Wednesday, 24 December 2014

2014 in Review

Earlier this week I saw a cool blog post on Into Mind, entitled ‘Your Year in Review: 50 Questions To Help You Reflect, Appreciate and Get Excited For 2015’. The questions are thought-provoking and made me question what I really want out of next year, as well as what I could realistically achieve, but also what I’ve learnt from 2014.
Of the 7 goals I set for myself this year, I actually achieved most of them – although I didn’t beat my 2012 time, I did run Basingstoke half marathon again. I haven’t dyed my hair since November 2013. Maxx and I went to Berlin in June. My French is improving incrementally, but this is something to continuing working on next year. I did get a permanent career job in publishing in May, but finally realised I should be a teacher so left after 5 months. Ernest and I went to one showjumping event this year – I fell off in the warm up and did a very ‘interesting’ round of jumps after that. The one goal I didn’t achieve was getting to 18% body fat. I’m not going to dwell on that though, as I am so bored of the phrase ‘body fat’ by now that you must be too.
Anyway, the first 40 questions from Into Mind are as follows (the final 10 will come in another post):
1. What one event, big or small, are you going to tell your grandchildren about?
That I held a tarantula. This will come up in more detail in a later question.

2. If you had to describe your 2014 in 3 words, what would they be?
Busy, emotional, fun.

3. What new things did you discover about yourself?
I can do a lot more - physically - than I thought I could.

4. What single achievement are you most proud of?
Running the half marathon without walking (well, I did for 30 seconds but apparently that doesn’t count) and raising over £400 for Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare.

5.What was the best news you received?
One of my oldest friends had a baby this year, whom I met on my birthday; that was really special. Another of my friends got engaged. My mum was told by her Master’s supervisor to enter her dissertation for a prize awarded by BALEAP (The British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes) – she doesn’t have the result yet, but to be good enough to enter was really exciting as this is a globally recognised association. I’m proud of you Mindy!

6. What was your favourite place that you visited in 2014?
Potsdam, Germany.

7. Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?
Organisation. At one point I was teaching at the Uni, teaching in the evening, studying on two courses and, of course, riding as many times a week as I could.

8. Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on?
Maxx. Poor man.

9. Which new skills did you learn?
I learnt so many new skills on my CELTA course, such as how to do a thorough needs analysis and how to plan lessons (properly, with stages and everything). I also mastered how to make a great frittata.

10. What, or who, are you most thankful for?
My family – this includes pets, of course – and friends. I have the best group of friends I’ve ever had.

11. If someone wrote a book about your life in 2014, what kind of genre would it be? A comedy, love story, drama, film noir or something else?
A dramatic comedy? Does that exist? There were some funny moments but also some less than pleasant ones.

12. What was the most important lesson you learnt in 2014?
Know when to get involved and when to keep out of someone’s business.

13. Which mental block(s) did you overcome?
I haven’t overcome my fear of spiders but holding a tarantula at Longleat Safari Park certainly helped. I was petrified – shaking and tearful etc, but it was revelatory in a strange way. I never thought I could do it, but just decided in that moment that I was going to.

14. What 5 people did you most enjoy spending time with?
I don’t think I can answer that. I’ve spent a lot of quality time with my family this year, and gotten closer to my cousins as a result.

15. What was your biggest break-through moment career-wise?
Well, this can be in two parts. It was really exciting and somewhat relieving to finally get a job in publishing, but it also showed me that my passion actually lay in teaching. Becoming a self-employed language teacher was also rewarding and a little scary – self-employed at 23!

16. How did your relationship to your family evolve?
My brother and I became a lot closer this year. We text, Viber, Facebook and Snapchat all the time now and I’m so, so happy. He’s such a big goof.

17. What book or movie affected your life in a profound way?
Anna Karenina portrays mental illness in an enlightening way – her transformation from a mysterious, vibrant woman to bitter, rejected lover was alarming. She wasn’t entirely likeable by the end of the novel, but the depiction of how depression can alter someone was truthful.

18. What was your favourite compliment that you received this year?
“You’ll make a cracking teacher, you have the goth edge to warrant interest, strict when necessary and silly when appropriate. You’re like if Doctor Who, Professor McGonagall and Sherlock Holmes had a tri-parent baby.” 

19. What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?
Washing my hair was more enjoyable as I didn’t worry about the colour fading.

20. What cool things did you create this year?
I made my grandparents a calendar, mostly using pictures from when we went away as a family earlier this year. They love it.

21. What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?
There were lots of different things to be stressed about, such as starting and leaving a career, studying, becoming self-employed etc. But there was a lot of contentedness too - passing my CELTA, competing again, spending time with family.

22. Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year?
Holding a tarantula, going on a rollercoaster – Air at Alton Towers, and going bouldering. All of those involved fear!

23. What was your favourite moment spent with your friends?
Going to Longleat with the other members of the Fantastic Four (Maxx, Becky, Andy). It was a brilliant day out and really fun being squashed in my car, driving round the safari.

