The highs of 2014 & wishes for 2015

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Where did 2014 go? I swear one moment I was eye deep in dissertation research and next thing I know I’m half way through my next course and haven’t blogged for nearly three months! The shame! This post is just going to be a round up of some of my 2014 highlights, including those I haven’t blogged about and my Tone It Up #LoveYourBody aims. I use to use TIU when I was at uni to get some variety into my fitness routines but as will everything else since moving home and starting my PGCE, it’s slipped down the priority ladder… but 2015 will hopefully settle back into the old uni me!

A few highlights from 2014 (in no particular order):
* Running 10k
* Researching and writing my dissertation … and enjoying it!
* Graduating from Liverpool Hope with a 1st class honours
* Making and keeping some life long friends from Hope and Shotton
* Liverpool jaunts to catch up with said uni friends
* Surviving (and enjoying) my first term and placement on my teaching course
* Surprising my cousin with the rest of the family by turning up for an 80s themed party for her in Ireland
* Completing my Guiding holiday license after a little confusion
* Queen’s Guide adventure in London doing the monopoly board
* Spending quality time with my family and friends

And here’s my #LoveYourBody aims which I hope to complete by Valentine’s Day!

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I’m going to apologise now for the potential dodgy editing of this post – I’m typing it from my mini and I’m not sure how it will turn out… but at least I’ve broken my unintentional silence!

I hope you have all had a fantastic 2014 and that 2015 is as kind or better to you!

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An end of an era…

*Warning!* Not only is this post tempting clichés, it is also incredibly likely to be rather long given that I’m updating you on just shy of a months worth of socialising (ha) and general shenanigans. But I think it’s allowed, given I’ve just moved home after finishing three years as an undergraduate at Liverpool Hope University.

After my last post at the start of the month, I had two weeks to revise for six hours of exams. I didn’t think the pressure would be too bad, given that it was a seen paper and I usually manage pretty well with exams. This time round though things got a little bit too stressful for my liking. I think it was because I knew that the exams could have a massive impact on my final grade. I didn’t want to throw it away at the last-minute and let myself down. Regardless, I knuckled down and I think, with hindsight, they actually went ok. Three hours was a long time to sit and write continuously, and my blood pressure acted up during both the exams, but stress can do that. I simply had to bite back the panic and use it to fuel my work. I’d still rather take essays over exams any day!

Within an hour of my last exam I was on route to Lime Street station for a weekend at home. It was a wonderful weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my family without feeling guilty over not working. I spent Saturday acting as a Brownie leader at the North East regional event for the Brownie centenary. This was during the hottest day the North East has experienced so far in 2014. Doesn’t sound too bad as it is the North East of England, but we were melting. The event was outdoor and while we all had a great day, there wasn’t enough sunscreen to stop us burning. That evening I went out for a family meal with Mum’s side of the family as my aunt and uncle were visiting from Australia. We had a lovely meal and it was fab to see them but I was shattered by the end of the meal after a day in the sun as a Brownie leader! I got home only to be requested out by Mum to join them at the local pub where they were celebrating a birthday. I went because it was a chance to relax with Mum and my stepdad after months of uni commitments. We had a lazy day on Sunday, mainly dog walking and spending time at the allotment. On Monday I had an interview for my old summer job. I have since heard back that my interview was successful, but I won’t find out where or when I start until my medical and references are returned. I treated myself to a pamper at my local beauticians, including an eyelash perm, before I met Mum at the train station for a cuppa before my train home. The train was a direct one to Liverpool! About time Transpennine started that service up again, just as I’m leaving! Anyway, I left sunny Newcastle behind and arrived in Liverpool just in time for a huge thunderstorm. Terrifying. Honestly, they’re one of my biggest fears, so being on a bus did not help.

