Participate in Youvember this year to take the stress off of this Christmas.
There's also an international 3-winner competition - all you have to do is participate to enter!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Mineral Necklaces Hit Peaches and Pebbles

   It's a little different to what I usually do, but I recently got my hands on lots of minerals from one of my favourite geology shops (come on, we all have one) and I decided that, just for Christmas, I would list them in my shop. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a sucker for stones and rocks - along a coastline I'll be staring at the cliffs rather than out to sea - so I'm quite excited for these mineral necklaces, and I admit that I've made several for myself, my favourite being the one that looks like the aurora borealis! They're £9.50 a piece, with £1.50 UK shipping and £3.50 for the rest of the world.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/208225408/green-titanium-mineral-necklace-aurora https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/208219734/rainbow-titanium-mineral-necklace-smooth https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/208231033/rainbow-titanium-mineral-necklace-long

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/208226258/gold-titanium-druzy-necklace-gold-toned https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/208237291/silver-druzy-mineral-necklace-silver

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/208225656/pink-gold-mineral-necklace-rough-stone https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/208225852/rainbow-mineral-necklace-rough-rough



Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Inktober - Week 3

   This week's Inktober is a little different to the last. I decided to draw a guy - boring, really, because female shapes are much better to draw - and I also did a little messing around on the computer to give him magic. He is a void mage, hence the purple and black magic in his hands. I did have the intention of trying to give him magic with ink but that would have required using techniques I've never tried before, and I would inevitably ruin it by rushing in before practising enough first.
   I'd like to say I'm proud of his expression, but I can't take the credit for it. Grimmjow from Bleach is one of my favourite Arrancar because of his expressions. He looks completely normal one moment, then turns around with an expression like the one above. He's freaking awesome, and I've always wanted to draw the expression but never had much need to. I don't generally just sit down an draw, I'm usually drawing characters, individuals with purpose, but since I started participating in Inktober I've started to just draw, and it gave me a good opportunity to try.
   But also, look at his hair! I'm so proud of it, and I'm really, really proud of the coat, too. I've never been good at fabric in general, let alone moving fabric, so while it was a challenge, I'm damned pleased with the outcome ^^

   Same pens as always: Faber-Castell PITT super-fine black pen for the lines and ZIG Art and Graphic Twin Tip Markers in black and warm grey with a blender.


Other illustrations: Week 1, Week 2

http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober


Monday, 20 October 2014

Paperchase and Christmas

   It's one of my favourite occurrances: Paperchase releasing their Christmas stuff. There are two places I must visit every year: one is Cadbury garden centre in Congresbury, and the other is Paperchase, because they're both excellent at Christmas! And while the garden centre is still setting up this year's Christmas displays, Paperchase are releasing their new Christmas products! Decorations, wrapping paper, cards... I buy every year, even to the point now where I've got nowhere to store the decorations and nowhere to display them, but I can't stop!


   I almost always buy a stag or two, every year different colours become available, and now it looks like they're going two-tone. I also can't help buying boxes of 2cm glass baubles. LOOK AT THEM. Look at them arranged in their lovely organisedness! I've got 6 boxes. There's no helping me.
   I also like to buy my cards from Paperchase. I'd love to get them from Etsy but the prices of boxes are often too extreme to justify, not to mention the fact that most of the cards I like don't come as box sets anyway! But I admit I buy them loose from Paperchase still, sometimes, and this year will be no different. Baby cheeses, peas on earth and mince spies. I absolutely love it. Fortunately I have very few people to send cards to, so at least it doesn't cost me a fortune to buy nice ones.


