channeling my inner dolly parton

Welcome to the real world, Sophie.

After several applications, lots of CV editing, and interviews, I landed my first job – post MA – at the gorgeous The Little Bookshop in Chapel Allerton last week. It’s the only children’s bookshop in Leeds, and it’s right up my street.

As well as teaching me how to use a coffee machine, it’s keeping me on my toes about my knowledge of children’s books, as well as what’s current and up and coming in young fiction.

What I love most, apart from being surrounded by books all day, is seeing books I’ve never come across before. There really are some scrummy books out there for children, illustrated so beautifully. The big, hardback non fiction books are my favourite at the moment. They make learning about space, history, and the world so fun, and fancy.

I’m still getting used to how things work, and what sells, but I am thoroughly enjoying being back near books. If it’s quiet, I enjoy putting them back in alphabetical order and organising the shelves, getting a closer look at the covers and reading lots of blurbs. It’ll be chaos again after little fingers get intrigued, but I don’t mind. (I’ve got a to be read pile longer than my arm and I’ve only been in a couple of days!)

As much as I probably should feel like an adult now, I’m still enjoying letting my imagination run wild when kids, and parents, come in and ask me for recommendations or ideas.

As for the gorgeous autumnal smells coming out of the kitchen, it’s a heavenly torture. With the new menu, and increasing popularity, it’s lovely to see so many people trying it (even if it does make my jealous tummy rumble as I bring it out of the kitchen!)

I’m looking forward to a bookshop Christmas, and dressing the shop ready for it. There’s something so magical about bookshops, and the festive season, so I’m excited for what it will bring, and the books I’ll discover.

love sophie

 

lactose free loves: easy peasy pizza

I’m a Taurus, which apparently means I’m more than likely to become hangry if I’m left without food long enough. I’m not often like this, but when I am all I want is food, and quickly.

With the cold nights drawing in, I’ve also been craving some really hot food to keep me cosy. My easy peasy pizza recipe is perfect for a quick lunch, or a dinner. It can even be paired with my sweet potato wedges (coming soon…) for a real treat.

All you need is a tortilla wrap, some pesto, and any veg you can get your hands on! Simples!

I was very excited to discover that ASDA now stock a lactose free mozzarella which I would 100% recommend as it tastes/melts exactly the same as the good stuff.

So here’s the simple recipe, which can easily be adapted to suit the contents of your fridge, or to use up the leftovers:

(The recipe is based on one person/pizza)

Ingredients:

1 tortilla wrap (the multi-seeded ones are fab!)

3 tablespoons of sundried tomato pesto (can be exchanged for green pesto/tomato puree)

2 handfuls of spinach

3 mushrooms

1/2 red pepper

handful of plum tomatoes, halved

four olives, halved

1 ball of lactose free mozzarella

 

Method:

1.Heat the oven up to 190 degrees, and prep a baking tray. If you’ve got a pizza baking tray, fab, if not you can just use a normal one, or a bit of tinfoil.

2. Put the wrap on the baking tray, and dollop on the pesto, or alternative, spreading it around evenly so the wrap is covered.

3. Wash the spinach leaves and spread them around on top, covering the pesto.

4. Chop the mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, and pepper. Spread these all out on top, making sure the pizza is even (it’ll cook quicker). You can also add tuna/cooked meats to the pizza, but I made mine vegetarian.

5. Slice the mozzarella length ways, and arrange on top of the vegetables.

6. Put in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the edges of the wrap are crisp, and the mozzarella and veg are cooked.

Voila! So simple, so quick, so yummy!

It’s especially good seen as most pizza dough takes an age to make, and this one is so much healthier. If you’re having friends over, why not buy mini wraps and make a selection of different pizzas to share? Or each put toppings on your own wrap? This recipe is so adaptable it can suit anyone.

Let me know how you make yours!

love sophie

soundtrack series: september

The final month of my Masters is finished. My novel has been handed in. I am free (aka officially an adult). Here are my five favourite songs from the novel writing process. They got me, and my characters, through a lot of uncertainty, and inspired me in many ways. I owe them a beer (or several).

1. MIKA

Another Kilimanjaro reunion means another throwback artist. This time, one of those classics you just can’t forget. Mika came into full force in the car, with singalongs on the regular. What’s a car journey without some Lebanese love? Firm faves have to be Stardust, Live Your Life, Blue Eyes and Origin Of Love. But they’re all good.

