My debut fantasy novel, The Archguardians of Laceria, is now available in paperback, and in all ebookstores!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Friday Favourites

This week I've been pretty excitable. It was my 7 year anniversary with Seeg on Wednesday, which meant that I baked for the first time in forever, and with my dad taking my mum away next week, my responsibilities as a full-time carer are suspended and I can actually relax. I can stay in bed beyond 6:30am, I can eat tricky food like rice and noodles which we never have because my mum physically can't eat them, and I can watch/play video games all day long and really dive into redrafting my next book. I. Can't. Wait.
It's the little things.
And this week I've been yearning for this Belle & Rumple Once Upon a Time dress, envying the artistic skill of Faebelina, and enjoying a gorgeous salted caramel protein shake after every yoga/Flowbility session. Hell yes! Though with next week's menu, I expect I'll have to add some kickboxing into next week's workout schedule...but it'll be worth it!

Belle & Rumple dress   ♥   PhD salted caramel protein shake
Faebelina's art feed   ♥   Winn mid rise capri by Fabletics

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Kiss Goodbye to MS

   This Month, the MS Society is trying to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis with their #KissGoodbyeToMS campaign. Most of you know it's a charity close to my heart, as my mother suffers from secondary progressive MS and I'm a full-time carer for her, so I feel a little guilty that I'm so late to this month-long event.

   For those of you who don't know, multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease that affects the nerves. It occurs when the myelin sheath, the protective coating around nerves, is damaged and the body is unable to repair it. This simple damage can have far-reaching effects and a wide variety of symptoms, because it's the myelin that helps messages travel to and from the brain and the rest of the body. In MS, the reason the sheath doesn't get repaired is because the immune system mistakes it for a foreign body and attacks it, so it breaks down and can't repair itself. Over time this damage becomes scars and interrupts the signals travelling along the nerves, slowing them down, interrupting them or stopping them from getting through at all.
   In my mum's case, initially she suffered from what she called 'floppy foot' - her foot wouldn't lift properly as she walked, for no clear reason, and she'd fall over. Over time, this began affecting her lower body further, she was unable to walk and needed a stick, then a frame, and now a wheelchair. Now she can no longer do anything - anything - for herself, and is entirely dependent. She is absolutely never left alone. She barely speaks anymore, either - a day we get 5 words out of her is a good day. A full sentence is cause for celebration.
   I wrote a post a couple of years ago about it all.

   It's a vicious disease for which there is no cure. Fortunately, a lot of progress has been made in the recent year to delay its progression and to eradicate some symptoms in the beginning stages, but there is no hope for people suffering from such a severe case as my mum.

   My sister and I have always worried about it - what if we have it? We've wondered for years, as we watched her symptoms progress since we were children. She became wheelchair-bound when I was 16. Fortunately, all the progress being made means that, if we are so unlucky, then it's possible it won't be as bad for us as it is for her, assuming we were in the 65% whose MS escalates to secondary progressive. But it still terrifies us.
   MS can only be diagnosed by a neurologist; a GP is not likely to catch it, and it generally forms in women aged 20-30. The symptoms of MS are also so vague you might brush them off or chalk them up to something else, such as fatigue, dizziness, or blurred vision. It's always a good idea to get it checked out, especially if it's recurring.

   Sign up to the #KissGoodbyeToMS campaign - give up one thing for 4 weeks and raise money to help their research. Or just donate. It could help people you know - it could even help you. Sign up, kiss goodbye, share on social media with the hashtag, and spread the word.
   I'm giving up World of Warcraft for a month, which is a daily habit, and giving this month's game time fee to MS Society. Here's my kiss goodbye picture, and as an added bonus, there's a photo of my mum and dad in the background.
   And in case you're wondering, nude is the only lipstick I have...

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Kletskoppen (peanut lace cookies)

   As today is my 7 year anniversary with Seeg (yay), I decided to make him some cookies he's been pining for: kletskoppen. They're basically peanut lace cookies, but they're impossible to find in the UK, so I tracked down a recipe and made him a little batch! They're gorgeous, and so easy, so I thought I'd share it here - because a little sweet treat every now and then doesn't hurt anyone, even if you're a health freak like me. Mental health is all a part of it!
   You can substitute other nuts in place, if you prefer. Almonds are quite popular, and very nutritious! And swapping white flour for whole meal adds more nutrition without compromising flavour or texture.

