Thursday, 29 September 2016

My Pet Peeves

Do you ever get really irritated by certain things? Just little seemingly trivial actions or habits that most people probably don't think twice about, but which set your teeth on edge and make you want to scream under your breath? I've realised lately that a lot of things annoy me no end so I thought I'd do a post about my pet peeves in the hope that writing them out will cure me, or at least help me to rise above it slightly.

People who use their phones while watching a movie. Literally this is the most annoying thing ever. I'm not even talking about using your phone in the cinema (which is extremely distracting), I just mean when you're watching something with friends or family at home and people start texting or scrolling through Facebook in the middle of watching the thing. I don't have a problem with just quickly checking your emails or Instagram notifications or whatever, it's more when people start texting or messaging someone or doing anything else that makes it clear they aren't paying attention that bugs me. When I watch a film (even one I've seen before) I like to be 100% engrossed in it and comment on things to the people I'm watching it with, so I find it really irritating when the other people clearly aren't concentrating on the plotline because they're so distracted by their phones. Argh even just thinking about this is making me angry!

When people describe everything as cute. Kittens are cute. Puppies are cute. Babies are (mostly) cute. But you know what isn't cute? That top you bought or those jeans or that pair of ballet flats. Argh when will it end?? It annoys me so much when people (mostly YouTubers, but some people irl are guilty of this too) refer to literally EVERYTHING as cute or adorable when in reality it's just a really nice top or whatever - please enlarge your vocabulary and stop using an adjective intended to describe something sweet, youthful, pretty, dainty or quaint to describe a skirt.

When Americans talk about 'Europe'. As in 'I'm going to Europe on vacation this summer' or 'When I was in Europe...'. Unless you're doing a full-blown tour of the entire continent, do you mean France or Romania? Dorset or the Costa Blanca? Berlin or Athens? I hate to break it to you but Europe is not a country, it is in fact a continent containing many countries, a lot of which have their own cultures and identities and are generally extremely different from one another. But no, Americans have this habit of lumping them together and referring to them collectively - please, be more specific. I'm aware that we 'Europeans' tend to do this too when we talk about 'America', but assuming we mean it as an abbreviated form of 'the United States of America' I don't think that's nearly as bad, given that technically it is all one country with one language and culture.

The huge fuss that people make over Halloween. Ok, so according to the origins of the day (a time to remember the departed and traditionally when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest) Halloween is supposed to be scary, haunting and generally fear-inducing. Accordingly, for me 'dressing up' has always involved some sort of scary outfit, like a witch or a ghost or a vampire, and (when I was little) being dared to do things like run around the shed at the bottom of the garden in the middle of the night. But lots of people seem to interpret Halloween as 'dress up as anything you like' which of course you can, no one's stopping you, but in my opinion it loses the essence and the meaning behind the celebration. Dressing up as any old random thing is what you do on Carnival or an equivalent celebration, not on Halloween!

When people deny climate change. Alright so this went from petty to serious real quick and possibly this doesn't count as a 'peeve' but it really really makes me angry when people try to deny that climate change is a thing. I'm currently doing an online course with the Open University that's mostly about inequality (economic, social, gender etc.) but in the comments on one of the stages some idiot had written a whole comment about how he didn't believe in 'global warming' because his mother lives in Russia and says it's actually getting colder there *facepalm*. Which of course I responded too with a paragraph about how climate change is actually affecting the world because I'm a geography student and we live and breathe this stuff.

Unnecessary commenters. This is quite a specific one but it's linked to my last peeve so bear with. The course I'm doing is made up of various steps which you have to complete before you can move onto the next one and at the bottom of each step is a comments section. Now sometimes the step is meant to be a discussion or debate so the whole point is to post in the comments, but there are an awful lot of people who seem to feel the need to post the most banal and unnecessary things on every single step. What, I ask you, is the point of posting 'I found this interesting' or 'very good article' every single time? You don't get points for commenting and no one cares if you found it good or interesting, you're clogging up the comments section and making it more difficult to find out if people have in fact written anything of value. I'm not saying people don't have the right to comment because clearly they do; if you do find something interesting, fair enough, but why not explain why and elaborate a bit more rather than just posting the same thing as a hundred other commenters?! Like I said this is quite a specific case because here there is no value to pointless comments, whereas on other platforms such as YouTube clearly any kind of positive comment is going to encourage the creator and make their efforts worthwhile.

Whoops, this turned into a mini rant post, sorry! Turns out I have a lot of things I needed to get off my chest, but hopefully now they're out there in the ether I can move on. Do you have any pet peeves?


