Thursday, 31 July 2014

Vegetarian State of Mind

I've been trying to find a decent food photo for this blog on my phone for the past five minutes, but seemingly all I ever photograph is cake. Oh well, let's agree to use our imaginations.

I embarked on my vegetarian voyage in late January so I've been going strong for six months now. Okay, I've slipped up a few times because the Willy Wonkas of the world seem to find it impossible to make sweets without using gelatine. *shakes fist* Aside from that, I've remained on the straight and narrow. (Straight and marrow...?)

I grew up with a vegetarian mother and a father who will eat pretty much anything. I ended up quite firmly in the middle, before cutting out more and more meats throughout my teenage years until I ended up only eating chicken and turkey at about 16/17. I had two very straightforward reasons for not ditching the goujons:

#1: I really love chicken.
#2: I was already underweight; how could I cut out the only protein I get?

These are not so much reasons as excuses, and they were both undone by the one and only Joaquin Phoenix. Yes, Joaquin Phoenix. An incredible actor who's also a massive vegan. He narrated a documentary called Earthlings which I stumbled upon during a tearful Blackfish/The Cove marathon in January. I'm not sure I'd recommend it unless you need to be shocked into vegetarianism, and I haven't done any research into its facts and figures (which are all US-based, anyway.) But it worked for me and I took my baby steps into a life without chicken.

Chickpeas. Chickpeas are so underrated. A cup of chickpeas has 39 grams of protein. CHICKPEAS. Chickpeas have been there for me a lot over the past half-year, if you hadn't guessed.

Other things I eat a lot of: pasta, broccoli, chocolate, potatoes, couscous, vegetarian sausages, chocolate, eggs, bread, ice cream, whatever the cheapest thing in Sainsburys vegetarian freezer is...

Vegetarianism has been relatively easy. It turns out that when you tell people you're a vegetarian, refraining from eating complimentary chicken wings is not that difficult. And you know what? I've actually gained a tiny bit of weight. I owe it all to the chickpeas.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Adventures in Gambling

On my sixteenth birthday, I marched into my local village shop (well, as much of a march as a girl can do without getting mud from her wellies everywhere) and handed £1 to the shopkeeper, requesting one Lucky Dip for the lottery. Doing the lottery was never going to become a habit of mine, but I figured it didn't need to because I could feel that I was going to win that first time. I could see the newspaper headlines: 'Teen Cashes In On First Ever Lotto!!!'

Of course I didn't win the lottery that weekend. And I know it's ridiculous and naive, but occasionally I'll still get a little niggling feeling when I'm standing in a checkout line, and end up buying a scratch card or a ticket for the EuroMillions. And I've never won so much as a tenner, but you have to admit there's a certain buzz that comes with the anticipation of some completely undeserved cash, and I can kill hours in my overactive imagination figuring out exactly how I'll spend my winnings.

My dad and older brothers are moderate gamblers when it comes to sports, and on my visits home it's pretty common to find a grown man shouting at a television. I've never felt any desire to join them; partly because I don't know anything about sports, but mainly because I am really stingy about money and not much of a risk-taker.

But then the World Cup happened.

And suddenly it's not just my football loving family who's placing bets, but it's my spouse and my closest friends. And hey, I managed to shake off the peer pressure for drinking and smoking, so I think I'm allowed a two week vice every four years.

So here's what happened: I opened an account with a popular betting website, and I deposited £5 into my 'wallet'. [Reminder to all: if you ever want financial help from a bank, chances are they won't give you one if they see you depositing money into a betting site on a frequent basis. Just so you know!]
I promised myself that this £5 was all I'd allow myself to play with, and when it was gone, I was done. And when the World Cup ended, I was also done. Forever.

It's probably worth saying at this point that I know nothing about football. But I got weirdly into checking the pundit's predictions for each match before I spread out my modest pennies, and for the first time in my life, 90 minutes of sport sailed by in an ~almost~ enjoyable manner. I began to shout at players who weren't pulling their weight. 'Stop diving!' became a commonly-used phrase, as did 'What are you doing!?'

By the end of my first night, my balance was at £5.70 or so. By then I had decided that this is how I will make my million. I would turn this £5 into thousands. It was my own little American Dream.

It lasted a day. The blame lies with Greece, Uruguay, and many others. I also have to admit I wanted to see if virtual arcade games were easier than real life ones. They're not. I lost £1.

So as this final week drew to a close, I found myself dangerously close to zero, and feared I wouldn't even be able to go out with a bang, or a bet, as the case is. Thankfully the Netherlands brought my humble balance up to a respectable £0.68 which I have placed in its entirety on Germany.

