I've got new stock of my tiny animal jar necklaces!
Visit Peaches and Pebbles to take a look!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Teapigs Review + Giveaway

   You know how obsessed I am with tea - green tea, especially, though lately I've been going for fruit as well. I found Teapigs not too long ago, I saw mention of them on twitter and had a browse. The first thing I thought was that I loved their branding - the colours, the POW!, the little cup mascot. Then it was the packaging of their products. I love packaging - perhaps that's because I have my own small business and I've grown to appreciate nice packaging more than I would otherwise. I don't really know.
   Well, I got my hands on a nice big bundle of goodies - seriously exciting goodies, as far as I'm concerned - and I desperately wanted to share it with you, because I'm bowled over by its deliciousness!

   Teapigs specialises in tea, but they put a lot of their passion into matcha. Matcha green tea is possibly the healthiest tea you can have, and Teapig's is grown in Japan, as it should be. It's 100% natural and 100% awesome, packed with antioxidants for a great health boost.




Matcha Super Power ready-to-drink. I was a bit dubious about trying this, mostly because I was concerned about the flavouring. A lot of the time things like these don't work, either you can't taste the fruit and only the tea, or you only taste the fruit and not the tea, or, more worryingly, it might be bitter. Well, I'm happily wrong. I might sound cheesy, but it really is a fresh, clean drink. Seriously. I felt all clean inside. I often do when drinking green tea, which is why I drink more of it when I've had an indulging few days (if you're offered biscuits in the UK, it's illegal to say 'no'), but perhaps it was because this was also a cold drink that added to its freshness.
The apple one was definitely apple-y, the grapefruit was grapefruit-y and the elderflower was elderflower-y...whatever an elderflower is.


Super Power Green matcha powder. This is a matcha powder. Tea powder uses the entire leaf, while with a teabag you'd throw most of the leaf out. This means, with powder, the leaves go a lot further, the tea is stronger, and more of the nutrients are received. You don't need much of it, either, just half a teaspoon a day will increase your focus and your energy, and a 'shot' before a workout can increase your fat burn. Teapigs' 'modern matcha kit' includes a 30g jar of tea powder, a shot glass, a 1/2 teaspoon capacity spoon, and a mini mixer for a proper mix. It's a pretty good bundle, in fact, giving you everything you need! The drink, made in that manner, is quite thick and strong, but it's quite satisfying, but if you don't like the taste of green tea, another beauty of the powder is that it can be mixed into yoghurt, porridge, smoothies, juice and so on - as long as you get 1g a day, it doesn't matter how you take it, and I think that's pretty awesome.


Teabags - Amazing. The teabags themselves are nice and silky rather than papery, and the mao feng green tea is actually green. I know, shocking, right? But I've had a lot of green tea, and there's only been two green teas in bag form that come out undeniably green - not yellowish-green, not brownish-green, green - and this is one of them. The super fruit tea is wonderful, too, and smells amazing, and the lemon and ginger tea is as fresh and spicy as you'd expect - certainly a tea to wake you up in the morning! I love how the tea expands, too, it grows in the bag. I saw the fruit tea do it, but when I was looking at the mao feng in the tea bag I thought the leaves were too small to grow. I was wrong, and it made a very good cuppa!



   I've blathered enough - now I have something else for you. How about a giveaway? For all of the above? Teapigs have been gracious enough to supply me with a duplicate of every product I've received to give to one lucky winner! That's an amazing bundle worth £50! And, what's more, I - like them - am prepared to ship worldwide! So if you've read this review and something has jumped out at you, enter below for your chance to win it all - teabags, matcha powder, shot glass, mixer, pre-made tea; all of it!
   The giveaway is open for 10 days, worldwide. Tweet, share, like, follow, comment, recite a rhyme - all of the available entries are below, and you can tweet every day for increased chances.

