AD | This post gifted items courtesy of Photowall. All opinions remain my own. 

Since moving out of my family home for uni and now more permanently, I've always struggled to create a space that I feel comfortable in that feels as cosy, familiar and homely as I do when I'm back home in my childhood bedroom. I kind of got that while moving around the house to house for uni accommodation but now I'll be staying in my current flat for at least another year, I thought it's really time to make it my own and add those homey, familiar little touches that will make me feel so much comfortable. I thought I'd share a few ways I've been doing this. 

The perfect prints

I'd love to fill my walls with art and my trusty Pink Floyd poster is the only wall art that has stayed with me through every mood and I don't think I want ot ever part with it! Recently I've added a few more prints to my collection. I've been loving the more minimal classic prints and Photowall has been great for they. They kindly let me pick out a print and I went for this Two Faced black and white illustration - as I'm still not set on my colour and aesthetics for my room, it's the perfect choice that is bound to go with anything. 

Photowall have so many great options that I spend a good hour deciding which to go with. I personally love the framed prints and I always prefer a classic black frame which works great for this print especially. 

Wanting to grab a print yourself? Get 25% off your order with the code saraheliza25 - just add it at checkout!  The code is valid until April 23. 


Cosy cushions & blankets

Cosy throws are such a staple! I'm always wrapped up on the sofa in a blanket whether I'm reading or watching TV. H&M always has a great selection of blankets, cushions and cushion covers that won't break the bank and many made from sustainably sourced cotton which is such a bonus! 

Pretty sheets

I'm such a sucker for a new set of bedsheets! I'm quite proud that I haven't indulged more into new sheets since moving to London. However, the other week I picked up the prettiest, zestiest set from M&S - the dainty lemon print I am obsessed with and is such a simple design but works really well with my room. I felt it's almost like something you'd pick up in Urban Outfitters but for half the price! Definitely worth checking out the rest of M&S' selection. 

Plants galore!

My succulent selection is definitely a work in progress. I have the trusty aloe vera that I bought back in uni as well as some adorable cacti a friend got me for my birthday - the perfect windowsill additions! Flowers as well! There's something so lovely about a fresh bunch of flowers. They bring some lovely colour and life to my lounge and they don't have to break the bank. Daffodils are great to pick up coming into spring - always cheap and such a gorgeous flower to brighten up space. 

Bring on the personal touches

Whether it's framed photos of friends and family, vinyl records lining the shelves or stacks of books, of course, being surrounded by your favourite thing always makes me feel more comfortable. Really personalising my space and adding these little touches has really helped me settle in and have the house feel like a home! 

Hope you're doing great,
Sarah

You're never too old for a new hobby! 

Author's Note: Hey, future Sarah here to quickly cut in! This post was written prior to the news of COVID-19 and the heartbreaking effect it is having globally. This point of this article is in no way to profit off the misfortune of others in self-isolation. I still wanted to post this in case it does inspire someone to pick up a new hobby as a form of distraction during self-isolation. I'm currently still in London and working from home for the foreseeable future. I hope you're all staying safe where possible. If you suffer from ill mental health and/or are struggling to adapt to the self-isolation life, this resource from Mind is worth the read. Sending you all lots of love. đź’–

I don't know about you but whenever I was asked to introduce myself as a kid, it went a little something like this: "Hi I'm Sarah, I like fish fingers and my hobbies are reading and shopping". As a kid, I racked my brain is trying to work out what my hobbies were. Now, as I'm older, I think the meaning of a hobby has kind of changed. Many outgrow those childhood hobbies, they might even people part of your job or daily life that it's no longer seen as an enjoyable extra. as I've left uni and have more time to try other things, I've picked up a few things I maybe I tried once when I was younger and forgotten about or just picked up a new skill or hobby for the fun of it! It's never too late to try something new and this might give you some inspiration for what new hobby to pick up next. 

Knitting

My mum taught me to knit when I was a lot younger but I quickly got bored and forgot about it. Only recently I've picked it up again with some help from friends and family and I've got the hang of it again pretty quickly! It's been such a great form of self-care for me as, once you've picked up the basics, it can be quite mindless and meditative. It's also a great way to put down that phone - instead of having my phone distract me, I'm knitting instead and it's so much less distracting. I've stuck with simple scarves and hats for now but I think I'll be trying a jumper next - wish me luck! 


Reading

This isn't exactly a revelation considering the number of bookshops I've visited and my other recent book-related post: Slump-busting books. I still wanted to mention this as I've spoken to many friends who became demotivated to read during uni and so did I! I couldn't think of anything worse than finishing lecture reading to pick up another book. But, after a reading break, I now can't put my books down and I'm flying through my reading challenge for the year. I now know what genres I love, the best time to read and I love discussing them with friends. 


