soundtrack series: november

It’s been a busy bee kind of month (isn’t every month!?) and I’ve found myself rarely listening to music just for the fun of it. I’ve moved (yep, that’s right. You can read all about it here) and changed jobs and now my usual routine has vanished.

I am no longer singing (and dancing) along to eighties classics from a speaker in an empty bookshop, but rather I’m sat on a tram with headphones in, trying to drown out the tram speakers and the beeping doors constantly opening and closing to let on more commuters.

I’m excited to have a fun few weekends coming up where I’m out adventuring with good friends, good food, and hopefully some good music which will make an appearance in my December soundtrack series.

As for November, here goes:

1.Norah Jones – A Long Way Home

An absolute classic. The Long Way Home has been on my marmalade skies playlist since it was created, and I never bore of listening to it. I love her voice, and her songs are great to listen to at any time of day. I also enjoy listening to the Norah Jones Radio on Spotify. If you have it I’d 10/10 recommend!

2. Bruce Springsteen – Dancing In The Dark

The Boss is back, but this time in true original glory. This one has made its way onto my soundtrack series before, but as a cover. This month the original has been blasted from my speakers more times than I can count. I blooming love Bruce.

3. Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World

It’s all eighties at the moment, especially living with Meg! This is just one example of the tunes blasted out the kitchen radio when Heart 80s is on. We do like to have a boogie when we’re washing up, so what’s better to dance to than the 80s?

4. Sara Bareilles – She Used To Be Mine

I love Sara, but only came across this song when I listened to the Norah Jones radio. I absolutely loved it and added it to my playlist straight away. It’s now a regular running through my ears on my commute, and I love it. It’s good for getting me geared up for work, but doesn’t make me want to dance in public (apparently it’s not appropriate on an 8am tram.)

5. James Blunt – 1973

Last but no means least comes from this beauty. And what a tune. I absolutely love James Blunt and was devastated when I didn’t get tickets to see him when he showed up in Leeds for the night. I started singing the first line to Simon, the cat, when I moved to Sheffield and the song has since stuck.

Let me know what you’ve been listening to!

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

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

 

 

 

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

lactose free loves: Neal’s Yard Remedies

As a twenty one year old student, the answer to ‘what did you do last night?’ is obviously went to a Neal’s Yard Party, right?

Well, it definitely wasn’t what my mum expected me to say when I told her (even though the prosecco and G&Ts were in full flow.)

I was sat at home, revelling in my accomplishment of making teriyaki salmon with one hand – a wild Friday night, I know – when I got a text from my lovely friend Meg, inviting me to hers for a Neal’s Yard Party.

How could I resist? I popped my coat on and walked down to hers where I was greeted by the wonderful Caroline from Neal’s Yard, who told a small group of us about the business and products on offer.

Don’t get me wrong, I have heard of Neal’s Yard before; their Melissa Hand Cream has been a staple by our kitchen sink, and the Bee Lovely range is blooming gorgeous. But, I’d never been to one of their home events. And it was really lovely.

Caroline firstly talked to us about the ethics of the business. Did you know they were the world’s first health and beauty company to be awarded 100/100 for ethics? This means that as well as being eco friendly in their factories, they don’t test on animals and are Fairtrade. This includes their gorgeous natural and organic ingredients, as well as their packaging which is recyclable and from sustainably managed sources.

Now, although I’m not a vegan, I value companies that have strong ethics and think it is incredibly important. If one company can be 100% ethical, it makes me wonder why other companies can’t be. For a little bit more money you are receiving better products which are made with a lot more love. Sounds good to me!

After a brief introduction to the company, Caroline began explaining what her usual daily routine was for her face.

Now, I’m not one to shy away from saying I don’t do much with my face (and I’m probably not the only one.) I don’t usually have time. But Caroline showed us a simple routine that would take no more than a few minutes which left the skin looking fresh and smelling amazing.  I could really tell that the products she used were a good quality.

She started by prepping the skin with a refining moisturiser which she massaged in. She followed this with a Rejuvenating Cleanser which she sprayed onto cotton pads and gently circled around the face and neck. Whilst she was explaining the facial, she let us test lots of the facial serums and facial mists, as well as bringing out the beautiful Frankincense Toner which naturally works to tighten up the skin. She followed this with some gorgeous Orange Flower Facial Oil which smelt lovely. And then she finished by using a White Tea Toning Eye Gel which was a crowd favourite. The white tea is a natural antioxidant and research has found it naturally reduces wrinkles without any harmful chemicals found in most cosmetics.

She taught us that when going close to the globe of the eye, you should never rub in the creams or serums, but instead you should gently pat around the lower eyelid, keeping away from the socket as it can do more harm than good.

The skin around our eyes is very delicate so being rough with it and rubbing it too much can cause extra fine lines. You can find their organic eye make up remover here which gets through even the plastic mascaras.

It was really interesting to hear about the company and get a taste for a wider selection of their products.

She raved about the Wild Rose Beauty Balm which is something you can pop on in the shower and soak off with a flannel as you come out, as well as the Beauty Sleep Concentrate which is good for new mums or people who struggle to wake up feeling rejuvenated.

If you’re interested in ethical remedies and products, have a look at Caroline’s website. There are lots of gift ideas there too, and lots of minis so you can have a try before you buy big.

I’ve added a *few bits to my Christmas list…

*lots

loce sophur