Saturday, 22 July 2017

Life Lessons I Learnt At University


After 3 years of all-nighters in the library, bluffing my way through seminars, and a diet wholly consisting of Lidl bakery goodies, I can officially say that I have a BA in English Literature! I would like to thank my friends, my family, and - most importantly - Wikipedia for its constant support throughout my studies.


To mark the occasion, I wanted to compile a list of things that I learnt during my time at uni other than all the boring, educational stuff.

A sidesway step isn't a backwards step
This is pretty much my dad's mantra but my time at uni really proved the truth in this statement. I originally started my degree intending to do joint honours in English Literature and German with high hopes of going into literary translation. After a year, I dropped the German component to focus solely on English Literature. As much as I love German and especially translation, I struggled to split my time between two fairly different subjects. I have come to realise that despite not getting a degree in German, I really improved in the one year that I did study it and there's a wealth of opportunities to return to studying German (I am hoping to gain the Goethe qualification soon). Altering your path doesn't equate to giving up on your dreams. It may take you longer to get there but as long as you stay focused, nothing can stop you succeeding.  

What you do your degree in doesn't have to be what you do for the rest of your life
 There are so many opportunities out there if you have a degree (and, of course, if you don't!). Graduate schemes often take graduates of any subject onto their training courses and you could end up doing anything from sales to paralegal. My English teacher at college became an accountant after she graduated. My friend, who is currently doing a theology degree, is intending to go into studying medicine. Choosing a degree subject always feels quite final but these years are an opportunity to grow and understand better where your passions lie.


Life is expensive
I think university is the time that everyone comes to realise just how expensive it is just to stay alive. Student finance barely covers rent and leaves you in a situation where you're considering whether selling a kidney on the black market will cover the cost of textbooks. I don't even want to go into the cost of printing and how I had to pay £45 just to hire my graduation robes.

There's better things to come
At the start of my second year of university, I went through something unthinkable. For almost that whole year, I was a complete mess and ended up in counselling. I failed several modules and it put a huge strain on my relationship with my husband (who was then my boyfriend). If someone told me then that I would graduate and end up being this happy, I wouldn't have believed them. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and, if you keep trying to push forward, one day you will look back and feel proud of how far you have come.

Nights in are the absolute best
Nights out are good but I prefer activities that involve wearing PJs, eating takeaway pizza, and having a gossip with friends. I'd go as far as saying nights in top nights out. Or maybe I am just getting old. 


Asking for help doesn't make you weak
What we, as a society, believe makes someone 'strong' is problematic. Bottling up emotions doesn't make you a strong person. Asking for help when you are struggling doesn't make you weak. A strong person has bad days but gets up the next day and tries to make it better than the last. It takes strength to tell people that you need their help. Your loved ones are there to help and support you. Trust me, it helps to talk about things. It helps to have people around you who know what is going on. Whether it is emotional support, something you didn't understand in class, finance, boy troubles, or whatever else, talking to someone will help and it won't make them think less of you.

Lebanese food is the champion of all takeaways
OK, there is strong competition in the forms of curry and Chinese but nothing beats Lebanese food. The sheer amount of food you get for so little is amazing. I always get a lamb kofte with rice, salad, naan bread, and garlic dip. I pretty much lived off of this whilst at uni (which may explain my lack of funds). Also fattoush salad anyone? Yum.

Hospitality and retail workers aren't given enough credit
Whilst at uni, I worked in multiple part time jobs. These ranged from being an early morning cleaner to working night shifts in a fried chicken shop. These jobs taught me that workers in retail, hospitality, and housekeeping really don't get much respect. I mean, I have seen people throw food at one of my previous managers on several occasions just because he wouldn't change store rules for them. Also drunk people are the absolute worst.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I'd love to hear the best life lessons you have learnt in the last few years. Also my email and Twitter DMs are always open if anyone needs a chat.
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Friday, 7 July 2017

Escaping The Cycle Of Throwaway Fashion




If I calculated the amount I spend on clothes in a year, I think it'd make me turn green in the face. The problem is that I'm addicted to throwaway fashion. I love a bargain. I buy something knowing that in a couple of months it'll probably be heading towards the charity shop. But, in the long run, I end up spending more replacing these items. It seems my wardrobe has revolving doors. 



