realistic budgeting tips

2021, lifestyle

Hello!

It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve realised I’m not as good with money as I thought I was – whenever my mental health is bad, the subconscious desire to self-sabotage and try to make myself happy with whatever I feel I can get away with buying is really not helpful to that stage of life where everything needs saving for; a house deposit, big holidays, the wedding that’s less than a year away…

But rather than set hard and fast rules that I’ll struggle to stick with, I’ve made tiny lifestyle changes that make my bank account a little less busy and my savings accounts more consistent.

The biggest thing to note is that finances are personal – I know I’m bad with money and I find it really hard to resist temptation, so I adapt based on that. Basically – take everything with a pinch of salt; I’m not an expert and by no means have I got it perfect (yet!).


1 – Have a way of tracking your finances

Not necessarily for the sake of analysing what you’re spending and where you could save (though this is probably useful!) but just so at least once a week (or however frequently you update your track) you have to face and write down everything you spent. Did popping into Superdrug end up with a £30 spend? Did you buy a couple too many coffees this week? Did you hide behind online shopping again?

All these things add up and if you’re forced to confront it, it can be all the motivation you need to knuckle down and make the effort to not spend so you don’t have to take money out of your savings account to pay for your phone bill (obviously not speaking from experience…).

Then when you have a low spend week, it’s really satisfying!

2 – Don’t take your purse to work

This one can be a bit trickier, as there’ve been a couple of occasions where I’m running low on fuel with no way to pay for it, but not having the option to nip to the cafe down the road or go to Tescos at lunch makes it so much easier not to give in to those waves of hunger that might just be boredom. This is inadvertently good if you’re on a diet or trying to cut out snacks as well because you can only eat what you’ve brought with you.

3 – Don’t have your bank details saved on your computer or phone

This was kind of an accident on my part – I got a new computer and my details weren’t saved anymore and I got a new phone and haven’t set up Google Pay (though the new phone and laptop were coincidental and we’re going to gloss over them in a budgeting blog post…). Not having these details readily available makes me think twice about what I’m considering buying – especially if I’ve got to the point in the check out where it’s asking for my card details. I am a couch potato and if I have to stand up to get my card details to buy something, that’s really going to make me reevaluate my potential purchase and almost always, I will realise it’s absolutely not something I need so I won’t buy it.

4 – set budgets for things

With Christmas coming up, it’s easy to get carried away and think ‘that’s only a pound, it’ll be a nice stocking filler!’ but all those £1-£5 purchases quickly add up!

Set yourself budgets – make a pretty Excel spreadsheet if it helps – decide on an overall budget and break it down by person if you have to. When picking birthday presents, pick a figure and rather than shopping spontaneously, plan so you stay within budget. A good way to do this if you’re not shopping online or don’t have time to plan anything, is to draw the amount of cash that is your budget and have a no-card-spend day then you can’t go over budget! I did this when I was at uni with my weekly campus food budget – whether it was a hot chocolate, a lunch sandwich or a croque monsieur (praise be to Solent University for having cheap food on campus!) I had £20 and when it was gone it was gone.


Maybe they’re very obvious things, but those are what I’m using at the moment! Sometimes all it takes is seeing it written down as a reminder that there are ways to cut down on your spending. It doesn’t necessarily help with actively saving money, but sometimes it’s just making sure the bills get paid.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

I got another tattoo!

2021, lifestyle

Hello!

I feel like I don’t fit the stereotype of ‘tattoo person’ at all – I feel quite uncomfortable in a tattoo parlour even though I’d desperately like for everyone there to think I’m cool (as if I even know what ‘cool’ looks like, I think it just means self-confident). I feel like my outward appearance is nerdy goody-two-shoes who jumps when the toaster pops.

Which is entirely true, I also just happen to have enough tattoos that I have to count them up each time someone asks how many (currently 10, for the record).

But yesterday was the day for the 11th!

I’ve been thinking about this for a very long time – here’s the inspiration:

My Nanny received this elephant clock as a gift and before she passed away, she wrote my name on his foot – knowing my love for elephants, she said I could have it.

I’ve wanted to get a tattoo based on this shape ever since – it’s been nearly five years now and I’ve decided now’s the time. It’s my first time working with the tattoo artist on a custom design, it’s my first time getting a tattoo with colour and it’s my first time getting a tattoo that will take longer than about half an hour.

The reason I’ve waited so long to get this tattoo is because I didn’t know what to do with it – I didn’t just want a hyper realistic wooden elephant, I didn’t love the idea of the clock because I didn’t want to pick a time (and I didn’t really want to find a relevant or significant time to a memorial tattoo…) but I didn’t want to hyper cartoonise it either.