  Paperchase are especially good because they have both grown up decorations as well as whimsical ones and kiddy ones. There's definitely something for every taste, and every year I buy a mix. I always think I'll be buying the grown up stuff, but I don't...and let's be honest, calling it the 'grown up stuff' should be enough to suggest I'm not grown up yet by itself. Age means nothing! Every year as soon as I see the first glint of tinsel I regress 13 years. Even writing this post I had to fight the urge to put on Christmas music.
   The downside is that Paperchase release new products very frequently, and while they're releasing new Christmas goods, some of the first items to come out that year disappear. I don't like to buy too frequently, so I usually pick out the stuff I want and wait for more to appear before buying, but this means I miss out. This year I may well not do that, for once. I'll buy what I like when I see it. Because...well, because Christmas.





Sunday, 19 October 2014

Nuun Hydration

   I have a problem with hydration. Simply put: I forget to drink. I know how stupid that sounds, honestly I do, but it's one of my worst habits. I used to run to the toilet a lot and it got quite annoying, so I started drinking less and less to the point that I would have two, maybe three 200ml drinks - tea, water, juice, whatever - a day, and when you're working out as much as I do, that's going to cost you big time. In fact, if you're not properly hydrated your body isn't going to work very well, and that alone can hinder the entire weightloss process, believe it or not.
   I've been forcing myself to drink more now, though, and branch out beyond tea. The trouble is that I've never really liked water. It doesn't taste great - at least not the water around here, it's quite 'hard', too - and that doesn't really encourage me. Squash has a funny nauseating effect on me, and juice can be quite sugary, natural or not. So water is the only other option from tea, really.
   But I came across nuun the other day - you may already have heard of it, because for the last 10 years it's been used by top athletes for its brilliant hydration boost, and after trying them myself, it's already very easy for me to see why.


   First, though, I'll tell you what nuun is: it's a hydration tab, and it's filled with electrolytes - calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium - and these nutrients help to increase your fluid uptake and quite effectively prevent cramping. They're very simply designed: each full 1 inch solid tablet is intended to be dropped into 500ml (a typical water bottle) of water, where it will completely dissolve in a couple of minutes and enrich the water. The tabs have been specifically formulated to work with that particular volume of water, but the tabs can be broken in half along the indent for 250ml instead. They work alongside the water, not instead of it, and so there are no minimum or maximum you should take a day, as long as the water level is as it should be for the size of the tab (full or half).
   As well as improved hydration, nuun also addresses the taste issue. The tabs come in 10 different flavours, all natural, and contain natural colourings, too - beet juice for red, riboflavin for yellow. These make the water more inviting and easier to drink.
   Now, I've been using these nuun tabs since I started this month's workout on the 6th, and I tell you I've been feeling great. Truly great! I'm sweating buckets because this workout is so good, but nuun is helping me to replenish that lost moisture, and I've been feeling really, really great because of it.


   Nuun contains no sugar and no carbohydrates, because while energy needs are based on effort and activity, hydration is based on temperature and starting-hydration levels. Fixed carb:fluid ratios can be really hard on your stomach as a result, so nuun focuses only on hydration, leaving you to power up however you prefer - bars, gels, shots, whatever.
   Nuun does contain 8 calories per full tab, but this comes from the ingredients that cause them to dissolve, and those 8 calories are easily shed while working out.


   Nuun really does taste great, and the colour is an added bonus (who doesn't love a splash of colour while working out?), and the packaging for the tabs is quite efficient and wasteless - not to mention cute. I never thought I'd see such a pretty venn diagram.
   Out of those that I've tried, strawberry lemonade is my favourite - so much so that I went back to nuun and bought another tube and another waterbottle in order to set up a giveaway! I truly, truly love nuun, and given that their prices are so agreeable I am really pleased to be able to make them a part of my permanent workout set-up!

   Tubes of 12 nuun tabs cost £6 with £1.50 shipping, or free shipping on orders of £15 or more. They have a UK shop and a US shop. There are 10 flavours, and 3 contain caffine (lemon tea, kona-cola and cherry limeade), flavour, flavour). They can be purchased individually, in packs of 4, or in packs of 4 mixed flavours. The water bottle costs £5, and shipping is still £1.50.


