How to Go it Alone and Survive a Party or an Event Where You Know No one

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When I first started blogging nearly four years ago, the thought of going solo to an event where I knew absolutely no one would have been enough to bring me out in hives.  I’d have had some questions before predictably deciding to skip it.  Number one: Why the HELL would I voluntarily put myself through that kind of torture?  Number two: Can I bring a friend to cling onto/hide behind? and if not, then Number three: How do I get out of this and hide out at home without looking like a total loser?  The truth is that I’d have made my excuses, metaphorically shut the curtains and hid out at home – simple as.  “If anyone calls I’m not here!!!”

We’ve all been there (I hope!); at some point we all get invited to that party of a friend of a friend – only to have the friend bail at the last minute, or get sent to a networking event to mingle with total strangers (smingle?)Shudder.  I got invited to my first event four months after I started blogging and even though I was thrilled to have been invited, I was rattled.  I’d have to go alone and worse, as I was brand spanking new to the Cardiff Blogging Scene, I wouldn’t know anyone.  Yeesh.  Thankfully, I decided to be brave and went anyway, and even though – yeah – it was a bit awkward walking into a room full of unfamiliar faces, by the end of the event they became familiar and I came away realising that – actually – I wasn’t the wallflower I thought I was.  Four years on and I pretty much go solo to all the events that I get an invite to (in fact, as this post goes live I’ll be on my way to yet another one), and even though I still get those butterflies and that urge to bail – every single time – I’ve learned to take a breath and power through it and I always end up having a good time.

So, down to the million pound question: How do you survive a party or an event when you don’t know anyone?  How do you do it without clinging to a corner scrolling on your phone or choosing to keep the dog or cat company (GUILTY)?  Here are some tricks and tips I’ve picked up over the years.

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Arrive Early

I honestly can’t think of anything worse than turning up to a party or an event when it’s in full swing.  Having to walk into a room where everyone’s already paired up and chatting away is my idea of hell, so I always – if I can – try to be the first person to arrive.  Yeah, it’s a bit lame and you risk looking over-eager, but there’s a massive upside.  If you’re the first to arrive you’ll get one on one time with the host before anyone else does (and before they’re busy) – so, you can introduce yourself, offer to help out – and, when everyone else starts arriving they’ll most likely zone in on the host too, who’ll probably introduce you.  Easy, you’re in!

Pick a Bomb Outfit (and compliment everyone else’s)

Obviously you’ll want to check the dress code, but pick an outfit that you’re not only comfortable wearing, but also one that makes you feel confident.  I always like to wear one of my weird shirts because that’s usually how other bloggers recognise me (I’m the weird shirt girl) but also because they’re striking and a bit of a conversation starter.  Also, complimenting other people’s outfits is one of the best ways to strike up a conversation – a quick, “Sorry, I just had to come over and tell you how much I love your dress/bag/shoes – where are they from?” is all it takes.

Hunt down other guests who’ve decided to go it alone

One of the best tips I’ve ever read about going it alone is to track down someone else who’s in the same boat!  There’ll always be someone shy standing alone desperate to be rescued – so why not be their knight in shining armour?  They’ll be so grateful!  And don’t stop once you’ve settled in and have found a few people to talk to – always be on the look out for someone in trouble. 🙂

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Come armed with conversation topics

Don’t be the nob who reverts to chatting about the weather when there’s nothing else to say!  Come armed with questions to ask and topics to talk about.  After moving in with a compliment conversation starter ask questions about the other person’s life and the ball will usually start rolling.  At a lot of the blogging events I’ve been to there’ll usually be someone I recognise from social media – even if I’ve never met them in real life, and that makes things so much easier! If they post pictures of their dog, I ask them questions about that cute pupper – if they recently posted pictures of themselves on holiday, I ask them about it! I always feel like a total stalker, but usually I find the other person is just so happy you’ve taken an interest in them on a personal level that it never seems to come across  as stalkerish.  Maybe it’s a blogger loop hole!

No one is staring at you

Unless you get naked, you’re golden.  After I attended my first event alone, one of the biggest things I realised about myself was that I’d much rather take a risk and be the loudest, friendliest person in the room than play it safe and be the one standing alone scrolling on their phone.  I’ve always thought of myself as this shy wallflower – an introvert to the core – and I still am; I always get nervous before throwing myself into a social situation and I actually get a social hangover if I’ve spent too much time socialising (It’s a real thing!).  But, I’ve realised that I can be social and that I enjoy being social.  The truth is that the party or event isn’t going to revolve around you, there isn’t going to be a big spotlight following you around and no one is trying to catch you out or trip you up.  No one will care if you make a mistake.  So relax!