Monday, 26 September 2016

Instafaves #4

I haven't done an instafaves in what seems like ages so I thought it was about time for me to share my current favourite instagram accounts with you once again (you can see part onetwo and three here). I've really been loving instagram lately and I find myself being more and more inspired every day by the multitude of posts that pop up there. I love how versatile it is as a creative platform and I think it's definitely moved on from its original intention as just an image-hosting app to share your holiday snaps - there's so much more you can achieve with social media, especially visual forms like this, from advertising to sharing artwork. I've become slightly obsessed with the 'theme' of my own account lately, and I spend an embarrassing amount of time carefully cultivating my feed and making sure everything I upload works together harmoniously - I kind of wish I could be more carefree about what I choose to put on the internet but that's my artistic/perfectionistic tendencies coming out I'm afraid! Anyway, without further ado here are some of the instagram accounts I've been loving lately.

Sophie Engels // sophievstheuniverse 

Sophie is a 19-year-old girl from the Netherlands who has some amazing photography skills and posts a lot of arty, slightly vintage and hipster-esque pics. I'm obsessed with her style and the fun adventuring days out she seems to do all the time with her friends and family, plus I also wish I had her luck in thrift shops.

Manisha // manishathill

Manisha used to go to my school a few years ago and somehow I ended up following her on instagram and other social media sites. She currently lives in Barbados which means her feed is full of tropical beaches, lush palm trees and carnival photos and let me tell you, it's stunning and makes me want to move to the Caribbean (even though I actually hate the heat ahaha).

Rachel Marie // r_achelmarie

I follow Rachel's fabby blog (Rachel Coco) as well as her insta, where she keeps her feed perfectly balanced with high-contrast mostly black and white pictures and pops of colour. Rachel is a big fan of Starbucks, shopping and pretty architecture (as am I) so her account always makes me feel calm and relaxed when I scroll through it.

I don't know anything about this girl other than the fact that her username is awesome and her feed is to die for. She has super cool purple hair, likes plants and wears a lot of denim and mustard yellow - her outfit posts are perennially on point and she has wicked art skills and an unbelievably pretty bedroom. Go follow her if you don't already. Nuff said.

Katrina Kalamar // katrinakalamar

I've been following Katrina (of on the internet since her preppy Polyvore days but those times are long gone, as you'll see from her instagram feed which is an eclectic mix of architecture, effortlessly casual flatlays, selfies and basically just cool stuff which somehow works together. I don't know how she pulls it off but she does and it's a delight to scroll through.

Please go ahead and check out this fab people and follow them if you like what you see!


Friday, 23 September 2016

Decorating Your (Uni) Room on a Budget

A new academic year is just around the corner and for me that means living in a student house instead of in college (aka halls) and also the extremely exciting opportunity to decorate my new bedroom. I did my best to make my room in college pretty and personal by putting up posters, photos and fairy lights but given that it was so small and had a lot of storage and shelving built in there was only so much I could do, whereas my new room is a lot bigger and barer so it's a real blank canvas.

It's been a long process of gradually buying bits and pieces and trying to bring it all together coherently (and it's a process which is still ongoing since I have a whole load of stuff at home than I'm going to take with me when I go) so I thought I would put together a post on how to decorate a uni bedroom to impart my wisdom and generally explain how I've been going about it. A lot of this can be applied to any bedroom but I'm focusing on a university room which assumes there is some basic furniture provided (i.e. a bed, desk and wardrobe) and that you have limited scope when it comes to how much you're allowed to do to it (i.e. no painting or major adjustments). The emphasis is on how to do it on a budget because lets face it, your student loan has to cover other things like food and ridiculously expensive textbooks. Also, this isn't a room tour because I'm not in my uni house at the moment but I'm definitely planning on doing one when I get there!

Gotta love Pintrest

Get inspired. There's so much you can do to brighten up even the most drab uni bedroom and it definitely doesn't need to involve spending a fortune. Pintrest is ideal for providing visual inspiration for themes and colour schemes as well as ideas for DIYs so it's a great place to start looking - check out my 'bedroom' board, for example. Another place I often find inspiration is IKEA, particularly the showroom section where they have all the rooms set up because it helps to see ideas in the flesh and they're designed to make the best use of a small space. I also really like watching room/house tours on YouTube because I can do it without leaving my bed - as I mentioned in my summer favourites I've been loving Gabbie's (aka velvetgh0st) vlogs and videos and I really like her taste in homeware and the way she decorates her flat(s).

Plan it. If you're like me and you love shopping and homeware it's tempting to rush out and buy all sorts of stuff but it's so much more cost effective to sit down and really plan your room. Obviously it's helpful if you already know what the space looks like because you know what you've got to work with, but even if you haven't seen it there's a lot you can think about to start off with. The first thing to do is to decide if you want to have a particular theme or colour scheme because then you can have something to focus on while shopping. For my uni room I've decided to go with a dark pink, purple and turquoise colour scheme where possible, mostly because those are my favourite colours and also as it's relatively easy to find things in those colours - but I'm not sticking too it too rigidly. Theme-wise I've always thought it would be nice to do a sort of wanderlust thing as it would be quite easy to achieve: think maps on the wall, travel photos displayed, unfinished wood decorations and vintage-effect storage boxes.

Budget. There's no point spending a fortune on luxury furniture or decorative items if you're only living there for a year, so buy stuff that can be used again at some point in your life or that it won't matter too much if you have to leave behind. It's important to balance the potential cost with how committed you are to making your room look a particular way.

