using my bullet journal to create routine

2020, mental health, organisation

Hello!

I’ve been writing about my bullet journal for a long time now – flip throughs, monthly set ups, weekly spreads, why everyone should bullet journal etc etc… but you’d think in a pandemic lockdown I wouldn’t put an effort into maintaining it, right? My uni is closed, I have no deadlines to meet for anything (pretend the dissertation isn’t real…), no social plans, so why am I holding my bullet journal closer than ever?

Do I sound like a melodramatic Buzzfeed article or what?

I’m someone who craves routine – the longer lockdown goes on the more lost I feel because it gets more difficult to motivate myself to maintain a consistent routine, but that’s where the bullet journal comes in! Having a to do list every day and a meal plan every week gives each day just a little bit of structure.

I’ve not been waking up consistently at all (this morning I woke up at 7.30am, then fell asleep until 10.20am – I’ve not slept that late since I was a teenager!) but I have lunch at 12, start cooking dinner about 5.30 to eat at 6 and aim to go to bed at 9… sometimes I don’t notice the time but generally I’m in bed by 10 at the latest! (I’m a granny, I need my sleep!)

My to do lists generally have 6-7 things on them every day and include things like washing my hair (because ya gal cannot keep track of the last time I washed my hair), doing my daily Headspace meditation and recording a clip for my 1 Second Everyday video – that’s three things already! Then I have 4 other tasks that generally include a form of exercise (I know! Who even am I anymore), something uni related, something craft related and then whatever else needs doing whether it’s cleaning the house or going to a pub quiz!

The system works pretty well for me most days – sometimes I get everything done by lunch time and I’ll either start the next day’s tasks or have the afternoon off, sometimes when my brain’s not doing so well tasks will start to pile up but after a day or two of feeling low I’m getting better at recognising that I don’t want to do that any more and just tackling one task at a time (then writing them off at the end of the week because no one needs to start the week with a bucket load of tasks from the week before – reassign them to the new week!).

Sometimes if I’m feeling particularly unmotivated I’ll even set myself a properly timed schedule – this can be super helpful with bigger tasks because then I know I only have to work on them for a set amount of time then I’m done with it for the day. Even setting a timer so you get that proper sense of conclusion is great. I used our Alexa to set a one hour timer to do uni work, then my sister called so I paused it and when it resumed I carried on where I left off and after an hour I’d made really good progress and I felt really good about myself!

Obviously there are some days where the thought of even sitting at my desk is too much, but it’s working with your mindset and your emotions to make this time work best for you. We all have good days and bad days, especially when you’ve got mental health in the mix as well, but it’s listening to your own mindset and pushing yourself where you can. It’s all a balance!

I’ve been using the phrase ‘gentle productivity’ for a couple of weeks now and I really like it – lockdown is a breeding ground for bad mental health and being gentle on yourself (whether it’s giving yourself a break or pushing yourself back to your desk) is the key to having a bit of routine and normalcy and protecting your mental space.

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

Sophie xx

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being fashion conscious on a low budget (and when not to feel guilty about where you shop)

2020, fashion, sustainability

Hello!

Fashion in a minefield at the best of times – keeping up with what’s trendy and what’s not (if you care, I don’t particularly), what clothes really look like on people that aren’t size 6 models and then figuring out how that all fits with your budget.

Having followed many beauty and fashion influencers (not because I particularly care about fashion, I just like the personalities) I’ve seen so many talks about capsule wardrobes, fast fashion, slow fashion, hauls from every fast fashion brand you’ve ever heard of, wished for pieces from more ethical brands that are way beyond my price range  and watched people make and up-cycle their own clothes.

And it often gets me thinking – as a teenager, I definitely had far too many clothes and as I moved every year at uni I’ve become far more interested in minimalistic living and getting more use out of the clothes I own (and repurposing all my old t-shirts into a big nostalgic blanket). So on one side of the ‘slow fashion’ coin, I’m doing alright at making sure I get enough wear out of the clothes I own and it makes me much more thoughtful when I am purchasing new clothes.

