READ, WATCH, LISTEN

23 May 2019



It's been a little while but I am happy to report that my dissertation is submitted and my exams are finished. This leaves me with more time to focus on other things and one of those being blogging. As my first post back, I thought it was time to share with you again some entertainment I've been soaking up and enjoying both before my exams and, guilty, during them. 

READ

"MR SALARY" BY SALLY ROONEY

Sally Rooney is a current popular writer and is one everyone's TBR at the moment. With little time to read myself, I thought I would start with this short story published in a recent Penguin collection. It has definitely encouraged to read some of her other books in the future as it gave me a real sense of what kind of writing I should expect from her. It can be hard to convey a character's feelings and backstory in a believable way in such a small amount of pages but, there it seems no difficulty as I was fully invested in the character and really enjoyed the insight into the woman's life. If you too have heard of Sally Rooney and are unsure about whether it's your kind of thing, I recommend giving this a quick read and I am sure it will help make up your mind and, very likely, encourage you to read more of hers. 

"CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?" BY SOPHIE KINSELLA

Not every book you read has to be the work of a genius or a tedious read with lots of hidden meanings and layers. Sometimes, a bit of fluff is what we all need. This book came at the perfect time, acting as comic relief during revision which had me creasing at the characters. I have previously read a teen novel by Sophie Kinsella but this was my first Adult/New Adult novel by her. It's about a girl who, while on a flight, shares her deepest secrets with the man sat next to her. After the journey, she gets off hope that her life with carrying on as normal only to find this man was the CEO of the company she works for. This book really did have me laughing out loud and hitting my head out of second-hand embarrassment. If you're looking for an easy pool-side read this summer or something just a little lighter, this one is worth the read. 

WATCH 

OUR PLANET

Yes, I'm late to report my love for this one but as the hype begins to die down, I thought it would do no harm into bringing back everyone's attention and hopefully persuade those that are still yet to watch, to go and watch it. In this series, David Attenborough narrates on the extensive terrains across the world and sharing, as always the beauty of the world. for each episode has a different focus, but with the same overarching message- climate change is real and we can start to make a change now. What I particularly loved about this series what that, while climate change is devastating and reality, they shed some hope on how we can change today and really save the future of our planet. I urge you, no, beg you to watch this and hopefully you'll be as inspired as many to help make a difference even if it's so small. 

LISTEN

MAP OF THE SOUL: PERSONA

My music test is ever-changing. While for years I loved the indie-alternative music that so many my age loved, I've accepted now that my music taste really is a bit of everything and genre eans very little to me. The Korean group BTS have really influenced my love of different genres. This group is a real global success and yet there is still a surprising amount of people who still don't know who they are or have a real appreciation for what they do. I know they're not for everyone but the lyrics and the thought that goes into every part of this band is something you should at least give a go. They may sing another language but that doesn't ake your listening experiences and the message it holds any less than a song in your language. If anything, I feel it makes the listening experience and the conversation surrounding it even more interesting. "Map of The Soul: Persona" is their latest and probably one of my favorites and already one of my most played albums of the year. 

I am so excited that I will also be witnessing the spectacle that is their live tour at the end of this month which I will be sure to share over on my Instagram as well as maybe here on my blog, to really emphasize how bloody brilliant BTS are. 



Of course, there were other TV shows I was watching out of procrastination and music I listened to help me focus but these were some of my favorites of the last month.

 Have you any opinions on the things I've mentioned? I'd also love to hear your own recommendations!
Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x 

MINMALIST SUMMER MAKEUP

23 Apr 2019


*This post contains affiliate links but all opinions remain my own*

Recently, I’ve been opting to wear no makeup. While my skin has had some rough patches, I think letting my skin breath a little has really helped make it feel a little healthier. As the summer weather begins to come around, the last thing I want it heavy makeup on my face. I’ve started to reintroduce makeup into my daily routine and I’ve found products that create a lightweight base while giving me a little coverage. I like how simple the make up I have opted for is as well; it means it’s been less of a chore to do and also really quick and easy. 

The Ordinary SPF 30 

I mentioned this very recently in my "Transitional Skincare Staples" but I thought it was worth another mention here as it has really come part of my make up routine. After applying moisturiser, this is my next step. I really want to make sure I’m looking after my skin this summer so this is the perfect way to accomplish this. 

Bareminerals Tinted Hydrating Cream

If you’ve seen any of my previous beauty posts, you will probably know my love for the Body Shop BB Cream- it provides, really, no coverage but adds a little colour and evens out my complexion. My shade has been out of stock a while and I have been eyeing up this Bareminerals BB Cream for a while. I’ve really been enjoying using this. Like the Body Shop BB Cream, it adds so colour to my face but also a little more coverage than the one I previously used. It really feels like I have nothing on my face and, that, I really like. It’s got such a natural glow to it that I also really love and think it provides a great base, especially in the warmer weather. 

Revolution Conceal & Define Concealer

Like everyone seems to agree, this is a great concealer and, for me, this is my main source of coverage. I apply under my eyes, forehead chin and also under my cheekbones where I have a little scarring. It works perfectly with the Bareminerals Cream to create a great base. 

Makeup Obsession Eyebrow Duo

This is probably the biggest chore of doing my make up and, I’m sure, you can probably agree with me saying that. This duo really helps me to fill in my eyebrows quickly and without real trouble. For a mere £2, this powder duo is a real bargain and has worked great for me. Sadly, it seems that this no longer exists on the shelves but Revolution do some similar and great alternatives. 

Natural Collection Bronzer

This bronzer has lasted me well. I mentioned this previously in "My Everyday Makeup" and with it still making an appearance here now shows it has stood the test of time. It’s quite fitting to the brand name as it really does give me a natural bronzer to help warm up my pale complexion. 

Soap & Glory Powder

This is an old favorite of mine and, honestly, I’m just trying to use it up. In cruelty-free discussions, Soap & Glory’s stance on animal testing has been seen in the past to be a little unclear and so I try and avoid it. However, I have had this powder in my collection for a while now and I thought now is a great time to use it up as it really is great at setting my make up especially when the base has such a dewy finish. 

So there are few products I use on my face at the moment and will probably how it will be across the rest of this summer. I think a lightweight base is so much better for over the summer and I feel I’ve created a routine that will work well. 

