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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What’s occurring…

Just a quick check in this week, it’s been a bit of a mad one but I intend to keep my promise!

  • The main focus of my week has been school. On Monday I start my preparation week for my first placement and I also teach my first solo history lesson there! I’m a little bit nervous about it (naturally, I’m teaching about 25 year 7s about the Romans, a topic I haven’t studied since I was in year 7!) but my mentor has been very supportive and I’m rather chuffed with my lesson plan and resources.
  • I’ve been battling a snotty nose this week. I know, not the glam update you want to read on a Sunday evening/Monday morning/whenever you are reading this, but tough, I’m hating it. Especially because I can’t do a delicate, ladylike nose-blow. Instead I get nicknamed ‘Fog on the Tyne’ by my loving family. The plus side is that I’m using cute 101 dalmatian cotton hankies that I’ve had since primary school (they are washable, before you further judge me) to avoid tooting away in school.
  • I’ve had a wonderful, rather relaxing weekend. Well, Friday night and Saturday anyway, today’s been spent planning and I’m going to jump in the bath now. I went to Durham for my friend’s 21st birthday and shared a hotel room with another friend to avoid spoiling our time there (ie. not having to worry about catching the last train home). It was a great treat, although I returned to the room not long after 1am as I was shattered from work (note to self, try to nap before a night out!). We indulged in the breakfast buffet (I had an omelette as well as fruit and yogurt etc), then we shopped for a bit (Durham has some fantastic boutique shops) and returned home. Birthday girl also had a great time.
  • I got my gels redone. I’ve started to treat myself to a pamper session at the beauticians every three weeks by getting my fingernails done. I hate having chipped nails as I think it doesn’t look as professional as bare nails and my nails were constantly splitting. Already (this is my second set of gels) I can see the improvement in my nails. They had grown a great deal (I have them filed back down) and they looked healthier between the gels going off and on again. Plus I feel really girly glancing down at my beautiful, coral nails!

That is literally the highlights of my week. To sum it up – school is going well, I’m snotty but I have colourful, healthy nails, a pretty new scarf and some winter tea to try. It’s the little things…

A successful Saturday!

A successful Saturday!

From a lifestyle change to a 10k run…

I don’t intend for this to be too sentimental or clichéd but I still feel amazing after yesterday. I’m not going to repeat too much of what has already been mentioned on this blog in the past, but running the whole 10k yesterday made me realise just how much I have achieved since I decided back in January 2012 that enough was enough.

It has never been a diet or a set plan, instead I kept a record of what I ate and made a conscious effort to make better choices with regards to my health. I have been incredibly fortunate in the copious amount of support and encouragement I receive from my family and friends. My dad was going through a similar change and it had a massive influence on my attitude towards the whole thing. We supported each other and shared tips, recipes and morale. I guess I had my own little support group free of charge! I had considered joining a slimming group but the local ones in Liverpool all clashed with other commitments. In my own way I created a healthier lifestyle that suited my student budget and busy schedules. It hasn’t been easy, but since then I have lost four stone and gone from a size 16-18 to a 8-10 (UK sizing). When I joined Hope University, I was happy, but there were occasional body-conscience moments, something I have experienced throughout my life. Now I still have the occasional twinge, but that’s all down to personal vanity! I feel happier than ever and delight in trying new styles and make-up. I’m still the same shy, slightly awkward bookworm that I have always been (and I have no intention of changing that!) but I feel more confident in how I appear to the rest of the world.

I love looking through old photos and seeing the changes to remind myself that I have come a long way. Now my focus is to keep the shape I currently am – I love my curves and I’m proud of them – and to remain active. It’s always difficult when I return home as I don’t cook all my meals and I don’t walk as frequently as I do when I’m at uni because home is more isolated. However I have every intention of joining a local running group when I return and I’ve bought a set of resistance bands to try some different workouts. Of course I will also be doing plenty of walking with Mabel and Marvin and once the weather improves I’ll be back on my bike. By setting out my goals, it gives me something to focus on and I know that I’ll succeed. Like I said, I never felt unhappy before, but I prefer my current lifestyle.

