Monday 26 April 2021


If you've been with me for a while, you may recall my brief attempt at running. I tried Couch to 5k way back in 2012, managed five weeks of it (and pretty much hated every moment), and I just didn't have the motivation to keep going. 

Then fast-forward a couple of years, and Cancer Research got in touch, asking me to take part in their Race for Life event and help encourage others to do the same (I was a proper blogger then!). This time I still didn't actually enjoy running, but I was extremely motivated to not let a charity down, so I managed to train and complete a 10k race without dying! I felt good for it, but as soon as that goal was complete, I again lost all interest in it.

But now look at me! I'm now on week five of Couch to 5k and I feel great for it, but more importantly, I'm actually enjoying it? I've been using the official Couch to 5k app with Michael Johnson as my coach (his soothing tones are so encouraging!), and it's been great. I can't quite believe it, but honestly - great!

Race for Life shoes still going strong. Probably time to buy new trainers!

Here's what I think has made a difference:


Every time I've tried running before it's been a strictly solo experience, but this time, even though I'm still running alone, my best pal (who lives in London) is also doing Couch to 5k at the same time. It's so nice to have someone going through the same challenges - we send daft running selfies to each other, I don't want to skip a running day because I don't want to let her down (even though I know she wouldn't mind!), and it's just nice to know we're doing something together!

I'm (a tiny bit) fitter

I'm pretty sure the success of Couch to 5k is because it's engineered to help anyone start running, regardless of starting fitness level, but I am definitely finding it much easier now that I'm not such a couch potato! 

Over the last year I've started to take my health a bit more seriously, and when gyms were open I got really into it! I think it's finally dawned on me that I'm not in my 20s anymore (lol), so I want to be more active, and I've been doing a lot of online yoga and cycling over the last few months. Learning to run is still super tiring, but it's not as sore as I remember from before. Doing yoga 1 or 2 times a week is also really helping my achey legs, which then makes it easier to go on the next run!

Flexible working

I think this is the biggest one for me. Since the pandemic I've been working from home, and I've been surprised by how much I love it. I know it's not for everyone, but I feel so much more focused and productive, and I love that I can manage my day based on what I need to achieve, rather than being locked to a desk 9-5. 

These days I try and go on lunchtime runs, and it's so good - it lets me stretch my legs and clear my head, I've got energy, and it's a nice excuse to get outside. When I worked in the office my only choices were running in the morning before work, which I HATED, or running after work, which I also hated/found hard to find time for! It's so much easier to run during the week, which means I can keep my weekends for chilling out, or going for a cycle instead.

It is just nice to be outside

I've spent lockdown in my wee flat which has no garden, so I am loving any reason to be outside. I discovered pretty quickly that I'm not a huge fan of going for a walk if I'm not actually going anywhere, but going for a run feels like it has a purpose. 

In the past I was only motivated by post-running endorphins, but the actual run was always a slog, so it is definitely a big improvement to feel like the whole thing is quite fun! 

I think the pace of Couch to 5k is definitely going to step up from now on (I looked ahead and somehow I am expected to run 20 minutes in one go this week? Excuse me?), but I'm just going to take it a day at a time, and not feel stressed if I want to repeat a run - keeping it slow, steady and manageable is definitely my approach this time round! I'll let you know how I get on in a few more weeks!

Monday 19 April 2021


I don't know about you, but for the first half of 2020 I found it IMPOSSIBLE to concentrate on a book. Normally that's one of my favourite go-to hobbies, but I just could not settle, and kept getting distracted after just a few pages. In the end I just had to stop worrying about it, and I eventually lured myself back to reading with a few trashy adventure novels, and finally found the brainspace for it again.

Since then I've been on a roll, and I thought I'd share some of my favourite books I've read lately.