But sometimes I manage to hold onto a couple of items. Items that I still love but can't really compete with the shiny, new things in my wardrobe. But I want to change that. I don't want to keep buying clothes then replacing them. Sure, I love to shop but I want to start investing in quality pieces. Pieces that will last and I will still love a month later. So, I wanted to share with you my main tips for how to escape the cycle of throwaway fashion. 

Be willing to pay more for a quality item 

This may seem counterproductive as a way to spend less money but hear me out. If an item is well made, it'll last longer and it'll still look good months later. An example of this is my favourite (faux)  leather jacket. I spent around £50 on it in Topshop and it still looks like new. I'm not saying you should hit up Gucci but shopping in places like Topshop, Zara, River Island, and ASOS will ensure your new items last that little bit longer. 

Know your style 

I am the worst at this. I know what I like but something changes in me when I'm inside those clothes shops. My style is quite casual and consists of a lot of black but somehow I leave the shops with a bag full of pink and sequins and ruffles. Of course it is good to experiment but make sure you're buying things that you actually like rather than just going with the trend. 

Avoid the old dieting line 

We've all said it - 'I'm buying it to wear once I've lost weight'. Your diet may be a success and you may reach your goal weight but how do you know where the weight will come off? Will it fit you right once your body is a different shape? Will you still like it then? Buy clothes for the body you have now. 

Experiment with what you already have 

It's easy to get tired of the same t-shirt and jeans combo and feel the need to hit the shops. But first try pairing the clothes you have differently. That shirt dress you have could look awesome worn unbuttoned as a jacket over jeans and a t-shirt. Try pairing your cropped jumper with a bodycon dress. Some combos may seem weird but it can actually work when it is on. 

What tips do you have?
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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Exploring Devon's Coastline



There are many things in Britain that are pretty much guaranteed. Queues, a Greggs on every corner, and someone trying to push a cup of tea on you are just a handful of examples. What cannot be guaranteed is the weather. Planning a day out in Britain is like trying to tame a bull. Just when you think the weather has been nice, the temperature plummets down to 8 degrees and you are frantically pulling the contents of your handbag out to find your umbrella (spoiler alert: you only find sunglasses and suncream). 





So, way back in May when we decided to take a little trip to the beach, I wasn't shocked to be met with gale force winds. But what that did mean was an afternoon spent on a pretty much empty beach. Which was favourable because we got slightly over-excited at the prospect of penny slots, ice cream, fish and chips, and rock pooling for a group of adults with only one child in the party. 

Westward Ho! has always been one of my favourite seaside destinations. Not only does it's name have buckets of comedic potential, it has all the trappings of a cute, British seaside town. It has the typical tourist gift shops, a few cute caf├ęs and fish and chip shops, as much  Hockings ice cream as anyone can stomach, and a lovely beach that has mixture of pebbles, rock pool areas, and sand. For this reason, it is super busy in the summer. And lots of jelly fish tend to wash up there which freaks me out.





But the best time, in my opinion, to go to the beach is in the evening. Nothing beats a walk along the sand once the weather has cooled a little. Especially if fish and chips is involved and, of course, fish and chips is always involved if you're with me.

Have you ever visited any of the beaches in Devon? Where would you recommend I travel to next?
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Monday, 19 June 2017

Moving Outside Your Comfort Zone This Summer

 

Sometimes in life, things can get in the way of us being happy. Sometimes we can't control these things. I am a firm believer in weathering the storm in order to fully appreciate the sunshine that will inevitably follow. But there are also times when we create our own storms. We set ourselves up to fall. I know this because I spent most of my teenage years doing just that.

