Saturday, 21 October 2017

Animal Lovers' Christmas Gift Guide

   Ahh, Christmas shopping. It's a hard time of year. For some people on your list, you get fifty ideas at just the mention of their name. For takes fifty minutes to get one idea while amassing everything you know about them. My list is quite short - I have a small group of friends and a small family, and the same goes for Seeg's side - but that doesn't mean it's easy.
   It's for this reason that I like to put gift guides together. I try to curate them based on the interests of the people I struggle with the most in the hope that I might find something as I go. But I also just enjoy making them. So I put in the best effort I can in the hopes of helping you out, too.

   So this is the first of this year's compilations: a Christmas gift guide for animal lovers. Filled with wildlife gifts for him, for her, and for the home. Biscuits, blankets, jewellery, ornaments - hopefully something on this list will give you (and me) an idea for the perfect gift for the animal lover in your life. Perhaps it will even be something from this very list!
   Plus, a bonus link to a website great for animal and wildlife stocking fillers! 

1 - Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018 desk diary
2 - Handmade sika deer wildlife terrarium necklace
3 - Highland cow enamel pin
4 - Hand-iced woodland animal biscuits; mix & match
5 - Zoo Keeper for a Day (Cotswold Wildlife Park)
6 - Wrendale Designs 'Night Before Christmas' fox mug
7 - Sparrow Flight fleece throw blanket
8 - Short-eared owl painting on wood slice
9 - Raku ceramic handmade emperor penguin sculpture

And for the best animal-lover's stocking fillers: London Natural History Museum Shop

Sunday, 15 October 2017

No More Trouble Zones - 2 Weeks Later

   After a month of dance cardio, it's been really nice to go back to weights with No More Trouble Zones these past two weeks. It's tough, it really is, and the first circuit is just...disgusting, but I've always hated conventional cardio and prefer compound weight moves instead. I feel strong, I feel powerful, and I'm burning calories both during and after my workout, rather than just during like you do with cardio.
   The circuits are as I'd hoped: different enough to one another that you can pick and choose if you're looking for a shorter workout, and so that you can avoid boredom if you use the full 45 minute workout.
   Each circuit focuses on a specific area of the upper and lower body and uses super-sets to max out the chosen muscle groups in compound moves. This means that you're working for 6 minutes straight on just two parts of the body - so when I tell you that the first circuit is shoulders (and quads and glutes), you'll understand what I mean when I say 'disgusting' - and then generally don't go back to it again, at least not so intensely. As an example, it's shoulders first, and it hurts, but the second circuit is chest (and abs), and while that does still tap into the shoulders, it's subtle enough that you're not going to notice. Or that biceps (and glutes) are circuit 3, and they do get  little involved in triceps (and quads) which are circuit 4.
   Fortunately, though the idea of 7 6-minute circuits is brutal, the final three are actually quite bearable as they take place on the mat. That does mean hollow mans, supermans, leg raises and planks, but they're far tamer and get your heart rate down a little.

   I used the DVD all the way through on Saturdays, when I have the time for a longer workout, while on Monday and Wednesday, I arranged the circuits into two groups of four, and generally used the seventh circuit as a voluntary bonus, bringing me to about 25 minutes a day.
   Monday I used circuits 3, 2, 4 and 6, and Wednesday I used circuits 1, 3, 5, and 4, and Saturday I used either the lot, or the first four circuits and then swapped the last three on the mat for three from Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism for some cardio. Which I hate, but I opted for one calisthenics circuit and two kickboxing, so it wasn't so bad.

   Resistance workouts never fill me with dread - I love it, be it hand weights, kettle bells or my own body weight - but that doesn't mean they aren't tough. But that has left me feeling stronger these past two weeks, and I'm walking taller for it.
   And, yes, I've been eating carbs and regaining my energy. My strength has been flagging this year, and the weights I've used have dropped because I just can't do it. With fresh eating habits, I'm attempting to regain that strength that I found so hard for, and lost because I prioritised an obsession with fat-loss over a desire for health and strength. It's not much fun drifting through life, counting calories and worrying over every gram of carbs all while pushing yourself through stupidly intense workouts every other day. If you don't fuel, you don't gain. Food doesn't make you fat, excessive consumption and laziness does!

   I'll report back in two weeks!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Mythical Inktober 2017 - Week 2

Inktober has slipped away from me a bit this week, I've been really busy with prepping my shop for Christmas, creating new stock, updating old stock, planning marketing and so on - it's a hard job, so when something had to go on the back burner, Inktober was inevitable.
That said, after missing 3 days I did put more effort into day 14, though I regret it a little because it's a wyvern, not a dragon, and the wyvern is further down the #MythicalInktober prompts list. That said, though, I still think it's good.

