Friday, 23 December 2016

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I was struggling for something to write this week, if I'm honest. It's the last post of the year and I felt a certain amount of pressure to make it really interesting. But if I've learnt nothing else this year, it's that sometimes you have to just go with the flow.

So with that in mind, I have to write about this book. I finished it about twenty minutes ago and OH MY FREAKING GOD. It was so good. I read it in two days. I spent the majority of today curled up reading it. I couldn't tear myself away.

The narrator, Rachel, takes the same train everyday and spends her time watching the people who live in the houses along the train tracks. She feels like she's a part of their lives, watching them do the same things everyday. Then when a woman goes missing, she feels like she has information that could help solve the mystery of what happen to her.

Between this novel and Gone Girl, I feel like thriller novels are my new thing. If you like to read and haven't read this yet, you absolutely have to. The next thing on my to-do list is watch the film adaption with Emily Blunt - hopefully it'll be just as exciting as this.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Gift of Gratitudes

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One of my new year's resolutions for 2016 was to write down something I'm grateful for every single day. And I can say with 100% certainty that I've done it. Between my diary and the app on my phone that I downloaded in August, I have a least one gratitude for every single day. And I think that's really an incredible thing.

I'm a pessimist. I'll be the first one to admit it. And challenging myself to keep a list of gratitudes every single day was a way of forcing myself to focus on the positive things that happen each day, rather than the negative things.

I have an app on my phone called 'Gratitude Log' that I downloaded in August, and I LOVEE it. I update it every single day without fail. I started using it on August 22nd, and in the 112 days that I've used it since then, there have been 431 things that I'm grateful for. That's more than one a day. Now tell me that isn't the most amazing thing.

They're not all massive, life-altering things. Sometimes a gratitude can be something as simple as 'had a lie-in'. It's such a nothing thing that most people probably wouldn't think twice about, but it's something that makes me happy, and therefore, it's something I'm grateful for. I'm grateful for my boyfriend, who puts up with my peculiar ways. I'm grateful for old friends, who have gotten in contact with me to say nice things about my blog. I'm grateful for my parents and sister, who always have time to chat. Mostly. There are so many things in my life right now that I have to be grateful about. Having them all on my phone in one place means I can look back on them and remember what great days they were. And even if not-so-great things did happen on those days, I can't remember what they are. It sounds crazy, but I can feel that my attitude and outlook has changed. I'm not an optimist yet by any standard, but maybe one day I will be.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

2016 (A.K.A. The Year I Turned 21)

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As I sit down to write this, I'm telling myself that it won't turn into a summary of the year, but even as I type this sentence, I sense that that's what it will become. Meh.

My 21st birthday was almost two weeks ago, and I had a really good time. Fairly low key - my family came at the weekend and I had friends over in the evening, but it was a celebration that was very 'me' and I loved it. But now, almost two weeks later, it's finally starting to occur to me that I'm twenty-one. I'm twenty-something. I'm now in my twenties. And that is one of the weirdest things ever. I think everyone, when they're younger, dreams of the day they turn 21, but a small part of me never really thought that day would come. I never really thought too closely about where I'd be and what I'd be doing when I turned 21.

And yet, here I am. In society's terms, I'm a fully fledged adult, but I still feel the same as I did at 17. I guess I'm just having a little epiphany as I write this. I'm 21.

I keep seeing this quote all over the place, and I never really thought too much about it until I saw it again the other day - 'It's the oldest story in the world. One day, you're seventeen and planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.' After a Google search, I've been informed that this is from One Tree Hill (which I've never seen), but I think that it's so true. My entire life, I've been working towards going to university. And now here I am. But not only am I here, I'm in my final year. I'm nearly done. And yet I still feel like I've just started. The opportunity has almost passed me by without my even noticing. And I guess that's just how life goes.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

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This week has been a very grown up one for me. I've done a lot of things that, in hindsight, really are not a big deal, but to someone who still feels about seventeen, they really are. Despite this, it's been a good week for me. I've had meetings with my dissertation tutor, who seems happy with the way my project is progressing, and I think I finally have some sort of a plan for what to do when university ends.

But for me, the best thing to happen this week are the comments that I've been getting about my blog. I've got an entire post about why I write my blog - and I write it for myself - but I had a brave moment a few weeks ago and posted the link to it on my Instagram bio. I didn't tell anyone that it was there, but nevertheless, it was. If you were looking for it, it wouldn't be that hard to find. After that, I didn't really think anything of it until I got a message from a friend, telling me that she'd stumbled upon it and really liked it. The following day, I had an old friend from home message me about it, saying the same thing. Despite knowing that people could find it if they were looking for it, I still never really thought about anyone reading it. Especially not anyone I know personally. But still, here were people, who know me in real life, telling me that they like my blog. And that has been just a massive confidence boost for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm still not going to be shouting about it from the rooftops or anything, but I feel like I really needed to hear those comments this week.

Who knows, maybe I'll have posted it on my Facebook profile by the end of the year?

On second thought, maybe not.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Why Do I Love Books?

As someone who studies an English degree, and spends at least twenty hours a day reading something of some kind, this is a question that I get asked a lot.

And to be perfectly honest, I don't know the answer. Even after almost twenty-one years, I cannot answer this question. I've always loved to read. I've done it ever since I can remember. I learned to scan read, in order to take more information in and read more quickly, before most kids learned to read normally.

For me, books are my happy place. Whenever I'm feeling down, I know that I can snuggle up in bed, with a cup of tea, and read my books, and I'll be alright again fairly soon. There is nothing that I love to do more than read, even at uni, when it's not uncommon to have to read three or four books a week just to stay on track.

I get so many people say to me, 'I wish I could just sit and read books like you do.' But I think the problem with that is if you love reading, it's because you've always loved it. It's not something you've necessarily picked up along the way, or a habit you've learned. But that doesn't mean you can't learn to love it. Go to a bookshop (side note: I would LIVE in a bookshop if I could <3) and pick out ANY book that takes your fancy. Irrelevant of genre, topic, age range, just pick it up. If it sounds good, take it home and spend fifteen minutes reading it. If you hate it, then fine, maybe that genre/topic/style of book isn't for you. Just take the time to give it a go, and who knows what you'll find out.