24. What major goal did you lay the foundations for?
Training to be a teacher. I had a TEFL, but now I’ve got a CELTA and a lot more experience with different nationalities and programmes of study. I’m also doing a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PGCLTHE), which will be helpful when applying for University lecturer roles (although I need a Masters as well).

25. Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?
It sounds stupid, but when I gained body fat I thought I'd never lose it and I'd be unhappy with my appearance forever. I've since lost bf again and am just being more balanced with my diet.

26. What experience would you love to do all over again?
The whole Longleat day out and the Berlin holiday.

27. What was the best gift you received?
Having all my family with me. I’m extremely lucky to still have 4 grandparents.

28. How did your overall outlook on life evolve?
I don't think my outlook has completely evolved, but I'm learning that it's OK to not do 500 things in a day and to not beat myself up when I'm too tired to finish everything. I'm starting to be more realistic about what I can, and should, achieve.

29. What was the biggest problem you solved?
Deciding which career I really should be doing. I wanted to work in publishing for so long, it was hard to admit that perhaps it wasn't the right thing for me after all.

30. What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it?
When the camels surrounded us at Longleat and stole the plastic bee off my car aerial, or watching Becky dismount Ernest. I think it was the accompanying noise as she fell.

31. What purchase turned out to be the best decision ever?
Although I reeeeally like my new blouse from M&S, I think I’ll have to go with my CELTA and PGCLTHE courses.

32. What one thing would you do differently and why?
I don't think I could react any differently to my Aunt and Uncle splitting up, but I would have tried to accept it sooner.

33. What do you deserve a pat on the back for?
Running the half marathon.

34. What activities made you lose track of time?
Riding and hanging out with the Fantastic Four.

35. What did you think about more than anything else?
My Aunt and Uncle, Ernest, losing weight/body fat. Personally I find the latter a bit sad…

36. What topics did you most enjoy learning about?
I've learnt more about the Plantagenet dynasty this year through reading for pleasure (yep, I’m a nerd); that was interesting.

37. What new habits did you cultivate?
After a ridiculously busy November, I've tried to fit less into my day / week. This is definitely something to work on in 2015.

38. What advice would you give your early-2014 self if you could?
Hmmm...  don't take on too much and accept that you can't control everything.

39. Did any parts of your self or your life do a complete 180 this year?
Yes - my Aunt and Uncle split up. I used to stay at theirs every week, all through school and college, and I went on holiday with them. I was a bridesmaid at their wedding. It’s been utterly crap, not only because of the emotional fallout, but losing someone I was really close to and who was a really important part of my life both as a child and adult. Sometimes I still can’t believe it.

40. What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?
Hmmmm… training to be a teacher or becoming self-employed.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Countdown to Christmas II

In my first Countdown to Christmas post, I mentioned I was doing Lee Labrada's 12-week Lean Body regime. I was enjoying this programme, however I've been ill the last 2 weeks with a stomach bug then a cough and cold so haven't worked out much.

This is frustrating as I've had more time to exercise since finishing teaching and finishing my CELTA. That said, I haven't wasted the time - Ernest and I have been on some long, relaxing hacks which have really helped me feel less fuggy and gross. Yesterday was so bright I thought I was going blind! 

As I've said before, when I don't have time or don't have a lot of energy, I'll always choose to ride over other forms of exercise. I've really enjoyed spending time with Ernest, on the ground and riding, and the long rides have genuinely made me feel fresher.

So, as a result of the last couple of weeks, I probably won't reach my January goal of 19%. I'm still hoping for a loss though, even if it's just 20.5% down from 21.39%. I said I didn't want to stuff myself, which I haven't, but I have struggled to eat healthily. Perhaps that's from feeling crappy, perhaps that's just an excuse! Either way, I'm bringing some workout clothes and my trainers to France so I can do some exercise while we're away for Christmas.

I've also been tidying this past month. Now, anyone who knows me knows I'm messy and find tidying very boring. But things were starting to get out of hand - my stuff was everywhere, all over the house. In piles, in bags, on chairs etc - and if I didn't feel up to lifting heavy things, I could at least sort my stuff out.

I took 5 bags to charity, found 8 old mobile phones, put all my teaching books on the shelf and finally found Ernest's passport (in my room all along - major stress over). It's therapeutic, and now I feel organised and ready for next year's teaching and studying!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Leibster Blog Award Nomination

My wonderful BFF Becky nominated me for a blog award! The Leibster Award is for up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.

The rules are:
- Link back to the blog who nominated you.
- Answer all of their questions.
- Write 11 facts about yourself.
- Link 11 blogs with less than 200 followers and tell them you've nominated them.
- Ask 11 facts for the blogs you nominate to answer.

Becky’s questions:
If you could live in any book universe, where would you choose?
Hmm. I read a lot of historical fiction, when women weren’t exactly highly thought of. I love gothic novels but am a wuss. I think I’ll have to go with Harry P or Discworld.