So I got this:

The detail of the elephant is so pretty but I wanted to include lavender, as it was a scent she loved and everyone in my family now associates with her and I think it’s beautiful. With the clock face, I actually love that it doesn’t have hands – it makes it feel timeless and eternal in a way, and to me, my nan will always be eternal.

I’ve never had a custom designed tattoo before, but I had a moment of confidence at the end of my last appointment and asked about how it would work – I showed them some pictures, booked in for a consultation and the actual tattooing and then didn’t really think about it until the consultation!

I went in, spoke to the artist, showed her some inspiration pictures I liked the look of and then she drew up the design and four days later I spent two and a half hours being poked with a tiny vibrating needle.

The first hour or so I was so confident I could do it in one sitting – none of my tattoos have hurt that much and it was all detailed line and dot work, not like the block lines I’ve had in other tattoos.

I was soon proven wrong.

The delicate skin on the inside of my arm was incredibly painful and I’m pretty sure the longer I lay there, the lower my pain tolerance got. Between that and my elbow aching from being held straight for so long and the majority of my right hand going numb, it definitely wasn’t the ‘spend three hours scrolling on Insta and reading on my phone’ experience I was expecting. But I did get to lie down for nearly three hours and not really think about work or productivity or anything like that. The artist – Ash – was so sweet, always checking in and offering me breaks to sit up and stretch my arm.

For future reference, I think I’d take a fidget toy or a stress toy with me, perhaps to help with the numbness of the hand on the arm being tattooed and to give me something to do with my other hand as well – I ended up spinning the little ring connecting my necklace charm to the chain and that actually did help the pain more than I thought it would.

Afterwards, I felt more lightheaded than I anticipated and I probably should have sat down for a little bit longer before I walked back to my car, but by the time I was driving I felt fine (having some lunch when I got home definitely helped too!).

With my 11th tattoo, I’m kind of at the point where there’s nothing else that I desperately want – I know that I’ll find other designs and more sentimental pieces in the future, but right now I’m definitely ready for a little break before I spend that long paying someone to stab me with tiny needles.

I’m not someone who massively believes every tattoo must have a meaning – wanting to have beautiful art or empowering words on one’s body doesn’t have to come with sentimentality or or a sob story, but for me I have to really connect with what I’m getting to know I’ll be happy to have it on my body forever.

(That and if I got every tattoo I think is pretty, I’d have no room left)

I’m so happy to have this new addition to my collection that is both a beautiful piece of art and a sentimental tribute to a woman I still love so much, no matter what.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

craft ideas for the casual crafter

2021, crafting

Hello!

Let me set the scene: you love crafting – you get lost in all the how-to videos on Facebook and TikTok, you have a Pinterest full of ideas saved for ‘one day’ and you could quite easily blow your entire pay check in one go completely by accident in Hobbycraft because of all these brilliant ideas you’re going to do ‘on a rainy day’ but never get round to.

Hi there, you feel exactly how I feel!

It’s almost like I love the idea of crafting more than actually doing it, because however much I want to spend time doing all these brilliant things, the precious time I have between work, exercise and occasional socialising I’m not spending on crafting – I’m spending it watching Grey’s Anatomy or getting another ‘early night’ in the vague hope I won’t be tired anymore.

(always live in hope)

But us closet-crafters do sometimes get time so I thought I’d collate a list of my top 3 easy crafts that don’t require too much commitment, skill or dedication, because if you’re anything like me, I don’t have the energy to spend time honing a talent – I just want to make things that aren’t going to look rubbish!

1 – Cross Stitch Kits

I feel like I talk about cross stitch all the time but I love the little kits – whether they’re from Hobbycraft, the Range or even a charity shop (I have bought kids at all three!), the patterns are often really cute, because of the nature of the aida material, it’s really easy to make the final product look exactly like the picture on the front and it’s a nice one to either dip in and out of or sit for a couple of hours and finish in an afternoon.

If you want to step it up, you can buy your own cloth and threads and find patterns either online or on Etsy, or even design something yourself! But there are so many kits and patterns out there, it’s an easy craft to keep low maintenance.

2 – Journalling / Scrapbooking

I’ve had a bullet journal since 2017 and with each passing week and month that I use it, I still find ways to adapt my scheduling and design to better serve me, whether that’s aesthetically or functionally.

Whilst my weekly spreads are more function than craft, set up with a few coloured pens and some drawn boxes, I like to break each month with a header page where I like to print pictures, glue paper patterns, decorate with stickers and note key dates and my monthly goals.

What I love about bullet journalling is that it’s totally adaptable – it can be as creative or as simple as the user wants, but whether it’s a bullet journal, a craft journal or a scrapbook of memories, papercraft can be so much fun.

