Soffia – 6961

One week to go until the MK half marathon and I bossed 11 miles last weekend! The more people I speak to, the more I feel I’ve taken training way too seriously, but I am petrified of getting injured so wanted to build up very slowly…I can’t compete with the amazing efforts of those that competed the London Marathon but I assure you the half training is gruelling too!

I managed 9 minute miles despite achy legs from too much trampolining at Bounce on Friday, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up for all 13 next week.

Thank you to everyone that has donated so far and gotten me to +75% of my fundraising target!

If you haven’t donated already, I am raising money for Challenges Worldwide who support start-up businesses in Africa. There is a real problem with businesses being investment ready, and investors finding quality candidates in Africa. This is hindering economic growth across the continent and Challenges Worldwide hope to help +750 businesses by 2018. They will do this in various ways such as by providing a financial platform to better manage accounts, and by placing volunteers that can help with general business practice such as marketing and planning.

Read more on the Challenges Worldwide website and please donate generously to support their work through my JustGiving page here.

Charity bake sale = success!

This week I focused on upping my fundraising game and went hard on the baking. After starting Sunday, by Wednesday I had managed to create homemade chocolate tarts with an Oreo biscuit based and caramel centre, Russian traybake; complete with strawberries, pecans, white chocolate and pineapple, and toffee marshmallow Rice Krispy treats; garnished with caramel sauce and a celebration chocolate. I then cheated and bought some cupcakes…

Special thanks to Paul Howden for donating The Bishop’s famous fudge and an Easter simnel cake – everything went down a treat despite all the free food in the office!

£86 cash + £62 in online donations = a total of £148!! I was hoping for over £75 so to raise almost double that is amazing. The charity bake sale was definitely a success!

Thank you again to everyone who donated, and once the cash is in, I’ll be over half way to my target.

Find out more about why I’m fundraising and keep track of progress here:


Training is under way

Giving myself a 6 week window to train for a half marathon was probably not the brightest idea!

Last weekend I walked the Yorkshire 3 Peaks thinking a long walk would be a good substitute for a run. +25 miles and +13 hours later I had crippled myself so only managed a short run on Thursday during the week.

However, I need to finish the 13 miles on the 1st of May so am still rapidly upping my distance to improve my stamina. Today I managed an 8.5 mile run and have maintained a pace <9mins a mile. Usually I average at 9/10 mins so I’m hoping I can keep this up!


Please visit my JustGiving page and sponsor the massive effort that is this training! I don’t enjoy running, I usually stick to 3 miles because it’s just enough to keep me fit and I am finding this a huge challenge.

Why am I doing this?

In a few months I will be going to Africa as part of an ICS programme to support Challenges Worldwide, a charity that works with start-up businesses who request help from volunteers. With help from ICS, Challenges Worldwide are aiming to grow 750 businesses, improving local economies and helping to fight poverty in developing countries. The money I raise will go towards supporting in-country volunteers and the sustainability of the ICS programme.


The return of the blog.

I have relatively big news that I am now in a position to share – I will soon be packing up, taking a sabbatical from work and moving to Africa for up to 6 months! I am really excited to have been selected to volunteer overseas with Challenges Worldwide on an International Citizen Service (ICS) placement. Exact location TBC before you ask…

ICS works with communities that have specifically requested their help, and also aims to inspire young people in the UK and overseas to become active citizens who are passionate about long term community development.

ICS partner with charities all over the world, but I have chosen to volunteer as a Team Leader for Challenges Worldwide because they send volunteers to start-up businesses looking for financial, marketing and other business support.

The first part of my placement is a challenge to raise £500 towards the work of Challenges Worldwide and their ICS partners. My company, The BGL Group, will then match fund the amount to reach a total of £1000.

The money raised will go towards enabling the overall costs of ICS, ensuring they can to continue to support youth volunteers in Africa, and to send UK volunteers to the developing world to make a lasting difference in disadvantaged communities.

Amongst other things, I’ll be running a half marathon to raise funds, and you can keep track of how I get on here or through my Justgiving page. Although I have been running for a year now, I rarely venture more than 3 miles, so 13 miles is guaranteed to turn my legs to jelly…

Any contribution from you will make a real difference to the lives of people in developing countries, so please dig deep!

Thanks in advance for your support and stay tuned for updates on my journey.

Just Giving:


Should probably wrap this up!

