Giving up alcohol and resisting other temptations

I have never been particularly religious, but I have always given up something for Lent. Maybe I’m more God-fearing than I would like to think I am, but I have found that whenever I choose to give something up for the forty-day period I tend to stick to it. I think this has something to do with knowing you can indulge yourself when it gets to Easter! The last few years have involved giving up crisps, chocolate biscuits and, reluctantly, coffee.

Lent is a period in the Christian calendar that lasts for forty days before Easter weekend. Fasting, which is represented in a contempory sense with giving up a favourite treat, is used in preparations of Easter to reflect the period where Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert before beginning his work for God.

cocktailsThis year I have chosen to give up alcohol for Lent after agreeing this with my friend and housemate, Ellie. As university students, we can’t deny that alcohol, and sometimes binge-drinking, is a part of life in university. Alcohol is everywhere, from the pubs we socialise in, the predrinks we have at home to the clubs we go to on our nights out. We want to experience all of this during Lent and prove that we can have just as much fun without a drink!

For me, it’s also about finally sticking to my New Year’s resolution of being healthier in general, and I think having a short forty-day plan is the best way to stick to something. Hopefully, the alcohol free period will leave us feeling fresher, help us lose some weight (alcoholic drinks are deceptively high in calories) and help our mental well-being, as well as not having to deal with those Sunday morning hangovers!

I’ll post an update in a few weeks’ time to discuss how we are finding the experience, as well as noting how different university social life is without alcohol. Let us know what you are giving up for Lent this year and how you resist the temptation to give in by commenting below, or by tweeting me @andrea_avena

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So, you’re going to uni? My Top Ten Tips for being a Fresher!

It’s results day today, and a whopping 386,000 of you have got into university today – well done to all of you! I’m starting my second year this September, so here’s my top ten tips for being a university fresher:

1. Look on Facebook for people in your halls and on your course – lots of universities and student unions run facebook pages for freshers to find people that they will be spending the year with, it’s a great way to get to know a few friendly faces before you start.

2. Go to as many fresher’s events as you can! These events are there for you to meet new people, find new friends and get to know your campus. If you’re not into partying all night there will be a whole range of different events to go to.

3. Don’t sign up to every society you like the sound of – your first year at uni is a busy year and you won’t have the chance to do everything, so don’t waste your money on signing up to societies. Most societies let non-members but tickets for events anyway!

4. Don’t buy too much if your moving into halls – do you really need a whole set of different sized frying pans, saucepan’s and woks? One or two will do!

5. Enjoy freshers week, but don’t go too crazy – you don’t want to get a reputation from the beginning. At my freshers week one girl got incredibly drunk and urinated in a kitchen sink, and for the rest of the year she was known as “The Girl who Peed in the Sink.” No one wants that as a nickname. She was actually a lovely girl.

6. This tip was given to me by a teacher, so don’t judge me. When you are dropped off to uni your parents will be in a highly emotional state. The apple of their eye is moving away from them and they still want to protect and help them. This is a perfect situation to ask for money. What?! Uni is expensive!

7. Most courses will give you a reading list – do NOT buy all the books! A lot of universities have enough copies in their libraries, and many now give you access to free e-books, so don’t waste money on expensive textbooks. Also, you’ll hardly open them in your first year, save money for the second year! (Please don’t tell my lecturers I said that)

8. Stay safe – for many people uni is the first chance of independence and you want to make the most of it. Do it! Try everything! But still be safe – go out with good friends, take care of each other and don’t trust strangers.

9. It’s okay not to enjoy some things – we go to uni with high expectations, and sometimes things are just not as good as we expected. Don’t worry,you’re probably not the only one thinking it. Don’t let it get you down, just try something different and you’ll soon start enjoying uni again.

10. Hangovers- you’re going to have them. Hangovers are simply the effects of low blood sugar and dehydration. So when you get in from a night out drink a pint of water and eat some carbohydrate (this is where 24hour Domino’s delivery helps). If it’s really bad take some paracetamol and a nap and you’ll soon be ready for the next night out.