2. George Ezra

A popular one on the soundtrack series this year, and popping up all over the place. One of my favourites, Hold My Girl, was on repeat a lot whilst I was writing the majority of the last half of the book.

3. The Coral

One of those controversial choices, The Coral are fab, and In The Morning was a song that would get me feeling motivated to get up and write (don’t ask me why – the lyrics tell a completely different story entirely!)

4. Fleetwood Mac

Absolute Legends. What more can I say? Dreams, Everywhere, The Chain, Landslide, Go Your Own Way… there are too many good songs to shout about. They were a constant background noise to my keyboard tapping, and I thoroughly enjoyed their company.

5. Birdy

The girl who started it all. I don’t think I would have got through the whole book if it hadn’t been for the beautiful music Birdy creates. Skinny Love was the first song I ever began writing to, and it will always be a firm fave. But there are many more that have made a name for themselves within my novel. What a babe.

What have you been listening to this month?

love sophie

lactose free loves: chickpea and sweetcorn burgers

I always find it really difficult to find quick and easy recipes you can make for tea without either having the most random ingredients pre-stocked in your cupboard, or taking a shopping list longer than your arm to the supermarket.

I have finally found a simple, quick recipe for vegan burgers which relies mainly on a couple of tins and spices I usually have in the cupboard anyway.

Here it is…

 

Ingredients –

1 400g tin of chickpeas (drained)

1 can of sweetcorn (large)

3 tbsp flour, and some for the surface when forming the burgers

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 lemon

Optional to serve – 

ciabatta burger buns

salad leaves

tomatoes and gherkins (sliced)

 

Recipe – 

1. Drain the chickpeas and sweetcorn and pop them into a food processor. Whizz it up until it’s combined slightly.

2. Add in the flour and spices, as well as the zest and juice of the lemon. Whizz it up again so it’s all mixed together. It doesn’t have to be completely smooth – it’s good to have some texture.

3. On a floured surface, tip the mix out and divide into four burgers of equal size. It’s a good idea (if you have the time) to pop them in the fridge to firm up before frying so they stay together.

4. Fry them in a bit of oil on a medium heat until they’re golden brown, flipping them half way through.

5. Prep the bread/salad if you’re having it. Serve with any sauces you fancy. They go great with sweet potato fries!

Enjoy!

love sophie

soundtrack series: august

It’s been a crappy series of weeks, and I’m using music as an outlet more than ever. The writing is officially on hold whilst I try to get as back to normal as possible. Here are some of the songs that have helped me out:

1. Tee Shirt – Birdy

One of those songs I could listen to on repeat all day. Gorgeous guitar tangled around beautiful harmonies.

2. Higher Love – James Vincent-McMorrow

Up there with Birdy as one of my acoustic favourites. He is just captivating. I’ve seen him live and his performances are so personal and emotive, it’s hard not to love. This song is my favourite of his, although I like We Don’t Eat, too.

3. Tyrone Wells – You Make My Dreams Come True

One of my favourite covers. I love this song, and its upbeat quality. But this cover focuses in on the lyrics and it is simply wonderful.

4. Beautiful Birds – Passenger feat. Birdy

Two gorgeous voices in an acoustic gem of a song. What a treat. Something I could listen to all day. Harmonies galore, and simple piano to let the lyrics speak for themselves.

5. Silhouette – Aquilo

A stunning song. I have a love of simple lyrics paired with simple piano. This song is one you need to hear, so if you haven’t listened yet, do it. You won’t regret it. It gives me goosebumps.

 

What have you been listening to this month? Let me know!

love sophie

lactose free loves: honey and poppy seed carrot

One of my least favourite vegetables (cooked) is carrot. It’s always been that way, so I’ve tried to find a way to make them taste more appeasing. This recipe makes a lovely wintry salad, on a cold day, and can be added to lots of things to make a lovely meal.

I’ve got a slight sweet tooth, so I found adding honey really made a difference!

Here’s the recipe – let me know if you like it! This was based on a portion for two.

 

Ingredients – 

2 carrots

2 tsp honey (add to taste)

small handful of poppy seeds

 

Method – 

1. Grate the carrots either in a food processor or by hand. Drain any juice that has collected.

2. Fry the carrots in a pan on a low heat for a few minutes.

3. Add in the poppy seeds and the honey. Cook for a further few minutes.

And that’s it! Super duper easy, and still veg (albeit covered in sugar). You can reduce the amount of honey you use, or increase the amount of carrots to make it healthier.