As a teenager, I was fairly preoccupied with my appearance. I had huge self confidence issues. For that reason, I hated summer. Well, I didn't hate summer, I hated what summer brought with it. I loved (and still love) long summer days; flowers blooming in every field; the smell of opening a new bottle of suncream; days at the beach filled with icecream and penny slots; and going on adventures with a picnic on your back. I hated the expectation of having to wear shorts; I hated swimming in public; I hated the jealousy I always felt seeing countless tanned, flat stomachs in crop tops. I hated that summer made me feel this way. I hate all the opportunities I missed because of it.




But I am now 21 and I swim in a bikini. I wear dresses and skirts. I don't waste my time anymore worrying if someone thinks my stomach is a bit podgy or if my arms wobble when I move them. Not everyone is made the same. So, look at these pictures as a protest against my own self doubt. It is warm so I am wearing a dress. Summers will no longer be spent in jeans and baggy jumpers.

It is not easy to work through your self-made storms. It takes a lot of time to find the cause(s) of the problem. For me, I took time off of Twitter as I found myself becoming more and more jealous of the women posting pictures on there. I stopped following insta fitness gurus and replaced them with body posi warriors. I pushed myself to wear things that scared me. Some days I wanted to run home and change back into a jumper and jeans but that is all part of the process. The first day that you wear a bodycon dress or a short skirt out, you probably won't feel amazing. Liberated, perhaps, but also quite scared. But as you keep pushing yourself, it gets easier.

My body is now celebrating. My shoulders and upper arms barely saw the light of day for about 6 years. My legs had never even heard of vitamin D. It took a lot of work but we are finally getting somewhere. And I am happy.



Dress: Topshop (here)
Bag: Primark (similar)
Sandals: New Look (here)
Sunglasses: H&M (similar)
Watch: Accurist (similar)

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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Things I Miss About Country Living


It is coming up to three years that I have lived in Cardiff and I'd be lying if I said I'm still as in love with this city as I first was. The trouble is, I'm a village girl through and through. I grew up living in small villages in Somerset and Devon. As much as the buzz of the city is fun, it can become a bit tiresome. Sometimes you just want to be away from the cars and people. I have a friend who tells me the smell of silage makes her feel nostalgic - I'm starting to understand this. So, I decided to put together everything I miss about village life into one post so any other country bumpkins can reminisce with me.

The hour walk to the village shop
OK, the shop wasn't an hour away - it was probably about 15 mins at most - but you met so many people you knew on the way that it took that long to get there. Everyone knows each other in a village and they're always interested in how you're doing (or maybe they just want to gossip...).

Summer fetes
The village fete is something that you just can't recreate in a city. The home-made jams, the chocolate tombola, the cakes, the raffle.

Farmers markets held by actual farmers
Before it was hipster and cool, village people got their veg from farmers markets. And they didn't even need to have man buns and ironic slogan t-shirts to do so.

Foraging for fruit
It sounds like something out of an Enid Blyton book but a sunny day spent picking blackberries is the best. I always feel annoyed having to pay £2 in Tesco for a punnet. Also pick your own farms are the actual best ever.

Parties in fields
Sipping Sheppys cider around a bonfire in your friend's field beats clubbing hands down.

Country pubs
Lazy Sundays in the pub drinking cider in the beer garden or munching through a huge roast. Who doesn't want that?

The shopping trip to the big city
You gather your girls together. You all travel to the city. Maybe you have a party coming up or a big date. You make a day out of finding an outfit.

The quiet
I love the buzz of the city but sometimes you just want to go and walk down a little lane beside a stream and only be able to hear the stream and some birds singing.

Everyone knows everyone
Dating someone new? Guaranteed your friend's sister dated his brother and has the low-down on everything about him, his parents, his grandparents, and the pedigree of their dog. The city is scary - these are actual strangers. The closest thing there is to a stranger in a village is when a rival ice-cream van man pitches up in the summer.

Are you a country bumpkin or a city slicker? Which do you prefer?

Disclaimer: don't own this picture.

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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A Very Long Walk To Castell Coch


If you're not from Cardiff then you may not aware that walking from Cardiff to Castell Coch is equivalent to running a marathon or swimming the channel. We walked for two hours there then two hours back. I am writing this a day on and my feet still ache. But we did it! I'm shocked that I even managed it in all honesty.