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Don’t Drink

Okay, hear me out; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of liquid luck, but use it once and it’ll become a crutch for every event you attend thereafter.  All the early events I attended on my own, I drove to – which at the time seemed like madness because, “How the hell am I going to be able to talk to people without a bit of dutch courage!?”  But actually, being forced to stay sober meant that by the end of the night when I’d come away having had a fantastic time and met some great people, I could chalk it up to being completely myself.

Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know anyone

You mean, admit that you’re a loner!?  ARE YOU CRAZY?  Well, look.  You can either stand around and hope someone will come and rescue you, or you can take a gamble and admit that you’re vulnerable.  I’ve done it a couple of times myself when I’ve really struggled to find someone to talk to and the other person has always been absolutely lovely and introduced to their friends.  No one is ever going to turn their back on you and tell you to go away – that worst case scenario rolling around in your head doesn’t exist.

Give Yourself a Bail-out Time

Before leaving, I always give myself a deadline – a time when I’m allowed to “give up”, call it quits and leave.  Not only is it a sensible thing to do so your nearest and dearest know what time you’re likely to be heading home, but it also takes the edge off if you’re nervous.  You’ll know there’s an end in sight.  Usually you’ll find that your bail out time sneaks up way too soon and you’ll be having such a great time that you’ll end up extending it anyway! 😉

If you’re local to Cardiff, whether you’re a blogger or own a small business or just fancy mingling with some new faces then there are loads of networking events to attend.  Definitely check out The Monday Club (most of the photographs in this post were taken at their summer garden party earlier this week), The Wonders Of Events, Warrior Women and House 21.

How to Sunday Like a Pro and Prep for a Productive Week

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We’re all familiar with that old saying that “a weekend well spent brings a week of content” right?  I mean, if you haven’t seen it captioned all over on Instagram (y’know; a weekend well spent, brings a week of social media content…) then you’ll have probably heard the words muttered with a smile over weekend brunch.  I used to think that the phrase meant cramming the weekend full of activities – that if you hadn’t hiked up a mountain, gone out for brunch, been to a museum, hit the shops, gone to the cinema, spent time with the family and polished everything off with a whopping great big roast then nope, you were doing weekends wrong.  I mean, who has the energy for all that!?

Growing up, I used to absolutely HATE Sundays – and even though it’s still a whole 50% of the weekend, it always used to feel like the end of it.  It was just one big clock-watch and countdown until bedtime and giving into Monday’s looming arrival, and the back to school/back to work blues would hit me hard.  Because of that feeling, Sundays were never “well spent”; I’d resent going out somewhere or running errands because the day would just disappear, but at the same time I’d hate staying in because then it just felt like a massive waste.  I just didn’t know how to spend the time in a satisfying way.

The truth is that time “well spent” means something different to everyone.  For me, it’s all about balance, and I’ve come to realise that when we’re talking about Sundays that balance is between doing things that relax my mind and make me smile, and doing things that’ll get it into gear for the week ahead.  It’s the basics of self-care, right?  Allowing yourself to indulge in the things that not only make you happy (a big ass brunch and new shoes), but also doing the things that are necessary to function as an adult (changing the sheets and ticking things off that to do list)!

So let me give that old saying a little bit of a tweak, because I think the truth of the matter is that a Sunday well spent brings a week of intent.  People who Sunday like a pro feed off of that back to work feeling because it enables them to spend the time wisely, not only having fun but prepping for Monday’s arrival. I’m still no Sunday Pro myself, but here are a few things that I like to do to rest and prep for the week ahead… 🙂

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Have a Fancy Breakfast

During the week I’m a fast bowl of Frosties kinda girl; they’re grrrrrrrrreat to slurp down quickly on a Monday morning, but not exactly worth getting out of bed for on a lazy Sunday, right?  We can do so much better!  Sundays (and Saturdays…) are for Brunching – which is basically another way of saying “On Sundays, we fancy”.  I’m talking eggs, pancakes, french toast… A little bit of whatever you fancy and can’t be bothered/don’t have the time to make or enjoy during the week.  A slow Sunday morning is one of my favourite things!

