Nobody’s perfect

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed that my weekend has been fairly eventful to say the least. I went home on Friday for the weekend as I had tickets to see Jessie J on Saturday. The whole weekend was lovely as I got to see my family again, but there were a few little snags along the way. To be honest, it’s a miracle when there isn’t any.

On Friday I took my suitcase with me to lecture because I was going straight to the station once class finished. The second hour was a bit of a pain though as our usual lecturer was temporarily replaced by one of my least favourite members of the department. I can’t concentrate on him and just took notes from the PowerPoint, rather than all the other stuff he mentioned. The uni bus to town was heaving, but I made it to the station with plenty of time to go and get a Costa mocha and brownie (my little treat). I asked if I could reserve a seat for my train back while at the station because I had been unable to online, but alas the train remained a free-for-all. For once my train to York ran rather smoothly, we had a lovely ticket inspector and the large hen party stayed in the carriage behind me. I took advantage of this comfort (remarkable for Transpennie) and had my picnic (including homemade boulders and banana bread) whilst reading.

Chilling with my homemade goodies and novel

The drama, however, began when I arrived at York. I had been slightly worried because I only had thirteen minutes to make my connection, and given how unreliable my trains usually are, there was a possibility of a platform dash. I checked the board on the platform to see where my connection would be pulling in (the Liverpool train actually made it in on time!) and was told that there would be an additional fifteen minute delay due to signalling issues at Doncaster. As far as I was concerned, that meant that I could nip to the loo (rather than the train alternative) and wait on the platform. Yet the longer I stood waiting, the more the train was delayed. The train was meant to arrive at 15.48 and the board eventually stayed on being delayed until 16.34 before simply saying ‘delayed’. In other words, ‘I’ll turn up when I feel like it’. The major frustration though was that two other trains which were delayed for the same reason, arrived within thirty minutes of their intended time, one of which was originally due after mine! The board eventually said that it would be due in at 16.42, nearly an hour later than intended, and that it would only be calling at Newcastle. Then five minutes before it was due it suddenly moved to another platform, meaning we all had to traipse over the bridge. When we arrived, yet another train going to Newcastle had managed to get in before mine and it hadn’t been effected by the delay! We were all slightly narked by this, but got on board the train (it did eventually arrive around 16.40), to be told that it would take roughly fifty minutes to get to Newcastle.

But that wasn’t the end of the fiasco. When I got onboard, it wasn’t obvious which coach was which, and after inquiring in two carriages, it appeared that the carriage my seat was reserved in, didn’t actually exist. Thankfully, due to the cancellation of stopping in Darlington and Durham, there were plenty of seats to sit in. By this point my phone had nearly died, but that wasn’t an issue because I’d updated my family and it was meant to be plain sailing from there. And it would have been as well, if not for the ‘trespasser’ on a bridge in Chester-le-Street. We suddenly stopped in the middle of the countryside, to be notified that we would be delayed further (the conductor made a lovely little joke about how well we were doing to stay on time) because no body was allowed anywhere near the area due to the nature of the situation. Looking back, it was a bit amusing because it got people talking in the carriage, although we were all thoroughly ticked off. After about twenty minutes we started moving and when we went past Durham (which was jam-packed) we thought we were home sailing. Until we stopped about five minutes later to be told that due to a traffic accident on the A1, the police had been delayed to the bridge and were stilling trying to deal with the incident. In the end, the train ended up being an hour and forty-five minutes delayed. I wasn’t in the best of moods, but I’m getting full compensation for the journey and my dad was picking me up to go visit my aunt.

Aside from that minor irritation, I had a wonderful evening with my family. There was lots of laughter, exchanges of gossip and family goings-on and a fair bit of food. It was definitely what I needed to cheer me up after the day I’d had. When I got home around midnight, my mum and stepdad were pulling up from the birthday party they’d been to. They showed me the transformation that is currently underway in my bedroom – my stepdad has turned my storage cupboard into a proper set of stairs to get into the loft (making it easier to get to everything and I get to use it as storage). This does mean that everything that was in the cupboard was in my bedroom, leaving me to sleep in the spare bedroom which is tiny. We had a bit of an issue with the cat in the attic, but after twenty minutes, lots of scratches and the cat carrier, we had him downstairs again.

