writing dates: does it help or hinder?

February was one of those head-down-get-on-with-it kind of months (as well as lets-hit-Sophie-with-the-flu-just-when-she-doesn’t-need-it.) With just shy of 15,000 words due, I was trying to save every ounce of energy up to write my essays, and assignments. But when you can’t even think straight and spend most of the day coughing (my whole January was more like dry cough January than dry January) it’s difficult to get much done.

Cue a lot of writing dates with other writers/peers/anyone who would take me up on my offer of free flowing tea and biscuits, in the hope of it being inspiring and actually making me do some work.

But did it really help?

Here are the things I noticed happening to my work/me:

1. It got competitive

I’m not a hugely competitive person *flips the board of monopoly if she doesn’t get Mayfair* but there’s something about people sitting around laptops, typing endlessly which gets incredibly competitive. Now, this in theory is great, it means that you’re in competition to write the most and do the most work. But actually, what comes out of this (unless you’re a Sara Barnard level A+writer) is a very very very first draft which makes no sense. Yes I managed to write lots, but it wasn’t necessarily good stuff and needed lots of editing when I managed to escape back under the blankets with a cuppa.

2. It can be the world’s best procrastination

So you’re sat with your laptop, you’ve got a brew and you’re ready to get cracking on your next chapter. WRONG. Instead, you end up listening to your friends detail the whole night out that you missed in the classic debrief. You get way too into it, completely forget the reason you’re there, and suddenly you’re watching videos of cute goats on YouTube? (please tell me I’m not the only one?) Three hours later and you’ve exhausted yourself to the point of no work, so you turn to Netflix and drown your sorrows in tea, saying ‘It’s okay, I’ll do it tomorrow…’ even if tomorrow is the deadline.

3. It can be very distracting

This is especially the case if you’re all working on the same assignment. Or even if you’re all trying to do the same kind of thing. When it comes to writing, a lot of research is involved, especially if it’s high fantasy or historical, or you need to be factually correct with characters etc. This is all good and well until someone whips out a truck load of information which is then put on you because you just need to know it too. I think I’ve learnt more from my peers who have been researching for their books than I ever did when it came to researching for my own things. And then there’s the breaks. If someone pops to the loo, makes a drink, or declares lunchtime, it only seems fitting to take a break too. Even if you’ve only written the title.

4. It’s an emotional battle

Just like reading a book, there’s a definite emotional rollercoaster that comes with writing dates. I don’t know whether it’s having someone you can complain to/talk things through with, or whether it’s just because it can be really hard, but writing dates often turn into therapy sessions punctuated with ‘you can do this’ and ‘just focus on writing this chapter’ which is all good and well if you have an idea you believe in. This is when those extra biscuits you brought (just in case) make their way out whilst you shut down all your word documents and cry internally over the fact you’re never going to get published. You then have to sit there whilst the other people, who are still tapping away on their keyboards, continue to casually mosey on through the brick wall ahead. Total writing torture.

5. Everything takes time

When initially planning the date, you have to bear in mind that at least 70% of it will be spent making tea, talking, scrolling through your phone, eating, giggling, watching funny videos, etc. So you only ever really get 30% maximum done. This is something you should take into account when planning when to meet and where. If you meet before lunch, you may be more productive in the morning but end up having more breaks. If you meet after lunch you might have passed the most productive part of your day. It’s a battle you sometimes just can’t win. I try and meet up as early as possible because then at least I’ve given myself the whole day to procrastinate. And even if I don’t manage the target of words I set (or even half of them) I know that it’s more than I would have done anyway.

Let me know if you have any tips on writing in a group, and whether there are any ways it helps you/any suggestions to make it work better!

love sophie

social sundays: the importance of getting out and about when writing

I left the house on Sunday for what felt like the first time in months. (Am I the only one who thinks January is dragging?!) I got the bus (having sucked it up and hoped that because it was a Sunday, I wouldn’t be bashed about) and met up with a friend from uni who I haven’t seen since we both graduated in July – too long!

It was super nice to just get out of the house for a few hours and spend some time in someone else’s company. (It’s amazing how solitary writing can be, and how long you can go without speaking to anyone in person or on the phone.)