The week that followed my trip home was spent in placement during the day and socialising during the evening. Seriously, I went pretty much the whole of my undergraduate degree being a social hermit, only to spend just about every evening of my final two weeks in Liverpool out celebrating. I should however clarify that by ‘celebrating’, I actually mean going for a meal with friends and enjoying a glass of wine with it. That’s my ideal night out, second only to a cosy pub natter. One of the conditions for my September course is that I gain five days observation of key stage two. I currently have four days (due to the interview) and I am finalising the details of another similar placement back home to make up the missing hours. I was in a lovely primary school (I’m being totally honest here – the staff and majority of the students were gems) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It once again confirmed for me that while my heart is set on teaching, it is most definitely set on teaching secondary school history! I fully admire primary school teachers for the amount of knowledge they need, and I enjoyed acting as another teaching assistant when needed, but I’d want to rotate everything around history!

So the socialising. Well Tuesday night was the HisPol Society Ball. I opted to attend this event rather than the official Hope 2014 Grad Ball because frankly the majority of my classmates were going, it was slightly cheaper and looked far more entertaining. It was a cracking night. I have never enjoyed a night out at uni as much as I did that evening. The Ball had a 1920s theme and it was amusing to see how many stuck to it (about a handful, myself included, but I think every lass curled her hair!). Our ticket included a two course meal at Alma de Cuba (which I highly recommend a visit) and the rest of the evening was spent in a speakeasy! I admit, I squealed when we entered the speakeasy – it was behind a bookcase! How could I not?! The jazz band we had were fantastic and I danced the night away without a care in the world. Well apart from being conscious that I had to get the bus to school the next morning! From the speakeasy we went to one of the lads house for a house party, which admittedly flattened the atmosphere of the evening. I left about 1.15am and could have had a lie in the next morning as my first bus didn’t turn up! I was literally just in time for school, but it sure made me appreciate my car even more.

Over the course of the past two weeks I’ve had various leaving meals to thank everyone I’ve met over the three years. My Oxfam meal was cut short for me as I had to dash off to my final performance with Hope Concert Band (the date was changed for concert over Easter, by which point the meal had been booked) but I had a wonderful night out. I also had several meals out with my housemates before we respectfully moved out. We had a ‘girlie meal’ before we went to see Little Mix at the Echo (no surprise, they were AMAZING!) and we went for a house Mexican meal one lunch. I also attended a band BBQ, which despite the rain, was a hoot. I went for a Greek meal with my fellow guide leaders and later in the week pizza and cocktails, and I was treated by another friend to a two course, home-cooked, vegan meal which I thoroughly enjoyed (especially dessert!).

My grandparents visited me for a couple of days in my final week and we had a fantastic time. I thoroughly enjoyed showing them my adoptive city and sharing the places and knowledge I’ve gained. I’m considering doing a little tourist guide to Liverpool on here (alongside the beauty stuff, it will appear eventually I promise!) which will go more in-depth into my favourite areas of Liverpool.

Before the mayhem of packing occurred, I spent Saturday with my Scouse unit at the Big Gig at the Echo Arena. Big Gig is an amazing concert for members of GirlGuiding UK and I’ve been to a fair few over the years. The majority have been in London, and it just seemed like fate for my final Big Gig with 136th to be in Liverpool. It offers a variety of performers, some big names such as Pixie Lott, Lawson and Tinie Tempah (we’ve also had Sophie Ellis-Bexter, McFly, The Saturdays and Rizzle Kicks to name a few in previous years) and some new up-coming artists, including Loveable Rogues who were finalists in Britain’s Got Talent and Leah McFall from The Voice. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I treated it as a rehearsal for Isle of Wight festival (not long now!) and was raving away to Tinie Tempah and Kimberly Wyatt (much to the unit’s amusement!).