  This giveaway is open internationally until October 31st. Enter below with the Rafflecopter widget below to win a tube of 12 strawberry lemonade tabs and a 500ml nuun waterbottle. Full terms and conditions are stated at the bottom of this post. The winner will be chosen on November 1st using Rafflecopter's randomising service and they'll be notified directly via the email address used with Rafflecopter. Once the winner has accepted their prize and given me their address, this blog post will announce that a winner has been chosen. No names will be given publicly due to negative experiences in the past. This giveaway is being run based on my personal experience, and the prize is both purchased and sent at my own expense. The winning entry will be double-checked.







a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway open internationally and closes on 31st October 2014. Winner will be chosen at random through Rafflecopter the following day, and contacted directly by the email address used on Rafflecopter. The winner will have 72 hours to respond to the email. If the winner fails to respond to the email within that time frame, a new winner will be chosen and the original winner notified that their time to accept the prize has expired. Prizes are sent at my own expense from the UK, and so if the winner is overseas it can take a couple of weeks to reach their destination.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Youvember - Take The Stress Off This Christmas + Competition

   You may have seen me mention 'Youvember' on Twitter and wondered just what I was on about. Well, I'll tell you. This year I'm hosting an event designed to bring a little bit of calm to your life before the insanity that is December. Youvember takes place in - you guessed it - November, beginning on the very first day of the month and ending on the very last, and its purpose is to encourage you to do something for yourself to take the edge off this Christmas. This can be anything from making a Christmas plan, taking up something for your personal health or wellbeing, or simply doing something you've always wanted to do - what it is doesn't matter, as long as you'll enjoy it and wind down with it.
   There is, of course, a difference between taking time for yourself and being selfish, and when the Christmas stress starts to pile on - which it does - taking some time for yourself can be vital. Perhaps you'd benefit from setting aside a certain amount of time every day to do something like finally start working out (you can do it at home with no equipment but your own body weight - you'd be surprised how far this alone can get you), or it could be setting aside time every week to do something like go to a coffee shop with a friend, or simply having something to look forward to at the end of the month like a weekend's break an hour or so away from home.
   There is no wrong way of participating in Youvember. As long as you're taking time for you in order to de-stress, it counts. You can find lots more information on it on the Youvember page.

http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/p/youvember.html

   But there's an added incentive to make it a little more exciting. A competition, open internationally, with 3 winners.
   I've been in touch with several of my personal favourite companies and put together three prize bundles with their help - a health and fitness bundle, an arts and crafts bundle, and a cheerful bundle - and to win one, all you have to do is participate in Youvember and take time for yourself. There's no downside! It's all for you anyway.
   To enter, during the final week of November, you can either:
   If you're a blogger, email me a link to a blog post you've written concluding your Youvember experience (if you decided to finally workout that month, how do you feel at the end of it? If you decided to work on a crafting project, how did it turn out?)
   If you're not a blogger, email me a picture that concludes it instead (if it's a workout, you could do a before/after picture, or photograph the equipment you used at home/class you attended; if it's a crafting project then, as above, a picture of the finished piece, maybe a few progress shots; if it's going out for coffee dates with friends, a picture or two of you and your buddies with big cheerful faces).
   You don't need to be a blogger to participate at all. Bloggers, however, have the added benefit of spreading the word of Youvember through the event's badges and through their own participational posts about how they've taken time for themselves and whether it's working or not.

Fancy participating? Here are some Youvember ideas which could improve your Christmas:

6-Week Christmas Plan
   Spend the first week of November (1st to 8th) writing down everything that needs to be done before the big day. Christmas gift shopping, food shopping, party planning - food, venue/decorations, entertainment, invitiations - christmas tree shopping, recipe hunting, accommodation for visiting friends or family. Write it all down and organise it into six groups that will make them easy to tackle. For example, if the tree farm is near a hotel or lodge, you might want to group booking accommodation and buying a tree in the same week so you can tackle them at the same time. If buying decorations or having invitiations made requires the same shopping centre or venue as the gift shopping, group those together, too. Then will be the more last-minute stuff like wrapping gifts, baking and collecting things from bakeries/butchers. This will likely take place in the last two weeks out of the 6, so feel free to leave those until last and tackle them with some Christmas music, a mug of hot chocolate and your dog wearing reindeer antlers.
From the second week of November (Nov 10th to Dec 20th), spend the following six weeks tackling your plan. Tick off your checklists and stow away the gifts, doing everything as you've already planned. You'll sleep easier for doing this if you usually have quite hectic Christmasses.

