My debut fantasy novel, The Archguardians of Laceria, can now be read on Nook, Kobo and other ePub readers!
Sign ups for my international Christmas sock exchange are open! Read more and sign up here!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

International Christmas Sock Exchange - Last Call!

   It's the last call for sign ups to my Christmas sock exchange! Sign ups close tonight and then comes the opt-out week.
   You can still sign up before November 1st, but if you do, you won't be given the opportunity to opt out and change your mind because you'll have signed up during the opt-out week.

   You can sign up to send internationally, or just within your own country. I've had a huge response and a mix of national and international participants, so it looks like most sending preferences will be honoured! Yay!

   For more info on the sock exchange, including rules and how it works, check out the Christmas exchange post.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

PIIT28 - 2 Weeks Later

   I respect Cassey Ho a lot, I think she's a fabulously bubbly individual and the world could use more people like her - enthusiastic people who want others to share in their passions. But as much as I love her, I wasn't sure how effective PIIT28 would be. I expected Pilates moves in an interval system, and while I love resistance training, be it with weights or my own body weight, I really wasn't sure that there would be much sweating. And as much as I hate cardio, cardio burns fat and after my vacation, there was much cake-induced fat to burn.
   But, as almost always, my concerns were pointless.
   Pilates is hard, there's no two ways about it, but Piit28 doesn't focus exclusively on Pilates moves. Every workout consists of seven different moves which alternate between resistance and cardio, meaning you basically get great active recovery after every brutal cardio set, and you repeat it four times through; 45 seconds of movement with 15 seconds of rest.

   It is tough, but I actually think it's been set up in the perfect way:
• By alternating between resistance and cardio, even on days that focus a certain area of the body, your whole body gets worked, you get your heart rate up while also building lean muscle and melting fat, and you don't exhaust that muscle group to the point that completing even one circuit is impossible.
• The fact that there are seven moves keeps it from being too daunting - indeed, five moves would be too few and nine would be too many - and completing the circuit four times is also just right. I start feeling it in circuit three and begin slowing down, and by circuit four, the dread starts to kick in - but then it's immediately eradicated when I realise I only have to do it once more, and that helps me to muster more energy and complete it to the best of my ability, more or less matching circuit three - or circuit two if it's a good day!
• And by having a new workout nearly every day (Cardio Camp is the only workout repeated every week), it means I don't get the opportunity to dread it. There are two different bum workouts, leg workouts, ab workouts, upper body workouts, and total body workouts, and that means that, should one of them be particularly vicious, I can rest assured knowing that I only have to do it once more even though PIIT28 lasts - you guessed it - 28 days. And the single workout that you do repeat every week was still challenging but actually quite manageable, and it's the only one out of them all that I actually loathe the idea of doing four times.

   The workouts have been relatively consistent in terms of difficulty. My lower body is stronger than my upper body, but I find myself challenged at an equal rate every single day, and that's wonderful. Not once have I felt like I've wasted a workout, and though I've found while actually doing an area-focused workout that it didn't seem as effective as it could have been, I was somewhat silenced the next day. I did the bum workout day 1 (I shuffled the calendar along a day because I wanted to keep Sunday as my rest day rather than Saturday), and I was still feeling it in my cheeks a little on day 3.

   I've now completed all the PIIT28 workouts, and now, for week 3 and 4, I'm to do it all again. I'm not looking forward to it, because it's all very hard work, but neither am I dreading it, and sometimes that's just to be expected.
   So, I'll be back again in 2 weeks with my verdict, and after that with a review!
   Stay tuned, folks! Oh! And enter my ProWater giveaway for some tasty protein-packed fruity drinks!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

ProWater Review + Giveaway

   Protein shakes are a great way to reach your daily recommended intake of protein (about 45g a day for the average sedentary woman), but they're not for everyone. Some people don't like the texture, some find them too thin, others find them lumpy (though that's usually down to the brand), and some people just don't like the repetitive flavours. A lot of the time they're chocolate-based, and if you're not one for chocolate shakes, then vanilla or strawberry are often your only alternatives, and I've come across quite a few poor vanilla ones, and I have yet to find any strawberry shake that I enjoy drinking - though, I find they go amazingly well in porridges.
   But if you're one of these people who hate protein shakes, then I've got something for you: ProWater.