Anyway, I'm also going to take this moment to let you know that:
1 - there's free worldwide shipping in my Etsy shop until Monday, no minimum order
2 - sign-ups for my Christmas mini stocking exchange close in 10 days

Day 7: Banshee

Day 8: Gargoyle
Based on the gargoyles from my debut book, The Archguardians of Laceria.

Day 9: Pegasus

Day 10: Satyr

Day 14: Dragon

Friday, 13 October 2017

Friday Favourites

This week has been crazy. I've struggled to keep up with Inktober, but rather than get stressed out by it, I let it slide, and focused on restocking my Etsy shop for Christmas. 20 koroks, kodama, Totoros, and lots of robins and baby penguins, too. It's been hectic, but kind of enjoyable to be so busy. I hit a wall with my writing so it's been good to be able to back off of it and focus on something else rather than 'back off' but continue obsessing over paper rather than a laptop.
Seeg has been replaying Sleeping Dogs - I'm not sure what put it in his head, but I'm grateful, because it's such a great game, so it's been a pleasure to watch him play it through again. He finished it last night, but there's still DLC which we didn't have the first time around, so yay new content.
Also, Graze's cocoa & vanilla protein flapjacks. It's hardly a new thing, but I've been obsessing over them lately. I never used to allow myself such an indulgence - y'know, carbs - but my recent efforts to amend my destructive eating habits have opened new doors I didn't even realise were closed! Try them yourself - get a free Graze box with the code KIMW2WW6P

Oh, and don't forget to sign up to my Christmas sock exchange to make, send and receive a mini Christmas stocking in November! Anyone can participate, though you can opt out of an international partner, but the sign-ups close on the 24th of October.

Feather gloss Lisette leggings by Fabletics   ♥   Graze cocoa vanilla flapjack
Silver twig ring by SongsofInkandSteel   ♥   Sleeping Dogs

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Blue String Pudding (With No Artificial Colours)

   I love the Clangers. I do. I didn't grow up with it, but my mum did, and when her disability got worse, I found myself listening to and watching the things she liked. Not exclusively - she never liked sci-fi or fantasy, that was my dad, and I can't live without the stuff. And she did like reality TV, which I just can't stand. But when it comes to music, I'm rather fond of Human League and Genesis, just as she was, and I know she was still fond of the Clangers and Bagpuss. I bought the DVD of the original series years ago and fell in love with it. Then they revived the series in 2015 and my sister bought me the DVDs and I fell in love all over again.
   I love the Soup Dragon, and the music trees, and the blue string pudding. I wanted to make it forever, but I didn't want to use fake colouring, and I had frankly no idea how to make string without spaghetti. So it never happened.
   But the idea stayed with me, and upon the discovery of butterfly pea flower, which is used as a tea in many Eastern countries, it was suddenly back on the table. And, early this year, I came up with how to make the string: spiralising!
   But either I never had any suitable fruit on hand or any butterfly pea flower whenever the thought struck, so, again, it didn't happen.
   Until my neighbours brought over some pears from their pear tree. Most were pear-shaped (in a good way), but there was one that looked more like a banana. It was long and slender, with no bulbous end - no 'pear' shape - and I knew right then it was perfect. It would give constantly long spiralised pieces. So, because I had butterfly pea flower, I got right down to it!

   This Clangers' blue string pudding recipe is perfect for children because there's no added sugar and no artificial colouring. Butterfly pea flower is safe consumption and a natural blue food colouring, while the pear itself provides the flavour and the sweetness. In terms of taste, the flower isn't noticeable.
   This recipe uses 1 whole pear, which yields quite a big dish. If serving children, it could comfortably serve 2; but because it is only 1 pear, the entire yield only counts as 1 of your 5 a day. The pear is not baked, either, so the sugar is not concentrated, meaning the water content in the fruit remains and lessens the impact of natural sugars on the teeth.

   Now I need to make Soup Dragon soup. And see if I can be original and make it without peas or spinach...

1 pear
1 teaspoon powdered butterfly pea flower
50ml water

1. Mix the teaspoon of butterfly pea flower into the water, and set aside.

2. Peel the pear.

3. Run it through a spiraliser. Use a hand-held or counter-top, with a thick/average noodle blade. Try, if you can, to use a slender pear. You're more likely to find these in farmer's markets or independent orchards than you are in supermarkets, because they're not 'perfect'. The thinner the pear, the better; my pear measured about 10cm, and the longest 'string' was about 60cm. No joke - that's what spiralising does. A more pear-shaped pear will give long 'string' from the centre, but the bulbous end will yield much shorter pieces.

4. Transfer into a wide, shallow dish.

5. Stir the blue water, then pour over the pear strings as evenly as you can. Move them around so that they can soak it up. Leave to stand for about 5 minutes.

6. Drain the pear strings and serve. A dollop of whipped cream is wonderful, and also makes for a smoother, lighter blue.