3 – Knitting

Okay, this one depends heavily on what you’re working on but I have two suggestions that aren’t so intimidating or complicated (because trust me; I’m not good at knitting at all).

  • I call it ‘knitting a scarf’, but if you just want something repetitive to do with your hands while you’re watching TV that doesn’t take as much thinking (or counting) as cross stitch, a ball of wool and two knitting needles are all you need to do a standard stitch up and down for as long as you like. Will it make a scarf one day? Maybe! But even if it’s a hobby that cuts down your screen time, that’s all that matters right?
  • Make ear savers – everyone with a sewing machine was making face masks last year in the height of the pandemic (not that it’s over now) but something my Mum told me about was making ear savers – little strips of knitting with buttons on the end to hook the mask straps onto to protect the wearers ears a little bit! Especially for healthcare workers and those who do really long shifts and have to wear them at all times. I found the pattern here and I learned all the stitches from YouTube videos! If I can do it, you definitely can.

Even just writing this has made me feel creative! I want to work on my cross stitch and peacefully knit whilst binge watching more medical shows on any streaming service (just found out The Good Doctor is on Amazon Prime!).

With Christmas right around the corner, there’s loads of fun Christmas crafts that are easy and cute and suitable for children (if you have some to entertain) and I wrote a post with some ideas last year if you’re interested!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

6 years down, 365 days to go

2021, wedding

Hello!

November 5th is my anniversary with my partner – 2021 is six years since I literally said ‘fuck it’ at 5am after we’d stayed up all night together and kissed him. Then, on our first date a few days later, we ordered Chinese food, sat in a park too far away too watch the fireworks and then accidentally threw away our forks with the empty take out containers on our walk to the docks.

Six years feels like a lifetime ago – we’ve been through so much together since our first year in halls at uni. We’ve both graduated, we’ve learned to drive, we’ve both starting building on our careers and all the while we’ve had so much fun, vastly expanded our collection of cuddly toys and had probably too much fun leaving messages for each other with our letter fridge magnets.

But this year feels more significant, not only because it’s another anniversary but because it officially means it’s less than a year until our wedding. And we finally get to use these countdown cards that our lovely friend Beth got us for Christmas last year!

I should probably start actually dress shopping!

So I thought it would be nice to do one of those check in memory question things – like when people ask their kids on their first day of school what they want to be when they grow up and compare their answers every year.

How long have we been together? Six years!

What did we do for our anniversary? A trip back to Southampton, as we’ve not been here together since we graduated, and we watched the new Marvel Eternals movie that was released today.

What’s our favourite thing to do together? Snuggling in bed and watching a George Clarke property programme, always referring to it as ‘amazing spacies’ even though we finished all available series of Amazing Spaces and we’re currently watching Old House, New Home.

Where do we most want to travel to? Greece, probably Athens because we’re both history nerds (but I really want to go to Santorini)

Current favourite date night? An activity like bowling or going to an arcade (we have a favourite one in Bournemouth) and probably going for dinner, preferably somewhere Italian because carbs and cheese.

What are you watching on TV / what episode of Grey’s Anatomy are you on? We’ve just finished Season 4, Season 5 Episode 1 is ready to go. We’re also watching Battle Bots (an American ‘Robot Wars’) on Netflix and avidly watching ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and ‘Doctor Who’ every week.

What was the last concert/show we went to? Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical ‘Cinderella’ at the Gillian Lynne theatre in London.

Current go to bop for kitchen dance parties? Shivers, Ed Sheeran.

If we had a baby, what would we call them? Annabelle, shortened to Belle. But we have a list of silly names, like Dinah (short for Dinosaur), Mark (short for Marksman, Question Mark (the symbol) or Exclaimation Mark (the symbol)) or Anna or Tommy (either could be short for Anatomy).

We are clearly not ready for children.

What’s our biggest goal for the next year? Save for the wedding.

That was lovely! The real question is, will I remember that I wrote these questions when it comes to our anniversary next year? We will be getting married though, so I think it can be forgiven!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

budgeting at Christmas

2021, christmas

Hello!

With Halloween out the way (though I’m yet to take the decorations off the door), Christmas is everywhere – I’ve heard songs in adverts, heard the phrase ‘Christmas shopping’ far too much and already started thinking about presents.

But with a wedding to save for, a hefty student loan and just general not having a ton of expendable income, I’m really needing to cut back on how much I spend this Christmas so I’ve been brainstorming a few ways to still give meaningful gifts without spending as much (if anything).