Buying new clothes is where I start to feel hypocritical – I love following creators that were sustainable brands and learning more about ethical companies and what makes fast fashion so unethical.

But I can’t afford it.

I can’t justify spending £50+ on one item of clothing, even if the cost-per-wear is significantly lower for how long it lasts, that still doesn’t mean I have the income to buy something that price in this moment. So I do my best to shop second hand in charity shops or find new ways to style the clothes I already have, but I do still shop in fast fashion brands because that’s all I can afford.

I treated myself to a little mooch in town the other day and after buying another house plant in Wilko, I wondered round Primark, popped into H&M and picked up an order in M&S. Granted, I didn’t actually buy that much – a pair of denim shorts and a t-shirt in Primark and a dress in H&M (and some jeggings in the M&S sale but they don’t fit so I think I’ll take them back) and the whole time I couldn’t help but think about how I shouldn’t be shopping in or supporting these brands.

But I can’t afford to spend more than £10 on a pair of shorts, I’ve been looking for summer dresses all summer and when there’s a pair of jeggings in the sale for £5.50 it’s too good to leave behind.

And I shouldn’t let myself feel guilty about all this! Fast fashion is definitely still the biggest avenue of the fashion industry and whilst I’m still a full time student who can’t get a job and no income other than some family support to pay my bills, I’ve got to make compromises where I have to.

I think being mindful is the key to all this – when I do shop, I’m now much more thoughtful about what I already have, what I will actually wear and making the most of the clothes I do spend money on. I don’t own a pair of denim shorts so I could justify buying them, I’m wearing a lot more t-shirts at the moment and I loved the design so I could justify it; I’ve been looking for summer dresses in a style I like for months and the one I found in H&M was perfect (and looked really cute, might I add!). I wasn’t doubling up on things I already had for the sake of it – I’m still in the mindset of curating and developing my wardrobe to work in every season.

As I finish my masters and develop my career and have a bigger income to work with, I know I can justify spending more money on clothes knowing I won’t have to replace them as frequently and the people that made it are being fairly paid and working in good conditions. But for now, I have to make compromises where I can – fixing up clothes I own rather than replacing them, experimenting with the clothes I have in my wardrobe to give them a new lease of life; turning my long dungarees into short dungarees for he summer because I’ll get more wear out of them that way!

It’s all a balance – as we learn more about slow fashion and prioritise ethical shopping over cheap consumerism, there will surely be more options to make high quality, ethical clothes accessible for everyone, whether it’s being able to pay in instalments, normalising not buying new clothes as frequently or making the most of second hand shopping.

Being more mindful is a great first step – environmental progress doesn’t come from a few people doing it perfectly, it comes from everyone doing it imperfectly. If everyone was more mindful of how often and where they were shopping, took more public transport and ate one less meat based meal a week it would all add up to make a huge difference.

I don’t know a lot about these kinds of topics, but I’m doing my best to learn. I recommend following Ellie Stennett, Lucid Seams and Clean Kick on instagram if you want some accessible, not preachy ways of learning more about being more environmentally friendly in fashion, recycling and cruelty free beauty!

(also Simple Politics if you find the world a bit too complicated and need some nice simple graphics to make it more understandable!)

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

Sophie xx

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my new heaviest | unfitness update

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

I’ve written more about my experiences with weight loss and fitness in the last couple of months than in the last year or so and I’m trying to find the right balance, but this one is more about body positivity and body image if that floats your boat more than rambling about running!

I weigh myself once a week – with past issues with eating and body dysmorphia at school, I often have to stop myself from wanting to weigh myself every morning. But I feel like if I don’t weigh myself regularly then I lose a sense of control and knowing whether what I’m doing for the sake of my body is working or not.

But recently I’ve been watching the number on the scales go up every single week – I don’t want to talk about specific numbers because numbers are so personal to the individual and there are so many other factors that my ‘heaviest’ weight might be a healthy weight for someone else and someone else’s heaviest weight might be my weight goal so mentioning numbers doesn’t help anyone.