My uni bedroom last year

Make a shopping list. To start off with decide what you need aka things that are actually necessities. Some basic items which I think are essential for every bedroom include bed linen (duh), a desk lamp, storage boxes and a small bin/wastepaper basket. Once you have these essentials it's time to start thinking about things you want, by which I mean decorative items such as photo frames, ornaments and posters because it's all about achieving a balance between practicality and aesthetics.

Use what you have. Even if you don't hoard everything away 'just in case' *ahem* you've probably got some stuff which could be upcycled, repurposed or just plain borrowed. Odd sets of Christmas lights that aren't used all year round can become a set of fairy lights would around a curtain pole or draped over a wardrobe, while anything can be brightened up and given a new lease of life with a lick of paint including furniture and storage boxes. For instance, I'm planning to paint a wooden box that my grandad made for my mum's bedroom when she was little and use it as a bedside table! It's worth asking around to see what family and friends are hoarding away and would part with because you never know what you might find.

Buy from the right places. This goes hand in hand with budgeting, but do your research into where you can get the things you want for the price you want. I've found that Argos's ColourMatch range is brightly coloured and brilliant value for everything from rugs to lamps; Primark Home can be great for bright and fun duvet covers, quirky ornaments and little sets of fairy lights; and lets be real, IKEA is always a good idea, especially for furniture and storage solutions. Plus, don't discount places like Wilko and Poundland for basic things like cushions, and charity shops or car boot sales for unique vintage items with extra thrift factor.

My favourite way to display photos

Be creative. It's so easy to add a personal touch to a room with minimal cost and maximal effect. My number one tip is to print out photos! I do this using photo printing websites (Photobox and Lalalab are my favourites) but you can do it at home too providing you have photo paper and permission to use all of the printer ink. Then the possibilities are endless: frame them, use blu-tak to create a photowall, arrange them in a pattern, or use string and pegs (these ones are an ideal size) to make a 'washing-line' of snaps to a wall. You could also create a display wall or pinboard of things that inspire you, a sort of collage of prints, posters, photos, postcards, magazine pages - anything that will make an impact. If blu-tak isn't strong enough an alternative is command strips (which I am fully intending to buy because it actually says I can use them in my house contract so I'll blame it on that if they take the paint off, but hopefully they won't).

And that's it! Maybe all this stuff is completely obvious but I just really love decorating things and making my bedroom look nice - I hope someone found it helpful!


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

H&M Delicate Lace Picks

While I was browsing the H&M website the other day I was struck by the abundance of pretty pastel pieces adorned with lace and bows and all things delicate and beautiful, and I was inspired to create a little collection of themed 'picks' with the items I found. I tend to wear a lot of dark colours all year round so this isn't my usual style at all, but there was something oddly appealing about these pretty little tops and dresses and I kept coming across more and more of them - which was refreshing considering the current 90s revival which is at the opposite end of the fashion spectrum. I think they have a touch of Victorian charm with the lace collars and gently pleated skirts, but with a modern twist which totally brings them up to date. I couldn't help thinking of Elizabeth (of "Ice Cream" whispers Clara) whose gorgeous romantic style and aesthetic I have admired for many years, first on Stardoll way back in the day and later on her beautiful blog and instagram - check her out for more pretty blog posts and outfits!

Sleeveless dress, £24.99 // x
This dress is so simple and effortlessly romantic, I love it. It has a lovely old-fashioned feel and looks like something my grandma might have worn as a little girl growing up in the 1940s - in the best possible way, of course.

Embroidered dress, £24.99 // x
I'm a sucker for dresses with long sleeves and I wear them throughout the winter even on the coldest days. I sense a potential issue with wearing this dress with tights (dark tights under a light dress never looks good in my opinion) but I'm sure that could be got around - like with knee socks, for instance - and it would be totally worth it for the beautiful embroidered detailing.

Playsuit with lace, £19.99 // x
Okay so this does look kind of like (somewhat skimpy) pyjamas but in the vein of spaghetti strap slip dresses I'm sure you could get away with it as outerwear in hot weather. I really love the colour of this playsuit, I just wish I had the boobs to pull it off!

Embroidered blouse, £19.99 // x
This top is similar to the pink dress in the embroidery but I think the contrasting panel adds something extra and super cute. It makes me think of something a doll would wear, especially with the colour palette and little collar.

Dress in chiffon and lace, £24.99 // x
To be fair this has a lot in common with the first dress but again the contrasting detail makes it for me and it has the added advantage of little sleeves with delicate edging to make it especially charming.

Blouse with a lace collar, £14.99 // x
I think I'm right in thinking that this is what one refers to as a babydoll top - either way you've gotta love a little lace collar and bow detail. I think this would look really nice paired with a simple pair of light coloured jeans if you wanted to dabble in the lacy pastel look without fully committing to it.