My main thing is I already have a lot of craft materials because I’m a sucker for Hobbycraft – I’ve got loads of wools, scrap materials for sewing, paper in lots of patterns and (in theory) creativity in abundance, so assuming I can get my act together and actually get some crafting done, it should be a nice way to still make personal gifts without spending loads.

So I thought I’d collate a few of the ideas that I’m (trying) to stick with this year to make sure Christmas doesn’t break the bank!

Presents

A few tactics here:

  • Evaluate who you really need to prioritise getting gifts for – for me and my partner, it’s our families, with friends I’m hoping to suggest some Secret Santa’s so it saves some money for everyone and anyone else might get some very-homemade-looking cupcakes!
  • Weigh in on the ‘It’s the thought that counts’ principle – no one really cares how much you spend, especially when it’s something that’s got a personal touch or a handmade feel. Last year (or the year before?) I bought a set of blank playing cards and wrote a ’52 Reasons I Love You’ set for my partner (yes, I know how soppy it sounds) and then for my sibling’s birthday I made a pack of 52 IOUs and vouchers, such as redeeming spontaneous video calls, take outs, taxi services etc (though be wary that this can add up quite significantly!)
  • Simple, low cost presents like photo frames or notebooks can be worth so much more when you add your own personalisations – a photo collage with your favourite pictures, a heartfelt letter, maybe even a scrapbook or something can be a wonderful memory and a beautiful gift.
  • Homemade hampers are a win – pre-Covid Christmas, I made a bunch of ‘Home Cinema Kit’ with blankets, hot chocolate sachets and popcorn (and a nice basket which is very handy for cute looking storage) and it felt like such a treat. Nothing in there was particularly expensive – the baskets were a couple of pounds from a supermarket, the blankets were Primark, the food items were probably less than £5 total but the time, effort and thought that goes into making a little kit like this is what elevates the gift (I hope).
  • The Gift of Time – at the end of the day, the people you love value nothing more than spending time with you. Promising to spend a weekend with your friend, or booking a workshop to do together, or bringing over a baking or craft kit and spending the time doing it together is worth so much more than the gift itself. I find this is also really useful if you’re buying gifts for kids and you don’t want to buy more toys or anything that will be more stressful to mum and dad – have a baking afternoon, bring over a colour-in table cloth or spend the afternoon in the park; you get to spend time with them doing something fun and bonus – it gives their parents a little rest too!
  • If you’re a craft whizz who can knit a jumper in a week and have creativity oozing out of your ears, you’re all set (I’m working on this).

Some of my hopes for this year’s Christmas presents are to utilise my sewing machine and my Cricut, but whether I’ll actually figure out what to make and when to make it is another question entirely.

Christmas Clothing

The festive season is here, there’s cosy jumpers on offer everywhere and a soft new set of Christmas pyjamas are so tempting… but you’ve got at least three jumpers sat at home, last year’s Christmas pyjamas were worn for two nights from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day and you even have a pair of festive dinosaur slipper socks in the drawer (just me on that one?).

Whilst the excitement of new things – particularly new festive things that may or may not jingle – is incredibly tempting, there’s absolutely no reason to buy a new Christmas jumper every year.

This is more of a ‘note to self’ than a tip, if I’m honest.

Christmas Decorations

Same as above – I see so many influencers who will go out and buy all new decorations for their ginormous Christmas Trees every single year to go with their new ‘theme’, but it just seems like such a waste of all the other decorations that are sat in boxes in the garage from last Christmas – but the woodland theme doesn’t match the Nutcracker theme.

I have decorations from the year I was born and all through my life so far. I like to pick one new decoration each year on my annual trip to the garden centre Christmas display, but whatever pressure Instagram puts on you to get brand new decorations every year, I’m here to say you absolutely don’t.


After the last (nearly) two years of lockdowns, social distancing and isolation from so many of our loved ones, being able to give your time is worth so much more than gifts, fancy food or new outfits.

And at the end of the day, anyone who cares more about the worth of their present than the value of your presence, probably deserves neither.

(that sounded a bit deep, didn’t it?)

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

November Goals 2021

2021, goals

Hello!

It’s always going to be a fantastic month with the 1st is on a Monday – my little organisational brain finds it incredibly satisfying and I can’t wait to start my first full month in my new job (at what point do I have to stop saying ‘new’? It’s been three weeks!).

My October Goals were somewhat of a train wreck – I expected to be unemployed the whole month and take some time for myself, work on creative projects and do lots of reading, but I got really depressed and overwhelmed by the concept of being unemployed for an indefinite amount of time and I started a job after only a week of not having one which had a much longer commute than from my bed to my office in the spare room, so time has been short, energy has been low but my mental health is on the way up (I hope!), so I’m cautiously optimistic about November.