Sweat off the Strain
   You might think that exercise is one of the last things you have time for at Christmas, but that's exactly what Youvember is about: taking that time for you. And exercise is a great option, one which you can do in your own living room without having to face another person at all, too. You can warm yourself up, and if you need a little extra incentive, you can make room for the laziness and pigging out that always comes with Christmas without feeling so guilty after doing so, either. You may also find you quite enjoy it, and if not, well, it's only a month. There's no need to stick to it once November is over unless you want to. Consider it a trial month.
   Pick up a dance workout DVD - Hip Hop Workout, Urban Workout, 10 Minute Solutions' Dance It Off and Tone It Up - these are three DVDs that I promise you will love. I absolutely frigging adore them, and trust me, these are seriously more like fun than work. Or are you looking for something more hardcore that will actually feel like a workout? It's the perfect opportunity to try Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred. Why? Because it's a month long and only 20 minutes a day, but it works. You could also try yoga - buy a DVD or download some moves off of the internet. FitnessMagazine.com is one of my top resources for new workouts that don't require DVDs or very much equipment - a lot of it uses simple dumbbells and resistance bands, or simply your own body weight - and it's not as easy as that might sound. It's a very, very effective way of working out. Yoga is also body weight training.

Try Something New
   I wanted to try out modern calligraphy, but I was always so intimidated. Where do you start? What do you need?
   Well, a paintbrush and some drawing ink like Winsor and Newton isn't a bad place to start, and neither is a starting set of Manuscript nibs. There's a fabulous book called Modern Calligraphy that teaches you how to do all that beautiful scrolling handwriting you see on wedding invites on Pinterest and Etsy, as well as great crafting ideas that incorporate the calligraphy skills themselves. The Youvember logo was quickly thrown together thanks to that very book, in fact! No, it isn't perfect, but like I said: quickly.
   Maybe you fancy taking up a pottery class? Why not? Find the nearest school and get yourself some weekly or bi-weekly lessons for the month. It's far from likely that there will be many bookings, what with everyone else stressing out of their minds about their Christmas shopping.
   Maybe you just fancy starting a blog? Blogger is entirely free - always has been, always will be - and can be customised to your heart's desire without having to pay fees, either, like Wordpress. You're immediately indexed into Google and you'll be easy to find right away. All you need are posts, and your blog is your own. Keep it true to you and you'll have a vibrant following in no time. Never pretend to be someone you're not just to see your followers increase.

If It Makes You Happy...
   Do it. Drawing, painting, singing, dancing, reading - all these things you've been putting off lately because you've not had the time - make the time. This is for you.

   I know what you might be thinking. "Another silly '-vember' event, and it's aimed at me thinking about myself. I don't need you to tell me to chill!" - well, actually, I do. Like I said, November is the time of year people start stressing over Christmas, and when December rolls around that tension only gets worse. Taking some consistently planned time (daily or weekly) to do something for you can really take the edge off and let you breathe, and you might even find that, if it works (and it will), you'll keep doing it into December. But even if you don't keep it up past November 30th, when December comes around your stress levels will be lower than they usually are and you might get to enjoy Christmas a little more because of it.

   There's no set way in which to participate in Youvember, and no requirements either. You can blog about it if you like, as often or as infrequently as you'd like - though I do ask that you display one of the buttons at the bottom of those specific blog posts - or you can handwrite a journal with it instead. Take pictures and generally embrace what you're doing. It's for you, after all!


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