Anyway, back to yesterday’s run. After months of training (Hannah was better at that than I), we found ourself on the starting line (or a good five minutes from it seeing as we were in the slowest group of runners) and we were both nervous and elated that we had succeeded in getting that far. Once we crossed the start, we set a good, steady pace and we said from then that we were determined to keep running throughout the 10k, regardless of our speed. By 2k, there were a fair few who were alternating between running and walking and between 3 and 4k, we were lapped by one of the elite men, who finished the whole thing in 31 minutes. And still we kept running. It felt like an age before we reached the half way point which was the water point. We stopped at the side of the road to refresh although I barely drank anything, the main focus being to try to cool down, as I find it uncomfortable to drink and exercise and my low blood pressure was a concern. Back we went, again at a steady pace, and in a way it was quite relaxing. Sometimes we chatted, sometimes we just absorbed the scenery and enjoyed the atmosphere. It was a cracking route and the public were excellent, very supportive! We had to stop briefly around 8k because my body had a hissy fit and I felt a little nauseous but after a couple of mouthfuls of juice we were back on track and the end was once more in sight. We put on a spurt of speed once we spotted the finish line and our official finishing time was 1 hour, 13 minutes and 33 seconds. The combination of amazement, disbelief and exhaustion just about floored me but we collected our goodies bags, located Hannah’s fiance, who was our bag boy and supporter, and settled down on the grass to catch our breath. I have truly never felt as proud of myself as I did lying on the grass trying to cool down. We had done it. We ran the whole thing, despite a few hiccups, and my goodness did it feel amazing! I think our Nike+ apps said our average pace was just over 11 mph, which was slightly slower than our usual running pace, but the furthest we’d ran together was just over 2 mile, not the 6 and a bit we did yesterday, so I think that was a perfectly acceptable pace. Especially when you consider the work load we have both been balancing! We have decided that we will continue to do organised running events, alternating between Liverpool and Newcastle, again something I never thought possible. I’ve been bitten by the running bug and never again will I mock others for the madness I now truly enjoy!

I hope that this has inspired or motivated at least one person to make a healthy change in their lifestyle or to continue with their hard work if they already have. It’s never completely easy and sometimes you may feel like giving up but seriously don’t. Weaknesses are there to be overcome and to make you stronger in the end. Who knows, maybe you’ll achieve something you never thought possible too.

What a difference three years can make! Just a selection of my favourite photos from yesterday

I thought I’d share with you one of my least photos of myself from before I started to lose weight and compare it to how I look now. I felt beautiful on that day in 2011 when that photos was taken, but looking back on it makes me proud to see less of that belly! I wasn’t ashamed or disgusted by my figure then, in fact I don’t believe I ever will be, but it certainly produces a sense of satisfaction and disbelief when I see a comparison like that. It is possible and if I can do it, anyone can! You just need to determination and encouragement. The other picture is a selection of my favourite photos from yesterday. I never said I was an attractive runner and my goodness do I go beetroot when I exercise! I think these photos sum up exactly how we felt on the day and my favourite is still my selfie just after completing the run – knackered but still with a look of ‘who’d have thought I could do this?!’ on my face! So far a total of £108 has been raised towards the RSPCA Newcastle/Northumberland branch and donations can still be made via www.justgiving.com/adelemnw14 – a final shameless plug that while I did it purely for selfish reasons (ie to see if I could run 10k) I’m pleased so many people have generously donated towards improving the lives of animals like Mabel and Marvin.

What’s occurring

  • As I mentioned in last week’s ‘Feel-good’ post, my life for the next couple of months is going to revolve around uni. After my loss of confidence last week, I’ve had my pep-talks from my family, friends and tutor, and everything is back on track, although I do still have mild panic moments. This is just the normal have-I-left-it-too-late panic, and while I know that I haven’t left it too late, I also need this background concern to remain in the background to let me know that I can’t ignore it any longer. That’s what got me into my panic in the first place.
  • Anyway, I’m one essay down, with only one left to do (by next Wednesday), then it’s just my SALA portfolio to be handed in, apply for my summer job, and write my dissertation. Third year may be manic, but apart from last week, I think I’m dealing pretty well with it all. I’ve broken all my tasks into bitesize chunks which I cross off once complete as a visual reminder of what I have achieved and what’s left to do. Add to that the copious amount of incense sticks or oil burning going on and my room is a clean, organised, and peaceful area to work in and I’m much better with giving myself sensible breaks/work periods/goals. I then tend to reward myself as I go along (usually with an episode of Castle).
  • I also use exercise as a way to relax and clear my head. I’m going swimming at least two mornings during the week and go out for short runs several times through the week. I managed to injure myself on Monday (apologies for the slightly gross photo I instagrammed, but I had to show you just how bad it was). I kicked the wall whilst on my final lap – no biggie, I’ve done it several times – only this time I chipped part of my toenail and skinned the top of my toe! Just from kicking the wall. It bled for the most of the morning and since I’m allergic to plasters and my blood doesn’t clot as quickly as it’s supposed to, I had to resort to wrapping a cotton pad around my toe. It’s a bit better now – no more bleeding unless it gets caught – but it needs to get back to normal in time for summer sandals!
  • I went home briefly after class on Tuesday and returned this afternoon as I had to sort out some paperwork for my PGCE, I had my birthday present of tickets to see Miranda Hart at the Metro Arena and a funeral to attend. My next door neighbour lost her battle with breast cancer last week and it was her funeral today. We’ll all miss her in our neighbourhood and that was shown in the turn out to her funeral. I donated to breast cancer research with my #NoMakeUpSelfie – I’d been nominated and I thought it was a fitting way to mark the celebrations of her life – spreading the word through photos in a harmless and fun way and I know Brenda would have laughed at it. Mum and I thoroughly enjoyed Miranda Hart last night. It was so funny and honest. It worried me a little bit how relatable I found her show! Overall I had a wonderful stay at home, it was just the refreshing refuel I needed, but it’s back to work for me now.