   Protein water sounds strange, especially when it gets its protein from whey like shakes do, so it conjures the idea of a thin and disappointing shake with weak flavour, over-diluted and such, and it doesn't make me want to drink it. But when you look past that and view it as a high-protein fruity drink, suddenly you're in a new world.
   ProWater is a protein-packed fruit water, and unlike a lot of protein shakes, it has a tiny ingredients label due to lack of thickeners and the like. ProWater gets its protein levels - 20g per 500ml bottle - from whey and collagens and its natural flavours and colours from fruits. It's caffine-free, sugar-free and just 90 calories per 500ml bottle, and as it's fat-free and carb-free, it makes it a wonderful addition to an otherwise low-protein lunch, like a wholegrain and veggie sandwich, or instead of water for a high-protein base for smoothies with avocado, banana and greens. It comes in blueberry, red berries and citrus mint flavours, with no chocolate or vanilla in sight, so there's something to suit any smoothie!

   I've tried a few of these, and the blueberry is to die for. I usually drink water, green tea and herbal tea, so I'm not used to such sweet drinks - even as a child I over-diluted my squash - so I was a bit surprised by the sweetness, but it was neither unpleasant nor craving-inducing, which is great. It's a perfect replacement for ready-to-drink shakes so it's quite welcome in gym bags, and as most shakes are around 250ml, ProWater encourages you to drink twice that which, of course, improves your hydration.
   ProWater is new on the market but you can already find them in Superdrug stores, so they're not hard to come by, and with 10% of profits donated to help fund research on Alzheimer's and dementia, it's a do-good feel-good drink!

   Oh, but when I said I 'have something for you', I was being literal. I've got a bottle of blueberry ProWater and red berries ProWater to give away to one reader, and all you need to do is fill in the rafflecopter widget below - comment, follow, like, tweet; all the usual.
   Due to the edible nature of the product, this giveaway is regretfully only open to residents of the UK and EU, but I will have a worldwide giveaway here soon!
   This ProWater giveaway closes on November 3rd, and all entries will be checked when a winner is picked - all of that person's entries. Play fair, guys; don't lie!

Oh, and don't forget to sign up to my Christmas sock exchange, too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

   Remember: it is important to keep fats and carbohydrates in your diet, whether you're trying to lose weight or to keep fit and healthy! Why? Because your body uses fats to protect cells and organs, and carbohydrates are your main source of energy. You should never cut either of them out.
   Disclaimer: I was sent this product to review by the brand itself. The quantity and precise products sent were their choice, not my own. All opinions and images are my own, and all appropriate research has been done by myself from a range of sources rather than relying entirely on the product's website, especially where health products are concerned. I do not accept a product to review if I do not believe it is safe or worth my own time, regardless of any kind of reimbursement. I trial the products for an appropriate amount of time before writing reviews to check for wear-and-tear on physical items and side effects from edible (be it supplements or food). If I have negative points to voice, I will voice them, and I never, ever accept product reviews or reimbursement on the promise of a positive review. My reviews are and will only ever be honest.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Texel Island

   Hey everyone! I'm back! Well, I have been since last Sunday, but I've only just found the time to sit down and write this post because as soon as I got back I was plunged into a mess of shop prep and orders that needed filling. That's all done now - at any rate the back-orders have been made and shipped and I've done as much on other projects as I can for the moment - paint drying and light for photos and all that.
   But yes! I had a wonderful time on Texel Island. The flight to Amsterdam was smooth and only 5 minutes late, the weather was excellent throughout the week, barring Sunday, our second full day, which saw the only rain. It was a very active and contrastingly fat week, and I absolutely loved it.
   The island is small - it takes about 30 minutes to drive from one end to the other - and we visited all compass points over the 4 days staying in the south and going for an evening walk on that first day.
   I actually had no internet access throughout and didn't use my laptop once. None of that was necessarily by choice, but I didn't resent it for a moment. It was a wonderful break. There was wifi in the bungalow we were staying in, but it wasn't working. But, even had it been, I forgot to bring my power adapter (UK to EU) and I couldn't get one there because it's such a specific thing, which meant we landed with only 3 hours of battery life left on my laptop. As a result, I simply didn't use it, and while I admit that I did still get work done the old fashioned way (paper and pen, yo), it opened up much more social evenings.