What makeup products do you find yourself reaching for over summer? 
Hope you’re doing great,
Sarah x 

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INSTAGRAM: CREATING YOUR PERFECT FEED {AD}

15 Apr 2019

*This post is kindly sponsored by Panasonic*





Sometimes it can be difficult to feel like you're making the most of Instagram and creating a feed that you're happy with. My feed has gone through a few transitions over the years but I feel like I've finally found a style that I am happy with and feel I can follow with most photos I'd like to post. This was quite a process but I thought I'd share with you a few ways to set you on your way to creating your own perfect feed. 

Quality over Quantity. 

This doesn't only help you only share your best photos but it's actually quite good for the ever-changing algorithm of Instagram that, at the moment, posting less frequently is actually preferred. Focussing on trying to only post photos I'm happy with and are different from before leaves me feeling a little more positive about my feed. 

In terms of actual quality, I do mainly use my phone to take photos for Instagram. However, if I've been on trips or just wanted to up my quality, I have reached for my DSLR to get a more crisp and high-quality photo. If this is something you're thinking of improving it maybe worth investing in a high-quality camera. Why not check out the newly-unveiled Full Frame Mirrorless Cameras* from Panasonic. This range of cameras is compact while offering a great quality of both photo and video. It would make a good investment if you're wanting to not only improve your Instagram posts but also wanting to delve into the world of vlogging or video. It's definitely worth reading into this range as this range offers many great features that my current DSLR is lacking as it is now highly outdated. 


Editing

This can be a short or as thorough process as you wish or feel your photos need. For me, I find having a similar filter and editing style across all my photos helps to create a more uniform feed where the photos aren't all different and may seem out of place. Along with many others, my app of choice has to be VSCO, I stick to the original filters that come with the free app but tend to alter the settings so much that I end up creating almost my own filter that I'll apply to most of my photos. 

If you want to go the extra mile, having software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom can really help increase that quality and help perfect your images in a way that phone apps can't really do. 

Also, don't dismiss the in-app tools that Instagram offers. I am an avid lover and user of the 'Lux' feature. It adds the finishing touch to my photos just by adding a little more contrast and clarity. 

Do you have any other tools you use to edit your photos? I'd love for you to share any tips you have with me!



Find Your Style and Make it your own 

I think this is where a lot of people get stuck. It all comes down to everything coming together; the photos you take and post, how you edit, how you lay them out. I've found a style that suits me and, I hope, managed to make it my own. 

Your Instagram is just that; yours. Seeing some personality in the photos and the captions I find really helps with engagement and can make you feel a lot happier with the overall look. It's easy to get caught up in numbers on Instagram but I think it's important to remember that your Instagram feed is just that- there's no need for it to really be perfect; it's what you make of it and as long as your happy with it, then your followers will be as well. 

So there are just a few things that have helped me create an Instagram feed that I am happy with and has left me motivated to post even more in the coming months. 

Do you have Instagram? Leave your links below and I'll be sure to check you out! 
Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x


*This post was a paid collaboration with Panasonic to promote their new line of Lumix full frame mirrorless cameras. However, all opinions, as always, remain my own. *

WHERE I'M AT: An Honest Update

10 Apr 2019

I tend to be someone who doesn’t share that I’m struggling. I’m more likely to struggle alone, work it out on my own and then maybe tell people what happened after. I’m trying to learn to be more open along the way. A problem shared is a problem halved right? 

I’m finding it hard to find the words even now to share comfortably how I am feeling. However, I thought it was worth letting you know that, while at the moment things are a little difficult, life is a little stressful, I’m not 100% focussed, motivated and myself, I’m hoping to bounce back soon. 

At the start of this year, I set myself a goal; that for each month to have a “Focus”. January was "Renew", February was "Balance" and last month, March, was "Create". I felt really motivated by these goals. Yes, I had slip ups but overall I was happy that I was really getting the most out of my year. However, March was probably the least successful. With final year stress dwelling on my mind; deadlines, exams, job hunting, my head just wasn’t as focused as I would have liked. 

As the next two months will be filled with even more life stressors as I come to the end of my degree, I think I’ll have less time to focus on certain goals and will be taking each day as it comes as I try to make it to the end of the year. So here, I thought I’d say that for now that I’ve decided to put a pause on my monthly focus. I will definitely be picking them up again once university is finished as I will be needing the motivation to focus on the future. I will also be sure to revisit Create” as a focus; I did not use last month to its full potential and I want to give myself another chance to give it ago. 

With this, it’s worth mentioning that my blog may start to look a little sparse soon. I’ve been proud to have rediscovered my love for my blog and, I don’t want to lose that. So, if I don’t have a post for each week, I won’t be pressuring myself to get one published. I hope that’s ok with you. I will still be updating my Twitter and more so my Instagram as I work through the exam stress. 

Just last week I had a small (and I mean small) health scare. While, thankfully, all results were clear, the worry I felt around this has really put a lot into perspective. I’ve realised that, while I won’t have a real focus for the next few months other than my degree,  I will be focussing on myself.  I’ve realised that I should really be doing everything I can to put myself first; not force myself to do anything I don’t want and not put myself in situations I’ll feel uncomfortable in. I shouldn’t surround myself with people who don’t make me feel like the best version of me (sorry for the cheese). I should be surrounding myself with people I adore and who make me feel happy even when things get a little tough. 

These next few months, I feel a lot is going to be thrown my way and, honestly, I’m not ready. But am I going to give it my best shot at getting through? Of course, I am! And, I’ll be sure to let you know how I come out the other side when it’s all over. 

Hope you’re doing great, 
Sarah x

3 TRANSITIONAL SKINCARE STAPLES

3 Apr 2019


As the cold weather slowly comes to an end, my skin can definitely tell that it's been a dry and cold few months. Now more than ever, my skin really needs some TLC and with help from the product mentioned here, it's definitely helping it get its hydration and glow back.

