In response to this…
Those long awaited words
In response to this…
Those long awaited words
It’s not everyday that you fly over 400 miles for the pre-wedding party of your best friend but long distance friendship sometimes takes a little more effort…
I’d just come home from work on New Year’s Eve, about to get ready for a party when I noticed an envelope on my bed. I knew immediately who it was from, her writing is unmistakable (and her address is always written on the back) and rushed to open it. I thought it was an invitation to her upcoming wedding and the dress on the front of the card also aided my suspicions but the point of the card was even more exciting. I read it slowly, taking in every word and smiling at the well wishes to my family (“greetings” as she always says). I reached the bottom of the first side and there was the question in silver swirly writing; “will you be one of my bridesmaids?”. I read it a couple more times before running down the stairs ecstatically to tell my family. An invite to the wedding was one thing considering I’m in a different country but asking me to be such a special part to the occasion was something else. I was thrilled. It was probably the best start to a new year I’d ever had.Since January I’ve been to visit her twice. First for the very important and extremely fun task of finding a wedding dress. It was like real life Say Yes to the Dress! Her sister Inga and her best friend Pia had made little gift bags for all the bridesmaids, six of us in total, each with snacks and tissues, and flash cards for rating each dress – theirs were in German, mine were in English and they were all adorable. There were individual little milk bottles filled with champagne and beautiful pink edible flowers resting at the bottom, decorated with a mint green ribbon round the top – they were so sweet I kept mine to display in my bedroom. The wedding dress store was about two and a half hours away so the car journey was more of a car picnic party – German pastries, sausage bites, sweets, and of course champagne were circulated round the car as we all chatted away and sang to Justin Bieber. I have to say, if you’ve never been wedding dress shopping before its 100% as much fun as it sounds. I loved it. The bride tried on a few dresses and she looked stunning in all of them but when she put on ‘the one’ we all knew it. There were hugs and tears and it was a really special moment – one I’m really glad I was a part of.
My next trip over is in September for her hen party and the wedding taking place the week after and I’m so excited! It’s always lovely to be reunited with her and it’ll be great to celebrate ‘German style’ again with the other bridesmaids too, and of course share in the wonderment of her big day. I know I’ve said it a thousand times before but thank you for making me part of your special day, it really does mean the world.
Aaaaand she’s back (back, back, back again..) and since we’re a scary number of days into July I thought I would start of with a June favourites. You know the drill by now. June was actually a pretty busy month for me as it included my birthday and a weeks holiday from work which I crammed as much into as I possibly could. Slight regrets due to my perpetual tiredness but I’d say it was worth it.
First up on my favourites for last month is Funny Girl, the multi-award winning West End musical which I saw in London on my week off with my best friend (shoutout to Catherine if you’re reading!). The musical is based on a movie musical which is based on a book which is based on the real life events of the one and only Miss Fanny Brice; played in the movie (and originally on Broadway and the West End) by queen of musicals herself, Barbra Streisand. Sheridan Smith was set to revise the role for the first time since Ms Streisand ended her run back in the 60’s, however after a couple of months with the company she was taken ill but is due to return later this month. Sadly for us we didn’t see her perform but we were lucky enough to watch her understudy, Natasha Barnes, and we were not disappointed! The rave reviews she received were more than deserved and after having a starring role in such a prestigious musical I’m sure she’ll go far – she’s definitely earned it. If you like musicals/theatre/stellar performances and have a free afternoon or evening in London, I would highly advise you to grab a ticket for this while you can as it’s only on for a couple more months and for a near perfect view it didn’t cost the earth (like theatre so often can!). One of the best stage shows I’ve seen, it’s got a bit of everything – comedy, heart and some of the best songs in showbiz.