I’m typing this back at home as I moved back today. It took me just over a day to pack two years at Newcastle Road away. Even after filling the wheelie bin from empty, and taking a taxi to Oxfam with donations, it was still a close fit getting everything in, but we managed it. A huge thanks to my stepdad who left home at 4.20am to move me out. I was expecting him to arrive just before 8am, and I’m pleased I was up early and everything was sorted because 7.15am he knocked on my door! In less than fifteen minutes he’d played Tetris with my stuff and we were heading for home. By noon we’d arrived (after an incredibly posh service stop to stretch our legs) and I’ve done everything but unpack. Oops. I’ll get round to it tonight and tomorrow. So that’s you all up to speed, here’s some photos of some of the stuff I’ve mentioned and I pinky promise I’ll be better with the blogging for the near future!

A brief emergence back into reality…

Hello and apologies for my lack of blogging recently. It’s not looking to improve over the next couple of weeks either as I have entered into the challenging process of writing my dissertation. So far I’m over half way through it, with just over 7,000 words written into an introduction and two chapters. All that’s left is the final chapter which I’m currently researching and then the conclusion. I’ve actually really enjoyed researching it and the writing up bit hasn’t been that much of a chore. Without my family and friends there’s no way I’d be feeling as happy with it as they’ve been incredibly supportive and don’t complain when I send off a chapter for them to read over. In fact, so far the feedback has been positive and they appear to find it interesting to read, which is always a bonus!

I’ll give you a quick little update of what’s happened over the past few weeks in between writing my last undergraduate essay and this dissertation.

  • I went to the National Archives in London with uni the week before we broke up. It was a fascinating trip and I loved being able to handle the original government papers. I found it really useful for my dissertation research, although some documents I couldn’t access because someone else was using them. The only negative about the trip was the length of time spent on the mini bus. I’ve managed 48 hours on a coach to Croatia but 9 hours cramped into what was essentially a glorified school mini bus was not comfy. It took us longer than expected to get to London due to traffic and given that I’d been up since just before 6am, having only had a few hours sleep the night before as I was finishing off my final essay, I was a tad grumpy. Also I get really travel sick and there was no windows to open for fresh air. I wasn’t sick, just felt nauseous which I think is far worse, but I did see some wonderful wildlife when I was gazing out the window – several Red Kites and some Muntjac Deer – I thought that was pretty neat and I live in a fairly rural area.
  • I spent the last two weekends of term in the caravan with my parents. The first weekend I travelled to Chirk to visit them before my Mother’s Day concert at the Palmhouse, Sefton Park. We stayed at Lady Margaret’s Park  which was beautiful. Very peaceful and the walks were fantastic. We must have walked well over ten miles on Saturday as we walked the dogs along the canal and then we left them in the car to sleep whilst we walked over Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in Llangollen. I’ll admit it was pretty terrifying but I got some fab photos. The concert went really well on Sunday but it was boiling in the Palmhouse. It is essentially a massive greenhouse and when it’s slightly sunny outside, the temperature just soars inside. Mam and Alan loved the concert though.
  • The second weekend I moved out for Easter and travelled to Bury, Manchester to meet them. The site was again wonderful – a very good dog walk and there was a steam train which went passed the site a few times a day. Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy their fortnight holiday, especially the dogs. Honestly Mabel and Marvin were on their best behaviour! Then we came back and they’ve turned into disobedient doggies again. I blame the rabbit season. Being Lurchers, it is in their nature to hunt, and Mabel was trained before we adopted them to hunt rabbits. It’s difficult but we are making progress with them.
  • Anyway the two weekends out from Liverpool were just what I needed. I feel like I haven’t stopped working since the start of March on essays etc but the hard work does appear to be paying off. My Capital Punishment essay received a first, which I’m absolutely ecstatic over. I just really hope the final essay and my dissertation also do well. I’d hate to fall at the final hurdle. When I get back to uni at the end of the month, I have two days between my dissertation deadline and the exams being released (history are lovely and give us seen papers), so I fully intend to chill between those days – catch up on my tv and blogs, spend some time with my friends without going for a library visit… Just to reset my brain as I’ll then only have two weeks before my exams and then it’s all over! Three years of hard graft and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • When I returned home, I’ve had the joy of insuring my car. That’s right nearly two years after I passed my test, I’m finally driving again. There was no point in paying over a grand to be insured on Mam’s car while I was at uni because I’d hardly get the chance to drive it, but because I’ll hopefully be driving to Peterlee for the majority of the next academic year, I needed a car. My grandparents bought a new car last month and they’d promised me their old one once I’d passed my test. It’s a lovely red Suzuki (called Susie) and I’ve driven quite a few times over the past week and a bit. Mostly with Mam as a comforting passenger, but I did my first solo drive on Saturday evening and I’m going out again on my own tonight. Everything’s going well but my goodness car insurance is ridiculously expensive – the cheapest I managed to get (including breakdown cover) will cost just over £1,100 overall as I’m paying it in monthly installments. Some wanted to charge me nearly £3,000!! The joys of owning a car.
  • This week is the start of my social life again. I’m out tonight to finalise the Queen’s Guide Award trip I’m doing with three others from my Senior Section unit here. We’re going to London on Sunday so we just want to get all the details clarified and deal with paperwork etc. Tomorrow I get to spend some time with Mam and then in the evening I’m out with my best friends for a much-needed catch up. I’m also heading out for lunch today after I visited the Lit & Phil to get some more books for my chapter with one of my best friends from primary school. I’ve had a wonderful time since coming home fitting in seeing my family, including my cousin who was over briefly from Ireland, between working hard on my dissertation. On Good Friday after mass I’m going to my Auntie’s for a big family meal. I’ll get to see my Aunt and Uncle who live in Alnwick and my cousins with their 9-month daughter. I honestly can’t wait!

