Hello and welcome to the first instalment of Ask Monica! A new series on The Elgin Avenue, designed to help me get to know you better and for you to get to know me better too.
In the 6+ years I’ve had this blog, I haven’t really opened the floor up to you to ask me any questions!
I’m always open to receiving emails and comments, but I thought it would be fun to create a dedicated space for you – ‘Ask Me Anything’ style.
For this first instalment I asked you on Instagram to DM, comment or email me, and I got such an amazing response! I’m excited to share my first set of answers for Ask Monica, I hope you’ll enjoy reading them too.
I’ll be posting a new Ask Monica feature at the beginning of every month, so please feel free to comment at the bottom of this post, email or comment on social media with any new questions which may come up for the beginning of April!
I love being able to connect with you in this way.
Here goes the first instalment . . . !
Ask Monica #1
1.”What are your favourite/most used filters or editing apps for your Instagram pics? They always look so light, clean and gorgeous” – @FloraByford
Firstly – thank you so much Flora! That is so sweet of you to say.
I use three apps for almost every Instagram image I post:
I use Snapseed to change the brightness of my images, increase the clarity and enhance the contrast. I almost always use the same recipe: brighter, higher contrast and more definition.
Facetune is an amazing app for removing unwanted objects or smoothing anything you want perfected. I use this app if there is something in an image which is glaringly ugly. I’ve removed street signs, cigarette butts – and chewing gum(!) – using Facetune. It’s also a great app for highlighting details. I tend to use the detail function on the labels of products when I want the text to be more readable, or when I want to define a specific detail rather than the whole image.
Facetune is also really popular for perfecting people’s images of themselves and friends – you can remove dark eye circles, clear skin, whiten teeth and define eyelashes. These are all great tools for finessing a portrait image. I try to use them as naturally as possible.
VSCO is my ‘filter’ app. I use this to finish off my images before posting to Instagram. VSCO comes with a preset of filters, but I actually bought the ‘minimalist’ filter pack which I LOVE! I was introduced to it by my good friend Amanda of The Online Stylist – and her Instagram feed is gorgeous!
I’ve found that having a set way of editing my images, and using complimentary filters gives them a unified aesthetic – even if they’re completely different types of images.
2. “What is your favourite restaurant in Hampshire? I am always looking for tips.” – @LoisAvery
Great question Jennie! I am always excited to discover new restaurants via friends, so I am so glad you asked this.
One of my very very favourite restaurants in Hampshire is Pulpo Negro Tapas restaurant in Alresford. Their drinks list is amazing (try their gin and tonics – sigh!), and the food is ridiculously good. I’ve never not had an amazing evening at Pulpo Negro.
Another Hampshire favourite is The Pig in Brockenhurst. It’s pretty fancy so I tend to go there on special occasions only, but their garden-to-table menu ensures that everything is delicious and super fresh. The whole environment is also totally magical.
3. “If you’re having a slow-moving work day and you’re feeling uninspired/unmotivated, what’s one of your top tips to get through it? I work from home mainly and love what I do, but still have those days every now and again where I feel so uninspired and unproductive! Love your blog, Monica!” – @EJaneLynn
Emily – thank you so much! And oh I so feel you! I empathise with your experience of days when you’re just not ‘feeling it’. We all go through them.
Firstly, if I am experiencing a day like that, I try to think “why?”. “Why am I feeling like this?”.
Sometimes I’m just tired, and pushing it really isn’t going to help at all. If this is the case, I give myself a break. I purposefully go outside and get some fresh air. Sometimes things just feel a bit stale when working from home.
Getting outside, seeing people (I know – real people!) and getting a coffee can completely shake up the way I’m feeling.
If it’s a really bad ‘mulling everything over’ situation, I might grab my trainers and go for a run. Physical activity is the one thing which really helps me to work through stressful situations. Sometimes you need to counterbalance your nervous energy by expelling it.
If when I’ve questioned “why am I feeling like this?” I’m actually overwhelmed by everything on my plate, I write everything I have to do down.
As in, I totally brain dump.