Lace shorts, £19.99 // x
Perfect for summery days and garden parties, these shorts would add instant romantic factor to an outfit if worn with a simple cream or pastel top.

Suede ballet flats, £29.99 // x
Now I'm not gonna lie, I find these shoes a bit odd-looking but I think they would look a lot better on. Still, they definitely fit in with the style, what with the muted pastel colour and the intricate lace-up detail at the front.

Straw hat, £12.99 // x
I think this simple straw hat with a pretty ribbon would bring together any attempt to emulate this dainty, dreamy style while keeping the slightly period feel. Also it's practical and makes you look like someone who has their life together in the hot weather, score.

Fine-knit top with lace collar, £14.99 // x
For some reason I think of short sleeved jumpers as very 1950s but the contrast of the black and cream is oh so timeless and simple. This is a very versatile piece that could be worn with a variety of trousers or skirts to smarten up an outfit and give it a dollhouse feel.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of another selection of H&M's current collection - I'm not sponsored I swear!


Saturday, 17 September 2016

Mega Book Haul: Part 3

Welcome to the final part of this excessively large book haul - see parts one and two here. The ones in this grouping were bought either from a secondhand book sale that I happened to come across in a university building near Durham Cathedral, or The Works which is a discount shop that usually has a '3 books for £5' deal on which inevitably ends in me buying at least three books - in this instance it was The Summer Queen, The Dress and another one which I can't remember the name of that I left behind in England with my grandma because she'd run out of reading material.

The King's Deception by Steve Berry // The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

I just about shiver with anticipation whenever I think about The King's Deception because not only does it involve the CIA and the MI6 (aka baes), it's also about a conspiracy dating from the time of the Tudors which is by far my most favourite period of history to read about - basically if this doesn't merit a five star rating I shall be bitterly disappointed. The King's Curse is about Margaret Pole who is a Tudor figure I haven't read much about which is interesting, and of course it's by the queen herself Philippa Gregory which hopefully means it's a winner.

The Dress by Kate Kerrigan
The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick
The Lake House by Kate Morton

At first glance I thought The Dress was going to be a chick-lit type thing and I think I still might be right, but it's also partly set in the 1950s and about vintage clothes and dressmaking so I'm hoping it will be a good read nonetheless. The Summer Queen is about Eleanor of Aquitaine and is set in 1137, which interestingly makes it the earliest novel I have ever read and therefore it is sitting right at the beginning of my historical fiction shelves. This copy of The Lake House that I picked up at the secondhand sale is in absolutely perfection condition so it was a bargain at 50p, which is partly why I got it - I also really enjoyed The Forgotten Garden by the same author when I read it this summer and by the looks of it they have a lot of similarities, as intergenerational epics revolving around beautiful buildings and stuffed full of family secrets.

And that concludes my mega book haul!


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

25 Questions Tag

I really enjoy reading old-school tag posts and I haven't done one in absolutely ages so I thought it was about time I answered some interesting and not-so-interesting questions for the benefit of anyone who'd like to find out a bit about me. You'll see that some of these are pretty standard but I've tried to develop my answers a bit so they're more than just a couple of words or a yes/no response - happy reading!

1. What is your middle name?
My middle name is Hannah - apparently it was going to be my first name but my parents couldn't decide between the two and it ended up as my middle name, although I think it would have suited me quite well. Fun fact: there is in fact a writer called Sophie Hannah and my dad has a lot of her books which is quite surreal.

2. What was favorite subject at school?
English for sure. I loved everything about it, from the books we would read to writing essays, the classes and even the teachers! A lot of people don't understand why I decided to study geography at university since English was always my thing and to be honest I don't fully understand it either, but thankfully geography at uni is a lot better than it was at school.

3. What is your favorite drink?
Elderflower pressé, because I'm a wannabe hipster. I'm also partial to rose lemonade.

4. What is your favorite song at the moment?
I'm really loving Aurora's album All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend and I think my favourites from that are Warrior and I Went Too Far. She reminds me of a Norwegian version of Lorde in a way and I really hope she goes far because I love her voice and her songs, they're stunning.

5. What is your favorite food?
In terms of type of food definitely Italian because pizza and pasta, but I also really like Mexican flavours. My favourite meal is probably veggie chilli con carne with nachos and avocado, followed by literally any type of ice-cream. 

6. What is the last thing you bought?
The last purchase I made was to enroll on a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course which I am currently making my way through in order to fill up my last month of summer holiday and also put in on my CV, but in terms of physical objects it was probably books of some kind.

7. Favorite book of all time?
This is literally an impossible question to answer so I'm going to go with top three:
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

8. Favorite colour?
Purple! It always used to be green but then it changed for some reason.

9. Do you have any pets?
Not currently. When I was little and lived in the UK we had two black cats called Misty and Jasper but we had to leave them behind when we moved, and now my dad is allergic to dogs and cats so there's not much chance of getting another.

10. Favorite perfume?
Honestly my current favourite scent is the pink grapefruit one by The Body Shop, it's not exactly a perfume but I'm obsessed with how fresh and zesty it smells.