So that’s all that’s not been reported recently. I do intend to get back into regular blogging once my work load reduces, as I have quite a few ideas currently on the back-burner. Mind, the site does still get a handful of views each day, which always brings a smile to my face knowing that somebody, somewhere in the world, has stumbled across GeordieGiraffe and is having a gander. So thank you for that.

 

What’s Occurring

  • I can finally reveal what I’ve been hinting at for the past week – I have accepted an offer back home to study for my history PGCE! I’d gone back to Newcastle last week for the interview on Wednesday and I was prepared to treat it simply as a learning experience. I honestly did not expect to get the offer as there was only one position available and I was up against another candidate. With that thought, I think I relaxed a little bit as I didn’t expect to be chosen, so simply wanted to enjoy the opportunities the day presented. All I have to do now is pass my skills tests, various occupation tests and get five days work experience with KS2. Oh and obtain my degree! I’m so happy and it’s made looking to the future a lot easier now that it appears my hard work is paying off.
  • Alongside accepting my PGCE offer, I received my five years service award from Girlguiding UK at the division meeting! It was a complete surprise – the time has flown by. The timing couldn’t have been better seeing as I’m taking the Senior Section unit up to Newcastle next weekend.
  • I’ve had a couple of cooking successes this week – I bought some chicken thighs and used them in a chicken and chorizo paella and last night I made a big pan of chicken chasseur. The paella was divine – it’s replaced risotto as my favourite ‘show-off’ meal – I can’t wait to cook it for my family when I’m home. I’ve frozen two portions of the chasseur and had last night’s portion with smash (I am a student) and cheesy cauliflower/broccoli in a giant yorkshire pudding. An excellent home-comfort meal, especially given how foul the weather has turned in the UK.
  • After thinking I was finally over my cold from a few weeks ago, I woke up on Wednesday with a sore throat and since then it seems to have inflated. It’s so painful! However, I can’t complain really. My housemate is going through an unbelievably difficult time as her best friend passed away on Monday. She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer only last month and unfortunately could not fight a chest infection. She was only twenty-two. I ask for all your prayers and thoughts for her friends and family who have been struck by this devastating loss. You can read her blog (booboochopple.wordpress.com) here – awareness needs to be made about aggressive cancer.