Getting to my clothes was fun

Some of my stepdad’s hard work

After a breakfast of bacon and fried egg sandwich (or ‘wear me sandwich’), my mum and I went to visit my grandparents, who celebrated their sixty-first wedding anniversary the day before. It felt like ages since I last saw them and we spent a fair bit of time there chatting. From there, Mum and I went to New Look because it never feels like a trip home without a peek in the store. I bought a couple of things in the sale for uni, including a rather snazzy crop top for nights out. We went to Sainsbury’s to get presents for my stepniece’s third birthday. She was already getting a Disney Princess kitchen from Mum and my stepdad, so I bought her some items to accessorise the kitchen as well as her Christmas present because they had the toys reduced. By the time we eventually got back in the house, I only had time to clear a path to my wardrobe, get out the clothes I wanted to take back to Liverpool and jump in the bath before I was back out on the metro to town.

I met my friend at the Gate and we went for food at Frankie and Benny’s. We hadn’t spoken properly since my birthday weekend, so it was a great catch up and the food was really nice. It’s our usual food place when we have a catch up as we are yet to have a bad meal there. From the meal, we walked over to the Metro Radio Arena as I had invited her to accompany me to see Jessie J. I got the tickets for free from my cousin who won them at work and we were dead close to the stage, but had the comfort of not being in the standing area. The support acts were decent enough. After queuing in possibly the longest que (it has very nearly the length of the venue), we arrived during the DJ act, which got the crowds spirits up. There were a couple of long pauses between acts and the DJ came back on between Lawson and Jessie J. I was a bit disappointed with Lawson as they didn’t sound as good as I expected.

Jessie J, on the other hand, was epic! I could happily have had even more of her performance instead of Lawson. She seems such a genuine, honest and modest person. The whole tour was themed around living life to the best that you can, focusing on positivity rather than the little niggles that happen along the way. What I thought was really clever was that she used little videos to fill her costume changes connecting with the songs that would follow in that ‘act’ as it were and they portrayed this overall message in some way. The final video was all about being Awake, showing/accepting Love, using Instinct, having Values and being full of Energy … in other words ALIVE! I found that really clever and actually a brilliant message to give, especially when you consider how much of a role model she is. I’m certainly proud to be a Heartbeat. There wasn’t a bad moment in the whole of her performance, the energy was fantastic and everyone in the audience was loving the show. I loved the fact that she kept telling the crowd at the front of the stage that she couldn’t see them, because they were too busy trying to film/photo her. It proved a point that technology these days has taken over slightly and I’m pleased I only took occasional photos because I found I focused more on the show and enjoyed it a lot more. Jessie also made a point of saying that she wasn’t perfect after spilling her water on the stage due to her dancing then sang ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ which is one of my favourite songs from her debut album. Alive, her second album, follows along this motivational side and it’s definitely going to be a heavy feature in my workout playlist. She is proof that you can be happy outside the mould of society so ‘just be true to who you are’!

I had another ‘trespasser’ moment when I was trying to get home. But I eventually got back and after watching Strictly with Mum, it was a leisurely nights sleep while the clocks went back an hour. We had a light breakfast on Sunday as my stepdad was cooking my favourite home-time meal – roast chicken with all the trimmings. We spent the morning at Tynemouth market and while there was plenty of things that caught my eye, I resisted the temptation as I’ll be going to two Christmas markets and a Vintage Fair within the next two months. Mum and I spent the afternoon while my stepdad was cooking lunch putting my stepniece’s kitchen together. We didn’t find the instructions until we’d put it together because they were in with the stickers. We had a right giggle whilst doing it and my lunch was superb. Alongside the chicken, we had homegrown peas, cabbage and carrots, as well as cauliflower (ours weren’t quite ready), bubble and squeak, roast potatoes and finally the piece de resistance – my stepdad’s sausagemeat stuffing. It was well worth sacrificing my usual Sunday morning fry-up.

I managed to see my stepfamily before I caught my trains back to Liverpool which was fantastic. I can’t believe how much my stepniece has grown up! Aunt Del was perfectly happy to play chef before Mum drove me to the station. We had been a little concerned about going in to town as it was Darby day, but thankfully the match was in Sunderland, so I didn’t meet any football fans (an unusual miracle for me) and the trains back to Liverpool were a lot less eventful. My train to York was a bit late coming in, but due to several delays (I’m guessing from the start of the storm) my Liverpool train was also slightly delayed. I found a seat near the rack and shoved my case in. Given that it was an unreserved train, you’d have thought people would have the manners to leave seats for others, especially given how busy it was, but the couple who sat near me still tried to use an extra seat each for their luggage. Some people just have no common sense or decency. I was back in my scouse house not long after eight and was unpacked and reading in bed by ten, ready to start again with uni.