The trick is to make reading a fun experience - something you want to do. Whether that's cosy up in bed or on the sofa, or just sit and read. Do it because you want to. And forget everyone else.
My all-time favourite book series is Harry Potter. I'm the Potter generation, and I will fiercely defend the saga until my dying day. I love it so much that I'm writing my dissertation on it. But I'm almost twenty-one, and many people think that I'm too old for the Potter series now. To them, I say absolutely not. The first Potter book came out two years after I was born. I am LITERALLY the generation that grew up with Harry Potter and I will love it even when I'm fifty.

So why do I love books? The short answer is because I always have.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

A Reflection on Autumn

A while ago, I wrote a post about how summer was my favourite season. But now, as we've moved into autumn, with it's longer nights and chillier days, I'm tempted to change my mind. I love autumn. It's the season of change. The trees are loosing their leaves, the air is getting colder, and the nights are drawing in more and more everyday.

As much as I hate the dark, I love the colder weather. I love wearing jumpers and coats and thick socks and cosy-ing up in bed with a book and a cup of tea. It's my favourite thing to do. My stack of books I have to read is almost as tall as me, but Gilmore Girls is my new favourite TV show, and cosy autumn evenings in my bed are starting to become my new favourite thing.

Autumn is a fantastic time for reflection. Look back on the year and think about everything you've done. Everything you've achieved. Everything you've experienced. For me, it's been a great year. I can only hope that it continues this way.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Why Do I Write My Blog?

This is a question that I've asked myself a lot over the last 10 months, particularly during those times when I can't think of anything to write about. But I persevere, and solider through, because I love having this 'thing' to do on the side - something that's completely separate from my studies and separate from my general life commitments.

This is the same reason why I don't 'advertise' my blog - very few people know that I write it, and I'm perfectly glad to keep it this way. I write my blog for myself. I don't write it for anyone else. This blog was born out of boredom and a compelling need to write. All of that comes from me. Even if no one else ever reads this, that's completely fine with me.

If by some chance anyone does stumble across this, hey! Welcome to a snapshot of inside my brain. It's confused and it's mismatched, but it's all genuine and that's the most important thing.

Short answer: I write this blog because I love it.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

My Experience With: Getting a Tattoo

One of the things that I did this summer was to get my first tattoo. This is something that I've wanted to get for a while, but to be honest, I never thought that I'd actually get one done. My sister decided that she wanted one for her eighteenth birthday, and she wanted our mum, aunt and myself to go with her.

To say that I was nervous was an understatement. I actually nearly bottled out and didn't do it at all, because while I knew what I wanted my tattoo to be, I wasn't sure where I wanted it. I ended up going with my gut instinct and getting it on my ribs, and looking back I'm so glad that I did.

In terms of pain, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I'd heard that your ribcage is one of the worst places to get tattooed because it hurts so much, but I knew in my heart that that is where I wanted my tattoo, so I decided to just go for it. It's a fairly new philosophy of mine to start saying yes to more things, so I went for it and figured that if it went wrong, I'd just worry about it later.

As you can see from the pictures, it starts towards the back of my ribs and then comes forward onto the actual bone itself. The first part of the tattoo wasn't too bad at all in terms of pain, it was just a weird, uncomfortable feeling more than anything else. Towards the front, when it was more on the rib bone itself, that was more painful. I actually ended up digging my nails into my hand to give me something else to focus on, and that was more painful than the tattoo itself, so make of that what you will. It's only four little words, so it only took about five minutes, but that was quite enough for me. It was uncomfortable enough that I wouldn't want to have anything bigger or more detailed done in that location.

I got this done at the beginning of September. It's now the middle of October and it's all healed up and done with. I don't even notice it anymore. The first week or so after having it done, the skin was obviously very tender and it made wearing anything a pain, but it was definitely worth it, and now it's healed I forget it's there half the time.

I love it so much, and I'm so glad that I took the leap and got it done.

In case you're wondering what it says, it's 'this too shall pass'. Basically everyone has asked me what it means, and essentially, it's a philosophical saying that means that everything is temporary. All the negative stuff that you go through is only temporary, so don't stress about it, and the positive stuff is temporary too, so always be grateful and never take anything for granted.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Being Alone and Keeping Busy

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I'm back at university, which means only one thing: a lot of alone time. I live with four other girls who all do different courses, so our schedules are completely different and as a result, I spend a lot of time by myself.

Last year, this became a real issue for me, and caused me to become really down and consider dropping out of university all together, which confused me because as a child I loved nothing more than spending time by myself. But I found I hated the silence and lack of company.

This year, however, I'm really working on it. I'm in a different bedroom, which has made a world of difference, and I'm in my final year, so I have tons of work to keep me busy.

I'm learning to love my own company, and I think that's one of the most important things in the world.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Summer 2016

As I write this, I'm currently sat in my house at university, procrastinating on the dissertation work that I should be doing, and instead choosing to reflect on the summer that I had this year.

It was a great one. I experienced so many new things and really spent some time relaxing and preparing for my final year at university.

I went Zorbing, I went on the fastest zip line in the world, I went surfing for the first time, I attempted a tree-top climbing adventure, I dyed my hair, I got a tattoo, and I got to spend time with my family and friends.

Anyone who knows me in real life will know that extreme sports and adventures aren't really my thing. But this summer I really tried to push myself and do things that I've never done before. And it worked out really well. The zip lining was one of the most fun things that I've ever done, and I'm terrified of heights. I couldn't finish the tree-top climbing adventure due to this same fear, but I still attempted it and I'm proud that I did. I so nearly didn't get my tattoo, but I just went for it and I absolutely love it.