So at the beginning of the year, let’s call my weight X – my goal was to lose a stone to be at Y weight and for the first couple of months it went quite well, I nearly hit a big goal I’d been aiming for, I was making good progress and I felt okay. Then lockdown happened and the numbers started going the other way – I got back up to the weight I was at the beginning of the year, then it kept going, and I hit the next ‘stone’ marker and it just kept going. Then all of a sudden I was back at my heaviest weight that I was at in the beginning of 2018 when I was finishing my undergraduate degree.

Hitting that specific weight – let’s call it Z – didn’t make my feel as bad as I thought I would because I’d already been going in the wrong direction and been through disappointment, frustration, comfort eating, rationalising that I’m just trying to survive a pandemic, trying to figure out if lockdown should have been my opportunity to really focus on healthier life choices rather than go the other way. By the time I reached Z I had already been through all of these emotions and I had been mentally preparing for it.

In the month I started couch to 5k, I gained more weight than over the other six months of the year combined. But I know I didn’t eat well and there’s no amount of exercise that can compensate for that.

What I always used to say when I was in the height of my weight loss in 2019 was ‘everything in moderation’ – I’m such a fussy eater that eating healthily is really difficult, but smaller portions, eating food you like even if it’s bad but in controlled portions, making an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables and stop snacking on sweet treats in the afternoon (thought a 4pm ice cream in a heat wave is compulsory!). Moderation is key – doing a moderate amount of exercise and not becoming obsessive, making sure to have sensible portion sizes and not feeling like you can never have chocolate again.

Putting on weight isn’t a failure – your body changes all the time, no one ‘diet’ or regime is going to work for your entire life. Things change, tastes change, fitness changes.

If I want to hit my goal of ‘Y’ weight by the end of the year then I now have to lose much more weight than when I was at my starting weight of ‘X’, but I’m not bothered either way. I’m still running three times a week, I’ve been working on my home workout once a week, now that my boyfriend is back at work I have a bit more control over how frequently we eat vegetables, I’m working on my sleep schedule and looking after my mental health as much as my physical health.

Hitting a new highest weight could have been a new low, but I know why it happened. I know I went on holiday and didn’t eat healthily and lockdown with my boyfriend being home meant compromising on healthy foods. It’ll probably take time before the numbers on the scales start going the other way, but results are not linear – my progress in consistently exercising and looking after myself is more valuable than the number on the scales.

Remembering that is the tough bit though.

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

Sophie xx

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just 10 seconds at a time

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

A lot of what’s taking up my brain space at the moment is actually fitness (I never thought I’d be saying that!) – with starting the Couch to 5k running program in July and aiming for one at home workout a week alongside running in August, I spend more time psyching myself up to do exercise, planning when I’m going to fit it in and mentally preparing myself for the physical challenge than I really need to, in all honesty.

I’m finding Couch to 5k really hard – it took me two weeks to make it through week 1 and I’m now finishing my fourth week of week 2 and I really don’t know if I’m ready for week 3, but with both running and my at home workouts I’ve got two phrases that are really helping me through.

The first time I managed the full week 2 run, I thought it was a fluke – somehow I’d made it through 6 repetitions of 90 seconds running and 2 minutes walking and it almost didn’t feel real. But next time I went for a run, I pushed through each run because I knew I could do it because I’d done it before. Even when I ended up falling through each step more than running it, I didn’t start walking until the lovely Sarah Millican’s voice told me I could (though, sorry Sarah, there’s no such thing as a ‘brisk pace’ when I’m wondering if my shins are going to snap!).

Simply knowing that I’d done it once before was enough to motivate me to do it again.

And the other thing that helps when I’m specifically doing a plank in my home workout, is just 10 seconds. Just 10 more seconds then I can stop. But when I’ve done that 10 seconds I have the option to stop or just do another 10 seconds. At this point I’m only aiming for 30 seconds at a time, but breaking it down into 10 second chunks is surprisingly helpful.

