dressing up for grown ups

2020, creativity

Hello!

I’ve been to MCM Comic Con a number of times and as someone who classifies themselves as a full on ‘nerd’, cosplaying is something I’m familiar with. In essence, it’s fancy dress for adults however most of the people who design and make their own cosplays are incredibly talented in making their own clothes, working with a variety of fabrics, making props, working with wigs, doing make-up, some even including mechanical works of engineering in their costumes. Each cosplay is a culmination of hundreds of hours of hard work borne of pure adoration and passion for the character and the story they’re replicating, giving themselves a tiny taste of living in that world for a bit.

Cosplay and conventions have a bit of a reputations for being a bunch of nerds being geeky about things they take too seriously. Granted, it’s kind of true but it’s so much more than that and the community and atmosphere at MCM is incomparable and I hate the negative association of people being passionate about things (especially when football fans rioting when the people didn’t kick the ball the way they wanted it to is apparently okay? Like, seriously?).

When I’ve attended conventions, I’ve always felt like my nerd-ness (it’s 4am as I write this, bare with me) is such a minimum level – there’s so much I don’t know about the shows and films I love, there’s video games I know so little about and the anime scene is a different kettle of fish entirely. My boyfriend and my sister are pointing out the cosplays of characters I’ve never heard of and I’m in awe of the capes, wigs and scythes.

My favourite three cosplays I’ve ever seen, hands down, are (in order) – Toothless and Lady Toothless (sorry I can’t remember her name) from How To Train Your Dragon; those poor people were in fur suits all day in the May bank holiday heatwave posing for pictures and sweating buckets, I felt for them but that has to be the sign of a great cosplay. Then a full on 9 or 10 foot tall Groot, though this may have been a proper ‘character’ rather than a homemade cosplay. And in the top spot – Lego Batman; cardboard lego legs, cardboard lego arms, cardboard lego head and body and it was just fantastic. I wish I had pictures.

So having witnessed thousands of amazing cosplays at cons, spent my entire childhood playing dress up for dance shows and school musicals and having found new hobbies in sewing, cross stitch embroidery and knitting in lockdown, I thought it was finally take my cosplay dreams and make them a reality.

Now, let me disclaim; I’ve never made clothes before. I never really used a sewing machine at school, I don’t own a sewing machine (yet) and I have literally no resources to start with but I have the advice of my cosplay wizard of a sister who’s been swanning around as Princess Anna from Frozen 2 during lockdown and she’s been helping me choose what characters to pick for my first steps into cosplay.

Whenever I’ve thought of cosplaying before, I always think of three characters for the three days of comic con – probably optimistic to have three full blown costumes but in my head it makes sense so I’m going with it. I’ve picked two definite ‘yes’ characters and I’ve got a few ‘maybes’ because my sister says they’re too hard but I want to aim high, so these might not happen ever but maybe one day!

Nintendo Switch - Pokémon Sword / Shield - Team Yell Grunt (Female ...

Team Yell from Pokemon Sword and Shield – there’s hasn’t been a con season since the games came out because of lockdown, but Team Skull from Pokemon Sun and Moon were always really popular at cons because they’re relatively simple. Team Yell also have simple elements – the pink tights, the distressed denim skirt, even the sweatbands would be simple enough. The challenging bit (for me as a beginner) would be the spiky wrist and ankle bands, the sleeveless jacket thing and the hair, though I may take some creative liberties on that.

I really want my first cosplay to be something I don’t just buy everything for, so whilst I can get a t-shirt with the Team Yell design on, I may try painting it on a shirt myself and I think I’d like to try making the sleeveless jacket and the spiky bands. I may even distress the skirt and rip the tights myself but I don’t know if I’m quite that skilled yet.

Dora the Explorer Costume - Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Dora The Explorer – okay, might sound odd. But my fiancé and I (still feels weird calling him that) watched the live action movie recently and I loved it in the most self-aware way. I thought the orange shorts, pink shirt, a purple backpack, yellow socks, white hi tops would be relatively achievable – super easy but super fun! Tempted to learn The Poo Song and the song and dance sequence from the end of the movie but that might be taking it too far…

This one I obviously won’t be making anything myself, but I just thought it would be something light and fun and any costume that has built in storage like a backpack is always a win!

And the three contenders for my last costume:

Sugar Plum Fairy Mercy from Overwatch:

Mercy Sugar Plum Fairy from Overwatch Free 3D Model

I appreciate this isn’t the most photogenic picture of the costume I could find, but it’s good for being able to see the costume and the parts that would make it up. I mostly just want to feel like a fairy and have an excuse to wear ballet shoes, ngl.

Rapunzel from Tangled:

Rapunzel - Kingdom Hearts Wiki, the Kingdom Hearts encyclopedia

Though I’d go for the after-hair-cut (sorry, spoilers) because 1) don’t have to think about a wig and 2) it actually suits my hair length and colour more.

Belle from Beauty and the Beast:

Royalty Free Download Belle Transparent Village - Belle Blue Dress ...

Although relatively simple and definitely not as ‘wow’ as the big yellow ballgown, I love this representation of who Belle is as a character and although the clothes themselves look simple, it could potentially be a good learning experience and starting point for me as someone who has no clothes making experience! I’m sure my sister would tell me otherwise, but I think that’s what sister’s are for.

And any excuse to sing ‘little town, it’s a quiet village…’ around a convention centre is a yes from me.

I think I’ve inadvertently made a decision by blogging about it, but Mercy and Rapunzel are definitely characters I would love to be able to create in the future – perhaps a big ask for my first attempt at sewing!