Pai Gentle Hydrating Cleanser 

The windy weather recently seems to be really drying my skin out and it’s definitely not summer yet so this doesn’t come as a surprise to me. To try and bring a little more hydration back into my skin, this cleanser is a super gentle and hydrating cream cleanser that is perfect for just this. While I do have more combination skin, I don’t find it irritates any of my problem areas like some products aimed at hydrating do; I think this may be down to the Camellia that's in this. This has been a really good skincare pick for me at the moment to use both in the morning before applying my makeup as well as the evening to finish the day with a smooth, fresh face. 

The Ordinary SPF 

While I should be wearing SPF all year round and I did make an effort to try and remember to use this during winter, I think now more than ever, getting into the habit of picking this up and applying after moisturiser will be better in helping my skin fight against the weather conditions. This is quite a thick product and can leave a white cast on your face but after applying my foundation it not only gives a nice hydrated glow under my makeup but that white cast seems to disappear. I think SPF is one that is something that we should all introduce into our skincare to help add a little more protection against the sun as it starts to appear more in spring. 

Vitamin E Liquid Peel 

While I remain pale as ever through the year, winter especially can leave my skin, as I’m sure is the same with others, a little dull. So something like this Body Shop product can help bring a little more radiance. It’s kind of like an exfoliator but isn’t abrasive so is another good one for those with sensitive skin. I use this by applying the product onto my skin, working it in until it starts to form small clumps on the skin. While it may look weird, after washing away with a muslin cloth and applying moisturiser,  my skin feels a lot more smooth and exfoliated and, hopefully, a little more glowing. 


So these are just three of my skincare picks for the end of winter as we are heading quickly into spring. Are there any products your skin has been loving lately? I'd love to hear!
Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah 

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* While affiliate links are included in this post, all opinions are my own 

GOING PLASTIC FREE

22 Mar 2019


Over the past few months, I've posted a couple of posts in relation to cutting down waste specifically in beauty and also beyond.  One aspect that I find hard to escape is the use of plastic. While I make a conscious effort to buy loose veg, fresh unwrapped bread as well as beauty products that don't use plastic bottles, some necessities make it hard to escape the use of plastic. 

When I found out that a plastic-free shop had opened in York I was very excited to check it out and give it ago. Bishy Weigh is an independently run plastic free shop just a little out of the city of York. It has basically all the essential food items that make going plastic-free even more doable. 

My friend and I headed over to the shop just the other day and I loved the experience; it felt as though I was in a sweet shop yet everything was pasta and fruits. It was such a simple process; take your own Tupperware, weigh before you fill and then weigh again after it's full to calculate the exact price of what you've bought. No need to worry if you didn't bring your own containers, they have paper bags and also reusable cotton bags to buy which are so cute. 
There was such a good choice from your basics to gluten-free alternatives and some fab dietary information for each of the products. They also had an array of washing up liquids, detergents, spices etc. as well as some other beauty items like bamboo toothbrushes and reusable makeup wipes. 

This little shop has really encouraged me to be even more conscious about what I buy and that it is possible to live a plastic-free lifestyle. I'd love to see more shops like this popping up around the country as having it so close to home is a great luxury. 

If you're in the York area and want to have a visit yourself, you can find all the information and pricing on their Facebook Page. If you're even just a little interested and seeing some of their own tips for living plastic free as well as learning a little more about their story, check out their Twitter and Instagram. 

Do you have any tips for going plastic free? Would you consider giving it a go yourself? 
Hope you're doing great,
Sarah x

ORGANISING MY ONLINE WORKSPACE {AD}

11 Mar 2019



Clearing out the downloads

I’m forever downloading online papers, journals, powerpoints for university and they never seem to leave my downloads folder. So, first things first; if I need it, move it to a specific folder. If not, get rid. 
As I edit my blog photos on my phone and then send to my laptop, they also end up in my downloads and never have a proper home,  so moving these out of downloads is another thing I’ve been doing and finding them a better home. 

Making a habit out of downloading something and moving a specific folder it relates to keeps the space it’s taking up to a minimum and saves me not being able to find, for example, the paper I’m looking for, only to download it again and have duplicates. Speaking of moving things to folders…

Creating folders

Kind of how you’d split up a blog post; You have your title, heading, maybe sub headings and, even sub-subheadings. Slowly getting narrower may seem a bit silly but it has really helped to streamline my workspace and having things compartmentalised so specifically has made it even easier to find what I’m looking for. 

For example, I have a folder for each year of uni which is then split into the separate modules, then again into lectures and maybe even further into lecture material, revision notes and assignments if there was one. I then know exactly where something will be and where to go to find it. It sounds so simple ( because it is) but it’s something I know we all tend to neglect and just clump all those word files into ‘documents’ with no real structure. 

Reducing bookmarks

Whether it’s a recipe I have had bookmarked for over a year and probably won’t make or a dress from ASOS that is out of stock, regularly going through and seeing whether you really need that bookmark anymore, helps my internet browser look a little less cluttered and better organised to find a bookmark if and when I really need it. 

Deleting Apps

I can only really speak for an Apple user but, just like on my phone, I’m forever downloading random apps that I think I’ll use and actually never do. A lot of apps I have downloaded tend to exactly the same thing so it’s time to delete any that really do the same job and also I just don’t use. It makes it easier to then find those that I need. 


Unsubscribing to Newsletters

We all have those emails from sites that we ordered from once and just had to tick ‘subscribe to newsletter’. This can be quite a tedious task to do but I love not getting an abundance of emails I never read coming through every day. it means that I’m more likely to see more important emails and not miss any opportunities that may have got lost among the unwanted email clutter. 

Emptying the trash 

One thing I always forget but is one of the final touches to decluttering and organising my laptop is to get rid of all the files I’ve deleted once and for all. 



Decluttering the Desktop

I’m not usually one to have a messy desktop but, from trying to find a new home for my photos, they seemed to end up here.  I recently discovered an app calledDeclutter" that has come in very handy in decluttering my desktop. It automatically organises your files into folders that appear on your desktop based on the file type; all jpg, gif, png etc into photos, all doc, docx, pdf etc into documents. On the app store, this is usually £4.99. However, Setapp contacted me about the great tool they offer and I think you’ll love it. They offer a monthly subscription with access to apps that are usually quite pricey to buy on the App Store. You get exclusive access to these apps that usually costs and unlimited use each month with the apps they have constantly updating. Declutter is just one of their many apps that I’ve been loving.  You can learn more about the set-app and what it offers here {AD-aff.*}.  

