easy crafts for beginners (who want to spend more time offline)

2021, crafting

Hello!

After a year of lockdown after lockdown (after lockdown), everyone’s coped in their own way – whether it’s fitness, writing quizzes or a new hobby.

I’ve seen more people learning to craft than I ever would have expected – I’ve found a collection of people who love cross stitch, I’ve seen so many Instagram profiles for new Etsy candle businesses and air dry clay earrings have become surprisingly popular (let’s not talk about the banana bread or the sour dough, okay?).

Crafting is a popular activity for a reason – it’s so broad, it’s so relaxing and it’s a relatively easy way to start a side hustle too. Whether it’s sewing face masks or digital drawings, I’d love to see the statistics on new Etsy shops that have been set up in the last year. I’ve really gotten into crafting myself – cross stitch, knitting, sewing, paper craft, anything I could get my hands on over Christmas! So I thought I’d write a ‘beginner’s guide’ of sorts (as I am still very much a beginner myself) to some of the easiest and cheapest ways to get into different crafting skills and spend less time scrolling twitter.

  • cross stitch

The entire reason I got into cross stitch was due to the little kits available to buy on Hobbycraft – I messed the first one up big time but I found it so therapeutic. Knowing how precise it all is without even trying due to the aida cloth (the one with holes in it!) and how it looks so cute and pretty but really homely – and such a thoughtful gift that shows how much you care!

I also realised cross stitch is like sewing in 8-bit which was really fun.

To start off with, I recommend these little kits from Hobbycraft – they’re really easy to follow and come with really clear instructions (if the link doesn’t work, look for the ‘mini’ cross stitch kits, less than 10cm). I then stepped up to a larger cross stitch kit from Etsy – you can pick any design you like, buying a kit means it comes with all the materials and generally very well laid out instructions, but a bigger project feels more advanced. Then, if you really fancy it you can buy your own aida cloth, a selection of embroidery threads and you can even make your own design on websites like stitchfiddle!

  • knitting

Knitting feels intimidating – the big needles and all the different kinds of stitches – but if you want a soothing, repetitive activity to do while you’re watching some background telly (that doesn’t count as screen time, does it?), then knitting can be just the ticket.

I started by knitting ear savers – my mum sent me the pattern and it was a small little project to get me into knitting. I was watching a new Youtube video for every kind of stitch in the pattern but there are so many brilliant tutorials that I could comfortably knit one ear saver from start to finish in about half an hour (not including sewing on the buttons).

From there, I tried to advance the skill but I found it was just a little bit too stressful and that’s not what I wanted! So I took my needles and a ball of wool (I like to call it a loaf) and just sat and knitted row after row. I find the repetitive motion very soothing and a great relaxing activity for me. If you did want to advance this skill, there are loads of patterns available online and buying wool is definitely something I can see becoming very addictive!

  • sewing

After making the ear savers, I figured it would make sense to try and make the masks to go with them! I lovingly cut up an old duvet into small squares (r.i.p space cats sheets) and found a pattern and I was off! The first pattern wasn’t ideal – it was too big to be an effective face mask and it was a lot of work to sew it by hand. I then bought a kit from Hobbycraft (don’t ask me how much money and time I’ve spent in Hobbycraft in the last year) and I found that pattern was better to use and included the metal nose strips that help your glasses not to fog up (in theory).

I have since found another pattern that uses a rounded shape which is easier to sew and looks better. I was very lucky to get a sewing machine for Christmas (thank you mummy <3) and it’s made the face mask sewing process both quicker and slower – quicker to sew, but slower because I’m learning how to use a sewing machine too! I’m absolutely adoring my sewing machine – I’ve taken in a skirt that was too big for me and I’m hoping to learn to make bunting this month! One day I’ll brave making my own clothes but for now that feels intimidating and fabric is expensive.

  • paper crafts

It sounds silly to include paper crafts on the list, but I made a cotton wool ball snowman at Christmas, a 2021 vision board and some spreads in my bullet journal and rediscovered a primary school-level love for cutting and sticking. It sounds silly, but it brings me joy, so I will talk about it!