11. Favorite holiday?
I'm assuming this means in the American sense so definitely Christmas, winter is also my favourite season and Christmas is pretty much the highlight of it - I love the cosyness, goodwill and tradition of it all and especially the run-up to the big day throughout November and December. 

12. Are you married?
No - I'm 19.

13. Have you ever been out of the country, if so how many times?
Well I live 'out of the country' in that I'm English and I live in Belgium, but I also study in England so basically too many times to count and it depends which country you mean. In terms of other countries I've been to on holiday, off the top of my head I can think of France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Iceland, Greece, Canada, the US etc.

14. Do you speak any other language?
I've been learning French since I was about 5 and I also did Dutch for 6 years at school and Spanish for 2 years. Unfortunately while I can remember a decent amount of Dutch most of my Spanish has gradually slipped away! I was very fortunate to go to a school which put a lot of emphasis on language learning (perhaps too much in fact) but I'm not a natural linguist by any means.

15. How many siblings do you have?
I have one little brother who isn't actually that little any more, he's taller than me.

16. What is your favourite shop?
For clothes shopping I love Forever 21 and H&M but in general one of my favourite places to wander round is a little antiques and crafts place near where my grandparents live: the antiques section is full of interesting things and you never quite know what to expect, and there are also little craft stalls where you can watch artists at work (painters, sculptors, potters, woodworkers, jewellery-makers) and buy their creations - it's absolutely magical.

17. Favourite restaurant?
In general I'd have to say Wagamama's or Pizza Express, but I really love Flat White Kitchen which is a little independent café/restaurant in Durham where I'm studying. It's not the cheapest place in the world to eat but it's well worth the money and it has some amazing food, especially the avocado and poached eggs on sourdough toast which I have been known to Instagram on occasion.

18. When was the last time you cried?
For about the first time in my life I can't remember - so probably some time way back in June.

19. Favorite blog?
Again I'm going to have to do a top three here:
I'm also really loving Alternating Paths, which is run by a girl I've followed on Tumblr, Polyvore and Instagram for years.

20. Favorite movie?
I think if I had to pick one it would be The Great Gatsby (the 2013 remake not the older ones) but I also really love Stoker (2013), The Virgin Suicides (1999) and Heathers (1988). 

21. Favourite TV shows?
Twin Peaks, Sherlock, Doctor Who, The Great British Bakeoff, The Tudors, The Addams Family, Outnumbered - that's all I can think of at the moment. I'm not a big TV watcher but I get really into the ones I do watch.

22. PC or Mac?
I have a PC, it's a super swish HP one that weighs literally nothing and I'm in love with it.

23. What phone do you have?
My UK phone is an iPhone 6 because I'm basic like that, my Belgian phone is a Nokia Lumia 800 which is a brick in comparison and it slowly dying a death.

24. How tall are you?
About 165cm which I believe is 5’4″.

25. Can you cook?
If you give me a recipe I can follow it just fine but sadly I don't have much instinct when it comes to cooking. I enjoy spending hours creating complicated vegetarian dishes during the holidays when I have a lot of time on my hands but I doubt I'll be so enthusiastic when I go back to uni soon and have to cook for myself for the first time...


Sunday, 11 September 2016

Tips for Starting University

I feel like I've done quite a few university-related posts lately but I like writing them so here's another one. Although I don't go back to uni until the end of September (and term doesn't start until 10th October, I might add) most of my friends have already started again and it's impossible to avoid the 'back-to-school' supplies in shops - all of which reminds me that this time last year I was nervously waiting out September and anticipating my first year of university. I watched a lot of videos on YouTube about people's experiences and they really helped to put things in perspective while also giving me a lot of advice that I held on to during those first few months. So here is my contribution to the growing number of advice posts/videos - I'd just like to point out that this is solely based on my own experience and only refers to UK universities.

Socialise. If you're a naturally shy person like I am it's tempting to retreat to the safety of your room during Freshers Week instead of throwing yourself into the social scene, but try and go to as social events as you can personally manage. That doesn't have to mean properly going out as there are often less clubbing-oriented activities planned for the week, but really, if you like that sort of thing go for it because now is the time!

2 Talk to as many people as possible. This goes hand in hand with the socialising: go to events in halls, sit with different people at dinner if you're catered, go around knocking on people's doors, basically don't hesitate to start a conversation with anybody and everybody. Unless they happen to have gone to the same uni as a lot of their friends from school everyone is in the same boat at the beginning when it comes to trying to make friends. Just remember that Freshers' Week is the one time where it's completely acceptable to randomly go up to someone and introduce yourself, after that things settle down and you might get some weird looks. Also, there will be people you talk to and hang out with in that first week who you'll probably never speak to again - but personally I met my best uni friends in the first few days so you never know where a first conversation might lead.

