Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Colchester Zoo

 As it was the last bank holiday weekend of the year this weekend, Dan and I decided it was high time to head back to Colchester Zoo. We haven't been together for three years now, ever since the first time Dan came to visit in the first year of uni! Colchester Zoo has been voted the second best zoo in England, and I can completely understand why. It's massive, they have a huge range of animals and I can really sense that they care about conservation too!

We were the crafty ones, heading straight to the back of the zoo as soon as we arrived. It was crazy, because we were basically the only ones there for a good half an hour. We saw so many animals in that first two hours including a Cheetah, Hogs, Pigs, Elephants, Giraffes and even goats! I loved the fact that they have really exotic animals mixed in with ones that come from a bit closer to home. We got the chance to have a "walk through" experience with the wallabies and the goats which was so cool. It was nice to stroke the animals, and learn a bit more about them!

Colchester Zoo includes a lot of information about the animals, in a very interesting way. Sometimes when you go to attractions, there is a lot of text and information. However, Colchester include the most interesting facts about each animal - you learn a lot because you don't feel the pressure to read paragraphs about each animal! They stuck to a theme - where did the animal originate, what type of food did they eat, and also are they extinct? I really liked that there was a huge focus on conservation.

Whilst we were there, we went to one of the animal encounters - for the Amur Leopard! They are such beautiful animals, and it was so amazing to see them being fed. One of the main focuses of this talk was again conservation. We learnt that there are about 75 of these gorgeous animals in the wild - and that they were hoping to breed some leopards in the zoo itself. Between opening time, and 2pm, the male and female enclosures were "open" to one another. There is only a mesh material separating them, which gives them a chance to get to know one another. Once the zoo staff think that they are ready, the two leopards will be given a chance to breed, with the eventual aim of them being released back into the wild.

The highlight of the day for me though was definitely feeding the Giraffes! I've never done anything like this before, probably because I have been too nervous - but this was so cool. Whilst it was really busy, I didn't feel too pressured to feed the Giraffe and run. They are such magical animals, and so pretty too. I'm so pleased I decided to feed one!

We had such an excellent day at the zoo, and we've promised each other not to leave it as long again! You can actually get your tickets with Tesco Club card for only £7.50 in vouchers, instead of paying the full price which I believe is £22.99 - an absolute bargain!

Have you ever been to Colchester Zoo?

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Why I Include My Blog On My CV

 Blogging is something that I've had on my CV ever since I started Suitcase and Sandals back in 2014. I've seen a bit of debate about this on twitter on occasion, and as I feel quite strongly about me personally including my blog on my CV, I thought that there was no better way to included my views about it than to write a blog post.

Unrelated, but very pretty picture!

The job market is always changing, and getting more and more competitive as the years go by. Standing out is becoming harder, and keeping your CV up to date is getting increasingly important. I always update mine even though I am in a good and stable job. It is the best way to showcase what you have to offer. I'm absolutely not an expert in this but I do think including your blog on your CV makes you stand out for a number of different reasons.

If you include your blog as an interest, it shows that you do something with your spare time. My other hobbies - such as reading - can be viewed as pretty generic answers. I've always tried to find something to included on my CV that makes me stand out, and including blogging as an interest is certainly something different to add to your interest section on your CV.

However, I actually included my blog as experience too. There are a number of reasons why I do this.
  • Writing is a skill that is hugely transferable. It is useful in many different fields: whether you are preparing a report for your boss, or simply writing an email to a colleague. If you have good grammar, and an excellent way with words, this will be very appealing.
  • Time management is a HUGE part of blogging. It is something you can include on your CV and then provide more information on during an interview or discussion with your employer. 
  • In 2016, being competent in social media is a huge draw for employers. If you know a little bit about SEO, and how to run social media accounts, it is likely to look very good. You can help the company keep up with modern technologies!
I definitely thinking having my blog on my CV has generated good and interesting conversation within the sphere of the working world. It makes me even more determined to keep my little blog alive because not only do I love it, it's beneficial for my career too. Even if it doesn't get you the job, in my opinion it definitely shows that you are a hard worker, and that you do something interesting in your free time!

Do you include your blog on your CV? Why/Why Not?

Wednesday, 24 August 2016


 After booking tickets so far in advance, the weekend of V finally came around. I've never been before despite it only being an hour away from my sleepy village, so I was really excited to finally be experiencing the festival - and with it being it's 21st year I knew I was in for a treat! My sister, her best friend and I were all heading off to Chelmsford hoping we'd see a few familiar faces along the way...