Also doing maths is a helpful way to distract my brain from the throbbing pain in my shoulders, lower back, ankles and abs – 10 seconds, just the same thing twice more, 15 seconds half way through, 20 seconds just need to do 50% of what I’ve already done again, 25 seconds means 5 seconds to go and by that point it’s done.

How often does it actually work? This morning I managed one 30s plank and then two 20s ones so all round, not bad for my second week of ‘at home’ workouts!

But it doesn’t just apply to fitness – we’re living through something completely unprecedented and there was never going to be a way to mentally prepare for a pandemic that no one was ready for. Maybe in ‘real life’ 10 seconds isn’t a huge amount of time, but if you’re in a moment of crisis, just making it through the next 10 seconds can be enough of a reminder that you can do this, you’re in control and you can take things at your own pace.

Whether it’s one day at a time, one hour at a time or a minute at a time, focusing on the here and now can make all the difference when the future feels so scary and uncertain. There’s so many things we can’t be sure of right now from when the heck the graduate job market will recover to when we can have a BBQ with our friends again, let alone the economy or housing market or other things that feel too grown up to me.

Things are weird – when lockdown started all those months ago, everyone said four weeks was such a long time and now it’s been five months. No one knows what ‘putting the world back together again’ will look like but worrying about how the future will look when there is no answer is just going to make handling the present more difficult – one day, one moment, one step.

We can do this.

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

Sophie xx

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graduating in a pandemic

2020, career, student

Hello!

I feel like I haven’t written about ‘student life’ in a little while – once I finished my undergraduate degree and spent a year receiving rejection email after rejection email, going back to uni to do a masters didn’t feel like becoming a student again as much as taking a step back. I definitely haven’t felt like a student since I started my course but that’s a whole other kettle of fish (which is a very strange phrase now that I’ve written it down…).

I wrote a whole post about finishing my masters in a pandemic so I don’t want to repeat myself, but I wrote that post at the beginning of May and it’s now the beginning of August – a lot can happen in three months.

In terms of final dissertation deadlines and graduation, my graduation date was always going to be Summer 2021, as the course was intended to finish in September 2020 and my uni don’t do winter graduation ceremonies, so that hasn’t changed. However my final dissertation deadline has been pushed back by about six weeks, so I now have until the end of October. I was given the opportunity to drop my dissertation unit and pick it up again in September, finishing next May and still graduating next July, but the course has been so awful and with my project idea I could work from home without the resources of the university.

Oh how I regret that decision!

Kind of – I still don’t want the course to go on for the worst part of two years, but expecting myself to do everything from home including teaching myself brand new softwares, techniques, writing a dissertation essay (which I didn’t do for my undergrad)… that was a big ask and one that I’m not managing to keep up with.

But I didn’t want to write this post to complain about my dissertation – I wanted to talk about finishing a degree in a pandemic and the consequent graduate job market… or lack thereof.

I think back to 2018, I graduated with a really high 2:1, my lecturers and peers had all told me I wouldn’t struggle to get a job and here I was applying for probably over a hundred jobs in the space of maybe 6 months and not getting anything. It was soul destroying.

So applying that to a world that is on 80% salary, predominantly working from home and making redundancies left right and centre… I can’t imagine how much undergraduates are struggling when the job market is so significantly reduced.

I’m at the point where I’m starting to look for jobs, both because I need to financially support myself and my partner and because I want to start my career – I’m 23, I (nearly) have three degree level qualifications and I want to start building a life for myself. I want a routine and tasks to do that I haven’t set myself and work friends and to share ideas and go to meetings and answer emails and all the boring stuff! I’m sure it won’t feel nearly as exciting if I get there but right now? Working with a company for a purpose, rather than desperately trying to pull together a dissertation in the wake of an awful masters course sounds like a dream.