What is the oddest term of endearment you have used for someone, or someone has used for you?
Maxx and I call each other ‘baby goose’. Or papoose (that weird wrap thing you carry a newborn baby in).

Snap Question: Zombie apocalypse! First weapon that comes to mind?
Aaaah! Sod the weapon, I’m running away from that freaky non-dead sh*t.

If you were a vegetable, what would you be and why?
Carrot. Orange, easy to peel, favourited by Ernest, delicious raw or cooked.

Do you have any tips / tricks to posting regularly?
The easiest thing was when I started having regular or semi-regular posts, such as ‘Pony Tales’ and ‘New PT Workout’. And not worrying too much about what you’re writing - you’re blog might not follow a theme or category, but it’s your blog, so you can write whatever you want!

What is your family's most important Christmas tradition? (Or holiday tradition if you don't celebrate Christmas)
Dinner being at ‘1’ – read, 2 or 2.30. The Yorkshire puddings always come last, not on purpose, they’re just never done on time.

Do you have an outfit/item of clothing that you have owned for a long time, but never/rarely wear? if yes, what is it?
I have a £295 crimson and cream silk corset in a bag in my wardrobe; I’ve worn it 3 times since 2006. I never found a skirt that would go with it, which is a shame as it’s absolutely beautiful – especially now I have a chest which fills out the top!

State a favourite character. Now explain what underwear you think they would wear?
I read Ken Follet’s World Without End earlier this year (utterly brilliant) and thought Caris, one of the main female characters, was a forward-thinking, brave, intelligent woman. As the book is set in the 13th century, I imagine she wouldn’t wear pants. Did they wear pants in the 13th century? Maybe hose or something like that.

If you could add 1 hour to your day, what would you do with it?
I would have the most glorious and guilt free nap.

10. What do you want to achieve by the end of 2014?
Well, earlier this year I set myself some targets. Some I reached, some I didn’t, some I reached then changed (publishing job). So really I’d just like to enjoy this restful period, get some lesson planning done for January, do some more of my portfolio for my PGCLTHE, ride a lot, go to the gym a lot, see my family.

11. If you could be any Harry Potter character, who would you be?
McGonagall is clearly a badass. She’s strong, intelligent, powerful, brave, played by Dame Maggie Smith, and just the coolest. So her.

My 11 facts:
  1. I have a strawberry roan pony named Ernest – hence the blog name
  2. I have Ernest’s portrait tattooed on my left thigh
  3. My boyfriend is French
  4. Greyhounds are my favourite breed of dog
  5. But giraffes are my favourite animal
  6. I am scared of spiders
  7. I have IBS and lactose intolerance – but cheese and chocolate are 2 great joys in my life
  8. My favourite colour is royal purple or black or dark blue or dark green
  9. My favourite food is pancakes
  10. By the age of 18, I had 33 piercings – I once got 4 in a week (second holes in lobes, septum, belly button)
  11. I’ve wanted to be an author since I could say the word
My nominations:
Giraffes Can Bake

My 11 questions:
  1. If you could change any event in world history, what would it be?
  2. What's your favourite exotic animal?
  3. What would you choose: the ability to fly or the ability to stop time?
  4. If you could be invisible for the day, what would you do?
  5. What's your favourite Harry Potter book?
  6. If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?
  7. What do you like most about blogging?
  8. If you could bring any animal back from extinction, which animal would you choose?
  9. If you could be world champion at any sport, which sport would you choose?
  10. What is the main thing you would like to achieve in 2015?
  11. What is your proudest moment of 2014 (so far)?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

I went Bouldering!

Today, I went bouldering with my cousin. I thought we were going rock climbing, with ropes and hats and people watching to ensure all was safe - but I was wrong. Bouldering is similar to rock climbing but without the hats and ropes - it's curiously primitive, scaling walls and jumping back down, and is one of the hardest activities for your forearms!

At first, I was a complete wuss. I was scared! More scared than I thought I'd be. I'd start to climb, with plenty of direction and encouragement from Cousin P and his friend, but then freak out about being 'high up' (suffice to say I wasn't high up) and have to come back down. A couple of times I ended up dangling and just couldn't let go, so Cousin P and friend lowered me back down. 

Cousin P taking on the wall
The thought of falling really frightened me, possibly more than the height, but after about 30 minutes I was trying harder and taking the boys' advice on how to move up the wall. I'd started to enjoy it by this point and didn't feel silly as the boys were really patient - my cousin is a good teacher! He made me feel good about going a little bit higher each time, so it made me want to get all the way up the next time.

This is unlike any other sport I've done before. I was out of my comfort zone, but exhilarated when I managed to complete a climb - or 'problem', as they're known in the bouldering world, although the level I did was more solution than problem. In terms of a workout, this certainly tested my ability to pull myself up and grip with my fingers, and I can already feel the ache in my arms.

I'm excited to go again!