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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I HATE working from home

2020, lifestyle, mental health, student

Hello!

One thing I’ve been really struggling with in the latter half of lockdown so far (12 weeks and counting!) is working from home – after the initial boost of getting four assignments handed in on the same day, my motivation hit rock bottom – the two that were due the following week were a struggle and then I took a two week extension on the project that was due the week after (but with the extra time my partner-in-crime and Software Wizard Agata and I made this bomb animation called ‘Life After Lockdown‘).

But now that all my semester 2 deadlines are done and the only thing left is 5 months of looming dissertation deadlines, I feel even less motivated than I did before.

In my time on my undergraduate degree, I worked really hard to make my home a ‘work free environment’ – I would be on campus or in my favourite cafe (oh The Artisan, how I miss you) by 9am most days and would only really come home for dinner, at which point I would cook, play games with my boyfriend or do whatever not-work activities I wanted to do in my home environment.

I carried this over into my masters degree as much as possible – working on campus, making the most of group work whilst we were physically together and using the facilities, equipment and the computers that were better than mine.

Now that I’m facing doing my entire dissertation project at home? Every time I sit down to work on it, I feel this ball in my chest and I just can’t make progress – sitting down to read or write or learn more new software (because god knows the course didn’t actually prepare me for anything) is just so overwhelming. But I can’t afford to give myself a few weeks because I have other dissertation related deadlines before that where I have to document my progress, so I have to have progress to document.

It’s worth mentioning that I’m fortunate that I don’t have to balance a real job type work alongside my dissertation – many part-time students do and most people working from home at this point will be doing ‘proper’ work that they get paid for, not working on assignments, but the work from home struggle is universal regardless of what type of work.

A quote I see floating around a lot is ‘you’re not working from home, you’re at home, trying to work in a global crisis’ and I find that comforting when I’m finding it so difficult… but it doesn’t make the work any easier and the work still needs doing.

Something else I find difficult is working while my boyfriend is home – in our ‘normal life’, he’s either away working on live sports broadcasts around the country or at base 10-5, so if I wasn’t at uni I’d have the house to myself. Now, we’re in the same room all day every day because he spends most of his time playing games and my little office set up is in our open plan ground floor. Somehow over 12 weeks I haven’t got used to him talking on headset to his game friends and I just find it so much more difficult to concentrate when he’s here.

Sometimes it’s not even that he’s doing anything or saying anything – I can see the game on the TV even if he’s muted it, I just can’t work while he’s in the room. This isn’t something I can do anything about, but I’m more nervous about him potentially going back to work and being exposed to the virus so… there’s no winning!

I’m trying to be gentle with myself – beating myself up isn’t going to get the work done any quicker and it’s not going to motivate me at all.

Does confessing how much I’m struggling working from home really help anything? Not particularly, but I’m sure there are lots of people who’ve read everyone’s ‘working from home’ blog posts and watched all the videos and still not become the Working From Home Queens they hoped to be. Sometimes it’s reassuring to know that other people are still struggling, so I hope to provide that.

Starting is always the worst bit – once I’ve started and figured out what I’m doing more I’ll probably get into it but right now, it makes me want to cry a little bit so I’m going to do everything else on my to do list until there’s nothing else left.

Small progress is still progress!

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

Sophie xx

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Treasured in… May

2020, books, creativity, film, lifestyle, student

Hello!

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

Here are my the things I treasured in May!


blog post:

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

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

recipe:

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

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

online course:

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

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

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

music:

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

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

YouTube video:

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

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

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

books I’ve read:

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

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

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

snack: 

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

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

visual entertainment: 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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re-introducing me

2020, lifestyle

Hello!

I’ve been blogging now for over 5 years – I started the blog because I was applying to universities and between the creative writing and journalism courses I was choosing between most of the lecturers recommended starting one.

But five years is a long time and a lot of things can change in that time – at 18 I still lived at home, I had long blonde hair, I was doing my second year of a levels and seriously convinced I wasn’t going to pass any of them, perpetually single and pursuing toxic friendships because it was easier than ‘changing friendship groups’.

At 23, I’m working towards my third degree qualification, I shaved my head for charity last year and my hair is… questionably mullet-like, I’ve been in a relationship for four and a half years and we’ve planned when we want our wedding to be. I live in a little one bedroom house that we rent in High Wycombe and I’m actually obsessed with it. My Masters dissertation project deadline has been pushed back to the end of October so I won’t be looking to start work until November, but for the first time in a long time, I really don’t know what I want to do with my career, so I’m just not going to think about it for a while (which is probably a bad idea).