So there’s a big old ramble about nerds at conventions and cool characters I want to make costumes for. I don’t know how soon I’ll be able to start working on these, but it’s something I’m excited to learn more about! If I can make anything half as impressive as what my sister has made or some of the costumes I’ve seen from the cosplay community I’ll be so proud – my attempt at making an Elsa cosplay out of a dance leotard and a boohoo dress wasn’t my greatest moment…

Though I did sew the leotard and the dress together and added poppers to the cape to be able to attach it! In hindsight I’m pretty proud of what 2016 me made. (We were going for a Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians and Elsa couples cosplay… safe to say these costumes never made it to con!).

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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cutting myself a break

2020, creativity, mental health, writing

Hello!

I don’t know why every week in lockdown seems to be more difficult, but this week I’m really struggling and I can’t put a finger on why because nothing has changed.

Blogging is something I find really therapeutic – sitting down at my laptop with a blank page and just typing long, rambly posts that are eloquent and articulate and insightful makes me feel inspired and motivated, reminding me that words are my creative tool and I fall in love with writing all over again.

But on the other hand, when I’m not feeling that inspiration or I don’t have anything important to say, the blank page feels daunting in a way that takes me by surprise. Structure and schedule has always helped me – whether it’s productivity or consistency in content, having ‘upload days’ has always made me a better blogger.

Whenever I reach a point where I think ‘yeah, I don’t need a schedule, I’ll blog when I feel inspired to share something’ I go quiet for months. Without the plan to post a blog post on certain days, the ideas just don’t come to me! Routine and structure works for me but when I don’t feel passionate about what I’m writing then it’s stilted and forced and it just becomes another element for stress (even though I really shouldn’t let it be).

I’m going through a lull right now and I need to respond to that. Earlier this year I went through a period of only uploading once a week and I felt so creatively motivated that I increased it back up to two, but I don’t think I have enough creative or mental energy for that right now.

Did I need to write a whole blog post about why I’m going from two blog posts a week down to one a week? Absolutely not – I doubt anyone would have questioned it or noticed. But getting it out of my system is therapeutic for me and in essence; this post is as much about asking too much of ourselves as it is my personal relationship with my blogging schedule. If I’ve helped reassure one person that they’re not the only one struggling, especially creatively, as lockdown gets longer and longer, then I’ve used my platform for a purpose. If it doesn’t ‘help’ anyone in the way I see influencers talking about all the time, then it’s helped me, and that’s enough.

So I’m going to go back to one blog post a week. Because lockdown is getting to me and my creativity is shaky at best anyway.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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making the most of your wardrobe (without buying anything new)

2020, creativity, fashion, sustainability

Hello!

This is my third attempt at writing a blog post for today. I just couldn’t settle on idea but after browsing The Anna Edit for some inspiration, I thought I’d have a ramble about clothes as someone who doesn’t have the income to buy anything new but quite often feels overwhelmed by what I have.

Often, we can feel a little lack lustre with our wardrobe – the ‘I have nothing to wear while I’m staring at a full wardrobe’ syndrome. I’m by no means an expert – I haven’t nailed the capsule wardrobe, I still spend more time than I care to admit browsing clothing websites and I quite often end up wearing the same outfits again and again.

But I have been on a long relationship with refining my wardrobe – two years ago I sorted through my clothes and donated six bin bags of clothes I didn’t wear. I really don’t know how I ever fit them in my uni house in the first place. From there I continued refining my wardrobe – when I was packing to move I got rid of more clothes, when I unpacked I got rid of more clothes and two years later I have got a wardrobe that I feel works for all seasons and reflects my style, each item getting the appropriate amount of wear.

One of the key things I found helped with actually wearing everything in my wardrobe was storage – if you can’t see everything in your wardrobe, there’s no way you’ll remember everything you’ve got and several piles of clothes will just gather dust at the back of your shelves. In this respect, the seasonal capsule wardrobe works really well for this because you’re constantly switching out and keeping everything fresh but if that’s not what you want, some new storage solutions might be the way.

Whether it’s buying some shelf dividers, folding your clothes in a different way or just pulling everything out and starting again, refreshing how your wardrobe is organised will not only help you see everything better but it can also remind you of particular items you’ve not worn for a while that you still love!

The next thing I would recommend, is sorting through your wardrobe regularly to decide whether there’s anything you want to donate or replace or if there’s any gaps you think a new item may help with. I did a ‘wear it all’ challenge in February where I only wore each item in my wardrobe once throughout the month, then at the end of the month I went through everything that was left and it made me think about why I hadn’t worn it and whether I still wanted to keep it. I made a note in my bullet journal that I want to sort through my wardrobe again at the beginning of the September – as the summer starts to change into autumn I can think about which clothes I’ve been avoiding, bring my winter clothes to the front and get excited for chunky knits and cosy coats.

And lastly, if you’re feeling creatively stumped by your wardrobe, get crafty with it! Turn those dungarees into a playsuit (but probably get someone to help you make sure both legs are even!), add some patches to your favourite jeans (you can use any clothes you’ve put aside as spare material) or tie dye an old t-shirt or hoodie to give it a fresh look! The longer we’re in lockdown, the longer we’ll all be looking for something to do so why not get creative with your clothes? @lucid.seams on instagram up-cycles clothes with the most beautiful acrylic painting, @catherinehyden did this really cute embroidery on a t-shirt and my sister @lauradoesathing makes entire cosplay costumes, from scratch, designing her own patterns, and making actual clothes. You don’t have to be super skilled at sewing to try something new with your clothes.