I hope you enjoy!

love sophie

i’m basically a fish

I’ve made the most of my final months with a student discount and got myself a gym membership so I can procrastinate whilst getting fit. It’s just at my local sports centre, but I’m hoping it motivates me to start getting back into proper exercise. I am also starting back at rugby training in September, something I’m sceptical about, but also really looking forward to.

I’m thinking I’ll mainly use the membership to go swimming, or for classes. In the hot weather we’ve been having, I spent a lot of my few days in Bath going to Warleigh and wild swimming and I loved it! I’ve never been a big gym buff, and prefer doing s&c sessions instead of waiting most of the time for equipment to become free.

I’m thinking/hoping I’ll be able to get out on the bike at least once a week (which I was doing until some lovely kids told me I looked crap and to go home – aren’t they just lovely) as well as swimming most days. If I’m feeling really up for it, I might even do a aqua gym class, or zumba. (I know right, who is this girl?)

Truth is the reality of Belgium’s (wonderful) three course meals, three times a day, for three weeks, has had an impact on my waistline, not for the better.

That mixed with the fact I haven’t exercised in nearly a year and a half means I really need to get back to it. More than anything, it’s a great way of structuring my day, going for a swim mid morning and then coming home and writing for the rest of the day (or at least that’s the goal!)

I’ve been a member for a few weeks and have been swimming roughly 4-6 times a week (I know, I think I’ve developed gills) and I’m really seeing the benefits already.

I’m sleeping better, my day feels longer because I’m filling it with productiveness, and the excess puddings I’ve been living off are slowly starting to get lost. Win!

Although I enjoy my staple breaststroke, I’m hoping to try front crawl at some point to give my shoulder a test (truth be told I’m too scared a. it’ll dislocate, and b. of what I’ll look like) in the hope of strengthening it some more! Fingers crossed they don’t think I’m drowning…

love sophie

soundtrack series: july

And another month has flown, and this time it’s been a tough one. Instead of the upbeat and happy clappy songs I’m usually listening to, this month has been a more sombre soundtrack after some sad news. I’m sure you’ll still love them.

1. Place We Were Made – Maisie Peters

One of those beautiful, reflective songs which makes you think about your childhood. A gorgeous, believable vocal and some beautiful guitar.

2. Wildfire – Seafret

One of those voices that you could listen to all day. I love the folk-y side to this song, and that it’s still a bit upbeat with the addition of percussion. Those lyrics though, are just something.

3. I Try – Jasmine Thompson

A gorgeous version of a popular song. Very tranquil, very emotional, very beautiful.

4. Joshua Radin – You Got What I Need

One of my favourite staples for a quiet playlist, for those downpours and dark days. Joshua Radin has the most relaxing voice. Winter is another favourite of his.

5. Let It All Go – Birdy and RHODES

One of, if not, my favourite Birdy songs. It’s lyrics are so personal and telling and the eerie music, and simple piano is truly gorgeous. I love Birdy, and she will always be a writing soundtrack, but this song is one that I could listen to forever and ever.

 

What songs help you when you’re struggling? Let me know!

love sophie

the big traditions: camping

Instead of a big summer holiday – and as much as laying on a beach in the sun for two weeks sounds great – we spend our summer moving between campsites, usually in the rain. And, I have to say, it’s so much more fun.

It helps that I’m outdoorsy, and being in a tent is my idea of heaven (and that I have a tendency to burn in the sun) but, in all honesty, summer would not be the same if we didn’t have to put a tent up or down in the rain.

We go with the same family ever year, and each year the length and amount of trips have dwindled as everyone has grown up, and jobs and other responsibilities mean a weekend drinking wine in a windy field isn’t that possible.

I still enjoy going, and am enjoying it whilst I still have the time. This year, I could only make one of the trips, and only stayed for one night which was weird as I’m usually the only one that’s always there each time.

We stayed on a campsite near Ampleforth College in Helmsley, Golden Square, a beautifully maintained and landscaped site, complete with electric (we’re probably more like glampers in reality), a shop and a selection of toilet blocks. There’s even pitch and putt (we remembered to bring our own clubs this time) and a huge playground in the centre of the site which is easily accessed by foot.

From the campsite you can walk straight around Ampleforth. Having stayed previously, we’d already got a pack of walks which are available to buy in the shop for a few pounds. The routes are varied in terrain and length, and are anything from the 5km round route to the local pub, to long 16 mile walks through the surrounding countryside. We did the walk to the local pub on the Friday night, when we’d finished putting the tents up and had all arrived. The pub is proper pub grub but is delicious. A well earned G&T was also ordered to start the weekend as we meant to go on.

