Happy Earth Day, everyone! I originally had no intentions of posting today, but the gorgeous weather made me feel really motivated to write a post about how we can love our earth more. Here are a few simple ways of being kinder to the planet without having to drastically change your everyday life.
It's so obvious, I don't know why more people don't do it. I understand that it's not always accessible to recycle something (for example, at college there's only two recycling bins) but it is so easy to be considerate when at home. It really doesn't take much to think "is this recyclable" and then popping an item into its designated pile. It will also make you feel as though you've done something good, too!
There's a bonus in it for you on this one. Selling your pre-loved belongings is a great way of preventing waste. I sell a lot of makeup and clothes on Depop, meaning I get a bit of extra cash, someone else has had a bargain and needless waste has been prevented! All I'd say is, with selling makeup, make sure it is sanitary - sanitise bullet lipsticks and don't sell products like liquid lippies and mascaras if they've been used.
Much like selling, you can also buy/swap products online.
It's so simple, and probably better for your bank balance, to buy products that you can reuse. I constantly carry a water bottle with me and the one's I use only cost about £5 and they're great - we're lucky enough to have access to free, hygienic water so why bother spending money on bottled? I think it's also a good idea to transfer from plastic to metal straws at home, and I think Wetherspoons have done a great deed in using paper straws (even if they do go soggy).
It's always good to be considerate of what you're doing and the impact it has. For example, car sharing to work/college or even getting a bus means that there's at least one less car on the road. Using reusable bags when you go to the supermarket, or if you forget them trying to think how many bags you really need. Just keeping yourself aware of your own impact on the earth is an ideal way of making changes.
So, there's a quick and easy post on simple ways to be a little bit kinder to our world. Obviously, you can make bigger changes such as going vegan but that's down to personal choice whereas I think these tips should be followed by near enough everyone. As always, thank you for reading.
So, Arustic is a family-run company that sell the most gorgeous, handmade leather handbags (it's real leather, just for anyone wondering). The bags have a super vintagey vibe to them while still being on trend and practical. I don't yet own an Arustic bag myself, but after looking at them and how insanely cheap they are, I know one will be mine soon! Honestly, real leather handbags for way under £100...I can't believe it's not too good to be true!
I absolutely fell in love with the story of how the company came about (find the story on their site) and I love how they use their company to help the less fortunate. Arustic's aim is to "increase accessibility to food and education for everyone" and they intend on doing this through the sales of their gorgeous handbags. It's a win win for everyone, someone gets a lush new leather handbag for an insanely good price while the less fortunate are getting better opportunities in life.
I've exchanged a few words with Dan, who created Arustic, and I must say the overall heart of the company seems so genuine and just lovely - I for one know I would rather pay less and give money to a family business that donate to charity, than spend ten times the price for a bag with a designer logo.
My favourite bag on their site is easily the 'Harriet' bag, I just love backpacks and I like the (pardon the pun) rustic feel of the bag. There is actually a bag that they sell called 'Sophie', but it's a satchel and I know it would not fit all of my junk in it - which is gutting, but I have a tendency to put everything I own in my handbag.
I hope you guys liked this quick post talking about a brand that I'm really glad to get behind! I wasn't sure whether to put this post in the 'Beauty' or 'Personal' section of my blog, do you think I should make a 'Fashion' page? I'm not sure I'd use it a lot but let me know anyway! Remember, if you want to buy a bag from arustic.co.uk, use the code SOPHIE for 10% off!
This Bank Holiday Monday, my mum and I treated ourselves to a spa day in Birmingham which was full of well needed relaxation and stress relief. Because I wanted to switch off completely, I had no intention of bringing my phone with me nor did I even consider writing a blog post but I fell so in love with the spa that I wanted to share it with all my readers!
We visited the Club and Spa in Birmingham for our chill day, which is in The Cube for those who know Birmingham. We used an offer through Wowcher, which included two 25 minute treatments plus a meal at the restaurant next door for £59 each. Our treatments were booked for midday and lunch was 2:30; we arrived at around 10:30 so we could chill out before our treatments. After spending a while filling out legal forms and upgrading our treatments (oops!), we were given a brief tour and were then left to our own devices.
The spa itself had a swimming pool (which was very insta-worthy), two saunas, a steam room, a salt room (something I'd never heard of before), a room with relaxing swinging pods and a corridor full of treatment rooms. We immediately headed to the pool where we chilled out for a while before giving the salt room a go and then braving the 'Kelo Sauna' and the steam room - two things me and my mum can never cope with. We lasted a measly five minutes in the sauna, which I actually enjoyed after settling down, and about thirty seconds in the steam room. It was straight back to switching off by the pool.