3 Take care of yourself. While it's an ideal time to socialise and get to know people, that kind of thing isn't everyone's forté and combined with a totally new setting (or even country) plus getting to grips with the academic side of university life it can seem overwhelming. I think it's important to be aware of how much you can handle in that first week (and indeed the weeks afterwards), and it will be different for everyone depending on how introverted or extroverted you are: for example, when some girls on my corridor invited me to go out to a club with them on the first night I knew that was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. If you're planning on going out and drinking a lot then that's also something to watch out for: give yourself a night or two off so you don't burn out before the hard work starts.

3 Join societies. And actually go to them. I made the mistake of joining a whole load of different societies at the start of the year and them promptly got overwhelmed by the commitments. I would suggest joining no more than five societies/sports/clubs and then whittling it down if necessary over the course of the year. In retrospect I regret not actually going to most of the meetings either because I was lazy or because I was convinced I had too much work, but I'm going to do my best to rectify that this coming year.

Make your room your own. This probably doesn't apply to everyone but I know that one of the biggest things that helped me settle in was being able to decorate my rather bland uni bedroom and make it feel like home. Just coming in after a day of lectures and looking at my wall of photos and my fairy lights and my bookshelf would make me feel instantly calm and secure, which was really important for me personally. It doesn't have to take much but it can make a difference!

5 Time management. I feel like this is one of those skills you can't teach, you just have to learn it by yourself because everyone manages their time differently. Basically have a system, stick to it and procrastinate as little as possible -  hard though that may sound. For instance, I would always write up my lecture notes straight afterwards when I got back to my room because I wouldn't be ready to do any real work immediately and I also had a better hope of deciphering my scrawl, while in the late evenings when my brain was no longer capable of doing anything difficult I would do some brief prep for the next day's lectures by reading through the powerpoint (and copying it into OneNote lol). That's just a small example of how you can look at your own habits and fit a working schedule around them, but of course there's a lot more to life than just university work and it's important to maintain a healthy balance between uni, your social life, sleep and any other commitments.

6 Go to lectures. At least until you can figure out which ones you can realistically get away with missing because there will always be a lecturer who literally reads off the powerpoint word for word which makes attending the lecture pretty pointless. I only missed about four lectures in my first year (and that was only when I was literally unable to get out of bed because of a horrendous chest infection) so perhaps I took that to the extreme but honestly, nine times out of ten you'll get so much more out of it by actually being there. Also, they tend to drop hints about exams if you listen carefully.

7 Do the reading. Obviously it differs between courses, but from a humanities perspective I would aim to read at least half the assigned reading. In my opinion reading is the biggest difference between school and university and the most difficult part to get to grips with in the beginning, but just do your absolute best to get through as much of it as possible - for instance I was supposed to read two articles per lecture but it was an achievement if I even managed one, so that was the target I set for myself. Sometimes I'd read two or three if it was something I was really interested in and sometimes I read none, it would just depend.

Take useful notes when reading. I cannot stress this enough. There's literally no point reading something if you don't retain any of it, so try to take concise and helpful notes that will help you recall it later on down the line. An ideal way to do this is to bullet point the key pieces of information as you go and then when you get to the end write a brief paragraph summarising what you've just read. Trust me, it'll help when you get to exam season and you're looking over either copious amounts of notes or none at all.

Start assignments early. Like, really early because you'll thank yourself for it later. I once read an article that suggested you spend eight weeks writing an essay and set out a detailed week-by-week progress plan, but that's completely unrealistic as I definitely didn't have that long for a single essay and sometimes had two or three on the go at once. When I say 'start' them early that doesn't have to mean the writing process, even getting some of the reading done before the panic kicks in can be a massive relief.

10 Get to know your city. Chances are you're going to uni in a city you've never lived in which means there's a lot to discover. When it came to thinking about houses for second year and considering which area we wanted to live in I was struck by how little I knew of Durham (which is tiny by the way) outside of the main streets and the routes I would take in and out of the centre, so it was really nice to see more of the city by car when my mum and I visited recently. There are bound to be tourist attractions and museums that will enable you to find out more about where you live, but there's something to be said for simply exploring.

And those are my tips for starting university! I hope at least some of them were helpful.


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Playsuit Picks

I've been majorly into playsuits lately so I thought I'd share my picks from a few of my favourite websites for clothes shopping. I love how they constitute a whole outfit so you don't need to bother considering whether your top and bottoms go together, but they're also a lot more practical than dresses because you don't have to worry about them flipping up in the wind or anything like that. I think they make you look really put together too since they look like you've made an effort when really you've just put one thing on and accessorised. Of course there is the whole going-to-the-toilet issue which invariably turns into a struggle with zips or buttons, but we'll just gloss over that for now shall we?

Patterned playsuit, H&M, £12.99 // x
This is so simple and summery - it makes me think of beach huts and evening strolls on the boardwalk and it also has some subtle nautical vibes. I would wear this with a brown belt, sandals and a straw hat and hopefully feel like a summer goddess.

Satin playsuit, H&M, £19.99 // x
This is obviously more of a dressy take on a playsuit but I think it's also quite versatile: you could wear it with heels and a clutch for an evening look or sandals and a beach bag for the beach. It's basically a LBP - little black playsuit.