Sometimes when I am my busiest, I am my most confused. I think – “where do I even start?” “what should I prioritise?”. An hour’s planning can go a huge way towards helping! I find that when I’m uninspired I can get scared into inactivity. Whereas inactivity actually demotivates me even more. You may find this post on ‘creating vs consuming’ helpful.
Overall, if you’re feeling uninspired, I’d ask yourself “why?” and then give yourself a break – both physically and mentally.
If you are feeling any way at all, that’s totally OK! None of us are going to have ‘on’ days every day, and I am a firm believer in cutting yourself some slack and resting, so that you can come back fighting and feeling refreshed.
Plus, as your own boss you have the privilege of playing hooky or watching Netflix for an hour in the middle of the day! Make the most of it when you need it 😊
4. “I would love to know your Morning and Evening routines” – @ShonaFellows
I am so interested in people’s routines too Shona! Thank you so much for asking this.
My morning routine is pretty set in stone:
I wake up most days between 6.30 – 7.30. I get up and head to my office. I pop a big floor cushion by the radiator (my favourite spot!) and meditate using the Rituals app for five minutes (I wrote all about my practice here).
I then write in my Thankful Journal (I also wrote about that).
After this little ten minute routine, I head downstairs to make breakfast. Breakfast is my very favourite meal of the day/life and so I am always excited for it! I usually rotate a few different breakfasts:
- Granary sourdough toast with peanut butter.
- Almond milk gluten free porridge with berries and cinnamon.
- Banana pancakes. I shared my recipe for these here.
I love to start the day without looking at social media or anything work-y. It’s important for me to have a focused morning routine to set my day up with a positive intention. When I am feeling very sprightly I also attend a morning yoga class – again this totally helps to get me in the right mindset for starting my day.
My evening routine is a little more flexible, depending on social commitments, but it normally goes something like:
A home-cooked dinner with my boyfriend Oli. We alternate who cooks depending on who’s in before who in the evening. We’ve been trying to focus on clean eating recently so we’ll probably cook up some veggies, alongside some salad, protein and rice type thing. We both love creating huge ‘salad bowls’ and we just vary the ingredients depending on what we have in the fridge.
I absolutely love Netflix and settling in for an episode or two of something with Oli in the evening.
Similarly to my morning routine, I like to have a ‘cut off’ for when I stop looking at my phone. Before bed I will write down my to-do list for the next day so it’s ready for when I get to work the next morning and nothing is whirring through my mind when I am trying to get to sleep.
5. “What tools/templates/apps do you use to plan all your projects across the year?” – @GemmaDurrant12
Hey Gemma! I have tried so many different methods for organising my work, and I have settled on a mix and match recipe:
- I have an A4 planner from kikki.K which sits on my desk and has a week’s overview.
- I then keep daily to-do lists and notes in a notebook. This I take with me everywhere.
- There is also a kikki.K wall calendar hung in my office, I like this as it gives me a month’s overview so I can easily see if I have any big commitments coming up.
- And my phone! I put all appointments in my phone and set alerts for everything I need to be reminded of in advance.
My biggest tip for staying on top of everything is to be realistic with your commitments. I try to have 12 – 15 things I need to get done in a week, which breaks down to a handful of tasks a day. I then use the one touch technique to fully focus on one thing at a time. I also batch process as much as possible.
I hope this helps Gemma 😊
6. “What’s the one accessory that you never leave the house without?” – @IonaLand
7. “I would love to know your favourite flowers.” – @ChevronEclairs
Thank you so much for your question Supal! My favourite flowers at the moment are dusky pink roses mixed with eucalyptus. I love the mix of colours.
8. “I have been working in an industry which is unrelated to my industry of choice. I would eventually like to have my own design business, whether that is blogging or consulting or even just my own design firm. I don’t know what specific avenue I will go down just yet, but my passion truly lies in Interior Design and I know that that is where I want to be.
How do I start? Where do I start? I know where I want to be, but I don’t know how to get there. Do I begin with a blog and grow it from there? Do I advertise consulting? Where to begin and how? – Taylor Alexander, Canada.