Without further ado, these are the five goals I’ll be focusing on this month:

1 – NaNoWriMo

It’s National Novel Writing Month – the time where thousands of people all over the world get square eyes from looking at their laptops and attempt to write 50,000 words in just 30 days.

I saw a wonderful article the other day when I was doing some research on journalling of someone who just used it as incentive to write – he included journalling, blog posts and a fictional story (I believe) in his word count and although I’d love to write a 50,000 word novel this month, I think I want to include some ‘diary’ aspects to my word count too. Though they might not be a diary of my life and they might be relevant to the story, which would be an incredibly fun character development exercise if nothing else.

Wish me luck and tweet me if it looks like I’m not writing!

2 – Update my Portfolio instagram

I really intended to do this when I was unemployed so I could use it to get employed, but I haven’t updated my @salportfolio account in seven months, so I’m going to work on doing a bit catch up then it’ll be much easier to do little updates as and when (assuming I don’t forget about the account again).

3 – Cosplanning

I love the amount of words people mush together to make new words – cosplanning (thank you sibling for the introduction to that one!) is when you plan what cosplays you want to do (cosplay itself is a portmanteau of ‘costume’ and ‘play’, and yes I’m impressed that I used the word ‘portmanteau’ too).

I’ve spent all year saying I’m working on a cosplay, but I’ve spent all year putting it off but with the creation of the Mystery Machine prop for an office Halloween costume (see in my ‘Treasured In… October 2021‘ post), I’m feeling very creative and inspired but I want to properly evaluate what I’m capable of (both in terms of skill and the time I can dedicate) and figure out at least one costume to wear to MCM ComicCon next May. I have plenty of time, but if I’m doing it I want to do it well.

4 – Wedding Planning

As of November 5th, there’s less than a year till our wedding and it still doesn’t feel real! I feel like I’ve booked all the ‘big’ things but hopefully we’ll get really stuck in to working with the venue soon and it’ll start to come to life!

This month I want to review my goals for 2021 and work on anything that needs ticking off, particularly figuring out our finances in regard to the wedding and really knuckling down with the saving!

5 – Southampton trip

And with our anniversary in mind – my fiancé and I met in halls when we both went to Solent University in Southampton in 2015 so I thought for our last year before the wedding it would be nice to make a trip. We can’t go for our anniversary weekend but we’re tying it in with the release of a film we’re really excited about and we’re going to go to all our favourite old spots including Sprinkles Gelato for waffles, Forbidden Planet for nerd merch and maybe even wonder on down to the docks.

We’ve not been able to do any of the travelling we wanted to do this year, so I’m really looking forward to this weekend!


Starting a new job which involves two 45+ minute drives every day is exhausting – and don’t get me wrong, I am exhausted – but I’m working so much harder on planning my time and prioritising what’s important to me. I save admin tasks like wedding stuff and finance tracking for days my partner is away with work so we can play video games and watch ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ when he is home. Sometimes I delete things off my to do list in favour of having a quiet night watching ‘House’ and doing some cross stitch because there’s no point spending three hours doing a task that will take one when I’m in the right mindset.

I’m always getting to know myself better (as we all are, I think!) and learning to adjust and work with myself rather than berating myself and burning out.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

Treasured In: October 2021

2021, Favourites

Hello!

Another month has flown by and somehow I’ve managed to finish one job, be unemployed for one whole week, get a new job, all amongst some of the lowest lows I’ve ever had. Every month, I wonder how the hell it’s gone so quickly, but I’ve done a slightly better job of feeling more present and slowing it all down a little. Maybe I slowed it down whilst I was at my saddest and that wasn’t the most fun, but I’m working on getting to know myself better and figuring out what makes things better and what makes things worse (ironically, both seem to be binge eating…).

But amongst the learning curve, there were lots of little moments of happiness and things I enjoyed so here’s that.

What I bought

There are two things that spring to mind – discounted tickets to the new West End musical Cinderella and the tattoo I got a couple of weeks ago.

One of the best things about the West End (other than the productions themselves) is the lottery for discounted tickets – I entered on the off chance and won the same week, planning a semi-spontaneous trip to London with my fiancé to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical with it’s inaugural cast including Carrie Hope Fletcher, who I’ve been a fan of for over a decade at least. The show was so much fun, the songs were really catchy and the set design and staging blew my tiny mind away.

Then I finally got another tattoo after literal years of waiting – just a little something this time to scope out the studio where I live, but this is the logo for All Time Low’s ‘Wake Up Sunshine’ album. All Time Low have been my favourite band since I was about 13 and I adore this logo.

