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...