We were initially booked in for a simple facial and neck, back and shoulder massage but upgraded on arrival - we both went for the hot stone massage and mum then had a "bee venom" mask and I had a gel mask which was meant to renew my skin. The treatments flew by, I can't say I noticed an immediate difference in my skin but after a few days it's looking much more glowy and moisturised, and I think my spots have cleared up a fair bit; I definitely noticed a difference in my mum's face which looked lifted and brighter.
After our treatments, we were told not to go in the saunas or steam room because of our facials and I was told not to wear makeup for 24 hours - heartbreaking considering I went into central Birmingham later in the day. We both lay by the pool and actually fell asleep briefly, until hunger woke us up and we headed upstairs to enjoy the meal that was included in our day.
Our lunch was included in our package offer which is one of the reasons we went for it, as we're always ready to enjoy good food! We had lunch at Bellarino's which was also in The Cube and was directly connected to the spa by a stair case. This is one of Marco Pierre White's restaurants in The Cube, the second being the famous steakhouse that's on one of the top floors. We both enjoyed a glass of wine and I had tomato and chilli penne pasta while my mum had a chicken Caesar salad - adventurous, ay? The food was absolutely delicious and I'm gutted I was too full to enjoy a dessert, but after a plate full of pasta I definitely had no room for more food. The restaurant was right on the canal, too, so the views were really nice.
All in all, my mum and I had an absolutely fabulous day that was very well needed. It was such great value for money and the spa was in the ideal place for shopping afterwards (which we certainly did!).
People aren't lying when they tell you that A Levels are the most stressful years of your life. I am constantly battling to keep on top of homework whilst doing sufficient amounts of revision and doing things that make me happy, too, like seeing friends or writing blog posts. Sometimes, even the tiniest thing can tip you over the edge when your stress levels are high.
With stress comes the search for effective coping mechanisms that don't make you feel guilty for not doing what you're meant to be doing, something that can stress me out even more, and I'm currently on the search for the perfect techniques. Here's a quick list of everything I've found to be effective so far...
Do Something You Enjoy
This is probably the most obvious 'stress-reliever' there is, but if you're like me it's not that easy to switch off when you know there's a pile of work needing to be done. Some days I will do four or five hours straight of revision/work and will still kick myself for watching the TV for two minutes, so the way I give myself a break is to be productive in other ways. This means I don't feel like I'm wasting time. Being 'productive' while doing something I enjoy for me is usually writing a blog post, playing with makeup, reading a magazine specific to my interests or watching a beauty vid on YouTube - all of these methods usually motivate me and are a reminder of what I want to do (Journalism). Obviously your hobbies will be different to mine, but I find being productive in a different sense is a way of using my time efficiently and usually stops me from beating myself up a few hours later.
I am absolutely aware that not everyone has money to throw away, but I work (or worked, as I'm taking time off for exams) super hard to earn the money that I do and every now and then I like to treat myself. This can be buying a new beauty item to play with, or having a nice day out. Obviously you don't have to spend heaps of money, sometimes for me 'indulging' simply means buying a £1 Cosmo magazine.
Eat and Drink good
On the whole, I eat healthily with the occasional treat/cheat day. Eating good makes you feel good on the inside, in my opinion. I'm not saying that directly cures stress, but it does make you feel better. I don't usually drink anything that's not water, but recently a cup of peppermint tea when I wake up makes me feel like I can conquer my day ahead.
Another typical 'stress buster', sorry, but it's true that exercise reduces stress. One of my New Year's Resolutions was to exercise more and I find that it really relieves me and once I'm done exercising, I'm more focussed on my work.
This is also a very common tip for reducing stress, but it is honestly worth it. I make To-Do lists like it's my job. They come in so handy when it comes to organising your headspace and having a plan of action for the day or week. I tend to stick to a typical routine when I get home of doing homework and then revising, but sometimes there is too much to do in that small space of time. So, I make a list for the next day or for the rest of the week which allow me to see how doable everything is. It's also a good way of 'chunking' up bits of work, so it seems like you have less. Keeping on top of work is also a good idea, but obviously it isn't always that easy.
I hope this post gave you some good stress-busting tips! How do you relieve stress? Let me know with a comment! Thanks for reading.
PS: For anyone who reads my blogs regularly, I am about to be thrown into exam season so may not post until after they're all over. My posts definitely won't be as regular as they usually are. Thank you for being patient!
Why I Took A Break from (near enough) everything
Social media has a huge influence on many people's lives nowadays. A few weeks ago, I realised it had practically taken over my life, so I took a few weeks away from the timelines and decided to just enjoy everything else. The final year of A Levels are insanely stressful and this can really take a toll on every other aspect of life. This definitely isn't one of my normal posts, so please be patient with me...the best ones are on their way!