It was a wonderful weekend home, and although I’m not going back until Christmas, my mum is planning to come down at the start of December and I’m going to be pretty busy with assignments. In fact, that’s what I’m going to crack on with now, seeing as I didn’t really do much over the weekend. It’s these little indulgences that get me through the busy, at times tedious, uni moments!

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Flavours of the world

Lots of different flavours in this weeks Nibblebox and I’m very looking forward to trying the sushi inspired punnet. When I went to update my ratings for this box, Graze informed me that they had eleven new flavours for me to decide if I wanted them. The lovely thing was, they’d already removed the ones contained cranberries! All the other look really tasty though, so I look forward to getting even more variety in my snacks.

Brooklyn Bites – moved from ‘try’ to ‘love’. Graze description: poppyseed pretzels, cheese cashews and roasted pumpkin seeds. Surprisingly, I really liked the pumpkin seeds. I’ve been trying to work out between these and sunflower seeds which it is that I prefer and well now I know that it’s pumpkin. The cheese cashews were yummy as well, but I’ve already commented on them in the last Nibblebox. The pretzels were nicer than I expected as well. They weren’t as tough as last time. Maybe I’m still thinking about the Bake Off final!

Sweet Goan Curry Crackers – moved from ‘try’ to ‘like’. Graze description: curry rice crackers. There’s no picture for this one because I had this on the train when my phone had only 1% charge and surprisingly wouldn’t take a picture. The crackers tasted like a chip shop style curry sauce, which was quite pleasant, but I wouldn’t like to have these all the time, hence the move to ‘like’ rather than ‘love’. They had a mild spice to them, so they weren’t overpowering, making them ideal for those who don’t like a lot of heat.

Veggie Sushi Plate – moved from ‘try’ to ‘bin’. Graze description: ginger and nori peanuts, japanese seaweed rice crackers and wasabi coated peas. This was the punnet I was most looking forward to, yet also the most dubious about. I tried each individual item and didn’t like any of them. I knew that I wasn’t a huge lover of ginger in savory food and I didn’t enjoy seaweed the first time I tried it, but I thought the wasabi peas might be nice. They were simply too hot for me and the others confirmed my initial dislike for the flavours. I’ve saved it for my housemate though because she loves this punnet.

Chilli and Lime Pistachios – moved from ‘try’ to ‘love’. Graze description: roasted pistachios with chilli and lime seasoning. If you read this regularly, you’ll know that I adore pistachios and this punnet was no exception. They had quite a kick to them, but due to the lime (which you could taste at times) they weren’t as hot as the black pepper seasoned ones. I didn’t think I’d like the lime element, but they made it taste refreshing. Definitely my favourite item in the box!

Down in the jungle where nobody goes…

This Goodybox was a bit of a let down because I’ve already tried and commented on three of the selection. That’s the only negative with this box in comparison with the usual Nibblebox that I get – you can’t control how often certain things are sent to you. For example, I have my Nibblebox selections taken from the ‘try’ more than ‘like’ or ‘love’ in order to try as much as possible. I also use ‘send soon’ to guarantee that I’m going to get at least half the box with new things. So this post is going to be very short, but if you’d like to read the reviews for the other three punnets, click here. The name for this post came from the box design (it reminds me of a crocodile) and the Jungle Trekker and Fruit Tumble punnets – it set my brain off with that song we use to sing at school…

Fruit tumble – non-mover at ‘yes please’. Graze description: mini strawberries, pineapple and lime infused raisins. I don’t think it helped that I scattered half the punnet on my floor when I opened it. Regardless, the raisins were probably my favourite ingredient. They were juicy with a tangy kick which helped balance the pineapple. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure on the dried pineapple this time round. It tasted a bit unusual, I think the flavour was too strong for me. The strawberries were alright, but I prefer when we get fresh ones out the allotment back home. Don’t get me wrong, the punnet was nice, but it would be a ‘like’ rather than ‘love’. It was like having a dried punnet of summer.