Are you a student? They offer a fabulous discount of 50% making the monthly fee just £4.99 a month; read more and sign up for a free trial here {AD-aff}.  If you’re looking to get more organised, productive and creative, the Setapp has so many apps that really help with all these and more. 


So there are the ways that I organise my online workspace; it allows me to work more efficiently and I can more easily find everything I need.  Are there any tips you have for organising your computer? I’d love to hear!
Hope you’re doing great, 
Sarah x

AD-aff* refers to affiliate links where I receive a small percentage. However, all opinions remain my own and have full control over what I say and include in posts that use the links. 

READ, WATCH, LISTEN

7 Mar 2019

I think it’s about time I share with you a few of my favourites in the world of music, TV, books and blogging. I have some great recommendations that I hope you’ll like as well and want to give a go. 

Read

"We Should All Be Feminists" 

It had been a while since I’d read non-fiction as well as feminist based-book. When I spotted this in the library, I remembered I’d bought it as a present for a friend a few years ago and had been yet to read it. I’d describe this as a great pocket-guide to feminism. It sets out what feminism really is for so many women. It was such a short yet impactful read that I would recommend to anyone interested in feminism or, honestly, anyone; it can give people a simple sense of the good that feminism does and why it exists and why it is not just for females but for everyone. 

BECC4


I tend to flick between blogs and, honestly, don’t tend to stick to one blog. However, Becca’s posts have really been catching my attention recently and I have really enjoyed reading them.  They cover some great topics that aren’t always the usual, cliche topics. I also feel like I’m reading something by a friend with her “Sick Tings” posts especially; I love them! 

The Bliss Bean 

I think I’ve found the version of me I wish I was. Everything she’s done I’ve wanted to do. She’s learnt Korean, has a fabulous blog and Instagram and has posts that I just love to read. I love the resources she includes as a few freebies. This is a very recent blog find but one I’ll definitely be going back to in the future. 

Watch 

The Sinner

I was actually intrigued to watch season 2 more than 1. However, I wasn’t sure if I could get away with not watching the first season so I thought I’d start where, I guess, you are supposed to. After only finishing the first season, I can already highly recommend. If you haven’t heard of this before, it follows a detective who looks not really at who did it but why did they do it.  Each of the two seasons has focussed on a single murder investigation where the culprit is quite an unlikely person and the situation it happens is quite peculiar. With just one investigation taking up the whole season, I wondered if it would really hold my attention but every episode ended with me wanting to start the next one straight away which is always a sign that I’m a fan. 

Wonder

This is not a new film but one that I’ve discovered and adore. It’s become my go-to cry-but-feel-better-after film. I read the book many years ago now and had been meaning to get around to watching it. When it finally made its way on to Netflix and knew I had to watch it and I’m so glad it did. It did the book so much justice and got the really important plot points across. It’s really one for all the family and I would encourage everyone to give it a watch (and maybe give the book a read as well!)

Listen 

HONNE

HONNE has quickly become one of my most listened to artists. I especially love listening to them as I work. Their music is not distracting for when I work, I find really chilled and perfect focus music. I particularly love their songs “Location Unknown” and “I Just Wanna Go Back”. I really recommend checking out HONNE this month. 

H.E.R

This is another chilled artist I've been loving. H.E.R's voice is just so soothing. I'd say a female Frank Ocean but so much more power and I love it. If you haven't checked her out before, I'd definitely recommend. I'd specifically check out "Jungle" "Best Part" and "Hard Place"; they're among my favourites and probably some of her most well known so are a great place to start.

Hope you enjoyed reading about some of my recommendations! Anything you recommend for me to read, watch or listen over the next month?
Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x

FOCUS OF THE MONTH: CREATE

4 Mar 2019

It’s somehow already March and the third month of my little challenge. I really enjoyed letting Twitter decide what my focus would be last month and so I thought I’d do this again. I kind of already knew I wanted “CREATE” to be my word to focus on but it was nice to see those who voted, agreeing that it was a good choice. I think, funnily enough, that this month is going to be a tough challenge, but I think now more than ever and ready to focus on getting creative again. 

Writing

Apart from blogging, essay and reports and the odd article writing, I haven’t taken some time to write anything else since, I think, before coming to uni. Writing was something I used to love and I’d have so many ideas I wanted to express in words. However, as work mounted, I lost both my motivation and inspiration for writing. Now, I want to write again; whether good or bad, my aim is to produce and create something written that isn’t related to uni or blogging. I want to step outside my comfort zone and create something new that, maybe, I’ll share with you in the future. 

Painting

I love to paint- particularly watercolours. I’ve had a few opportunities to pick up the paintbrush but it’s been a while since I’ve created something I love. I’ve already started working on a piece taken from a music video I love. My aim is to keep working on this and, hopefully, finish it (even if just a rough first attempt) by the end of this month. 

Something I actually wanted to start in January but have yet to get round to is art journaling; I think this will be a really nice way to get some different ideas out without feeling pressured for them to be perfect. Just yesterday, I went an picked up a notebook that I think will be great for this. I’m hoping to start working my way through the book, starting this month. 

Finding inspiration

I think one reason my motivation is lacking is that I’ve stopped searching for inspiration, I’ve stopped reading, going to art exhibitions, listening to new music etc.  I want to try and search for as much inspiration as possible; whether that’s reading more or going to a gallery. 

Whenever I’ve read about where and how people get inspiration, one thing they say is to always have a place to jot down any ideas with you on the go.  With my phone constantly in my pocket, I may as well use it for good and take a few moments in a day to write down any ideas I have had that day. Maybe do some mind maps, lists; anything that gets me thinking a little more. 

Keeping the balance

In my February in Review, I said that February’s focus of “Balance” is definitely going to be an ongoing one. With deadlines approaching over spring break and preparation for my final exams, I want to make sure I’m making time for both revision and work as well as getting creative. 
I’m going to try and swap searching social media for reading and, instead of Netflix doing some writing. This way, I’ll have no excuse for not being able to create something this month. 