Next up is another performance, look at me being all cultured! This time it was at the Bristol Colston Hall for Nashville: In Concert which was the tour of the US TV show Nashville. I’m a huge fan of this show and couldn’t be happier that it’s been renewed for a fifth season after momentarily being cancelled… And yes, I did sign the petition to save it. The tour featured four of the main ‘characters’ singing both as they do on the show and as themselves, since they’re all country singers in their own right. Scarlett O’Connor (Claire Bowen), Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio), Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) and Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) introduced each song and explained the stories behind them which made the evening nice and intimate, however they did have us partying in our seats as they danced round the isles of the stalls. It was such an incredibly fun night and the talent in the room that evening was phenomenal, they’re all such gifted performers and I felt lucky to be able to see them perform in person on such a date restricted tour. My friend even managed to get her ticket signed after the show for me (sadly I had to get the bus home and they don’t wait for anybody) by my favourite character Deacon – he wrote my name and everything! *fangirls into the distance* Anyway, if you’re a fan of country music then this show will probably strike a chord with you – I’d start from the beginning as there’s lots to catch up on even though there’s currently only 4 seasons. Enjoy!
I can’t write a June favourites without including Orange is the New Black. I won’t give anything away in case you’re still catching up but OMG. Just watch it. Watch it now.
One of my New Years resolutions was to read more books. And I can say, half way through the year that I have read one solitary book. I don’t think I’ve finished a whole book for a good few years so this was some accomplishment for me although it shouldn’t have been so hard because the book was great, hence it being in this list. Around the World in 80 Dates, written by Jennifer Cox, is exactly what it sounds like. Her own true story of how she travelled the world (thanks to her job at Lonely Planet and her well connected friends) one date at a time – all the way to 80. This funny, sweet, romantic yet sassy tale is a perfect book for those of you who love romance, hilarious/perfect/awkward date stories or travel… Or the whole lot combined! It will definitely give you a severe case of wanderlust making you want to pack in your 9-5 and follow in her footsteps. An easy and enjoyable read for holidays, the work commute or bedtime, and from someone who struggles to read full books, I’d highly recommend it.
A final favourite for June is something a little more sentimental; friendship. I don’t know about you but sometimes I get a feeling, like a pang of gratitude for certain people in my life. Whether it’s just when they message out of the blue, send you a funny meme/gif/photo of someone you don’t like (come on, we all do it!) or whether you spend time with them and you’re like yes, thank you for being my friend, I appreciate you. It can be with new friends, old friends, friends you haven’t seen for years but have reconnected with, literally anyone and for me it’s been a mixture of them all. June was a pretty social month and it was nice to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for a while as well as making time for new friendships; like a trip to a new town with a new friend for afternoon tea in the sunshine. Reconnecting with old friends is such a heartwarming feeling too; the realisation that you’re still the best of friends even though there was a time when you thought you’d grown apart but you’re still the same people with the same goals and ideas and appreciation for each other. So I’m thankful for those friends, the new friends and the pop up every now and again friends. The ones that plan your birthday and make sure you have a great time, the ones that remind you to be your best self everyday and encourage you to do the things you love. I’m grateful for you all.
As we all know, I haven’t written anything for a while; in true Sophie style so once again I thought I’d try and slip back in with a favourites post. Some are from March, a few are from April and one or two from May – I know, I’m getting them in early. Let’s get into it.
1. The first one is actually an app, which isn’t exactly on brand for me but I’ll explain. It’s called Dysh and is basically an Instagram style programme but solely for food with the idea that there’s no shame in photographing your food and sharing it with the world. Instagram doesn’t care what you eat, Dysh does. You can photograph, edit, rate, tag and comment on and about your meal so that people in the area can see what’s good (and what’s not good!) to eat and drink. You can also follow other users as well as like and comment on their posts too. It’s been collaborated on, promoted and endorsed by 4 slightly post-millenial American online creators, Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart, Mamrie Hart and Ingrid Nilsen.
This app wouldn’t have come to my attention had I not been an avid fan of all four women but since it has, and more importantly since I love it, I thought I’d share it with you. It’s available to download in the App Store for free. I’d rate it 100 and not just because I’m slightly biased but due to the fact that it’s got pretty much everything you need whilst having an aesthetically pleasing interface. Yeah, take that media degree! My username is sophiehollister if you want to follow me on there.
