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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backwards progress | unfitness update

2020, fitness, mental health

Hello!

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these ‘unfitness’ posts – I wrote a couple at the beginning of quarantine and I’ve talked about why fitness hasn’t been a priority in the last year or so, but I thought now would be a good time to do a little update, as well as looking back on the progress I’ve made.

I have a highlight on my instagram (also called ‘unfitness’) where I’ve been documenting my ‘journey’ with exercise (though I don’t think it really deserves to be called that). It started with lots of boomerangs of my trainers on the treadmill and screenshots from my FitBit app with long rambles about how my mental health is all over the place and it’s hard to find examples of fitness that work for someone of my size and fitness level (which is a solid zero).

Then I started Couch to 5k – I ran consistently three times a week for maybe three months and I was so proud of the progress I made and my commitment to doing something for me. I saw results, I lost weight, I felt better about myself… but then the weather got really hot and I couldn’t cope. Then life stuff happened and I didn’t have access to a treadmill anymore and I was gaining weight and I was disappointed in myself and I kept putting it off.

Now 17 weeks into lockdown (not that I’m counting…) and I’ve put on enough weight that I’m nearly back at my heaviest weight from two years ago and I’m trying really hard not to beat myself up about it but it’s really disappointing.

There are so many external factors – a literal pandemic, living in a small one bedroom house where even pottering all day every day doesn’t get that many steps in (I wanted to hit my step goal once and did maybe 200 laps of the living room… about 15 steps a lap!), feeling sad and comfort eating then feeling worse about comfort eating and feeling like I deserve a treat… And then the toll that takes on my mental health.

So I wanted to start reintroducing exercise in a way that didn’t feel forced or high pressure – the pandemic lockdown is taking a harder toll on my mental health the longer it goes on for so I need to gently find long term sustainable things that can help. In June, I set myself the goal of doing 5000 steps per day – I only managed this for about half the days of the month, but it made me more aware of what 5000 steps looked like and the efforts I had to make to achieve it.

Although it wasn’t particularly successful, I decided that I wanted to start Couch to 5k again in July – my boyfriend was interested in starting it too and together we would brave running in the outside world (something I’d never done before). We’re now two weeks in – I’ve successfully committed to six runs in that time, although I’ve repeated Week 1 of the program twice (I meant it when I said my fitness level was zero) I’m doing it and I’m feeling it get easier and I’m making it part of my routine.

Do I have high hopes that this will become a regular habit and I’ll get to a point where I actually enjoy running? No – I know that in the past any exercise venture I’ve been on has ended after a few weeks of seeing no weight loss and feeling too mentally drained to put the effort in. But I can honestly say at this point, I’m kind of enjoying it – getting outside and getting my steps in and feeling my heart rate go up that high and then getting home and lying on my bed for twenty minutes before I can feel my toes enough to get in the shower. Doing something that pushes me and hurts my body a little bit but I know is going to be good in the long run feels good.

Mentally feels good I should say, physically it feels awful.

So the next step is working on my diet to go with the exercise – I’m never going to be someone who eats a salad because they like it or swaps to whole wheat pasta and brown rice (carbs are important to me). But I can cut down on snacks, eat more vegetables (I do love vegetables), portion my evening desserts so I don’t eat an entire pack of Haribo.

Even changes like going back to wearing make-up every day and having an evening skincare routine and maybe meditating again aren’t necessarily directly related to fitness, but they’re all parts of mental wellness that give me structure and routine and might give me more of a chance of 1) actually losing weight and 2) maintaining an exercise regime.

In the two years I’ve been documenting my ‘unfitness’, I found a pretty good routine where I lost over a stone in a couple of months and then lost nearly another stone over the next six months or so. I gained a little bit back but maintained up until the beginning of lockdown and then it all went downhill again. Although I’m not far off being back where I began two years ago, I’m hoping that knowing what I’ve learnt over those two years will make moving forward and seeing progress easier.

Fitness, weight and body image are such difficult topics to write about as they’re so personal to every individual – no one experiences anything in the same way, there are so many factors that make things different for everyone. But the important thing to remember is whatever your goals are, whatever you want to achieve whether it’s losing weight, getting stronger or just having some time in the day to do something for you – it’s all okay.

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

Sophie xx

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49 new books | a little book inspiration

2020, books

Hello!

Over this last week I’ve picked up a bag of books from my mum’s house, bought a new haul of books from my favourite indie bookstore High Peak in Derbyshire and picked up a few more new books in charity shops and on my holiday… So I have a big haul of new books!