Personal fashion and style changes so often, so finding new ways to wear clothes you already have and matching new pieces together can feel so creatively invigorating!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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setting up my weekly bullet journal spread

2020, creativity, organisation, student

Hello!

Whenever I write a post about how I lay out my bullet journal, someone messages it to tell me how they’re going to try and implement something I do in their journal or they’re going to try bullet journalling as a concept instead of their diary. So I thought I’d do a little update on how I lay out my weekly spreads, step by step!

My layout has remained the same for all of this year so far and it might be the longest time I’ve stuck with one design, but it’s really functional for me and right now with so much uncertainty in the world, having one thing on paper that I can always come back to is quite grounding, I find.

Rather than making all my blank weekly spreads in one go at the beginning of the month, I prefer to make them one week at a time – not only does this mean I get to sit down for half an hour every week and focus on something offline, but it means if I want to lay out any other spreads in between (like figuring out any finances, my uni assignments, any other notes) I have the freedom to do that. It’s probably not the most efficient but I don’t need filling in my weekly spreads to be efficient – having the task to come back to every week works well for me. But it’s personal, so you do you!

STEP 1

Creating the blank canvas – I use stamps to write ‘WEEK’ because I have them and it makes me feel crafty, then I draw my calendar, the divider on the left page, my weekly to do list check boxes, the daily to do list boxes on the right page and all the labelling. This is the most creative bit so this is actually the big I enjoy the most.

Also I don’t use a ruler to draw my lines because I like the almost ‘homemade’ look of freehand drawing them and following the dots means I don’t accidentally draw anything really wonky.

STEP 2

I fill in my June Goals and my Content boxes – the goals are the same every week so I copy them out from the previous spread and then I copy out the content I want to make from my monthly content plan. There was a little space at the bottom this week – sometimes I leave it blank, but a reminder to stay hydrated is never a bad thing!

STEP 3

Next I make my weekly to do list – this is an overarching list of what I want to achieve over the week that I will divide up into the daily to do lists. I make my weekly list digitally first so that I can figure out which 16 tasks I want to prioritise and in what order. Generally I have:

  • Dated tasks – like appointments, meetings or family quiz night
  • Uni work – currently just my dissertation
  • ‘Boring’ to dos – things like finances, cleaning the house etc
  • Stuff to do in quarantine – things that I don’t need to do but fill out my time a little more where I’m still stuck at home
  • Content – my blog and YouTube channel
  • Monthly goals – steps to help achieve my monthly goals
  • ‘Fun’ to dos – the stuff that isn’t as boring; painting my nails, watering my plants, little jobs that I don’t class as boring essentially!

STEP 4

(Sorry this photo’s a bit blurry – I have shaky hands and I can never tell!)

Next I fill in my daily tasks on the right hand side – this year I’m doing 1 Second Everyday and if I don’t write it down I forget so I put that in first. Some of my monthly goals involve daily tasks – like this month I want to try and do 5000 steps every day (it’s not going very well tbh!) and I’m doing Hannah Witton’s ‘Dear June’ instagram challenge but I thought three tasks written out everyday is going to mean I don’t have enough space to write other tasks in so I put them in one of the spare boxes at the bottom of the page.

STEP 5

I write in when I want to make a publish all my content, because if I don’t write it down I will forget. Breaking them down into smaller tasks rather than writing posts on the days I want to upload them or filming, editing and uploading in one day makes the overall task of producing content much more achievable – I spend maybe half an hour tops on each task (other than editing the video, that can take longer) and it means all my blog posts get properly proofread and no tasks feel too big to achieve.

STEP 6

Next I fill in uni work and the dated tasks – I’ve decided to give myself regular times each week to do my uni work so it feels like attending a lecture or something more time bound rather than ‘just do it’ because I will not do it, because procrastination is my middle name.

STEP 7

Fill in the rest! I definitely didn’t take this on a different day! Generally I go down my weekly list and assign tasks to different days – Sundays and Mondays are generally pretty similar every week but everything else just slots in wherever I fancy. If I’m having a really productive week then I’ll do tasks ahead of time anyway, but if I’m not, having only 6 (ish) tasks a day is generally pretty manageable. I’m getting better at not giving myself a hard time if I don’t get everything done.

And that’s my finished weekly spread! I know so many people are so much more artsy and creative with their bullet journals but mine’s always been about personal function and that’s what works for me.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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rediscovering my creativity: cross stitch – my new found love

2020, creativity

Hello!

I’ll be honest – my inspiration for blog posts is rock bottom right now so I’m stripping it back to basics; writing about something I’m enjoying in the present moment.

I went on a trip to hobbycraft at the beginning of this year to pick up supplies for my t-shirt blanket and whilst I was there I saw a cute baby elephant cross stitch kit… which promptly sat untouched for a couple of months.

But when lockdown hit and I wanted to force myself to find ways to spend time offline and off-screen, I started doing this cross stitch. A few sessions in I realised I missed the bit where it said to split the threads from six strands into two and had to fill in the rest with whatever I could find (which turned out to be purple) but the process got me hooked.

I wasn’t ready to jump straight in to designing my own patterns so I bought this ‘Positive Pants’ kit on Etsy – it was a bit more expensive, but the quality of the kit was much higher, it came with a hoop and a beautiful pattern on durable card (which I’m definitely keeping) and I enjoyed it even more than the first one. Potentially because I got the thing with separating the strands right this time but we’ll gloss over that bit.