In the current pandemic lockdown, I’ve been continuing my uni work and maintaining making content for my blog, as well as falling in love with cross stitching, knitting and gardening (I cannot wait for my little seed babies to flower).

In 2020, I’ve done a lot of reading – I set myself the challenge of reading 12 books this year (one a month) but hit that in March and I’m now on my 22nd book of the year (but I’m trying really hard not to think about reading to hit certain numbers and just enjoy the stories). My love for books has really reignited this year and the only career I can really think of that I’m really passionate about is writing and telling stories but I don’t think I’m going to be able to work as a full time author once I finish my masters degree… A girl can dream though.

What else? My birthday is 9/11 but in the UK it’s 11/9 so I sometimes confuse people and they think my birthday is in November (I’m a very stereotypical Virgo). I live for organisation – my bullet journal, lists, calendars, colour coding, post it notes, it all makes me very happy. I think I’d be quite happy doing a receptionist/admin job, maybe at a dance school or media company (maybe with a bit of photography/social media creation on the side) and do my writing in my spare time. It’s not the high paced, travelling round the world doing social media for a touring band job I wanted to do five year’s ago when I started the blog but I think a more settled, quieter life would suit me better anyway.

My anxiety is worse than it used to be but for different reasons. Rather than having toxic friends and no support system, I have the most amazing people in my life but I worry a lot. I’d like to think it’s about justifiable things like not being able to get a job and whether I’m a good person but it’s a work in progress and I’ve been using a service called Healthy Minds, but I think I’m going to need to save for a course of proper therapy because I’ve got a lot of stuff going on in my head.

I’d like to think that the most important thing to know about me is that all I really want to do is help people, make people happy and see people succeed. Sometimes I say the wrong thing and I don’t read social situations very well but I’m well intentioned and have a lot of love to give so I hope that’s what comes across.

Lastly, I want to share three life goals:

  • I’d love to start a company that makes gorgeous kids clothes into adult clothes, because I’ve seen so many cute toddler dresses that I would wear with no shame.
  • I want to own a cafe – not necessarily run a cafe, but work with local businesses and people to make a nice community environment, maybe partner with a charity and have people donate cakes or something. I want it to be somewhere my mum can bake for in her retirement because she loves baking and I want to give her an environment to do that without the pressure of baking specifically for business so making it more of a ‘drop in’ thing.
  • I want to own a truck (but only if one of my kids has a hobby with lots of big equipment and/or I live on a farm… I have no aspiration to live on a farm).

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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8 weeks in isolation

2020, lifestyle

Hello,

Today marks 8 weeks since I last went to uni and the last time I left the house for anything other than buying food.

8 weeks.

56 days.

In the first few weeks, I actually felt okay – it was nice to have my boyfriend home instead of away with work, I could properly focus on my uni work and I was feeling relaxed and productive.

Then the bulk of my uni work finished and I could feel my reason for getting out of bed slipping away – with no end date in sight, my uni deadlines changing every other week, the projects I do have suddenly feel far too big and my anxiety is heightened in a way it hasn’t been before.

But I’m trying my best not to complain because I’m so fortunate to be safe and healthy and not have to work and so on, but then I feel like if I bottle up everything I’m feeling it just gets worse and it’s an ongoing cycle. I just wanted to make sure I put in writing that I’m incredibly grateful for all the key workers that are putting their lives on the line so that so many of us don’t have to.

Although most days look pretty different there are a few core things that are the same so I thought I’d talk you through what an average ‘day in the life’ in quarantine looks like for me.