Floral playsuit, H&M, £19.99 // x
I absolutely love the look of this and especially the shirt-style collar and sleeves. The pattern is so perfect for autumn with all the yellows and oranges and I think it would look so nice with my hair colour at the moment which is a sort of reddish auburn.

Embroidered high-neck playsuit, Topshop, £38 // x
I'm not sure why but I want to call this style a handkerchief playsuit - is that a thing or am I just making it up? Who knows. It's quite simple but the top and the fastening make it super summery and interesting and I love the detailing at the edge. The boho style means I would probably wear this for casual occassions.

Leaf print playsuit, Topshop, £36 // x
The last few times I've been in Topshop I've noticed a lot of stuff in this leaf print patter and I really like it - it's fresh and modern and just makes me want to test out its camouflage potential in a jungle.

Burgundy wrap front tie waist playsuit, New Look, £19.99 // x
This is another simple classy number and of course it's in my favourite colour. I would pair this with some chunky heels and a statement necklace to jazz it up a bit.

Floral lace-up romper, Forever 21, €24 // x
I couldn't resist including this because it's just so beautiful and delicate, which isn't a style I would normally go for but I really like it a lot. I think I would probably regret buying something all white because I would spill something down it within five minutes but it would be nice to start off with!

Scalloped crochet romper, Forever 21, €25 // x
I love this one to death and I would totally wear this with the hairstyle the model has because it's one of the only updos I do regularly. It's so sophisticated and classy but also just super chic and timeless, and of course you can't go wrong with another LBP.

V-neck denim cami romper, Forever 21, €14 // x
I actually have one that's very similar to this, it's the same colour and has white lace edging so in my opinion it's nicer but it was from Primark so that's debatable I suppose. I haven't worn it yet although I've had it nearly a year but seeing this one has just reminded me to get on and wear it while the weather is still hot and sunny!

And those are my playsuit picks! Which is your favourite?


Monday, 5 September 2016

Mega Book Haul: Part 2

This is the next part of what I'm calling the Mega Book Haul, aka 'Sophie went to England and came back with 23 books she really didn't need so she's going to turn it into a few blog posts to feel better about it'. Anyway. If you read my post about my trip to the Yorkshire Dales you'll know I visited several churches in aid of my mum's interest in family history which includes wanting to photograph the graves of our long-dead ancestors. She also wanted to take photos inside the churches (in the vein of 'this was where they would have got married' and 'this was where they would have been baptised') which for me led to the happy discovery that there are often book sales at the back! Some were limited to a couple of shelves of creased paperbacks and childrens' books but others were much more promising and best of all excellently priced at 50p to £1 each - hence the somewhat eclectic mix I have to show you today.

Red Rose, White Rose by Joanna Hickson // The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland

Straight in there with some historical fiction: Red Rose, White Rose is (unsurprisingly) about the Wars of the Roses which is one of my favourite parts of pre-Tudor history, although it's so complicated that I confess I remain sadly ignorant of the details. This is actually one of the only books out the haul that I've read so far and it was really really good, I'd definitely recommend to it anyone who likes historical fiction. The Vanishing Witch made my heart skip I beat when I realised what it's about because hello, Plantagenet fiction AND witchcraft?? In the words of the Eleventh Doctor, has someone been peeking at my Christmas list? Nuff said.

Will by Christopher Rush // The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

Right I'm not gonna lie, Will is slightly on the mouldy side (you can't see it in this photo) and usually I only go for secondhand books that are in decent condition but for 50p I couldn't resist this fictional autobiography about Shakespeare. I've never come across anything about the Bard in terms of historical fiction which makes it doubly interesting for me. The Bronze Horseman is set in Leningrad in 1941 and is about the consequences of Hitler's invasion of Russia on a Russian family. When I skimmed the blurb initially it reminded me of Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys which is about a Lithuanian family and one of my absolute favourite WWII novels I've read so I hope I'll like this one just as much.

After Mary by Katherine McMahon // The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

I don't really have a lot to say about After Mary, I think I only picked it up because I thought it might be about Mary I which I presume it is indirectly, although the blurb says it's about a girl called Isabel whose father is a courtier - either way I'll probably really enjoy this. Moving away from historical fiction (ha about time), I also got The Five People You Meet in Heaven which I know absolutely nothing about but the title sort of resonated with me so I'm intrigued to see how I get on with it. I have a feeling I once watched a YouTuber include it in a monthly favourites or something but I can't remember who which is annoying. Anyway the cover is also oddly striking, it's very simple and almost old fashioned-looking in a way.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Douglas Adams' Starship Titanic by Terry Jones
The Black Rose of Florence by Michele Giuttari

Gosh this is a motley crew isn't it. I remember my friend telling me about The Secret Life of Bees a year or two ago and I also remember her not being too impressed with it, but I thought I'd just get it anyway to suss it out. I'm getting The Help vibes and a strong whiff of To Kill a Mockingbird so far but we shall see. Next I picked up Starship Titanic because Douglas Adams is one of my absolute favourite writers and I will read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy over and over until it's not funny any more which will be never. Unfortunately I did a bit of research and it turns out Starship Titanic was originally a computer game designed by Adams and adapted into a novel by Terry Jones, but I flicked through it and all is not lost because the writing style is much the same as Adams', thank goodness. Finally, I pounced on The Black Rose of Florence when I spotted it because I already have a couple of other books by the same author and it's sort of a series (and a cracking good one at that) so I'm always on the lookout for more of them to complete my collection. I had a horrible feeling I might already have this but it turns out I don't which is great!