Next step: design my own pattern. I bought some aida cloth and embroidery thread on Amazon, I used the needles I got from the two kits I’d done and I designed a pattern on Stitch Fiddle (which felt a lot like designing a logo on MarioKart DS when I was a kid) and then I was off – I assigned the colour codes from my threads to the colours on my pattern and started! I’m now maybe a couple of days away from finishing and I’m even more obsessed.

The creation process has made me feel creative in a whole new way – normally the way I express my creativity has been through words or digital media but this physical craft that I’m holding in my hands makes me feel so proud.

I’m making an ‘In the Garden’ sign for my dad for father’s day – he’s notoriously hard to get presents for but I’m not the kind to just sit back and get him another Costa voucher, I will forever strive to find the ‘wow I didn’t even know I wanted that!’ present for him. He’s never going to be blown away by any present I give him because that’s just not who he is as a person but I think he’ll really appreciate this one. Even if he doesn’t, I’ve had a whale of a time making it.

Now I’m trying to space out my cross stitching with other projects – I started knitting again in lockdown and I want to try making something new with that, but whilst I’m enjoying knitting it’s just not fired me up creatively in the same way cross stitch has. As I’m writing this I can see my nearly-finished design sitting just next to this and it’s taking all my will not to sack off my whole to do list today and just work on it because I love it so much.

It’s so therapeutic, sometimes I just put YouTube videos on in the background and it’s something to do with my hands and the final product is so rewarding.

If you’re interested in seeing my finished piece, keep an eye on my Instagram stories for progress pics and I’m sure I’ll post a grid picture when I’m done (my dad’s 72 and not the internet type, he won’t see it! Unless he’s made a sneaky instagram behind my back!).

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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Treasured in… May

2020, books, creativity, film, lifestyle, student

Hello!

As we come to the end of our second full calendar month in lockdown, little posts like this full of things I enjoyed and want to share are more important than ever. Everywhere I look people are complaining about the government, singing the praises of the NHS and arguing about what are appropriate social distancing activities (though how anyone could defend packed beaches I really don’t know) so having this little list of happy things will be a nice little mood boost for me as well as you!

Here are my the things I treasured in May!


blog post:

I really made more of an effort to read more this month – I’ve been on the hunt for bloggers that don’t exclusively talk about beauty, fashion or other stereotypical ‘successful blogger’ categories. I really want to find people like me who don’t necessarily blog for income, writing about the ramblings trapped in their heads and talking about all their random hobbies without limiting themselves to a ‘niche’.

I’m still hunting, but these two blog posts from YouTube influencers I follow were topical and well written.

recipe:

I don’t think I’ve tried anything that particularly blew me away this month – I made this creamy chicken chorizo pasta bake which was nice but we’re not rushing to make it again. I’m still really enjoying the bacon and pea risotto that I linked last month, I’ve somewhat rediscovered a good jacket potato and we made a really nice lasagne but it all came out of jars so it wasn’t anything to do with my ability to cook!

Top tip for ‘homemade out of jars lasagne’ – use a Mac and Cheese sauce rather than a white sauce, it worked really well for us and is making me hungry just thinking about it!

online course:

Again, this month I didn’t find anything new – I had one last big assignment to finish off my semester 2 work for my masters and with lockdown and a generally not good course, my friend and I who were working together on it (group project, not cheating I promise!) spent more time teaching ourselves than knowing what we were doing.

So I learnt a lot about the Maya animation software, modelling environments, materials, different animation types and multi-camera set ups, but I didn’t find a course online to take myself.

Next month I’ll be starting all the self-teaching I have to do for my dissertation project so I’ll be rambling all about designing a video game, making a 2D animation and writing scripts for both!

music:

The only time I really listen to music is when I’m cooking – when I’m trying to write or work, it means I can’t concentrate and if I’m knitting or doing my cross stitch I use it as an excuse to catch up on YouTube videos (I’m 300 videos deep on my watch later…).

With everything that’s been going on, I’ve been craving a bit of nostalgia so my partner has been finding playlists on Spotify along the lines of ‘year 6 disco’ and ‘the best of the 2000s’ and we’ve been listening to everything from S Club 7, Steps, Hannah Montana, Jonas Brothers to Bob The Builder’s ‘Big Fish Little Fish’. Thoroughly recommend a throwback disco if you need a little boost!

YouTube video:

Most of the YouTubers I’m subscribed to are vloggers, so watching vaguely ‘normal’ home life vlogging has been most of what I’m watching and it’s been nice to feel that little bit ‘normal’ by watching the creators I’ve been following for years just living their daily lives.

So I’m going to use this section this month to talk about one of my own videos – it’s currently unlisted on my channel because it’s for a uni assignment and I always feel funny about publishing my work while it’s still being marked (so it’s a fun little secret for my blog!). But this is the animation my friend Agata and I made for our assignment – the main character is animated from motion capture data and we built pretty much everything in the environment ourselves.

I’m so ridiculously proud of this little animation and I loved working on it with one of my best friends (even if we did the majority of the work in the three days before it was due…), so here is Life After Lockdown; a little topical comedy animation for our  assignment.

books I’ve read:

loved this book – this take on life after death and the way the characters have conflict without antagonising each other (except Evie’s mum, she was actually evil). It was one of those books that made you think about what life after death really is like – I genuinely think this is a pretty good idea and worth a read in these challenging times.