I've never been one to be very open when it comes to talking about my feelings and my mental health (and I idolise those who are brave enough) but I hit quite a low point a few weeks ago. Scrolling through my Instagram feed and looking at people whose lives are noticeably more luxurious than my own, I realised social media was one of the things that got me down. There was no determining factor or moment, I just suddenly decided to delete Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat (I had to keep Facebook as that's where I communicate with my work). This was in the second to last week of February.
The absence of Snapchat lasted less than a day. It is pretty much my only means of communication when it comes to keeping in touch with my friends - do people really text anymore? - so I soon became bored of not having any conversations on the go.
I also don't want this to be taken the wrong way, I don't want to seem like I'm sat on a high horse acting prestige because that's really not the case. I have started using Facebook a lot more since deleting the other apps, so it isn't like I've stopped using social media completely. I think my problem was, I was tweeting around 5 times a day, constantly refreshing my timeline, always trying to keep up with Instagram stories, and I wasn't focussing on important things. The amount of times I would sit down to do some A Level work and I'd spend the next half an hour scrolling down my Twitter feed is embarrassing. I genuinely thought the world would end if I wasn't on top of my social apps.
Not using social media hasn't actually made a huge impact on my life. I don't have 'FOMO' like I thought I would, the only thing I think I've missed is seeing other people's blogs. On this 'hiatus' (shall we say) I actually spent a lot of time on YouTube; I've always loved beauty vloggers and I found that I much prefer watching videos like these to aimlessly scrolling down a network feed.
With stopping social media came stopping blogging. This wasn't intentional, but I decided not to post anything until my socials were back so that I could advertise them and get the views I want. I didn't see the purpose in posting blogs when only a few people would see them, because I knew that would disappoint me immensely. With that said, I've actually been blogging non-stop - probably more so than before. I've been writing like there's absolutely no tomorrow and I can't wait to get those posts out to you. Just give it time!
By the time I have uploaded this post - which was written on 7th March - I will be back up on social media (probably where you saw the link) and my blog posts will be up weekly like normal. I can't promise I will post every week because exams are getting closer and I may not have the time to make a blog post I'm genuinely happy to upload - I don't want to half-arse my posts for the sake of providing content. In terms of social media, of course I'll be posting again but I hope I won't prioritise it the way I used to. Social media isn't real life or human interaction, it's simply a bit of fun when used in a healthy way.
I really tried to shorten this post down because it had potential to be ridiculously long, so I thank you for taking the time to read something that isn't what I'd usually post. Don't worry, there are beauty and fashion bits coming up very soon!
How have I kept to my resolutions so far?
My first blog post of 2018 was a list of my New Year's Resolutions and while writing that post, I told myself to keep on top of them by reflecting at the end of each month. Obviously, I won't be writing about my NY Resolutions every month but I thought the end of January/start of Feb was a pretty good place to start. So, how have my resolutions been going?
Go to the gym more
I think I've done a pretty good job with this one, which I didn't think I'd do. I was aiming for two workouts a week, but I've actually been doing three or four (except last week, I only managed one as I was unwell). I've been going to the gym every Monday and Wednesday, and then I head to a gym class with my stepmum every Tuesday and Thursday. The variety has actually been a great way to keep me motivated and I've definitely been feeling healthier for it.
Drink Less Alcohol
Looking back on this resolution I now realise that I don't actually drink that much alcohol, and I that I had just had too much in December (I think I can allow that as I worked so hard, too). Anyway, I've still managed to cut down and only drank on the first Saturday in Jan - I do think I'll be more lenient with this resolution, though!
Focus on Exams
I'd like to think I'm doing pretty well with this one. I know I'm doing my best and I'm currently in the process of doing the bare minimum at work so that I can focus on my studies. I'm just hoping I see the results!
I've got to be honest, I'm very on the fence about how well this one's going. In some ways I've done a great job of saving, but in others I've done an awful job. I've made a few impulse purchases, but I have definitely kept to my "half in savings, half in current account" task.
Drink More Water
Drinking more water seems like a simple task, in theory. I managed to ace this resolution by downloading a free app called Plant Nanny, where you have a little plant that you have to water every time you drink. For the majority of Jan, I drank as much or more water as I should per day. It's made me feel loads better in myself, and I've definitely seen an improvement in my skin.
Look after myself more/focus on what makes me happy
I'm throwing these two resolutions into one as I think they go hand-in-hand. I must say, I feel like a wave of positivity has washed over me over the past few weeks and I can't quite put my finger on what it is. I've just been feeling great. Writing this blog makes me so happy and I really strive to do one post a week (aiming for more after exams) but sometimes things get in the way, especially in this vital year of studies, so I have to make some exceptions. All in all though, I'm smiles all round.