For context, when I moved into our little one bed house last year, I brought a selection of the books I was most excited to read thinking it would last me a while – my goal was to read one book a year and at that rate I wouldn’t be done till 2022 ish. Then I read four books a month and quickly ran out of books I hadn’t read in the house!

Before I moved out of my mum’s house, I packed all my books into carrier bags so I could pick up one at a time when I needed more to read. It just happened to time with going on holiday and visiting my favourite place.

So I thought what I’d do today is list all the unread books I now have on my shelves – if you have a similar taste to me (have a look at my goodreads to get a feel for what I like!) and you’re feeling a bit stuck with what to read, I’m sure something on this list will grab you!

There’s a mix of fiction – YA, a couple of middle grade, a couple of ‘grown up’ books with genres from fantasy, chick lit, coming of age and crime – a few non-fiction and a couple of reference books so a real mish mash! Obviously I’ve not read any of these yet so if they’re rubbish, I can only apologise in advance!

From High Peak book store:

  1. A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder – Holly Jackson
  2. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
  3. See Through Me – Kevin Brooks
  4. In At The Deep End – Kate Davies
  5. The City Always Wins – Omar Robert Hamilton
  6. Rosie Coloured Glasses – Brianna Wolfson
  7. Raising Fire – James Bennett
  8. Tarnished City – Vic James (sequel to Gilded Cage)
  9. Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
  10. The Inaugural Meeting of The Fairvale Ladies Book Club – Sophie Green
  11. Ace of Spiders – Stefan Mohamed (sequel to Bitter Sixteen)
  12. Blame – Jeff Abbott
  13. I Know You – Annabel Kantaria
  14. Goldilocks and the Water Bears – Louisa Preston
  15. The Princess and the Suffragette – Holly Webb
  16. The Wellbeing Journal – in aid of Mind
  17. Computer Coding for Kids – Carol Vorderman
  18. Masha Regina – Vadim Levental
  19. Scrabble Dictionary

WHSmith:

20. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
21. A Nearly Normal Family – M. T. Edvardsson

Home Haul:

22. Die For Me – Amy Plum
23. Jacoby’s Game – Alison Prince
24. All That She Can See – Carrie Hope Fletcher
25. The Oversight – Charlie Fletcher
26. Twilight Robbery – Frances Hardinge
27. The Last Minute – Jeff Abbott
28. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne
29. Private Peaceful – Michael Morpurgo
30. Mirrorscape – Mike Wilks
31. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
32. The Wave Runners – Kai Meyer
33. Always With Love – Giovanna Fletcher
34. Billy and Me – Giovanna Fletcher
35. Shade’s Children – Garth Nix
36. The Dragon’s Eye – Dugald A. Steer
37. The Time of the Reaper – Andrew Butcher
38. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – Cassandra Clare
39. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
40. Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse (Book 3) – Rick Riordan (Book 1 – The Lightning Thief / Book 2 – Sea of Monsters)
41. Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labrynth (Book 4) – Rick Riordan

Charity shop finds:

42. Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds – Gwenda Bond
43. Container Gardens: Practical advice on choosing, planting and caring for container plants – Aura Garden Guides
44. Year In Your Garden – Geoff Hamilton

Oops I fell into The Works and the Set Was Only £8:

45. Noughts + Crosses – Malorie Blackman
46. Knife Edge – Malorie Blackman
47. Checkmate – Malorie Blackman
48. Double Cross – Malorie Blackman
49. The Green Roasting Tin – Rukmini Iyer (£7 when it’s RRP is £16.99… I couldn’t help it but I can’t find it on The Work’s website, but it’s only £9 on Amazon!)

Although I’ve linked predominantly to mainstream sites like Waterstones, Amazon and W.H.Smith, if you can support your local independent bookstores please do because they’re precious places, often with wonderful hardworking staff and beautiful decor and need all the support they can get!

If a name, author and link doesn’t grab you (which I totally understand, I just thought this blog post would be long enough without adding descriptions of all the books!), I post a review of everything I read on my Instagram so follow the link below if you want to hear my thoughts on what I’ve read so far this year!

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

Sophie xx

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going on a British holiday in lockdown?

2020, lifestyle, travel

Hello!

Four months into lockdown, a lot of people are talking about the summer holidays they’ve had to cancel, optimism about still being able to get abroad and choosing UK based alternative like it’s a second rate option to flying away somewhere.