It was my first real experience of a festival, and whilst I was quite anxious in the week coming up to it, I actually really enjoyed myself! The drinks were flowing by 11.30am which in hindsight was probably not the best idea ever, but it definitely meant that the day was stress free - even despite me losing our tickets within 2 minutes of arriving which is so unlike me. We headed in, and met up with Mary, my friend from uni!

Throughout the day we saw so many amazing acts - Zara Larsson, Bastille and Sia were just a few of the highlights! I loved that there were lots of different stages, as it made the whole event seem much less busy...always ideal. Sia was especially good, and I loved the fact that she sang "Diamonds" by Rihanna too, as she apparently wrote it!

Justin Bieber was of course excellent, but I was disappointed by the noise levels. For the quieter songs it was hard to hear what he was singing, and I have absolutely no clue what he said between songs either - it was a real shame as many people were excited to hear him sing. Which is definitely debatable too, his voice did seem very "polished" for it being live.But it's hard to complain when you are hearing all the hits - from "Baby" to "Cold Water" - Belieber since day one!

I'm so pleased I decided to go to V! It was such a great day, and I definitely regretting not booking Monday off so I could experience both days - at least I know for next year...I loved being out in the good old English weather enjoying a festival only an hour away from my doorstep! On another note, it was also so much fun to get dressed up - I wore my hair in space buns and sprinkled glitter everywhere, it was great!

Have you ever been to V festival?

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Reading | Out of My Comfort Zone

 I've always been an avid reader. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are focused around books and reading, and it's something I do to relax and escape. During university I found myself getting drawn to the same type of book over and over again. Despite there being nothing wrong with doing this, I wanted to challenge myself and read some books which were a little different to the chick-lit I usually favour. I wanted to broaden the type of books I am reading, and discover some new favourites which I certainly have done already.

Part of reading for me is being able to escape into someone else's story; you learn so much through reading, and that is why I love it. Also, I'm pretty nosy so being able to learn about someone else's life really appeals to me; regardless of whether the person actually exists or not. As much as I love reading chick-lit, 2016 definitely seemed like a good year to start branching out and reading a wide range of genres: especially as my days are not focused around university reading, or essays! As I reflect back on the range of different books I have read this year, I am so pleased I set myself the challenge. I would have never even considered some of the books I have read this year in the past and it's made me realise how much there really is out there to get stuck into!

I certainly didn't think I'd find myself half way through the year having read more than one crime book, and actually have enjoyed both despite being the sensitive soul that I am. I have read books that have deepened my knowledge and passion for Religious Studies, and I have read books that have inspired me more than I ever thought a book would inspire me (I'm looking at you The Alchemist, what a book!). I also dipped back into the realm of one of my favourite books ever - Eat Pray Love - when I read the "sequel" Eat Pray Love made me do it. This was another inspiring book, and took me back to the original book which I adore.

2016 has definitely been a year of reading books so different to the usual style that I read, and I'm so pleased I made that promise to myself! There's still 5 months left which gives me a lot of time to delve into even more challenging books which excites me too. Who knows what I will have read by December - War and Peace perhaps? Maybe not...

Have you set yourself reading challenges? What is your favourite genre of books?

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Doing More

 Lately, I've been making a conscious effort to do more. Life is so much more than just living for the 9-5 (well, 8-5 in my case) and I've decided I need to focus more on the spare time that I do have. I found myself focusing on my tiredness, and going to bed as early as possible and sort of feeling that life was passing me by. So I've started challenging myself. Saying yes to that friend who asks me to dinner on Monday night, and staying up later watching that programme that I've found myself really enjoying. Life is too short to miss out on the things that you enjoy doing.

Which brings me to the weekends. I cherish the time I have at the weekends so much, but also found myself in that cycle of going to bed on time because I was "tired", or saying no to Dan when he asked me to go out and do something fun because I wanted a nap etc. The list goes on. I was craving adventure, but forgetting the fun I could have here on my own doorstep!

A few weekends ago, the sun was out in full force. So an adventure is what we decided to have! After a delicious brunch in my gorgeous hometown with two of my best friends in the entire world, I headed out with Dan. He sometimes works on Saturday mornings, and we often leave the afternoons for lazing around and doing the things we like, but missing out on the beauty that we have to see in our local area. We headed to Finchingfield, one of the prettiest villages in Essex. With a picturesque lake at the bottom of a hill, we had hoped to grab a pub coke and watch the world go by over a bowl of chips. Unfortunately, the outdoor section of the pub was far too busy but we had done something. On a whim. Together. And to be honest, that was all that really mattered to me.