I still don't love heights, and I can't surf to save my life, but I will always look back on this summer and remember it as a good one. I had some of the best times, and I'm so looking forward to the future.

How was your summer?

Review: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

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I dislike long, rambling book reviews so to sum this up in a sentence: I LOVED this.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka. J. K. Rowling for those of you that don't know this), is a masterpiece from start to finish. Perhaps I'm slightly biased because of how much I love the Harry Potter books, but I'd like to think that even if this wasn't written by J .K. Rowling, I'd still love it just as much.

Cormoran Strike is a broke, out-of-work detective who takes an apparently open and shut suicide case purely for the money. Robin is a newly-engaged agency worker who is sent to work for Strike temporarily. This is a detective/crime novel, and the aspect that I loved most about it was the story. Despite the apparent simplicity of the case, it is engaging from the first page and keeps you guessing right up until the end.

I also like that, despite this book being the first of a series of Strike detective novels by Rowling, it can still be read as a standalone book. The case finishes and ends within the novel and to me, that's really important.

If you haven't read this, I would highly recommend it. I mean, if you haven't read the Harry Potter books (and who hasn't, let's be real), I'd probably start with those. But this was fantastic, and I thoroughly look forward to the second one.

What books have you been loving lately?

Sunday, 11 September 2016

My Experience With: Henna Hair Dye

At the ripe old age of twenty years old, I have yet to dye my hair. I've never done it, I've just never felt the need to dye it, so I've always just left it alone. However, over the last year or so, I've desperately wanted to do something different with my hair: either cut it off or dye it, and so in order to test this out I decided to do it using henna hair dye.

The reason for this is purely because it's made with natural ingredients and I don't want to do too much damage to my hair. It's also semi-permanent, meaning it will wash out over a few months, and I thought that this would be a good place to start for someone who has never dyed their hair before.

As you can imagine, henna hair dye only comes in dark colours, because henna itself is a dark product. The one I used was from Lush, and theirs come in four colours: Noir (the darkest, almost black colour), Brun (a dark brown colour), Marron (a medium chestnut colour) and Rouge (with redder tones).

I chose to use Brun, since I have brown hair anyway, and the plan was only to go a little bit darker, without going black. I was really looking forward to it and set aside an entire Saturday in order to ensure that I did it correctly. However, after everything, I was left utterly disappointed. I followed all the instructions to the letter, and left the hair dye on for the maximum amount of time that was recommended and then some, and yet it still made no difference to the colour of my hair. If anything, it made it slightly lighter, as you will see in the pictures.

Henna hair dye is an interesting experience to say the least. It will stink your house out, it takes five times as long as chemical hair dye, and to me personally, it didn't make much of a difference. Maybe I should have used the darker dye, or maybe my hair just doesn't take to henna dye, but I certainly won't be using it again.

Before on the left and after on the right! :(
Have you ever used henna hair dye? Did it work for you?

Monday, 29 August 2016

My Experience With: Yoga and Meditation

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I started practising yoga just over a year ago because I had heard that it was good for dealing with anxiety, and I was at a point in my life where I was desperately looking for something to help me deal with it.

But I was massively sceptical. My entire thought process was how can glorified stretching make me feel less anxious? And I was the same with meditation. I thought it was about forcing myself to think of nothing, which for me, was impossible. But my practise over the last year or so has shown me how wrong I was.

Yoga and meditation is about accepting yourself for exactly who you are, flaws and all. Yoga is not about the perfect pose, it's about showing up and making that time for yourself. Meditation is not about thinking of nothing, it's about acknowledging your thoughts and anxieties, and then letting them pass.

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A year on from starting, and I'm so glad I did. It's completely changed the way I think about things.

If you're thinking that this might be the thing for you, then I've found that the best place to look is on YouTube. There's so much good stuff on there, and it's a brilliant place to start.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Melancholy Moments...

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Not everyday is a good day. That is a sad and unavoidable fact of life. Sometimes, your day will be nothing but crap. And that's okay. Life is about balance, and with that comes with good days as well as bad days.

If you find yourself focusing on the bad more than the good, as I do, then I recommend taking five minutes at the end of the day to write down at least one thing you're grateful for. Some days, you'll have loads of things to write, and some days you'll struggle to think of a single thing. But by choosing to focus on the good everyday, rather than the bad, you'll soon come to realise that even if you're having a bad day, you don't have a bad life.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Being Present...

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Being present in the moment is something that I really struggle with. I'm a worrier and have generalised anxiety, so forgetting everything and just living in the moment is something that I thought was impossible for me.

Today however, I experienced it. I was at my Nan's house, which is basically my second home, and I was sat in the kitchen, having a cup of tea and I suddenly felt this overwhelming sense of peace and calm. I was listening to my Grampy whistling,

Nan talking,

the clock ticking,

the wind chimes outside the front door,

and Grampy's oxygen machine humming away. I was watching the bee highway outside the window and I just felt incredibly at peace. If that's what being present feels like, then I wanna experience that everyday.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

July Summary

July has been a pretty good month for me. We've had a couple days of nice weather, which will probably make up our entire summer, and had some good days and nights out with friends and family. Having a break from uni work has been really good for me.

How has your July been?

Sunday, 17 July 2016

My Favourite Season

Why is summer my favourite season?

Is it the long days and light evenings? 

Is it the knowledge that at least one household is having a fun-filled barbecue with family, despite the fact that it's most likely drizzling?

Or is it the fact that everything is just brighter, more colourful, happier in the summer (despite the miserable-at-best British weather)?

I love summer. I love the sun and hours of natural light. I love that all the music makes you want to be sipping cocktails on a beach somewhere. And I love that everyone just seems happier in the summer - more relaxed. As a student, summer is my chance to unwind and reflect on the year gone by. One of my favourite things to do is sit outside, close my eyes, and just breathe. Feel the cool breeze rustling the trees and the heat gently warming my skin. I love being outside in the summer - it's my happy place.

What's your favourite season and why?