So there are my goals this month based around my focus of /Create/ Can you think of any other ways I could get creative this month? Any words of wisdom? 
What are your goals and focuses for March? 
Hope you’re doing great, 
Sarah x 

FEBRUARY IN REVIEW

28 Feb 2019

So here’s my second monthly round-up where I look back on the month and, also see how well I’ve managed to incorporate my focus of the month into my life. January’s Focus was “RENEW (you can read how well I got on here). For February, I let Twitter decide what my focus should be and they,  including myself, voted for “BALANCE”. At the start of the month I outlined what I wanted to use this month to focus on in relation to balance so, how well did I do? 

The Bad

This month started off on a bit of a downhill trajectory, I was actually really struggling to find the balance between university work, having time off, blogging etc. I really felt aware of the fact that I wasn’t making enough time for everything. Every time I was taking time off from working, I felt guilty for not and when I was working, I just didn’t feel like my head was in it. 

I had a few down days where I just didn’t want to do anything which, in the end, was not actually a bad thing. It actually really forced me to take a step back and have a break and I didn’t actually feel guilty. 

The Good 

This month had some stand-out positives. If you read my “HOW I PREPARED FOR MY EXAMS”  you may have seen I managed to get firsts on both my exams I took at the start of January. The results were such a shock but so glad my hard work paid off. I did question whether it was really worth the stress but I’m overall really happy and it’s made me motivated to do well over the rest of this term and going on into my final term of university. 

Looking back, some of my favourite days of the month were spent on my own going for a walk, sat in Starbucks, going to an exercise class and even blogging. I’ve really enjoyed spending some time doing these little things in between my uni work and they all helped improve my month. 

My parents and sister all came up to visit me as well this month and, even though just for an afternoon, we had a really nice time and got a chance to take some lovely photos of York which I shared in my “PHOTO DIARY: YORK” if you want to have a peek at the photos. 

While it’s had its down moments, February has been a month of realisations of what makes me happy and what doesn’t. It’s been really eye-opening to see what aspects of my life are important to me and make me happiest. 

What I’ve accomplished 


Looking back at some of the things I wanted to focus on relating to Balance this month, I think it’s a real 50/50 split as to what I feel I managed to accomplish and what needs a little more improvement. 

A highlight of this month, and one that I think I feel I implemented well and will be carrying on doing, is tracking my mood. I’ve found this really helpful to not only see what triggers my bad moods or what has made me happy on certain days, but it also allows me to track how often I do certain activities such as uni work, blogging, seeing friends. It has helped me see if I’ve been getting that balance in. The app I’ve been using is Daylio and I love it! I’m so happy I’ve started doing this in February. 


I feel like my diet has been slowly getting back to a good place. I’m in no way watching what I eat but more just making healthier choices and eating when I’m hungry. There have been days where I have treated myself but I’m slowly cutting back. This is probably going to be an ongoing focus for the future but I definitely have felt my diet has been getting better this month. 

In progress 

I’ll be honest, I forgot that one of my focuses of the month was to decrease my screen time. I had a quick check of the screen time recorded on my phone and, while it’s high, I can’t tell whether it’s any lower/higher than last month. I’ve noticed my Instagram daily average has gone down which is a plus but I still think my screen time needs to be reduced and I think this will be something that I can link into next months focus and try again at getting the screen time lower. 

Now, for the big one. My work-life balance has fluctuated throughout this whole month. It’s been the first month since summer that I’ve had more than one day off of doing any uni work at all and I’ve loved it. I felt a lot happier after having these days off and less overwhelmed as I managed to get my thoughts in order and sort out what I need to do and when for, without feeling too stressed. Having said that, I do feel there is more to be done for me to really get this balance. So, while I feel I’ve made steps forward in getting this balance, I still feel I can do a lot more and hopefully, this will progress further into the future months. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on how this goes. 

Overall, while there have been some bad parts, there have been some good moments. While I haven’t found the balance just yet, having this to focus on this month has definitely encouraged me to work towards having a balanced life in many different aspects. Balance is going to be a theme that I’m sure to carry into the next few months to really help me progress. I think once I get this balance, I will be a lot happier. 

How has your February been? I’d love to hear what you’ve accomplished this month and have you any plans for March?
Hope you’re doing great, 
Sarah x

HAPPY (& HELPFUL) HABITS TO IMPROVE YOUR DAY

25 Feb 2019


As I’m sure many do, when I hear “Habit” I immediately jump to the negative connotations of a bad habit. I've now realised that it doesn’t always have to be negative and that having certain habits in your routine can actually help and even improve your mood over time. With this, I thought I’d share with you a few habits I have tried to pick up in order to improve my mood and mindset throughout the day. 

Make the bed.
As a kid, this was something I would get away with not doing but, as I’ve got older, I’ve found that this is something I wish I’d implemented sooner. Such a simple thing makes my room look a little more orderly and, while it may sound silly, makes me happy to return home. On the mornings I know I forgot or didn’t have time to just straighten out my duvet, I know I’ll come home and get annoyed with how unorganised and messy my room is. This just saves so much hassle later on and can help me feel that little bit more put together. 

Track your mood.
This is probably my most recent and favourite habit I have picked up over the past month. Taking a few seconds a couple of times a day to just log my mood, what I’m doing and maybe even write a little more about how I’m feeling. I’ve really enjoyed introducing this habit as it’s nice to be able to look back and see what specifically made me happy and also if there are certain things that a constantly causing a more negative mood change. It’s also nice to scroll back and reflect on the days I’ve had at the end of the month. I recommend the app Daylio on IOS for this!

Walk everywhere you can.
I’m quite often either sat at my desk at home, sat in lectures, sat in the library, in a coffee shop or on the sofa. I’ve realised that the days where I get the least exercise are actually some of my least favourite days. Whenever I can, I walk. I’ve stopped getting the bus into the city center as I know it's in walking distance and I know I’ll thank myself later for that extra bit of exercise. 

Listen to music or a podcast in the morning.
I used to have a radio alarm and I noticed that I felt a lot more energetic in the mornings. Sadly, it broke and I have got out of the habit of listening to music in the morning and have definitely had more trouble getting up early. I’m currently trying to make sure to either put on some music while I get ready or even listen to a podcast (obviously not too loud as to wake my housemates up!).  I have really enjoyed adding this into my morning routine. 

