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Turns out, relocating is hard

July 27, 2017

Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens

Captain Obvious Award of the year goes to me for that title; I’d like to thank myself for being so oblivious to the hassle involved in moving over 270 miles away. 

When we got the news that I’d been accepted into the University of Edinburgh, we found ourselves stressing about this huge list of things we needed to do. We made a start on a good chunk of them and began putting things into place. After we got back from Canada, we headed up to Edinburgh for a few days; Daz got a job and we tried to look at a few flats.

Tried is the key word in that sentence because despite wanting to look at around 10 places, we only saw one. Now, a lot of that is down to our naivety; places go in Edinburgh fast and we thought the best thing to do was to try and book viewings when we were up there, rather than a week or so in advance. The one place we did see, we fell in love with and we’re waiting on references to come back, so hopefully we have somewhere to live!

We’re trying to get things organised but without knowing 100% whether or not we have this place, we can’t change details or do super important stuff like telling Sky to sort our internet out so we can watch Game of Thrones the day it comes out. (You know, important first world stuff.) It feels like living in limbo a little bit.

The biggest surprise by far is how little time we have. Like most people, we get two days off a week (which clearly is not enough time to ever get things done – I want to adopt the Netherlands’ 29-hour work week.) but damn they are flying by. On top of that, we’re trying to organise seeing people before we move, which leaves so little time to get things done, especially as we both work weekends. 

Stress aside, we are very lucky because we have family and friends who offered to help us immediately, which has relieved some of the hassle. These are some of the people we’re going to miss the most and will happily accept into our spare room whenever they can get up to Scotland. 

When we are settled in Edinburgh I might do a blog post on “x dumb things you shouldn’t do when you’re relocating”. I don’t know about anyone else, but as I’ve lived in the same town for almost 25 years, I had no idea what to expect about moving to the other side of town, let alone another country.

Anyway, that’s just a little update on how the Edinburgh situation is going. I will be joyous when I attend my first day of my masters and will breath a huge sigh of relief because things will pretty much all be sorted. (Apart from my degree certificate because the University of Wolverhampton are incapable of doing anything that actually makes any sense to the rest of the educational world.)

Have you ever moved far? How did you find it?

Ethical, Food, Life, Vegan

Dilemma; buying food from companies with unethical parent companies

July 19, 2017

Marmite on toast - buying from companies with unethical parent companies

I am a label reader; when I’m in the shower, in the bath, waiting for something to cook, I’ll be reading the labels on whatever I’m using at the time. A few weeks back, I was reading the label on the back of my beloved Marmite, when I noticed they are owned by Unilever.

According to their website, Unilever own 255 brands globally across the food and drink, home care, and personal care sectors. Some of these brands include: Ben & Jerry’s (who are bringing vegan ice cream to the UK ‘soon’), Marmite, Simple, Dove, Lynx, Vaseline and a whole boat load of brands you might use / eat every day. I don’t buy any hygiene or cosmetic products sold by Unilever because I disagree with animal testing, but seeing ‘Unilever’ on the back of a jar of Marmite stopped me in my tracks.

How do I feel about buying food a company whose parent company test on animals, or I consider to be unethical?

Surprisingly, animal testing is not just limited to cosmetics and cleaning products. I would never associate food products with animal testing (perhaps that is naive on my part) but while I was doing some research for this blog post I discovered that some food products are not cruelty free. In 2013, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) called out Unilever, Nestle, Yakult and Danone for testing food products on animals to allow them to promote health claims.

That absolutely baffled me. Why? Why is that even necessary?

Let’s take a look at the Ben & Jerry’s example too. I love that they have created vegan ice cream and are planning to bring it over to the UK; I want to support companies who are making being vegan easier, because hell knows I find it very hard. I also really want a vegan version of Phish food.

If I choose not to support companies who test cosmetics on animals, doesn’t that mean I should boycott food brands which are tested on animals? Doesn’t it mean it should boycott food brands which might be cruelty free themselves, but are owned by a company who test other food brands or hygiene brands on animals?

On the other hand, I could support cruelty free and vegan companies for doing good, fighting animal testing, and creating tasty vegan food. Some people choose to do this with cosmetics brands, let’s take Urban Decay as an example. Urban Decay are cruelty free but they are owned by L’Oreal who do test on animals. The argument is that it’s good to support companies like Urban Decay because they are cruelty free and maybe, eventually, in some kinda movie-like way, L’Oreal will go “wow, a lot of people support these cruelty free brands we own, so maybe we should quit being dicks to animals.” That would be amazing, but it doesn’t quite sit well with me. I hate the idea that my money might indirectly end up supporting animal testing or supporting companies with unethical practices.