If you’re looking for a couple of recipes to pump up your Sunday jam then check out some of my Favourite Egg Recipes here, a whole post on Fabulous French Toast here, as well as Five Lazy Breakfast Ideas here.  Breakfast food is my favourite food, in case you didn’t already know… 😉

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Do Something FUN

I guess the point with this one is to do something that sparks joy – something that you can’t do during the week – whether that’s slobbing out on the sofa and binge-watching three seasons of Alaskan Bush People (…No regrets), baking a little something-something, going out for Sunday Lunch, hiking up a mountain or going for a bike ride, filling up your ASOS shopping bag, or just taking the dog on a proper walk.  Let the good times roll before Monday rolls back around!

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Meal Plan

I started meal planning last year and honestly, it was a total game changer.  It’s helped me not only to cut down on how much I spend on the weekly food shop, but also to cut down on food waste and all that time spent faffing around trying to work out what the hell to cook for dinner every night.  These days I make just one trip to the supermarket and pick up everything I need for the week ahead.  A little bit of planning goes such a long way!

Because I do my food shop on a Monday, Sunday is the day I like to meal plan.  I check my diary for the week and see what’s happening – to see if there are any days where either myself or Sunny are out, or days that are looking crazy-busy (takeaway night!) – and then I start planning!  I jot down all the meals I plan on making over the next seven days (focusing on dinner – that’s the big one) and then I write up a shopping list. 🙂

You can read all about how to start meal planning – along with some tips and tricks – right here.

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Sunday Soak

I LOVE having a bit of a pamper-sesh on Sunday evening. Yes, it’s relaxing, and sure, it’s nice to sit and stew in some suds for an hour rather than have the ten minute shower I tend to go for during the week… but honestly, it’s kind of necessary if I want to keep myself looking (and feeling!) ship-shape and shiny.  I don’t have time to re-paint my nails during the week, or to shave my legs, or clean my makeup brushes and sit around in a hair or a face mask for an hour; so Sunday is the day where I catch up and take the time to tick off all those things that a woman’s gotta do.

You can read my step by step Sunday Soak and a see a list of my favourite products right here.

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Make a List of Goals

As well as writing up my shopping list, I also like to write a list of goals for the week ahead too.  It’s really nice waking up on a Monday armed with an attack plan!  I write down all the things I need to do by the end of the week in order of importance – as well as a list of a few selfish things that I’d quite like to do.  I also like to make some fun plans for the following weekend!  We all need a reward for hard work, right? 😉

Have a great weekend everyone, whatever you’re up to; let me know how you like to spend your Sunday in the comments below 🙂

Five Things Making Me Happy Right Now

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I can’t believe it’s actually going to be May by the end of next week!  We’ll be speeding through summer before you know it – and that flash of hot weather over the Easter weekend was just what the doctor ordered.  I spent the first couple of days of the long weekend catching up with a few jobs around the house that needed doing, and then spent Saturday afternoon soaking up the sun in my local beer garden.  Sunday and Monday was spent slobbing out on the sofa with plenty of chocolate.  It was lush!  So, aside from the lovely, summery weather, here are five things I’ve been enjoying throughout April…

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Blossom

I mean, who doesn’t love the blossom this time of year?  It’s always been one of my favourite spring things and there’s a tree not far from my house that puts on a hell of a show every year.  I pass it every day on the morning dog walk and I’ve really loved watching it slowly burst into colour.  Even Bungle’s loved it; he’s obsessed with the carpet of pink petals and likes to sit there for a couple of minutes during his walk. Weirdo!

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Game of Thrones

It’s back, it’s brilliant and… I’m bloody well terrified.  Considering there’s been a year’s break from the annual summer visit to Westeros (…what a jolly holiday that would be…), I was amazed how easily I got sucked back into it all.  What can I say?  The first couple of new episodes were downright deviousYes, not a lot happened in the grand scheme of things, but the truth is that the show’s producers basically spent two hours reminding us of why we love all these characters so much.  And that’s devious of them because the white-walkers are going to turn up at Winterfell next week and slaughter them all.  I’m scared.

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Left Over Chocolate

Easter was a strange one this year; I feel like all the eggs and chocolate were in the stores for such a long time that I kind of forgot about the whole thing!  Sunny and I did a lot of cream egg scoffing back in February instead.  But, one of the best things about Easter is the left over chocolate and all the half price chocolate banging about on the shelves right now.  We stocked up and have plenty to fuel us through a few binge-watching sessions at least.