   And how about one more? Teapigs also have a special discount for you, valid until September 30th - just use the code blackbird at checkout for 10% off of your order; and there's free shipping on all orders of £35 or more, too! They have a lovely selection of teaware as well as the tea itself; lovely latte glasses, teapots and so on. They're gorgeous!


This review is based entirely on my own views of the products. My opinion has not been influenced by anyone at all, and the responsibility of sending the giveaway prize is mine and mine alone. Due to the value of the prize, the winner will be contacted directly rather than publicly announced for privacy's sake due to personal experiences, but when a winner has been chosen and has confirmed their acceptance and given their address, the fact that a winner has been chosen will be mentioned right here. Please ensure you enter using a valid email address to ensure that you don't miss your chance; the winner will have 72 hours to respond to the original message, and if they fail to do so in that time then a new winner will be chosen and they will have 72 hours to respond. All decisions are final, and all decisions are my own.



Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Ask Me Anything

   Seriously. I thought this could be a fun little feature on the blog that, hopefully, others will join in with, too, and will help get my content going again. Drop me a line and ask me any question. I'll choose the best (ie. fun or interesting) questions to answer, and I'll be honest. It can be about me, my dreams, my thoughts on things, experiences, advice on anything, whatever. It could be fun! So if you have a question that's been on your mind, whether it's relevant to you, me or just a general thought, ask away. I'd love to make this a weekly thing, one question a week, but that depends on whether or not I get enough questions to keep me going. It doesn't have to be a serious question, or it could be totally serious. Just pick a question - or several - and roll with it.
   I'll start right now with a random question I have assigned myself, because I'm cool. Feel free to answer the same question on your own blog, or in the comments.


   If you couldn't have your dream (in my case, become a successful writer), but you could do anything else, what would it be?

   I'd be the female answer to Andy Serkis. I know how silly that sounds, but the idea of getting to be inhuman things would be awesome. Seriously. Stick those sticky sensors on me and bundle me up in a little silver suit. I expect it's really hard work, truly, but at the same time I think it's possibly also quite rewarding. I'm always pretending to be things. I was pretending to be a clicker in the shower the other day. Other times I pretend to be a demon in the darkness, or a wild animal. When I'm doing my yoga I'm not thinking about relaxing, I'm thinking about becoming more limber so that I could pretend to be other things. Yes, I'm weird, but I embrace it, and it makes my life fun! But to be paid to do that? Hell yes! Like Benedict Cumberbatch paid to act like a freaking dragon. GIVE ME THAT JOB. I also have a very mobile face and often practise beastly expressions in the mirror so I think I could do it.
   The trouble with things like that is that I'll never get the opportunity to try, you know? I admit I have hopes that, one day, I'll become so successful with my writing that someone will want to adapt one of my books into a motion picture, at least along the scale of The Colour of Magic/The Hogfather, and then I can take the opportunity to try this. It would be one of my stipulations that I at least be able to have a go at it. If it doesn't work, fine, let a professional do it, but I'd have to try. I could be one of a thousand demons, some kind of weird fantasy monkey, anything!
   As you can see, I have aspirations on top of aspirations.



   So, that's the first question. Drop me a line if you've got one, and if you choose to answer this question on your blog, feel free to drop a link to it in the comments.



Monday, 18 August 2014

Kickbox Fusion: 2 Weeks Later

   I love it. I do. I love this kickboxing routine. It's a-ma-zing. Seriously. I look forward to it every day, and it works so, so well with my workout soundtrack of orchestral dubstep. It's freaking wicked.
   I will admit that I've modified it from the original routine. Rather than doing 45 seconds of each move with 15 seconds of rest between each set, I do the moves for 1 minute each followed by 15 seconds of boxer shuffles, 30 seconds of butt-kicks and another 15 seconds of boxer shuffles before moving right onto the next move. It's interval training, to a degree, and the active recovery of shuffle-kick-shuffle lets me get my breath back and prepare myself for the next move while not actually stopping. This means I double the time - instead of 45 and 15 seconds, it's 1 minute and 1 minute. Once I've done the circuit once I take a 3 minute breather and do a second circuit on the other side of my body.