Do I know what I want to do with my career? Absolutely not. Do I know that I’m good at admin and organisation and diary management and would like to work in a creative environment? Yes, so that’s what I’m going with. But very few places are hiring. Unless I’m looking in the wrong places, any advice would be more than welcome.

Graduating is scary at any time – especially as an undergraduate, you’ve often been in education for about 17 years and not knowing what comes next can be equally terrifying and exciting. But in a year where you don’t get to wear the cap and gown, get nervous about walking across stage without tripping and say goodbye to your mates, I can only imagine how much more disconcerting it feels.

All I can say is my heart goes out to undergraduates with a degree and no graduation. And if you’re in that position and you feel like not being able to find a job is a reflection on your ability; it really isn’t, something will come in time but right now? We’ve just got to ride the wave; our time will come; and you’re still amazing.

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

Sophie xx

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August Goals!

2020, goals

Hello!

July has been absolutely mad – every week I thought there’d be a ‘quiet week’ where I could catch up on some sleep and chill, I’ve been here there and everywhere! With my fiancé (I have to force myself to call him that because it still feels weird) going back to work and having the house to myself I’m having to get used to a whole new normal all over again (and it’s still not helping me make any progress with my masters dissertation project).

But a new month brings a new chance to achieve new goals! Do I need the start of a month to decide I want to try and achieve something new? Absolutely not, but it’s what works for me so I suppose what I’m saying is you do you fam.

Alongside my ongoing monthly goals of having a date night with my fiancé (though it’s mostly been ordering food and watching trash TV recently!) and reading at least one book, these are the five things I’m going to focus on this month.

  • plan 5 chapters of my novel

I’ve been worked on this book on and off since I finished the first draft eight years ago, but I’m planning for this next draft to be my last so I want to plan five more chapters ahead of the 50,000 word writing challenge that is NaNoWriMo in November.

  • make a new, more gentle dissertation project plan and make some progress

With everything that’s going on in the world and the complete disruption of the end of my masters, my diss project (the media bit, not the essay!) has been something that I’ve kept putting off and now it feels like this massive physical barrier that makes me want to cry every time I think about it. I’ve considered asking my course leader if I can defer and start the module again in September to finish next May, but this whole course has been an emotional and financial mess and I just want to get it done and over with. So I need to balance my anxious feelings about it with my Organisation Queen side that can get shit done and find a happy medium of ‘little and often’ (and not be scared of opening software).

  • exercise – three runs and one home workout a week

In July, I wanted to do the Couch to 5k program and I’ve managed three runs a week every week. Although I’m on my 5th week of running and I’m still on week 2 of the program, the fact I’m going out and trying and doing some exercise for half an hour three times a week is a big achievement. So I want to gently build on that – I designed a little home workout routine a couple of months ago and I want to use it. It’s a two sets of seven exercises focusing on different goals (full bodyweight and flexibility) and I tested it this morning and it went well – I set a timer for half an hour and just made my way through the number of reps in each exercise and both sets until the timer went off and it went well. I think having a set time to exercise for meant I knew that there was a definitive end point so I’m going to try and maintain this in August – we’ll see how it goes!

  • meditate every morning

Whenever I’ve set myself a task to do every day it doesn’t usually go very well, but there was a point where I was meditating every morning and I felt so much better for it so I want to try and do that again! I think it’ll help my anxiety levels, particularly in regard to my dissertation project, so hopefully I can start to see some benefits by the end of the month.

  • t-shirt sewing project

I’ve been banging on about my t-shirt blanket for absolutely ages but whilst I filled up one side of the blanket I do have more t-shirts left so I want to take a different approach this time and sew them together before I attach them to the blanket so I want to make a start on that this month. I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish it because there’s 10-15 shirts and after the first few it might get a bit more difficult to sit and sew it by hand as it gets bulkier but we’ll see how it goes!

I’ve been feeling really low and demotivated recently but having written out all my goals for the month I think they’re achievable if I put my mind to it, but remembering to be gentle with myself is important too, so will be interesting to see if I can strike that balance!