I read this because my boyfriend loves the Game Grumps and recommended it but it wasn’t for me – I didn’t find it funny but it felt like they were trying way too hard to be funny, the murder mystery was a bit too Scooby Doo for me, but it was entertaining enough.

This book is taking me actual weeks to get through – I like the writing style, but it feels almost non-fiction and there are so many characters that Pomerantz clearly expects the reader to remember who they are, how they were relevant and details about their life and career. It’s about a plane crash and it’s really depressing and long and there’s not much of a story yet and I’m about 75% through? I think the main thing putting me off is that on the back it declares that this back will become a classic but… it definitely hasn’t and I just can’t vibe with someone arrogant enough to assume their work deserves to become a classic. But I’m nearly done and a review will be on my Instagram when I do!

snack: 

I never thought I particularly liked minty chocolate – I can appreciate a few After Eights at Christmas and maybe a packet of softmints every now and then but not big on mint. I thought I’d prefer plain chocolate aero bubbles to the mint aero bubbles but my boyfriend opened my eyes and I have to stop myself buying them or I will eat the entire packet.

I also picked up a packet of Tesco’s own Salted Caramel Munch Bars thinking it would be an easy breakfast option – they’re really good but they’re so not good for you in any way that I’d be better off going back to a slice of toast in the mornings. But they’re really yummy and if you’re not really a breakfast person then something is better than nothing right?

visual entertainment: 

I’ve not watched any new TV this month but my mum, my sister, my boyfriend and I have started a remote film club using a 52 Week challenge book my mum picked up on Amazon – 52 challenges, divided by 4 people means 13 categories each. This month we watched Pulp Fiction, Eighth Grade, Dumbo (the live action one) and Top Gun and I’m really enjoying the excuse to watch all the ‘classic’ films I haven’t seen but should have as well as some newer films that I want to see.

Pulp Fiction was an interesting choice and having done a unit where one of my lecturers tried to teach us artsy-fartsy film theory (when he shouldn’t have been) it did make it more interesting to think about the decisions the director made, but then I thought about if a film makes you think about the decisions the director made and takes you out of being fully immersed, is it really a well made film? Either way! Eighth Grade was fun and a really accurate portrayal of life as a 13 year old, Dumbo was alright but I prefer the original (and Colin Farrell’s character was literally useless) and Top Gun was an action for the sake of action, ‘put it on in the background’ kind of film that really proved that Tom Cruise literally only plays one character in all his films.

Other than that I’ve watched a lot of Kim Possible on Disney+…

wedding planning update: Before lockdown, I attended a couple of wedding fairs and one of them was near my old hometown. There we spoke to a lady who was representing the most beautiful venue near a lake that my boyfriend and I are very sentimental about. It was beautiful, it’s a great location and it makes me feel a little bit emosh just thinking about it! We’re 90% sure it’s the venue we want to go with but we don’t have the deposit money yet. However, with two months of lockdown, people are re-planning weddings for years to come and our date of November 2022 is looking like it’s going to get infringed on quite quickly, so I want to contact the venue and at least get our foot in the door for our date so we don’t lose it. Otherwise, there’s nothing much more I can do in lockdown other than coming up with more and more ideas on Pinterest…

So I’ve not done any wedding planning this month but we have reached this decision, so there’s a bit of progress there!


On the one hand, I hope that the country is safe enough for some restrictions to be lifted in June so we can do more things, I can visit my family etc, but I really don’t want restrictions to be lifted early just because people are getting grumpy about not having their hair cut, so I’m apprehensive.

I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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how I’m cutting down my screentime

2020, books, creativity, lifestyle, mental health, writing

Hello!

I know that I don’t need to reiterate that quarantine is hard, we all know that, but one thing a lot of us have inadvertently spent a lot more time doing is looking at screens – from scrolling through Instagram, to working from home with a less regimented schedule, to Netflix to video games; so much of our entertainment is on screens.

Something I’m noticing more and more recently is that spending all day going from my phone to my laptop to the TV and back isn’t doing me any good – I don’t think it’s helping my sleep and I know I feel better when I’ve spent some time away.

I thought I’d collate a little list of the off-screen things I’m really enjoying at the moment so I can come back so it when I’m feeling a bit uninspired and maybe it’ll give you some ideas too!


  • cross stitch

I bought one of those little kits from Hobbycraft before everything closed and then ignored it for weeks. So when the weather picked up I sat outside with my cross stitch and it was lovely – I’ve been doing it on and off and I’ve nearly finished it now. It’s lovely to sit down and follow a pattern and make something creative – something that takes just enough brain power to keep you occupied but not enough brain power that it’s too hard. I’ve just bought a new kit from Etsy and I’m really excited about it.

  • knitting

I swear I have other creative hobbies that aren’t related to sewing. In my house I have one set of knitting needles and one ball of wool, but my mum sent me a pattern to make ‘ear savers’ which is essentially a headband to make face masks more comfortable for front line medical staff so I’m learning new stitches and hopefully I’ll actually be able to make something useful. Once you’ve nailed the new stitches it’s very therapeutic too!

  • making lists with coloured pens

Post-quarantine lists, things to do in quarantine, daily to do lists, weekly meal plans – everything is more exciting when you use coloured pens.

  • skincare

Spending even 5 minutes just to look after your skin and moisturise, maybe doing a face mask or a foot mask – it feels like a nice to make that time to treat yourself! Go all out and have a bath if you like, I have to wait for our new bath plug to arrive though and that’s a bit anticlimactic.