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.

What’s occurring

I just thought I’d give you all a little update on how my first week back at uni has been so far. I can’t believe it’s only been a week as well! It seems to have simply flown by.

  • I’m due back two essays: one tomorrow – which is dictators and the one I’m most worried about – and maritime is due next week. Fingers crossed I’ve done ok on them!
  • I’ve set myself a couple of challenges this term. The first is to stick to a budget of £30 a week. To try to make this easier, I have planned each day of the week onto a little notelet and stuck it to my wardrobe. I’ve done this to plan my meals and to make sure I’m being economical with my shopping. It also makes life a lot easier during the week as I don’t have to think about what to cook and it should motivate me to do more research!
  • The second challenge is to participate in the Liverpool Spring 10k in May. I signed up for it yesterday with my friend Hannah as we decided we wanted to finish university on a real buzz and this seemed like an ideal challenge. I’m honestly running it just to prove to myself that I can do it because it’s something I never thought I’d want to do, let alone be able to complete. Most people assume that it’s being ran for a charity, so I’ve chosen the RSPCA Newcastle & Northumberland Branch as my charity because without them, we wouldn’t have Mabel and Marvin. Check out my page (to offer motivation, donations etc) or text MARB47 £1 to 70070
  • And then to add onto the fitness news – not only have I been getting back into my gym routine (and trying to break in my new running trainers despite their best efforts to eat/destroy my ankles) I’ve also signed up for unlimited swimming at the nearby pool with one of my course friends. We swam roughly 1,000 meters last night!

Slow-cooked wonder no. 2: Chilli con shin

After last weeks amazing stew (can you tell I’m still in love with it?), I thought it was time to get the slow cooker out again and create something with the remaining shin beef. I opted for a chilli because the slow cooking would draw out the heat and it was an excuse to try to cook rice. I know that sounds really simple, but I’ve never cooked rice in a pan before, I’ve always used the packets. Don’t get me wrong, those packets are a real life-saver at times, but it is nice to be able to cook things from as close to scratch as possible.

Chilli con shin

So here it is – my chilli con shin and how to make it

  • 200g of shin beef
  • 1/2 tablespoon of plain flour
  • Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 100g of frozen mixed peppers
  • 100g of frozen onions
  • 1 level tablespoon of frozen chopped red chillies (I got mine in Morrisons)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • 1 tin of mixed beans in tomato sauce (I used a tin of ASDA’s own mix which is roughly 400g and contains haricot, borlotti, cannellini, red kidney beans)
  • 1 1/2 tins of cold water
  • 1 packet of chilli con carne sauce mix
  • 1/2 cup of brown long grain easy cook rice (per person)

This morning, between bites of porridge, I was up preparing this delicious meal for tea. As with the stew, I began by making a seasoning for the beef. Inside the food bag (it had been defrosting overnight) I added half a tablespoon of plain flour, a couple of twists of black pepper and shook the bag until all the meat was coated. Into the wok it went with a tablespoon of vegetable oil. I fried the meat until all sides were brown and tipped it into the slow cooker.

Entertaining pre-lecture wake up

Next into the slow cooker went my frozen veg. I used 100g of both mixed peppers and chopped onions because I wasn’t adding a great deal of variety into it. As an experiment I added a level tablespoon of frozen chillies. I saw them when we went on our big house shop and thought they’d be a handy thing to keep around. They certainly added a nice kick to the mix. On top of the frozen stuff I added the tinned beans. Now these mixes are really handy to have in for this kind of thing because they don’t take up a lot of space and I love to have a variety of beans in my chilli. The fact that it comes in tomato sauce means that you don’t need to add a tin of chopped tomatoes. I’m saving them for a lentil soup instead. I then filled the bean tin up with water and added it to the mix to create a nice sauce. The final item to be thrown in was a packet of chilli con carne sauce mix. I’ve had it in my cupboard for a while so it needed to be used. I think I might try a different spice mix in future, just to compare the results. Once everything had been stirred around and thoroughly mixed, it was lid on and cook on low for seven hours.

Ready to cook

About an hour before I wanted to eat it, I turned the slow cooker from low to keep warm, purely because I nearly burnt my tongue last week. I cooked half a cup (75g) of brown rice whilst the chilli was cooling down. I couldn’t believe how simple it was to cook the rice and I’ll definitely be doing it a lot more in the future. I served my chilli with a little bit of light salad cream because I like the tang cutting through the heat. The meat was once again very tender and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. I got another three portions out of the slow cooker so they’re currently cooling before they go in the freezer.

And that’s all there is to making a delicious chilli

Nutritional information for the chilli (minus the rice/salad cream) based on my portion size and exact ingredients/measurements according to MyFitnessPal:

  • 259 calories
  • 30 carbs
  • 7 fat
  • 18 protein