This one isn’t quite as much of an offline activity, as for me it started on Pinterest – making a digital board of all the things I wanted to include; the aesthetics, the quotes, whatever you like! I then copy and pasted them into Word (which is probably more hassle than it was worth, but I couldn’t think of an easier way!) and, simple as, cut and stuck them! I have a little collection of scrapbooking bits and bobs that I could use to embellish the pictures – a bit of washi tape, some string and some patterned card to use as backgrounds (though I intend to up my sticker game when the shops reopen). But it’s such a therapeutic activity! Literally just cutting and sticking pictures.

There’s not much of a purpose to it – my 2021 mood board is going to go up in my new office when we move house (I’m getting an office!) and I make little collages at the beginning of each month in my bullet journal but I thoroughly recommend it if you’re feeling a bit fed up – find some pretty pictures, maybe line them up with any goals or resolutions or ambitions you have for yourself and give yourself an afternoon with a cosy movie!


This post is already far too long, but I thoroughly enjoy talking about crafts – I can definitely do more specific posts about cross stitch patterns, learning to use a sewing machine as an absolute beginners and recycling household items in craft projects (water bottles and cereal boxes etc!).

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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how am I? | life update

2021, lifestyle

Hello!

My favourite blog posts to write are the long, stream-of-consciousness ones that I don’t have to think too hard about writing, I just pick a topic and see what happens.

Generally these fall into the category of a ‘life update’ – documenting what’s going on in my life and generally making some sort of statement about mental health and/or body image. But I always feel they are the most genuine of posts because they come from the heart (however cringy that sounds). I love writing more than anything else; I like figuring out the best ways to use my words to say something meaningful, whether that’s a blog post or a story, but I also think connecting with someone else’s words is so much easier when you feel they’re genuine.

I also find writing about myself and my experiences really easy, but let’s not look too far into what that says about my vanity.

Trying to figure out ‘how I am’ is an ongoing question – every day I have video meetings on Google and everyone opens by asking how everyone else is and I always say ‘I’m good! How’re you?’ with a fake enthusiasm that I hate even as it’s coming out of my own mouth. But it’s what everyone says, regardless of how true it is and whenever I think about being more honest, it feels like I’d just be attention seeking because I’m not fitting the ‘social norms’ or saying I’m okay.

To some extent I am good – I’m so lucky to have a job right now so quickly after finishing my masters, I feel incredibly privileged to be in a job where I believe in what I’m doing, everyone is super friendly and I feel like I’m challenging and developing my skills after only a month in the position. I’m so grateful that my line managers trust me and are giving me valuable work where I can see my contribution rather than being treated as ‘the new guy’ and being given little tasks just to keep me busy.

But I am struggling to adapt to full time work – I’m exhausted, I’m still figuring out how to track all the tasks I need to do and whilst everyone I work with is so kind and friendly, I find it harder to engage with them over video calls and I hate trying to make my home space a suitable work environment.

The UK’s Lockdown 3 is definitely having a huge impact on national motivation; everyone is feeling drained, everyone’s tired of the same four walls and ‘daily walk’ has become almost a joke whilst being so many people’s saviours. Even the introverts miss contact, real conversations and physical presence, though I’m sure we’ll go back to craving our alone time as soon as society returns to ‘normal’. If there’s even a normal to return to, but that could be a blog post of its own.

The main way I judge my own ‘mood’ is generally productivity – whenever my mum messages and asks how I’m doing, a good day will usually be a list of everything I’ve achieved whilst a bad day is a day of feeling like I have cotton wool in my head and I stared at a screen without seeing a thing on it.

My time management of still achieving what I want with eight less hours to play with in the day has been challenging, but I’ve recently started a sleep course to help with (shock horror) my sleep and I’m currently in the sleep restriction cycle, so I’m not ‘allowed’ to go to bed before midnight and I have to wake up at 7.15am. Although this is almost certainly contributing to the near-constant feeling of exhaustion, I’ve got far more hours in the day than when I rolled out of bed at 8.50am for my 9am start!

I’m playing Animal Crossing with breakfast and watching Bridgerton whilst I spend my evenings knitting! On the other hand, I feel a lot of pressure to ‘make the most’ of my weekends and often feel so overwhelmed by not wasting the weekend that I don’t do anything. But in a way, that’s not a bad thing.

So in conclusion, I feel the exact same as everyone else – generally I’m okay; I’m grateful for my health and my job and my partner, but lockdown is hard; my mental health isn’t great, I feel physically and emotionally drained and I’m craving ‘normal’ times.

The main thing is I’m reminding myself that it’s okay; I’m okay – my feelings are okay and they’re valid.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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Have yourself a Tier 4 Christmas…

2020, christmas, current affairs

Hello!