Plan the night before.
I mentioned this in my “How to Improve Mondays” but I think it’s one that applies to overall improving your week. One of the last things I do before settling down for the evening is to write out what I need to do tomorrow; whether it’s seeing what I haven’t managed to accomplish that day, any appointments etc. I make sure to jot them down somewhere I know I’ll have easy access to the next day. This saves me having to think in the morning what I need to take with me anywhere and I then know what time I need to start the day and how I will be starting it. 


So there are just a few positive habits I've tried to implement into my day that really help improve my mood and that are helpful little habits to have!

Are there any happy habits you have that you think I should have included?

Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x

PHOTO DIARY: CITY OF YORK

21 Feb 2019




Just last weekend my parents and sister all came to visit me for the day. We went out to lunch and then we had a little walk around York city centre. It's been a while since I've felt like a bit of a tourist and really appreciated how great York is.

We decided to walk part of the city walls, which I hadn't done before, as well as do the usual walk past the Minster and around The Shambles.

I haven't done a photo-diary-style post really since 2015 where I shared "ON FILM" which was a selection of photos taken from my first roll of film. I have really neglected photography since being at university. However, this little trip around York has really re-inspired me to pick up my camera more often as it's something I really enjoy doing.

Sorry, it's such a short post today but I hope you enjoyed the few pictures I took over the weekend in York.
Have you ever been to York?

Hope you're doing great,
Sarah x


HOW TO: SUSTAINABLE BEAUTY ON A BUDGET

18 Feb 2019



As sustainability is becoming a very hot topic at the moment (a really good thing, of course) I thought I would weigh in to this discussion and offer some ways I have found to help create a more sustainable beauty routine that is also no more-so expensive than normal and, if not saving you some pennies in the long-run

CRUELTY-FREE ALTERNATIVES.


I won't keep going on about this one but, I think, switching out products for cruelty-free alternatives is such a simple way to help in having more sustainable beauty options. If you are thinking about going cruelty-free but have some worries, I may have tackled them in my "CRUELTY-FREE BEAUTY: WORRIES & SOLUTIONS". If you're looking for recommendations I have an abundance of posts on cruelty-free make-upskincare and haircare that you should have a read of. Going cruelty-free does not mean choosing more expensive products. If anything, I've found since making this transition, I have been saving more money than before. 

PRODUCTS WITH SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL.

  
This is a new one for me. While I regularly have tried to exclude using cooking products that include palm oil, I think less so about in this relation to beauty and I would like to be a little more conscious about this. From speaking to a friend, however, excluding palm oil altogether can be tricky and can actually lead to loss of jobs of thousands of people and would most likely see us relying on other , possibly worse, alternative. Instead, trying to find brands that ethically and sustainably source their palm oil is a much better way of helping with the issues surrounding palm oil.

If you want to read more about palm oil in beauty products I recommend this article by Glamour: "Why Palm Oil is Bad For The Environment...". However, if you want to read a little more about palm oil and why actually completely boycotting its use isn't the best solution, I recommend reading this article by Smithsonian and also this one by TheGreenVegans and for a quick rundown, Bare-Soaps published a quick read article about what they do. They definitely word what I'm trying to say a lot better!

STREAM-LINE YOUR MAKE UP BAG.

Is it really necessary to have 10 different lipsticks all in basically the same shade? Even when I have 10 of completely different shades I wonder whether I'm actually using them all equally and if I actually need that many. I no longer see the point of having mountains of make-up that I'm probably never going to use.

Instead of buying products just because I've heard it's good even though it's exactly like something I've tried before, I think a smaller, streamlined selection of makeup that I love and use most days helps reduce the waste of throwing out products after buying and never using, while also saving money. 

NO ONE-USE. GO FOR REUSABLE.


While, yes, coming in from a night out and grabbing a make-up wipe is so much easier that cleansing your face properly (we've all been there), I've become more aware of how wasteful this really is. It's a similar thing with one-use cotton pads; used and then discarded. I recommend trying reusable cotton pads; just use and throw in with your laundry whenever you do a wash and there'll be ready to use again. You can buy so many variations of these with them being simply found on Amazon. I discovered an Etsy shop called "TabithaEveCo." who have really pretty patterned and handmade reusable make-up removal pads which I am definitely going to be buying over the next few days. 

One other thing is razors. Instead of throwing away the whole razor, why not find an option that you just need to throw away the blades and can keep hold of and reuse the handle. I've expressed my love for the Friction Free Shaving Subscription* already. You get a gorgeous metal handle and they will send you the matching razor blades for every month. They are super flexible with cancellation, changing the date and skipping months with the razors being such high quality for the price point as well. If you fancy getting your own FFS razor, you can use my referral code "U6LWZG" and get a free engraving of your name into the handle of your razor to make it all the more luxurious and encourage you to keep the handle. By just swapping out your razor blades when necessary, this is not just a convenient way of replacing them but also a lot cheaper and sustainably effective. 


BARS OVER BOTTLES



This is one that I feel can really make a difference over time. Instead of buying shower gels that, if you're like me, last only a few weeks before you have to buy a new one and the plastic isn't even recyclable in my area, I have tried just using a bar of soap instead. It lasts so much longer and, yes you may not get the great lather that you may with shower gels, I still feel fresh after and, if anything, makes my skin feel more hydrated and clean. Also, it creates so much less waste! I have been using The Body Sop soap bars specifically their Wild Argan Oil bar. I've also seen some great options from both Lush's Naked Shower Gels and Bomb Cosmetic's Solid Shower gels.

I also think to swap your usual shampoos and conditioners to those in bar form is a great option. I have used in the past a few different shampoo bars from Lush and they work just as well as any other shampoo and last so much longer than a bottle. I am yet to try a solid conditioner but I'm definitely looking to buy one soon as they are worth the investment!

WHY NOT DO IT YOURSELF?

This was a recommendation by a friend and so one that I know I can improve on. If you have bananas going off, maybe some avocado, if you're millennial as that sounds, then why not use these to make your own face mask? The natural properties are so much better for your skin than what many companies put in their face masks. Not only this, it helps reduce your waste and makes sure you're using up all your produce. 