To counter that again, if you try to avoid food, hygiene, or cleaning products with unethical parent companies your weekly shop is about to get a lot harder, involve ordering from goodness knows how many websites and probably more expensive.

I am between a rock and a hard place with this one and would love to hear your thoughts about buying from companies with unethical parent companies.

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Life, University

I did it, I got my first!

July 6, 2017

Dissertation hand in

Last Friday, I got the news I’d been impatiently refreshing my emails for; I have finished my forensic science degree with a first. 

I’m not going to lie, I am pretty proud of myself. I started university about six years ago now and dropped out after a year and a half because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted. After three years out I realised I loved science and applied to go back pretty much exactly two years ago.

It was nerve-wracking taking a pay cut and starting a part-time job but that hasn’t been as hard as I feared. My part-time job introduced me to a group of people who feel like family to me now; I have made friends for life and I hate to think what my life would be like without them.

I have worked hard and I’ve had amazing support from Daz, my friends and family. University is not something you can do on your own, you need a little bit of help, whether it’s someone making dinner when you’re furiously typing away, asking a friend to quiz you for an exam, or trying to explain your ideas or thoughts to someone who doesn’t really know what you’re on about – a different perspective can so often pick up something obvious that you’ve missed. (I tell you, I could have cried when Daz pointed something really obvious out about my dissertation project that I had completely missed.)

By far, the dissertation was the biggest challenge but it taught me so much. That said, I had no idea how I’d done by the time I handed it in and was convinced that because it was a double module I’d sabotaged my shot at a first. You know what it’s like when you spend so long on something and you have no idea if it’s good or a load of rubbish anymore. I am over the moon with a first, and I had no intention of getting anything less than a first when I decided to go back.

Annoyingly, my university doesn’t do graduation until September (I have no idea why) so I won’t actually get to go to graduation. The idea of a graduation ceremony did make me feel pretty nervous but it also felt like a chance to celebrate hard work.

I guess the moral of this story is don’t let yourself hold yourself back; if you want something, go out there and get it. I think there might be a second moral which is; you don’t have to go to university right after 6th form or college, and it might not even be for you anyway – don’t listen to lecturers or teachers who tell you you have to or should go, it’s your life.

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Ethical and sustainable living, Life

Three ways to begin clothes shopping more ethically on a budget

July 5, 2017

hanging clothing rail

Priscilla Du Preez

When I first began researching ethical clothing I was very daunted by the price of ethical clothing. While I wish I could solely buy from and support ethical clothing companies, it would cost me a small fortune – and I don’t even have a miniature fortune. Thankfully, there are other ways to begin shopping more ethically and consciously for less.

The initial surprise we have at the price of ethical clothing is a huge indication of the problem we have with understanding how our clothes are made. The reason we consider ethical clothes to be “expensive” is because ethical clothing companies pay their workers a fair wage. Whereas, that is not the case for cheap clothing we see in supermarkets or high street stores.

I used to primarily shop in Primarni or H&M because I’ve always been able to find something I like there and I’ve never actually had a problem with their clothing being poorly made. I’ve got Primark and H&M clothes in my wardrobe that I’ve had years.

Earlier this year, I began to learn about the impact fast fashion has on the people who make our clothes and the environment, and I was not happy about it at all. I began researching ethical clothing companies and was surprised when I began comparing the prices of things made ethically with things that aren’t. When you see a t-shirt being sold for £6 on the high street and a similar one going for £40, that indicates a serious problem with the fast-fashion system. If you want to learn more about fast-fashion, I highly recommend watching The True Cost. It really opened my eyes and demands we pay attention to the horrible truths we try to ignore.

 

Charity shops

Charity shops are a great place to begin shopping “ethically”. The chances that you will come across something from an ethical brand are incredibly slim but you are preventing a piece of clothing from going to landfill and sitting there for years. Your wallet will thank you kindly, and you’re giving your money to a worthy cause rather than supporting an immoral company. So it’s win-win-win all round.

I do feel like UK charity shops are not quite as awesome as Americans make their thrift stores out to be. I have ventured in all the charity shops in my town many times and the truth is that there is very rarely anything I like (I am particularly fussy, mind). This is always pretty disappointing because you read American bloggers who say “I went to the thrift store and got something I’d been looking for for aaaages”, and I’m thinking “well unless it’s the Twilight Saga (why are they in all charity shops?!) and an ill-fitting sequined dress, our charity shops are not as awesome as yours”. Americans, are your charity shops also filled with the Twilight saga and dresses that resemble 1920s lampshades?