After a post about how we’re all facing a different Christmas, the British Government went ahead and put another spanner in the works with six days until Christmas!

I don’t think I can explain the whole tier system to anyone who doesn’t live in the UK, but to summarise; after announcing a relaxation of COVID restrictions for a five day period over Christmas meaning many people could at least see some of their family over the festive period then they announced that many areas in the South East and East Midlands would be going into a new Tier 4, which has the same rules as the national lockdown but on a local level. The relaxed rules now only take place on Christmas Day itself and Tier 4 zones don’t get the relaxed rules and millions of peoples Christmas plans have been completely obliterated with less than a week to go.

From my perspective, most of us that are now in Tier 4 aren’t angry or upset because we don’t think the tier is necessary (I think the lockdown is necessary), but the government’s constant reassuring that we would all be allowed a break over Christmas and then doing a complete 180 so close to the big day. I’m not good at change – we’d just finished planning spending a COVID safe Christmas with our friends and then I was going to see my mum and my sister whilst my fiancé is back at work.

Now we’re having a Christmas just the two of us – which is fine, just unexpected – I can’t go see my family and I’ll be on my own whilst my fiancé still has to go to work in Tier 4 zones because broadcasting sport is so important that my TV engineer boy is now classed as a ‘key worker’ (I feel ridiculous even typing it, it makes me so angry).

When I figured out all the news (which took me too longer of scrolling through articles that were very vague), I was gutted. It was the first time I think I’ve cried over the pandemic. And like I said, not because I don’t think it’s necessary, but just because it came after reassurance it wouldn’t happen then it got worse. The little bit of light I had at not being on my own over Christmas and now I feel extra lonely. I can’t put it into words – it’s fine, I spent time on my own last Christmas and it was quite nice to decompress and take everything, sort everything out and tidy up but for some reason this year the thought of being on my own is terrifying.

Christmas Day will be a case of video calling lots of family, playing with presents like children and probably playing video games with everyone else who can’t see family (we’re knee deep in Among Us at the moment!). It’ll be nice to have time with my partner just us and cooking our own dinner and having our own day, but he’s back at work on the 26th so I’m going to have to plan my day so I don’t get too lonely.

Even though Tier 4 and the limited relaxation over Christmas is so necessary, it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. I’m grateful for my health, my house, my partners work, but I’m still gutted I’m not going to see any of my family and friends over Christmas and give them their presents. I really hope the government can figure out what they’re actually doing and figure out whether they’re trying to save the people or the economy and stick with it.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m cautious of putting too much hope on 2021 – I saw someone tweeting about how we’ve all said 2020 is the worst because we’ve been living in this for 9 months but there’s the potential that we’ll be living through all this for 12 months in 2021. We can hope for the best but simultaneously expect the worst.

Whatever tier you’re in or whatever the rules are wherever you are in the world, I hope you have a safe and happy Christmas if you celebrate it! There will be a bonus blog post on Christmas Day, but otherwise I’ll post again next week!

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

Sophie xx

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life after my masters degree (in a pandemic…)

2020, lifestyle, student

Hello!

I think this might be the first time I’ve intentionally taken a month off blogging since I started in 2014! With my masters degree dissertation deadline looming and the dire state of my mental health (that I feel like I’ve mentioned too many times) I decided to take the pressure off just a little bit by not making myself feel I had to upload for a little bit.

I thought it would be a more difficult habit to break but in all honesty, it was nice to have a break! I’ve come back now excited to write again because I love blogging so much and I’m so ready to get back to what ‘normal life’ feels like for me.

So I finished my masters! I took a one week extension on my deadline because my stress levels were making me physically ill (lol) and it ended up that everything fell on November 5th – my dissertation deadline, a second national lockdown in the UK and my fiancé and I celebrated out 5th anniversary! I cannot believe it’s been five years but it also started the countdown of 2 years till we get married which is exciting. Our wedding contract confirmation from our venue came through the letterbox on that day too which felt very significant!

I spent most of the day formatting and double checking my essay and waiting for massive media files to upload so we didn’t get to celebrate too much, but we ordered Chinese just like we did on our first date and the next day we spent two hours together building Lego Hedwig which he’d picked up for 99p in Game a few weeks ago (it retails at £35!) which had mechanical flapping wings!