  • reading

I know I’ve been banging on about reading a lot this year but considering my goal for 2020 was 12 books and I just finished my 20th and I’m feeling more creatively driven by reading and writing than I’ve felt in an awfully long time, I’m justifiably excited about it. With the weather being typically British (unpredictable), reading is the perfect activity for sitting out in the garden catching some of that vitamin D or snuggled inside while the wind does its best to tear the trees down. So many of us have an ongoing ‘to be read’ pile and we might as well make the most of trying to cut it down a little whilst we’re encouraged to stay indoors.

  • gardening

I don’t necessarily mean landscaping your garden to make raised vegetable beds and only eating your own homegrown produce this summer! I mean making the most of the space you have (a windowsill, a balcony, any outside space) and growing something – there’s so many lovely indoor plants that can flourish at this time of year.

And it doesn’t have to be expensive – I bought a bag of soil, a small set of pots, a selection of flower seeds, some basic tools and gardening gloves in my weekly Asda shop for less than £20 and the joy of watching the seeds I planted turn into little shoots and flourishing is so satisfying and going out and watering them every day is incredibly therapeutic. I have to resist buying more every time I go shopping!

If you’re not sure where to start, I believe you can buy kitchen windowsill herb kits and grow the seasonings you use to cook! Our kitchen doesn’t have a window so I’ve opted for flowers this year but I definitely want to try tomatoes, peppers and courgettes next year!

  • journalling

If the world feels a bit big right now, I can’t express anything more therapeutic than getting all your feelings out on paper. It usually makes me feel like a weight has been lifted from my chest, sometimes it’s just a little bit so I can take a slightly bigger breath and sometimes I feel light as air but getting your feelings out of your head and onto paper is so healthy.

Then if you want you could even destroy the paper – I think I’m going to ceremoniously burn my journal when I’m finished with it. I can pretend it’s symbolic about a ‘chapter of my life ending’ but let’s be real; 1) a fire pit in the summer with friends is the best so might as well provide some kindling, 2) same applies to a BBQ, 3) there’s some parts of my life documented in that journal that I would really enjoy destroying and 4) it probably would be quite symbolic and provide a nice sense of closure.

The destroying isn’t the key part – it doesn’t even have to be on paper; you could make a private social media account that’s just for you, you could do it on the notes app on your phone or have a document on your computer. You can do it however you want in whatever medium you want, but I thoroughly recommend it.


If you’ve got any hobbies or activities that you’ve taken up during quarantine – whether to spend more time offline or to help your mental health – leave them in a comment below! We can make a big master post of ideas!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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my COVID-19 ‘bucket’ list

2020, creativity, goals, lifestyle, student

Hello!

‘Bucket’ list might not have been the best phrase, because I’m optimistic about not having to fit all these things in before I ‘kick the bucket’ but you get the principle – I made a (very colourful and pretty) list of things to do while we’re in lockdown.

I’ll be honest, this whole coronavirus thing is starting to weigh me down a little bit – at the beginning it was alright, I had extra time to catch up on things and my boyfriend has been home for the longest time since he started work because he’s been furloughed, all my pressing uni deadlines were pushed back and Disney+ had just been released.

Now, it’s all sinking in that this is going to be our new normal for the considerable and not knowing when it will end is the bit that’s really getting to me. There’s so many ‘we’ll just see what happens’ and ‘when this all ends’ especially in communications about my masters, there’s talk of our dissertation being pushed back which would mean my course might not finish in September as it was intended to and I don’t know when I’ll be able to start full time work. And don’t get me started on how terrified I am about re-entering the graduate job market and feeling like I’m just going to spend a year unemployed again.

But all that aside! I was coming up with lots of ideas of things I could do to make the most of having extra time at home and I worried that I’d start forgetting them, so I grabbed a piece of paper from the printer and my coloured pens and I started writing them all down!

I thought I’d share them in a blog post because I’ve seen a few of these kinds of posts floating around and I always love nosying about what everyone’s planning to do and my list isn’t super ‘productive’ per say – it’s mostly creative things that I don’t normally get time to do so if you’re looking for some crafty-ish inspiration, here’s what I’m hoping to work on when (if) my uni work lightens up a bit!

– work on t-shirt blanket – I’m a super sentimental person who used to have a massive t-shirt collection so I’ve been collecting and cutting up t-shirts for a couple of years (though some of the t-shirts are 10+ years old) and this year I finally started sticking it all together. I’m at the point where I’ve finished the first side and I want to embellish it more – using some embroidery thread to secure some of the shirts down, sewing on some patches and some lanyards I don’t use anymore and full ‘finishing’ the first side before I start with the rest of the cutouts on the other side. I’ve already made a good dent in this project but I’ll need some serious patience and free time to start sewing on something so bulky!

– catch up with scrapbook and photo album – I’ve actually done this one! I had a moderate pile of stuff for my scrapbook and a huge pile of photos that took me two days to finish sticking in and captioning, but that’s all caught up so big tick there!

– start elephant cross stitch – I bought one of those cross stitch kits from hobbycraft a couple of months ago but haven’t made time to start it. I’m thinking as it gets a bit warmer and the six squares of patio outside our front door get a bit more sunlight (and uni work dies down a bit…) I can make the most of having some creative, relaxing and relatively simple to do. Though if I really enjoy it I’m going to have to head onto amazon and buy some more…

– try new recipes* (*if they have the ingredients at the shop) – so far the closest I’ve got is playing ‘Ready Steady Cook’ with the contents of the fridge but it’s been fun to have more time to cook but also to just shove something frozen in the oven sometimes too. If you have any yummy recipe suggestions please do let me know!!

the smiley potato stars on top of our beef hot pot was a real highlight

– use film/DSLR cameras – I used up all the film in my film camera pretty quickly and seeing as I can’t go get it developed anywhere, I’m not in a rush to put my next roll in. Though I’m planning to use my DSLR camera a bit more this week around the house and if I can actually get some decent photos maybe I can justify buying a better camera (with what money lol).