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… July

2020, books, fashion, lifestyle, wedding

Hello!

Another month has passed, though I’m not entirely sure how because I’m pretty sure it was May yesterday but time has passed me by! More stuff has happened, I’ve bought things, reads things, watched things and I’m going to share it all!

Let’s jump right in, because otherwise another month will come and go without me noticing!


purchase:

Having had a couple of ‘no spend’ months, this isn’t a category I’ve included so far but I actually let myself by some things this month so I wanted to share. I wrote a whole blog post about the books I bought/acquired this month – I’d run out of physical books I hadn’t read in our house since we moved last year so I definitely made up for it at the beginning of the month. I’ve now had to stop letting myself by books because I’m never going to read them all at this rate!

Then there’s two items of clothing that I adore this month – what I’m calling my Explorer Shorts from Primark, they’re a khaki green stretchy denim short that give me Lara Croft vibes but they’re elasticated; big fan!

And then I picked up a lovely navy cardigan from M&Co in the sale that is super cosy, I’m almost disappointed when it’s really warm because I can’t wear it.

blog post:

Someone I went to school with shared this article about Lockdown Weight Gain and I found it really interesting reading about the emotional impact of weight gain, particularly in a pandemic that is encouraging discussion about the impact of lockdown on mental health (though I’m not sure how much is being done?).

recipe:

I’m not big on trying new things at the moment – eating food that I’m familiar with and recipes I already know how to do has been the only cooking I’ve really done, but last week I made brownies for the first time in years and it was so good.

I definitely undercooked it, but it means I’ve got a super gooey fudgey brownie so I wasn’t gutted about it. Whilst putting a whole pound of brown sugar into a bowl was something that made me consider not making brownie anymore, it’s really good and the recipe I used was the one my mum gave me when I moved to uni so I can’t link it but I could make a blog post about it if there’s interest?

music:

I’m about two months behind on watching my YouTube subscriptions, but I watched Tom Fletcher and Danny Jones from McFly, Olly Murrs, Niall Horan and James Arthur covering Shine a Light, an older McFly song, and I was blown away by how amazing the cover was. I’m a pretty big McFly fan, hence why I’m subscribed to Tom’s YouTube channel, but I’ve never paid too much attention to the other three artists, though I know most of their ‘super popular’ songs. I’m obsessed with Niall’s voice and I need to listen to his most recent album.

Seeing how musicians are adapting to not being able to continue working as usual and making the most of remotely collaborating is very exciting.

YouTube video:

As I mentioned, I’m about two months behind on watching YouTube videos but my favourite video this month was from Mykie / Glam and Gore doing Halloween costume hacks from a 5 minute craft video considering my boyfriend is currently going through a phase of watching 5 minute crafts in secret (to the degree that he was watching them after I’d fallen asleep one night and I woke up at 6am to strange voices in our bedroom because he’d fallen asleep with them on). Either way! The video Mykie made was really fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

books I’ve read:

Where She Went (Gayle Forman) – after re-reading ‘if I stay’, ‘where she went’ was a pleasant enough unnecessary sequel. The first half was a whiney young man who couldn’t communicate his feelings and had an unhealthy relationship with medication and substances, then it actually starts to explore the relationship between the two main characters from the first book and the heart and poetic nature of the narrative returned.

The Memory Cage (Ruth Eatham) – I downloaded this book for free from Amazon with Prime Reading on my Kindle because I ran out of physical books and it was definitely meant for a more middle grade audience, but it was a nice heartfelt story about adoption, family and loss. I actually really enjoyed reading on my kindle so I’m definitely going to buy more books on there in the future.

Masha Regina (Vadim Leventhal) – I picked up this book for 50p and I was really excited about getting such a bargain, but it turned out to be 50p for a reason. There just wasn’t much of a story at all. I wrote a full review on instagram, but I wouldn’t recommend – the review is potentially more entertaining than the book.