2. Next on my list is skincare. I’ve had a pretty shoddy skincare routine since about forever. Don’t get me wrong, I’d wash my face as well as tone and moisturise but it wasn’t exactly a ritual. I have to say though, after hearing about Liz Earle (and reading hundreds of reviews online and seeking opinions of users I knew) I took the plunge and purchased the basic set. I’ve been using it for probably just over a month now and it’s still not every day but I’d say at least 5/7 days and my skin has never been better. Thankfully I’ve never had bad skin but Liz Earle has definitely helped keep spots and shine at bay.
The three step process is quick and easy and the products feel light and fresh on your skin (and they smell like a spa which is a bonus). It’s the first “high end” skincare package I’ve bought so it was a little more money than I’m used to paying but no more then its competitors. If you’re looking for something to get you started this is a good one to go for, I’d highly recommended.
3. Third favourite on the list is Cheerz, a photo printing app. Id been wanting to print some of my travel photos as Polaroids for a while and came across this app which was easy to use and didn’t cost the earth. The photos are good quality too and came in cute little packages. I printed photos and quotes and hung them round my room with decorative string and teeny tiny (adorable) pegs either from Amazon or Etsy and I’m really pleased with how they turned out!
4. I’ve always loved The Body Shop for shower gels and body sprays but I’d never bought make up from them before. However, after I purchased a gift set last month I received a £3 off makeup coupon and only a fool wouldn’t at least see what they have to offer. I found the perfect grey nail varnish, something I’ve been needing since all my clothes are somewhere to the black/white scale, and with the coupon it only cost me £2 – less than a Starbucks! Bargain. One coat was a bit sheer for what I wanted but two was near perfect. It lasted about 3 days without a clear top coat so miiiight stretch to a week had I used one.
5. The Estée Lauder double wear foundation has recently become a staple in my makeup bag. After realising my drugstore foundation wasn’t really doing it for me anymore I wanted to branch out and purchase one that really suited my skin, even if that meant spending a little more than usual. I read sooo many reviews and watched so many review videos of it and finally took the plunge. I use the shade 1N1 ivory nude, which I think is one of the lightest shades and it’s the perfect match for my skin tone. It’s classed as a semi matte finish which is definitely what I need as my skin can become quite oily throughout the day and other foundations pretty much fall off my face. The double wear foundation says it lasts 15 hours and although I haven’t had chance to test that out fully yet it already lasts way after I get home from work which is probably near enough that time anyway. It’s a good coverage foundation too and is easily build-able if you want slightly more. I sometimes use my other foundation, Maybelline Satin Finish, on my cheeks and then go over it with the Estée Lauder one just to prevent my face from looking too flat before adding bronzer and the rest.
6. Last favourite of the month is my most recent – Crepe Affaire, which is a crepe and waffle cafe at the top of Park Street in Bristol. There are a range of savoury and sweet pancakes along with waffles, smoothies and shakes as well as the usual tea, coffee and cold drinks. I chose the “apple crumble” pancake and it was delicious I’d have it again 100%. The strawberry and banana smoothie was also very yummy. I’d give this place 9/10 – great food, great decor, lovely staff and it was quiet and sunny when I went which made it even better. It’s pricing is pretty average too so it won’t break the bank, definitely a place to keep in mind if you’re in the area!
Ever since my last post I’ve been thinking about what to write next. Three months later and the page is still blank. Yesterday I came across an article (I’ll post the link below) about how to continue writing when “no one gives a shit”.
I’m sure this is a common thought amongst all writers that don’t have a wide audience, deadlines or any kind of job that doesn’t actually include writing. The hardest thing is to keep the momentum going, regardless of whether you think anyone will actually read it or not. If your job doesn’t revolve around writing it can often take a back seat to other, more mundane activities – between work, the gym and sleeping I find there isn’t a lot of time for much else, let alone something that takes as much mental effort as writing a decent blog post does.
If you’ve come to the conclusion that “no one gives a shit” but you still somehow want to write, it has to be for enjoyment above anything else. Personally I think about writing all the time and I’ll say “I need to write something” or “what should I write about?” or perhaps the most common “I haven’t written anything for ages…” but sadly saying those things don’t bring as much inspiration as I’d like.
