How do I feel about fundraising?

First off I must stress that I LOVE fundraising! I never would have had the chance to explore Peru without fundraising as funnily enough as a 16 year old I didn’t have access to £3,500 (the amount I raised in 18 months in order to go)! However, I can see why some of the people giving me money were reluctant to hand over their hard earned cash when all I was doing was washing their car, packing their shopping, passing over one of my home-made cakes or running a sweet shop; and for these people’s generosity I will be eternally grateful.

With this in mind, I’m always up for helping people out but as a student this means giving my time rather than my money (for those of you who live in England you will understand the ridiculousness that is Student Finance, but that’s for another post) but recently I’ve started to feel a bit differently about the subject. As stated in my last post I am in a play this term at uni. It is a very gritty piece of drama and the director demands an equally gritty set, however this means his designs are waaayyyy over budget so we had to have a fundraiser to make up the difference. Now, it’s one thing giving money to someone trying to help out a charity, paying for medical treatment or going abroad to change someone’s life but parting with food money for a set to be a little bit more extravagant is on another level.

Like lots of people in England who get the same amount of money from the Government l live on a LOT less than minimum wage so when it comes to fundraisers for student productions I am slightly weary of handing over money that pays for bills, rent and food, and that’s the only money I have. But as I am actually in this play I dragged myself over to the venue. Before I even walked through the door I had spent over £7 baking cookies to be auctioned off and then when I arrived handed over £3 for entry followed by £1 for a single raffle ticket (not even a strip, just 1 raffle ticket!!). After all that I left an hour later to go home and do work! So I was £11 out of pocket, had less ingredients in the house and I didn’t even get to try one of my cookies!

So that is why I can’t decide my opinion on fundraising… let me know!

Lauren x

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It’s been way too long!

I haven’t blogged for a very long time. My second year at university quickly took over my time and one thing led to another and before I realised it the Christmas break had arrived. Skip over two essays, a script, shopping and fabulous company and we get to today and still I haven’t written a new post. So as I sit in my living room this morning, just one sleep away from travelling 2 and a half hours up the motorway back to my home at uni, I am going to reflect on what a wonderful, if slightly chaotic, first term of second year I have had and update all those who know me that I now think I’m starting to get the most out of my tuition fees!

My uni work has seen me devising and performing a performance and workshop about WWII for 6 year olds, and let me tell you that this is no easy task! Coupled with being sensitive of the subject and stereotypes that can surround it you have to take into consideration the concentration span of children that young, but I enjoyed every single minute of it! And I have now decided I want to teach Primary Education when I’m older, which means my tutors are a lot happier with my job prospects; huge plus! However, as I’m graduating next year (so scary!!) so I’m glad the penny has final dropped for me!

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Me as a WWII child

 

 

I’ve also got a work placement with a theatre for the summer which I’m very excited about and I’m waiting on confirmation of a weekly placement at a school which could be a wonderful opportunity for me!

I actually auditioned this term and actually got a part! (For those of you who don’t know, I study Theatre and Performance at university). Although it meant VERY long hours and very little free time, I joined the cast of a new Pantomime as a principal dancer and, no laughs please, a tree! Despite the stigma attached to playing a tree I think I did a great job and made a fabulous part of the forest! As well as the festive treat I started rehearsals for a much darker play that will be performed in February, so watch this space for me moaning about how hard a southern USA accent is for a Brummie girl like me to master!

Aside from work I’ve had a great time this term doing things away from uni! I’ve been to two concerts, seen my first basketball match (and loved it!), been to two professional performances, continued my search for the best burger with my other half and got a job. Who said you can’t do well in your studies and have an active social life?

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Although I had a brilliant term, when the final week came I could not wait to go home! And even though I had a LOT of reading to do in order to complete my essays I still got a lot done. I made part of my mum’s Christmas present, made a chocolate sleigh, did my usual Christmas bake and even fit in a trip to Sheffield and the Yorkshire sculpture park all before Christmas Day came and with less than £30!

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A very cool sculpture

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Santa’s sleigh 😀

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So as the time has come to pack up all of my things I look forward to 2015 and what it might bring, who knows what can happen, and isn’t that the joy of life?!

Lauren x

Freebies

As a student on a small budget I will take anything that is advertised as free, whether it be 50% extra free in a bottle of ketchup, a voucher for a free bag or just out-right free food being handed out on the street. This means freshers’ week is like heaven to me and working as freshers’ staff in the university union for the past two weeks has put me in prime position to receive said freebies.

The many free slices of domino’s pizza aside I have been given:

  • two free cloth bags (perfect for carrying shopping and books)
  • a cinema ticket
  • three Yorkshire puddings
  • a balloon
  • two cans of ginger beer
  • two chocolate bars
  • a t-shirt
  • sooo many pens (I could open up a WHSmiths branch)
  • loads of vouchers – including 30% total bill at Handmade Burger Co, £5 off at Joy, £2 off at Greggs and tonnes of Domino’s deals

all free of charge! And that was just stuff I was given whilst working; I also got a free bottle of coke, a couple of shots of whisky, a BBQ and two free glasses when I took a trip to our local corner shop!

