to Connell’s chain, Carole Baskin and Bake Off – thank F for pop culture. It has been the one constant keeping us all going.

We’ve compiled a list of topical costumes inspired by light-hearted entertainment and quarantine life to make sure your Halloween is a holiday to remember, even if you are celebrating from the comfort and warmth of your humble abode this year.

Carole Baskin from Tiger King

We know, that time we were all heavily invested in the big cat activist riding her boho bicycle seems like a lifetime ago but our Carole has got serious Halloween potential. Grab a signature flower crown, some animal print and level up your black cat garb.

Connell & Marianne from Normal People

Aka, the best tv couple to come out of this year and a welcome distraction / obsession during lockdown. All you need is a silver chain with cult-status, bookish bangs and some fire chemistry and you’re good to go.

Black Panther

This year we lost the incredible Chadwick Boseman who played the incredible Black Panther. It was only in his passing that we found out how much of a real-life hero he was. We predict a lot of people will dress up as his fictional counterpart as a tribute to his memory.

Nurse Ratched

Dressing up as a sinister notoriously-hated nurse for Halloween – it just makes sense. Plus, if you’re heading out, your mask is the perfect accessory. Infamous villains don’t get much better than Mildred Ratched.

Noel Fielding & Matt Lucas

If you’re going in on the trick or treat theme, there’s no sweeter pair than Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas. For this recipe, you will need: Goth jokes, cheeky one liners, a shaggy black wig, a rolling pin, an iconic shirt or 10 and a couple of glittering personalities. Get baking your banter.

Black Widow

The highly anticipated superheroine film was originally set for release this year but has been delayed until next year due to coronavirus. Naturally, channelling Natasha Romanoff for Halloween is what every serious Marvel fan would do.

A Cheerleader from Cheer

So, the rule of six is still in place but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate Halloween with huge mat energy. Go team!

Moira Rose

A washed-up soap star with a wig for every occasion, Moira Rose is a Schitt’s Creek legend and a bona fide Halloween queen. We’re thinking Season 5, the low budget mutant crow. Brb, off to sew feathers onto a lab jacket.

Selling Sunset

Much like real estate, pop culture never sleeps. If you want your Halloween lewk to serve major drama, leave it to these cutthroat realtors to inspire you.

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion

What better duo to represent this Halloween then the unstoppable ladies who brought us WAP. Perfect for those looking for an outfit where less is more, and the greatest opportunity to throw yourself on the ground and do the dance you’ve been practicing for so long.

Boris Johnson

A sandy wig, an ill-fitting suit and a sign asking everyone to download the ‘contact tasting’ app… yum.

Donald Trump

Remember the time he handed out candy at the White House on Halloween and it looked like it was the first time he’d ever conversed with a child? Ever.

He put the chocolate bar on a child’s head instead of placing it in their perfectly suitable candy basket like a normal person, for crying out loud. It was petrifying stuff and he only gets more haunting by the day.

Banana bread

It’s been a hectic year for bananas. Let this be our token of respect and appreciation.

Taylor Swift’s Folklore inspired Cardigan

Whilst the rest of the world could barely get dressed, Tay Tay casually dropped her Folklore album in lockdown and we all lost our sh*t. Whilst strapping yourself to a grand piano and bobbing about in a lake might be a tad ambitious, a floaty white dress, a messy bun and a grandad cardigan should do it.

Enola Holmes

If you haven’t watched this Netflix fourth-wall breaking GEM yet, are you even doing Autumn right? Millie Bobby Brown can do no wrong.

Animal Crossing

It’s the peaceful island fantasy game that saw us planting flowers, decorating our homes and dedicating our lockdown lives to an evil capitalist villain raccoon known as Tom Nook. This is 2020, stranger things have happened.

Before and after 2020 – couples’ outfit

It’s funny until it’s too real. And then it’s scary. Because you haven’t really got dressed since March. You’ve been ‘dressed to chill’ for 8 long months and you’ve been able to deny it until now but Halloween has a way of revealing the truth and now, under the light of the full moon, look at what you’ve become.

Sex Education Teens

Weird and wonderful clothing combos from a decade quite frankly none of us can guess. The perfect choice if you need to spend £10 at a charity shop for your costume this year.

