Sometime last month I decided I wanted to start a series of posts that included some of my favourite ladies in the blogging world. I wanted it to be a little bit more relaxed and casual than your typical interview. I wanted it to read less as a Q&A and more as a friendly chat. So, today I bring to you the first instalment of my new series 'A Virtual Coffee'.
My first coffee date is with Grace from That Grace Girl. Grace manages to exude elegance in everything that she does- from her style to her photography to her written word. Her blog is an exquisitely crafted mecca for any beauty lover, full to the brim with answers to all your skincare and makeup queries. Her style is polished, effortless and informative. She is intelligent, opinionated, honest, friendly, approachable and generous. From the moment I stumbled upon her blog I have spent hours sifting through her posts, discovering, learning, and wishing that I could pick her brains one on one. Needless to say, I could think of no one better to invite to my first virtual coffee.
I’ll be joining you on the almond milk front [albeit in a supersize latte], and an almond croissant [or two].
First off tell us what you’ve ordered... I think I’ll be having a spiced chai with almond milk, and probably a slice of banana bread.
Aside from spending my days blogging like a maniac [I just handed in my assignments for the term so I’m playing catchup for a few weeks to get myself back on track], I do actually have some rather exciting summer plans… I’m working on a [top secret] beauty-related project with one of my best friends Bridie of Maison Ellis, which I am so insanely excited about! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long long time, and the concept is one that Bridie and I are both incredibly passionate about. We’re both perfectionists, so we’re dedicating the next couple of months to getting it just right, but keep your eyes peeled come July!
So, what’s new in the world of Grace? Any exciting developments? Any summer plans?
Aside from drinking every mojito I can get my hands on, I’m relishing being able to throw all of my time and energy into my blog! I’m actually doing my MA over two years so it’s not quite over yet, but I’m free until September at least!
You must be coming to the end of/ finished your masters what are you doing to celebrate? Congratulations by the way, you clever lady!
I'm still fiddling around trying to narrow down my scope and coin a suitable title, but I'm planning to write it on the impact of women's magazines upon popular perceptions of and attitudes towards beauty in the nineteenth century. I'm really interested in Victorian advice literature, and it's proving really interesting researching the types of cosmetic products used, the guidance given towards applying and wearing them, and the social stigma attached to certain types of products or colours - red lipstick for instance was a big no-no!
Halfway done- that's still quite the achievement! Do you have any thoughts on what your Thesis is going to be about?
It did! I was getting a bit bored with the old design, it felt very generic and didn’t give me any options to be creative with my formatting, so I took the plunge and moved from Wordpress to Squarespace [which gives you so much more opportunity to play around with the design].
I actually didn’t spend very long redesigning because I’d had a vision building up in my head for some time; something very fresh and modern, which feels more like a website, a space that people can explore and use for reference. My incredibly talented friend Jen [Jennypurr] has a lot of experience with Squarespace so she helped me with the technical aspects of putting it together and transferring my content etc., which was probably the most time-consuming aspect. I love the logo; the font feels very fun and retro, and I think it contrasts well with the pink and prevents the site from looking too girly.
Your website recently had the most beautiful redesign- tell me more! What spurred the change? How long did you spend redesigning? What are your favourite bits of the new site?
Sounds similar to the angst I was having with Wordpress! Without a doubt the Blocks action. It basically allows you to do things like create columned text, resize images, and add quotes or slideshows etc. [without having to get knee-deep in code!]. I've always wanted to give an editorial edge to TGG's aesthetic, which is something Blocks is allowing me to experiment with.
I completely understand your formatting frustrations. I recently spent the better part of three hours trying to figure out a way to get columned text in one of my posts on blogger... to no avail. What do you find are the most useful features of squarespace for bloggers?