Why not try making your own facial sprays, lip scrubs, body exfoliators and coconut make up removers as well? The internet is full of amazing recipes on how to create these and so a quick google search and you'll be able to make one of these in no time with ingredients you're bound to have in your cupboard. These will be so much less expensive than buying them in shops, will help you reuse containers you have lying around and, overall, being a lot more sustainable and natural than buying them from the drugstore.

I hope these six ways of creating a more sustainable routine have given you something to think about and, hopefully, offered easy ways to improve your beauty. Do you think I've missed anything? Do you agree with what I'm saying? I'd love to hear any of your opinions on this topic in the comments!
Hope you're doing great,
Sarah x

*While this doesn't count as a #AD, I wanted to let you know that if you use my referral code, I will get a small discount on my account. However, as always, all opinions remain my own and wouldn't be sharing unless I fully loved the product.


HOW I PREPARED FOR MY EXAMS

12 Feb 2019



Let's start this post with some good news. On Friday, I finally received my exam results for my January exams and, let's just say, I was shocked with the outcome. I received Firsts on both my exam modules and I am so unbelievably happy that my hard work paid off. With this news, I thought I would share with you what I did from the lecture to revision to sitting the actual exam to prepare myself for this. 

I thought I should probably add a little disclaimer here: in no way am I saying that this way is right for everyone and this is just what seemed to work for me. This was my first essay based exams in two years and so I had to try a few different methods at once to hopefully understand and remember the content well. While some of these tips may be helpful for all different subjects, some maybe only beneficial to a few subjects but hopefully there'll be something for everyone to take away from this. If you're looking for general revision help feel free to see old posts I've wrote on this topic here which, from looking back there seems to be quite a few. 

THE LECTURE 

Note-taking. 
I made sure that before every lecture I had a quick look at what the topic of the lecture would be and, if available, download the slides to my laptop ready for the lecture. While I know some people prefer to handwrite in lectures, which was my preferred method for first and second year, I realised how much time it saves to type any additional information into the notes section of powerpoint; it just saved me trying to frantically write everything down and miss vital bits of information. 
If something was already written on the slides, I wouldn't take note of it unless the lecturer phrased it in a simpler way that I understood better. 

AFTER THE LECTURE

Write- up lecture notes while fresh in my head. 
I think this was one of the best things I did last term; as soon as the lecture was over I would crack on with handwriting some initial notes of the lecture content to make doubly sure I understood. It also gave me chance to flag up early on any areas I needed to focus on understanding a little more and where I needed to find a little more research. 

Get the reading done as well. 
At the start of term, I would try my best to get the reading done even before the lecture. However, as work started to pile up or when I didn't really understand the reading before the lecture, I would make sure to also get this done on the day of the lecture. It allowed me to make quick connections back to what was mentioned in the lectures and gave me a better understanding. Doing it as early as possible meant i was out of the way and my initial work for that particular lecture was already done. 

EXTRA RESEARCH 

Knowing where to look. 
I think this is something I'll definitely be doing better this term. If you wanted to get the higher marks in exams, the lecturers stressed the need for further research. It took me a while to work out the best way to go about this but I found going to papers referenced in lecture and looking at the citations used was a quick and effective way to find out previous research. If wanting to know where research had progressed, finding the original paper on Google Scholar and looking which later papers had cited this was a great way to find even more up-to-date research. 

Review papers were always a plus as they have pages and pages of references. Also having a quick check of library to see if there's any books related to the course not only helped me find material that phrased difficult theories in, sometimes,  a better way for me to understand but also gave me another place to find some new references. 


Integrate with your notes & condense further.
So, I've got my initial notes and then, separately, all this extra research. To have these separately just didn't really help me work out in knowing where it all fits together. If I was going to write an essay on it, I really needed to have it all in one place. This is when I decide to write my notes out again; with the extra research and even more concise notes. This would later be the basis of any revision and so, already, I'm starting to learn it in preparation for exams. 


REVISION

Experiment Tables.
If you're subject or module is heavily research focusses, I really recommend this way. I would split each study up into it's intro, methods, results, discussion/conclusions and any further critical points. By doing this, I'm basically forming the paragraphs needed for the exam essays. It helps me take out the most useful points of information and not overwhelming myself with paragraphs taken straight from the paper or lecture slides. 

Testing myself. 
I previously shared with you "GREAT APPS FOR STUDENTS" and one of the ones I included was Quizlet. It basically allows you to make cue cards and is mostly used by people trying to learn a language. I used these by putting the researchers' name and year of study e.g. Jones (1998) on one side and having the definition as the main finding and conclusion of that paper. This was great for last-minute revision to help cue the recall of the other information relating to the paper. I regularly just used this throughout the months leading up to my exams to constantly remind myself of studies. They have some great features to allow you to test yourself that were really helpful, especially in remembering which paper did what. 

Practice Introductions & Essays. 
I say intros and essays as two different things as I tended to do them separately. One of my lecturers had told me that the introduction is the first hurdle faced in the exam and so having different introductions prepared for the different types of questions that could be asked allowed me to practice how to tackle these questions before even sitting the exam. It helped me know what is needed in each introduction and helped me practice writing them effectively.

With this, I found writing out essays in full and trying to time myself based on the timings that we would have in the exam meant I was more prepared in how the exam would be and gave me chance to practice how to write in the exam that was clear yet quick. 

Through constantly writing out introductions to essays and also essay plans I felt it was a really effective way of revising for the exam. If you have a friend in your module, getting them to come up with practice questions for you to try is another great way for you to get more practice in and be prepared for any trickier questions that may turn up. 


So that is how I prepared for my January Exams! I hope me sharing this with you will help any of you students with any future exams.

Do you think I missed anything important that maybe I should try before my next exams? I'd love to know!
Hope you're doing great,
Sarah x

CREATING A PRODUCTIVE WORKSPACE

4 Feb 2019


I find it all too easy to get into a slump with work and I've found the first step to tackle this is tidying up my desk space for optimal productivity. I've found a few things that really help to get me focussed and to minimise any distractions which I thought I'd share them with you today.


Don't sleep where you work. 

