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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I’m back I promise!

My sincerest apologies readers! I knew it had been a while since I last blogged but I honestly did not think it had been nearly two months! That is simply not acceptable and I am going to make a firm effort to post at least once a week. The reason behind my absence is my teaching course. I’m about six weeks into it now and I’ve finally settled into a form of routine. We all know I’m all about routine which is why, unfortunately, this blog has suffered from my neglect. But as I’ve said, no more! I want this blog to reflect my current thoughts and interests, so expect more reviews on beauty products (I have a load to share) and historical and teaching interests.

Just a quick run through on everything that’s happened since I last blogged:

  • I started my teaching course in Peterlee so my confidence in driving has greatly improved, I’ve made lots of new friends and I’m thoroughly enjoying being a trainee magpie (ideas not physical stealing of course)
  • I turned 22! And yes I did spend the majority of the day singing that Taylor Swift song. I also spent the morning on a WWI walk around a local cemetery, despite having been horrendously ill the whole weekend with a bug (I’d been sent home from school I was that ill).
  • As you might have guessed from how I spent my birthday, I’ve taken full advantage of being home by signing up for lots of different historical talks. It’s amazing once you start looking how many free talks there are in the area! So far I’ve been to a variety of talks from the Tudors to WWI. I’ve got quite a few lined up over the next month or so, and I’ll probably mention them in future posts.
  • My social life has picked up thanks to my course. The fact that I’m home also helps as I’m catching up with all my school friends as well.
  • I’ve also got a couple of trips lined up over the remainder of the year (isn’t that a scary thought – 2014 has flown by!). The first of which is in a couple of weeks to visit my uni friends in Liverpool for a mini girlie reunion.
Miss Nichol-WIlson - check out my teacher face!

Miss Nichol-Wilson – check out my teacher face!

Inside my make-up drawer: Benefit “That Gal” brightening face primer

**Disclaimer – I’ve purchased these products for myself. All opinions are my own and 100% bluntly honest**

Benefit "That Gal" Benefit "That Gal"

Benefit “That Gal” brightening face primer 11ml/£22.50

Benefit says: ‘Our silky pink primer takes your complexion from dull to darling! Simply blend it on for the look of brighter, smoother skin. Contains light-reflecting pigments to help brighten all skin tones and raspberry & camomile to soothe skin.’

I honestly think this product solidified my love of Benefit. It’s one of my favourite primers and I was gutted when it ran out a couple of weeks ago. I wore it just about every day from purchasing it in February until it eventually ran out in July. That’s not a bad life for 11ml! My skin has been acting up horrendously recently, but this product covered any bumps or spots naturally and it really did soothe my angry skin.

I applied it all over my face using a flat foundation brush from a small dollop on the back of my hand. It’s a twist application to get the primer and I found I only need a couple of twists to get enough to provide a light, even coverage. It went on easily (novice here remember) and it minimised any natural shine or blemishes with a soft, dainty glow. Exactly the look I prefer! I rarely wore blusher with this product unless I was going out in the evening to play up the healthy glow. My foundation powder applied evenly on top of the primer and I felt like it provided a substantial coverage throughout the day at work or at uni.

Another thing I loved about this product was the smell. It’s delightful, like strawberries and cream! It always put a smile on my face in the morning and made me feel ready to face any challenges that might appear.

If you’re looking for a spring/summer primer or one to add a soft feminine finish to your make-up, then I would highly recommend this product. I know it’s not the cheapest primer option, but the price is justified (at least to me) by the long-levity of the product. I would definitely consider buying this again next spring/summer (or once my current tube of POREfessional (see this review) runs out).

  • Coverage: 5/5
  • Application life: 5/5
  • Value for money: 5/5
  • Overall: 5/5

Have you used this primer? Comment below with your thoughts or if you have any other primers that you would recommend!

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!

Inside my make-up drawer: Benefit How To Look The Best At Everything in Light

Inside my make-up drawer

**Disclaimer – I’ve purchased these products for myself. All opinions are my own and 100% bluntly honest**

I know I’ve promised to continue with my product reviews for a couple of months and I’ve finally found the time to get around to it! I’ve fully moved back home and the unpacking is nearly all complete. The past fortnight has been pretty busy as I’ve had to integrate two bedrooms into one, pack for and attend the Isle of Wight Festival (amazing!) and completed another week of primary school placement. The next few weeks before I start my summer job are going to be spent revising for and sitting my skills tests, catching up with friends and family, and I fully intend to blog more frequently!

Benefit How to Look the Best at Everything

Benefit How To Look The Best At Everything in Light £25.50 – Flawless Complexion Makeup Kit

Benefit says: ‘We wrote the book on complexion perfection! Our custom perfectors give you a luminous complexion by blending away imperfections and minimising the appearance of pores. You’ll be the first to finish flawless.’