Start a Bullet Journal
Starting a bullet journal was sort of an after-thought, but I love doing it. I don't think my current lifestyle (EXAMS!!!) allows me to do something creative with it every day, but I use it daily and do something new every few days. I find it very relaxing while not feeling like I'm wasting time - sometimes, when revision is too much, I take a break but TV makes me feel like I'm not being productive - and it's very fun to organise all of the aspects of my life that I prioritise.
Look after my nails
Okay, so far looking after my nails isn't going great. I don't bite them but I definitely pick at them when I'm nervous or bored, and I'm almost always one or the other. I may postpone this until after exams, when I'm not constantly worrying!
There's not a huge lot to say about this as I am just having fun. I'm trying to put myself first this year and it's definitely changing my outlook on life.
How're your New Year's Resolutions going? Let me know in the comments!
The UCAS deadline was on the 15th January and I was one of the many students this year who used it to apply to university. I'm up to my neck in revision at the moment, so I thought a quick blog post about university and UCAS would be easy and a good way to motivate me with my work, too!
The whole university process began for me by using a website called 'Unifrog' which I had access to through college. It's a great site and it allows you to put in the course you want to study and your predicted grades and then comes up with a list of universities that are aspirational, solid or safe (my predicted grades were decided based on a set of internal exams I did last summer). You then create a shortlist of those universities and it gives you more information about them. I used 'Unifrog' throughout my application process, and it certainly put me on the right path.
After I created a few uni shortlists on 'Unifrog' I went onto the universities' websites to look at my course (which is Journalism) and I booked in on a few open days. If you're planning on applying to university any time soon I would absolutely recommend going to these open days. My first and second choice unis were my 'back ups' before I went to look at them, and I ended up not even applying to the university I was originally adamant I'd be going to. I went to these open days in May/June, but they run throughout the year and they're a great way of getting a feel for the place and knowing how far you'll have to travel. It's also useful to look at the accommodation, too. I'd recommend looking at the university's library, because you'll probably spend a lot of time there, and anywhere else you may be interested in, such as their gym.
I should add that I went to a UCAS convention in June which really helped me confirm that I was interested in certain unis. There were talks going on throughout the day which were great for me as I was completely new to the process (I have no older siblings) and these talks covered accommodation, the application process, Russell Groups, Oxbridge and many other topics. There were also stands for different universities everywhere, with staff members standing ready to discuss your future with you.
I signed up to UCAS in about June (I think) with my college, but I didn't do much else with it until the start of Year 13. The pressure really started the kick in then as my college had an internal deadline of 22nd November. To begin the application process, you have to put in your personal details (address, date of birth etc) and your past education and employment history, including the GCSEs/other qualifications you've acquired up to this point. You then have to put in your chosen unis (you don't need to order them) and whether you will be applying for student finance. There's no particular order you need to do these tasks in, I just found it made more sense to get the easy stuff (my details) out of the way. I also left my personal statement until last.
The PersonAL sTATEMENT
Everyone always stresses about their personal statement and I think they have every right to. Trying to sell yourself in 4,000 characters really isn't an easy task.
I started the process of writing my personal statement by quickly writing up things about me in bullet points. This included why I wanted to study my subject, my past achievements (things I've done within journalism, work, sports etc) and then I typed up some things about me. I then categorised these bullet points and got rid of anything I thought was irrelevant, I repeated this step a few times and made paragraphs based on each section. I actually typed up my official personal statement in less than an hour, because of how much prep I'd done. I then emailed it to my college tutor and he gave it the all clear. I revised it a few times before sending it off, but didn't make any major changes.
I think the key advice I'd have is take your time and take small steps. A personal statement seems daunting, but you can get plenty of advice from UCAS and if you use your own pace it will work out fine. I know people that took days to write theirs, everyone has their own method. After uploading my personal statement to UCAS, I went over all of my details and sent it off.
After I sent my university application to UCAS, they forwarded it to all of the universities I had applied to. At this point, you've done all you can and all you do is wait. Many people I know got uni offers in the first day or first few days, but all I got was a load of emails saying "thank you for your application". This left me very worried as I was just imagining a load of 'declined' emails, but after a week I received my first offer and I got my second offer a few days later. I received offers from every university except for my first choice (which was also an 'aspirational') before Christmas, but luckily got my final offer on the 8th January. UCAS Track is great as you can see all of your offers in one place and you know what your offers are (all of mine were conditional except for one, which was unconditional).
After I received all of my offers, I had to choose my 'firm choice' university and took up the option of an 'insurance choice' too. I consequently had to decline the rest of my offers. In the end, I accepted University of Leeds as my firm choice and University of Sheffield as my insurance. I feel very lucky because these were the two I wanted to get into.