We have a trailer tent, so it’s already packed and ready to go, you just have to remember a camping fridge with the essentials for breakfast and your underwear. It’s probably still got tins in it from when we were little, but they come in handy when it gets to Sunday, you’re in the middle of nowhere, and the shops are shut.

We headed back to the campsite after the pub, making it back just before it got too dark (just). Then it’s bring in a chair as we all sit around the heater in our tent (I did mention it was more like glamping…), pop open a bottle of bubbly and usually end up on a very odd topic of conversation, or playing a ridiculous game. This was no different, as I introduced the cardboard box game, normally played at New Year’s parties, or Christmas. It’s the one where you have a box on the floor and have to pick it up with your mouth without using your hands at all. Every time everyone does it, you rip a layer of the box off, making it shorter. The outcome (especially if you’ve had a drink) is hilarious!

Our edition was slightly different, as the last thing you think to pack when you go camping is a cardboard box. We ended up using a plastic wine glass for our first round, and then a plastic mug for the second. I think watching everyone try and manoeuvre around the tent was funnier than them trying to pick up the glass as with six of us all on chairs, there’s not much room left for these activities.

When we decide we’re laughing louder than any of the other tents, and our fairy lights are the only ones left twinkling, it’s off to the toilet block to brush our teeth and then time for bed.

There’s no such thing as setting an alarm on holiday. You don’t need one on a campsite anyway, as young kids are usually on the adventure playground when it opens at 8. Then it’s off to the shower block to get ready for the day, arriving back at the tent to the smell of a full English which is on the go.

Sitting outside on a camping chair, drinking camping tea and eating off plastic plates with plastic cutlery is so much fun. When else do you get the chance to do that? If you’re lucky the sun will be out (it usually is) and even if you still need to wear a fleece, it’s a slice of heaven.

We headed up to Ripon races on the Saturday (or at least everyone else did – I hopped on a train to Sheffield to see George Ezra), another tradition normally rearing its head at Christmas.

If not a day out, it’ll be a trip to the coast, a walk around wherever we are, or previously a bike ride. I am a lover of an active holiday.

And, before you know it, it’s time to pack it all up and head home after another evening of entertainment. On the Sunday we usually head back, stopping somewhere on the way to make a day of it.

There’s so much you can do when you’re camping. Rules go out the window, time is void, and you do what you feel like. It’s a proper, feel good, holiday.

If you’ve never been, it’s something I’d definitely recommend. It can be quite expensive if you haven’t already got all the gear, so if you go for the first time try and borrow a tent from a friend, or camp in the garden first. The last thing you want is to drive for four hours, put up a tent and realise you hate the whole thing.

There’s something so sociable about sharing a tent, and being surrounded by nothing but nature for a weekend. You can make your own timeline and do what you want to do.

I’d love to hop in the car, with a tent and my bike, and just go to the most amazing places and ride, staying at the odd campsite overnight. Maybe next year…

love sophie

soundtrack series: june

The last month of term is looming, and so are the summer vibes. This heatwave is making me crave the sea, and my bike, and the deadlines are standing firmly in the way. I’ve picked some of my feel good faves this month to give you a slice of the nice life whilst I’m typing away on my latest word count.

1. Jess Glynne – I’ll Be There

Not normally a fan of hers but this is one I will listen to. It’s a proper windows down, wind in your hair, dodgy truckers arm tan kind of vibe. She’s got some pipes on her, that’s all I’m going to say.

2. George Ezra – Shotgun

Bae is back and he’s done it again. I listened to this a lot this month, mainly whilst in the car with Nina, windows down and often late at night. It’s a proper feel good classic and has hit summer hard. George, I love you.

3. Post Malone – Better Now

Not an expected choice, but this song really grew on me this month, and I have to say I am now a huge fan. Well done, Post Malone.

4. Calvin Harris feat. Dua Lipa – No More Tears To Cry

This is one of those classic chart songs I always tell myself I shouldn’t like but guiltily indulge in when I’m by myself. It is good on long journeys but I have to be in the mood otherwise it doesn’t sit quite right.

5. Tom Walker – Leave A Light On

Not the most upbeat song in the world, but it’s been a good one to stop me procrastinating. It’s relaxing, for the nights you’re regretting being out in the sun so much, and wearing more after sun than clothing. His voice is melt in the mouth and I love this song and the lyrics.

 

What’s on your most recently listened to? Let me know!

love sophie