– start a new blog or YouTube series – this one I have actually set the wheels in motion! My mum came up with the idea that we should start writing children’s stories and making little videos on YouTube that we can send to my godmother’s kids. I think we’re both kind of hoping we can go viral or something but also we’re just going to have fun writing stories and making videos from 100 miles apart! I also have an idea for a new blog series but I’m going to keep it to myself for now!

– try some new at home workouts – HIIT/yoga/zumba – with so many creators and fitness companies doing live workouts and free months on apps, now is the prime time to get into a new fitness routine. But when you have a living room that can just about fit a yoga mat in if you move the coffee table (I don’t even have a yoga mat) and no garden (we technically have a little patio area but the neighbour’s garden is right next to it and I’m not here for concrete workouts) there’s a limit to what you can do! I’ve done a couple of Joe Wicks live workouts, I’ve tried a few yoga videos and I’d love to do a live dance class but with a boyfriend in a small hour and nowhere he can really go (and not wanting to do the class with him in the room…) I don’t think it’s an option. But I’m going to try a stretch workout from the Nike training app and I might try and get back into Couch to 5k if we’re still allowed to go out and exercise but it’s not a priority for me right now. I’ve managed three weeks of exercising twice a week and I’m pretty proud of myself!

– sort through stuff in alcove – another tick! The alcove is what I call my little cupboard in the bedroom where my dressing table and some of my personal belongings are. I went through all the shelves and sorted them all properly, put some stuff out for the charity shops and it feels so much neater and tidier now.

– keep up with uni work (develop and refine skills) – this one isn’t so much a goal as much as a necessity, but I’m hoping to use this time to really do the best I can on the assignments I have. Most of my assignments have been modified and they’re not the way any of us really wanted to finish this course but I’ve got a big calendar, I’ve planned out tasks to do most days (every day is a lot to ask) and although today I’m not feeling particularly motivated, even just doing a little bit means less to do next time I do some work, so trying to keep that in mind!

This time isn’t easy for anyone – I know I’m in an incredibly fortunate position to still have income, to not have too much to do and to have the luxury of making a ‘time filling’ list at all, but that doesn’t mean it’s not very scary times to be living in.

I hope you and your loved ones are happy and healthy!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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why I’m setting monthly goals on lockdown | April Goals 2020

2020, creativity, goals

Hello!

These past few weeks have been absolutely mad, haven’t they? I’m now in my third week of isolation (though I’ve been out a few times to go to the shops for food because I don’t have any alternatives) and I was quite peppy at first, looking forward to time at home with my boyfriend and catching up on my mammoth to do list.

Now the motivation to do any uni work is drying up and the fact this is life for a few weeks, maybe months is starting to set in and my mental health is taking a knock, but I’m trying my best to stay positive – not putting any pressure to ‘achieve’ anything and trying to listen to my body and be gentle with myself.

But with that in mind, I’m still trying to maintain a routine of some sort and I’ve been setting monthly mini goals for upwards of two years now (just looked it up – I started in March 2018, so definitely two years!). These goals really help me focus and I love seeing myself making progress, it’s incredibly satisfying, so I’m going to try and uphold that while we’re all safe in lockdown!

With the COVID-19 crisis in mind, I’ve tried to keep these goals as relevant and achievable as I can. What everyone determines as ‘achievable’ is so personal – some people are still working, whether it be from home or as key workers, and these people are saints, some people are finding these times really difficult and getting out of bed and feeding themselves is a challenge, so please don’t compare yourself or what you’re doing to my personal goals because they’re just that – personal goals.

1. Workout once a week – it’s been one of my goals forever to lose weight, eat healthier and find a fitness routine I can maintain and thus far it’s not worked very well. However with all this time at home and so many amazing influencers offering so many workouts for free, now is the prime time for me to give them a go. But I’m not aiming to workout three times a week – although it doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s those kinds of numbers that always pile up on me so for now I’m starting at one. Depending on how the month goes I can adjust the goal from there but for now just one. I started on April 1st with one of Joe Wicks live ‘PE’ classes and it was tough but I did it!

2. No snacking – with health and fitness in mind, being home so much more these past few weeks has meant that all I want to do is snack. Bored? Snack. Thirsty? Snack. Need motivating? Snack. Dehydrated? Body is misinterpreting that as HUNGRY, therefore; snack. Having more time to tune in to my body, I’m going to try and learn what different feelings mean (it sounds pretentious but stick with me) – logically I want to snack because I’m restricting at lunch time, so I’m experimenting with having a more filling lunch to last me through till dinner. Being home and trying to go out as little as possible means I want to make our food last as long as possible so now’s the time to try and figure out for the sake of food efficiency and being a bit healthier!