Currently reading: Blame (Jeff Abbott) – I don’t often read crime and whilst this book was in the grown up fiction second, it feels very YA to me because it’s about a girl in college and I think that’s part of the reason I’m enjoying it more than I expected. When you’re reading a book you expect to be able to trust everything the protagonist experiences to be true, but the more that I read the more I’m not sure who is trustworthy and it’s really interesting. Keep an eye on my instagram for a full review when I finish it!

snack:

When visiting my boyfriend’s family earlier this month, we went to Tescos for a meal deal and spotted these ‘French style’ Madeleine cakes and whilst we were in Paris last year, we became obsessed with these cakes called ‘Quatre Quart’ (or something) and we think we’ve found it! We think it’s the same cake! So we’ve eaten a disproportionate amount of them (they’re so good).

tv / film / streaming / something to watch:

As with eating food I already know how to cook, I’m not really in the mood for watching anything new and not knowing how it’s going to play with my emoTIoNs but whilst we were on a little holiday at the beginning of the month we watched quite a bit of Escape to the Country and now I’m thinking about property a lot and I want to watch more trashy daytime TV.

wedding planning update:

We viewed a venue! The only placed we’ve viewed and I’m obsessed, it’s beautiful, it’s got everything we want, amazing accommodation and we could really see ourselves getting married there. The quote we received after the viewing was much higher than we thought it would be but for the venue that we love so much, we think we’re going to do some negotiations and work more to pay for it. There’s actually some wedding progress! Over two years in advance maybe a little premature but there’s still actual progress!


July has been mad and August is set to be much quieter, but who knows at this point!

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

Sophie xx

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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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adapting you goals (and why it’s okay)

2020, goals, organisation

Hello!

I write a lot about my monthly and yearly goals, I try to share tips on what’s worked for me and I’ve had a fair few messages from people saying they’ve starting using advice I’ve given, which is a lovely feeling. But I’ve never written about adapting goals and embracing change.

For me, the thought of adapting or getting rid of a goal feels like cheating, like I’ve done something wrong or failed. What I need to learn is that recognising when a goal doesn’t serve me or my long term goals or aspirations, there’s no point wasting time and energy to achieve it for the sake of not adapting it.

Maybe I’m making this sound more melodramatic than it is, especially considering the context that made me consider this at all. One of my monthly goals was to hit certain milestones in my crafting – I wanted to make four more face masks (which I’ve done!), plan my new cross stitch design and finish learning how to knit a soft toy that I intended to stuff with all my old holey socks (clean, of course).

I sat down to work on this duck and I realised I was getting stressed about all the different types of knitting stitches I needed to figure out and it all felt too complicated and big, when my crafts were meant to be my outlet to relax – to just sit, shove some YouTube on in the background and make something with my hands without thinking too hard.

But when I realised I didn’t want to make the toy, the thought of not achieving my goal bothered me.

So I changed it.

All I want from my knitting is to sit and do the same stitch mindlessly over and over again, so I’m just doing that and maybe one day it’ll be a scarf but it’s therapeutic and it felt so much better than forcing myself to do something that meant I had to concentrate when I wanted to do the opposite and unwind. So I changed my goal to just ‘work on knitting a scarf’ and in the evening if I’ve done everything else I just sit and watch videos or watch my boyfriend play video games and knit without really thinking.

I feel way less stressed and intimidated by the goal and I’m enjoying the process of knitting again because of it.

In the scheme of things, a craft goal is not that important and I definitely placed too much weight on it. But it made me think of my 2019 goals – at the beginning of the year I set a goal about building a freelance career because I had some work lined up, but that fell through before the end of January and I just ignored it for the rest of the year. I missed an opportunity to adapt the goal into something more suitable and perhaps have achieved something else in the span of that year.

Of course there’s going too far with adapting goals – changing them as soon as they get hard is missing the entire point of growing and learning from your goals. But if your goals as they currently stand don’t aid your growth in the direction you want it to – whether you realise it’s not a path for you, you want to try an alternative method or it is negatively impacting you – then continuing putting time into it isn’t worth it.