So my Holland chapter is completely closed now hence the lack of blogging. Long story short the Dutch business is closing and I have been lucky enough to come out of the closure with an exciting new job opportunity back in the UK!

I met some of the nicest people I have ever come across, explored a number of beautiful Dutch cities and fell in love with Holland. It may have been short, but it was sweet – now onto the next adventure 😊



Happy New Year!

  I decided to take the holidays off blogging and have had a very relaxing time back in the UK.

This year Rob (my brother) and I were in charge of the Icelandic Christmas dinner and I am happy to report it was a success! Playing cook I realised that Christmas is definitely where my sweet tooth comes from – sugar browned potatos, sugar roasted carrots and parsnips, homemade toblerone ice cream and more sugar in the fruit salad dressing have definitely contributed to my holiday weight gain. But if you haven’t put on weight then you’ve not eaten enough these past few weeks let’s be honest…

After our Icelandic meal on the 24th I had a traditional 25th and another roast on Boxing Day. It was basically three Christmas meals which was delightful and I am now the proud owner of a pressure cooker (thanks Santa) so am looking forward to making a whole chicken in 20 minutes 👌🏼 I do not want to return any gifts despite only providing a few suggestions – an even bigger success!

For the second year in a row my little brother spoiled the board game surprise. I bought cluedo for my sister in law – he’s been telling her how excited he was to play cluedo for weeks whilst it sat at home ready to wrap for her gift. Massive fail but it was a good game nonetheless!

After Christmas I headed up north to George’s via Rothwell. 5.5 hours of driving later I realised everyone travelled on the 27th last year, it was a bad plan.

Once in Barnsley I was finally able to use Meerkat Movie codes to see Star Wars and the new Hunger Games. I am fully up to date on Jedi-ness and was impressed with the finale of HG (no spoilers so no more details).

I also got to meet George’s mum’s new pup Joey 😁😁 next to the huge Oscar and Maddie he’s just a little baby and my dog love is as strong as ever!

For New Years we decided to stay in so I had some fancy pink wine (Echo Falls…), watched New Years Eve the film and saw the bells at midnight before cracking out the sparklers! It was fabulous and only cost me £11 in booze. Staying in is definitely the new going out…

Two Barnsley matches, a few more board games and beers later I’m back in Ptown searching for houses! Long story short Grandma Soff is returning to the UK so I’m undecided how much longer I’ll keep this up but I’ll try for a bit longer…


Cologne at Christmas Time

Being able to go to Cologne for the night is quite the novelty I never thought I’d have. George and I went to +6 Christmas markets, drank lots of mulled wine, ate lots of food and took part in that well known Christmas tradition of 3D mini golf…

Ok so maybe not quite a traditional activity, but it took us 1.5hours to get to The Glowing Rooms (because we are really good at getting lost) and I was not disappointed. The whole room glowed in the dark and we were given an iPod to keep score and 3D glasses that made the floor come to life. Definitely worth a visit!

For dinner we went to Paffgen – it was like a really informal wagamamas style seating arrangement and they sold the standard German restaurant dishes. George had a pork knuckle and I had some sort of beef dish with potato dumplings. The only thing that disappointed us was the baby beers…steins don’t seem to be a thing in Cologne but it was good beer nonetheless.

After the whistle stop tour we went back to Haarlem and spent the rest of our time chilling. On Monday Niels and Maarten came round for a Christmas dinner, kudos to chef Ellie for doing most of the work…

Having just arrived back in England I’m now looking forward to spending some time with the fam over the holiday period and heading up to Barnsley for New Years!

Merry Christmas everyone 😊



Gradblog_MaastrichtLast weekend a couple of our fellow BGL graduates, Meg and Helen, came to visit for a trip away to Maastricht with some of our Dutch colleagues (the South of Holland). The whole of Holland just seems to be particularly beautiful and Maastricht was not an exception.

On Friday we arrived after a long train ride down and visited the Christmas market, drank gluhwein (mulled wine) and checked in to our hotel. It cost 50 Euros for the train ticket, hotel and breakfast which I thought was a great bargain! In the eve we went to a Tapas Restaurant ‘Los Amigos’. After ordering the sharing selection for 8 people I got to try almost everything on the menu and it was the best tapas I’ve ever eaten; the dates wrapped in bacon were a particular favourite.

