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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Maths, mud, graduation, Rubgy Sevens and everything in between!

Oh my days has it really been that long since I last blogged?! Where has the time gone?! I know I’ve been rather silent in my blogging lately but I’ve barely had a day to myself! I’m going to try to keep this post rather short but seeing as it’s been a while, I may ramble a tad. But then if you’re a regular reader you’ll already know to expect that!

  • First off I have passed both my skills tests and all going well I start my course on the 1st September! I am so excited and relieved that everything is finally pulling together nicely. I passed my first skills test (literacy) the day after my uni results were published and then had the maths test the following week. Both were booked for 8am so I had no time in the morning to worry myself over the tests. Best of luck to everyone else who is either sitting these tests or waiting for exam results! My only honest advice is be realistically positive about it and that things happen for a reason. I honestly believe that I am were I am through a combination of determination, perseverance and fate.
  • I completed the Pretty Muddy 5k event in Gosforth Park with my cousins three days before graduation. I was warned by my mum that I was not allowed to get any visible bruises, in other words ‘don’t spoil the graduation photos with bruises’. I came back incredibly muddy (the bath as soon as I got in the house was heaven) but with no injuries, and the same went for my cousins. We sure did kick cancer’s ass that day.
  • Graduation was fantastic. The sun was shining and everyone had a marvellous day. I stayed at my friend’s house and we had a right laugh celebrating all our hard work. Unfortunately my dad couldn’t be with me that day, but I’m hoping that next year, all going well, he’ll be with me in person, as well as my mum and stepdad who attended with me this year. Bless ’em they travelled to Liverpool and back in one day because of the dogs. It was a long day for me and an even longer one for them! Made worse by a two-hour delay on the M6. All that aside, we had a fantastic day, one that I hope to never forget!
  • Only a couple of days after graduation and I was travelling up to Edinburgh with one of my best friends to attended the Commonwealth Rugby Sevens Finals. We stayed in a lovely hotel in Edinburgh and commuted to Glasgow to save money. We both had a cracking time and I think I’ve found my sporting buddy! The atmosphere was amazing, both teams got cheered on regardless (although the Scotland v England match was tense) and it was one of the greatest evenings yet. I’ve always preferred rugby over most sports and I was so pleased to have gotten tickets, especially once we got in the arena and saw how brilliant the view was from our seats. Right at the top, in between the try posts. We had to race through Glasgow city to catch the last train back to Edinburgh (otherwise we had to buy new tickets) but we  made it and had our evening meal at 1.30am! Chips and curry sauce has never felt so satisfying. I’m currently saving up to visit my aunt in Australia in time for the Commonwealth games over there.

So that’s the big bulk of my summer ‘holidays’ so far. I only get two days off a week so most of the time is spent catching up on paperwork and family. I’m enjoying my summer stint a lot and I can’t wait to attend summer school in two weeks time as a final preparation before my course properly begins. I hope to at least try to post every couple of weeks with updates etc.

The obligatory motor board toss

What’s occurring

It may only be Thursday but this week has been brilliant! If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter then you’ll already know why I can’t stop grinning. Here’s one of the reasons:

 

Woop!

I did it! All my worrying about dropping down a grade was apparently unnecessary! If you regularly read this blog then you were probably sick to death of me harping on about missing out on a first if my dissertation and exams went to pot. I would still have been delighted with a 2.1, it is a fantastic grade, but I finished second year on a first and the majority of my assessments were coming back within the first bracket as well. I really wanted my overall grade to truly represent all the hard work I’ve consistently put in over the three years. I think part of that comes from slacking off a bit during year 12 (As level), which resulted in a mixed bag of grades that I loathe putting down on job applications because frankly I slipped up academically for one year and I dislike the way it looks on paper. Call me all kinds, but that year taught me some valuable lessons which I have grafted to correct. And it’s worked!

So yeah, long story short, I shall be graduating in a few weeks with a First Class Honours in History with Theology! I hope everyone else is equally as happy with their results.

My other bit of excellent news is that I am only one step away from completing all my requirements to begin my teaching course in September. Admittedly its the most daunting one as well – the dreaded numeracy skills test! I passed my literacy skills test on Wednesday, the day after I got my uni results. I was really nervous for the test because it is the luck of the draw for which spellings and tasks you get. I’d highly recommend doing the government practice tests online before you sit the test because it is slightly different to some of the apps and books (but still use them because you can’t revise too much for these tests!).

This week I became ‘Tawny Owl’. That’s right, I’ve joined the Brownie unit I assisted on the Starquest trip in May and that’s my name within the unit. I’m looking forward to this new challenge, I’ve never worked with this age group before and it’s another chapter in my Girl Guiding experience. Straight after Brownies I now assist with a Guide unit which I have been loosely connected with since I became a Ranger. I’m looking forward to continuing with my Guiding commitments now that I’m home.

My final bit of news is that I start work next week. I’m back in Tourist Information and I know it’s going to be an excellent eight weeks!

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.

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.

 

Chalkboard Monday

Apologies, yet another rather late post! Same excuse as before I’m afraid – I’ve been busy with work for most of the day (although I did manage to squeeze in lunch and a film with the history girls). Anyway, here’s the chalkboard for this week. I particularly like the emphasis on inner beauty and being true to yourself. Just ignore my terrible handwriting (the chalk no longer has an obvious point to write with) and my schoolgirl error of misjudging the amount of space available on the chalkboard. I know this usually happens, but this week it looks particularly untidy!

Fairtrade Fortnight: 24 February – 9 March

Now I am well aware that this is nearly over, but I want to mention this event to raise awareness of the vast quantity of fair trade products that available, particularly in the UK. The first two that usually spring to mind are chocolate and bananas – purely because they are the most commonly spoken about. The current campaign for this year is to Make bananas Fair – you can read about it and the Fairtrade Foundation here and sign the petition here. I’m going to sign the petition after work today – we need to make our voices, and the voices of the farmers, heard and acknowledged. I’ll admit I’m not all that snazzy when it comes to politics, but I truly believe that we need to do more to ensure that fairness is achieved for all.

Now I’m a student. I live on a tight budget. Yet I still try to buy fair trade products as often as I can. I am partly able to do this because I volunteer in Oxfam and our store in particular has a huge selection of fair trade products. It’s not just about food either. As I mentioned in a previous post, you can get Fairtrade lip balms, hand creams, BB creams, condoms, shampoo, washing powder … the list goes on! It’s well worth having a browse online and seeing where you can buy fair trade items. Yes it can be a little bit more costly, but not by a substantial amount and treat it like your good deed of the day! Your hard work is improving someone else’s life and making a big difference to them, their family and community.

The photo contains just some of my favourite Fairtrade products that I regularly buy. The coffee is beautiful and the stem ginger biscuits are simply divine. I always buy a packet for Mum when I go home as they are a household favourite. The dark chocolate, orange and ginger chocolate is my little pick-me-up luxury. I also use some of the household products and the quality is exceptional. It’s worth paying the extra for.

Seeing as it is the start of Lent, instead of giving alms why not buy something Fairtrade every week? Even if you’ve given up sweet treats, there are still many other things you could buy. To make things a little more cost-effective, up until the end of Fairtrade Fortnight (9 March) you can get 20% all Fairtrade food products (excluding the Easter range – yes there’s Fairtrade Easter Eggs!) in Oxfam shops. Go on, make a difference and let’s get fair trading for all!