Driving home, we both decided that we would take the adventure further, and we headed down the road to the pub at the bottom of our road which just so happened to have a little gem of a beer garden. As we soaked up the rays with pub coke in hand, we both realised the error of our ways and that we should really do things like this more often.

Do you feel like you're making the most of your time?

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Friends for a Season, Friends for a Reason

 Friendship is something I have wanted to write a post about for what seems like eternity. I had a post in my drafts for a good six months before I decided to delete it, and if I'm honest I'm not really sure why I did that. I have always valued friendship, and have recognised it as something that will evolve and change throughout the years. However, I'm still not sure if I had been expecting such a change in my friendships as I have had in the past few years.

My friendship circle has slowly dwindled, and I can most certainly count the number of close friends I have now on my hands. This used to bother me. It might still do on occasion. Drifting apart from people is hard, and can be upsetting. University is the biggest challenge for friendships that I have encountered yet, but I am sure that there will be more tests to come.

When you think about friendship, it is actually a pretty strange concept. Most of my friendships have come about due to being thrown together, and realising that we got along. By thrown together I mean being in the same class, workplace or halls together. You choose the people who have similar interests to you, and the people who you work well with - they are like the family you have chosen.

One of the most important things I have learnt about friendship is actually from my mum. She once told me that you will have friends for a season and friends who stick around for longer - I'm going to coin them the friends for a reason. Friends for a season have been for me the ones I am friends with due to circumstances. I would not necessarily choose them myself, but maybe a friend for a reason has chosen them so you are in your own way forced to get along with someone who you may disagree with. But you cope, for a season. Or you enjoy their company for a while, but then realise you are destined to go in your separate ways.

A true friend, a friend for a "reason", is someone you get on with, and feel completely comfortable around. It is someone you can share your deepest, darkest secrets with, without fear of being judged or condemned. A friend is someone who you can be honest with, and in turn they can be honest with you. I'd much rather be friends with someone who will tell me when I have food in my teeth, than someone who will not bother! A friend is someone you can have fun with, and time spend with them is enjoyable not a stress. This is something hugely important for me.

My friends truly are fantastic, and I am so lucky to have the support group that I do in my friends. I am so grateful for each and every one of them in their own unique ways - each friend I have brings something different to my life which is refreshing. Whether they are friends for a Season, or for a Reason, I believe that every friendship you have brings something to your life. It might be something positive, or it might be an important lesson that you needed to learn. However, friends are definitely there to teach you, and test you too.

What are your views on friendship?

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Harry Potter and the Marvellous Memories

 With the latest release of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, my mind's been flashing back to the times when Harry Potter frequently took over my life. I have always loved the books, and began my love for Harry Potter when my parents brought the first book to read to my sister and I when we were much younger. I've read the books, ridden my own Nimbus 2000 and have binged watched the movies more times than I can remember. It's safe to say Harry Potter has been a huge part of my life and many others from my generation too!

Reading the first book all by myself

I remember being in year three, and feeling like such a champion because I was reading a "grown up" book. It took what feels like forever, but I did it and I remember being so proud of myself once I'd gotten to the end of the book. I've read the first few pages of the first book more times than I've had birthdays I'm pretty sure - especially as I remember having to read it and count the first 100 words in the very same year three class!

Riding a Nimbus 2000 round the garden

One year, my sister and I got a Nimbus 2000 for Christmas. As you can imagine, this was pretty bloody exciting. I remember taking it in turns to ride the shiny new broomstick vs. riding the old manky garden broom! Obviously, our imaginations ran wild and we would run around on our "broomsticks" for hours in the garden.

Watching the films for the first time/Binge watching the films in general

I remember going to see the very first film with my cousins when we went to stay with them in Liverpool. I remember being petrified by Lord Voldemort, but completely enthralled by this magical series before my eyes. In second year, Dan and I binge watched all of the movies together in one weekend, and it was amazing. He didn't really grow up with the books, so it's been nice to relive the magic all over again!

The Books, and the Smell of them

Hear me out...One of the best things about the books is that distinct Harry Potter book smell. I've never smelt any other book which smells the same as the Harry Potter series - including the new "Cursed Child" play script! It's a happy smell, and one that takes me back to the new releases of the books and how exciting it was! It also takes me back to the bittersweet day that The Deathly Hallows was released. I remember spending summer after summer reading the series lying in my grandparents garden, what a memory!