Domestic goddess in training

What better way to break up a day of study by baking! I’m not giving the recipes out this time partly because one is tweaked from the student cookbook I use, From Pasta to Pancakes, so it’s not really mine to share, and the other because it was a cheat bake.

One of my all time favourite bakes to make is banana bread. I have many fond memories of making/eating this with my mum and it’s an ideal way to use up battered bananas. In fact, we use to knock the bananas about a bit in the hope that Mum would get the hint and make it. When my bananas started getting a little brown, I decided I was going to make it at some point over the weekend. When it came to making it, I didn’t have enough banana, so I added 150g of mixed fruit alongside a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. I didn’t completely mush the bananas into the mixture, and I think I’ll do it this way in future because the result is a gooey slice with quite an intense banana flavour. The additional fruit gives it a citrus tang which is also rather pleasant. My aunt adds chocolate drops instead of mixed fruit for another delicious banana bread combo. I’m going to try that next time around. I’ve now got eight slices in the freezer to treat myself to over the next few weeks. I would personally recommend that cookbook just for the banana bread, but there are many other recipes in there that I use throughout the year including a delicious cottage pie and I intend to try the roast dinner. If you are interested, you can purchase it from Amazon here.

Scrummy banana bread with a twist

Whilst the banana bread was baking, I moved onto my next project – bread. Now this is my little cheat that I’ve mentioned before. I use a packet of bread mix because it works out cheaper than having to buy a bag of bread flour each time I wish to make a loaf, plus it takes out any additional faff, because lets face it, making bread is fiddly enough. This time round it was parmesan and sun-dried tomato bread and it smelt/tastes amazing! I’m still a novice when it comes to making bread and there’s still room for improvement given that once again the buns came out more like boulders. But just like last time, I know how to improve this mistake. Whereas my water and room temperature were too cold with the last batch, this time I made too many out of the mixture. Ideally you’re supposed to get ten out of this mixture, and I should have just stuck to the uneven eight that I had rather than make them smaller and pray they’ll rise. I was a bit disappointed with it because my bread doubled in size during proving, showing that I had got the hard bit right! I just mucked it up a bit with my portion sizes. They are really tasty though and I had a little giggle at my method of keeping the room warm (I’ve been given another technique to try next time).

 

Not a bad way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon between studying documents on Fascism in Italy really.

Fuel for the day

Breakfast Graze style! Admittedly I can only receive half of them as there’s only eight to choose from and I didn’t like the other four types when I first tried them. I tried this box style back before summer and decided to postpone the next delivery until I returned to Liverpool. I’ve decided to stop this delivery now as I make my own porridge, which is just as delicious and cheaper. However, as a one-off treat, this did make some filling breakfasts – ideal fuel for either the gym or morning lectures. If you fancy trying some breakfast boxes enter this code into Graze: V959CMF

Cherry and Almond Porridge – Graze description: acacia honey, oats, almond slices and cherries. This was essentially cherry bakewell flavoured porridge, and it was very tasty. Admittedly it looks like a tiny portion, but that’s just because of the way it microwaved (it tried to bubble over then sank into itself). It was great when you got a whole (pitted) cherry as they gave the porridge a tart bite, but I wasn’t that keen on the bits of almond. I don’t really like whole almonds though, so that’s why. The overall taste of the porridge made up for this though.

Walnut and Pecan Porridge – Graze description: chopped walnuts, chopped pecans, acacia honey and oats. Probably my least favourite of the four. It’s just too nutty for me, a bit like hot muesli which is never a good thing in my opinion. I guess this was another reason for cancelling the box – I’d get a double of one every time and I’d rather buy a selection of instant porridges for half the price.

Apple and Cinnamon Porridge – Graze description: cinnamon, acacia honey, oats, raisins and apple. It went a horrid colour with the cinnamon – it reminded me of the first time I made my own porridge and I added a teaspoon of cinnamon. Thankfully this one tasted better than that attempt did. The warm apple was quite pleasant as well. It was like an autumn morning in a bowl.

Blueberry and Lingonberry Porridge – Graze description: blueberries, oats, lingonberries and green raisins. My favourite of the bunch, even though it didn’t have honey in it. The different berries in it gave it a wonderful tang to it. It certainly woke me up this morning. If I could get this combination in another instant porridge I would because it’s beautiful. I hope my mixed fruit can have a similar effect!

Organisation is the key to surviving third year it seems!