Granted, you’re not going to get 40 degree sunshine and sandy beaches but as a girl who grew up going to the Peak District and feeling inferior to my friend’s holidays abroad, I’m trying to remind myself that there are so many parts of the UK that I haven’t seen and the weather doesn’t make it any less exciting! Just different.

Next week my boyfriend and I are going away with my dad – he lives alone so it’s all legal within the social bubble thing. We were going to go to the same place we always used to go in the Peak District because I’m so fond of it and I’m desperate to show my favourite person one of my favourite places. But then there was a whole palaver with the website my dad booked it through accepting the booking when the holiday site wasn’t actually open and trying to rearrange around my boyfriend’s work but then we found a little cottage that was available and now the holiday is back on!

I do feel a bit weird about going on holiday in a pandemic – it’s all legal, we’ve double triple checked, but I’ve only just braved going to the unessential shops two weeks after they opened and however important I know wearing a mask is, having to wonder round without my glasses on because they keep fogging up is equal parts annoying and really funny.

Obviously we’re going to be as safe as we can be – making sure we have masks and antibacterial gel and we’ll make sure everywhere we want to go is safe and stay socially distanced… but it just feels weird.

I’m so excited to see my dad and spend some time with him knowing he hasn’t seen anyone properly in months. I’m going to see my mum and sister as well for the first time in four months and it’s going to be so nice but so surreal to know I’ll be driving home again next weekend and I have no idea when I’ll next see them.

Lockdown conditions are easing and hopefully the rest of the country is being more careful than the people in my area (they make me so cross and every time I go for a walk or to Asda it baffles me how people can’t seem to understand arrows?) and things will continue to ease as we control this virus but it will definitely be a very strange experience going on holiday this time.

To anyone feeling like they have to ‘compromise’ on a British holiday instead of an international one this year – keep your mind open, although at times it doesn’t feel like it, we do actually live in a beautiful country and there’s lots of amazing places to see.

Also stop using the phrase ‘Staycation’ – just because you’re not leaving the country doesn’t mean it doesn’t count as a holiday.

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

Sophie xx

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July Goals

2020, fitness, goals, writing

Hello!

Another month, another set of mini goals to work towards! Having reviewed my goals for the year and looked back on my June goals, in July I’m really working towards stripping things back, focusing on what’s important to me right now and setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound… I think).

Hopefully with the weather being a bit brighter and restrictions easing things might feel like they’re a bit closer to getting back to ‘normal’, but I’d rather be safe than shopping so taking things day by day!

Hopefully my July goals are SMART enough to make some progress! These are my goals for the month:

  • Start Couch to 5k again – it’s been over a year since I stopped the Couch to 5k program and I think I’m ready to start again. I’m going to aim for the three runs a week that the program suggests and even if I just start by doing laps around the park just to stay flat (there’s a lot of hills where I live) trying is the important bit. I’m nervous but determined!
  • Weigh less at the end of the month than at the beginning – hand in hand with the running, I’m going to try and do some at home workouts, be more mindful about what I eat, stop snacking and generally train my body into healthier habits. Lockdown has set me back almost to my heaviest weight in 2018 (which I’m trying not to beat myself up for) so I want to make some positive change.
  • Declutter my desk work space – our little house isn’t really designed for at home working but things have gotten so cluttered that I feel more stressed about it than it helps me get work done. I want to try and do a little bit every week to make the space less intimidating and more productive, even if it just means tidying it up a little bit.
  • Writing challenge – 36,000 words – every other month this year I’ve been setting myself writing challenges working towards NaNoWriMo in November (an online challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days!). Each month I do a writing challenge the goal is a little bit higher to get myself into the habit of writing a certain number of words per day. May’s challenge went really well so I’m hoping for the same kind of success in July, but simultaneously not putting too much pressure on myself. I have a Camp NaNoWriMo profile if anyone else is participating!
  • Craft goals – sew four face masks, finish knitting project, start new cross stitch project – I’ve written before about how handmade sewing related crafts, particularly cross stitch, have brought me such joy in lockdown so I thought setting myself some little goals would help keep me focused. Taking the decision element out of anything means I’m more likely to do it so rather than being faced with a box of embroidery thread and no direction, having something to work towards will definitely help me relax. At least, I hope it does…

And then my ongoing monthly tasks of have a date night and read at least one book still stand but I’ve managed six months with date nights and I’ve read 26 books so far this year so I think these two will be okay.

My motivation has been pretty bare minimum last month so I’m hoping to try and work to more of a routine in July. But with the world being so uncertain and changing so much, being adaptable and not putting too much pressure on myself is the main focus.

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

Sophie xx

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