So there’s my top tips for starting uni. God, I wish I could do my fresher’s year again! As always, if you have any questions or comments please leave a comment below, or tweet me @andrea_avena

Food and the Trouble with Social Media

As many of you well know, I have a little bit of an addiction with social media. I can hear you nodding in agreement, probably as you try to ignore my latest inane tweet, attention grabbing Facebook post or “vintage” style photograph from Instagram. I should spend less time on these sites but they interest me very much.

I love being able to keep in touch with my closest friends on Facebook now that we have all been separate by university; I love the banter and debate that Twitter provokes and more recently I have enjoyed sharing pictures with everyone on Instagram. But it’s also nice to take a look back and see what kind of things one has posted. I did this, and I have identified that I have a deep fascination with one topic. Food.

I tweet about it, I post about it, and I even take photos of it and share them. It looks like it’s all I think about, and I’m wondering if it is something that should concern me, as I sit here writing whilst devouring some chocolate buttons.

I’m not usually a fan of “instablogging” but here are some of the highlights of my social media and food relationship from the past few months. I might even post some of the recipes in the future, so please let me know what interests you.  You can do this by tweeting me, commenting on here, on my Facebook page, on an Instagram post…

This is an in-progress shot of a pasta sauce I was making, made to the recipe that my Nonna uses (and her tomato passata bottles)

 

Here’s a very nice Pad Thai I made only the other night. I love Thai food in particular, and this is one of my favourite Thai dishes, plus it simple to cook. 

 

Insomnia and hunger do not mix. I made this Rocket & Parmesan salad with a balsamic dressing at about 1:30am when I couldnt sleep. On another note, I should probably stop watching Nigella Lawson

 

A Parma Ham and mozzarella ciabatta sandwich that I ate at my dad’s eatery Carlo’s Kitchen on Union Street. Very nice. Especially after a day of lectures and a train journey.

 

I made this vegetable soup myself! It’s so healthy, delicious and cheap which is perfect for being a student.

 

Finally, here’s me eating a pavlova that my mum made. Its my favourite dessert, and she made it on the day of the Olympic Closing Ceremony, hence the Union jack (and gin & tonic).

 

Starting Uni and Other Excuses for Not Blogging in a While

This is the main building at my uni, and yes I admit I have pretended in my head that I’m at Hogwarts

Well it’s been well over a month since my last blog post and whilst I’ve never posted terribly frequently I don’t think I’ve ever left it this long between posts. The last few weeks have flown by and have been so busy that I haven’t even had time to think about sitting at a computer and typing.

That’s going to have to change very soon, as I started university two weeks ago and I have no doubt that deadlines for essays will soon be set! I’m studying Geography at Royal Holloway so if anyone has studied it before or you have any general tips for studying at uni they will be greatly appreciated.

I’ve had the most amazing time at fresher’s week, I’ve enjoyed it so much, and I’m pleased to be living in halls with a group of friendly, interesting and fun loving people. It’s my first time living away from home, which is a bit strange after living with only my mum, dad and my brother for my whole life but we are all getting along famously (at the moment! Haha!) and so far no food’s gone missing from the fridge and more importantly neither has the vodka!

The best moment for me so far has been the night of my 20th birthday (no, I can’t believe I’m 20 either). My flatmates, who I had only known for a few days, ordered in some pizza’s and decorated the kitchen which was fantastic and made me really feel at home in our flat. That’s in stark contrast to our weekly early morning fire alarms, but its swings and roundabouts I suppose.

I’ve also discovered the wonders of Skype, which is where I can be found when I’m not at a lecture, or a party, or reading as many geographical papers as possible. It’s allowed me to keep in contact with my family and friends at other universities and at home, which makes settling in here in Egham so much easier.

So that’s briefly what I’ve been up to in the last few weeks since I blogged, and my excuses for not posting in such a long time.  Hopefully I’ll get some more posts done soon, I hope everyone who read’s this is well too!

