The highs of 2014 & wishes for 2015


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!


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!


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 – 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

  • It’s been a fairly hectic week and I apologise for how late this post is! Admittedly, I don’t think there is that much to report – the majority of my week has been a mix of uni, research and work – not that different to usual really, but I’ve done a fair amount of research recently.
  • The Senior Section trip to Newcastle went really well! Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy it and if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have noticed that food and markets were the main features of the weekend, accompanying the gorgeous historical backdrop of Newcastle and North Tyneside. It was a busy weekend, but we did everything on the itinerary! I’ll be planning the next two overnight trips over the next couple of months.
  • My class on Monday was a tour around St George’s Hall, Liverpool, with a local historian. It was really interesting. He knew pretty much every little detail about anything and everything to do with capital punishment in the UK – including match details on the day of the trial. It certainly made for a memorable day trip and I’m still loving all my modules this semester. Let’s hope this continues seeing as I have two essays to write this month!
  • I will be getting back to doing a couple of other posts over the next week or so (other than my usual ones I mean). For a start I received my first set of freebies in the post on Wednesday from the lovely people over at Fair Squared as a thank you for this review. I will review them all in due time! I’ve got a few reviews in mind of some of my current lifesavers and I’m cranking up my beauty regime after being told that I have early signs of aging. I’m 21! Although I had to laugh as my recommended skin care regime was: wash, tone and then moisturise. Essentially exactly what I’ve been doing for the past eight or so years, I just have to remember to do it twice daily…
  • I’m another step closer to getting onto my course next year. I’ve got to call Occupational Health on Monday to finalise that paperwork and I popped into the primary school I’ll be doing my KS2 observation in May. I had to finalise the dates for that and I wanted to see the school/meet the staff etc, just to get a feel of the place. I honestly could not be happier with it! I was very lucky to get it as I struggled to find anywhere back home, but one of the girls in Oxfam has a friend in the school and it went from there. It’s all about connections really. That and sheer determination.
  • I went out on Thursday night – first with the HisPol society and then met my housemate for cocktails in Aloha. It was a cracking night and I’m really happy that my housemate and I met up – it’s been ages since our last night out and we had a hoot! This week I’ve felt very comfortable with my outfit choices. I know that probably sounds weird, but after a couple of weeks being poorly and thinking predominantly about warmth, it’s been fun to just dress for my mood. I’m particularly loving thin scarves snuggled around my neck, especially when I manage to pin my new Alice in Wonderland brooch artfully into the tangle.
  • My running is improving! I know it’s been a bit hit-and-miss what with being ill and/or super busy, but I was really chuffed with my run yesterday and I’m out again with Hannah for our run in the park tomorrow. Any recommendations for comfortable necessities for my 10k would be greatly appreciated.
  • I didn’t completely bomb my gobbet practice from last week. I got a 2.1 which is amazing given I had very little background/additional information to put to the document other than what we’ve learnt in class. It was definitely the confidence boost I needed. Now to just keep improving and absorbing as much information as possible!

What’s occurring

What a busy week this has been so far! It’s not at all what I was expecting it to be like either.

  • I had a fantastic weekend at home, although if you follow me on twitter you may have noticed that my train journey to Newcastle was anything but smooth. It was lovely to see my family again and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit home. On Saturday I went to the Train to Teach roadshow which my grandparents had read about in the local paper. I’ve been receiving emails from Teach since last spring, yet not once had I heard about this event. I strongly recommend that if you are considering becoming a teacher, you have a look on their website here and try to attend one of their roadshows. Seriously it ended up being the best thing I did. I’m going to do a separate post on this though once I can confirm certain news through the dreaded system that is UCAS.
  • It was wonderful to be able to get some cuddles with my dogs as well. Marvin has grown so much in the two months we’ve had them! Both Mabel and Marvin have really come out of their shells – they can be such characters (and little toerags). I walked them quite a few times and I can’t wait to be at home properly as I know I’ll be taking over some of the walking duties. It’s so peaceful – when I’m not worrying about where the dogs have run off (honestly the slightest movement and they are off! Marvin chased a doggie bag down the beach yesterday…). I’m also a dab-hand at cleaning the dogs up after a walk since our field has turned into a mud bath (but at least we can see the field underneath, unlike some unfortunate areas of the UK).
  • Trains featured a great deal for me this past week (again tied up with Saturday) but thankfully only Friday went a bit botched. Everything else has been fantastic – I even got free coffee in Transpennine First Class! Trust me, that is a major achievement.
  • However, I now seriously need to get back into studying mode. My dissertation research has been placed on the back-burner for too long now. From now on it has to be properly prioritised!
  • Another thing that I have to get back into is my running. Part of the reason for this neglect is simply because my uni timetable keeps getting affected by strikes. I have no objection to the university striking, as it is a valid upset, but I do object to them constantly choosing a two-hour slot which affects my lectures. Every single strike this month has affected my timetable in some way. If this continues, I will make a comment to the admin – third year is the most important in the undergrad degree! My running has been affected by this because it disrupts my usual timetable and gym times. I’ll be hitting the pavement/treadmill again very soon.

What’s occurring

What a hodge-podge week it’s been! So far it’s going better than last week (as I alluded to in this week’s Chalkboard) and I go home tomorrow for the weekend, so I’m hoping it continues to improve.