  • Whilst I tried to maintain my early morning routine, sleeping hasn’t been particularly easy so I’m letting my body sleep for as long as it needs to. Generally I wake up between half 8 and 9 but when I’m feeling a bit more settled I’m normally up by 7.
  • first stop – breakfast! I like having toast with butter at the moment but I imagine I’ll get bored and look for something new to try in a few weeks, on the other hand I’m a creature of habit and could probably quite happily eat the same three meals a day forever.
  • After breakfast and watching some YouTube, I might do a quick meditation or I will go back upstairs to get dressed.
  • Sometimes if the weather’s nice we’ll go for a walk – we’ve found a lovely 5k circuit through the woods which is nice to walk but whilst the weather can’t decide if it’s raining or brilliant sunshine we’ve not been rushing to go out.
  • From there I generally start on my to do list – I like to do my uni work first because I have more brain power in the morning, but if I’m not feeling it I’ll just take it slow, do what I can and if I don’t get everything done, I don’t and that’s fine.
  • With lunch sometimes I’ll video call my mum and my sister, sometimes I’ll play Pokemon on the Switch with the boyfriend and sometimes I’ll just watch YouTube videos. I’ve got like 250 videos to catch up on so I’m not short of things to watch!
  • In the afternoon I’ll carry on with my list if there’s still stuff to do, otherwise I’ll take things a bit slower – do a couple of smaller tasks, maybe something a bit crafty, we’ve starting having movie afternoon’s which has been lovely, especially as my uni work isn’t as much.
  • Then, as a creature of habit, I always make sure dinner is ready for about 6pm – sometimes I have to start cooking at 5pm, sometimes I don’t have to start till 5.45pm.
  • Generally I try to finish my ‘working’ day by the time I start dinner then in evenings I will either play video games with the boyfriend, play Sims 4, maybe I’ll do some writing, I had my first bath in literal years the other night so I went up to bed early and treated myself to a little pamper (the plug mechanism then stopped working and we had to drain it using measuring jugs… but that’s not the point).
  • Then my ‘evening routine’ starts at 9pm, I’ll get ready for bed, do any skincare I can be bothered to do, write in my journal, then read until I fall asleep.

Fairly boring and monotonous but I’m just taking it slow and not putting too much pressure on myself! I’m going to try today to make a proper morning and evening routine list to make skincare more of a proper habit because it feels like I’m treating myself and taking care of myself every day rather than once a month whenever I get round to it.

I really want to make exercise part of my routine too but it feels like a lot right now and I don’t need any extra pressure right now, I’ll do what I can when I feel up to it.

We’re all handling isolation differently and I’m loving seeing peoples routines and updates on Instagram so I thought I’d share mine too! I’m big on routine and like doing things at the same time every day so even though we’re eight weeks in, everything is still changing and adapting. Maybe I’ll end up with a school like timetable every day and that’s what will make me feel best, but I know that my boyfriend doesn’t feel the need for a routine like that so we’ll figure out a balance between us.

I hope you and your family are all happy and healthy, sending all my love in these trying times.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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working out (or not working out?) in quarantine | unfitness update

2020, fitness, lifestyle, mental health

Hello!

Working out at home has never been easier – with all the fitness influencers under the sun doing live workouts on Instagram while gyms and classes and everything is shut, so many apps are doing free trials and everywhere it seems people are posting timelapses of their at-home-yoga routine in their ginormous gardens.

Overall, the pressure to exercise and ‘make the most’ of all these resources and time is very intimidating. Especially if you don’t have a ginormous garden or a yoga mat, let alone motivation, energy and any confidence to post it online for other people to scrutinise and /or feel pressured by.

But there are ways to make exercise feel less intimidating at this time so I think I’d note a few of my ideas to how I’m actually finding the headspace (and the physical space in my little house) to exercise.

Firstly, you don’t have to exercise if you don’t want to – if you’re happy with your health and fitness and have no desire to workout at all, don’t do it. Put your energy into something you’re passionate about! Otherwise you’re just wasting your own time.

Once you have then decided whether you actually want to workout or not, I’d recommend with starting with the goal of exercising just once a week – I feel like everywhere I look someone’s saying 2-3 times a week, 3-4 times a week, every weekday, every day and it all just feels like so much? If you start with once a week and hate it you can stop, if you really enjoy it you can build it up from there. Start gently and do it more regularly if you get into it, try not to put any pressure on yourself.

Personally, I’m someone who works so much better with guidance, so if you can find a live class or a YouTube video, it can feel a lot less intimidating that a list of exercise and number of reps (and it can kind of feel like there’s someone doing it with you?). I started with ‘PE with Joe’ on the Body Coach channel – yes it’s a 9am workout designed for children to still be able to do PE but wow it’s actually a pretty intense hiit workout. The ‘live’ bit makes you feel like you’re being cheered on but the ‘being in your own living room’ bit makes me feel a little bit sneaky when I adapt the exercises for my dodgy joints and bad stamina.

I also use a variety of apps depending on what mood I’m in – some of them are subscription apps but have limited programs available for free and sometimes I just search for things on YouTube but there’s loads of PT style workouts available.