Transcendent Kingdom - Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi's first novel, Homegoing, was one of the best books I read last year, so I was excited to finally get my hands on this! Transcendent Kingdom is a really moving and poignant story of a young neuroscientist who is trying to carve out her career and step into her adult life, while haunted by the grief of losing her brother to addiction, and looking after her mother who is suffering severe depression. I found it very heavy at parts, but it's such a beautiful look at love, family, faith, science and religion. Can't wait to read whatever she does next!

Earthlings - Sayaka Murata

This is an absolutely bonkers book, and I'm not sure how to describe it (and a huge part of the joy is just the wildly surprising journey it takes you on, I don't want to spoil it!). It's dark and twisted, it covers pretty shocking, intense and taboo topics, it's totally unsettling (do not be fooled by that adorable cover), but it also just draws you in, and is a super entertaining coming-of-age story. It's definitely not for the faint of heart, but it's a bold, magical, unique novel that uses pretty grim imagery to explore questions of love, family and what it means to be human and be part of a society. 

The Vanishing Half - Brit Bennett (not pictured, read on kindle!)

 I loved this book! It follows the lives of the Vignes sisters - identical twins who grow up in a small, Southern black community and run away at age sixteen. More than a decade later they are living completely different lives - one sister has returned to the town she grew up in, and the other is passing as white, with a white husband who knows nothing about her past. This is a really complex, powerful, beautiful and poignant book, which deserves all of the hype it's been getting.

I've had this book on my shelf for years, and I am so glad I finally got round to picking it up. It took a little while to pull me in, but when it did I was transported to the streets of Barcelona! It's an incredibly immersive and atmospheric tale of a young boy who discovers a mysterious book, hidden in a secret library, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He starts an innocent quest to find the author, and gets wrapped up in a plot of mystery, murder, love and revenge. The memory of the book has sat with me, it feels like a wild adventure I went on a few summers ago, or as if I was told the tale by a stranger in a smoky bar, drinking wine on a rainy evening. Just a beautiful experience! 

Monday 12 April 2021


 If you follow me on my art insta (julietpaint), you'll see I've had a wee flurry of Animal Crossing inspired activity! 

I'm really enjoying finding my feet in instagram's art community (although I am such a tiny fish in a huge pond), but I'm keen to share some of my favourite paintings on this blog too - I always thought of it as my little corner of the internet, and now this little corner is obsessed with drawing!

The trend of drawing Animal Crosssing characters as if they were people, was definitely a big thing in 2020 when Animal Crossing New Horizons came out (I'm just going to assume you know what the game is!), so when I started thinking about this I did wonder if I'd missed my chance... but then I reasoned that yeah, sure, others have done it, but I haven't done it yet!

I've spent most of this year practising portraits, so this felt like a fun step to keep practicing faces and poses, but this time add a bit of creative thinking into the mix, as I tried to capture the spirit of each little animal character.

I tried not to look at what other people had done (I wanted to use my own interpretation, not be influenced by others), but the few Coco-as-a-person drawings I had seen were pretty creepy! In the game she is obviously quite a spooky character, with big black eyes and an empty head... but her personality is pretty chill! I imagined her as more of a hippy girl, with big round sunglasses, and I thought the peace sign was a nice nod to her rabbit ears.

Pango is one of my original villagers, so I felt obliged to paint my girl! She's a peppy character that wants to be a pop star, so I pictured her as a very cool girl, super sure of herself, with bright bold eye make up. 

On each painting I tried to include a little detail that was a specific nod to Animal Crossing or the character, so human Pango is wearing ant earrings (a little nod to AC Pango being an anteater). On reflection, while there's a lot I like about this painting, I think it's the least successful - the pose is a bit too stiff. Wah, sorry Pango! I still think you are cool.

Celeste, the star-gazing owl, is an Animal Crossing fan favourite, and there's loads of beautiful Celeste art out there! I really like the wistful expression, I think it captures her vibe, and it was easy to include the character's outfit (the big pink bow and argyle top). I added a star earring and necklace inspired by her wing feathers. It took me a while to get her nose right, that is a surprisingly tricky angle to draw!