I can hear you asking 'what would inspire such craziness to spend a beautiful day walking for miles and miles?'. The answer: I had just handed in my final ever uni assignments and I wanted to do something to celebrate. Any normal person would, at this point, suggest going out for drinks or having a night of takeaway pizza and rewatching Orange Is The New Black. Not us. We decided this was the perfect opportunity to get out in the sun and explore our surroundings. And explore we did. Ok, the walk was pretty unspectacular. We walked beside the motorway for about 80% of the journey but it did become the perfect opportunity to introduce my husband to the game 'yellow car'. For anyone who doesn't know this game, you punch whoever you're with anytime you see a yellow car. It is basically an excuse to thump your husband as hard as possible without getting into trouble or being given a restraining order. Perfect, right?





Armed with just a bag of Doritos, Google Maps, and a wealth of 'coch' jokes (I was originally going to entitled this post 'The Biggest Coch In Wales'), we made it. It was like we had reached the Pearly Gates when we finally saw the sign for the castle. The only problem: we arrived at 4:50pm and they shut at 5pm. Oops. So, we didn't get to see inside but the outside was lovely enough. It had mega Hogwarts vibes. I would love to go back with a picnic and see inside though. Maybe I'll get the bus there next time.




There was some lovely woodland around and the flowers were all blooming. I just wanted to lie in them Snow White style but I had to control myself.




We then headed on to the pub we had seen in the village because we had really worked up big appetites. I kinda wanted to just order giant sundae but my husband talked me into getting something a little more substantial. So, in true West Country style, I got the Cornish pasty with chips, peas, and gravy. Gravy and chips, yum! My husband went for sausage and mash. It was 2 for 1 one on selected meals so, including our drinks, it came to just £10. Could you believe it?! I got a mocktail which was just cranberry and orange juice with a slice of lime - it really worked well though!

I would highly recommend taking a little trip to Castell Coch if you're ever in the area. But just don't walk it. Don't do that to yourself.
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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Pink To Make The Boys Wink


 
I have not been very active in the blogosphere for a couple of weeks. I'd like to give some awesome excuse here like I had adopted a bunch of orphan kittens and I was preoccupied with bottle feeding them. But no, I was busy lazing around watching daytime TV and eating chocolate. But the kitten thing would have been much better - PR request maybe? Please?
 
 
 

 But, since the weather has brightened up and I have finished lectures now forever (yaaas!), I have been leaving the house occasionally. Although I've been told going into the garden to take outfit pics doesn't really count - um, what?
 
So, in the spirit of all things spring, I have donned a lot of pink instead of my usual full black outfits and it feels very summery and fun (and a little weird). I have even been playing around with accessories! I love silver jewellery and when Jewellery Box got in touch with me, I fell deeply in love with this mother of pearl necklace. It is such a great length and a great price - what more could you ask for?
 
 
Shirt - Topshop (old)
Jeans - New Look (here)
Shoes - New Look (old)
Necklace - Jewellery Box (here)*



 
Jewellery Box have a tonne of awesome jewellery to choose from and it is all super pretty. I'm not biased here, their selection is massive but I was shook by the prices. They have dinosaur style necklaces too! Seriously, check them out!
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Sunday, 26 March 2017

Cheesy Linguine With Heck Paprika Sausages*


There are two food groups that every meal should fall into: fattening and delicious. This meal fits both of those criteria. As my doughy thighs will tell you, there is nothing I love more than a bit of comfort food. If it contains cheese and carbs, it is going in my mouth. No questions asked.

The company Heck very kindly sent me a massive package full of their products. In all honesty, I got rather excited and called my flatmates to peer at the giant meat box. My husband's eyes went like saucers when he saw all the different varieties of sausages. And with the realisation that this means I actually will be cooking rather than leaving him to cook for us both.

One thing that I really like about Heck's products is the high meat percentage. I am haunted by those horror stories about what goes into low meat percentage sausages. But these are so flavoursome and you can rest assured that they are full of goodness and deliciousness.

They also have a range of vegetarian meatballs for all you veggies out there!