Visiting the Harry Potter studio tours

We visited when Hogwarts was in the snow, and I loved this. The films really remind me of Winter and Christmas, so it was so nice to see the set and the props with a Wintery theme! Despite what many others have said, I actually really enjoyed Butter beer too!

Are you part of the Harry Potter generation? What are your favourite memories about the series?


Sunday, 7 August 2016

What I've Learnt Living With My Boyfriend For A Year

 Last summer, Dan and I took the next leap in our relationship and moved in together, with my parents...This year has been incredible, and I've definitely learn a lot about myself, and about us as a couple. I think when you move in with someone, you are with them for a lot longer than you've ever been with them so it is very much so a huge learning process. I've definitely learn a lot about my relationship with Dan, and how much I rely on him to help me get through difficult situations, and to make me pressure! So, what have I learnt from living with my boyfriend for a year?

What I've Learnt Living With My Boyfriend For a Year

The mess will drive you insane - I'm going to be honest here and tell you that I'm not the tidiest person on the planet, but I did end up having to provide Dan with a box to shove all his clothes in for under the bed. They were usually strewn across the floor, and it drove me crazy. That box has saved our relationship brought me a lot of happiness this past year!

Space for two people's clothes? Now that's a problem - One year, and at least four wardrobe clearouts later and our stuff finally fits in acceptably. We actually had to have two wardrobes despite us having a massive one in my bedroom as we both have a lot of clothes. Thankfully, this has prompted me to finally give some clothes to charity, and it has provided me with car boot sale material too!

The importance of spending time together - As we live with my parents, it has been so important this year to take some time out to ourselves. Sometimes it feels like we are constantly around other people (if we aren't here, we're with Dan's family!) and it has really highlighted the importance of spending some quality time together - whether that's been a holiday, or just a trip to the cinema we've made sure to do it!

Someone is always there to give you a hug when things go wrong -
One thing I've really appreciated is that Dan is always here when I need a good cry and a huge hug when things go wrong. If I've had a bad day, it's lovely knowing I have someone to come home to, and someone who will cheer me up when I feel a little low. This has easily been one of the best things about living together!

And there is always somewhere there to share the good too! - Equally coming home when you've had a really good or exciting day, there is someone there to share this with! It's great to be able to share all of your news with someone you love straight away without having to do it all through text and phone call.

Moving in with my boyfriend has definitely been one of the best moves we've ever made. I've learnt a lot that's for sure! As we live with my parents, it's given us a chance to figure out how living together will actually be without having all of the pressure on us immediately. I think we're stronger because of our experiences here, and I am so excited for the next step together!

Do you live with your other half? What have you learnt living together?


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

What We Can All Learn From Elle Woods

 Legally Blonde is easily one of my all-time favourite films. If you've never had the opportunity to watch it before, I'd seriously recommend you going to watch it right away! Elle Woods is one of my favourite characters ever. She's girly, she's intelligent and she's so fun. Whilst re-watching the films again recently, I realised that Elle actually has a lot to teach us!

Be Kind - Throughout both of the Legally Blonde films, Elle is kind. One of the most important things to be in life, it's hard enough without having to deal with other people being mean! She gives money to a homeless man, and is consistently kind to those around her no matter how they mock her.

Don't Stop Dreaming - Elle knew what she dreamt of and didn't stop until she got what she had wanted. OK so this dream changed a couple of times, but isn't that what real life is all about? She had the determination and drive to chase her dream and pursue it even when things didn't necessarily go to plan. 

Stand Up For What You Believe In - Legally Blonde 2 is all about that. Although there are elements in the first film, the second one is where Elle comes into her own, campaigning to get a bill approved to stop all cosmetics testing on animals. This was no easy feat and she handled it with grace and humour.

Have Confidence In Yourself - Elle oozes confidence. Her entrance video for Harvard is so confident but not cocky and there is definitely a fine line between the two. She is confident in herself, both in the way she dresses and the way she knows she can achieve what she wants to. I think we could all do with a little bit of Elle's confidence magic from time to time!

Work Hard - There is no doubt that Elle works hard, and I think that gives out a very important message to the many young girls (and boys!) who have watched this classic film. Elle is successful, but she certainly doesn't get her success handed to her on a plate. She works hard for it, and is determined to reach her goals!

Do you like Legally Blonde? What did Elle Woods teach you?

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