I bought this set back in January and I loved it immediately. At the time I wanted to try Benefit’s Boi-ing, which is £17.50 on its own, and I was intrigued by their primer. This kit seemed like the ideal buy as it contained two shades of Boi-ing, a primer, and both liquid and powder foundations, for an additional £7 instead of one concealer. It’s a handy size for travel and comes with a mirror in the lid, hidden behind the ‘Tips and Tricks’ information. For a make-up novice like myself, this was incredibly useful as I got use to the products. The packaging is really cute – the picture above shows the front of the box containing the products and the back of the packaging for the box. It might seem a tad excessive and wasteful but it stops them being sampled in store and looks adorable. I’m not going to lie, the fact that it looked like a book appealed to my bookworm nature and it isn’t too big for overnight trips etc as you don’t to lug around other products. I’m going to do a mini review for each of the products which feature in the kit and link each one to its full size version on the Benefit website.

Benefit How to Look the Best at Everything

Benefit How to Look the Best at Everything

The POREfessional PRO balm (Primer) – This retails at £24.50 in full size (22ml). The mini size featured in this kit is 7.5ml. I imagine you would still get a substantial amount of use out of this size given how little product you need to get full coverage. The website claims its translucent, but when you squeeze it out onto your fingertips or back of the hand to apply, it looks like tinted moisturiser. As it’s a small tube, I found it difficult to gauge the correct amount needed for full coverage. I did like this product and it did minimise the appearance of pores in my face. I would either wear this on its own if my skin was behaving itself, or underneath one of the foundations.

  • Coverage: 4/5
  • Application life: 4/5
  • Ease of application: 3/5

Hello Flawless Oxygen WOW! Ivory “I’m pure 4 sure” (liquid foundation) – The 30ml bottle retails at £26.50. The mini size is 7ml and like the POREfessional it would last long enough to justify the set as you don’t need a great deal to get decent coverage. It matches my pale skin tone nicely and the pump applicator makes it easier to get the right amount each time. I haven’t used this as much as other products in the kit, as I have been using my MAC foundation or the foundation powder in the set. However, this product is lovely with a primer underneath. Without the primer my skin felt dry, even if I moisturised etc beforehand. As I said, the coverage was good and it seemed to last all day.

  • Coverage: 5/5
  • Application life: 4/5
  • Ease of application: 5/5

Boi-ing 01 and 02 (concealer) – By far the best thing in the kit. They are half the size of the individual products. I have used 01 fairly regularly and I’ve barely made a dent in pot. 01 is light and 02 is light/medium. I did try using them together as described in the ‘Tips and Tricks’ but I didn’t feel the need to wear it like that all the time, only if I was starting to look haggled from stress (funnily enough it was used fairly often from the end of March through to the middle of May). I loved this concealer. Benefit describes it as ‘industrial-strength’ and at first I was a bit hesitant with it, as I had several bad experiences with Erase Paste back in high school. This product, however, is amazing. I use an eyeshadow brush to apply it (I try to avoid using my fingers) and it covers/blends beautifully. It’s subtle and does the job. I always recommend this product to my friends as it is worth the price, it will last ages! I will definitely repurchase Boi-ing 01.

  • Coverage: 5/5
  • Application life: 5/5
  • Ease of application: 5/5

“Hello Flawless!”Ivory “I love me” (foundation powder) – This is my second favourite product in the kit. It comes with a short brush which I think I used twice at most. Instead I use my own powder brush, which is slightly narrower and has a longer handle, as I find it easier to get an even coverage with it. As with the liquid foundation, I prefer to use a primer first and then apply the powder, purely because it then lasts all day. I’ve used it just about every day since I bought it and decided to buy the full-sized product (7g, £25.50) to replace the 4g product in the kit which I have nearly finished. The powder blends nicely into my skin and does not develop an orange tinge or make-up line, as some products can. I know part of that is down to application, but still it’s a positive thing to note.

  • Coverage: 5/5
  • Application life: 5/5
  • Ease of application: 5/5

So the overall verdict? It’s an excellent product for people who are either new to make-up or new to Benefit. It’s particularly useful if you travel as it is a handy size to pack (although getting it fit into your make-up bag is practically impossible) and contains the main essentials for daily wear. However, I did not like wearing all the products together. It might simply be that as I have never worn a great deal of make-up, particularly after one disastrous incident in high school of being plastered in make-up by a friend, that I’m super conscious of heavy make-up. That was how I felt when I wore the primer, liquid foundation, combined the concealers and sealed it with the powder. Regardless, I would still highly recommend this product as it has made me realise that I prefer powder foundations with a light primer underneath, or simply just the primer, as my skin fortunately does not need a great deal of covering. As I mentioned the concealer is the best product in the kit, although I only really used it for blemishes rather than under my eyes. It’s given me confidence in applying and wearing complexion make-up and whilst I was initially hesitant at the price, it was definitely worth the money. I know that I could have purchased a primer, concealer and foundation for under £25.50, but given the quality of the products and their application life, I’d say it was money well spent.

  • Practicality: 4/5
  • Value for money: 5/5
  • Overall: 5/5

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!

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.