Maybe it’s just my town. I don’t know. However, we do have a “charity superstore” which receives donations from high street retailers / supermarkets of clothes that might be missing a button, are slightly damaged, or are end of season. The place is amazing and it is always packed; you go in that place on a Saturday morning and it’s like Black Friday all over again.

It actually reminds me of the scene on Friends where Monica, Phoebe and Rachel go wedding dress shopping. Despite the terror of going in there when it’s busy, you can often find exactly what you’re looking for there.

 

eBay / other resale sites are available

It took me a while to dip my toes in eBay and it turned out to be some kind of quicksand because if I need something, my first port of call is now eBay. I am also trying to sell anything I don’t want or need anymore on eBay as well. I think I’m addicted, someone help.

It’s much easier to find exactly what you want, you might even be able to find ethical clothing on here too, it’s cheaper, and you can do it in your dressing gown while eating a pizza (which is probably frowned upon in charity stores).

There are of course other websites, such as Shpock (that advert annoys me a lot), DePop, GumTree, etc.

 

Clothing swaps

This is something my sister has been doing for years. That girl buys a lot of clothes, but guess who gets to inherit that stuff? Me. Whenever she has a clearout she offers her family and friends first pick before sending things to the charity shop. (I suspect this might be the reason charity shops in my town are full of things I don’t want.)

I have, over the years, gained some brilliant things from her; Adidas trainers that were in perfect nick and a barely worn comfy a-f gilet are my favourites.

If you’re due a clearout, why not encourage family or friends to do the same and then you can sift through each others stuff, have a swap and then donate what’s left over.

 

This list is definitely not exhaustive but for me it was about changing habit, because I’ve grown up with fast-fashion, and these three things were the easiest ways for me to change. As well as shopping more consciously, saving money, and supporting good causes, it can be a nice way to find unique items of clothing. It’s also worth shopping your own wardrobe from to time to time because you might find something you forgot you had.

 

I want to talk about your shopping habits; do you shop consciously? Do you have anything to add to my list?

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Life

My summer to do list

June 8, 2017

Pastel sunset sky

Daz and I could barely believe our eyes when we saw this at work a couple of weeks ago.

With my last exam over, and daily refreshing of the results page in full swing, I find myself faced with what might be the last summer break I have. 

Minimise

For years I have loved the idea of being a minimalist but it wasn’t until I moved in with Daz that I realised I had a lot of things I just didn’t need. I have zero plans of taking things I don’t need to Edinburgh with me so one of my main missions this summer is to donate or sell things I don’t use or need. My bookshelf has already taken a battering (I never thought I would say that) but I have a lot of books that I honestly won’t ever read to start with or won’t read again. I have discovered and become a little obsessed with eBay; though I do hate the trips to the Post Office, which I’m pretty certain is actually inside a sauna not at the back of my local WH Smiths.

 

Read more

University made reading for leisure pretty hard. I’m not going to lie, I actually do enjoy reading journal articles about the chemical composition of soil in and around gravesites but it’s not quite as relaxing as reading Harry Potter. Plus, your friends look at you a little odd when the answer to “what did you do last night” is “read about how nitrogen levels in soil changes when bodies decompose in it.” It’s a touch darker than “watched Orange is the New Black.”

 

Exercise more

At the beginning of the year I really got into hot yoga, and my back loves it, but my work schedule at the moment makes it really hard for me to go, unless I want to get up at 7am and I just don’t. I’m trying to get into the habit of practicing yoga at home and want to get out and go for pokemon walks walks more often. That last one really isn’t hard since we live so close to a forest.

 

Spend more time with friends

When you’re at school, you don’t even have to try to spend time with your friends. And then, all of a sudden, meeting up with your best friends requires military planning. Since I’m really going to struggle to see my friends regularly while we’re in Edinburgh, I want to make as much effort as possible to spend time making delicious cake and playing Pokemon Monopoly (it’s so much fun by the way) and Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit.

 

What are your plans for this summer?

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Life, University

I finished university!

May 18, 2017

I finished university

On Tuesday, I sat my final undergraduate exam (providing I haven’t miserably failed and have to resit, of course), which means I have completed my undergraduate degree.

I remember writing a post a couple of years back about me starting back at university and I can’t believe how fast those two years have gone. I’ve worked damn hard, racked up some government funded student debt (woop!), and I have everything crossed for a first. I will be truly gutted if I get anything less than a first.