After accepting my offers, I've booked to go to applicant days at both unis and I've applied for accommodation at Leeds - accommodation at Sheffield doesn't open until March, but I'll be applying there too. All I'm doing now is my best, my A Levels (as well as everyone else's) are so important and they really do open up the door for the next stage of my life. I'm just hoping all of my hard work pays off and I'll be a very happy student in August when I open up my results.
(Sorry this post is so long, I forgot how much I had to do to get where I am!)
With the arrival of the New Year I've become more and more reflective of my lifestyle and changes I want to make, and there's no better time to make these changes than the now! I have a lot of goals for 2018 with it being my most important year in education to date, and I'd like to keep a good balance between college life and social life, because I really didn't do that in 2017.
1. Go to the gym more
This is a huge cliche and a very typical New Year's resolution, but keeping active is very important to me. I went through a breakup in 2017 and to keep me distracted I almost became obsessed with going to the gym, then I went back to college and seemed to lose all of the time I had for exercise. It's not that I want to lose weight, because I'm fairly happy with my figure, but I find that I become much happier and feel better when I exercise regularly. I also love how my body feels when it's exercised and at its best. Even if it's only two sessions a week, I want to keep to a regular routine to make sure I'm getting the exercise my body needs.
2. Drink Less Alcohol
I drink a lot of alcohol in my opinion, I tend to go out for drinks with friends after work and they all add up. I don't drink as much as other people I know and I'm in no way an 'alcoholic', but alcohol is expensive and I don't drink fizzy drinks because they're bad for me so I have no idea why I drink booze. I'm not aiming to cut alcohol out of my life completely, but I'd certainly like to drink less of it.
3. Focus on Exams
Last year, I worked at my job way too much during the exam season and while I didn't do dreadfully, I know I could have done better with my results. In 2018, I want to focus more on my studies and exams because I know all the hard work I put in now will benefit me in the future. I know there will be days where I will feel demotivated, but I have to keep telling myself that it's now or never.
4. Save Money
This is a fairly generic goal but I think it will be fairly easy to stick to. I recently read an article in Cosmopolitan magazine which really inspired me to save my money. My first step is to not buy any more makeup unless I've run out; I'm constantly looking at new makeup products and convincing myself I'm desperate for them when in reality I'm not. I have a few other ways of saving money - every time I get paid, I'm going to put half of my wages into a savings account (which I did in 2017 anyway) and every time I get any cash (either from my other job which is cash-in-hand or from my tips) I'm going to put it in a jar and let the money accumulate. It's not like I'm desperate for money and need to save, I just sometimes find myself buying things I don't need so I need to be more strict.
5. Drink More Water
A fairly simple goal to stick to, I just don't drink enough water at the moment so want to keep more hydrated.
6. Look After Myself More
I mean this in every aspect of life. I want to take better care of my skin, my body and my mental health to make sure I'm in the best state I can be in. There's no time like the present to eat better food, look after your skin and give yourself a mental health day when it's needed.
7. Focus on What makes me Happy
2017 was a fairly negative year for me, and while I can look back on it now and see how strong I was, I know I didn't put myself first a lot of the time. This year I want to do what makes me happy; focus on my blog, see my important friends and focus on myself. As I get older I realise that you are the most important person in your life and there are only a select few that actually deserve to be put before you.
8. Start a Bullet Journal
This one's a late entry...I got an adorable notebook for Christmas and I really had no clue what to do with it because I have more notebooks than you can shake a stick at. Then I thought, I've always wanted to do a bullet journal so why not? It gives me something to blog about, too.
9. Look After My Nails
After a rough year, I started nibbling at my nails again. They're by no means dreadful, but they're very weak now and I'm dying to get them back to their strong, beautiful selves. And once I've done that, I'm going to treat myself to a manicure!
10. Have Fun
Another cliche, but I want this year to be full of memories. I'm going to New York in the summer and I'm planning a solo trip to Portugal before my exams, and I just want to really have the best time and let loose. You're only 18 once!
I've had a little break from my blog over the Christmas period, mainly because I've been so busy and haven't had the time to sit down and write a proper post. So I thought the best way of getting back into it would be to write a little bit about my Christmas, even though it was rather uneventful.
Possibly the most exhausting Christmas Eve I've ever experienced...I worked from 4pm until close on the bar at my work, so I did a hefty 9 hour shift. Needless to say it took the life out of me, but it didn't stop me from grabbing a few drinks with friends before going home!
For the first time in around a decade (!) I spent Christmas Day with my dad and his family. My stepmom works for the NHS and always works on Christmas Day, so I usually have a second Christmas with my dad on Boxing Day, but this year my stepmom worked an early shift (5am-midday. Nice) so wanted everyone round for Christmas. We had a lovely day despite my exhaustion and my dad's parents being unwell, and I managed to sneak a two hour nap in after my Christmas dinner, which sadly meant I missed the Strictly special.