If you fancy using up some of your leftover chocolate and doing a bit of baking, then you can’t go wrong with these Creme Egg Doughnuts that I made last year, and – in case you missed it – over on Instagram I posted a recipe for this Easter Tiffin Cake.

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Alaskan Bush People

Okay, this one is a strange one – I know – but hear me out.  Sunny’s obsessed with all those Discovery shows like Tanked, Storage WarsIce Road Truckers etc, and he happened to pick up the second season of Alaskan Bush People over on DMAX whenever he was working from home.  If you’ve never seen it before then it’s basically a show about a family living out in the wild (the bush) in Alaska.  Think Bear Grylls’ The Island, only years later… and in Alaska.  I made fun of my husband for watching it at first, because it all seemed so ridiculous, but over Easter weekend I managed to get completely sucked into it and somehow we’re now balls deep into season five.  Aside from the beautiful views of Alaska – of whales and bears – it’s just so interesting how the family live so far from everything and everyone, and how they chop their own wood, build their own houses, hunt their own meat and even invent their own appliances from bartered or salvaged materials.  Plus the nine kids are all so interesting – from their names (Snowbird, Bear, Bam Bam…), down to their different talents and resourcefulness out in the wild.  They’re such a tight, loving family too – you can’t help but root for them.  LOVE IT.

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Chamomile Tea

Boring one and I’m probably really showing my age here, but I’ve started swigging Chamomile Tea at night (…in front of Alaskan Bush People) about an hour before bed and it’s really helping me to wind down, feel relaxed and sleep more soundly.  During the day I’m a strict Darjeeling no milk kind of girl, but I can easily – so easily! – swig my way through five cups or more in a day.  I’ve been trying to cut down on caffeine and have been trying to slip in a couple of cups of chamomile instead of my usual brew, especially in the evening. 🙂

So, come on then.  Who do we think is going to snuff it in Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones?  😉

 

My Thursday: Blossom Walks, Perfect Scrambled Eggs and Violet Gin

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I feel like I haven’t done a photo diary in ages; sometimes it’s nice to throw things back to blogging back in the day – you know, when it was all a bit more low key and just about the things you did on a random day of the week.  I did want to put an Easter-inspired recipe up today buuuuuut I’ve been a bit busy and came up empty.  So here we are!  This is what my Thursday looked like.

Most days right now begin at 6am when Bungle stomps into our bedroom and barks until one of us either budges over or gets up.  He loves our bed at the moment; he’ll disappear at random times during the day and we’ll find him sprawled out snoozing in the middle of it!  Sunny usually gets up first so Bungle will usually hop in with me for a bit while I scroll through Twitter and Instagram and put off getting up myself. 😉

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Once Sunny leaves for work, I pull on a pair of yoga pants and a hoodie and take Bungle for his morning walk around the block.  You’d think him having the snip a couple of weeks ago would have calmed him down a bit, but honestly he’s even more excitable than before.  He still drags me along and only stops to mercilessly hump my leg.  Buuuuuut, at least on Thursday the weather was nice; we walked around the block and had a sniff around the bluebells and the blossom.

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After his walk, Bungle went back to bed (…alright for some) and I made myself some breakfast.  I’ve been trying to perfect some egg recipes recently and high up on my list was scrambled egg.  I mean, usually I just crack a couple of eggs into a saucepan with some milk and butter and stir until they’re solid, but I wanted to see if I could go one better and make those super creamy, special scrambled eggs.  On Thursday, I think I cracked it (har de har).

Most of my morning was spent ticking off jobs on my to do list, planning a couple of blog posts and answering emails, and then after taking Bungle for another trot around the block I had a quick lunch and then headed into Cardiff.  But it turned out taking me an hour longer than usual because the traffic was a nightmare!

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Had a quick prowl around the shops.  There’s not really a lot I need in terms of Spring/Summer clothes, but I love looking anyway!  I’m still in lust with this pink polka dot shirt from Zara… but I’ve got a lot of shirts (and a lot of polka dots…).  I’m determined to wait it out and see if lust turns into love.

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At Gin o’ Clock I met up with Lottie from This Girl Is.  We went to Gin and Juice in Castle Arcade which serves up a massive selection of gin (and smoothies) in the most beautiful way.  We chatted about blogging and our beautiful but bonkers doggos.