It may have come with a very simple instruction book that was over 100 pages long but we felt much cleverer than we are to have made something out of Lego that moves!

It was a great way to start life after masters. In the few days it’s been I’ve mostly been playing the new Pokemon Sword DLC The Crown Tundra with my Pokemon obsessed fiancé and doing all the little bits and bobs round the house I’ve been ignoring to give my little mental energy to my degree. The house is tidier than it’s been for months, everything is clean and I feel refreshed despite it being grey and rainy outside (though I’m loving snuggling up with my blankets inside).

Looking ahead, I don’t know what’s next. If the world wasn’t in a pandemic, I’d definitely be looking to get a job as soon as possible but 1) I imagine a lot of companies that would usually hire graduates aren’t hiring because they have to prioritise paying the staff they have and 2) I’m exhausted from this year. Finishing a dissertation in any situation is a huge mental and emotional toll but doing it when the world is upside down, the US election was taking days and my fiancé is still driving all around the country in high risk zones for work, I’m absolutely shattered and need to take this time to be gentle with myself.

Whilst I’m still recovering and trying to figure my body out, I don’t know what the future holds, which probably doesn’t help my mental health but I need to rest – this year has had a toll on everyone and everyone is handling it in their own way, I just need to find mine.

I am still looking for jobs, because I can’t rely on my fiancé’s income to pay for everything, we have a wedding to save for and I want to start my career! Most of the people I finished my undergrad degree with are two years into their careers and I feel like I’m a little late to finding my footing in the professional world (not that I am, there’s no one timeline). But I’m not going to spend all day every day looking for jobs when I know what a negative toll so many rejection emails had on me two years ago.

So right now? Life is very slow, I’m focusing on making myself a routine and taking care of myself because I’ve been ill for nearly three months now and I have to change something, because I never want to feel like this again.

I don’t know when I’ll get my degree results, I don’t even know if I’ll still be able to attend graduation in 2021 with the state of the pandemic, but I’m grateful to have finished my degree, I’m grateful to have a roof over my head and a partner who makes me feel like a million bucks, I’m grateful to have friends and family to turn to when I feel lonely and I’m grateful to have my health, whatever state it’s in, in a world where nothing is certain anymore.

Things are scary and uncertain, but the year is almost up, I’m seeing Christmas joy everywhere I look and there is hope for the future with the new President-Elect of the US – things will get better, just one step at a time, no matter how small.

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

Sophie xx

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mental health in a pandemic – 6 months on

2020, mental health

Hello!

Writing about mental health is always incredibly subjective – there’s such a broad spectrum of symptoms and each person who lives with mental illness handles it in incredibly different ways that often contradict each other, so bear in mind that when I write about mental health I’m writing about my experiences of mental health and cannot speak on behalf of anyone else.

Lockdown has been a ride, hasn’t it? In the UK more and more places are going into local lockdown, thousands of new cases are being diagnosed every day and ‘young people’ are getting the blame for eating out to help out, going back to work and supporting the economy. Amongst so much uncertainty, it’s not surprise that the anxiety that craves control is going haywire.

At the beginning of lockdown, personally I flourished – all of my uni assignments got pushed back and adjusted so I had plenty of time to work on them, my boyfriend was home from work for the longest time since he started and I felt so in control of everything that was going on.

Then the first ‘three weeks’ of lockdown turned into months, I had less assignments to work on and the ones that were left feel big and intimidating and overwhelming, my boyfriend being home meant that he just played video games all day and gazing out the window felt too much like wishing for a life we couldn’t have anymore.

Normal has changed. The uncertainty of not knowing what ‘normal’ is anymore is the worst feeling. And we have no idea how life could ever get back to a ‘normal’ where we don’t wear masks and we don’t sanitise at every opportunity and glare at people who don’t understand the concept of 2m apart or following arrows on the floor in public places, especially in a world where there are people who ‘don’t believe’ in vaccines (which will never cease to baffle me); ‘normal’ feels like a very far away concept.

On the surface, I’m doing okay – my boyfriend (fiancé? He’s put a ring on it now so I should really get used to calling him that) has gone back to work and whilst at first I was nervous to be on my own, I now make the most of being as productive as I can whilst I don’t have the background noise of video game commentary and too many 5 minute crafts videos (he has an obsession). But underneath, I’ve been getting these ‘nausea attacks’ (I don’t know how else to describe them) and there’s this tight feeling in my stomach and I don’t know if it’s anxiety or a bug or a new intolerance and it keeps me up at night and wakes me up at ridiculous times in the morning. I’ve had more panic attacks in these moments in the last few weeks than I’ve ever experienced in such a short time frame before and it’s really hard, to be honest.