If full on ‘working out’ feels a bit intimidating, or you’re wanting to get fitter but don’t know where to start (or everything feels a bit advanced), going for walks is exercise enough! I moved to an area that has considerably more hills than my hometown and it’s only now that I’m getting to explore it and realising how unfit I am.

I got tagged in this ‘run 5k, donate £5, tag 5 people’ thing on Instagram (thanks Nick) and I went for a 5k walk with my boyfriend. The uphill was hard, we managed to jog for about 2 minutes I reckon, but it was a start. I want to start using couch to 5k again and now we’ve done some exploring I’ve found the place (that’s not quite as hilly!) to do it. It’s all about little steps building up to bigger things!

And lastly, I want to reiterate that if working out feels like a lot of pressure and stress right now, your mental health is more important and making time to centre yourself using apps like headspace is more important than anything else. I don’t want to become the kind of person who preaches about meditating, but taking 10 minutes in the morning to focus on your breath can have a great impact for the rest of the day.

These times are completely unprecedented and the way we all handle isolation, social distancing and lockdown is so personal to each of us. The most important thing is to try and listen to your body and keep yourself happy and healthy.

All my love in these strange, pandemic times!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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curating social media for your mental health

2020, lifestyle, mental health

Hello!

With the current quarantine climate, most of us are spending more time on social media than usual (I know, shocker) and while it can provide immediate, short term distraction from the weight of the world right now, some of the things we see can be hurtful and make us feel worse.

I’m no expert, I’ve only very recently started recognising that some of the negative emotions I’m feeling stem from posts I’m reading on Instagram, but at a time where we’re all seeking comfort in social media more than I ever I think it’s important to at least start, or join, these kinds of discussions and help each other as much as we can.

So firstly, make the most of the unfollow button – if it’s a celebrity who’s started saying things that grind your gears or a friend who makes you feel bad about yourself (inadvertently, I’m sure) make the most of the mute button on Twitter! You can unfollow someone’s Instagram stories without unfollowing their profile – I recently unfollowed a small business owner because whilst I love her artwork, all of her stories were her complaining about how little money she made from her business and driving hits to her website at least three times a day and it made me feel deeply guilty that I couldn’t support her. Part of that emotion is on me for feeling so emotionally responsible, but I recognised that these posts complaining about every aspect of her life were just making me feel bad so I unfollowed her stories and I’ve noticed those feelings disappearing without missing the content of the stories!

Real life is a mixed bag of good and bad and I’m not saying that people should shelter the ‘bad’ stuff from social media, because it’s so normal. But how these things effect you personally isn’t a reflection of the creator and if it’s effecting you negatively, the creator would almost certainly prefer you to unfollow than to be negatively impacted by their content.

Block people if you have to – Twitter has started doing this thing where it shows you tweets other people have liked. Whilst sometimes when it’s just viral tweets of sarcastic self-deprivation or a motivating story about a dog, if you unfollow someone but still follow someone who likes all their tweets, it’s likely they’re still going to be on your timeline. If these are people you actually know then they might notice you’ve blocked them but being honest and saying it’s not personal and it’s not about them is going to be okay if they’re mature enough to start a discussion. Personally, I’ve blocked people on twitter because I follow a circle of YouTube creators that are all friends and I still like a couple of them, but a few of them were annoying me with what they posted so I unfollowed, but because I still follow their friends I see their tweets all the time. But they’re never going to know if I block them! They probably won’t care, but it means I’m protecting myself from seeing the content that upsets me.

I think that was a long winded way of saying block people who’s content you really don’t want to see if unfollowing them doesn’t work.

I’ve blocked Donald Trump on twitter for this precise reason.

It’s also important to consider what you’re posting – it’s so easy to write a sulky instagram story and I know I spent 90% of my teenage years posting to snapchat and instagram stories and twitter silently begging someone to ask if I was okay but in hindsight, all it was doing was pushing people away and making me look like I had literally nothing more to offer than telling the internet how depressed I was.

Now I have better coping mechanisms and a better support network and I realised that I was probably upsetting people with what I post. I used to convince myself that it was to get it out my system, that it was like shouting at a brick wall, but I had to make the time and effort to realise that whilst I convinced myself it was making me feel better, I needed to keep these private emotions to myself and find other ways to ‘get it out of my system’. I highly recommend writing a tweet and deleting it or starting a journal!