One of my friends, also an aspiring writer, messaged me saying “I really needed to read that link you just shared” after seeing my post on Facebook and simply knowing that made me feel like I’m not the only one having these thoughts. Another close friend sent me a message the day after saying “I saw the link you shared – I care if you write something”. She may be biased but nevertheless it made me think that maybe that’s all it takes. Perhaps you only need to have one person be affected by something you write. Maybe it could make them laugh or make them think; even if only one person appreciates it, that makes it worth your time. So I guess this is a response of sorts to that article regardless of whether ones person reads this or 100 people. I know no one may care about the original article and if they don’t then they especially won’t care about this one but I guess the most fundamental part of it all is that I care. If I didn’t I wouldn’t mind that no one else did either but I do care and hopefully someone out there will care too.
Here’s the original article, thank you Jennifer Garam for being my source of inspiration. www.jennifergaram.com/blog/2016/1/16/how-to-keep-writing-when-no-one-gives-a-shit
Hello hello, yes I know it’s been a while. Yet again. It’s been a few weeks since I got back from Madrid and so I thought I’d sit down and write something new for you, although this time it’s a little different. This post takes a bit of a break from travel inspired pieces or monthly favourites and focuses on something a bit more meaningful; at least for me at the moment. I thought I’d take a minute to talk about the people who make a significant difference to our lives because I feel I have a couple of them that need a reminder of just how appreciated they are. I feel I should put a disclaimer here: of course family, best friends etc come under this section but this is for the people who perhaps don’t realise just how much impact they’ve had on you or how much help they’ve been. Or maybe it’s the people you don’t talk to every day or the people you no longer get to spend time with. I guess this could be classed as a thank you note of sorts.
I won’t name anyone directly but hopefully you’ll know who you are.
First up is perhaps my newest friend who quickly became one of my closest after “taking me under her wing” as she likes to say. I can’t disagree though, she did. Her bright, positive, infectious personality is hard to resist – add kindness, fun and a fair amount of sass on top of that and you’ve got yourself one of the funniest and most understanding friends you could ever ask for. Thank you for looking out for me – even when I don’t realise you are, and for encouraging me to be myself. I am forever indebted to you for that. Never stop smiling because you don’t know how many people you inspire by being yourself, myself included. Obviously.
Now a quick mention to my friends that are far away, whether in different cities or different countries. Regardless of if we speak every day or just once every few months, just know that I appreciate you all – whether it was a specific message to make me laugh, talking about a memory we share or suggesting ideas for future plans, every conversation makes me thankful that I have such an amazing group of friends even if you may not be in touching distance. I promise I’ll see you soon.
Finally, to someone who’s never read my writing but always encouraged me to pursue it. Someone who definitely didn’t know how much she was appreciated and looked up to (I’m sorry for that, I/we should have told you more often). Someone who impacted people more deeply than she’ll know. I know I only just gave you a similar letter but I just wanted to thank you again. If I can be half the person you are I’ll be happy – thank you for being exactly what I (and what we all) needed. This post is probably a coping mechanism for me because change is hard and things aren’t the same without you. You’re missed.
Now, if you read all the way through this without knowing any of these people I thank you (and as cliche as it sounds when included in such a post) – I appreciate you and the time you spent here. I hope it made you think of the people in your life that might be in need of a little verbal (or written) appreciation and I encourage you to tell them, whatever form that might take. Write them a card, send them a song, or maybe a simple hug and a thank you could do the trick. Just let them know. And to those of you who know who I’m talking about, or if I’m talking about you, just know that I’m so grateful for you. Thank you for making me feel appreciated too.