Makes 20 cookies; 55 calories each
4 tbsp room temp butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup/100g packed brown sugar
1/4 cup/30g peanuts
1/3 cup/40g plain flour
(Note: I halved the above recipe since they were a gift, rather than something to be left in the cupboard)

1. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/gas mark 6 and line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone paper.

2. Cream the butter, cinnamon and sugar together, then add the flour one tablespoon at a time until it's absorbed.

3. Fold in the peanuts.

4. The dough should be a little tacky but workable. Add more flour if need be, or refrigerate to 10 minutes. Then divide into 20 small 1-inch balls and set them on the prepared tray, then flatten them a little. They will spread and thin out significantly as they cook.

Warning: they will burn easily, so don't walk away from them once they're in the oven! If you're worried, test one cookie first.
5. Bake (one cookie or all) in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes. They will spread after about 2 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. They will dry and harden as they cool, so don't panic. If they didn't spread enough, add a teaspoon of water to the next batch or knead into the rest of the dough. If they spread too much, add a teaspoon of flour.

As with all lace cookies, store in an airtight container or they'll go soft in no time.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Flowbility; Floor Flow - 2 Weeks Later

   After two weeks of Flowbility, I think I'm starting to get to grips with it. It's about as difficult as I'd expected - it takes a great deal of practise and understanding to grasp the movements, and even more to flow so fluidly. I can't fathom how long it would take to get as graceful at it as Marlo.
   But it's also been a bit more difficult than I'd expected, in the sense of keeping at it. Perhaps my shoulders are too bony, perhaps the floor is too hard, or perhaps I'm simply doing it wrong, but both of my shoulders and shoulder blades bruised after the first session - and I mean immediately. I had intended to use it Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a lower-impact workout this month, but that's not how it's panned out.
   I've stuck with low-impact, but I had to swap yoga in on Wednesday instead because the bruising was so bad. I was able to do it again on the Friday, and the second Monday was fine, as was this past Friday, but that means that I'm not getting the chance to put as much time and practise into it as I'd hoped to, which is disappointing.

   I had planned on flowing through all of session 1 (tutorials 1-6) each time, but given how difficult they were, I started by repeating tutorials 1 and 2 until I was comfortable, then began adding the others on. As a result, it's taken me two weeks just to get my head around some of the movements, and as of this point I'm only comfortable with sessions 1-3.

   Having said that, though, it's been very interesting. It's a completely different kind of thing to what I'm used to and I'm keen to get down to it. I was also surprised to actually raise my heartrate and work up a sweat, but to be honest, once you get used to the moves enough to be able to repeat them, there is a lot of full-body movement, core control and upper body strength involved. I think I underestimated it - though that's still not to say it's any higher impact than a dynamic yoga session.
   I'm also finding myself feeling a little dizzy after every session, too, but when you consider the fact that you're sort of spinning around on the floor, I suppose that's not surprising. Taking five minutes to do a savasana afterwards, or just sit and breathe, does help to settle yourself.

   I do feel kind of silly doing it, but at the same time I feel very proud of myself, and a little impressed with my strength in some cases. A few of the moves looked impossible with such grace, but while I am much clunkier than Marlo, of course, I was actually surprised by how well I executed them. And that has only improved with each use. I'm still far from confident, but I'm enjoying it, and I am getting satisfaction from personal progress, even after just 4 sessions.

   I'll report back again in 2 weeks with my final impressions, and whether recurring bruising has lessened. At this point, I think it's a great thing to do, and does draw attention to grace and strength, but it also sort of feels like a bit of a novelty workout that you'd probably use a couple of times a month at best.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Friday Favourites

I'm so excited for the weekend. I've been so drained this week, but I'm super excited about a little vacation in a couple of weeks so I've been gathering up some recipes I want to try, and as simple as it is, crab fried rice is one of them - along with the old favourites like okonomiyaki.
I'm also head over heels for my new grey skinnies. I used to loathe my legs, but since I fell in love with lower body workouts (epic for fat burning as well as leg-sculpting), I've equally fallen in love with my legs. I have no fear of super-tight light trousers.
Also, this cookbook, which I stumbled across in this month's Women's Fitness magazine, and this pink stegosaurus mug, both of which I need rather urgently.

The Woks of Life's crab fried rice  ♥  Super skinny grey jeans from H&M
Eat Better, Not Less cookbook  ♥  Stegosaurus cup by EARTHLINGSporcelain