If Germany wins tonight, I'll be checking out of my account with a little less than £2.

In a way, I'm glad I'm walking away having lost money, because it reaffirms my doubts about gambling, and I'll not be tempted to continue placing little bets here and there, because you tend to forget that it's real money when you're online, and I think that's a little dangerous when your bank balance looks like mine does!

Overall, though, nothing ventured nothing gained. Everything in moderation. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Yours, cliché loving and money losing,

Monday, 7 July 2014

Conquering July

This blog is situated somewhere between two videos uploaded yesterday- meowitslucy's 'I'm a Mess' and Bethshake's video on Emily Diana Ruth's channel for her 'Letters to July' series (which I love).

Bethany is about to go to university, Lucy just finished her first year and I have just finished my second year, so it's unsurprising that I nodded along, relating to both videos. The common theme is wanting to use July to be productive and creative, and knowing that this free time is precious but somehow sleeping the month away anyway.

July is a weird month because you can see the free time and potential laid out in front of you like never before, but the temptation to sleep through it because of June's stress is just too much. If you haven't salvaged your summer by August, it's far too late - everyone knows that time actually moves quicker in August. I used to dread my late August birthday as a child for this very reason. School was within my grasp.

This year, I'm spending July in a part-time job that takes up my weekday mornings and early afternoons. And I'm still working in social media for a few hours in the evenings. In fact, my schedule is fuller than it ever is when I'm in university... Go English degrees. I've had two goals for this summer:

- Have an answer to the 'what did you do this summer?' question.
- Earn some money. 

Both were equally challenging. Summer jobs for students are so hard to come by, and even when you manage to get one and you're drifting along at minimum wage, all you can think about is how you're not getting any 'relevant work experience' and an unpaid internship may have been a better choice. 

As for the doing stuff part, like both aforementioned videos, to me this mostly means doing something creative: making proof that I was here. I suppose this partly explains the Scribbles album, the return to blogging, the upcoming daily videos in August, the frequent library trips and the local excursions that have me feeling like a tourist right here.

I'm no longer accustomed to having summer holidays; my first part-time job began when I was 12 and it took up every summer in its entirety until I moved to Belfast aged 19. This time last year saw me with three and a half months of nothingness sitting right in the middle of my calendar. This time next year will see me *hopefully* graduating and then probably fleeing the country for a few months.

So, July 2014, I am resting a lot of hopes on you. Perhaps I'm putting too much pressure on you. I'm attempting to squeeze every drop out of you whilst counting down your days because your closing sees a holiday and a return to London and being reunited with the faraway friends. So really, July, you're just like every other month: I try to make the most of you then end up doing what I always do - looking forward, looking right past you.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Everybody Hates Icebreakers

In case you've never been in any social situation, ever, allow me to explain what icebreakers are. They are group exercises to allow strangers to get to know each other and feel comfortable. And they are awful. The only purpose an icebreaker has ever served in my life is making me feel part of a group who are unanimous in hating icebreakers.

With that said, let me welcome you to my blog. I've had this URL since 2010 and it's time we blew the cobwebs off. But first, I have to allow you to get to know me and feel comfortable here in the only way I know how.

Dear Google, may I please have the most common icebreaker questions for getting to know someone? Thanks.

- If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
I think I'd be a cat. The whole eating a lot and sleeping a lot but then WOW look at that leaf I am going to HAVE SO MUCH FUN with this leaf then back to eating and sleeping is pretty much how my days are structured.

If you were to be on any reality TV show, which would it be and why?
I'm beginning to see a pattern of 'and why' here. It'd be 'Strictly Come Dancing' or something where you come out with a skill you didn't have before. (I'm really bad at dancing)

- What punctuation mark best describes your personality? Why?
Really? Do people actually use these questions or are we all just playing along at this stage. Anyway, I suppose it would have to be the comma. Commas look kind of introverted but they always have something else to say.

- What event do you remember most fondly from high school?
Weirdly, the things that pop into my head aren't achievements or moments of personal growth or anything of the sort. They're the most ridiculous 'had to be there' moments like when my whole class started a revolution in my second year French class and made 'SAVE THE TREES' badges out of paper and wore them for a whole day. Or when my best friend and I rapped three pages of our maths textbook and recorded it at a whisper on her old Samsung.

Do you see those floating shards of ice? Do you?

Now that the awkward introductions are over, I can officially welcome you to my blog. Here I'll be sharing thoughts about life and documenting the ridiculous 'had to be there' moments.

Thanks for reading,