We went to Velo Lounge, an old favourite from our student-ville days when it was just a short walk away. We sipped our way through large and small pots of tea, and chatted about life, our jobs, our houses (so adult) before laughing over old videos from our student days (which was incredibly amusing – it’s crazy to see how much we’ve changed in three years!)

It did wonders to be in a different place, out of the house, and in the fresh air. All too often (especially when those pesky deadlines come looming) I’ll barricade myself at the writing desk until they’re all done. It doesn’t help, in fact if anything it makes it 1000x worse. But the thought of being in front of the laptop and fully immersed in it makes me think I’ll actually write.

That’s until I actually leave my room and forget about what I’m writing for a bit. Then it all just flows out of my brain like it’s been scripted. (I know this, so I know I should leave my desk but sometimes it’s just too stressful to step away.) I always take a pen and notebook with me, and I have one in the car for when I’m driving around for inspiration which is actually very very full (night time driving is the cure of the supposed writers block for me). I also use my phone a lot to jot things down, even if it’s just a conversation I hear, or a description of what someone is wearing (a bit weird but I’m a writer so I have an excuse.)

Anyway, after we’d drunk buckets of tea and chatted for several hours, we said our goodbyes and I was automatically inspired to write. AMAZING!

I have to grab moments like these and run with them because they don’t often stay for long. I managed to write a lot of words which was great, but more importantly I got to use what I’d written in my journal that day of all the things I’d seen and done.

I even used things we’d talked about over lunch when looking at my character arcs.

It’s amazing how much can come out of one adventure away from the writing desk.

I’ve been keeping up with my morning pages which has been going really well this month, so it’s nice to get the opportunity to expand and develop little ideas that have been niggling their way to the front of my brain.

Safe to say it’s had a domino effect and I’ve been out of the house everyday since Sunday too (it was only one day but it still counts.) Yesterday I went along to rugby training (which I really didn’t feel up to but I’m so glad I did) and the same thing happened. I came home and wrote words. Actual, proper words that make sense when joined together.

For anyone else struggling with the inevitable block, put your shoes on, grab a brolly and go and take on the outdoors. It doesn’t have to be loads, it could just be a walk around the garden or a trip to the postbox down the street. Take some time away from your writing and it might just catch right up with you.

Let me know if you have any luck!

love sophie

lactose free loves: vegan burgers

I was sous chef for Chris at our post-Christmas family get together in December (I chopped tomatoes and buttered the bread) and he made the easiest (and tastiest) burgers in the world. It’s a really great and filling recipe for anyone who is vegetarian or anyone trying out veganuary. It’s also a cheap meal so good for students (it’s made up from easy kitchen staples too so no doubt you have some of the ingredients in the cupboard already so don’t need to venture to the shops.

I couldn’t quite remember the recipe so I’ve given it a go from memory. And it worked!

So this is what you need:

Ingredients:

2 chillies

1 onion

1 tin of chickpeas (drained)

half a punnet of mushrooms

salt and pepper

Optional to serve:

4 bread buns

salad leaves

gherkins and tomatoes (sliced)

 

method:

1.Slice the mushrooms and onion. Fry the onion on a medium heat until it’s soft. Add the mushroom slices and fry until they’re soft too. Put the oven on to 180 degrees.

2. Chop the chillies (you can use as little/many as you’d like) and add them to the pan.

3. Open the chickpeas and drain them, before putting them in a bowl. With a fork, mash the chickpeas until they’re all squashed. Add them to the pan and stir into the mushroom, onion and chilli, adding salt/pepper to taste.

4. Once it’s all mixed together, take off the heat and leave to cool. In this time, slice the tomatoes and gherkin (optional) and add any sauces to the bread buns.

5. Once the mix has cooled, ball the mixture up with your hands and place on a oiled baking tray. Pat them down into burger shapes. Once you’ve used up all the mixture, put them in the oven for 15 minutes (or until cooked).

6. place onto the bun and top with salad, tomatoes and gherkin. And enjoy!

 

I don’t think mine were as good as Chris’ (I could have cooked them in the oven for longer but I was starving so indulged too soon…) but the recipe was super quick and easy and I was able to do some work whilst they were cooking in the oven. Win win.