Recipe:

1. Boil a handful of linguine with a little bit of salt.
2. Melt a knob of butter in a saucepan
3. Mix in plain flour until is turns slightly lumpy
4. Slowly add milk a small amount at a time whilst stirring on a low heat
5. Once it has formed the required consistency, add a teaspoon of nutmeg and a teaspoon of English mustard and season with salt and pepper
6. Add a couple of handfuls of grated cheese and stir. Then put to the side
7. Fry sausages on a low heat in a frying pan
8. Remove sausages and let them cool
9. Once linguine is cooked through and is soft, drain
10. Slice sausages into small chunks
11. Combine everything in a saucepan on a low heat
12. Serve with fresh tomatoes

Have you ever tried Heck products?
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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Burgundy Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas

 
If anyone tells you that burgundy isn't a spring colour, cut them off. You don't need that kinda negativity in your life. Burgundy and black are my two go-to colours all year round. Lately, I have been living in this black heart print shirt that I got in the New Look sale for just £8 (who could resist such a bargain?). But I wanted to jazz up my usual uniform of this shirt, black jeans, boots, and a leather jacket by adding a dash of burgundy into the mix. That's when I found this gilet in the back of my wardrobe from last autumn and I was delighted. I also found these old peep-toe Primark heeled mules I bought last spring - I actually wore these to my wedding reception and they made my feet bleed (what woman doesn't want to spend her wedding day putting plasters on her toes??). They weren't quite as painful as before but the memories still haunt me every time I put these shoes on.


 
It may be clear to see that I am still searching for a good place to take outfit pictures in Cardiff. And I am also still searching for the confidence to not spend the whole time awkwardly laughing as my husband shouts 'do a sexy face!!' at me in our garden. The fact that one of our housemates were watching out the window didn't make it any easier. My face has two moods - either overexcited pre-teen or disgusted. As is evident from these pictures.

 

Shirt - New Look (old)
Gilet - Primark (old)
Jeans - Primark
Shoes - Primark (old)
 
I promise I will feature something new one day (but maybe don't hold your breath).
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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Brunch at Waterloo Tea, Cardiff



A fact that few people actually know is that Newton theorised a fourth law of motion. It goes something like this: two young women will remain at rest unless acted upon with the promises of avocado based brunch.

This is what led my good friend Becky and I to Waterloo Tea in Cardiff on Sunday. The promise of avocado based cuisine hung thick in the air as we hurried through the cold, grey streets to our destination of choice. Well, admittedly, we had opted for Bill's initially but their breakfast menu finished at 1pm (which is 9am in student terms). So, we had a little trek around and found this cute teashop.



I had never actually had smashed avocado on toast before this experience but now I understand the hype. And the endless instagram pictures. It came with feta cheese and chilli oil (hot daym) and was on sourdough bread. My gosh, it was delicious. And oh so photogenic. Becky remarked after watching me take at least 10 pictures from every possible angle that she felt like we were acting like basic instagram white girls. It made me chuckle because I have no shame about taking 50 pictures before eating something. Oh, and choosing to sit outside because of the good lighting (anything for good lighting).


Becky opted for this ciabata with chicken, avocado, and other stuff in it (I admittedly have no idea what else was in there). It came on a fancy chopping board - very hipster - and was apparently very delicious.


Drinkswise, we were wanting juice. Lately, I have been crazy for trying all different juices and smoothies. I just opted for orange as you can't go wrong with orange. Becky had Luscombe Sicilian Lemonade (Devon, representtt) and I tried some - it was scrumptious.
They had lots of fancy teas and even matcha lattes on offer (I felt like 1pm was too early to drink something so unusual as bright green coffee). They also had a range of fancy herbal cakes but they seemed like too much bother at the time. I will definitely return to try those things when I am feeling more experimental though.

We then headed on to watch Hidden Figures at the cinema. I cannot recommend this film enough. I'm so taken by it that I'm even considering doing a separate post about it. Seriously, get to the cinema and watch this. You won't regret it.

Have you ever been to Waterloo Tea? Know any great food places in Cardiff? Love avocado? The last one is a trick question.
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