3. Maintain routine and keep up with uni work schedule – to no one’s surprise, my masters (that was already incredibly unorganised and is in the process of being complained about) is right up in the air. My assignments are all being rewritten, unit’s are completely different and there’s a lot of ‘if the uni is open by X time’ being thrown about so it’s very uncertain and granted, two of my lecturers are absolute stars and are doing so much to try and make it work. For the sake of my mental health, I need to keep up with to do lists and trying to get something done every single day but I can see a future me where that is more challenging, so I want to adapt as I go along to keep up with the work I need to do so I don’t fall into a slump where I become one with the sofa. Little things like making an effort to sit on a chair at a table rather than the sofa (or my bed) make a surprising difference!

4. Work on COVID-19 bucket list with spare time – maybe ‘bucket list’ is the wrong phrase, more like ‘here’s a list of all the thing’s I said I’d do when I had more time and if I don’t write them down I’ll forget’. I’ve already done a couple of things on the list – I sorted out the stuff in the alcove and my tee blanket is very much in progress – but I’m making a big effort to manage my time to include things like these that are just for me and don’t serve a ‘greater purpose’ other than my personal enjoyment.

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Sometimes in a spur of the moment, you've got to get our the coloured pens and write a list ✍️🖍️🌈 ✨ Generally, I'm handling all this fear mongering and isolation better than I thought I would – especially with a master's degree that's now completely up in the air. But yesterday I felt the urge to write a multicoloured list of the things I want to do whilst I don't have to commute to Oxford and I have more time than I've had in years. Granted, I still have other important things to do and I'm not going to tick this list off quickly, but I wanted to make it so I don't forget. If I carry on at this pace, this list will last me the months that the virus is looking like it'll be around for! I'm trying to find the positives in isolation 😖 ✨ I was going to leave it at 'pretty colours' and post like a normal person but I'm a writer, I've always been a writer and writing is what I do – so I'm going to keep writing.

A post shared by Sophie (@sophiecountsclouds) on

5. Use film camera up, take fun photos around the house – I may have jumped the gun on this one and used up all my film at the beginning of the week and now I’ve realised I can’t get it developed anywhere and I don’t want a second film just sitting in my camera for the sake of it, I’m not rushing to put a second one in. But I might use my DSLR more instead! The one thing that’s taking me a long time to get my head around is manual photography – I’m getting there but I’m still learning so solidifying those skills will help my film photography when I get back to it.

Whenever I write long blog posts like this I remember how therapeutic blogging is for me and why it’s something I’ve kept up for over five years. I’m considering working it into my schedule to write two posts a week again but ideas are what I’m lacking in! I want my blog to be meaningful so it’s finding the balance between the two.

Let me know what you think! I hope you’re happy, safe and healthy in these scary times and please tell about all your tips and tricks for this strange time in lockdown, quarantine, isolation, social distancing (and all the other phrases that are being thrown around).

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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Creator Corner | My Favourite Creators right now!

2019, creativity

Hello!

Between ‘follow Friday’s, Instagram story shoutouts and #likeforlike left, right and centre sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming on social media between who you want to follow, who you feel you have to follow and who you follow to support the blogging/creator industry.

I’ve never been the ‘if you like my blog post then I’ll like your blog post’ kind of person because I think that’s really un-genuine – I’d rather someone liked my blog post because they enjoyed the content and not because they wanted more hits on their own posts.

With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to shout out my favourite creators at the moment! All three are YouTube Influencers but two are published authors and one is a twitter Queen if I do say so myself.

You’ve probably heard of them all, but I thought it’d be nice to share the people who’s content I’m really enjoying at the moment!


Anna is a Brighton based fashion, beauty and lifestyle creator and is the perfect example of someone I watch not because of what she talks about. I don’t dislike what she talks about but luxe make-up and expensive beauty technology is never going to be something I engage with on a financial level, but I just think Anna has the nicest personality and that’s more important to me regarding the creators I engage with.

She talks really genuinely, she’s funny, her relationship with her husband is just the sweetest and her videos are great to put on in the background while I scroll through Instagram (because I definitely don’t do that really regularly). Her content is also fantastic, really varied, covers a lot of basis and her style is just so on point.


I’ve followed Hannah for years and years now and watching her grow and develop her business while talking so openly about so many topics that a lot of people are afraid to talk about online (including sex, disability and how she makes money on YouTube) and all round she’s bubbly, full of opinions and got sass to boot.

I’m so excited to see more of what she does with her second channel More Hannah – whilst I find the sex education side of her channel interesting, it’s one of those things that isn’t my go to because I’m an awkward hermit, essentially. However her second channel where she talks about organisation, lifestyle and basically anything else is my jam.

Most creators I’m subscribed to I engage with because of who they are as people (or at least, how they present themselves online) more than their content – it’s like having a one-way conversation with a friend, it’s a friendly voice in the background whilst I’m doing my make-up or eating dinner or writing a blog post… (I’m actually not watching YouTube right now, lol). Hannah is constantly growing and developing and has a really strong identity of how much she shares and how much she keeps private online and I think she’s brilliant both as a viewer and I look up to her as a business woman.


If you’re here for sarcastic, self-deprecating humour from an Essex girl with fashion to boot, Fab Han is your girl.

I first found Hannah on an article of ‘if you like Zoella you’ll like these channels’ on Shout magazine’s website or something and I was drawn in by a video she made about short hairstyles and I’d just got my hair cut short so I was drawn in! I’m utterly baffled that this girl is like two years younger than me because she’s so on it and I love her style.

Her vlogs are so funny, her clothing hauls are really cute and overall, I think Fab Han is such a girl boss and she deserves so much more attention and love than she has. This girl is going to take over the world and I am here for it!


Apparently my favourite creators at the moment all have names that sound like ‘Anna’ and y’know what? I’ll go with it!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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