Sunday, 3 July 2016

A Change of Pace...

Okay, so I've been writing my blog for about six months now, which is really exciting. But so far I've only been writing about things that I consider 'blog-worthy' topics... so the kinda cliche, generalised posts that don't really say anything about me or my life. But now that my blog is up and running, I'd like to start going posts that are a lot more personal, a lot more relevant to my life, posts that are just slightly more interesting for me to do.

That being said, I'm not gonna take down the posts that are already up because I did really enjoy doing them, I just think I'm ready to start writing about more personal things, as I said earlier.

So yeah, that's what's gonna be happening on the blog over the next few weeks... this might mess with my posting schedule and stuff because I might not be able to think of things that I wanna write about, but I'm really excited about this. I think it's just gonna make my blog feel so much more personal.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

June Favourites

Ah! I can't believe it's the end of June already! What?! A quiet month in terms of favourites, but an important one.

Game of Thrones
This is making my favourites list twice in a row! This is probably the thickest book I've ever read, so I'm slowly making my way through it. Having already watched the TV show, I know what's going on so it's nice being able to fill in details, since the TV show does obviously leave a lot of it out.

This is kind of an obvious one since my family are in my favourites every month, but this month especially has made me appreciate them. My granddad was temporarily in hospital for an issue that turned out to be nothing serious, thank goodness, but it was a scary few days none the less.

What are your favourites for this month?

Sunday, 19 June 2016

My 30 Before 30 List

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I absolutely love reading these kind of posts, so it has inspired me to write my own! I hope this will make me more accountable to actually try and do all these things before I'm 30! That gives me 10 years... that'll be enough time, right?
  1. Finish university with a decent grade.
  2. Complete my teacher training and become a fully fledged teacher!
  3. Give blood.
  4. Get a tattoo.
  5. Go indoor skydiving.
  6. Lead a volunteer programme.
  7. Do a Race For Life.
  8. Finish writing my novel.
  9. Get novel published.
  10. Keep my blog alive for at least a year.
  11. Be able to balance on my hands.
  12. Learn a new language.
  13. Learn how to cook.
  14. Learn to swim.
  15. See a London musical. (Wicked, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - I love musicals!)
  16. Move out of my parents house.
  17. Adopt at least one dog.
  18. Keep in touch with friends from school.
  19. Learn a new skill.
  20. Keep writing my diary everyday.
  21. Learn to forgive and forget.
  22. Visit Rome.
  23. Visit Mykonos.
  24. Visit New York.
  25. Visit Norway.
  26. Visit Japan.
  27. Read all of Waterstones '50 Books to Read Before You Die'.
  28. Dye my hair.
  29. Host a dinner party.
  30. Find the perfect jeans.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

6 Things I Learned During My Second Year of University

Having now finished my second year of university, I've had some time to reflect about how it went overall, and I've come up with six things that I've learnt over the last year.

1) Your grades actually matter now
One of the nice things about first year was that ultimately, it didn't matter what grades you got as long as you passed, because your grades in first year don't count towards your overall degree grade. However, in second year your grades count, and therefore there is more pressure to not just pass, but actually do well. You might have gotten away with avoiding the library in your first year, but no longer!

2) Lecturers will be less lenient
You're in second year now, you're not the newbies anymore, and as a result of that, your lecturers will stop letting you off with not prepping for your seminar. There will be no excuses for not doing the reading, and thinking on your feet will become second nature.

3) You learn how to keep yourself busy outside of campus
Chances are, you won't be living on campus anymore, and therefore you have to learn to entertain yourself in the local area. Having only 8 hours of lectures a week means a lot of free time outside of studying, and hence I started volunteering in order to keep myself busy.

4) You learn how to get around town
On a similar note, second year is probably when you'll become very familiar with the town/city that you live in. You'll learn where everything is, what buses to take and which shortcuts are the best. Essentially, you'll become a lot more comfortable in the community.

5) Lecturers care about how well you do
Depending on the size of your university, it's very easy to feel like a face lost in the crowd, that your lecturers wouldn't even notice if you did attend the lecture. But during second year, you learn that they do actually care about how well you do. They will be happy to meet with you to discuss issues, and they want to help you get the best grades possible.

6) Your housemates will become your family
Having chosen your housemates for second year, chances are you'll be having a great time living with them. However, this doesn't always mean that you'll get on with them all the time. You'll be spending more time with them than anyone else, you'll probably fight like siblings, and nag each other like parents.

Personally, I found that second year was more stressful than first year, but also more interesting. I became more comfortable with university life and I have really settled into the university routine.

How did you find the second year of university?

Sunday, 29 May 2016

May Favourites

It's been a bit of a weird month for me... I've completed four exams and finished my second year of university. I've also moved back home and have just succeeded in getting myself a summer job. It's all going on at the moment!

There's only so much revision you can do in a day, so Netflix has been my best friend over the last three weeks. I've been binge-watching old shows that I used to be obsessed with. Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl are really doing it for me at the moment.

Game of Thrones
I've had this book for over a year but I just haven't gotten around to reading it quite yet. Now that I'm done with uni for another year, I'm really looking forward to reading all my own books again. I'm also obsessed with the Game of Thrones TV show, so I get a double GoT fix every week!

Naked Smoky Palette
I haven't really used this since I got it at Christmas, so I've been playing around with it and trying out different looks that I can wear on an everyday basis. I'm loving the colour Whiskey as a crease colour: it's the most beautiful chocolate brown!

Peanut Butter
This is completely random and has nothing to do with anything, but I'm addicted to peanut butter right now. I have been eating it straight out of the jar, which isn't a great habit admittedly, but it's so good!

My bed!
I've got a double bed at uni, but I'm not a massive fan to be honest. I curl up in a tiny ball and only use like a quarter of the bed, so sleeping in a double just feels like loads of empty space. I've been sleeping so much better in my single bed at home!

What have you been loving this month?