They’re so easy to make and require minimal effort (which is great for a busy day). You can alter the mix if you don’t like chillies, or add different sides too. I think they’d be lovely with sweet potato fries and homemade guacamole. And you can ditch the bread bun if you’re not keen. Make them your own.

Let me know what you think!

love sophie

i canuary

I had one of those ‘head in hands’ moments this week.

It’s January, which means I’m tired, broke, deadlines are looming, and all I want to do is eat the treats I got for Christmas (those that made it this far…) and snuggle up in bed with an extra large cup of tea.

But, I’ve got a Master’s to finish, and a novel which needs editing.

My mind is also away with the fairies so I’ve been trying some different ways to get my mind back on track to what I’m actually supposed to be doing… and telling myself that I’ve got this. Because sometimes life is just a little bit overwhelming.

Anyone who knows me will know I’m a list queen. I like everything written out (a million times) so that I can see it and know what I have to do and when I need to do it. So, in the amongst the essay writing, I made a couple of lists to lull me out of my stress-head state. And, although some of them got my mind wandering off piste, (I am also the queen of procrastination) I was able to get on with my reading and managed to make lots of notes which I am going to magic up into the essay.

Here are a few examples of lists I’ve made when I’ve been super stressed…

  • Blog post ideas (because blogging counts as productive procrastination)
  • Best bits of the year (this could be what you enjoyed most about last year or what you’re looking forward to this year)
  • Bucket List (of places I want to go to/things I want to see etc.)
  • Book list (books I want to read this month/year)
  • Inspiration List (people/things/ideas that inspire me – Pinterest is great for this)
  • What I’m grateful for (a nice way of reflecting on something you already have)
  • My five year plan (enough to scare anyone back into an essay)
  • A shopping list (of things I can’t actually afford)
  • Meal plan for the week (especially good for anyone doing veganuary etc.)
  • Words of wisdom (for when life really does get tough)
  • Songs to listen to (usually whilst writing/working)
  • My to do list (always include a couple of things you’ve already done and tick them off so you don’t stress out even more)

So they are all just ideas which have helped me to get my mind back. Sometimes when I’m stressed I get so wound up with myself that if I don’t take five minutes out I want to give up.

These lists are a good way of bringing you back from stress island and hopefully will help you as much as they’ve helped me.

(They’re nice things to do anyway if you get the chance. It’s often quite nice to just reflect on what you’ve done/are going to do.)

Let me know what you think!

love sophie

 

 

 

 

 

the morning pages

It’s January so I’ve decided, in the spirit of a fresh year, to rekindle my love for the morning pages.

The idea of the morning pages is that you write three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. Everyday.

I use it as a tool to develop ideas about my plot or about my characters and the novel’s development. The purpose is to bring about ideas, give you a clearer mind about your plan, and relieve any anxieties you may have.

Now, you don’t have to use all of it. It could all be crap. But the point is that you get in the routine of writing daily, getting your worries out onto the page first thing so that you can move past them and spend the day writing creatively. It can be whatever you make of it.

If you’re not a writer, or don’t want a novel at the end of it, then simply use it as a tool to de-stress from life. You could wake up after the most vivid dream and decide to write it down, or use it to plan out what you’re going to do with your week. Or, you can just use it as a tool to create a diary.

What I love about the idea of the morning pages is the freedom that comes with it. All it requires is fifteen minutes (or so) a day which can be built up or continued if you’d like. It is such a simple way of writing each day, whether it is a diary, a blog, or a novel, you’ll have a book full of your year at the end of it.

I love that you can use it for absolutely anything. One day you could have a chapter from a novel, the next you could include a crazy dream or a recipe, or a list of hopes for the week/month/year.

It’s flexibility means you can take it with you on the go, so that wherever you are you can get it out and add to it for that day.

Journaling is something I find really therapeutic. I am definitely someone who likes to see things written down and find it easier to then continue with whatever I have to do. It’s as if I have to empty my head before I can refill it with the next day. So, for me, this is such an easy way of doing that whilst also helping me with develop my novel.

Some of the snippets I wrote in it last year (in fact most of them) have either been edited into my novel, or have inspired scenes and characters.