Finally, it's Merengue! I think this is my favourite painting - the sketch was pretty hard to do (eyes! Mouth! Hand!), but it just feels so friendly and full of life. Definitely a good lesson to pick reference photos that aren't super serious staged shots!

In the game, Merengue is a baking loving rhino that looks a bit like a strawberry shortcake, so it was an easy theme to translate to human Merengue. I kept the colours pink and peppy, added a strawberry hair clip, and drew the fruit on the cupcake in the same style as the cherries in the game. 

This little series was SO FUN to do, I could probably just keep going, but I know it's good for me to mix things up, so I don't get bored. I'm just feeling so lucky I found this hobby! Keeping me sane while lockdown goes on and on. 

Monday 5 April 2021


Hi! It's been a while since I just chatted on here, so I thought I'd share a wee update on how life is going.

It's weird to think back to this time last year. The reality of lockdown was kicking in, we had a tiny brand new kitten (obviously brilliant, but a big addition to our lives), my partner was about to be furloughed for months, and I was about to go through some of my most stressful days at work (being a fundraiser for an arts charity was pretty stressful in 2020!). 

In comparison, this year, while I'm obviously not loving lockdown life, I feel much more zen about everything. Work is busy and pretty stressful still, but in more of a predictable way, I've settled into working from home (please don't make me go back to an office full time), we've found new routines, and I'm starting to feel a bit more hopeful about the future.

Self portrait, March 2021

A big part of that is that I got my first vaccine in March! I was surprised to be called so early, but it seems that there are some advantages to the various health dramas I've been through over the last two years. I felt surprisingly emotional getting it, then surprisingly horrible for 24 hours of flu-like side effects, but I'm buzzing to be a big step closer to normal. It's not just that I feel safer, but that I'm less likely to pass it onto others - living in the city means that it's been hard to properly distance at all times (try going to big Tesco without people charging past you), so I feel much better that I'm (hopefully) less likely to infect others when I'm just out and about.

Because outdoor adventures were my highlight of 2020, I'm feeling motivated to get fitter so I can venture further afield when we are allowed. I've already talked about my new bike (which is a dream!), but I've been doing Yoga with Adriene videos, and I've started Couch to 5k again! If you've read this blog for a while, you might recall that I have a rollercoaster relationship with running, but this time around I actually feel motivated to do it! I think I'm just so glad for an excuse to get out of the flat for fresh air, and it is so much easier to do it when I can run at lunchtime as I'm at home (trying to get the motivation to run before commuting to work was truly impossible in the past). I'm only on week 2 of Couch to 5k, so we shall see, but I feel good about it, and I am embracing the small moments of goodness these days.

My favourite hobby these days is still painting, I cannot get enough! I recently tried a self portrait, which feels like a big improvement from my last effort (which you can see here). I'm alternating between watercolour paints and digital art and drawing loads of faces these days, it's just so nice to have a satisfying hobby and create things! On my art instagram (julietpaint) I am currently working my way through an A-Z challenge of alphabet portraits (so far I've painted Awkwafina, Billie Eilish, Claire Saffitz, Dana Scully, Emmy Raver, FKA Twigs, Gwen Stefani, Helena Bonham Carter, Idina Menzel, and me - phew!), but next up I actually quite fancy revisiting the paintings I did YEARS ago for my Illustrated Blogger series. I feel like I owe them a nice portrait! 

Other than that, we're using the time to start putting things into motion for our future, and while I'm pretty sceptical that things will just magically go back to normal in the summer, I am excited for lots of things. Can't wait to sit in the sunshine with my pals, to go to the cinema, to wander around a gallery and look at things that aren't on a screen (!), to go to spin class again (a surprising joy in my life), to go camping, and that sweet, sweet moment when we're allowed to go to beer gardens again. It is nice to feel things are a little brighter again.