Here’s to another year of experiences!

And now it’s 2014. I hope everyone had a safe but lovely evening welcoming the new year in!

I went round to my best friend’s house and she cooked us a wonderful three course meal. My other two best friends were also there and it was great to welcome the new year in with them, even if I did start falling asleep not long after midnight! We laughed pretty much the whole evening as we caught up on everything we’d missed from being at uni. Her mum gave us all lifts home and I was back in my loft by 2.30am. Safe to say I’m feeling rather tired and a little bit rough this morning! My first ever New Years hangover (mild as it is) – let’s hope that’s not a sign of how things are going to go this year!

Advent and apologies

First off, I apologise for my silence – third year has well and truly struck! I was away last week on a fieldtrip to Berlin and have spent the remaining time on both my dictators essay and PGCE application. I handed in my essay this morning, collected some textbooks for my next one and I’m going to tackle my application again tonight. I had it already to send off last week before I went away, only for UCAS to decide to make the box for my personal statement tiny. While my characters were under the limit and I was on 47 lines, that box claims that it’s 7 lines too long. After spending a week culling it, I’m going to tackle it a fresh once more and see what I can do with it. I’ll be happier once it’s all handed in. Instead I’m taking a breather from all things academic to do a little blogging and I intend to have a full on pamper session tonight.

I’ll start with the weekend before I went to Berlin as it was a bit of a mixed two days. I was pulling my hair out in tears at UCAS in the morning (pathetic I know but I felt like I’d put my heart and soul into it for nothing) before participating in the fashion event at my Oxfam shop. We’d been planning the event for a couple of months and I’m really pleased with how the public responded. Several of the volunteers and I stood in the window for two hours in various party outfits chosen from the shop and we all had great fun waving at the public. Despite the let down from the local newspaper, we still received a fantastic response from the public and the shop was pretty busy for most of the day once the Darby match had finished.

My hair and make up for the window – I am wearing a lovely dress but I wasn’t 100% certain with the hair

The following day involved a trip into Liverpool centre to get some last-minute items for Berlin. Seeing as the washing machine was still out of action, I had to buy a towel and I ended up treating myself to a new outfit – high-waisted jeans that actually fit and a cosy jumper. I’d gone into town with one of my friends from my course as we had half price tickets to see Ed Byrne. After our shopping we had tea at Wagamama’s, which was a pleasant change, and then we went to the Empire for the show. It was well worth the money and we had an excellent time.

From Monday to Friday last week I was in Berlin with the history, politics and media departments from uni. I went to Madrid with them last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I had high hopes for this trip. I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Thankfully the majority of the trip was completely different to my last visit to the city, although it did help knowing where things were in the centre and how to use the public transport. So far Berlin is my favourite place in the EU that I’ve been to, and I’d happily visit it again, especially when the Advent markets are there. We went to several and had a fabulous time. I started on my Christmas shopping and sampled lots of yummy food. There was plenty of free time available alongside optional and mandatory trips during our stay and I definitely got what I wanted out of the trip. For me it was all about the history, seeing as that’s what I paid the money for, and I feel like I could go back and still learn more about the rich history Berlin is steeped with. I could go on and on about the trip, but that would probably take too long. Instead I’ll give you a couple of snap shots of my favourite parts of the trip.

As much as I would have liked to take the weekend off to fully recover from the trip, I had several promises to keep. The first was to attend panto with my guide unit on the Friday evening. I literally landed and jumped on the first bus into town. I adore pantomimes, have done ever since I was a kid, and every year my Scouse guide unit go to see the rock and roll panto. I couldn’t let a little thing like a flight stop me from seeing my final panto with them. It was very entertaining, especially as I still had to get some of the local phrases explained to me. I probably would have appreciated it more, had I not been shattered and a little travel sick, but beggars can’t be choosers. When I eventually got home, it was straight to bed and a well-earned kip!