I spent Boxing Day with my mum and her family at my aunt's house. She cooked us a meal made up of leftovers and 'picky bits' and we got through a lot of champagne (too much). It was really nice to see everyone as my mum has quite a big family and it's not often that we get to see each other all at the same time, and now that I have younger cousins I don't really see my grandparents a lot as I'm apparently 'too old', below is an image of me with one of said younger cousins.
Well, there's my Christmas for this year. It seems a little dull, but I've worked a lot so haven't done anything ~super exciting~ but I do really enjoy spending time with my family and being able to switch off for a few days.
This Saturday I went to London with my dad and stepmum for what was meant to be a Christmas shopping day - except we only bought things for ourselves (oops!). Despite there being a ridiculous amount of train delays and cancellations, we had a really good day and I went to the world's first 'Too Faced' shop so obviously it was going to be a successful day for me.
We spent the whole day in the area of Oxford Street and we started off in the best Topshop ever. Honestly, it was huge and I usually struggle to find anything in there yet managed to pick up six things. Everywhere we went was decorated nice and Christmassy, but because the weather was so horrid I really didn't get the Christmassy feel (which can be my excuse for treating myself so much and not buying for others).
The favourite part of my day was going to the first ever physical Too Faced store. Too Faced is one of my two favourite makeup brands (tied with Anastasia Beverly Hills) so I knew I was going to have to visit the store when it opened, which was Friday (1st December). The entire store was just as you'd imagine it, super cute and pink. Obviously all the staff members were stunning, but they were also super lovely and I found it adorable that they were all wearing matching pink denim jackets. I snatched up the new White Chocolate palette, which is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, and a Peach Kiss lipstick in the shade 'Sure Thing'.
All in all I had a great time in London, even if it was cut short due to crappy public transport. I'm almost glad we didn't stay any longer as I'd have definitely spent a lot more...
On Monday (13th Nov) I celebrated my 18th birthday and my celebrations have finally come to an end. From a seemingly endless amount of meals to lots of alcohol, my 18th was definitely a birthday to remember.
First meal - 11th Nov
So, my first birthday meal was at a lovely restaurant named Henry Tudor House in Shrewsbury (recommended to me by my head chef at work) and it was absolutely delicious. I went with my mum and her side of the family and it was really lovely as I don't get to see my grandparents and cousins that often due to us all living so far away. I had calamari to start and then a steak, and then lots of birthday cake afterwards!
SPA DAY - 12TH NOV
On the Sunday, my mum and I went to Bannatyne Health Club in Sutton Coldfield for a day full of rest and relaxation. We spent (too much) time in the jacuzzi, pool and sauna and both had a back and shoulder massage as well as a facial and scalp massage. My skin has never felt so amazing and I actually fell asleep during the facial - it was so nice to be able to switch off for a little bit, as I'm finding myself constantly stressed with A Levels at the moment. It definitely made me want the lifestyle of someone successful who can treat themselves to a facial once a week!
My Birthday - 13th Nov
My birthday was on a Monday which I think is a rubbish day to have an 18th birthday, but it was still brilliant. I spent my morning at college but then went out for some drinks with my best friend Bea and then we joined my mum and her boyfriend for a birthday meal. I was definitely treated to lots of goodies!!
Shopping and Meal - 18th Nov
This Saturday I went shopping in Birmingham with my stepmom and then went for a meal with hers and my dad's side of the family to finish off my birthday celebrations. I spent a lot of money and it's made me super excited for my trip to New York in the summer (I think I have a spending problem!). We then went to Marco Pierre White's restaurant in The Cube, which was absolutely delicious.
You could say that all in all I had a pretty great birthday and I am definitely super lucky. It's also made me really excited for Christmas, too, as everywhere I've been has had a Christmassy vibe to it. I'm sure my 18th year will fly by!!
On Monday (16th Oct), my group of friends went to Alton Towers for the day as our college was closed due to Open Events. One of our friends has a family member in the emergency services, so we got our tickets for £25 each which was super cheap and the theme park was near enough dead. There were very few people there and the majority were families with young children who looked like they hadn't even started school yet, which meant we could get on the bigger rides with ease.
I had the pleasure of driving four of us and we met our other two friends there. We arrived at about 10:30 and all the rides closed at 4, so we had plenty of time to enjoy them before the park shut. We went on the Spinball ride, Oblivion, 13, Nemesis, Rita, the rapids and Enterprise. I'm a huge fan of rollercoasters so I loved the whole day, and we managed to get my best friend Phoebe (who hates rides) on all of them!