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/lose-weight/total-body/kickboxing-workout/?sssdmh=dm17.742262&esrc=nwfitdailytip061014#page=7
   I don't jump right in with this routine first thing, however. Each day, regardless of what I'm doing that month, I always start with about 20-30 minutes of dance first to loosen my body up and heat up my muscles. Only then do I grab my mp3 player. I then start the kickboxing routine with a couple of minutes of shuffle-kick-shuffle and let myself get into the music before restarting the track and starting the first move.

   Initially the duck-a-punch really pulled at my lower back, and the following day it was agony to repeat - in fact just pulling myself out of bed was a challenge! But after two weeks I've gotten quite good at it and it doesn't cause any discomfort at all. I also found that holding your fists up to defend your face, which you're supposed to do with this move, adds to the impact on your back compared to keeping your arms down, but kickboxing isn't supposed to be an easy workout.
   I've adjusted to the moves well, and the adjustments I've made to the routine itself allow me to keep moving for longer - initially I struggled to do more than one circuit for the first few days, and after almost a week I decided to make the change, and it's worked out well for me. I also struggled to do half of the moves for even just 20 seconds, but my stamina has increased and a minute is very doable. But the thing here is that I've built up to it.

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/lose-weight/total-body/kickboxing-workout/?sssdmh=dm17.742262&esrc=nwfitdailytip061014#page=8
   I don't have a tablet, iPhone or even wireless internet, so I was quite concerned when I began this that because the moves were online that I was going to have to keep running to the computer to recall them, but I actually didn't have that problem. I watched the moves through a few times and write their names down on a piece of paper and took it into the living room with me. On my first day I only needed to run off and look up three moves while I was in the middle of the routine, which did set me back a bit, but I very quickly learned the moves and after a week didn't need the paper anymore.

   It may only have been two weeks so far but this is one of the best workouts I've done. Great cardio, power, strength, it's amazing, especially when using .5kg (1lb) weighted gloves. I really look forward to doing it, and I swear I'm seeing results, too. My body feels tighter which isn't something I can usually say about a workout. At best I feel a little slimmer, but to feel slimmer and firmer is something else, and it's freaking amazing.

   I'll post again at the end of the month!
  



Sunday, 17 August 2014

Cordyceps

   When Seeg started playing The Last of Us, it took me a while to actually catch any mention of the name of the infection that was spreading across the human race, but when I finally did, I was surprised. Cordyceps. The reason I was surprised was because I'd heard of that a few years ago, and I couldn't help thinking that the game had a little more credibility because of it.
   Cordyceps are real. In fact, it's abundant. It's a fungus that controls the mind, drives the victim to death, then starts growing from the inside out, bursting through their heads and bodies to release spores into the air to 'infect' others.
   It's real. Except it only affects insects. In fact, it's extremely specialised, with one type of cordyceps for each subtype of insect, and it keeps the insect population under control.
   An ant, for example, will get infected by taking in the spores. The fungus will begin to grow and take control of their mind, forcing them to climb up into high areas, and once it's satisfied, it makes the ant clamp onto the branch, grass, whatever it is with its mandibles, and it will die there. The fungus will continue to grow inside it and burst out from its body to release new spores, and those spores will then be taken in by another of the same type of ant. It's so deadly to them, and ants are so clever, that if any of the ants realise that one from their colony is infected, they will carry the infected individual as far from the colony as they can to keep the spores from affecting them when it dies.

   In The Last of Us, the cordyceps is transmitted by spores, and the fungus is taken in by humans and grows on the brain, taking control of their mind. As the infection grows, they lose all sense of themselves and their heads become covered in fungus. But it can also be transmitted by saliva - yes, bites. I don't like that, it's too zombie like and it doesn't work that way, but at the same time they have to make threats more mobile in the game. You do encounter spores, but a gas mask is a good enough defence against it. That doesn't really make the threat as serious as it needs to be for a game like this, so it's transmitted through bites, too, and for some reason that I didn't pick up, the infected will bite you and tear you apart if they get to you. I don't really know why they would do that. I admit that perhaps I'm trying to rationalise it too much, but given that I knew a bit about cordyceps initially, and that I've recently spent the last few weeks working on a disease for a book that has required these kinds of thoughts, I can't help thinking that information is lacking in order to make the story more exciting.