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Who said being a uni student was so bad?! All you need to do is accept anything of value to you, especially when it’s being given for free! Though some of the freebies have left me wondering just what use they are to me – £15 off when I spend £75 in Urban Outfitters!! That still means I’ve got to spend £60 – get real! I certainly do enjoy the cheaper things in life!

Lauren x

Before the Internet

Just as a side blog, what on Earth did people do before the Internet?! Our wifi hasn’t been installed in our new home so I’m having to write my blogs, catch up on emails and watch BBC iPlayer in the university library! I’ve read books, cross-stitched, watched many-a film and even been on walks and yet I’m still bored.

I tip my hat to the older generation as I now understand how dependent on the Internet I am; isn’t it strange how we now feel somewhat lonely when we can’t stay connected to each other via the internet 24/7. Something to think about.

Lauren x

Home-cooked meals on a student budget

Warning: Requires LOTS of freezer space!

When I tell people that I lived off £100 a month during my first year as a student they often look at me in amazement and whilst I did find it hard at times to keep up with social activities I ate well all year, only have one pot noodle and that was because I was craving it. Other than that moment of weakness on my part I ate home prepared and cooked meals every day. My secret? Making the most of supermarket offers!

Morrison’s, my local supermarket, does a deal on meat where you can buy three packets for £10. So at the beginning of term when life isn’t as hectic I bulk buy. Along with this meat I stock up with cupboard supplies from Aldi before I arrive at uni (a tin of chopped tomatoes is just 30p!) as well as packets of tomatoes, onions, peppers and of course garlic! I then make all my favourite meals – chilli con carne, meatballs in a home-made pasta sauce, beef goulash, fish pie, 4-veg curry – and portion them out before freezing them; easy! It also means I don’t have to worry about cooking for the next couple of weeks or so apart from when I integrate sausages and mash, and a pork chop into my diet when they’re on offer. As well as this I always try to cut down on chips and have home-made sweet potato fries instead.

 

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I made a total of 28 meals over two days and it cost me under £90, including all the meat. I think that’s quite good, even with my still-limited knowledge of food prices!

Lauren x

Tip: Buying and cooking a whole chicken is a great way to get more meat for less. 1 chicken gives 2 breasts, 2 wings and enough left-over meat to provide about 4 portions which I use in stir-fries or in curry sauces.

Charity Shops MIGHT be for me

Having earlier blogged about my unsuccessful trips to charity shops I was pleasantly surprised when we set aside a morning to look around the shops in Haverfordwest on holiday and found some real treasures. Starting off in a shop dedicated to raising money for a local charity the tone for the day was set as I quickly found three pairs of heels that fitted perfectly and were only £5 each! The soles had little or no marks on them and were from well-known high-street shops (Next, Dorothy Perkins and M&S). Now for a start, any woman with wide feet will know the agony of trudging around shops to find high heels that fit your feet properly, so the fact that I got three pairs to fit  in under 5 minutes was a minor miracle in my world. And then the price – well you can’t go wrong with a fiver!

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Following my shoe frenzy I picked up a top for 99p, several DVDs at £2 each, a jug perfect for Pims at only 99p, along with numerous other bits and bobs that I was looking for for when I start back at uni – perfect! So I’ve come to a rather reasonable conclusion – in my opinion anyway – it’s not that the charity shops in Wales are any cheaper than those at home, it’s that the independent shops that only have one store to support are grateful for any money the receive from the general public and as a result lower the prices of their items to what I see as more reasonable. With this discovered I look forward to what other hidden treasures I can stumble in the future.

And for people out there who think women have way too many shoes (my dad!!), I leave you with the wonderful words of Marilyn Monroe:

“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.”

Lauren x

Heart-shaped rocks

As I begin to get ready for my return to Leeds to begin my second year at University I finish my scrap-book that holds this summer’s memories. It has been a busy one and despite moving out of my childhood home into university accommodation last September I have not spent large amounts of time at home during my (almost) 4 months off study.

Handing in my final essay in May meant I had the whole summer ahead of me but it wasn’t until the 1st of July – the day I moved out of my flat and into my rented student house – that I officially moved back home, with bags of clothes in tow. However, the ready-made plans including a weekend in London, a three-week tour of Europe, a week in Sheffield and a camping trip with my newly acquired boyfriend (still a novelty for my family) meant I was actually looking forward to the family trip to Edinburgh. Every trip to Scotland to visit my Aunt and her husband leaves us all full from fabulous food (a fry-up every morning does me in!) and very light in our pockets, but they are some of the best weekends we have as a family. Safely in the care of other family members my parents relax, not having to cook, clean and host, resulting in no one being the least bit mardy. This, however, was not the case with the camping trip that followed.