As you can see, it was all Halloween themed and it was really cute and Autumnal. I wish we could have gone to Scarefest (the big event they hold for Halloween), but it would have definitely been more expensive and our queuing times would have been much longer!
This time next year I will be fending for myself. Whether it's working as an apprentice or being a university student, I will most definitely be cooking/catering for myself and potentially others the majority of the time. Last week, I cooked cod and chorizo stew for my family. While I loved it, I still wanted to push myself further. This week, I cooked sesame tuna steaks with asian slaw, with some sesame pak choi on the side as it's my mum's favourite...
I am going to start off by saying that the recipe I got from BBC Good Food (I will link below) says it should take 20 minutes in total to prepare the meal and have it on the plate...that was not the case for me. The tunas were easy, all I had to do was throw on some salt and pepper, coat them in sesame seeds and then pop them in the pan. It seemed to take forever for me to make the slaw. It was probably my own fault as I hadn't measured anything out beforehand so was doing it all at once, but I can tell you for a fact that "roughly chopping" peanuts is not as easy as it sounds. The pak choi side dish was fairly simple as it just seemed to be a "prep and cook as you go along" thing for me, but saying that I'm hardly a pro.
I am a huge fan of tuna steak, I work at a restaurant that had it as a starter on last season's menu and every time it was served I would salivate, so I was super excited to cook this dish for me and my family and, most importantly, to eat it. To be perfectly honest, I didn't love the slaw, but I am not a big slaw fan in general. For me, the lime juice just seemed too overpowering - that said, my mum and her partner both loved it. I loved the steaks, though. I think I could have cooked them for a little less time, but I still did less than the 3 minutes I was instructed to cook them for. They just seemed to taste so yum! I didn’t fancy any pak choi so I can’t comment on it, but it’s my mum’s absolute favourite and she said it was delicious so I was pleased.
Hopefully, I will be going to university next September. While I can't wait for the socialising, living independently and getting a degree, I was absolutely dreading having to cook for myself. So, I made an agreement with my mum that I would cook at least once a week for her and her partner (and myself, obviously). I do everything from choosing what I'm cooking to going and buying it and then actually cooking it and plating up. My first attempt was last week and I went with a very basic chilli con carne, which I thought would be the best way to start. This week, I cooked a cod and chorizo stew...
In my opinion, the cod and chorizo stew was delicious! I served it with some Mexican chilli rice and a garnishing of parsley and the flavours all seemed to come together. I love chorizo so would have no issues there and the fish seemed more meaty than I initially expected, which for me was a bonus. My only problem was that I'm not very good at multitasking, so I had to have a bit of assistance when it came to stirring the onions while cutting up the chorizo. I will leave a link to the recipe below as it was so easy to do and took less than half an hour which is absolutely ideal when my mum gets back from work so late. I should hopefully be uploading my next meal next week, and maybe I'll do something more advanced!
With my first week of Year 13 over I thought it would be a good idea to write about my experience of A Levels so far. They are infamous for being insanely tough and as my dad has told me multiple times, "they're more work than a degree". In this post I'll be writing about my personal experience (my college, my courses etc), any advice I have and what I would have done differently in Year 12. I still have a long way to go until completing my A Levels, though!
To begin, I will just give some background on where I study. I go to a college that is about a 30-40 minute drive from my hometown, I chose to go here as it is renowned for outstanding results and my local colleges/sixth forms just didn't appeal to me. To get into this college I had to get at least six B's in my GCSEs, which I managed to do. My lessons can start at 8:45 and finish at 4, and unfortunately last year I had one day where I only had a 45 minute break between all of my lessons. Luckily this year my timetable is much more flexible and now that I can drive (!!) I have a lot more freedom when it comes to being at college, as I am not obliged to be there if I don't have any lessons.
The subjects I'm studying are English Literature, Psychology and Spanish. I got an A* in Spanish and an A in English Lit in my GCSEs, so it is evident that I enjoyed them and was subsequently good at them, however I had never studied any form of psychology in my life before taking it at A Level and I would 100% recommend to people to look into subjects further before just assuming "I'll enjoy them!". I found psychology very tough to begin with as there is a lot of content and some of it can be quite difficult to get your head around, but nevertheless I enjoy it and I love my teacher. I know everyone says it, but the more work you do the more you get out of the subject.
When I started at my college last September, I assumed that Spanish would be the most difficult subject and I was fully prepared to be dreadful at it. I was so wrong! In my opinion, Spanish is nowhere near as difficult as people told me it would be. There is no denying that learning a language is tough, but the main piece of advice I have is work your arse off!!! Any form of work you can do outside of your lessons, do it. And then do some more. Don't dedicate your life to extra work, but an extra hour or so each night or after your lessons will go a very long way. In Year 12, I would have an hour and a half long public bus journey if I finished college early, and I would spend that journey rereading the books I was given for English, listening to the Spanish Charts on Spotify and reading the 'BBC Mundo' app on my phone (BBC World News, in Spanish).