So, if you’re like me and get quite overwhelmed if everything’s running circles in your head, why not try it out. For me, I have to put pen to paper, but a laptop works just the same. Grab a notepad or a blank word document and write away.

Hopefully it leaves you feeling assured and organised about what you’re writing/what you’re doing/where you’re at with everything.

If anything, it’s a chance to take fifteen minutes away from the day, with a brew, to just sit quietly, reflect and think.

Let me know how you find it!

love sophie

creative writing vs. essay writing: help

As an author of children’s fiction, and a Masters student, I have to write creatively, as well as formally in essays *cue meltdown.*

Now, I absolutely hate writing essays because I can never get a formal voice going, and I often repeat myself and word vomit all over the page (yes, that is a thing).

Children’s fiction, however, comes out of me wrapped in a bow (although it takes me a while to think up ideas sometimes, when I’ve got one I can run with it.)

So how do I manage to bridge the gap when asked to write essays for my course? Well… the truth is I find it incredibly difficult to channel my inner English Lit girl who quotes amazing works, and actually I resemble something along the lines of my teenage  characters. I usually give up too (and if you know me, I’m no quitter) and spend my day procrastinating, normally drowning in rooibos tea to make up for how I feel.

BUT

New year new me (and all that rubbish) so here I am, fighting fit, ready to take on the essay which I’ve had planned for months (with a fresh pot of tea for support.)

So here is how I plan on defeating it: (if you’re in a similar situation, I hope it helps)

Step 1: Plan plan plan…

I’m not a big planner when it comes to my creative work, I usually just write and see where I end up. But, when it comes to essays, that isn’t an option. Otherwise it just ends in waffle (and not the tasty kind.)

I start off by structuring the essay and working out how it is going to flow, and deciding which points link best. (This takes a couple of days in itself so almost counts as procrastination.)

I think of it like my novel. The book has to flow and make sense to the reader; there can be no room for misinterpretation. This is the same for my essay.

Start by plotting a brief structure, including an introduction, first point, second point, third point, and then conclusion. (Obviously you can tailor this to however many points you have.)

One of the best things I do (or try to do) is make a tick list of the mark scheme and definite things you have to include. Once you’ve finished the essay you can look back on it and see if there’s anything you’ve missed.

Step 2: Bulk it out. (P)

So you’ve got your plan, and now you’re ready to put points onto paper and give yourself proper words to work with.

Start by writing out all your points onto separate pieces of paper, that way you can move them and change the order to get the most formulaic structure. You only need to begin with bullet points.

Once you know your points, and after researching enough to build them up, seeing them on paper makes it easier to put the pieces of the jigsaw together.

Step 3: Get back up. (E)

You’ve got your point, now you need to back it up with evidence. Get out your books (read them) and pick out some quotes that support what you’re trying to say. Search the internet for journals, articles, anything. The more varied the support, the better the grade (hopefully.)

Don’t just pick things because you think they kind of link, pick them because they support your point fully. If you find any that oppose your point, pick them out too. It’s always good to be able to have a counter argument.

Step 4: Why? (E)

Explain to the reader (or the marker) why this quote or research in particular helps to strengthen your argument. What does it say that helps? What specifically is it doing to the point you’re making?

If you can’t explain this, you might need a stronger quote.

Step 5: Link it up. (L)

Connect the point to the next point you’re making/a counter argument. Use further evidence, just be careful not to repeat yourself. Also this is a good chance to make sure you’re properly answering the question in each point. It doesn’t have to be explicit, but make sure you’ve done what you set out to. Conclude in your last paragraph and go back to your introduction. The essay may have changed slightly since you started it so check it all fits together.

Step 5: Reread.

Just like when writing creatively, one of the most helpful things I find is rereading the work aloud. This shows you if there are any jarring bits for the reader, and whether the piece flows well. Make sure you’ve done what you set out to do and argued or explained all the points you’ve made with enough evidence.

 

By using the PEEL paragraphs you’ll be able to incorporate all aspects of the point to recoup the most marks. Obviously, all essays are different and all have different mark schemes so do take this with a pinch of salt. I’m aware this might work for one, and not another. But hopefully you can take the main ideas away from it, even if it’s just with planning.