Monday, 16 May 2016

University Essentials

I'm currently one week and two exams away from finishing my second year at university, and over the last two years I've become an expert on what you really need to manage at university.

1) A planner
Some kind of organisational system is essential for life at university. You're gonna have a lot of meetings, particularly in the first few weeks and then of course you have lectures and seminars to attend. Towards the end of the year you'll probably have revision sessions and the like, so some kind of diary is definitely going to help organise your life.

2) Pens
This one goes with the first one really, but having coloured pens will just make organisation a bit more interesting. There's only so many times you can write the same lectures in every week in the same old black pen!

3) Textbooks
To be honest, this is probably a bit more specific to my course, but having all the textbooks we're studying is so important. The only person who's going to suffer if you don't do the reading is you, and you don't want to look like an idiot if you're the only person who hasn't done it.

These things obviously go alongside all the obvious things: pens, paper, etc. I just thought it would be helpful for people who are interested about what actually gets used at university, because I know that in first year I brought a load of stuff that I never used again.

What are your university essentials?

Monday, 2 May 2016

Can Long Distance Relationships Really Work?

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Your first answer is no, right? Wrong.

I have been with my boyfriend for around two and a half years, and we are in a long-distance relationship. Sort of.
We go to different universities that are an hour and a half apart, and due to this, we spend a lot of time apart. We had been together for around 7 months when we went off to university, and an even shorter time than that when we were choosing universities. We both knew that we couldn't change our university choices just because of our fairly new relationship, and that if we were truly meant to be together, then it would work out.

And now here we are: two and a half years later.

Don't get me wrong, long distance relationships are hard. Some days are easier than others, but being apart from each other for the majority of the time can really take its toll on a relationship. But the one thing that struck me, when we were preparing for university, was that not one person said that we would make it. Not one single person. I had so many people ask me, 'So, are you and Carl breaking up?' and not one person say, 'You guys will be okay. You'll make it.'

And now, whenever I'm back at home and seeing people from school, I get a different kind of comment: 'No one ever thought you and Carl would make it this far, you've done so well. You've proved that long distance relationships can work.' And you know what? They really can.

Okay, I know an hour and a half isn't really that long, in hindsight, but ultimately, we were two eighteen-year-olds, and we had no idea whether this was gonna work or not. Like with any relationship, it takes work. It takes commitment. Skype will become your best friend and texting will become second-nature. At the end of the day, the only people who can say whether or not your relationship will work is you. As long as you are both committed and willing to make it work, there's no reason why it can't.

And if you are in a similar position to what we were, let me be probably the first person to tell you: you'll be okay. You'll make it.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

April Favourites

It's the end of the month, so you know what that means! Here is what I've been loving this month:

Colour Therapy Anti-Stress Colouring Book
I'm so glad that 'adult colouring' has become a thing. It's so relaxing, and a really nice thing to do at the end of a long day. This one is really good, and the pictures are beautiful.

My new Personal-Planner
I can't believe my original one is a year old now! But that means it's time for a new one. It's so beautiful, and makes me realise just how shabby my current one is. Here's to another year!

Sainsbury's Salted Pretzels
These are a new obsession of mine. I always snack in the evenings, and these are just a little bit more interesting than biscuits.

Sainsbury's Pomegranate Juice
This stuff is just amazing. My new favourite drink.

It's been a pretty quiet month, as you can probably tell from my favourites, but a really good one too. What have you been loving this month?

Monday, 18 April 2016

My Top Five Books of All Time

This post is actually a day late, so apologies for that! It was meant to go up yesterday, but the day just completely got away from me. You know how it is!

I'm really excited about this post because it is one of my favourite things to talk about: books! Being a student studying English Literature, you'd think that I'd be sick of them by now, but that's definitely not the case. I've read so many books over the years, it was actually really hard to narrow it down to just five, but the ones that I've picked are ones that I would happily read over and over again, so I think they definitely deserve a place here. These are in no particular order: there's no way I could pick a number one favourite.

1) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K Rowling
Of course, I had to have a Harry Potter book in here. I am the Harry Potter generation, and it is these books that made me love reading so much. As you can see from my much-loved copy, I've read these countless times, and they're just everything. Harry Potter is life.

2) Looking for Alaska by John Green
I read this after a recommendation from a friend, and I loved it. It is the perfect coming-of-age story that just encapsulates the struggles of teenage life and first loves so well. Also, the cover is one of my favourite covers ever. Look at it!

3) The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
I have no idea what possessed me to pick this book up, but I'm so glad I did. The premise is so simple: the main character dies and is met in heaven by five people, who either affected his life in some way, or whose life he affected without even knowing it. It's a beautiful book, and leaves you feeling really content, despite how sad it sounds.

4) The Maze Runner by James Dashner
I got this series of books for Christmas about three years ago, and I read this book in a day. Between Christmas Day and Boxing Day I read the entire thing, and it was amazing. The writing is incredible and the story is fast-paced - you're never left waiting for the next thing to happen. The film was done really well too; I loved Dylan O'Brien as the main character, he is exactly how I imagined Thomas to be.

5) Eragon by Christopher Paolini
My mum brought this book for me when I was about eight, and I didn't read it for many years, but when I eventually did it was so good. It's really long, which may be off-putting for some people, but I personally prefer books to be longer. If you like fantasy stuff, definitely read this series.

What are your favourite books of all time?

Sunday, 10 April 2016

10 Things I'd Tell My Younger Self

When I think back over the 20 years that I've been around, it occurs to me that there are so many things that I would go back and tell myself, if I could. As a 20 year old, so many things are glaringly obvious to me now, that were at best, a murky pool of confusion back then.

Hey, look! It's 14 year old Nicole! 

1) Life after primary school gets so much better
Primary school was not a good time for you. I know, believe me I do. To be honest, I think it might have been the worst time of my life thus far. But as soon as you get out of that place, things start to get better. You make new friends that you will still be friends with as a 20 year old, and that's pretty amazing.