At the moment, I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I am relieved to be able to let my brain relax for a little while, for sure, but I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I think part of that is because I am refusing to get excited until I see my dissertation results, and also because I can’t go to graduation. For some reason, my university does graduation in September which is of absolutely no use to anyone who is going on to further education elsewhere. I have no idea why, most other universities manage to hold graduation in July.

It feels almost surreal to look back on where I was two years ago; I was still working in marketing and had decided I needed to be out of it by the end of the year and wanted to go back to university. I was really nervous about applying to go back to university and was worried a university wouldn’t want to accept me because I’d dropped out after a year and a half. (Jokes, they just want your money ;).) I’m so glad that I took a deep breath and went for it because I love where I am right now.

This summer is shaping up to be a hectic one, but not before a much needed getaway for Daz and I. We’re both looking forward to escaping to campfires, cooking under the stars, falling in love with and dragging ourselves up mountains.

How’s life?

Life, Scotland, University

We’re moving to Edinburgh!

April 27, 2017

View over Edinburgh from Edinburgh castle

Last week, we got the news we’d be waiting on since the start of February; the University of Edinburgh made me an offer on the best masters course I’d found.

I cannot tell you how many times I have refreshed my emails over the past two months, or how many times I’ve logged into their applicant hub hoping to see an update. The stress and hassle of my current university who don’t seem to understand what an interim transcript is and my tutor and I having to make one because they’re so useless. The anxiety Daz and I have had, stressing about how close it was getting and all the things we need to do and we still don’t have a decision. It was all lifted. I could have cried; but I didn’t because I am not human.

Well, I say the stress was lifted. It was and it was quickly replaced with a load more stress and things that need sorting.

Daz and I spent a few days in Edinburgh towards the end of last year when they had a postgraduate open day and we both fell in love with the place. I love Scotland, I love Edinburgh and the university was everything I thought it would be and more. Some of the buildings look like they’re straight out of Hogwarts; which I guess they kinda are since J. K. Rowling was living in Edinburgh when she started writing the books.

View of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

The course is my dream course. Friends and family kept asking me if I’d applied anywhere else and I kept saying “no, because no where else does a course that is anywhere like this one. I have to get in because everything else seems pointless in comparison.” It was, of course, the most expensive course I could have applied for but the way I see it is that it would have been a waste of money doing a cheaper course because it wouldn’t get me where I want to be. The optional modules are all so exciting and I CAN DO A MODULE ON FORESTS! I cannot tell you how excited I am for that. I love forests.

Having lived in my hometown all my life, I’ve visited places and yearned to experience what it would be like to live somewhere else. Especially somewhere so fancy-looking, I mean Edinburgh has a huge castle on a hill (Ed Sheeran?) that is always in the corner of your eyes. What I also like about Edinburgh is that it isn’t so busy that it overwhelms me and stresses me out; though I’m told it will be completely different when the Fringe Festival is on.

I’m looking forward to living somewhere new but I am very comfortable where I am, as is Daz. The thing I am most nervous about is leaving my current job and finding a new one. I love the people I work with, it’s like a family. I am worried that wherever I end up working in Scotland (Hard Rock Cafe, I’m coming for you…goals) won’t feel quite the same.

Of course I will also miss my family and friends. There are plenty of ways for us to keep in touch though, and none of them appear remotely unhappy about the prospect of visiting us in Edinburgh.

It’s a really exciting next chapter that seems full of a lot of unknowns at the moment but I’m sure things will become clearer over the next few months. We’re also both seriously excited about getting to explore Scotland on our days off because it is all kinds of beautiful.

It sure is a weight off.

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Life

Hard times, gonna make you wonder why you even try

April 20, 2017

Waves at Llangrannog

I’m pretty sure most bloggers can relate to feeling like they’ve got nothing to say and the frustration you feel because you  enjoy blogging and you want to say something, but have no idea what. 

A few weeks ago, I was feeling really positive and had a load of ideas but this week I find myself wondering what I have to say at the moment. I know it’s a temporary feeling that will pass with time; I’m just frustrated by a situation I’m seeing a close family member go through and a load of anxiety and nerves brought on by masters applications and waiting and waiting and waiting. It feels a little bit like living in limbo; if we are moving away, we need to know so we can prepare because August is not that far away really, and if not I need to figure out what to do next.

I feel like this is all a load of pointless rambling but it helps to get it down or to talk about it sometimes. What has been helping a lot though is Paramore’s new single Hard Times. I am hooked on it; it makes me want to dance badly in my car, which I promise I will not actually do.

For me, the lyrics have come at the right time; it’s kind of a variation on “this too shall pass”.

How is life with you right now?