Learning Korean

This is a very recent addition. After learning French on Duolingo, I'd grown quite bored and it was no longer part of my daily routine to pick it up and learn. I fancied trying something completely different and as I've watched more and more Korean shows on Netflix over the years, it seems like a really interesting language to learn. I've been using the book Talk To Me in Korean* - they're not the cheapest but highly-recommended and I'm really loving using it. They also have some great free resources on their website as well. 

I've been trying to do a lesson a day, every morning when I get into work I grab a coffee and sit and complete a lesson but unfortunately, it doesn't always happen but I'm trying. I'm already annoying my friends by repeating random Korean words and phrases so I thank them for putting up with me!

Writing

My friend recently set up a writing group - kind of like a book club but a place to share ideas, writing problems, read each other's drafts and it has really inspired me to dust off my notebook and pick up the pen again. While a cohesive idea is yet to form, I'm not rushing myself as it's been so long. It's been really nice to just write out some nonsense and give this writing thing another go. 

Sewing

Another hobby for the creative kind, sewing was something I did intermittently throughout my summer holidays are a teenager but as much as I wish I took my sewing machine to uni with me, that didn't happen. Now in London, I'm surrounded by so many other makes at work and so many great fabric stores at the weekend, this is a hobby I always go back to when I want to great creative with. Now I have my sewing machine with me, I'll be sure to be making and more as we head into summer. 

What are some of your hobbies? Are they the same ones you had as a child or have they changed over time? 

I hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x
Covent Garden streets, soho area pink and blue bright buildings in London

Since living in London, I've spoken about my struggles with adapting to a new life in a new, much busier city than I've ever been used to. I've never been a big fan of crowds, or noise or general busy-ness. Since I moved here 7 months ago, I've definitely begun to adapt to the chaotic life of London weaving in and out of people, bunching up on the tube. But, I've also managed to find some peace in the hidden gems of the big city - the side streets, the quiet hours to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy city, but also still enjoying everything that London has to offer. 

Avoiding rush hour

I have really become a morning person (something I never thought I'd say) but getting out the house that little bit earlier for work puts my mind at ease that the commute will be a lot less hectic. Even on weekends, I'm so used to waking up early that if I have plans with myself or friends, I leave earlier than the usual weekend goer. It gives me a few hours in the morning where London is waking up that I can enjoy the quieter streets. 

Mid-week breaks

Some of the best days I've had have been when I've taken a random morning or day in the middle of the week. I have a lie-in (missing those morning rush hours) and head out to somewhere that usually might be full of families or tourists on the weekend. This is my favourite time to go to the busier galleries and exhibitions - I really feel like I can take my time, be independent and not feel panicked by having so many people surrounding me. 

Find 'your spot'

When I lived at home as well as uni, I always had those cafĂ©s I'd got to when I wanted some time to myself - that I know won't be too busy and I won't be worried about the usual unnecessary worries I have in busy places. It's harder in London but there are definitely a few places I know to go when I want a bit more familiarity. They may get busy but once I'm there and settled, I feel so much better for being out of the house and surrounding by people but in a place, I feel I know. 

Spend time with a friend

Even on the weekends, the louder London days, I've had some of the best days with my friends because I have someone with me to navigate through the crowds and instead of focussing on the people, I'm having such a great time, I don't even note the busy-ness. It's always great to explore with a friend - it's taken me to new places that I wouldn't have gone to otherwise and it's really helped me to even start going to these places on my own (but one step at a time).  

Explore the 'hidden city'

When I say hidden, nothing really is in London but the places that are at least that little bit quieter or feel at least a little more peaceful especially not in hours. Instead of going to the places everyone goes to go shopping, I head to somewhere a little different and quieter; it's one of the joys of there being 3 of the shame shop within a mile radius in London. 

Parks

There are so many parks in London! Even around my office in central London, there are so many parks to explore and take a seat for just a bit of space. Even Hyde Park, one of the busiest places in London at the weekend especially in summer. But, early on a Sunday morning, it feels so peaceful and open and so lovely to walk around and enjoy. 

Galleries

Like I say, there can be so much better on weekdays but, still, for ticketed exhibitions, I know I'm going to be able to enjoy my time in the gallery, not feel rushed and feel content. I've always found the Tate Britain to be a great quieter option even with it being one of the most well-known in London. 

Coffee Shops

If I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the weekend but still want to get out, I head to a cafĂ© - either a fail-safe old favourite or even a quiet, new one (if I'm feeling confident enough). I take my laptop and sit, enjoy the coffee and type away - exactly what I'm doing right now! And, sometimes I even forget I'm sta in the middle of such a busy, fast-paced city! 

Are you like me? Do you enjoy the quieter times or are you someone who revels in the busy atmosphere? 

Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x
the northern lights by Philip Pulman UK edition with ace & tate pink glasses
*This Post Contains Affiliate Links*

I so easily get into a reading slump - it takes one bad read and a hint of demotivation to stop me reaching for my book daily. But, I've found some fail-safe books and genres that can really help restore my reading mojo quickly and also helping to boost my reading challenge for the year and catch up on all the books I missed while in a slump. So, here are some books help you beat the reading slump!

Graphic Novels 

Some people may class this as cheating but I tell those people to ssshh! Graphic novels are such a great quick-read but, that doesn't stop it being a great story with gripping storylines. Having something like this to quickly perk me up is exactly what I need to be able to delve into a longer read next. 

Poetry

To me, poetry can be quite inspiring and even more moving than longer books so, it's great for me to reach for a small collection when I'm not feeling like a novel straight away. Maybe a modern read like Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is a great pick or even some Sylvia Plath poetry is always a nice read for something that I end up reading a lot more into and can inspire me to pick up some classics.

Shorter Books

Obviously, shorter books are great quick reads but it takes a good short book to make me want to continue reading after I've finished. Whether it's a little penguin classic, a 100-page story or a short story from a collection, these can really help open me up to some new genres as well as helping get out of my reading slump. This is exactly what Mr Salary by Sally Rooney did as well as The End We Start From by Megan Hunter and The Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Re-read a favourite

Sometimes what you need is a bit of familiarity. I find, especially if I've tried(and slightly failed) to delve into a new genre, what I need is my favourite book to pull me back to where I need to be. As my favourite book is Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, that's what I'd pick up. It's been a favourite for years now and I've even written a review of Where Things Come back many years ago (in 2015!!) if you want a look at what it's all about.

Easy Reads

Not every book you read has to have super compelling and a really unique storyline. Sometimes a simple young-adult story, coming of age or a feel-good romance is exactly what I need - a simple story but great nonetheless. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory was the perfect book for this, as well as Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella


So, these are some recommendations of some great books to help you out of your reading slump as well as help boost your year's reading list. 

What are some of your slump-busting books? Let me know your favourites!

Hope you're doing great, 
Sarah x

What's better than spending a weekend discovering the hidden books of a city home to some of the best bookshops. London isn't short of some fantastic book shops that any book lover will be in heaven when visiting during their time in London. From classic bag-names in London to small independent booksellers and publishers, here are some of my favourite bookshops I've visited so far in London that you will be sure to want to visit too. 


Hatchard's Books, Piccadilly


Let's start with a classic, Their Piccadilly store feels like you're walking into a book lovers dream. This is London's oldest bookshop and home to thousands of books spread across 5 floors; old and new, favourites and first editions from every genre you could ever want. If there's a bookshop you'll want to spend hours in, this is your best option! It's one of the most famous book stores in London and with good reason.


London Review Bookshop, Bloomsbury

Not far from the British Museum, London Review Bookshop is a great stop when exploring the city. They have a great selection of new releases and many from smaller publishers and authors. A great little shop off a quiet street in London (or, as quiet as London streets can be!). Lovely staff and some fabulous tote bag options for all the books you will be sure to buy! It's also has a cute little café if you're looking for somewhere to stop along the way as well.


Daunt Books, Marylebone

Another famous London bookshop that's a hit with the tourists. With gorgeous classic interiors full to the bim with books, it's not a surprise that it is. What I loved most about this Daunt Books was the amount of international literature they had from all continents and countries - if there's a specific foreign book you're looking for, there's a high chance you'll find it here.



Gay's The Word, Bloomsbury

This is one of the only bookshops in the UK dedicated to LGBTQ+ literature - whether it's the character or the authors themselves. It's a small independent book shop but is filled with so much, from young adult releases to classic literature from authors such as Truman Capote and Oscar Wilde. Such lovely staff (and customers!), it's definitely one to check out and support!



Persephone Books, Holborn

If you visit here, you may recognise some covers from Waterstones's bookshops but here is the original publisher and bookseller of out-of-print female authors - female authors' stories and publications forgotten over time and republished in beautiful editions, each with uniquely printed endpapers to make each author's book that extra special. It was so fascinating to read the blubs of the books and feel shocked thinking "how was this forgotten!". Definitely different from the other bookshops on this list to make it a truly unique pick and one worth the visit.


House of Books, North London

Now, this is quite a specific pick out of the centre and out of the way from many tourists, but for the London locals looking for a new bookshop stop, House of Books is a great book shop for discounted yet still great books. With shops in Crouch End and Muswell Hill in North London, if you fancy the trip for some cheaper finds in a little neighbourhood, it's definitely worth especially for the number of books you'll be sure to walk away with. 

So, there are just some of my favourite books shops I've discovered in London that, if you're a book-loving tourist or a local, are worth the visit. Is there any I've missed off this list? 

I will be sure to update this with more recommendations in the future as I discover more of London's bookish gems.

Hope you're doing great,
Sarah x