One thing I don’t really have a solution for is feeling left out online – at the moment there’s so many tags and challenges on Instagram stories and watching everyone from celebrities to influencers to your friends to your family tagging each other in ‘baby photo’ challenges and ‘run 5k challenges’ and ‘drink a pint’ challenges (heads up: no one cares about your 30 day song challenge), it can feel like everyone’s forgotten about you when no one’s tagging you to do things.

I think the thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter and no one really cares? The Run 5k, Donate £5, Tag 5 people thing is nice (and I don’t really want to be tagged int it) but your first picture as a couple, ‘isolation bingo’ and the ‘What I’m Doing Now’ tag? Is anyone really interested? I definitely never read all the bingo sheets (unless they’re Harry Potter themed).

I guess the message from it all is that in the end, social media doesn’t matter – you could delete every app from your phone and find another way to pass the time that will probably be infinitely better for your mental health (for example, I really want to start gardening!). But it’s not that simple and just because sometime’s we’re negatively influenced by social media doesn’t mean it’s all bad.

Sometimes the unfollow button can feel scary and personal but at the end of the day it’s your feed; make it work for you.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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my COVID-19 ‘bucket’ list

2020, creativity, goals, lifestyle, student

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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

2020, creativity, goals

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A post shared by Sophie (@sophiecountsclouds) on

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

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

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

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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attending my first wedding show!

2020, lifestyle, wedding

Hello!

In my head, I’ve not stopped talking about how my partner and I have decided to get married and we picked a wedding date and we’re kind of engaged but there wasn’t a proposal (yet?) and there’s not ring, but every time I post about it someone new comments saying ‘how did I miss this?!’ so here it is: my boyfriend Lucas and I are engaged. I’m going to make a video talking about ‘how it happened’ and answering any questions about the whole thing this weekend so if you have any questions let me know!

My mum has been super excited about it all ever since I told her and last weekend we went to our first wedding show together – we attended the National Wedding Show in Birmingham and I thought I’d collate a few thoughts on the whole thing because… it was a lot.

The reason we decided to go to a wedding show was because the whole ‘planning a wedding’ thing is very overwhelming – the date we’ve picked isn’t until the end of 2022, but everyone keeps telling me it will fly by but it still feels a very long way away. So going and speaking to lots of exhibitors, seeing what I’d need to be thinking about and getting some inspiration was a really great way to start.

We went into it all with a very open mind – with nothing booked and over two and a half years to go I’m in the very early stages of planning. Most of the venders I spoke to were venues because that’s the first thing that needs to be decided (I think?). Most of the venues we spoke to were surprisingly local for a National wedding event, so they were all based around Birmingham – this isn’t an ‘issue’ per say, as neither of us are dead set on a location, but it did surprise me a little whilst also making a lot of sense. I don’t know if I’m making sense, but after speaking to 10-15 venues and picking up loads of brochures, there are a couple that I really liked the sound of that I would like to consider in the long run.

The most annoying thing about the whole show was that there were loads of music venders that were super loud – they were dotted all around the stalls and it made it really difficult to hear anyone you were trying to talk to. Personally, we thought it would make more sense to have a stage that cycled through all the musical performances as the day went on (like the catwalk show that was going on in the middle of the event) and would have been fairer on the other venders who must have really struggled to get as much business when no one can hear or wants to shout to have a conversation with them.

It might make me sound like a grandma, but it didn’t make me want to work with or hire any of the performers that’s for sure.

On the brighter side, there were so many freebies – from loads of cans of lemon flavoured drinks, make-up and skincare samples, sweets, vouchers and even a bottle of rosé, we definitely made the cost of the ticket back in the free things that were handed out.

Overall, the event was busy, really crammed into an unnecessarily small space (there was another half of the hall that was completely empty at the back?) and I feel like it may have been too early to really make the most of the deal and offers for a 2022 wedding, even though the venders said it wasn’t (though that might have been because they wanted my money).

But we had a lovely day out none the less! Though, in most of this wedding planning process I’ve not decided if ‘we’ is my and my boyfriend (fiancé?) or me and my mum? In this situation is was me and my mum!

I’m actually going to another wedding fair this weekend so hopefully I’ll continue to get more ideas and really figure out all the steps I need to take to plan ‘the big day’.

I don’t plan on going to wedding fairs every weekend between now and 2022, just to clarify, if just happens that these two were consecutive weekends!

I’d love to make lots of wedding planning based content around here, particularly when it gets a bit closer to the day but let me know – do you want to see that kind of content? What planning I’m doing, spreadsheets and lists etc? I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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