Zoom call

Could be funny…could also definitely be impossible to go to the loo but hey, all things considered, pissing ourselves in our Halloween costume wouldn’t be that bad. And we have 2020 to thank for that warped perspective.

How are you celebrating Halloween this year and what costumes have you got up your sleeve?

TEAM ZOELLA OCTOBER 15, 2020

RIP Bare Leg Season, Here Are 30 Trousers To Rock Instead

This week's edit has a cocktail of picks for both comfort and style lovers because we're really not ready to compromise our need for pyjama like clothes in the year of loungewear loving.

Sadly the simpler times of chucking on a smock dress, sandals and some sunnies are long behind us, as we step firmly into trouser and tights (shudders) season. And whilst 2020 has been the year of grabbing for a ‘nice top’ 5 minutes pre Zoom call, today we’re advocating all things trousers, whether simple, statement, subtle or sexy.

Textures and fabrics like corduroy and faux leather offer a warm and more put-together look

This week’s edit has a cocktail of picks for both comfort and style lovers because we’re really not ready to compromise our need for pyjama like clothes in the year of loungewear loving. Textures and fabrics like corduroy and faux leather offer a warm and more put-together look, contrasted with the likes of linen, cotton and ribbed wool for the days when comfort dressing is highest on the agenda. Opt for an autumnal colour palette and go all out with earthy, rustic tones, or add some fun to your look with a pink cord or pastel number.

Let us know if you’ll be branching out from your usual black or blue denim, and which of these trouser picks are going straight into your basket.

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TEAM ZOELLA OCTOBER 14, 2020

Create Your Own Dried Flower Wreath

There are infinite ways to inject a little bit of fall magic into your living space and reflect nature’s changing tones and textures, but perhaps one of the most stand-out seasonal touches we can delight in at this time of year is an Autumn wreath.

As we head into Autumn (we are SO ready), our homes become a haven of comfort & warmth. We while away our slow Sundays tucked under teddy fleece blankets, scent our living rooms with spiced candles, retreat to the warmth of the kitchen to bake cinnamon sugar biscuits and decorate bookshelves with pumpkins, embracing the true spirit of hygge season.

One of the most stand-out seasonal touches we can delight in at this time of year is an Autumn wreath.

There are infinite ways to inject a little bit of fall magic into your living space and reflect nature’s changing tones and textures, but perhaps one of the most stand-out seasonal touches we can delight in at this time of year is an Autumn wreath. Much like its festive counterpart, it’s made to adorn doors, walls, dining tables and cosy fireplaces, offering a warm welcome to all.

Here, we’ve gone for an earthy & rustic dried flower display but if you want to layer in some colour, you can add in some burnished bronze foliage, flax, moss, maple leaves, pine cones, dried hydrangeas, acorns, frosted berries and whatever else evokes those good autumnal vibes.

They also happen to be super easy to make, so even if you’re not the crafty and creative type, you’ll have no problem get to grips with one of these homemade dried floral wreaths.

What you’ll need:

  • Dried flowers of varying heights & textures – foraged or sourced online / from your local florist
  • Newspaper
  • Glue gun
  • Grapevine / rattan wreath

Let’s walk you through the step-by-step!

  • Start by lightly wrapping your the dried flowers you’d like as your ‘base’ around your rattan wreath
  • Use your glue gun to find them in place
  • Start layering on different textures and colours glueing as you go
  • Add on any larger pieces like pine cones
  • Try to make sure everything you add is symmetrical so the wreath feels balanced
  • Use some gardening twine glued to the back of your wreath so you can hang it to a door
TEAM ZOELLA OCTOBER 13, 2020

Biscoff Cupcakes With Jane’s Patisserie

Amazing and Delicious Biscoff Cupcakes with a Brown Sugar Sponge, Biscoff Buttercream, Biscoff Biscuits and more!

“I have previously put up a recipe for a No-Bake Biscoff Cheesecake, which went down an absolute hit. So this lead on to me wanting a cake version of it, and cupcakes seemed ideal! 

I used a simple vanilla cupcake as the base of my cupcakes, but with the twist of using light brown sugar in the cupcakes, they have a lovely natural caramel taste to go with the caramelised theme of the Biscoff!