I spent the majority of the weekend finishing my research and writing my dictators essay. Boy am I pleased to be able to forget about that for a while! It’s been a real struggle as I’ve not enjoyed the topic as much as I usually do when writing an essay, but I’ve done the best that I could on it. On Saturday evening I performed with my university concert band at the Creative Campus and it was such a fantastic concert. I enjoyed it so much and look forward to our next two performances – Christmas staff service and then the Mother’s Day concert at the Palm House. I spent Sunday morning out with several members of the Amnesty Society participating in the 10th Santa Dash around Liverpool. Despite having to get up ridiculously early in the morning, it was such an uplifting and hilarious morning. There were literally thousands of Santas jogging around Liverpool and I hope everyone else who participated enjoyed it as much as we did. For some more information/photos from our outing, have a nose here and you can still donate if you wish here. Many thanks for everyone who has already donated and for all the support we’ve received.

After the Santa Dash

Now the final thing I’d like to mention in this post is my happiness that advent has arrived, although how quickly the year has gone! Not surprisingly after spending the morning in a Santa suit, I was feeling incredibly festive yesterday. I love everything to do with Christmas, although not so much the time and hassle it takes to get gifts etc. Part of the homily yesterday was about it being the time of patience and calm as we wait for the birth of Christ, so I am going to try to relax as much as I can and just enjoy the festive season. There’s so much to enjoy over the next few weeks as Mum is coming to visit for an extended weekend on Friday, Christmas camp is the following week once my final essay of this term has been handed in, and then I have a week to chill and pack before I go back home. And every day I get to open another door on my Ciate advent calendar! Tis the season!

Two of my favourite things – Advent and nail varnish!

Snuggly essay days, shopping and a new job

Liverpool is absolutely freezing now, and to make matters worse, we currently don’t have a working washing machine. Not exactly ideal given that I go away next week, but then it’s a brilliant excuse to get a few ’emergency’ jumpers. I spent most of Sunday huddled up under my giraffe print throw, hot water bottle tucked under my feet and copious thermal cups of coffee on hand, to get me through my essay research. For some reason, I’m not feeling that dedicated to it at the moment. It might be because I have a slightly more important personal statement to narrow down (47 lines is a puny amount for a PGCE application!) and the essay deadline seems ages away. Either way, it was a relatively relaxing day snuggled up with the textbooks. Yeah goodbye social life!

I absolutely adore these slouchy socks!

Welcome to third year

Yesterday I went to Cheshire Oaks with two of my friends on my course. Luckily, one of the girls was our taxi for the day (I’m repaying her with a coffee and loan of a textbook today) so we didn’t have to faff around with buses etc. We went mainly to go to TGI Fridays, but the discounted shopping was another bonus. Lunch was lovely, in fact the whole day was brill as it was an excuse to get out the house and just relax for a bit. We were out for about five hours in total, but it was worth the break. I bought some stuff in Boots to try out – some hair putty to style my short crop, a new lippy and liner for nights out and a cute every day nail polish. I’m toying with the idea of doing a few beauty reviews on them in the future, so keep an eye out. I did get some leggings in H&M, but I think I’m going to either return or exchange them as they’re too big when I go into town tomorrow after work.

My beauty treats

Today was my first shift as a viewing clerk for my housing agency. It went pretty well given that it was my first one, we only had one wrong set of keys (not my fault) and two locked bedrooms which the master keys wouldn’t open. My next shift is on Thursday and I’ll be on my own for that one, which I’m weirdly excited about it. Not so keen on the timing though as I’m out Wednesday night and have a 9am lecture to attend before the viewing. Excellent excuse for not staying out ridiculously late though! The only negative about the viewings is that I’ve left my lovely Radley umbrella in one of the properties! All the tenants have been notified about it but I can not remember where I put it down. Hopefully I’ll get it back, but if not, I’ll get a cheap one in Primark tomorrow (just in case) and ask for a new one for Christmas.