Then on Saturday we woke up early(ish) and took a bus to Valkenburg with the intention of visiting the underground Christmas markets in the caves. Unfortunately the queues looked close to an hour long and we didn’t think anything in the cave would be worth the wait. So we stuck to the outdoor stalls instead, drank more gluhwein and then headed back to Haarlem for dinner time.

Back in Haarlem we had been holding out for Meg’s visit to finally visit the famous Thai restaurant Erawan that she had been recommending since we moved to Holland. The selection of restaurants in Haarlem is just amazing and the food did not disappoint so I will definitely visit again if I get the chance.

Sunday was all about relaxing, drinking luxury hot chocolate from The Chocolate Company and introducing the girls to The Secret Life of 4,5 and 6 year olds. It’s a documentary series on All4 where they have recorded and analysed a ‘day in the life of’ a few groups of children and it’s fascinating and hilarious to see how they interact with each other at the different life stages. I’m not going to go into detail but if you get a chance at least watch an episode of the 4 year olds and you will not be disappointed.

After Meg and Helen had left Ellie and I went out to wander the shops and found that Haarlem actually had a pretty awesome Christmas market on for the weekend that we missed. The stalls stretched across most of the centre ring of canals and there were hundreds of people getting into the festive spirit! This was too many people for our liking so we stuck to the side streets, did a bit of shopping and then went home to watch Love Actually. It’s almost Christmas!!


Advice, reviews and tours of Dam

Graduate_Blog_December2016Work has been a bit of a whirlwind this week and I’ve been focusing on additional learning. For those of you that are interested in Marketing there are some great online courses on Udemy, Future Learn and Google (Analytics & Adwords) to help improve your knowledge and to add to your CV. For those of you that aren’t interested in Marketing, Future Learn still has some great stuff if you filter by category for every topic you can think of, and I’ve even branched out to look at some coding on w3school and Why am I telling you this? It’s interesting! I’ve completed an SEO for beginner’s course and the Google Analytics Academy Ecommerce Analytics course in 2 days. I know how difficult it is to get a graduate job, and if you are still struggling, being able to reference this information in your CV, a cover letter or an interview might help you get hired – so I thought I’d share.

As well as geeking out online, I had Becky over to visit this weekend just gone! We started our activities with dinner at the Jopenkerk in Haarlem (which loosely translates to the Booby-church). The Jopenkerk has an amazing interior as they brew the Jopen beer in-house at the former church and I was very surprised at how good the food was! Highly recommend it to anyone that does visit Haarlem.

Then on Saturday we woke up early, and after telling Becky not to drink too much Friday eve, I was the one with a hangover…feeling a little bit worse for wear I manned up and we headed into Amsterdam to visit Anne Frank’s house though as Becky had requested it on the agenda! That was my third and final visit as after an hour long queue in the cold I can safely say I think I have covered every aspect of the museum.

Our next stop was The Pancake Bakery (Pannenkoekenhuis) and I had a child’s portion Nutella and Banana pancake for breakfast/lunch. There was nothing child sized about this portion though and after 3/4 I was well and truly stuffed!

After food we went straight to the Centraal Station to hop on a Canal Tour. For 9 euros they took us around the city for an hour and we spied all of the Amsterdam Light Festival features we wanted to revisit once it was dark. It was a cheaper tour so not the most amazing route but it did what it said on the tin/board and I felt I got my money’s worth.

The Light Festival itself was less a festival, and more a display of LED art sculptures in the canals. It was interesting and colourful to walk around but I think I could’ve done with an official tour to fully appreciate the pieces to their full extent.

That was Saturday and on Sunday we went back to Dam having decided we wanted to do the Heineken Experience! I took Becky for a whistle-stop tour beforehand, mimicking the route I have taken on walking tours to show her the Weigh House, The Old Church, Dam Square and we even popped into the Erotic Museum (because Dam). It was an overpriced version of The Sex Museum and a little crappier/tackier so I probably wouldn’t recommend but these things are always good for a giggle if you’re playing tourist.

Then we went on to the Heineken Brewery and for 16 euros the tour included 2.5 drinks, a canal taxi back to the edge of the centre and a free Heineken glass (which will be wrapped up and given to someone for Christmas)! We were taught about the history, the ingredients, how the beer is made, bottled and even went on a mini-ride as ‘a day in the life of a Heineken beer’. As a Marketer I really appreciate a good brand and as a tourist I really enjoyed the beer and the fact that there is a PS4, Fifa, a Rugby simulator and other games for guests to experience. Basically it was awesome, so go.