One of my major faults is that I try and write too eloquently in essays, so much that it doesn’t actually make sense. Don’t do this. The best thing to do is to write the points out (even just in bullet points), finish the essay steps and then come back to look at wording in a draft where you can flesh it all out.

Getting words on the page is always the hardest part so by drafting it out, in a more relaxed way like this, can really help to take the pressure off. It also allows for lots of breaks in between points to refill your tea.

I hope you find this helpful, and if you have any top tips to help me write my essay, or that you think might help others, post them below.

Now, back to the essay…

love sophie

new year, new pitch

Our annual new year’s day football fixture was turned on it’s head this year when we arrived to find the pitch waterlogged. Seems more convincing when you find out the pitch is actually a beach. *cue a sigh of relief from possibly hungover players*

I always say that my favourite day of the year is new year’s day. We’ve done the same thing every year, with the same people, and it has become a tradition. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like (we play in the toughest conditions) or whether we’re a couple of men down, we always have a highly competitive game of football on the beach each year.

Today, however, the tide was in, so we moved our pitch to a patch of grass near the park above the beach.

I watched on from the injury bench, laughing when the muddy ground (less waterlogged than the usual pitch) pulled down another victim. At one point the pitch was moved because the bog became so slippy. The rules were even adapted so that running wasn’t allowed, making for great entertainment.

We have some rather competitive players so selection is serious. It was actually very amusing watching from the sidelines for a change as the captains chose their teams.

Once the game is over (and we’ve changed out of our muddy/sandy clothes) we head on to the amusements. (Old school but I absolutely love them.)

Dad will send us in with one pound each and we will have the most fun. We can be in there for ages.

I’m absolutely rubbish at the machines, and have never won anything (I like the ones where you roll the 2ps down either side, not the ones that drop from the slots at the top).

This year, after changing my pound into 2ps, I had a scour around (you’ll be surprised at how many 2ps drop out of the machines when no one is using them) before sourcing what I thought looked like a good machine.

*The characteristics of a good machine include a rather large coating of coppers (preferably teetering over the edge), a reasonable prize or two, (things like magnets or keychains are among the usual tat), and a fully stocked back shelf.*

Now, people don’t always think about looking at the back shelf (the one that moves) but if it’s empty, you’ll use most of your 2ps patching it up before you can actually get started.

So, picture this: I’ve had a walk round, picked my machine, popped in a 2p, and out comes a sea of coppers along with a pencil topper. Success! The girl who never wins, has won!

I rinsed the machine dry of the nearest coppers and took off in search of another, quite confident in my new ability.

I found Chris, who’d been feeding one of the machines, and donated my remaining 2ps in the hope of having another win. The shelf had three magnets on, one very close to the edge and two just behind. After a couple of minutes, the first magnet was down. Cue a replenishment of pennies and a couple of random 2ps falling from the machine. We then succeeded in winning a second (to the amusement of our families who had now crowded around the machine to watch.)

Although we attempted to try for the third, the machine was exhausted so we cut our losses and left with just two. Between eleven of us, we managed to win five different things which I was quite impressed by.

Stomachs rumbling, we went for our fish and chips (the best time of day), amusing the waiters with our order, and rinsing them dry of tea (as usual.)

After a natter, new dates put in the diaries, and final sips of tea, we headed back to the car park, saying our goodbyes before getting into our cars and driving home. (If we’re lucky, we catch a few Zs whilst Mum drives.)

 

There’s a phrase: start the year as you mean to go on.

I definitely believe in it.

love sophie

 

 

 

top titles of 2017

And that’s a wrap on 2017. So here’s my top ten books of 2017 that I’ve enjoyed reading over the year (some more than once.)

There’s some I always go back to, some I’ve read as a proof edition and cannot wait to be published, and some I’ve just stumbled across and absolutely loved.

1.Sophie Kinsella – Finding Audrey

2. Sara Bernard – Beautiful Broken Things

A stunning debut from my fave bae. Barnard writes so beautifully and the emotions in the book, although quite dark and mystical at times, are stunning. A Quiet Kind Of Thunder is another of hers I love.

3. Jennifer Niven – Holding Up The Universe

A great example of contemporary YA. Niven’s style is original and makes for light hearted, easy reading with all the juicy bits plugged in for good measure. All The Bright Places is another filled with goodness.