Just a quick final update following on from yesterday… Whilst sat in Plaza de Oriente (just outside the palace) I found some wifi and Googled one of the other museum/galleries to see if it would be of any interest as I needed something to fill my time. One of them, the Thyssen-Bornemisza was another gallery, and personally I found it a little better than the Prado as it had impressionist paintings by the likes of Monet and Renoir who I actually really like. It had an exhibition on (until the 12th October) called ‘Vogue: like a painting’ which, if you love vogue like I do, you’ll find this interesting. One of my favourite photographers, Nick Knight was featured heavily as you’d expect in a fashion photography exhibition and this probably made my visit. His photos are gorgeous.
Towards the end of the gallery I sat down opposite a painting of Venice, I think it looked like I was in deep thought about it (which I partly was) but really I just needed to sit down. My feet are so tired.
I slowly made my way back towards my hotel and ate tapas at a nearby restaurant; the same place I had paella on my first night. This was mostly to use up some time before heading to the airport but honestly when is tapas ever a bad idea.
And so my solo Spanish adventure had come to an end and I’d recommend it to anyone – both Spain and travelling alone. It might not be until you speak to someone else about what you saw/did that they realise your interests before you do – this happened to me on the plane home whilst sat next to two lovely people travelling with their Spanish club (hello to you if you’re reading, thank you for keeping me company!).
Now I’m back home and my brain is scheming for my next destination. Any thoughts, questions or queries are more than welcome and hopefully this can push you in the right direction if you’re on the fence about going at it alone.
So the final day has arrived. Having seen most/all of the things I’d wanted to already I used this as more of a chilled day. Saying that I’ve still walked miles after getting momentarily lost in the banking district. Incidentally I saw “Relvo de la Guardia” which I’m guessing is like changing on the guard although a much smaller scale than Buckingham palace (I’m pretty sure it was outside a bank and since it was obviously all in Spanish I didn’t really get much clarification as to what or why or who). I don’t think the royal family were there but it was definitely someone important. The music was nice, kind of fairground mixed with dance break in a musical. I can’t fault Madrid on its music actually as it’s everywhere – the metro, the park, the street; I’ve heard ‘Hello Dolly’ played more than twice which, for anyone who knows me, knows how fine I am with that. As well as an abundance of music there’s an abundance of police which is quite reassuring. Even as I’m sat in the park there are four policemen on horses opposite me. Just a side note here – it must be about 29 degrees today, if I didn’t have a flight to get later I’d definitely be wearing shorts. That reminds, speaking of how warm it is – last night I popped out at about 10pm and firstly I couldn’t get over how warm it was, no sleeves were needed and secondly, how busy it was!! People everywhere, again with more than enough music and police.
If you haven’t visited Madrid I’d definitely recommend it for site seeing, beautiful architecture, lovely parks and gardens and of course autumn sunshine – sorry I can’t stop mentioning it, it’s like summer! I just burnt my arm on the zip of my tshirt. Hot. It’s also the perfect place for travelling alone, no one cares if you’re eating alone because so many people do it here. No one has asked if/why I’m alone so if you’re thinking about solo travel I say just go for it.
After my stroll round the banks I walked past the library which was impressive from the outside so I can only imagine the inside. I then made my way back to Retiro park from yesterday and ate paella – really good, octopus and everything, yum! I sat and listened to an Australian family discuss frozen beer while a saxophone was played in the distance. I tried to keep my cool as a wasp flew around me for the entire time I was sat there which made for possibly the least relaxing meal ever but delicious none the less.
Now I’m sat in the sun writing this, it’s still so hot… I’ve got about 5 more hours at this point before heading to the airport so I’m planning on staying here a bit longer and then maybe doing to tour bus. I should have done that on my first day and not the last but hey! I found everything for myself instead. I even know some shortcuts now so maybe I should just stay here.