And that concludes part two of this haul - part three will be published soon!


Friday, 2 September 2016

Summer Favourites

Somehow it's already September which means cooler days, the return of autumn TV and just over a month left till I go back to university. Summer is drawing to an end so I thought I'd do a quick roundup of the things I've been loving these past few months - I'm sure you know how a favourites post works so let's jump straight in.  

Twin Peaks

To be fair I first watched Twin Peaks in the Easter holidays but I rewatched it at the end of term when I had nothing else to do and I fell in love with it all over again. At one point I was going to do an entire post dedicated to this series which demonstrates how amazing it is, it's easily my favourite series of all time. It's also the weirdest thing I've ever seen and it's hard to capture its essence in words, but just as a quick summary it's about an isolated town called Twin Peaks in Washington where a 17-year-old girl called Laura Palmer is found murdered. The first series focuses on her murder and the investigation carried out by the local sheriff and Special Agent Dale Cooper of the FBI who is brought in to work on the case, while the second (much longer) series carries on where the previous one left off and explores the lives of the town's inhabitants in a number of subplots. Basically I love Twin Peaks to death and I can't believe it took me so long to find out about it! Also I'm hella excited for the new series that comes out next year, like I can't even.

Gabby's vlogs

While I have been watching a lot of YouTube this summer it's mostly been ASMR videos so I won't bore you with that in this post, but a 'mainstream' YouTuber who I have really enjoyed watching is Gabriella aka velvetgh0st. Oddly I'm not a huge fan of her main channel videos, I mean I'll occasionally watch one if it looks especially interesting but what I really have been into is her vlogs on her second channel. I don't know what it is about her but she's my absolute favourite vlogger, she manages to make even the most mundane tasks interesting and she loves home decor which I do too. Luckily she daily vlogs a lot so there's plenty of material to keep me going!

Red playsuit from H&M

I got this red playsuit from H&M at the beginning of the summer and I absolutely love it, I wear it all the time and it's just my number one go-to outfit for days out. It's really loose and comfy and best of all it has huuuge pockets! Pockets! I saw it on the H&M website the other day and apparently it's meant to be off the shoulder but I just wear it like a short sleeved playsuit (like in the photo) which works too. I think it was about £22 and it was worth every penny!

Botanic gardens

I first discovered Durham's botanic gardens in the summer term and they quickly became my favourite place to wander around in the evenings, enjoy nature and take photos. Then on my trip to Ireland I visited both Dublin and Belfast's gardens and they were both truly stunning and totally instagram worthy, I could have wandered around them for hours. In general I'm more of an inside person but I do like spending time outdoors so this is ideal for me: a bit of nature but beautifully presented and fabulously photogenic.

Polaroid camera

After not using my Polaroid for ages because I didn't want to waste the film I decided to just embrace it this summer and took loads of pics on my trip to Ireland. I'm still learning how to use the settings so they didn't always come out that well (as you can probably see) but the memories and the excitement of instant photos are still there. If only the film wasn't so expensive!

Elderflower pressé
I've become more or less addicted to this stuff, it's absolutely divine and has such a light and delicate flavour which makes it perfect for summer. I had it for the first time in a hipster-ish café in Durham before the end of term and I was obsessed straight away. Unfortunately they don't seem to have caught on here in Belgium as I haven't been able to find it in the supermarkets but they definitely do it in places like Tesco and Waitrose, and I've also recently discovered that it's much cheaper to make it using sparkling water and elderflower cordial.

Tidying/clearing out
This might seem like a weird one but I've been really enjoying tidying things and clearing out cupboards this summer. It might be a product of spending a lot of time in my room but I just can't stand living in a messy space and I find it so calming and satisfying to potter around putting things away. At the beginning of the summer I also did a huge clear-out and got rid of so much stuff which was amazing, I love getting rid of clothes I never wear and finding better storage solutions for the things I do want to keep. I also took a bunch of Nintendo DS and Wii games to Game in the UK because they buy them off you which is excellent, I only made about £20 but it was worth having and now I don't have the boxes of games I'll never play taking up space in my drawers. I think it's also to do with having not lived in my room at home for most of the past year - its made me realise what I do and don't need and so I've been able to part with a lot of things I used to hold on to just because I had the space to keep them.

And those are my favourite things of this summer - thanks for reading!