   On Saturday, the first day, we headed north to Cocksdorp where Ron, Seeg's dad, picked up a telescope he'd hired for the duration, and we took it along the coast for bird spotting. We saw spoonbills, snipes, oyster catchers and other waders, which I quite liked because I'm rather fond of waders. Seeg embraced it, though birds aren't his thing unless they're raptors, but that meant he was quite pleased when we eventually spotted a hen harrier. We walked along the coast for about 3 hours, stopping every twenty minutes to have a look about, and passed the northern lighthouse.

   On the Sunday it rained a fair bit, so we stayed in playing Scotland Yard until mid-afternoon, at which point we headed west towards Ecomare, a coastal wildlife rescue centre. There were lots of seals there, many of them blind or mentally damaged and unable to return to the wild, others were stranded and are being prepared to be released. There were also gannets and cormorants, and there were two beautiful and very curious porpoises who had been abandoned by their mothers while they were calfs and weren't taught how to fend for themselves.
   We went out to dinner that evening to Het Kompas (The Compass) which was quite an experience, as it's a famous whisky bar run by a lovely old fellow and his wife - and only them - and he's particular about who he lets in. So it was actually an honour to be able to go inside and have a gorgeous meal of wild rabbit, following a starter of smoked eel. Um, yum. It was amazing, and truly home cooked, all by his wife.
   The sky was amazingly clear that night despite the previous rain. There was very little light pollution, so there were so many stars that even the constellations were difficult to pick out, and the milky way itself was very, very clear.

   On the Monday we went to the west coast and stopped at each bird spotting site. We saw more or less the same birds as we did on the Saturday, so it wasn't quite as exciting, but it was still good to tick the west off of the list, and also nice to be up on my feet and out in the very fresh air instead of sitting at a computer like I would have been at home.

   Tuesday was our last day on the island, and we headed east again and wandered along the coast. I walked barefoot along the sandy beach, and ran along in the sea. This is a majorly big deal because I've not had the opportunity to do that in about 10 years. The coast near where I live is pebbly or muddy and the tide quite brutal, and even then I tend to go out with my mum and taking a wheelchair onto the sand is just not doable. So that was simply wonderful and I took full advantage, as you can see.
   It was the longest and most difficult walk that day, however. After the beach, we moved into the dunes and the grass beyond for three hours, and it was quite uneven - the closes thing to hills there, I swear - and with the sun deciding to shine as brightly as it could that day, it was hard going. But it was still really nice to get out.
   I admit I had two complaints that day, though. First of all, the scenery did not change. It was quite flat and there were few trees, so you could see very far - but there was nothing to see, which made the walking harder. But I didn't voice that complaint because I knew it was good for me, so I embraced it as best I could. But I wasn't so quiet about the next. The Dutch are not good at public loos. Not as in "they're dirty" but rather "they don't exist." So it was peeing in bushes, and when there's little around to conceal you, it was a bit...well it was something.

   We headed back to Arnhem the following day, but as it was a 4 hour drive, we had a mystery stop over which seemed to be for my benefit. Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden has just displayed Trix, one of the three most complete T-Rex fossils ever found, and the only one that can be seen outside of the US. All that was missing were a few vertebrae, its back feet, one back leg, and both its front arms. That is incredible. Bones so often get swept away or scattered by other creatures and scavengers after death, so to have remained so close together for long enough to be buried and fossilised (it takes certain conditions for fossilisation to take place) is truly amazing. Trix is thought to be female because she has bigger bones, and she was old. There's evidence of injuries - bite holes in her jaw and broken ribs that had healed, as well as a hole in her upper jaw caused by an infection - and she looked simply incredible. People were saying (so I was told) that they were surprised it wasn't all that big, but that's the thing: T-Rex was not the biggest carnivorous dinosaur, and even then it's our imagination that has made them so huge. They were still certainly a force to be reckoned with, and the T-Rex still certainly ruled where it roamed.