Taylor thank you so much for getting in touch, and for submitting your question. I think a lot of The Elgin Avenue’s readers can empathise with your position.
In your longer email you mentioned that you graduated with a degree in Interior Design so you already have a brilliant foundation for putting yourself forward for jobs in this industry.
I suggest starting by gaining experience in the industry. I understand that you would like to start your own business eventually, and having the experience of some time working in the industry will put you in a great position to do this.
I’d advise researching the opportunities available to you. Are there any interior design firms near you who you’d like to work with? Perhaps an independent interior designer who may be looking for assistance?
There are things about running a business which you can only learn through working for others.
For instance, before I ever started a blog I worked in PR for two years. This helped me to understand the dynamic between brands and journalists which has been an invaluable lesson as I’ve developed my career as a blogger. I also worked in TV production which helped me to understand the running order of a photo shoot and so much more. Even just how to liaise between different departments.
If you are keen to start your own outlet right now, then social media and blogging are fantastic mediums for beginning to curate your aesthetic and cultivate your creativity.
They’re also brilliant ways of introducing potential employers/clients to your aesthetic. If they love what they see on your blog and on your social channels then they are more likely to open a door to you.
I experienced this just recently in my own life when I was looking for a new intern for The Elgin Avenue. I ended up finding an amazing intern via Instagram – I loved her aesthetic and ended up reaching out to her via the platform.
Running your own business takes time, and having a really strong foundation is super important. My advise is to gain experience in your industry first by working for people already in interior design. I love your idea of running a blog! You can run a blog and curated social platforms alongside your full-time work.
At some point you will probably feel like ‘it’s time’ to go it alone, and when you do you’ll have gained so much experience and knowledge having worked for someone else in the industry that you can hit the ground running.
Start a savings fund alongside your full-time job to give you a financial cushion when you go it alone. This article on The Everygirl is a brilliant piece on prepping for becoming self-employed.
Good luck with your work adventure Taylor! I’m cheerleading you from the sidelines!
Here are a couple of resources which you may find useful too:
Jenna Kutcher – her blog and podcast are amazing!
Elle & Co – fantastic tips on business and blogging!
The Online Stylist – Amanda has a brilliant series on blogging!
9. “We’re desperate to get blogging about our gorgeous local area. Food, fashion, time out, people, places . . . can you offer four simple steps to make my dream a reality please?” – @JiggeryPokery123
Hi Jane! Thank you so much for your question.
I’d love to help! Here are my four tips:
- Secure a domain name you love. I use 123 Reg.
- Secure the same handle for your blog across every social media platform you can. You don’t have to use every platform, but you don’t want anyone else sitting on them (itt can cause confusion for your followers).
- Define exactly what you want to write about and share. You have a natural focus on your local area which is brilliant. You can then define your categories. Try and fill each category with an equal amount of content. If you write a blog post in ‘food’ for instance, you may choose to write in your ‘time out’ category next. I like to keep a running list of ideas and subdivide them into categories so I can see where I am adding new content to. If I notice a category is looking a bit bare I’ll work on new ideas for this area.
- Settle on a posting schedule which works for your lifestyle and try to stick to it. New content and consistency keeps a blog feeling fresh, and fosters trust with your readers. If you can post once a week – great! Once a month – that’s great too! Just be sure to keep to as regular a schedule as you can.
- An extra tip! Whenever you are writing a blog post, ask yourself “what is in it for the reader?”. You can aim to educate or inspire with every blog post you share. That way your readers are gaining valuable knowledge by interacting with you. And crucially – aim to use good quality imagery. Your phone most likely has an amazing camera, and you can edit your photos on some brilliant apps (see question 1).
Good luck Jane! I’d love to know how you get on!
Thank you so much again to everyone that submitted a question. I hope you enjoyed the first instalment of Ask Monica.
If you’d like to see your question featured next month, drop me an email, comment on this post or on social media.
I’ve loved answering this month’s questions, and can’t wait for the next round!
Love, Monica x