  • My paid work has increased – I’m now signed up to get a set four hours a week at the new apartment builds in town – which means that I can start saving my wages as well as anything left over from my weekly budget. I know that four hours a week doesn’t sound like a great deal but when you add up the eight hours of classes a week and my minimum of six hours voluntary work as well, it all begins to add up.Chuck in research and I have very little free time, hence why I now have everything stuck to my wardrobe – daily planner style – it’s making life much smoother.
  • However, I am penciling time out for either my blog or general me-time. My current favourite break between research is to catch up on all the blogs I follow on bloglovin – you can follow me, see if we share common blog interests and read my blog all on that site.
  • Along with discovering some fantastic new blogs this week (particular favourites are Two Nerdy History Girls, College Prep and The History Girls), I’ve been listening to some new music. I’ve been on the hunt for some different music to accompany my fitness training and I’m currently loving Bastille’s ‘Bad Blood’ and Katy Perry’s ‘Prism’. I’d recommend Bastille for chill-out music as it’s not quite as up-beat as my usual music, but they sound amazing. Katy Perry doesn’t really need an explanation – it’s very feel-good. I know that some tracks from both with be appearing some time soon in a feel-good Friday post.
  • Another aspect of living on a budget I’ve found enjoyable is trying to come up with different meals using things already in the house to reduce my spending. Admittedly my cupboards and freezer are now practically empty, so I’ll be replenishing them on Monday, but it’s made me realise what I actually had in. I made pancakes for breakfast on Sunday (making extra to warm up Monday morning) which was a first and I think I’ll make them occasionally as a special treat. I think my favourite meal I created was tuna lasagna – very similar to tuna pasta bake, but I added cannellini beans, lasagna sheets and topped it with a cheese sauce. That was mainly so I could empty out my cupboards/freezer and I’m looking forward to browsing my cook books for more potential recipes to try/adapt.
  • I went out yesterday evening after my Oxfam shift with two friends from my course into Liverpool. We had a browse around the shops then went to see ‘Wolf of Wall Street’. I personally did not enjoy the film that much – it was too long, the plot was hazy at best and it just did not appeal to me in any way. However the set of films we aim to go see next month (how quickly has February snuck up?!) are all either history related or children’s animation – much more my taste!
  • After having a horrendous cold over the weekend, I’m definitely on the mend now. All that’s left to go is my runny nose (the worst bit really) but I imagine that will go some time next week. I’d have rather I was totally heathy for going home, but beggars can’t be choosers. At least I managed to read a fair bit … shame it wasn’t for my dissertation!
  • I’m very excited about my trip home tomorrow. I have to pack between now and swimming later as I want it all done before bed. I’ll be getting my usual set of trains, although due to a slight timing issue, I had to pay extra to get my train to York. The plus side to that expense is that I’m going first class so Transpennie had better have improved the service since last time. If not they’ll be getting another snotty email! I can’t wait to see how my babies have grown and to see the rest of my family. It was Mum’s birthday on Wednesday and Grandad’s birthday is tomorrow, so there’ll be some form of celebratory gathering I’m sure.

What’s occurring

  • I received my two essays back and I was absolutely over the moon. As I mentioned last week I was more concerned with my Dictators essay but I was graded a mid 2.1, which I was bowled over by. I was not expecting anything as good as that, especially after the lecture we had that in my mind discredited everything I’d written. But then that is the joy of history – providing you have substantial evidence to support your theory, you can’t really be wrong. Then on Tuesday I received my next essay. My maritime essay was awarded a first! That’s bumped this year up to a first overall so far – the pressure is well and truly on!
  • On Saturday night my housemate and I were incredibly spontaneous and bought tickets for the Isle of Wight festival in June. We’d discussed the possibility of going to a festival before Christmas and decided to have a nose around to see which we would enjoy. Next thing we knew we were set on that one and booking it! If we enjoy it this year, we’ll get the early bird offer next year – we missed out it by two days which was a bit gutting. This summer is going to be amazing!
  • I’m back into a proper fitness regime now. I survived getting up a 6.10am on Monday to go swimming and thoroughly enjoyed the early exercise. As for the gym, I’m doing a combination of running and toning to try to prepare my body for the Liverpool Spring 10k. Thankfully my blisters have nearly healed over.
  • I tried an interesting dessert on Sunday evening. The house fridge/freezer stopped working on Friday (the new one is due tomorrow) so I had to use up as much of my stuff in the fridge as possible. This week there’s been four people sharing one fridge/freezer which has been a bit of a squeeze. My dad suggested this little recipe to use up the last of my creme fraiche. I love using it on pasta, but this is a sweet dish. Simply add a sachet or three teaspoons of drinking chocolate to over 100ml of creme fraiche, stir and freeze. I used Options Go Bananas and it was a lovely treat – a bit like frozen yogurt really.
  • My uni courses swapped this week – I’m now studying Criminal Punishment in England since c.1800 instead of Modern European Dictators and the English Civil War instead of English Maritime Expansion and sitting in on A Taste of War instead of Post War Russia. I know I’m going to love all three.
  • I’ve started back at work again this week – a couple of shifts a week with make a huge difference to my budget and saving!
  • Last night I went to Mei Mei in Liverpool for the Oxfam Christmas meal – it was a lovely meal and such a laugh! I’m going to miss the girls so much when I move back home!
  • I’m really excited at the moment because I’ve just bought and decorated a new travel cup. I like taking a hot drink into uni with me, but the one I was using before had a tendency to spill on my hand if I walked too quickly. I spotted this groovy little cup online and have hunted the Starbuck stores in Liverpool (because I refused to pay an extra £4.50 for postage). I finally found it today. It’s a small ‘Create Your Own’ tumbler from Starbucks. Now I’m not a huge fan of their coffee (more of a Costa girl) but the lids are really impressive – this one should manage a lot better with the quick walk to uni! I struggled a bit with the design, purely because it got scratched when I was trying to take it out. I drew a quick idea the other night using a few quotes I’ve pinned and added some doodles. It’s definitely my coffee cup!