4. Jandy Nelson – The Sky Is Everywhere

The most beautiful title for the most beautiful book. I almost wish I was a character. A hopeful spin on teenage life that is relatable and current.

5. Nicola Yoon – Everything, Everything

I finished this book sat outside the Louvre fountains. What a wonderful place to end a wonderful story. I was so attached to the characters and empathised with Maddy the whole way through the book. (Read it before you watch it!)

6. Graeme Simsion – The Rosie Project/The Rosie Effect

An incredible portrayal of ability. If you’re a reader, go and read it because it is written so well. As I read it I continued to be amazed by the fascinating characterisations. A very good role model for writers.

7. Jojo Moyes – Me Before You/After You

Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. Moyes is the god of writing emotive and colourful books which ooze energy and a lot of love. Oh how I hope I’m half as good as her! I hope I find my Will Traynor one day.

8. Sara Barnard – Goodbye, Perfect (proof)

Barnard is back. And what a book. The excitement of it being a proof makes the reading experience even better. I absolutely love her style and she has YA down to a tee! I’m excited for this to be published in January so I can hear what you all think of it!

9. Giovanna Fletcher – Some Kind Of Wonderful

I thoroughly enjoyed worming my way through this book. It put a whole new spin on relationships and took the pressure of being in one away from the main plot, focusing instead on what we each want as individuals. I took a lot from it, amongst many things was the desire to find myself and do things for me before getting tied up. A really lovely, honest spin on romance.

10. Roald Dahl – The BFG

I couldn’t write this without including my favourite children’s book. I reread it again this year in preparation for my MA applications. I included it in my personal statement as well as in interviews.

I just love Roald Dahl. What a hilariously imaginative writer. I absolutely loved reading him as a child and know that he definitely inspired me to want to write. He does humour, friendships, and family, along with a few odd quirks for good measure. What a man. What a writer.

 

I hope you enjoyed my top ten. It’s difficult to cut it down to so little when I’ve read so many, but I’ve enjoyed looking back over the year and reflecting on which I enjoyed. Writers read. If they don’t, they’re doing themselves an injustice. I learnt a lot from all of the books on this list, and will continue learning from all the books on my reading list.

love sophie

soundtrack series: december

December is such a throwback month for music, dusting off cobwebs from some Christmas favourites I wish could be played all year.

Compiling a list of my favourite songs this month was so hard as I wanted to list most of the charts. There’s nothing better than singing along to a Christmas classic whilst baking up some winter goodness.

I’m not a big music buff, and dip in and out of genres and artists, so I’ve enjoyed sharing my soundtrack series this year, in the hope it might introduce you to artists you haven’t heard of before. I find that if you like one specific genre, it can be easier to stick with it instead of venturing out into the unknown. (My dad is a stickler for this – apparently music from his era is the only ‘good’ music out there!)

So I bring you my 12 songs of Christmas (because 5 just wasn’t enough)…

1.Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues

Always at the top of any Christmas soundtrack I write, Fairytale of New York is my ultimate Christmas singalong. Whether I’m at home, driving in the car, or out and about, it’s on every playlist I listen to in December. Who doesn’t love The Pogues?

2. River – Eminem & Ed Sheeran

I like this song so much that it’s often on repeat and the volume is turned up as soon as I hear it. It’s quite catchy and good to listen to if you’re wrapping presents and not yet in a very Christmassy mood.

3. Let Me Go – Hailee Steinfield

A great background song which at first, I really didn’t like. After a few listens, however, I’m a fan. Not my favourite song from 2017 but it’s a good one.

4. Anywhere – Rita Ora

A good for everything song which I think is one of my faves from 2017. Not usually a huge fan of Rita Ora but I like the chorus (and know all the words which helps).

5. New Rules – Dua Lipa

I need Dua Lipa to write me a rule book to life because it’s just so true. The lyrics of this song are great and it reminds me of dancing around the kitchen in Edinburgh on a girly weekend away.

6. Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Another Christmas classic comes from Band Aid. I love the original version but the modern one is equally as good. I always associate Christmas with a small collection of songs, this one included. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

7. Christmas Lights – Coldplay

I absolutely love Coldplay, and would say they appear in most of my playlists. And I’m not usually a fan of modern day Christmas songs, but I absolutely love the mellowed out sound. The piano introduction is really magical.

8. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard

I adore this song. It’s incredibly cheesy and corny, but it’s so catchy and I really do wish it could be Christmas everyday sometimes!

9. Reggaetón Lento – CNCO & Little Mix 

I might not know any of the words, but this is one of my favourite songs of this year. I make up the lyrics when I sing along because I love it (and wish I could remember the words.)

10. Havana – Camila Cabello

Such a good song to do anything to. Not too loud, but loud enough to enjoy wherever. great for driving (and singing along to) and great lyrics. An easy listener.

11. Perfect – Ed Sheeran & Beyonce

Although I wasn’t originally a huge fan, the Beyonce version of Perfect has definitely grown on me. I love Ed and his music, and like Beyonce and hers but didn’t imagine them ever crossing over. But I like.

12. Roots – Grace Davies & Paloma Faith

I’m not a huge fan of The X Factor anymore, but I watched the final this year and loved the addition of original songs. This one was one of my favourites. It’s such a humble song and I adore the lyrics. Paloma is also a gem.

So there you go! It was very tough to whittle it down to just twelve, and there are lots more which I’ve loved listening to that will no doubt make an appearance in the new year.

Have a good one x

love sophie

the big traditions: the present swap 

There’s just something about traditions. They usually involve meeting up with people you don’t see too often, or doing something you wouldn’t normally do, which is why I absolutely love them.

One of our main traditions around this time of year is with university friends of my parents. Our families have grown up together, but living in separate cities means we only get reunited for special occasions (or the occasional fundraiser!)

The annual pre-Christmas present swap takes place in York, and each family brings a different course. I love it because it’s possibly the only time we are all together and catching up. I’m the youngest ‘child’ at twenty one, and with the older ones in full time jobs (I’m too busy with my MA) we are rarely altogether.

After a couple of rounds of prosecco and some general chit chat, we make our way to the table (adorned with Christmas delights and crackers.) The most prized gift from the crackers is the fortune telling fish, which makes it’s way around the table between courses every year (one of the many traditions of the evening.) It usually assures me I’m independent and then by the time it gets to the end we’ve exhausted it. The poor thing no longer moves.

As well as amazing food (often vegan or vegetarian to cater for everyone) there is hilarious entertainment from the questionably talented Pete and Steve (my dad) who sing a rendition of their classic song ‘Christmas in the Clink’ (which is in its fourth year.) Pete strums guitar and Steve sings the lyrics he’s written to fit the events of the year. We’ve heard everything. We’re all primed to join in with the chorus and are sometimes even allowed to join in with percussion (although the latter not as much.) We joke every year that they should have made Christmas No’1 but it’s yet to actually happen.

This is followed by an orchestrated cacophony of music as we all receive a pitched whistle and become a whistle choir (each numbered so we know when it’s our turn.) Cue a lot of laughter, whistles flying across the room from excessive blowing, and several missed notes. It wouldn’t be Christmas without a ridiculous game of some sort, would it!

We’ll crack open the jokes from the crackers and wear our hats, and then one by one (we’re very diplomatic) we’ll take it in turns to say our joke. This year we even added some of our own.

After dessert, and several more drink top ups, we stay at the table and natter. It’s amazing how many random topics twelve people can talk about. Then out comes the tea and coffee along with a fine spread of chocolates to add to the food baby we’ve grown.

Before you know it it’s half eleven and the night has flown. We usually say our goodbyes over the course of half an hour (is this just us?) We’ll get up from the table and move to the kitchen. Talk. Put on our shoes. Talk. Find the coats. Talk. Collect up all our belongings for the food. Talk. And then remember to swap the presents, the main purpose of being there.

We’re in the car by midnight (on a good night) and then it’s back to Leeds we go, after a little more chatter whilst we load everything into the boot.

It’s the one night that always gets me feeling Christmassy, even if I wasn’t before, and I hope the tradition continues far into the future as it’s definitely one of my favourites.

Do you have any traditions you have at Christmas? Or generally throughout the year?

Let me know!

loce sophur