IT’S THE END!

Finally, I have reached the end of my A Level exams! My last one, biology, was this morning and I have an amazing sense of freedom right now! Its great to be able to put all the exam’s behind me and just have a good time. I’m looking forward to going to some great parties, spending more time with friends as well as with my family. I’ve got a great trip coming up with my Dad which will involve lots of wine drinking and food, as well as a trip to Barcelona with friends, which will give me a chance to start  travel blogging again.

The pile of notes I don’t have to look at ever again!

I’m not entirely confident that I have got the right grades for the univeristy courses that I have applied for, so I’m researching courses to apply for on clearing already, as well aslooking at all my options. My geography and English exams went well, but biology, as always, was a struggle. I’m going to work hard this summer to make sure I have lots of options at the end of the year. I feel like this summer is going to be good for me, I’m looking forward to moving onto new things, and just having fun again!

You might have noticed already, but I’ve set up a new Facebook page for my blog. I don’t want to keep annoying friends and family with blog posts! It’s going to be the place for new blog posts and other content on Facebook, so like it if you like my blog! http://www.facebook.com/andreaavenablog

Hell Week is Over!

My week of exam hell is finally over this morning, after I finished my third exam this week. I’ve had English, Geography and Biology today. English and Geography weren’t too bad, I even quite liked the Geography questions. But Biology today was absolutely shocking. It’s definitely not my forte. I’ve decided now that I’m going to take what I get this year and see where I can go from there, in terms of university course.

I think my biology answers were as useless as this!

I have one more exam next Friday, so I’ll be spending this week revising again, though there isn’t as much pressure as this week. I’m just looking forward for the exam season be coming to the end of them though, I’ve got some great things planned for the summer so I can’t wait to finish! I’ve got  a couple of trips coming up and some great parties – can’t wait for Summer 2012!

It’s time for you to take a break

We’re one month into 2012 and this is my first proper blog post of the year! To be honest, the last four weeks since I counted down until midnight and made my New Year resolutions have flown by in a blur of school work, exams, getting university offers and generally planning ahead in my life.

Many of us have to constantly plan ahead and organise our days and weekends, and as we all know, it’s important that we take some time out for that. Making time for friends, family and having some fun can help you move forward in your life more effectively than obsessing over work and getting stressed by it.

I myself will be taking some time out next month to go on a ski trip with my sixth form friends. I’ve only skied once before, and that was nearly three years ago, so I hope that I haven’t forgotten how to ski – not that I was that much of a pro anyway! We’re going to be skiing in northern Italy, and I found out this week that they’re very heavy snow there at the moment, so we should have a good amount to land on as I inevitably tumble down the mountain.

Oh yeah, I am this good...

Another plan that I’ve made to have some fun is a trip to Barcelona in August with some friends. We’re staying in a hostel, got some cheap flights from EasyJet and we’re going to go and explore the sights, culture and bars (mainly the bars) of Barcelona.

Although this is really exciting for me, I know you’ll probably be wondering why I’m deciding to share my plans for holidays with you. Well, it’s only partly due to the fact that I’m suffering from exam-induced writer’s block, but also because these plans have made me realise what I want to do in life.

I always knew that I wanted to go to university to study, and socialise, and recently (just as I was applying, to be honest!) I knew I wanted to study Geography, but I have always been unsure of a career path. Well, it’s not a huge idea, but as I was looking at these trips I finally decided to become a travel writer. I know, it’s hardly like becoming a doctor, but I’ll be able to merge my passion for travel and knowledge about other cultures with writing and working – and for me I don’t think anything could be better.

As you see, this brings me back to my main point. We all get caught up in the blur of life, in the rat race to success, but taking some time out for yourself, your friends and your passions can really help you with finding the right bath in life.

(I just realised that says “right bath in life” and I was going to correct it, but it made me laugh and its kind of true!  You must find the right bath in life, that is of the upmost importance)