You could say I am a "half guinea pig" (put so nicely by my English teacher) as the government has changed the way A Level exams work. Instead of now obtaining AS Levels at the end of Year 12, we have to take exams at the end of Year 13 that cover everything we've learnt over the two years. I will be a part of the second year to take these linear A Levels, and they're quite scary for me!
At the end of last year, everyone at my college had to take internal exams in order to provide ourselves with predicted grades for university and in some major cases, to kick people out of college if they had not done good enough to continue with their courses. I cannot say I was super chuffed with my results as I believe I could have done better, but I got the grades I needed to apply to the universities I want to go to so I can't complain.
A quick list of things I would do differently/advise people to do when studying their A Levels:
1. Always do any work you have been given as soon as you get it - you will find it so much easier than letting it all pile up for the weekend and losing track of what you have to do.
2. Go above and beyond - although it's not always necessary to do more work than you need to, there's no harm in doing it.
3. Don't worry about money too much - my problem was, during exams, I was working up to 25 hours a week at a part-time job. It's not that I was worried about money (we were understaffed), but it had a huge impact on my grades and I know I would have done better if I hadn't have been at work so much.
4. Organise yourself and your subjects.
5. Try and stick to a routine.
6. Don't always prioritise your social life, but at the same time don't always prioritise your studies. Try and keep a good balance (I will admit, it's not as easy as it seems)
So there's my first 'A Levels' post, I'm sure there will be many more to come that are probably less longwinded. I hope you enjoyed reading this and that it was of some use to you!
Hello lovelies! I hope you're all well. I've been super busy this week and now that I've finally got some time to stop and reflect I can tell you all about what I did last Monday (14/8/17).
So, on Monday I travelled to London to go to Cosmopolitan magazine's very first 'Self Made Session'. The 'Session' consisted of four very important women from the Cosmo team telling a group of us how they got to where they are. These women included Farrah Storr, the editor of Cosmo, Amy Grier, the features director, Claire Hodgson, the digital editor, and a wonderful woman named Inge van Lotringen who is the beauty director for the magazine and has worked there for eleven years (!!).
As an aspiring journalist, I found the entire experience absolutely magical (not to sound too cliché) and it definitely made me even more motivated and inspired to achieve my dreams. I have been a religious reader of Cosmo since I was about fourteen and I can remember reading the magazine once and suddenly realising 'this is what I want to do!', so to have the best of the best from my favourite magazine tell me their tips and tricks...it was just incredible.
When I arrived at the office in Soho, I was completely overwhelmed, there were so many people attending! The foyer of the Hearst Magazines building was stunning (I have attached a photo above), the walls were covered in celebrities and snippets from magazines. We then took an elevator to the sixth floor and I managed to nab a fairly central front row seat. All of the chairs had an adorable goodie bag sitting on them, which contained some fab treats including a Beauty Pie mascara that I will be reviewing next week and some Kiehl's skincare samples. All of the men and women around me helped themselves to some complimentary fizz (which I could not have due to being underage) and everyone became acquainted with one another. I was sat next to a lovely girl named Emily who was actually the current intern at Cosmo and had managed to bag that spot after attending their 'Self Made Conference' earlier this year. It was so interesting to hear how much she had persevered to grab the internship and I loved hearing about how much she was enjoying it. I was definitely very envious!
Half an hour later, the beautiful Farrah Storr stepped onto the stage followed by Amy, Claire and Inge. Farrah welcomed us and talked us through how we could get involved with the magazine - be it writing a small piece for a feature column, gaining some work experience or even moving into their next house. The women then sat down and each in turn told us about their experiences in the industry and how they got to become part of the top team at Cosmo. All of them started off doing work experience for other magazines/companies, and all agreed that 'you don't go into journalism for the money' - I was already aware of the hard graft that came with the career, but seeing how hard these women worked to get to where they are opened my eyes even more. Amy, the features director, managed to drag out a one month internship for a year, and even managed to get the magazine to pay her instead of freelance journalists to get certain jobs done. Claire spent her nights going to gigs (for free, but she was not paid for her work) and speaking to those attending, and then writing it up for a piece. It was so interesting to hear all of the different types of work experience each women did, but how vital it was to get them their jobs.
All in all, my Cosmo Experience was absolutely amazing and so were the women who hosted it. There will be another "Self Made" event in September which I sadly cannot attend, but I can't wait to go to the next one!