But assuming it is subconscious anxiety and not anything physical, I’m doing all I can to keep my mind occupied – I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental music to fill in the silence without distracting me from whatever I need to be focusing on, I’ve been making more of an effort to meditate using the Headspace app and trying to make a sense of routine with my daily to do lists and regular meal times.

With no end in sight to this pandemic and a looming second wave in the UK, coping mechanisms are always changing and however much it goes against everything I know, we just have to ride the wave. The waves are going to wash over us anyway, resisting them won’t change the tide.

Well that was potentially a bit deep for a random Tuesday in September, but I’m a bit pretentious like that – I love a water related motivational quote!

Whether or not you suffer with mental illness, living through a pandemic that has touched every single one of our lives was never going to be easy. I hope that you are feeling okay, because okay is enough! It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s okay to just be okay too.

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

Sophie xx

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using my bullet journal to create routine

2020, mental health, organisation

Hello!

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

Do I sound like a melodramatic Buzzfeed article or what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophie xx

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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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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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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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Treasured In… June

2020, books, film

Hello!

I was so excited about June because it started on a Monday and now it’s… gone? I feel like there’s only so many posts I can count how many full months of lockdown we’ve had but June marks three complete months (plus a couple of weeks) under lockdown restrictions. It just feels so mad to think about – especially having reviewed my yearly goals and thinking about how that version of me had absolutely no idea what was coming… It gets a bit much to think about sometimes!

Regardless, the month is drawing to a close to here are the things I’ve been loving this month.


blog post:

With the rapid changes in the weather, lockdown effecting my mental health and trying to make some progress on my masters dissertation, making the effort to find new blogs to read and engage with wasn’t a priority.

I was super excited to read a post from Hannah Gale announcing her second pregnancy, but it wasn’t long after that she decided to step back from the internet and her Instagram has been closed, her blog deactivated and nothing left behind. I’m genuinely gutted to see such a wonderfully genuine creator feel bullied off their platform and hope that Hannah finds happiness in whatever comes next for her.

recipe:

With the weather getting hotter and inclination to put any effort into cooking getting less and less, my partner and I are doing everything we can to cook good food in as little time as possible.

We intended to make a bruschetta inspired pasta bake with plum tomatoes, red onion, pesto, garlic and cheese but opened our jar of pesto to see… it wasn’t okay. So instead we mixed it all together with half a tub of garlic and herb cream cheese and a generous handful of grated cheddar and mozzarella and accidentally created the most amazing pasta bake? 

The cream cheese mixed with the grated cheese made the most lovely sauce, the cream cheese mixed with the tomatoes to give it an almost passata taste, it had vegetables in it, we didn’t need to ‘bake’ it like a normal pasta bake, we just served it up with some garlic bread and it was glorious. It’s now a weekly staple and I’m hungry just thinking about it!

online course:

With working on an essay for uni, although I really wanted to start learning how to use a software called Unity to make vide games, I just didn’t have the brain space to read academic literature for an essay as well as try to teach myself complicated game mechanics. I managed to watch a few beginner videos on the Unity YouTube page but no major progress here this month.

song:

Not a new song as much as a new playlist – my boyfriend and I are driving up to see my family at the beginning of July and then driving on for a ‘social bubble’ getaway with my dad so we made our perfect road trip playlist.

We’re saving the first full listen for the journey in July but I am pumped about it, not only because it’s all our favourite tunes but because I miss driving so much and cannot wait for a road trip.

youtube video:

My boyfriend and I have very different tastes in YouTube and where in ‘normal’ life he works away about half the week, I normally keep quite on top of my ‘watch later’ playlist. But he’s been home for 15 weeks and my playlist is up to over 350 videos from the best part of two months ago, so I’m not up to date at all.

However this video from RawBeautyKristi announcing her pregnancy after 15 years of trying was absolutely heartwarming and I’m welling up just thinking about it – Kristi’s one of those creators that I’ve known about but haven’t subscribed to but I watched this and couldn’t not. So excited to see her journey through this progress and 100% recommend the video if you need to see some pure happiness or maybe have a little cry.

loved this acoustic version of my favourite song from All Time Low’s newest album Wake Up Sunshine – I suppose this technically counts as music but it’s on YouTube not Spotify so here it is.