Now camping, for those of you who haven’t done it, is an extremely stressful experience when done with the whole family. It starts at home, even before the holiday has begun, as everyone has packed too much stuff and mum feels the need to take everything from the kitchen with her and we all begin to see that it will NOT fit into the car, no matter how good our Tetris skills are. Once me and my brother have been packed into the spaces in the back of the car the stress reduces as we begin the journey, that is until the Sat Nav doesn’t send you the route your Dad thought you were going to take. I can only thank God for the person who invented iPods as that little invention means I am almost oblivious to what is happening in the front of the car. The stress does not stop until the tent has been pitched and tea is cooking on portable stoves, and that isn’t even mentioning trying to pack up to get home. A very good friend of mine told me he used to make his family partake in family hugs whenever they got mardy whilst camping; wouldn’t that be a great idea?!

Stress aside and I still had my list of things to do on a holiday in the UK. It is as follows:

  • Have fish and chips by the sea (they always taste better!)
  • Buy sweets from a traditional sweet shop
  • Visit an ice cream parlour
  • Take a picnic on a day out
  • Find heart-shaped rocks on the beach and skim stones

And I went home a happy girl having completed everything off my list! It’s funny how you have an idea of how a holiday should be based on your childhood experiences, so much so that I wouldn’t have felt like I’d been on holiday without completing the majority of things off my list.

Calamari, Scampi and beer-battered cod with chips!

Calamari, Scampi and beer-battered cod with chips!

St Davids beach

 

 

 

Banana split

Banana split

 

Reflecting on my summer I realise how quickly time is going and I find myself feeling nostalgic for family holidays of years go by – I didn’t even get a chance to complete my Harry Potter marathon with my brother! No one knows what the future holds, but maybe next year I’ll make more of an effort to spend time at home.

Lauren x

Diary keeping

I’ve never been the kind of person who keeps a diary; my life didn’t seem interesting enough and stories of school weren’t the kind of thing I wanted to leave myself to read ten years in the future. However, when I visited Peru in 2012 I realised the memories I made there were too important not to record, and I’m really glad I did because two years on and I can’t remember lots of things that happened. With that in mind, I decided to keep one when I went on my adventure this year.

So with a suitable notebook purchased I left for my holiday with an optimism that didn’t last very long and on returning home I was five days behind. Almost two weeks down the line and I still have five days left to write. Granted, this trip wasn’t quite as exciting as the one to Peru which meant I definitely didn’t have as much to write, but maybe I’m just not made for diary keeping, I’d much rather be out doing something else. To be honest, I was probably just looking for a reason to buy a new book.

Travel diary

Lauren x

Some me time

After spending almost three weeks in the pocket of my friend travelling around Europe followed by practically living with the other half for a week left me craving some me time. The guys in my life don’t seem to understand this concept so I’m hoping to receive some reassurance from my female friends that I’m not the only one who once in a while wants nothing more than to be alone.

As antisocial as that sounds I’m one of those people who loves watching a film with a bar of chocolate on a Sunday night on their own. It might stem from my need to do well academically which led to me working alone whenever possible at school, and growing up with a brother who doesn’t necessarily enjoy a chick flick meaning I have grown up being able to entertain myself, but whatever it is it means I’m usually good on my own. Whilst I have enjoyed all the time spent surrounded by people this month last night I decided that enough was enough and being alone occasionally has its benefits. For one, I need a good pamper – paint my nails, pluck my eyebrows and shave my legs – and a good bath is long overdue, just in time for the Great British Bake off – which I’m VERY excited about!

Oh and I managed to finish my cross-stitch – finally!

With this in mind, I did, however, find myself longing for my brother to return, if only to have a buddy to complete my Harry Potter movie marathon with. So moving forward I am going to schedule in enough ‘me time’ to truly enjoy the times spent with others.

Lauren x

Doorstep treaures

Everyone spends the year planning and looking forward to their ‘summer’ holiday but every year they spend the last couple of days on the said holiday them forward to sleeping in their own bed. So why do we repeat this ritual every year? Everyone needs a break from work, and with paid holidays why wouldn’t you take the time off, but people these days seem incapable of doing this without having holidays booked or days out planned before asking for time off. Whilst I love a holiday as much as the next person and often crave foreign trips I believe relaxation CAN happen at home.

With my brother and I both out of the country my parents took a week off work. Now they did spend much of this time sorting out the piles of ‘stuff’ we’ve hoarded and stored in the loft, but the times they did leave the house were unplanned, spontaneous and great fun. They visited stately homes and sites in the local area they had never gotten round to visiting before and have found activities that will be great nights out throughout the rest of the year, such as a candle-lit carol service in reconstructed trenches in memory of World War I.

I myself went on a local adventure; granted it wasn’t local to me but my boyfriend, but we still had a great time. A 15-minute car journey to Cannon Hall Farm (which was dominated by young families!) resulted in an exciting morning looking at the animals, a walk around some lovely grounds, and a very wet adventure in a Maize Maze – definitely recommended! – topped off with lunch and home-made cakes in the cafe. Perfect and right on our (his) doorstep.

First time holding a birdWe finished the Maize Maze!

 

 

 

Who doesn't love pigs?

 

So as the days start to get shorter, the weather gets that little bit cooler and you start to long for an adventure that takes you far away from home and the worries of work consider exploring that local fate, or the safari park you haven’t been to since you were a kid – you might surprise yourself about how much fun you can have.

Lauren x