   The following three days were a mix of meetings with friends and family, and on the Thursday I was abandoned when Seeg left to play games with his friends and his parents went to work, so it was just me, Falko and Isis, both of whom were asleep. You may have caught that on my twitter. Fortunately we were able to get a UK-EU adapter on the Wednesday and the house had its own wifi, so I was able to get back online, see to business and work on my book in those five hours. I got some damned good work done, and Seeg stopped in a bakery on his way home to buy me a slice of spekkoek, a lovely Indonesian cake that the Dutch brought back during the time of the Dutch East Indies. So that was more than all good.

   It was a wonderful week, but I admit I am exhausted and I'm happy to be home. I didn't eat healthily while I was away - while most meals were home made, I had a lot of bread and not very much protein, and I had cake every single day, alongside other Dutch niceties like kruidnoten, spiced and filled cookies, spekkoek and all the Chocomel I could find. I gained weight. And I regret nothing. Piit28 is turning out to be as challenging as I'd hoped, and I'm glad to be able to eat well and exercise properly again. Holidays are great at reminding you how nice routine can be. That sounds awfully negative, doesn't it? I don't mean it that way. Holidays are great, and so is coming home.
   Even if you get back in the middle of October, just as Christmas shopping begins and my shop isn't as prepared as I'd thought...

Thursday, 13 October 2016

It's The Middle Of October?!

   Hello everyone! I'm back! I had a wonderful week away, which I'll talk about very soon, but now I'm back I've found myself thrown into chaos! I made the mistake of not factoring those 9 days away into my shop and blog Christmas prep, and I've come home I have discovered it's the middle of October!

   My Christmas Sock Exchange - a secret santa exchange for readers and bloggers, but with a miniature stocking rather than large gift - has just 10 more days for sign ups, and I've had a wonderful response again, but this time from many international readers! Which is excellent! I'm so excited about it, I can't wait to assign everyone and start working on what I'm sending out myself! Sign ups close on the 23rd of October, then there's a 1 week period for opting out if you've changed your mind - you can still sign up between the 24th and 31st, but you won't be able to opt out if you do. It is, of course, open to anyone in the world.

What I received last year from the lovely Amanda

   My Etsy shop has taken priority this past week because I had a backlog of orders to get put together and shipped out, which I managed yesterday, and as a surprising number of early birds start their Christmas shopping in mid October, I had a lot to get laid out and a lot to stock up on.
   I've also got a few new pieces to go up, all of which needed listings written which can take a lot of time, though at least the work is broken up by a little research because I like to add a few relevant animal facts to my animal necklace listings. I only just completed that this very morning for the finished pieces, but I have a few more still in progress. I don't know how they will turn out as they're not my usual thing, but it is something I've wanted to try for a while, so with any luck I'll be able to add a few more pieces to the list.
   I'm going to start listing things on Monday, and I've got lots of Christmas-specific pieces that will be up at the beginning of November, too, but I think I'm about ready for it all. Ish.

   I've also got lots of bloggy things I want to get done, and it's time management that seems to be my real problem. Opportunity to put together crafting tutorials is scarce and I feel a little bit like I'm drowning in little details that need doing - jars need grassing, animals need sealing, pillow boxes need gluing, then there are the countless supplies I need to buy and always forget about because I buy them so infrequently and won't notice I'm in need until I'm out. Not good when this includes envelopes...
   I'm working on a plan to eliminate this, but already it's getting me down. There doesn't seem to be much room for writing, and that bums me out, especially after the awesome progress I made with my book while I was away. There was a single but immensely important and complicated detail that needed figuring out that tied together all the little things that had happened, expected and otherwise, and I'd been pulling my hair out over it for well over a month. But while I was away, it suddenly clicked, and I got it down. I made seven A4 pages of notes, by hand, in 50 minutes.
   I'm determined to get work done, though, because I know from the past 5 years that there's going to be little time for recreation in November, and none whatsoever in December - in fact, in December, there truly aren't enough hours in the day.

   But I'm clambering on top of it all. It's slipping about beneath me, but I'm staying up here. It's only two months. My blogging intentions stretch until mid December, and my sales typically dry up around then, too. After that I'll have two easy weeks, then my birthday shortly after, and I'll get to breathe again.
   I'm lucky I have such a teeny tiny family. Christmas isn't full of familial tensions like they are for a lot of other people, so I'm quite happy with this instead.