This is something that I think I've done quite well and have really benefitted from. While there is the temptation to work from my bed every morning, I now realise how unproductive this makes me. Whether it's at a desk in my room or the dining room table, I know I'll be much more productive there than in my bed. Also, I feel like not working from my bed keeps it a more relaxed area and having it associated with that and not the stress of work helps me get to sleep a little better at night as I know I can now relax in bed. 

Plenty of Empty Desk Space

I've always been one to have little trinkets, drawers, picture frames etc. on my desk but I've realised that this just isn't the most practical. While a few items isn't bad by any means, having a less cluttered desk allows me to easily see my work and spread out a more if I need to without having to take stuff off my next or move things around in order to work.

Have the essentials to hand...

Like I say, having a few items on your next is helpful. I also think having drawers under or by the side of my desk is also handy as it means I don't have to go searching when I need a pen or a ruler; I know they're close by so I won't be distracted by trying to route around to find what I need. If you don't have any drawers to hand, in the past just a pencil pot has been good enough for me or shallow box just on the corner of my desk is big enough to hold the essentials. 

...and your phone out of reach.


I'd say that this is probably the biggest cause of unproductive work both for me and I'd guess many others; always tempted to just have a quick scroll through Instagram or being instantly distracted when you see your phone light up. Putting your phone on "Do Not Disturb" is a good option but I still don't find it stops me from checking it frequently. I find it's best to place it on the other side of my room, face down and I tend not to really think about it. I also turn off notifications on my laptop for messages and emails off quite often especially if it's related to what I'm doing. It's just an extra way to minimise distractions. 

A list pad is a good place to start.

If you've got the space, I always find this a helpful addition.Having somewhere to write down what you want to get done and be able to tick it off when a job is complete makes me feel motivated to tick everything off. If you would rather not have a list pad taking up the room or wasting paper, I'm an avid lover of the Chrome extension "Momentum" which, along with giving you a beautiful chrome background everyday, has a great feature that allows you to write a To-Do list and even have the satisfaction of ticking the task off when finished. 

Lots of water.

Whenever I'm starting to flag I always make the excuse to go and get a(nother) glass of water. While, yes, breaks are good and I always try to have them regularly throughout a long time sat at my desk, I do find sometimes I'm using it as just an excuse. I find now that if I fill up a big liter bottle of water, it's more than enough to see me through to my next break and beyond. It also makes sure that I am keeping hydrated through out the day which is something I'm quite poor at remembering to do.

Have a cracking playlist.

I know that some people find it distracting to have music playing while they're working and, if it's something I need to really concentrate on, I'm exactly the same. However, I find when I'm needing something to get me focused, a good playlist always works wonders. I have a few playlists I think are good for this that I have created myself; my GREEN playlist is on my Spotify so if you're looking some more guitar vibes, it's a good one. Alternatively I also have a STUDY and REVISION playlists that I created during different exam periods in the past that always helped me feel calm and still motivated to work. 

So there's just some ways I try to create a good productive environment for me. These apply especially when I'm at home but these can definitely be applied if you're in the library or anywhere where you are trying to study.

Do you have any tips yourself for staying productive? I'd love to know!
Hope you're doing great,
Sarah x 

FOCUS OF THE MONTH: BALANCE

1 Feb 2019



If you haven't already seen, I decided to set my challenge in 2019 where I take a word and, based on that word, I focus my goals for the month around that. January's focus was "RENEW" and earlier this week I shared with you my "JANUARY IN REVIEW" where I looked back on the ups and downs of the month and updated you on how I found my first month of this little challenge. 

It's not the 1st of February at the time of posting so it's on to the next focus! I was struggling to pinpoint what word I should use to narrow my focus this month and so I actually asked over on my Twitter (@saraheliza_j) what people thought my focus should be and they chose "BALANCE". I completely agreed with the choice as, while usually I struggle to make time to balance personal life with university work, I've actually found this last month a slight neglect of my university work as the tables have completely flipped. So, I think Balance was the perfect choice for February's focus as I try to find that common ground across different aspects of my life this month. 

WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Like I say, after being a workaholic last year, as I've re-discovered my interests outside of university, I've slightly neglected the work and it's started to pile up. Instead of just panicking and throwing myself back into work, I want to establish more of an equal balance between the two- making time for both things I need to get done and things I want to do. I'm already an avid planner but making sure I plan for both work and life equally will help me accomplish this in the next month. 

DIET

I've always struggled with diet and getting a good balance. However, more recently I've been having meals that are really satisfying and I'm craving a lot less the salty and sugary snacks I used to. Having said that, I do struggle to get the balance across all food groups; I try to eat mostly vegetarian  meals during the weeks and, while I love the food I'm eating, I am wary I am not getting enough protein recently. So, I want to make more of an effort to have more balanced plates; portions of veg, carbs and protein. Also, I want to choose more healthier options for snacks but not feeling so guilty when I have a little chocolate or a packet of crisps. 
Creating a good diet for myself is an ongoing challenge for me but having it as focus this month will hopefully help me a little more. 

SCREEN TIME

Since to IOS update and being able to see activity levels on Instagram, I think this is something a lot more people are becoming aware of in 2019. While, I think I use my phone a little less than the average during the day, I have the awful habit of checking my phone being both the first and last thing I do in a day. I want to try and reduce both the time and occurrences I look at my phone in February. My laptop is where I'm at most of the day; for both university and when relaxing. I'm thinking of trying to find a way that doesn't involve me looking at a screen for hours to enable me to do university work. In terms of relaxing, I'm going to make more of an effort to pick up a book instead of aimlessly searching YouTube this month. 

MOOD TRACKING

This is loosely tied around the theme of Balance but is something I want to give a go this next month. Everyone has down days and everyone has great days- there has to just be a balance between the two. I have been recently worrying that I'm having more downs than ups and so, I want to keep an eye on this over the next month to make sure I'm getting a good balance between the two and to also monitor if there's specific reasons why I have certain bad moods are bad days while also seeing what is it that makes me smile and happy and how I can implement those happy things into my life a little more often. Hopefully by tracking my mood I may find a better balance between the ups and downs over the next month. 


So there are four ways I want to tackle February's Focus of the month: Balance. I'd love to know your opinions on the focus I've chosen and if there's any other ways I can use the word Balance to make some healthy changes in February. 

What are some of your goals for February? What word do you think I should use to focus in March? 
Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x 

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