2) Boys aren't as scary as they appear
Boys have always been something of a mystery to me. They never really crossed my path in any real way until I was in Year 11, and even then it wasn't until I met my boyfriend when I was 18 that I realised that boys aren't that different from other people. They won't laugh in your face as soon as you open your mouth, and most of them are actually pretty nice people.

3) Shit is gonna happen
But that's okay. Apologies for the swearing, but sometimes it's just necessary. Shit does happen, and while it may seem like the end of the world at the time, it'll all work out in the end. Trust me.

4) You are more capable than you give yourself credit for
No matter what situations come your way, you can deal with them. If you can deal with one of your best friends knocking herself out while at a waterpark in Spain, and having to navigate the hospitals and doctors while only speaking basic Spanish, you can deal with anything. You will know what to do when the time comes. You will.

5) You can't make everyone happy, so stop trying
Even as a 20 year old, you will still be trying to please everyone, even though it occurred to you many years ago that it is impossible. IMPOSSIBLE. No matter what you do, you're going to be letting someone down. So just do what you gotta do, and worry about everything else later. This blog post is living proof that everything will work out.

6) Everything that you're worrying about won't matter in a year's time
You're a worrier. You always have been, and you always will be. Thanks for the genes, Dad! But ultimately, everything that you're worrying about right now will not even be an issue eventually. You stay friends with your friends, you get into uni doing the course you want, you're doing fine and your family have your back. Everything is good.

7) Your friendship group will change a lot
From the start of secondary school up to today, you will have so many friends in so many circles, that have come and gone over the years. You're friends with people that you never thought you would be, and you've lost touch with people that you thought you'd be friends with forever. But the friends you have now... damn, they're a good bunch. Hold onto them.

8) People are gonna let you down
It's a fact of life, I'm afraid. No matter how much you do for others, people are gonna let you down. Sometimes it's their fault, sometimes it's not. Just accept this. It will save you so much time and effort in the future.

9) Mum is always right. Always. And Dad will always come through for you, no matter how much he complains about it
Your parents are the best. They have your back and will never let you down. When you're going through your dark period at uni, they will be there for you. No matter how alone you may feel, you are never alone. They're with you.

10) Don't be in a rush to grow up
Make the most of your teenage years while they last, because they'll be gone so quickly. Do more things, and study a bit less. Your GCSE's are not the be-all and end-all.

There's six years difference between these pictures. Thank goodness my makeup skills improved!

What would you tell your younger self, given the chance?

Sunday, 27 March 2016

March Favourites

It's that time again! I swear, these last three months have gone so quickly - which I guess is a good thing, it's just a bit terrifying!

Anyway, on with the post! It's been a quiet month in terms of favourites; I've been really busy with end-of-term things for university: essays and exam prep, etc., so haven't had a lot of time to focus on anything else. However, here are some things I've been loving this month:

My iPod
I found this buried at the bottom of my bag and I've rediscovered my love for it. I nearly always listen to music on my walk into university, however the memory on my phone isn't that great so I'm normally limited to a very short list. With this however, I can have all of my songs on there and still have space left over. The battery isn't great on it as it is pretty old now, but it does just fine.

Tina Sekis - When We Were Friends
As I'm coming up to the end of term, I'm hoping to have time to read some of my own books again. Despite having a pile of 'to-read' books nearly as tall as me, I always find myself buying more. I can't help it, guys. Seriously. It's an obsession.

Nail Polish
I go through phases of being really into painting my nails, and this month has definitely been one. I am terrible for biting my nails, so by painting them I'm hoping to train myself out of the habit. It seems to be working so far - my nails are the longest they've been for years. The two new colours I bought this month are 'Prickly Pear' (the purple one) and 'Papaya' (the coral/peach one), both from BarryM. They do the best nail polishes. Like, for real.

MaltEaster Mini Bunnies
What with it being Easter this month (it's actually Easter Sunday as I write this, Happy Easter guys!), I just couldn't write a favourites post without including chocolate of some description. I love Malteasers, so these were sure to be a hit.

What have you been loving this month?

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Review: Seed and Bean Organic Milk and White Chocolate Collection

I've got something a little bit different for the blog today! I received these chocolates for Christmas, and I thought the packaging alone was so gorgeous that I felt that they were worthy of a review. I've personally never heard of this brand before, and I have a massive sweet tooth, so I was very excited about them.

Despite being a huge chocoholic, I'm not a fan of fancy chocolate generally. I'm perfectly happy with the cheap stuff; in my mind it will always be the best. However, this chocolate is really good. As you can see from the packaging, you get four different flavours: Sicilian Hazelnut and Almond, Cornish Sea Salt and Lime, Lemon and Poppy Seed and Raspberry and Vanilla.

I'll admit, the flavours are a little bit odd, however they do really work for something a little bit different. My favourite was the Raspberry and Vanilla, as I'm really loving white chocolate right now. As this was a Christmas present, I have absolutely no idea how much they are, but personally I believe that the Raspberry and White Chocolate one alone is worth that money.

Have you ever tried this brand? What did you think?

Sunday, 13 March 2016

10 Things I Learned During My First Year of University

1) It's very different to school
Once you get to university, you are in charge of your own education. There will be no one breathing down your neck about deadlines and there will be no one to drag you out of bed for your lectures. This may sound good, but if you've got a 9am after a heavy night, it is completely up to you to make sure you get there on time.

2) Chances are, you won't get on with your flatmates
Not all of them at least. Living in halls is a massive change, and you have no control over who your flatmates are. But this is all part of the university experience. Some of my friends got on really well with all of their flatmates, and some, myself included, did not. But don't worry about it, it's only for a year, and then you can live with whoever you like. Yay! :)

3) You'll either love or hate halls
No doubt you've probably read some horror stories about the state of some halls of residence. But let me tell you, I loved mine. My university has three separate halls of residence, and none of them were as awful as what you read online. I'm currently over halfway through my second year, and I miss halls. I would have stayed there the entire three years if I could, despite not getting on with all of my flatmates.