One thing I haven’t done is eat ice cream so maybe that’ll be sorted later…
Today has probably been my favourite day. It started with a wander to find churros – I found the place everyone raves about but the queue was too long (I should have guessed!) so I went elsewhere for croissant and tea. After my little pit stop I made my way to the palace which I actually found by accident on my first evening – I thought it was just a really nice building, not realising it was the palace. Oops. The line for this was pretty huge so I took a few photos, basked in the sunshine and went on my way. Madrid is a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be, you can walk practically anywhere although the metro does come in handy for tired feet. By this time I wanted churros again since my craving hadn’t been fixed. I Churreria Chocolateria Las Farolas and the waitress gave me five churros as standard. I’m pretty sure I’ve blocked all my arteries. A cup of chocolate is also provided with a spoon – I know. They also did the best fresh orange juice which was much appreciated after such a carb-fest. The fact that they didn’t take cards should have been displayed somewhere as I got to the counter without a cent in my purse. Luckily she let me dash to the ATM and was very sweet about the whole thing but I nearly died of shame. I’m guessing from her reaction I’m not the first person to do that.
Sitting alone at a restaurant really isn’t as weird or scary as I (and indeed many people on Google) thought it was going to be. I ordered a drink, which came with tapas (bonus!) and got out my notepad. As j was seated outside there were many things to watch or look at and so it was no big deal. I ordered paella too which was maybe the best I’ve ever tried – and I’ve tried a fair amount – all the while writing about the things I’d got up to so far.
I’ll tell you what they are now…
Last night I took a leisurely stroll in the area near my hotel, which turns out is pretty much the centre of Madrid. I don’t want to boast about the weather but since I left England it the rain and arrived to 28 degree heat I feel I have to. I didn’t even need sleeves. The architecture of the buildings and the little streets that dart off left right and centre remind me of Rome, every building is stunning to look at; even the apartments and hotels which line the streets are so pretty with their balcony railings and window shutters. I went to El Corte Ingles, a big departments store that felt a bit like debenhams with the added bonus of an underground supermarket. I bought the essentials – water, juice and amazing icing sugar coated pastries that may have already been demolished. Oh and I can’t forget the pizza flavoured crisps. I don’t hate them.
After a quick social media catch up it was time for bed.
I’m forgetting what day it is and what time it is frequently, which is actually quite nice as I don’t really need to know either, making a change from usual. I spent today wandering to (and around) Museo del Prado. I’ve been to a far few art galleries in my time and this one was pretty standard apart from costing €14 for entry which in hindsight was too much. I took my time exploring the three floors of paintings but once you’ve seen one naked angel you’ve seen them all. There were few other subjects covered however some of the captions made me laugh to myself and I had to note some down. For example “still life with a vase of flowers and a dog”, “portrait of a gentleman” and “landscape with buildings” which all did exactly as it said on the tin. The last one did make me smile to myself as I thought those very words before even reading the name of the painting, I needn’t have bothered. One of my favourite (I use that term lightly, it was my favourite compared with the rest I saw… I wouldn’t want it in my house) paintings was called “The embarkment of Saint Paula”, I’m not sure what the story behind it was but the use of sunlight was pretty impressive, it looked like the painting had the glow of a sunrise.
A collection of paintings by J Brueghal also had this effect whilst having incredible attention to detail and colour with some of this works having paintings within the painting. One was so ornate with flowers it looked like a little fairytale world. I’m not a major still life fan but it has to be said, it was a welcome break from naked angels.
Next on my list was the botanical gardens, just outside the Museo del Prado and cost €3 which in summer would probably be money well spent, in September not quite so much although the gardens were very tranquil none the less.
By this time I was pretty hungry and whilst walking back to my hotel I stopped to eat the paella previously mentioned. I took a quick rest after this, mostly to let my feet recover (note to self, take plasters even if you think you won’t need them) and grab another drink and then I was out the door again. I hopped on the metro to find San Miguel market which I did and it was crazy in there! Any type of food you could imagine – fish, nuts, chocolate, gin, you name it it was there. I then tried to find El Rastro, the biggest flea market in Madrid which didn’t go so well. Considering it’s the biggest it’s darn hard to find. I think I’ll try again tomorrow though, my tiredness was probably setting in. On the way home I took a visit to Gran Via which was amazing; theatres, old cinemas hotels and shops galore. That might need a second visit tomorrow too.
Now I’m just relaxing, finishing this post and I might start my book (the most cliche of them all, Eat Pray Love). There’s an infamous churros shop nearby though so I may have to try them out, it would be rude not to…