I literally have a stack of books and magazines next to me, some of which have been waiting to be read since Christmas! Let me see…in terms of magazines it’s the usual suspects, several month’s worth of Vogue, ELLE, and Porter. Book-wise [these are just a few!] American Psycho, The Beauty Myth, Hope in a Ballet Shoe, Understanding Fashion History [that’s for thesis prep!], and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I’m currently re-reading I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, it’s one of my absolute favourites. As for blogs, I don’t really have much to catch up on; I have the Bloglovin’ app on my phone so I always read through my feed when I’m having breakfast. Some of my favourites [aside from yours!] are La Petite Primp, In a Pavilion, and Sofie Says Something.
Now that you have more library-free time what reading material (books, blogs, magazines, etc) have you been getting stuck into?
Yes, I suffered a really nasty breakout of hormonal acne at the end of last year and I knew it had nothing whatsoever to do with my skincare routine so I decided to embrace the inside-out approach. These days I don’t eat any pure dairy, and I try to make sure that anything I eat has minimal dairy content. I used to drink about three coffees a day but now I only drink it when I’m out meeting friends and that’s made a massive difference. Caffeine is a powerful inflammatory and most people don’t realise the impact that has on your body! The bulk of my meals come from Gizzi Erskine’s Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts or the Hemsley & Hemsley cookbook, and now that it’s summer I’m throwing together a lot of salads with couscous, noodles, grilled chicken etc. I always have a supersize bag of almonds to hand to snack on, they’re not too expensive, taste good, and full of skincare goodness!
I've recently started trying to make certain dietary shifts in a bid to become a little bit healthier. I know you've cut out most dairy and caffeine from your diet, haven't you? What are some of your favourite recipes at the moment? Any good snack ideas?
Oh gosh I apologise to your bank balance in advance! You caught me at a good time, I’m pinching my pennies so my wishlist has been racking up for months. I really want to try out some pieces from Topshop Beauty as I haven’t actually explored beyond the nail polishes - the cheek jellies and cream eyeshadows look amazing. I also really want to pick up some more MAC pigments and get creative with my eyeshadow; and Illamasqua Precision Ink, because I’m out of liquid liner and have heard rave reviews!
Thanks to your fabulous posts I seem to have developed a never ending wish list, but what items are currently top of yours?
I don’t think a year has ever gone by so fast as this one has! I’m running the Nike Women’s 10k in London in a few weeks so that’s the next big thing on my agenda, and I’m spending a few weeks in the South of France and Spain in July/August - I can’t wait to feel some real sun! Come September I’ll be starting the final year of my MA and I’m moving into a flat with my best friend, which will be amazing. I think everyone needs to live in a big city with their best friend at least once in their life! We’re both big fans of a cocktail/Sunday brunch so we’re already planning lots of girly fun in the city - come visit!
We’re nearly halfway into 2015 (how has that happened!?), what are your plans for the rest of the year?
It really is the dream isn't it! We officially signed for our new place last week so I'm counting down the days until move-in! Ooh for cocktails I love Cloud 23, it's nearby Manchester's business district so it's a little formal/corporate, but it's located in the city's tallest building so the views are amazing [and the drinks are strong!]. I also love The Alchemist, it has a bit more character and the drinks are really creative [bubblegum mojitos and cocktails served in test tubes and vintage teapots]. For brunch, Moose Coffee is a Canadian-style diner that does the most amazing pancakes and waffles, but I also love Koffee Pot for an old-school greasy fry-up or Federal for a classic eggs and avocado on toast.
Aside from food [and shopping], one of my favourite things to show friends who visit Manchester is the architecture. It's very industrial and the city is really proud of its heritage, so those of the Victorian mills and factories that didn't get bombed out during WWII remain. I've done a lot of research during my degrees into the city's architectural history, sometimes I feel like a bit of an unofficial tour guide! I love aimless afternoons spent wandering around the canals and exploring the derelict warehouses that haven't yet been snapped up by investors and turned into snazzy flats [and there are always new coffee places and burger joints popping up off the beaten track, so it's a great way to find new eateries!].
Moving in with your best friend will be so exciting. I was lucky enough to be able to live with my two best friends last year and I'm hoping we will be able to recreate the dream in London at some point. Where are your favourite cocktail and brunch spots in Manchester? Actually, I've never ventured that far north- what are the best things to see in Manchester?