What I ate

My main sweet craving is still for Sainsbury’s Victoria Sponge cupcakes that they barely ever have in stock at my local Sainsburys, but my wonderful fiancé (every time I type it, I mentally pronounce it fee-on-key) treated me to a bar of Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate as a gift at the end of my first day of my new job and I really wanted it to just be average because it’s SO expensive… but it was really nice. It was lovely and I want another one but it’s so expensive.

What I watched

In my week of unemployment (which I didn’t know would only be a week), I wanted to be really productive and do lots of nice craft things and make the most of time off, but the expanse of potential unemployment was really overwhelming and my mental health was trash so I watched a lot (and I mean a lot) of ‘House’ on Amazon Prime. I’m really into medical shows, when my partner is home we watch ‘Grey’s Anatomy’.

But I watched so much ‘House’. So much.

What I watched (on YouTube)

Rhiannon Ashley’s Vlogtober videos are the cosiest.

What I listened to

Because I need the main character energy, okay?

What I made

One – I’ve been working on this cross stitch kit for longer than I really should have. It was only £1 from the Range, but there was so much excess thread and I hate wasting things, so I started sewing a border. I still have loads of thread left but it’s been a nice little mindless project to do while watching TV.

Two – a Halloween costume – I’m not a big Halloween person; I hate horror movies, I’ve never really been trick or treating and I think it’s just American commercialism being adopted by the rest of the world, but I do love fancy dress. So when work suggested an inter-office costume competition, I was all over it.

We’re doing it a little early for when everyone’s in the office so by the time this goes live it won’t be a secret anymore – my office are doing Scooby Doo, but there are six of us… so I offered to make the Mystery Machine:

So two huge cardboard boxes and too much acrylic paint later, I made the Mystery Machine! I had far too much fun making this and I don’t have a damn clue what I’m going to do with it now, but I had so much fun making it and I’m probably too proud of it.

What I read

I’ve finished five books this month (so far! Still a few days left) and it’s been a very mixed bag…

Good Girl, Bad Blood (Holly Jackson) – the sequel to one of my favourite books from 2020, ‘A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder’, I loved reading about Pip’s next investigation with the development of her own podcast, the fallout of the investigation into Andie Bell’s death and the impact her ‘research’ has on everyone around her. Absolutely adored it – 4 stars (but very close to 5).

As Good As Dead (Holly Jackson) – and the last of the trilogy… was a huge let down. Pip had suffered huge trauma and I’m sure that’s the ‘logic’ behind her massive character shift, but she was so different and the really big plot point that defines the book goes against every principle Pip fought for in the first two books. Plus the trauma was really difficult to read about the 100% needed a trigger warning. When I initially reviewed this book on Storygraph I gave it 3 stars, but I’m bumping it down to 2 stars.

Red, White and Royal Blue (Casey McQuiston) – my favourite book of the whole year so far and potentially one of my favourite books of all time – definitely in the top 5! I’ve seen lots of TikToks and Instagram posts about queer literature and RW&RB has been so massively hyped. I listened to it using one of my Audible credits (because it feels like a ‘free’ book) and I’m obsessed. The characters are fantastic, the storyline is adorable and the voice actor was incredible. I went out and bought the physical copy straight away because I know this is a book I want to reread over and over again. 5 out of 5 brilliant, glittering stars.

The Switch (Beth O’Leary) – another 5 star read – again, Beth O’Leary is a massively hyped author and although I haven’t read ‘The Flatshare’ yet, I’ve been obsessed with the concept of ‘The Switch’ since I heard about it last year but I’ve only just got round to reading it and it was everything I hoped it would be. The Londoner living in a village in Yorkshire was hilarious, the Grandma dating in London was fantastic and every character was very sweet, especially Leena’s friends looking after Grandma Eileen in London. It was heartwarming, a nice cosy read, 5/5. Full marks.

Every Other Weekend (Abigail Johnson) – I always have such low expectations of the Audible Plus catalogue, and a book about 15/16 year olds is only just on the line for YA (to me at least), so I wasn’t expecting a lot, but as always I was blown away. It was a lovely insight into a variety of family experiences from the teenage perspective, the complexity of teenage relationships and the importance of communication. Genuinely a lovely listen, a 4 star review from me.

I’m currently listening to ‘In The Time We Lost’ by Carrie Hope Fletcher on Audible and I struggled a bit choosing my next physical book to read – I tried ‘Shadow and Bone’ by Leigh Bardugo but I didn’t have enough brain power for it, then I tried ‘The Book of Two Ways’ by Jodi Picoult and I was a little overwhelmed with Ancient Egyptian history so I’m currently reading ‘Sunrise on the Coast’ by Lilac Mills which I picked mostly because (I hope) it’ll be a nice little easy read and the main character is called Sophie.