4) Talking in seminars really isn't a big deal
If you're anything like me and 99% of the rest of the population, the thought of speaking in front of other people terrifies you. But I'm here to tell you that it's really not a big deal. Everyone else is just as scared as you are, and it'll be over before you know it. Volunteering answers in seminar discussions makes a good impression on your lecturers too, and by talking to the people in your seminar groups, it is easier to make friends with them. Don't be that person who refuses to say anything in every seminar, those people get old quickly.

5) 9am's will be the bane of your life
Especially in the winter, when it's dark. Chances are, your halls of residence are on campus so you don't have to walk that far, but when you have to walk for 20 minutes in the dark, it's really not fun.

6) There will always be someone who likes the same things as you
No matter what it is: sports, TV, obscure hobbies, there will be someone who likes it too. I promise. Depending on just how obscure it is, it might take you a little while to find them, but they're there.

7) All-nighters will become a regular thing the day before deadlines
If you're organised and motivated, you can get your assignments done a few days before the deadline. However chances are, at least one assignment will have you up until 3am the night before, downing gallons of coffee and praying that the marker is in a good mood.

8) Unplanned nights are always the best
As someone who doesn't really drink, nights out are always just okay for me, but by far the best ones are the ones that no one plans on happening. Whether it's going out or staying in with a takeaway and having a movie night, unplanned nights are the best.

9) It's nothing like you expected
No matter how you are imagining university to be, it will be completely different. You will have good days, you will have bad days but it will be the best thing you ever do.

10) You'll meet some of the most amazing people ever and make friends for life
I can honestly say that the people I've met at university are the best people ever. One of my flatmates from halls is now one of my best friends, and I couldn't do this without her. The three girls that I'm closest with on my course are amazing, and I'm so glad that I met them. I have my days when I wonder whether I made the right decision in coming to uni, but then I think about the friends I've made and the people I've met and know that I've made the right decision.

Monday, 29 February 2016

February Favourites

Personal Planner
I love this thing, I ordered it nearly a year ago, and it is one of the best planners I've ever used. You can personalise every single aspect of it, and I would forget basically everything if I didn't have this.

Animal Page Markers
This is kind of a random one, but I was given these for Christmas, and I love them. They're brilliant. As an English student, I use page markers for everything and these ones are just a bit more interesting than regular ones.

Rimmel London Lipstick
Lipstick is my thing. I spend far too much money on it, and I've spent ages looking for a neutral colour that I can wear everyday. And I've finally found it! The colour is 180 - Vintage Pink and for me it is the perfect neutral colour.

Lush Eyeshadow Cream
Again, this was a Christmas present and I wasn't sure about it at first, but I've used it everyday since then and I love it. It's a beautiful bronze colour and it makes the perfect base for my regular eyeshadow. It also makes off-days easier, all I've got to do is sweep some of this across my eyelid and I'm good for the day.

What have you been loving this month?

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Why University Isn't For Everyone

As I write this, I'm sat in my bedroom here at university, bored out of my mind and trying to occupy myself in the long hours between done-with-work-for-the-night and acceptable-time-to-get-into-bed.
I'm currently in my second year of university studying English Literature, and while I know that I made the right decision in coming to uni, I also know that it's not for everyone.

I've gone back and forth about whether I want to be here, and I've considered dropping out more often then I would care to admit. Ultimately, the only one who can decide whether university is the right option, is you. But nevertheless, here's five reasons why university isn't for everyone:

1) It's expensive
No one can deny that university is damn expensive, particularly here in the UK. The current cost of a year's tuition is anywhere between £8500 and £9000. Plus, on top of that, the majority of students apply for a maintenance loan in order to pay for basic living costs: food, rent, bills, etc. All of this money has to be paid back at the end of the degree. Some students used to be able to get 'free' money in terms of a maintenance grant that doesn't have to be paid back, however this scheme has recently been scrapped by the UK government. The result of this is that fewer and fewer students are going to be able to afford to go to university in the first place.

2) Being away from home is hard
This is obviously going to effect some people more than others, but being away from home is really hard. Particularly if university is the first time that you're living away from home, which it probably will be for the majority of people. But remember, everyone will be in the same situation you are, your family is only a phone or Skype call away, and you will not be at university forever. The situation is only temporary, and there are always ways to make yourself feel better.

3) Independent study involves a lot of commitment
Studying at university is very different from being in school. There is no one breathing down your neck to do your work, no one will nag you to take notes in lectures, and there will be no teacher to keep reminding you that your deadlines are coming up. If you forget to set your alarm and oversleep, there's no one to blame for that but you. With a little bit of organisation however, this really won't be too much of an issue.

4) The pressures of student living
Again, this depends on the type of person you are, but as someone who doesn't really drink, the pressure to get completely trashed is extremely high. If this is the type of person you are, then no problem, but if it's not, just remember you don't have to do anything you don't want to do - including downing the dirty pint in the centre of your ring of fire. If nothing else, I promise you this: you will make friends with like-minded people and you'll get on just fine.

5) Sometimes it literally isn't the right choice
Depending on the job you want to do, university might not even be the right answer for you at all. There are many other options besides university, and unless you definitely know what you want to study or that you need the degree for the job you want to do, it's probably not worth the money.

As I said earlier, the only person that can make the decision about whether university is right for you or not is you. If you do decide to go, I promise you'll have a good time. And if you don't, then that's fine too.

What are your experiences at university?

Monday, 15 February 2016

Why Writing is Good For The Soul

I've always loved writing. So much so that I've kept a diary since July 2008, and written in it everyday since then. I love looking back on them and seeing how much has changed over the last eight years, and I believe that the process of keeping a diary is part of what's helped to keep me sane over the years.

I'm a huge advocate of writing things down for several reasons:
It helps to clear your head and organise your thoughts. Writing my diary is the last thing I do before I go to bed, and doing this allows me to just ramble about the day and get all my thoughts on paper. I also have a habit of writing a to-do list for the next day right before I go to bed, and this allows me to just get everything out of my head and onto a piece of paper. This will also help you to sleep better, because once everything is written down, you no longer have to worry about it, and you can sleep easy.