   Either way, aside from all of my overthinking, I thought that the use of cordyceps was awesome, if also because it's a more viable threat than rising from the dead. Seriously, zombies, vampires, werewolves, they've all been done to death and I am sick of hearing about them. And because cordyceps only affects one species of animal - in this case, humans - nothing else is affected by it. Wildlife is still intact, and you only have to worry about other people.


Here's a snippet from BBC's Planet Earth, narrated by David Attenborough, about cordyceps (3 mins):





Friday, 15 August 2014

Lately...

   I've been quiet as of late, and I admit that I've been dealing with a few things at home that have been a bit tough on me, but I've been pushing through and it's all gradually getting better. But I'm not really ready to talk about it yet.
   I've been throwing myself ever deeper into my book, and it's very nearly finished so I've been putting work into planning out the world and villain for the next book. They're not linked - I'm not very fond of creating a single world and writing a hundred stories within it, I like to experiment and try out new ideas, and a lot of the time those ideas won't work at all alongside others. I did come up with an idea for a book to follow on from the one I've almost finished, but it would be about 200 years on in a changed world and no familiar faces so it could be good, but I also think it's likely that when I've finished my next book I'll want to create a whole new world again.
   I've also been doing a hell of a lot of exercise, and I've been trying to rearrange my routine. I don't think I've struck a plateau, and I've been losing more weight which is just amazing, but I'm finding myself more exhausted. Usually I'd work out every day for 90-100 minutes, taking only Sunday off, but I'm burning out big time especially with the kickboxing which is not easy, so I've started taking Wednesdays off as well as Sundays, and it's been making a big difference.
   I've already got next month's workout planned and I'm ridiculously excited, but I have a feeling it's not going to go as well as I'm hoping. Either it won't be high impact enough, or it will be too far in the other direction. I don't like to watch the DVDs until I'm actually ready to use them, either, so I'm not going to truly know until September 1st. Still, I am very excited!

   I've convinced Seeg to start watching Naruto Shippuden again and it's pretty flipping good. We're at episode 341, and, unfortunately, I've already had one of the biggest things in the series spoiled for me - by Ebay of all flipping places! A name, just a name, that's all it took. But even knowing what I know, I still love it and I'm still enjoying it, watching the characters piece it all together. I doubt many people reading this blog have or ever will watch Naruto, but in the interest of the one or two who do or one day might, my lips are sealed.
   Seeg also just played through The Last of Us, a game which originally only came out on the PS3 but was remastered recently for the PS4. That game will stay with me forever, if just for the end. So, so often I've said "everything always turns out in the end, and I hate it" because it's so predictable. I've even considered writing a book that doesn't end with everything turning out all right, but I don't think many people would like an ending like that. Well, The Last of Us has an ending like that. I won't give details, of course. Seeg said he didn't really know what to make of it, but I, through floods of tears, have never been more satisfied with the end of a story, because the ending was human. And it was awesome. And it's now one of my favourite games. Although I didn't appreciate Seeg making clicker noises at me while I was just falling asleep. That shit isn't funny.

   I plan to start blogging whole-heartedly again, with product reviews, crafting tutorials, pictures of things I'm working on and more general things. I've been hiding from the world, like I said, by focusing on my writing, exercising almost constantly, watching Seeg play video games and also getting back into World of Warcraft myself despite it being the end of the expansion.
   So I apologise, but I'm going to fix it! 


In the meantime, please enjoy this screenshot of one of the few scenic areas of The Last of Us, where there are no clickers trying to eat your face.




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