I’ve only been back at uni for two weeks, and already it has been more ‘stressful’ than the previous two years! I use the quotation marks purely because I don’t like to think about getting too stressed out, but I definitely hit a low point on Thursday. It was the lowest I’ve ever felt, and I’ve had a fair few daunting experiences (ash-cloud 2011 I think still wins that one). I’d like to say I’m genuinely a happy person, so long as I can clearly see where things are meant to be, yet still prepare for other possibilities as much as I possibly can, because you can guarantee that what you don’t expect will happen at some point. So yeah best to cover as many bases as possible. That’s just how I’ve been brought up and frankly it’s helped me get this far so yeah… you get the jist.

Basically after my little melt down on Thursday, I pulled myself back together and set about organising my uni folder and calendars. I now have all my deadlines scribbled in my diary. on my calendar and in my phone, so there’s definitely no chance of me getting confused or missing a deadline. Without this level of constant reminders, I would end up leaving it all to the last-minute and given that I have a maximum of two weeks between assignments, that just isn’t feasible. Especially not when you chuck in all the other stuff that I do on top of uni!

There you have it – my method of surviving third year. Make note of everything that needs to be done and when, in a way that you can’t forget it. To be honest, it applies to everything in life that has a deadline attached to it. Between this and my to-do lists, I have a feeling that this year is going to be manageable. But I will still likely have the occasional freak-out or bad-tempered moment (or few days). I have been a bit of a crouch in the house recently, but then again I am adjusting back into this routine and I am getting better. At least we have wheelie bins now. Ah the less glamorous side of student life! Here’s a sneak peak at my life for the next few months – I’m hoping to not turn into a complete hermit!

Giraffes and Geordie vs Scouser

Fridays = dictators, Communism, skype and guides. Such an eclectic mix that is going to be repeated roughly every Friday up until Christmas. I honestly love my timetable (now that it’s all sorted) and the modules/elements that I’m studying this year.

This particular Friday had a few other twists added into it, because who wants every week to be the same eh?! Anyway, I received yet another birthday present from the girls in history – best way to start a Friday lecture really. The gifts are lovely and I was, as I always am, blown away by their generosity. They got me a giraffe scarf (I now own three different ones), an alphabet ring (something I’ve been debating on buying for a while down at the market) and a giraffe letter-opener/bookmark (believe it or not I’ve wanted something like this for a long time). All in all, I was one very chuffed lass. Class went on as normal and like I said, I am really enjoying the courses so far.

Beautiful birthday gifts

When I got back in the house, the postman had been and I had two more deliveries waiting for me. As I’m going to see Jessie J next week back home, I thought I would use the voucher I got for filling in a survey to purchase her new album to learn the words before it. The album is brilliant! Much better than her first, and I quite like listening to that one at the gym. I also received the cover that I purchased for my tablet. I’ve been eyeing it up for a while on eBay and it was reduced to half price so I treated myself to it last week. Unfortunately it is just a bit too snug for my tablet, so I’m going to attempt a bit of D.I.Y. on it when I go home. It’s too cute to not try!

Thank you Postie!

So that’s the giraffe bit of the post, now for the Geordie bit. I’ve been planning this since the summer, and it was finally my evening at Guides. I organised the evening around a Geordie theme because the girls all love it when I teach them new words and vise versa. Plus Newcastle is a pretty nifty place so I wanted to educate them a bit more about the area. The opening game was ‘Ship Shore/Captain’s Coming’ (depending on who’s running it!) that I tweaked to fit my theme, so it became ‘Swanhunter’s’ (the shipbuilding place near where I grew up). This went down pretty well, but the girls didn’t want to play it too long so we moved on to the next part of the evening. I’d made each patrol a tourist guide parcel of the most frequently requested leaflets back when I was at work and they had to use that information to plan a trip to the area. For the Senior Section, this was a chance for them to say where they wanted to go in February when we are going to Newcastle. Thankfully, most of what they wanted to do, I’d already intended to show them. I got the impression that this was the favourite part of the evening for everyone. The final bit of the night was ‘Translate the Geordie’. I’d come up with a list of words with my mum the night before and the Guides had to guess what they were. For the most part this went down well, although I think the list was too long. For the most part, they did pretty well. Proof that my Geordie phrases are being understood in meetings! Looking back, I’m really pleased with how it all went, because I’ve learnt a great deal from that one meeting.