Writing these posts always cheers me up! I think I want to write more review-like posts and share positivity about the media I’m enjoying, whether it’s TV, books, a film, a trip or whatever! I like reviewing things and I love these monthly round-ups.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

prepping for NaNoWriMo

2021, writing

Hello!

As, somehow, October slips further and further away from us, the creative writing community becomes acutely more aware that NaNoWriMo is creeping closer.

NaNoWriMo is the thirty day writing challenge where the only goal is to write 50,000 words – 1,667 words a day. It’s the reason I do my ‘training’ writing challenges throughout the year – to keep myself writing so I have ever so slightly better chance of actually making it to 50k!

So far, I’ve only done it once but I’ve tried several times and I still adore creative writing and maybe this year will be different? But even if I don’t get to 50k, whatever I do achieve is more writing than I would have done otherwise so I’ve never thought of it as ‘losing’ NaNoWriMo – if a runner doesn’t finish a marathon, they’ve still run at least some of the way and it’s an achievement none the less!

Here’s my top 3 tips to prepare for NaNoWriMo:

One – have at least a vague plan:

I know, it sounds really obvious, but I’ve tried a couple of times to go in blind and figure it out as I go along and no matter how excited I am about an idea, I always lose momentum because I don’t have time to do the slow logistic bit when I’m trying to write 1,667 words a day.

The whole point of NaNo (at least from my point of view) is putting together a word-vomit-esque first draft – it’s not for polished words, it’s not for a perfect story, it’s to get words on paper and what you do with them afterwards is of your own choosing. Anyone who’s writing a perfect first draft by writing 1,667 words a day is a genius (or a full time writer, who knows).

Two – time management is key:

Fitting in writing 50,000 words around daily life – full time job, keeping the house clean and tidy, having a social life etc – is a mission. I usually fall into the trap of doing all my writing between 10pm and midnight in bed and it ruins my sleep schedule.

I find calendar blocking the most effective way to organise my time – I use Google calendar to plan when I’m going to do my tasks at work then I generally just use a piece of paper to roughly plan how I’m going to spend my evenings and weekends.

Another thing I’m going to try for the first time this year, is using Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word (is that controversial?). We used Google for everything in my last job and being able to log in to any device and pick up where I left off could be really helpful this year where I’m working full time and commuting for nearly 2 hours a day.

Even just having somewhere to jot down any notes or ideas when I’m on the go (obvs not when I’m driving) and not having to make sure I have the most up to date version of the doc on whatever device I’m using will be really convenient.

It’s super nerdy to be excited about trying a new software for NaNoWriMo, isn’t it?

Three – take the pressure off:

Like I said – the goal is 50k but anything written is more words than you would have written if you hadn’t tried, so not meeting the goal of this challenge (i.e. it’s difficult!) isn’t the be all and end all.

In one of my previous challenges this year, I managed to write at least something every day and that’s the mentality I’m going into WriMo this year with. Even if I only manage 100 words on my lunch break, if I can write consistently for 30 days that means more to me than the word count.

The other thing is to not put any pressure on what you’re writing – sometimes when I sit down to write, I’m ready to craft a new story, come up with new characters and get to know them, but sometimes all I want to do is write fanfiction of whatever show or movie I’ve watched recently and that’s fine! Writing is writing.


I feel a little more mentally prepared for November this year – I’ve been vaguely thinking about what I’m going to write for WriMo for a few months and I’m actually excited about what I’m going to work on. Will I fall back on writing superhero fanfiction within a week or two? Almost certainly, but writing a little every day is my focus and as long as I don’t resort to including my shopping list in my word count, it’s all good with me!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

Red, White and Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston | Book Review

2021, books

Hello!

Since I started my Audible subscription last month, I have used my monthly credits to listen to books I haven’t had the chance to buy yet (and it feels like I’m getting free books, which feels good!).

So when my credit came in at the end of September, I was browsing through my wish list on Storygraph to decide what I was going to use my credit on and as soon as I got to ‘Red, White and Royal Blue’ by Casey McQuiston, I knew that was my pick for the month.

I don’t know I’ve seen a book as hyped as I have seen RW&RB – on tiktok, Instagram, booktube, I don’t think I’ve seen a review less than 5 stars. A royal LGBTQ+ love story is a recipe for the perfect book right?

Yes, yes it is. I finished listening to this book in just two weeks (considering it was nearly a 12 hour listen and I only listen to audiobooks when I’m driving) and I was obsessed from the off.

The voice actor for Alex’s character was perfect – the charming First Son of the United States was the perfect mix of hardworking, ambitious politician and 22 year old college student just trying to figure himself out while journalists writes articles speculating every aspect of his life.