As you will have noticed from various other Cupcake Recipes on my blog, and even my Biscoff Cake/Biscoff Drip Cake… I love a brown sugar sponge. I borderline prefer it to a caster sugar sponge, but it definitely depends on the flavour. 

As an optional extra for these cupcakes, you can use a biscoff centre. You would core out some of the cake, and add in some biscoff spread. I purely didn’t do this, as I didn’t have enough biscoff spread on me at the time of baking! 

I decided to use a basic spread buttercream frosting for these. Unsalted Butter (the real kind, not a spread), Icing Sugar and Biscoff Spread. I would advise using the smooths spread if you want to pipe it more easily though! 

Easily drizzle some biscoff spread over the top by melting it briefly in the microwave or in a pan, and add some biscuits on top. The easiest type of sprinkle is some biscuit crumbs, so crush over a couple of biscuits!

I honestly LOVEEEE biscoff. My various and endless recipes using it makes that obvious though. More recently my Biscoff Blondies, along with my Biscoff Rocky Road are some of my favourite tray bakes… but sometimes cupcakes are just the best you can choose!

I recommend using these cute baking cups for this recipe because they’re useful, and I just obsessed over them. And I used a 2D closed star piping tip because it makes the most beautiful swirl!

If you are a Cookie lover, you will love these. If you are a Biscoff lover, you will love these. If you are a Cupcake lover, you will love these. I think you get the picture, enjoy!” Jane’s Patisserie

SERVES 12
PREP: 30 MINS COOK: 20 MINS
MEDIUM

Cupcakes

  • Preheat your oven to 180C/160 Fan/350F and get 12 cupcake cases ready!
  • Beat the butter with the light brown sugar until fluffy
  • Add in the Eggs and Flour and beat again till combined!
  • Using an ice-cream scoop (to make it the same amount per cupcake) dollop into the   cupcake cases
  • Bake in the oven for 18-22 minutes or until a skewer poked into one of the cakes comes out clean and they are springy to touch – Leave to cool fully.

Buttercream

  • Beat the butter with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes to loosen it.
  • Add the icing sugar on a slow speed until it is combined then speed the mixer up and mix for 3-4 minutes until thoroughly combined and smooth.
  • Add the biscoff to the buttercream and continue mixing. If needed, add in the boiling water. Keep on beating for 5 minutes until whipped!

Decoration

  • Pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes – I used a 2D closed star piping tip!
  • Add on a drizzle of biscoff spread, biscoff biscuit, and some biscuit crumbs.
  • Enjoy!

Head over to Jane’s website for more delicious recipes here, and follow her on Instagram here!

TEAM ZOELLA OCTOBER 12, 2020

No-Fuss Vegan Butternut Squash & Spinach Orzo Salad

Perfect for potluck dinners with the family or a quick healthy lunch, this roasted butternut squash and spinach salad is a great dish to balance out the sweet treats throughout the Autumn months.

Who says orzo salad has had its time? By introducing seasonal veg and plenty of nutritious greens, there’s no reason why this rice-shaped pasta can’t be a healthy perennial staple all-year-round.

Perfect for potluck dinners with the family or a quick healthy lunch when you’re sapped of inspiration

Perfect for potluck dinners with the family or a quick healthy lunch when you’re sapped of inspiration, this roasted butternut squash and spinach salad makes for a great light and refreshing dish to balance out the sweet treats throughout the Autumn months. Bake Off fans, you knowww.

The beauty of this dish is that it’s easy to adapt to taste. You can change up the ingredients to suit your mood, loading up your al dente orzo with crumbly feta or tangy goat’s cheese, pumpkin seeds, pomegranates and sultanas for texture. Mwah – chef’s kiss!

Let’s get roasting…

SERVES
PREP: 15 MINS COOK: 40 MINS
EASY
  • Preheat your oven to 200°C
  • Peel your butternut squash and chop into one-inch cubes
  • Spread the squash on to a baking tray, toss in oil and season with salt and pepper
  • Bake until your squash is starting to brown, about 40 minutes
  • In a hot pan fry off your garlic (crushed or minced) and toss in your spinach until wilted
  • Place the orzo in a pot of boiling hot water and cook until tender then drain
  • Combine the garlic spinach, squash and orzo together and top with whatever ingredients you fancy, we think pine nuts and feta would be delish!

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