And a little bit of self promo – June 23rd marks one year since I shaved my head and I’ve been filming a One Second Everyday video which I’ve now shared! I’ve been planning this video for a while and I’m really pleased with how it came out so if you’ve got 5 minutes and want to give it a watch, I’d really appreciate it!

books:

I genuinely thought June might be the month where I only read one book but now I’m on my fourth book so back on track!

Carry On (Rainbow Rowell) – this book is essentially the fanfiction/fake Harry Potter story described in ‘Fangirl’ (my favourite book of all time) but I was really disappointed in it. The first 200 pages were so slow that I actively avoided reading it, then the plot started to get good and it was really high paced and interested, then a romance plot came out of nowhere and felt really out of character for the characters as they’d been throughout the rest of the book. The ending felt really inconclusive with so many loose ends not tied up and I just felt really dissatisfied finishing it. It’s one for the donate pile unfortunately!

The Man Who Didn’t Call (Rosie Walsh) – I was pleasantly surprised by this book – I picked up 3 for £5 in The Works the week before lockdown hit and I thought it would be a light bit of chick lit to break up the high fantasy and sci-fi books I have. I thought it would be all about some asshole man and girl power or it would be a mystery where he was chronically ill or had a family and kids but wow the twist was one I did not see coming and it was just lovely. It had a very David Nicholls ‘One Day’ feel in it’s English romance style and I genuinely enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would.

Love At First Like (Hannah Orenstein) – book 2 in the 3 for £5 and another one that I thought would be super cringey chick lit about someone who cares about social media and winds herself up in lies and breaking peoples hearts. It wasn’t anywhere near as cringey as I thought it would be, it was so much more heartfelt and the characters felt so real. The ending was the sweetest and it was so interesting to read a book so up to date on social media, interesting to think about re-reading it in a few years and whether it will feel so modern then!

Currently reading: Our Child of the Stars (Stephen Cox) – and the trilogy of 3 for £5 comes to it’s conclusion! Again one that I didn’t expect at all – I thought it would be about a couple who couldn’t have kids adopting a little boy and navigating life as a new family of three, but wow I miss the quotes on the back that described it as a sci-fi book. There’s aliens, there’s secrets, there’s conspiracies, but it has the heart and soul of family too – I’m about 70% through and hope to finish it before the end of the month so keep an eye on my Instagram for a full review!

snack:

I’ve really been trying not to snack as much at the moment to the degree that we don’t really have that much in the house!

I had a craving for microwave smores (two chocolate digestives with a marshmallow in the middle in the microwave for 10 seconds, it’s glorious) but then I needed comfort food and the digestives and marshmallows were finished.

In less ‘comfort’ food and more ‘trying to be healthy’ I bought a melon mix from Asda on one of our weekly shops and that was so nice! I want to try buying a honeydew melon and preparing it myself but so far it’s got as far as buying a melon then ignoring it in the fridge for a week and reluctantly throwing it away because I feel guilty I’ve wasted it. I’ll let you know if I make any melon progress in July!

tv/film/streaming thing:

Other than nearly finishing Kim Possible on Disney+, the only other thing I’ve watched this month is the live action Dora the Explorer movie and much like all the books I read – I was so surprised by it.

I thought it might be trying to make Dora a ‘grown up’ character and take itself to seriously but the film opens with a take on recreating the title sequence from the kids TV show and the whole thing is like a massive meta joke and it was actually really good? I’ve kind of not been able to stop thinking about it – it was super fun, surprisingly funny and Boots the Monkey was the best character.

wedding planning update:

I emailed the venue! The venue got back to me and they’re reopening in July so we’re just trying to arrange a time to go and visit to see it and then potentially booking it, which feels mad to be doing over two years in advance and it makes me feel a bit nervous that suddenly it’s all very real, but also really exciting!


This turned out to be longer than I expected but a post full of things I’ve enjoyed this month is a pretty good one to accidentally ramble about!

July is looking like it’s going to be much busier – my boyfriend is going back to work, restrictions are easing in the UK and personally I’m scared of a second wave, but trying to take each day as it comes and get used to live going back to ‘normal’ a bit more.

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

Sophie xx

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