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Once I got home, Sunny took Bungle for his evening walk and I made dinner.  I’ve really been enjoying making these Burrito Bowls recently.  It started as a solution to those times when “ugh, can’t be arsed to make Quesadillas” – but actually, I prefer it!  And not just because it’s easier.  Last night I served them up with a cheeky side of Nachos – which went down very well! 🙂

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After dinner I started reading my new history book all about the women in Mozart’s life and then Sunny and I broke into some Easter Chocolate in front of Into the Badlands – which is quite possibly the most ridiculous show I’ve ever seen.  Steampunk meets Kung Fu… with Nick Frost.  I mean, what the actual hell?

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Enjoy the long weekend! 🙂

Let’s Stop Self-Defecating (…yes, you read that right)

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Happy April Fool’s Day!  I don’t know about you, but I’m absolutely useless when it comes to playing practical jokes… and telling jokes full stop, to be totally and completely honest!  I either give the game away by giggling too soon or I screw up the punch line, and my go-to joke is the one about the panda who goes to a restaurant and eats shoots and leaves.  The one thing I am good at, however, is laughing at myself.  A couple of weeks ago, I managed to play the most ridiculous practical joke on myself while I was refilling a cook’s blowtorch.  When I (stupidly) decided to check whether it was working and pulled the trigger, the lighter fumes ignited and I was momentarily consumed by a ball of fire that not only burned my fingers but also singed off most of my eyebrows and a lot of my hair.  After the initial sobbing shock and cries of “my hair!!!” (and the call to NHS Direct to see if I needed to hop it down to A&E…) I did what I always do after I’ve done something stupid; I laughed long and hard over what an utter nob I was.

There’s nothing better than having a good ol’ chuckle, is there?  Even when times are tough having a laugh about it – y’know, a proper tear-streaming, snorting, rib-aching, gasping for air kind of laugh – is better than any kind of medicine.  And self-deprecation (or “self-defecation”, as I used to call it until someone stepped in and corrected me… yeesh…) is the one woman stand-up routine I’ve been performing since I can remember.  I slip into it so easily these days: if someone compliments my anything, I’ll launch head-first into a bit where I take out a metaphorical magnifying glass and hover it over every flaw I have and can think of.  Like, the dog hair clinging to my brand new black jeans, or my vampire skin that’s hilariously allergic to fake tan, that ketchup stain on my new shirt, my flat chest, my misbehaving hair and *tap tap* “Hey, is this thing on?”  I’ll downplay my own achievements and shrug them off as pure luck – as simply being in the right place at the right time – because – come on now – there’s absolutely no way this train wreck is capable of achieving anything on her own other than maybe inhaling three cream eggs in thirty seconds.

Har de ha.

And I know I’m not alone in this.  We’re all guilty of slipping into that old routine in social situations, aren’t we?  Whether we’re with our mates or with a whole crowd of new faces – it’s an easy way to seem more human – more relatable – to come across as humble instead of arrogant and therefore more likeable.  In theory!  But are we harming ourselves in the process?

If I’m constantly poking fun at myself and telling other people that I can’t cook to save my life, that I only wear flats because I look like drunk giraffe in heels, or that the reason I got that big promotion was completely down to luck rather than my own hard work, I’m going to start believing it myself.  And for what?  To spare someone else’s ego?  To be liked?  At that point we’re not self-deprecating anymore, we really are just self-defecating – shitting all over ourselves and our achievements!  And that ain’t cool, my friend!

I came across some sage words of advice on how to own your achievements and talents a while ago and it really stuck with me.  It’s basically all down to learning how to self-deprecate in a self-aggrandizing way.  I mean, you’re still poking fun of yourself – but you’re doing it in a much kinder, more positive way.  For example, instead of rolling your eyes and telling yourself and others “I can’t cook to save my life”, laugh at that burned slice of toast and declare proudly, “I clearly need my own cookery show – watch out Nigella Lawson!”  Next time your eyeliner’s wonky or you’ve gone in too hard with the blush, don’t pull the ol’ clown face gag out the bag – just have a chuckle and say, “Nailed it.”  Or the next time you send out an email full of mistakes (and to the wrong person – yikes!), instead of coming down hard on your writing skills just laugh and say, “Hey, I was clearly robbed of that Pulitzer.”  It’s a small switcheroo that’ll help change your mindset and have you owning both your flaws and achievements in a more positive way.

Let’s have a good ol’ laugh at ourselves without being the fool.

Anyone played any good April Fools pranks today?  The closest I got was Sunny politely informing me at 6.30am this morning that our toilet was backed up and spilling over – hilarious!  NOT.  Have a great week!  🙂