If you're a person who likes remembering things, keeping a diary is also a great way of keeping a record of events that happen. Many people keep diaries just for certain events, such as holidays, and this is a great way to help remember all the wonderful things that happen.

I personally find writing to be very therapeutic. If you find yourself stressed or in a rut, find a piece of paper and just write. Anything that comes into your head, and keep writing until you don't feel stressed anymore. Once you're done, you can either burn the piece of paper, or keep it for future reference. Either way, writing things down really helps to figure out how you're feeling or what you want. It can help you deal with things that maybe you don't want to talk about, or help someone else to explain a situation that they're dealing with. I also love the flexibility of writing. Basically all phones have a 'notes' section now, and therefore you can write anywhere and everywhere, and you never know when you may become inspired to write.

What kind of things do you write on a regular basis?

Sunday, 31 January 2016

January Favourites

I absolutely love favourites posts/videos, so I'm gritting my teeth and attempting to do one myself. January has been a bit of a slow month for me, with going back to university and the like, so my favourites probably aren't particularly interesting, but I'll do my best.

My diary has been without a doubt, my favourite thing this month. In 2015, I decided to move out of a day-per-page diary and instead use a blank journal, but I really missed the structure of having a set place to scribble stuff down everyday, so I've gone back to a day-per-page one for 2016. It's my saving grace, it really is. As I've mentioned in previous posts, it keeps me from going insane on a daily basis!

Microsoft Surface Tablet
This was a surprise present for my 20th birthday, and I love it so much. I've always considered myself a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to taking notes in lectures; to this day I always use a pen and paper, but I also bring my tablet with me as it makes seeing the lecture slides so much easier. I can take notes from them at my own pace without worrying about the lecturer changing the slide, and it saves me so much money in printing (I used to print the lecture slides out and annotate on them).

This is a bit of an odd once, since meditation and yoga isn't an 'item' technically, but I find it absolutely invaluable for helping to keep my emotions in order. I'm a massive worrier and stress about all the little things that happen in day to day life, so practising yoga and meditation really helps me to deal with this, and keep my focus on the 'big picture' instead of all the mundane things.

Natural Collection Face Powder
Again, a bit of a random one, but I bought this in December on a bit of a whim, since the store didn't have my regular face powder. I was pleasantly surprised - it's really good! Really easy to apply, smooth on the skin and doesn't flake over my small patches of dry skin, which is obviously brilliant. Having used it for about a month now, I actually prefer it to the powder I was using before, and it's cheaper, which is always an added bonus!

Naked 2 Palette
I know I've mentioned this in a blog post already, but I am obsessed with this. I've used it everyday this month, and I'm loving it.

What have you been loving this month?

Monday, 18 January 2016

What I Got For Christmas | 2015

Before we start, a bit of a disclaimer:

I am in NO WAY trying to brag, show off, gloat, or otherwise revel in the things I received for Christmas. I'm just quite nosey and I love looking at what other people got for Christmas, so I thought I'd do a similar post myself.

Equally, I won't go through everything I received for Christmas, instead I'll just show a couple of the 'main' things that I received. Everything else is pretty standard: chocolate, odd bits of makeup, clothes, trinkets, etc. Obviously I'm not turning my nose up at these things in any way - I'm incredibly grateful for everything I received this year, I'm just limiting this post to a couple of items, otherwise it would be quite long, especially with pictures included!

Okay, with that out of the way, let's continue.

Oh my goodness. I'm in love. I'm so excited about these. They were on my list, so I hoped that I would get them, but of course you never know. The Naked 3 palette looks a bit battered because it's actually my Christmas present from last year, but the Naked 2 and the Naked Smoky I received this year. They are BEAUTIFUL. I've been using the Naked 2 palette everyday since, and I love it! Normally I would never let anyone spend this much money on something so-not-important like makeup, but I really love them, I wear them everyday, and these are the only expensive makeup items I own, so I don't feel too guilty.

This was a completely unexpected present from my younger sister, who is obsessed with hair products. If I'm being honest, I think she secretly wanted these for herself, so they must be good! I don't know much about hair products, but I used these for the first time the other day, and I really like them. They smell really good and my hair was so soft after. The hair treatment that you apply when you get out of the shower is particularly amazing - I have pretty bad split ends, but after I used this product, the ends of my hair were softened and it just looked so much healthier.

Presents and material things aside, I really love Christmas because I spend loads of time with my family. This year, we had a really big family Christmas, and it was so nice to have just a couple days focused purely on that, instead of uni work and other life commitments.

What did you get for Christmas this year, and how did you celebrate it?

Sunday, 3 January 2016

New Year's Resolutions

Every year, we make new year resolutions. Promises to ourselves to be better in some way, or do something nice for someone else. Do we stick to them? Absolutely not. But still, it's nice to try and convince ourselves that we will.

1) Stop biting my nails
This has been one of my resolutions every year since I was about eight. And now, twelve years later, maybe I'll actually manage it! Twelfth times the charm?

2) Change computer/phone wallpaper every month
This sounds silly, but I tend to keep my phone and computer wallpapers the same for months at a time, so it'll be nice to mix things up.

3) Post on Facebook more
I'm not a massive Facebook person, but it is a good way of documenting what happens in a year other than writing it down. I'm a massive fan of the traditional way, don't get me wrong, I've kept a diary since 2008, but Facebook offers something a little bit different, which is good for a more visual record.

4) Take more pictures
This kind of links with number three, but I hardly ever take pictures. I love looking at pictures and they're an amazing way to remember memories, so I'm determined to take more this year.

5) Write gratitudes everyday
This has been so important to me lately - it's really important to remember and appreciate all the small things that happen on a day-to-day basis that make you happy, no matter how small or insignificant they seem.

What are your resolutions for 2016?