I don’t know if this was useful in any way, shape or form – there’s every chance I was just making a revelation about knitting into something way bigger than it deserved to be – but it’s helped my mindset on goals not being as rigid as I’d thought and allowing them the flexibility to serve your greater ambitions.

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

Sophie xx

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aspects of ‘normal’

2020, lifestyle

Hello!

Having been on a little family holiday with my Dad last week, visiting local attractions like my favourite indie bookstore (book haul post here), a manmade reservoir which is beautiful on a sunny day (not when it’s raining and half shut down, but the cafe was lovely) and browsing round all the little shops in the town, I let myself get too settled in what could be considered ‘normal life’.

‘Normal’ as we knew it before the pandemic didn’t include using different hand sanitisers in every shop we went into, wearing a mask and mastering breathing without fogging up my glasses (which is not an excuse not to wear a mask!) and having to try and count how many customers were in the shop before we went in. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining about any of this. In fact, I think the town we visited on our holiday was incredibly well prepared and respectful considering all the conditions. What I’m saying is that despite all these additional measures, it didn’t really have any impact on my shopping experience and it wasn’t difficult to adapt to in any way; it still felt normal.

My weekly Asda trip still makes me cross because an announcement comes over the tannoy to ‘stay 2m away from staff and follow the arrows in a one way system’ to then have three members of staff within a foot of each other (and me) having a natter with no PPE walking the wrong way down the pasta aisle! Most of the town I live in appears to be the same which is frustrating. But some of the shops have precautions and screens at checkouts and I feel way more comfortable nipping into town for anything I need (which isn’t much because I’m on a spending ban so if anyone wants to hold me accountable for that please feel free).

Now that we’re allowed to go see friends and family and businesses are doing everything they can to encourage custom and lots of entertainment streams are doing everything they can to stay alive (theatres are planning to open again in 2021 and I’m eyeballing tickets for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella…), it’s easy to forget that we’re still at a Level 3 of 5 on the government’s scale of the UK’s position on the pandemic – it’s still a very real and literal threat!

I think it’s ridiculous that shops are opening, let alone theme parks and zoos, but I somewhat relied on human sensibility in that it doesn’t matter if places open if people aren’t going to use them.

But then people used them. People flocked to Disneyland and pubs and are boarding planes to get their summer tan and I lose all my faith in humanity all over again. This virus isn’t just about our personal safety, it’s about considering the danger we pose as individuals to those who don’t have the immune system to survive an illness like this. It baffles me how anyone can be so ignorant and self-centred to think that wearing a mask is about ‘taking their freedom away’ (what freedom? It’s allowing you to do the things you want to do without being a risk to other people’s lives??). It makes me angry so I have to think about something else because my anger is never going to convince these people that we can’t take the mindset that we’re going to combat this virus as individuals.

This definitely isn’t what I intended to write about today. My favourite blog posts to write are the ones where I just ramble and the words come out of my quickly typing fingers before I can really process it (which is why I also thoroughly proofread all my blog posts).

I keep thinking about what I would be doing now if we weren’t in lockdown; I know I’m craving some sort of change but I don’t know what because in ‘normal’ life I’d probably be doing much the same, staying at home trying to convince myself to work on my dissertation project and struggling, but my partner would still be away at work and I’d still be able to go procrastinate with my friends on campus with an array of snacks. Maybe I’d be a bit further along with my diss project, because I’d have the facilities, the support of my lecturers and the motivation from my friends but I don’t know how much would really be that different.

This week I’ve arranged to view a wedding venue with my partner. It’s the first real step in planning our wedding, which is still over two years away, but I know that when we get there it’ll be masks on, much of the venue may be closed off and that lingering sense of uncertainty that we’ll be able to have 80 guests in one place in 841 days time.

‘Normal’ may be on its way back, but I don’t want to let myself get too comfortable with it whilst we’re still at Level 3. I can only hope that there isn’t a second wave and we’re really on our way out of this pandemic.

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

Sophie xx

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