Then there’s Henry. This precious, posh British Prince who’s grown up being told about his obligations and duty, knowing that a core part of who he is doesn’t fit the ‘duty’ he is meant to serve. Behind all the bravado of being the Prince of England, he’s a giant nerd who loves Star Wars, the gay history of the British Isles and his dog David.

Even the secondary characters – the White House Trio, the super six, Zara, Amy, Cash, Shan – they were all such realistic characters. They felt real – if I didn’t know the unfortunate truth of the 2016 US Election and the names of the British Royal family, they all felt so human from just a few words on a page (or words coming out of my car speakers) that they felt real. The language was so authentic and didn’t sound forced, particularly the dialogue. The multi-medium storytelling with pros, texts, emails was so immersive and I’ll never get over the narration repeating ‘HRH Prince Dickhead Poop Emoji’ over and over again during the text message scenes.

I can’t put into words how much I adored this story – I have not laughed, gasped and commented out loud on a story as much as I did with Red, White and Royal Blue in a very long time, if ever. The sarcastic dialogue between Alex and his sister June, the authenticity of the President’s staff every time they tell Alex how fucking difficult he makes things and the honest conversations about being a Mexican kid raised in America and elevated to being America’s Most Eligible Bachelor.

It was honest and heartwarming and made me squeal like a fangirl – I’ve not finished a book and immediately wanted to read it again before, but after finishing the audiobook I went a bought a paperback copy almost immediately (and Casey McQuiston’s next book ‘One Last Stop’) and there’s a very real chance that I will read Red, White and Royal Blue again before working through the other two hundred books on my ‘to be read’ shelf.

Red, White and Royal Blue has made it on to my list of all time favourite books and I need somebody to fangirl over it with me please.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

trying a rotational wardrobe | Project 333

2021, fashion

Hello!

I’ve never really been a fan of seasonal wardrobes – several YouTubers I follow have successful capsule wardrobes but I never thought it was for me. I felt like my wardrobe was more efficient when I could make it work in all seasons, but then I saw Hannah Witton try Project 333 and I like the sound of that challenge.

Project 333 is essentially a capsule wardrobe with rules and I like rules / structure / guidelines – the principle is 33 items of clothing to last over 3 months, so it’s a smaller wardrobe that you get more wear out of lasting three months, could be pretty well timed with the seasons if I use both of my brain cells.

The 33 items are meant to include jewellery and shoes, but not items like underwear, pyjamas, gym wear or sentimental jewellery like a wedding or engagement ring.

But I’ve bent the rules ever so slightly to work with my wardrobe and lifestyle (because I didn’t see the point in forcing myself to comply to rules that don’t work for me) – I don’t bother counting my shoes, because I don’t have loads of shoes but I make them work year round. I don’t count my ‘fancy’ clothes because I can’t judge them on how frequently I wear them because they’re situational (and pandemic…). I don’t really stick to 33 items either!

But sorting through my clothes at regular intervals makes me think about how much I wear them – I have so much more space in my drawers now that I have them separated out and it’s really satisfying.

The worst bit is the sorting itself – I put it off for all of September but when I did it, it felt so good to shuffle everything round and fold everything neatly into the boxes under my bed or in my drawers. Swapping everything around every three months makes everything feel fresh and new even though many of my clothes are years old. There’s nothing wrong with them though! They still fit, I’ve never been one for ‘fashionable’ or ‘trendy’ styles so I still wear them.

It makes me think so much more about the clothes I buy and what I actually wear – it’s helped me streamline my wardrobe and spend less on clothes; even though I think the t-shirts with the Disney slogans are really cute, I don’t get any wear out of them.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I still impulse buy and it’s a bit hit and miss but I’m getting much better at keeping receipts and taking things back (and getting a refund always feels like an exciting bonus).

I’m currently in the market for more office-wear and trying to find the balance with not having loads of clothes, having clothes that are distinctly not for work but also buying clothes that fit both smart and casual. It’s a fun balance to strike, that’s for sure.

I love clothes and I love fashion, I’ve never considered myself fashionable because I don’t keep up with trends, I don’t follow what celebrities are wearing and anything I’ve ever seen from any location’s ‘Fashion Week’ always baffles me. But I really love clothes – I like finding clothes that make me feel comfy, I like finding clothes that make me feel cute, predominantly I like finding clothes that make me look edgier than I am (read: a leather jacket and my Dr Martens). I love dressing in a feminine style, I love dressing in an androgynous style and I love dressing in clothes that are four to six sizes too big for me and feeling like a toddler wearing my parent’s clothes.

Clothes are cool, fashion is cool, I like figuring out new ways to make my wardrobe feel more exciting while saving money and being more environmentally conscious.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx