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

Monday, 30 September 2013

12 Weeks Until Christmas - Or Are There?


   Well, Christmas isn't far away now. 12 weeks away, in fact, and when it comes to buying online, the Christmas period is hectic. Orders pile up, which means custom made items' waiting lists build up, too. It means that some shops will sell out and be unable to keep stocked if there's an unexpected Christmas surge. It means that shipping times will increase because the international postal services will get backed up, too, so it'll take longer for both domestic and international purchases to arrive.
   What this means is that there's no better time than right now to start buying gifts for Christmas. Get in while a shop - be it Etsy or Amazon - have what you want, and can get it to you in time for Christmas.
   So, assuming that it takes 2 weeks for overseas purchases to arrive, that makes it 10 shopping weeks until Christmas. And then assume that the postage delays will cause those 2 weeks to turn into 4, so there are eight shopping weeks left. Then consider custom order wait times - basically, buy now.
   There are few custom-made things in either of my own shops, Peaches and Pebbles or Grumble Cave Monsters, so there are no wait lists for my products, and I doubt I'll receive a sudden Christmas surge, either, but given my location (the United Kingdom), chances are any purchases made with me will be from overseas, so you'll want to get in sooner rather than later.

   In case any of you are waiting for any sales in my shops before purchasing, please note that there's only one scheduled sale between now and Christmas, and that's Black Friday with 30% off. That sale will run from the 21st of November to the 30th - a mere 10 days. So if you're looking for a bargain, you're only likely to find it then. If you'd rather make sure that you get your products on time, purchase early on in the sale, or before hand.
   I may occasionally have flash sales on Twitter, but these don't come along often, and when they do they only last for about 3 days. To keep updated with any flash sales, follow my twitter.
   All of my products come giftwrapped as standard, and carefully packaged. Jewellery shipping is £1.50 for the UK, and £3 / $5 for the rest of the world. Grumble Cave Monsters is a little higher in the UK due to the rather stupid changes at Royal Mail that are totally out of my control.





Motivation, But No Energy

   Well, I've been feeling quite tense lately. I've caught a cold, either from my sister who refuses to come round the house because she says she has a cold, but if she's asked for money, somehow she seems to decide it doesn't matter at that moment. No, us getting a cold isn't that bad, but it really is for my mum, given her condition.
   I'm feeling physically and mentally horrible, despite the many things I have been doing for my shops, blogs and writing - in truth, I've been doing lots of great work lately, but the more I seem to do the worse I physically feel, but if I take the time out to relax as Seeg suggests, I feel so guilty for not doing anything useful with my time.
   I can't get myself to exercise. I used to knock out an hour of cardio in the morning and half an hour of strength in the evening. Now I'm lucky if I can knock out even 45 minutes combined. And the longer I leave it without working out, the harder it is to get back into the swing of things. Of course, I know all I can do is force myself to get back to work, because only I can change my mental state, but it's finding the energy and motivation to make that first push that I'm struggling with.
   I'm having a hard time sleeping, I don't know why, but while I can get to sleep easily enough, when I wake up I don't feel remotely refreshed. Yes, I have a cold, but I've had colds before and they've not affected me like this.
   To be honest, now I've said all this, I think it's joint being slightly ill and also having not worked out in a while. My body's weakening and I need to energise myself again with it all. Plus, my cold would budge a lot faster if I picked myself up and cheered up, because, while no one really knows why, your mental state has a huge affect on your immune system. I think it's simple, really. I think, if you're feeling down in the dumps, you're not feeling very energetic, and so your immune system isn't as energetic either. It's not as strong because you're slightly giving up and your overall strength is dropping. In some cases, like someone's passing, then it can't always be helped, but feeling bad emotionally will have an affect on your body. And I don't really have much reason to feel down.

   The upside, like I said, is that I have been doing great work lately. I've been writing plenty and well, I've been crafting a lot, both for fun and for profit, though I have yet to totally finish anything to list it yet, I've started reading again - it's been a while because I've been doing so much other stuff - and I've figured out some gifts for Seeg. Unfortunately, his birthday is the 28th of December, 3 days after Christmas Day, and with my own birthday on January the 9th, money is very tight towards this time of the year, so I'm worrying about that a bit. Still, I'm doing all I can about it, but I still don't feel like it's enough.

   How is everyone else feeling at the moment? Anyone have any advice for how I can pick myself up?



Sunday, 29 September 2013

Pandaren Lotus Farm Watercolour Painting, Mists of Pandaria.

   My second submission for my WoW Crafting Challenge. Like the first post, this one has used a fairly obvious medium. I used watercolour paints for this painting, on 300gsm watercolour paper. I painted it from a selection of screenshots taken of the Lotus Farm above New Cifera, in the Pools of Purity, Valley of the Four Winds. There is one blaringly obvious mistake I made here because I wasn't thinking when I did it, and once you've noticed it, it's hard to unnotice it. So I won't tell you precisely what it is :P but it's quite obvious once you see it.
   Either way, I'm very happy with this painting, though the background is poor. Backgrounds have never been my strong point, I've never once succeeded in doing a good one, which is why my drawings and paintings usually have plain backgrounds, because I pour my focus into the maid subject, being, in this picture, everything in the front pool. The painting itself also looks better than the scan - it's always hard to correct colours once something's been scanned but I did my best. Originally posted on The Wyvern's Tail.





Saturday, 28 September 2013

Button Badges!

   When I was in high school, I had the best bag in the world. It was by a brand called XS Punk, and it was black, with tartan straps, it had a little pocket on the front with a metal skull on it which I used to hold my eyeliner - back then I went through a pencil every 2 weeks, that's how heavy my eyeliner was back in my 'punk' days. I don't remember where I got it, or how much it was, but I don't have it anymore - I lost it - and, though I've tried, I've not found a picture of it online at all. So you'll have to use your imagination. But anyway, this bag, I can tell you with confidence, was the size of an A5 notebook - the kind you use for you work in school - and the bag could hold 6 of them. That was it. I used it for 3 years and went without lunch because of it. Fortunately my friends always fed me; Catherine gave me her sausage roll, her pizza, or whatever else it was she had. My friends hated me for it because she was already very skinny, but we found out about 2 years ago or so that she actually has Coeliac's, so I was helping, really, in some way.
   This bag was utterly covered in button badges. I've always loved badges, but I've never been one to wear them. The only time I do is if it's my birthday, or this one enamel pin badge I had of a blackbird that I wore on my black breasted coat. Otherwise, my badges have always had one allocated slot, and after I lost that old bag I had nowhere to put them.
   I have a new bag now, and it's got badges I've been given as gifts or as thank yous, badges I've made and badges I've bought.

   I've wanted to make my own badges for a long time, I've wanted to sell them - though I have no designs for them at all - but I've never known how to go about it. I had a Badge-It machine when I was younger and it didn't last long, and I sure as hell can't afford an industrial one for a minor business venture. I'd never been able to find a company to make them, either, but I guess I was using the wrong search words or something, because I came across Badge Master recently.
   Badge Master are quite interesting, because they don't just make ordinary badges. They make button badges, name tags, and even enamel badges. I was really surprised to see that later option! So I'm feeling a little excited in the back of my mind, because now I'm presented with the option of designing badges - not just button badges, but enamel ones too. I've always felt enamel pin badges were nice little gifts or keepsakes, and a lot classier than button badges :P but I'm sure most people think that, too.



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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Moodboard: Frost Fairy


   Today's moodboard is inspire by this wonderful cocktail dress that I happened across while looking for inspiration. The dress initially made me think of making another Priestess of Elune moodboard, but since I had already done that, I thought it best to go in a different direction.
   The dress itself is gorgeous - it's got these beautiful scraggly bits of fabric along the hem that make the dress, though delicate and minimal, look a bit rough and wild at the same time. And because it was so short and strapless, even with its graduated hem, I couldn't help but think 'Ice Fairy'.
   The dress is from a website called MyEveningDress.co.uk, and they have a gorgeous selection of cocktail dresses and formal dresses, as well as many other kinds. And, in truth, their burgandy layered prom/evening dress is pretty much exactly what I want my bridesmaids in. The colour, the dress cut, everything - it's what I've always envisioned. My dress on the other hand has always shifted from one thing to another. It's not something I'll be able to decide upon until the time comes, I think.

   I really enjoyed putting this moodboard together, and I look forward to making another. The best part of it is that I don't set out to make a moodboard inspired by an idea - I make them based on random things that I happen to see that jolt my imagination. My Mass Effect one is still my favourite.



1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 - yes, it's a big one today.



Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Pandaren Balloon Village Drawing; Mists of Pandaria

   This is my first submission for my WoW Crafting Challenge ('World of Warcraft Crafting Challenge' didn't work). I was going to start posting next week, but someone else picked up my challenge and has joined in, and has already posted two things while I've posted none! So I've posted my first piece today instead of Saturday :P
   I based this drawing on a small section of an illustration in the MoP Collector's Edition Art Book, and expanded it into a full village. I've not drawn for some time, so I decided to avoid shading here, sticking with a line drawing. I used to be quite good at it in school, but I've barely touched a pencil for ages. Originally posted on The Wyvern's Tail.





Monday, 23 September 2013

My Crafting Challenge (and where I've been for 2 months)


   Okay, so, I've been pretty silent for a long time. I told you last time that I'd post more, and, well, I didn't. But, I'm about to tell you my not-so-sure-if-it's-a-good-reason-yet reason.
   As you all know, I started a second blog, focusing on World of Warcraft since I know not many of you care for games, and games are a big part of my life. And as you also know, so is crafting. For the last 2 months, I've been working on a challenge that combines the two quite fiercely - a challenge that I set myself, and am nowhere near finished with.
   The aim of my challenge is simple: make as many different things as I can that are World of Warcraft inspired, out of as many different creative mediums as I can, without repeating an art medium. Over the past 2 months, I've completed 7 items, and I have 4 more planned, and others in mind with no work yet. I wasn't prepared to start posting them online until I had several ready, because I wanted to post one a week, and while some of these things only took a few hours, a few took a few days, while one in particular took a whopping three weeks, and it's that one that I am most proud of.
   I will be posting these items on The Wyvern's Tail, but because I'm so proud of them, because it's creative stuff, and because so much time went into them, I'll be posting them over here too, but without so much of a write-up. If anyone wants more info on the item itself, they can head over to the original blog post which will be provided at the end of each post here, and check it out, including how I made it, and links to Etsy listings for the few pieces I plan to sell in order to try to make a little of the money back.

   So this is really just an introduction sort of post. The challenge could be extended to other games beyond WoW. I chose World of Warcraft because it's a game I have played actively for almost 6 years now, and is very broad and therefore provide a lot of different creative options, but other games and franchises could work, too. Alternatively, you could do this same challenge with a movie franchise, or TV show, but to be fair, it would be a lot easier, more interesting, and broader to do it with something fantasy-based.
   Some creative mediums have a lot of subgenres, however, and so I've allowed myself to explore them individually. One such example is culinary; in my mind, cooking, baking, confectionary, chocolatiering and cake decorating are different things, though all take place in a kitchen, and result in an edible product, and so far, I have completed one, and have planned two more of the above subgenres.

   So...yep. Starting next week, I'll be posting one thing a week from my challenge, and I'll stop when I either run out of mediums, run out of non-ear-marked money (though that would be more of a haitus), or run out of items to post. I set myself the goal of either 15 items, or whenever I run out of mediums. Whichever comes first, unless I can push on beyond that, after which point I can quit any time. So I'm very excited to start posting things, but I'm going to start with the least interesting and work into more exciting stuff once I've got the obvious mediums out of the way.



Sunday, 22 September 2013

Moodboard: Autumn Preparation


   September is the beginning of a busy time of year for a lot of people. School's just started back up, Christmas is, financially, just around the corner, and, depending on your location and culture, there are several big holidays on the run up that require planning and money, too. And after all that, you start the new year with a clean slate, putting 2013 behind you and working towards new goals.
   Planning is a big part of that. You need to make arrangements, perhaps for parties, balancing getting your kids to school and yourself to work, or just mapping out necessary spending so you can figure out just how to afford Christmas.
   I love year planners, diaries and calendars. There was once a time where I had three calendars hung up in one single room alone, and I had 2 diaries - one for working, one for note making. So it's hardly surprising that I still consider a year/weekly planner a necessity, and I'm always rather pathetically excited about picking them out. And I think I've already found one for 2014.

   PaperStone has a great range of diaries, year planners, avery labels, comfy office furniture, envelopes and so forth, but I'm sure I'll end up accumulating more diaries than just this one. I've actually never seen such range in one website before, and it's all broken down into great sections and subsections so it's easy to find exactly what you're after. I'm quite fond of the charity filofax organiser for Breast Cancer Awareness - there's a cause I'm sure we can all get on board with.

   Now for the moodboard! I've put together a collection of things that would be both helpful and stylish for planning out this end of 2013's parties and events, and things that would be great to have on hand ready for when 2014 finally starts. Hopefully it'll be a good year, though the number itself is a hideous orange.




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Thursday, 12 September 2013

DIY Band-Aid Tutorial

   So this isn't mine, at all, which is why I'm only posting a picture and a link to the original page, but it's the cutest thing I've seen in a long time, plus, having gone to the doctors yesterday for a minor procedure, I can appreciate a few good band-aids (plasters) right now!

   This tutorial from VividPlease shows you how you can doll up existing band-aids and plasters to look cute, and be, as Vivid has said, the "silver lining" to getting a minor injury. It's so easy that I might try it myself!
 
For the original post, visit VividPlease!




Monday, 9 September 2013

Weightloss Tips Compilation

WARNING: this is a huge post, and given its fitness subject matter, I doubt that my average reader will be interested, but if you're trying to get fit, then this is honestly worth a read. All of these are tried and tested by myself and friends, and also recommended by several health professionals. If you have anything to add that has really worked for you (please no product ads) then share it in the comments. If I get enough I may well make a second compilation post of all of your suggestions (credited accordingly).


   This is a compilation post of all the things I've learned while working out, dieting and generally trying to lose weight. I've passed these tips onto other people and found that they have varying results depending on the individual.


Working out before or after breakfast.
   There have been many studies on this, and no one can actually agree on it. It would be generally accepted that working out after breakfast would give you more energy and probably be safer, and allow you to work for longer. Personally, I have not found this to be true. I used to exercise on an empty stomach every morning, and actually lost more weight in the long-run this way, and never felt any obvious negative effects.
   However, while I've always suffered from migraines, I admit to experiencing more when I exercised on an empty stomach. I had still suffered them when I work out after breakfast, and without working out at all, but I had found that my migraines were not as bad, and more managable if I had breakfast in the mornings. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that I have breakfast before exercising. As I said previously, I, personally, lost more weight exercising on an empty stomach, but I hate migraines so much that I'd rather lose weight slower and have less intense migraines.
   Friends of mine have found that exercising after breakfast has in fact helped them lose weight, while one or two have experienced the same as I have.
   Bottom line: there is no right or wrong here, it depends on the individual.

Waiting an hour after eating.
   There are a few different aspects of this which make it difficult to provide a proper response. The common myth of stitches is incorrect. If you get a stitch while working out or swimming, you would have gotten it anyway. I experimented by working out on an empty stomach, working out right after breakfast, and working out an hour and a half after breakfast. I got stitches at around the same point each time. Rather, stitches are far more likely to be caused by lack of a proper warm-up, or certain movements. As an example, I am guaranteed to get a stitch while doing the Latin Dance 10 Minute Solutions disc, regardless of which workout I choose from it. The excessive hip movements always cause a stitch on my right hand side in the same place. However, how quickly it surfaces depends on the warm-up. For example, I tried jumping right in a few times before warming up and got a stitch within five minutes. Other days, I warmed up by following a warm-up routine on the Urban Workout DVD before trying the Latin Dance Mix DVD, and actually got about 25 minutes through the disc before a stitch hit me. I tried working out without a warm-up on other DVDs, and my stitch surfaced after about half an hour due to lack/gentle/infrequent hip movements, and I also did these same DVDs with a workout and never got a stitch at all. None of these were influenced by my breakfast.
   However, on the other hand, if you do your exercise immediately after breakfast, the energy required to efficiently digest is redirected to your muscles to aid in your exercise, meaning your breakfast will just sit there while you do so, and you'll gain little to no energy from it because it won't have digested.
   Bottom line: it's best to wait an hour or so after eating before exercising to give your food the chance to digest, and warm up properly before you begin. Stitches are generally unrelated to digestion, and are more to do with lack of a proper warm-up and particular movements. My friends have found similar results.

Green tea & lemon juice.
   Green tea is incredible stuff. Many studies have shown that it can aid weight-loss and increase metabolism, and, at least for me, it seems to be the case. Studies show that, in extreme cases, drinking five cups of green tea a day can increase weightloss by 50%. While it hasn't been that extreme for me, it has noticably improved. When I drank green tea, I lost about a pound or two more a fortnight than I did without it.
   Lemon juice is also very amazing. If you add a splash of lemon juice to your green tea in the morning, you can really kick-start your digestion and metabolism, and it will really aid in weight loss.
   Bottom line: having a cup of hot green tea with a splash of lemon juice in the morning certainly won't cause you any harm, and may in fact help your weightloss. While it may not work for everyone, it's far from a dangerous addition to your diet, and can help prevent certain cancers.

Dietary supplements.
   Everyone reacts differently to these things. Some people experience negative reactions, others experience no change whatsoever, and others will praise it non-stop. An example are Raspberry Ketones. These have been used for decades but have recently risen to fame thanks to some random TV show in the US. They supposedly help increase your metabolism and can help shed the pounds. I have heard of people lose a few stone thanks to them, and others experience no change at all. Personally, I experience little change in weight-loss, but it definitely sped up metabolism, but that caused me to eat more because I was so hungry.
   One very important thing to keep in mind with dietary supplements is that they're not supposed to just work on their own. They are an aid. Raspberry ketones are natural, but you'd have to eat about 90lbs of raspberries to get the same amount of ketones from supplements. If you do buy them, make sure you only buy them if they are natural, and not factory-produced, and have no additions in the capsules such as green tea or anything else, because they compromise the effectiveness of the ketone. But these supplements will barely work if you don't eat properly and workout while taking them. This is part of the reason I think some people lost so much, and others lost so little. Some people will take them and exercise hard and eat well at the same time, which is what you should do, while others will take them and expect them to work all on their own with no help at all. This is not the case.
   Bottom line: if you use dietary supplements (note, this does not include crazy weight-loss formulas), make sure you buy the most natural stuff you can, with as few additions to them as you can, and make sure you keep fit and active, and eat well while taking them. They are not designed to shed the pounds by themselves, and if they are you should keep away from them, because they're likely quite dangerous.

Toning before losing.
   Don't confuse exercise with toning. Now, on average, 1 kilo of muscle is about 30% the size of 1 kilo of fat. Meaning that it's possible to weight 10 stone and be on the chunky side, and it's possible to be 10 stone and be quite slender depending on how toned you are. HOWEVER, one important thing to remember is that toning and losing weight isn't the same thing. If you just have a little bit of weight to lose, you can probably tone it away, but if you have a lot of weight to lose, DO NOT CRUNCH. Crunching and other ab-building workouts will not help you. Sure, it may turn some fat to muscle, but it will build muscle behind the fat, and that fat will be much harder to lose. Much harder. If it helps, think of toning as a sort of sealant. Something you'd spray over paint to finish it. A varnish, if you will. It's something that shouldn't be done until it's ready to be done. A finish. First of all, you should lose the jiggle. Once you've done that, then you start toning. The toning makes weight harder to put on, in fact. So keep those crunches and ab-building workouts until you've run/danced/jumped all of that weight off.
   Bottom line: toning does burn calories, and it can 'turn fat to muscle', but it cannot turn large quantities of fat to large or small quantities of muscle. It's a finishing touch - it's varnish on paint; it's a full stop after a sentence; it's firing the clay. It's what you should do to make your weight-loss permanent, or to shed those last two or three pounds.

Muscle-building weight.
   As I mentioned above, 1 kilo of muscle is significantly smaller than 1 kilo of fat, eventhough they weigh the same. Just do a google search for '1kg muscle 1kg fat'. Picture it as a kilo of steel compared to a kilo of feathers. There's a stark difference in size.
   This means that, if you lost weight and got down to around 9 stone and then you started toning and/or weight-lifting (note: it takes a lot of weight-lifting to become one of those really muscular ladies, and so would take a hell of a lot of dedication and a little bit of obsession. You would certainly become sexy, toned and firm long before you become one of those ladies), you would 'gain weight'. This would of course mean that the scales would stop saying 9 stone, and start saying 9 stone 3 pounds, but that's a good thing. What you need to do is stop worrying about weight at this point and worry more about the tape measure.
   Bottom line: muscle weighs a hell of a lot more than fat, and you shouldn't avoid picking up a set of weights because you're frightened of going too far. It takes a lot of dedication, and a lot of time to become an extremely muscular woman, so it's far from likely to happen by accident. In fact, it won't happen by accident. It's an irrational fear, and, I would imagine, a little unfair towards body-building women who put their time and effort into the body they have.

Aching vs Injury.
   It's quite obvious that if you injure yourself while exercising that you should stop. If you have injured yourself, chances are that you've either done something too vigourously, or have done it wrong. Really listen to instructors on DVDs, or carefully read instructions to avoid this.
   But please note that aching and pulled muscles aren't the same thing. If you've pulled a muscle, then from my experience, you shouldn't protect it. These pains usually come about the next day after having rested all night, and are very, very likely if you've only just started exercising. This is because your body doesn't know what the hell you're doing. What you need to do is make sure you keep at it. If you lifted weights for the first time on Monday, then on Tuesday wake up aching or with pulled muscles, that doesn't give you a pass tos kip that day. By skipping it, you will only end up with pulled muscles again the next time you do it after recovering. The best thing you can do is, of course, don't exert yourself on your first go, but you will probably end up aching. This means that you're working muscles you've not really worked before, and is a good sign. And so when you wake up with these aches, you still have to use weights again that day. Perhaps lighter ones, or use the same ones as before but do fewer reps, but you must keep at it. Pulled muscles take a day or two to recover. If you skip working out to let them recover, you'll pull them again the next time you do it, and that'll probably put you off. If you make sure to exercise the next day, but perhaps not as hard, the next morning you'll still hurt, but not as much. Do it again the next day, and the discomfort will continue to subside. But if you protect it, you only drag it out. Your body will quickly adjust to your new workout regime.
   Bottom line: yes, you will most likely pull your muscles and/or ache the after your first go at exercising, be it weights, dance or even yoga, but when the discomfort kicks in the next day, you must work through it. Your body will heal perhaps a day slower, but you'll burn a hell of a lot more calories, and adjust to the new workout regime a lot faster than if you protect your pulled muscles and not workout again until they've healed. That will only result in pulling them again - not as much, but it'll still happen.

Sources (websites, magazines etc).
   There are a lot of different magazines and websites out there that tell you all kinds of different things in regards to weight-loss, and not al of them agree on things. Chances are you'll find one website that will tell you that everything I've said is wrong, and another that will tell you that everything I've said is right. The best thing you can do is compare sources and find the website or magazine that best suits you, and covers most, if not all areas of weight-loss. Don't read too deeply into product-sponsored articles, because they are being payed to say something good about the product. Instead, look at articles that point towards method rather than product, as these are safer, and more likely to work.
   Once you find a suitable website or magazine (most magazines have websites that will tell you the same as the magazines do but in more detail, and it is obviously a lot easier to find info on things on their website than their magazines) stick to it. Because if a magazine tells you that method A works, but method B will work against it, and you devote yourself to method A, then picking up a different magazine that says method B works better than method A, and you decide to do both, you may end up hurting yourself or being counter-productive. So stick to the same magazine, because they will likely feature articles written by the same fitness instructors and professionals, and it's best to stick to them instead of following too many different ones.
   Personally, I choose the UK fitness magazine 'Women's Fitness' because it has everything - ads for gym classes (both normal and highly unusual), interesting articles, great weightloss product compilations such as new sports clothing and the like, loads of healthy recipes from smoothies to meals, and, of course, lots of different workouts.
   As for my chosen website, it's the US's equivalent: FitnessMagazine.com
   Bottom line: don't confuse yourself by reading 6 different weight-loss magazines, because, chances are, they will all say different things from one another, even if they're all just as effective or correct in what they're saying. It's best to avoid confusion and stick to one or two agreeing sources for advice and tips, because following routines from several different instructors can cause injury, and result in some cases in wasted time.

Myths.
   There are a lot of myths about weight-loss, but what you should never do is follow fads. Follow the things that have worked for years. Running is effective. Dancing is effective. Weights are effective. There is a reason that these methods of weight loss are always promoted. The same as eating more veg and less chocolate. Chocolate is a lot cheaper and easier to find than it was 50 years ago, and vegetables were a lot more common. People are more obese these days because of that. And fast food, of course. And laziness brought on by technology and how easy life has become in 1st world countries.
   Bottom line: myths are unproven, and fads are not studied in the long-term. Stick to the old, proven ways and you cannot go wrong.

Difficult DVDs / reviews.
   One thing that annoys me when looking for new exercise DVDs are reviews. Some people will find dieting works better for them than exercise, and so they might find the DVD ineffective to them, and others are the other way around and find them ridiculously helpful. But some people will just never give things a proper chance, and seem to expect everything to go perfectly immediately. I've bought a lot of 10 Minute Solutions DVDs - as I'm sure you've noticed - and no, they weren't easy to learn, but I did it, and I'm the kind of person that gives up quick. But I did it because I had no intention of buying a DVD and only using it once, like a lot of Amazon reviewers seem to have. A lot of people leave negative reviews because the DVDs are 'too hard'. Clearly these people expected to be able to do it right out of the box. If they've left a negative review because the instructor doesn't talk through the moves at all, then fine, I get that, it's annoying and puts me off immediately, but one thing you should never do is expect to be able to do something that you've never seen or tried right away.
   If a DVD is difficult, that is a good thing. The reason for this is that you're going to work a lot harder to learn it. That won't be easy - in fact, it's pretty tiring - but it does happen. When I bought my first dance DVD, it took me about 5 run-throughs to get it. That's 50 minutes. I could not dance and I had no balance. Now, my core is pretty strong, and it only takes me one run-through to get the routine. Most of the moves are new, but I'm agile enough, and experienced enough, to get it pretty damn quick now, and if one or two moves are familiar, excellent!
   If a DVD is difficult then it means you have something to aim for in the short term. Obviously, your long-term goal is to lose weight and/or get fit. But short-term goals are so valuable in the process. And these, in this case, should be to be able to follow the DVD perfectly. It might seem impossible to begin with, but you will learn it. I only continue to put the DVDs on these days for the music, and as a sort of timer for each set. I can do them without it.
   Bottom line: if you can do the DVD as soon as you get it, then it's not worth your time. You have nothing to aim for while doing it, and it won't last you very long. If a DVD is hard, then it'll last you longer, and you'll actually work harder while doing it, and burn more calories. Not to mention you'll have fun. I still don't think I can dance, but I can dance to these DVDs. I got the moves, baby!

You will always jiggle.
   One thing that us jiggly ladies don't realise is that even toned, slender ladies jiggle. The instructors in my DVDs are not scantily clad. They're dressed appropriately for the moves, and for the fact that it is a workout DVD. But they almost always have their tummies visible. This is a good thing, because sometimes the camera lingers on them, reminding you that this is probably your goal, and if you keep this up, you can have it. But it doesn't just help there. I've noticed that each instructor has a slight jiggle in their tummies if they stomp, jump, or make a fast movement, eventhough they are in amazing shape and I envy them terribly (but at the same time, they've worked for it). I've come to realise that this is very normal, and if your skin is that tight that it doesn't move at all, you're probably unwell. So dear fellow jiggly ladies, don't measure your weight by the jiggle. Sure, if your tummy wobbles a little too long or a little too enthusiastically, you have to work harder (you know, if you want to. I have absolutely nothing against large ladies who are happy with their bodies - I promote fitness because I know that I feel a lot better when I work out, on the inside and the outside), but there will always be that slight jiggle, and you should learn to ignore it.
   Bottom line: you will always jiggle. Period.

Scales vs tape measure.
   Your weight can fluctuate by literally 5lbs in a single day - that's just over 2 kilos. In a single day. I have also learned that you will weigh more after a week of hard exercise than you did at the start. I exercise Monday to Friday. Back when I first got the Wii, I weighed myself with it every day, like it told me to. This, it turns out, was a very bad idea, because your weight fluctuates so much that it's impossible to get a precise reading. One day, I finally stopped. I weighed myself on the Monday, and didn't weigh again until Friday. I had exercised solidly that week, and done a great job, so I really expected my weight to have dropped. I was wrong. It had increased by about 2 pounds/1 kilo. I couldn't believe it. I thank my lucky stars that I didn't give up at that point - a lot of people would have - and instead I took the weekend off, as I always did (your body needs to rest), and got back to work on Monday, but this time when I weighed myself, those 2 pounds had dropped off, along with another two. What the hell? This put me in great spirits to say the least, so I tried harder that week. I weighed myself on Friday again, and poof, those two pounds were back. I rested up that weekend, weighed myself Monday morning, those two pounds along with another two vanished. This kept up for a few weeks before I started weighing myself on a monthly basis. My weight fluctuated because my body was tired from the exercise, and the pounds didn't really disappear until I rested. The rest is very important.
   But despite the fact that my weight was dropping, the tape measure barely changed. Even now there's little difference (admittedly I've fallen off the horse lately, and I'm struggling to catch it while it runs circles around the field), but I've realise that people cannot tell how much you weigh based on looks, and it's the looks that I'm concerned about. I am more interested in losing inches than weight. Of course, don't get me wrong, I love seeing that number decrease, but it's the tape measure that truly matters to me.
   Bottom line: weight fluctuates hugely, to the point that it's a little ridiculous, and difficult to get an accurate reading. As a result, you shouldn't take what the scales say to heart, but if the number is higher than you want it to be, keep working. But muscles weighs more than fat, so if the scales suggest big but the tape measure says sexy, stick with the tape measure. It depends on where you are. If you're trying to lose the fat, trust the scales. If you're toning, trust the tape measure.

Keeping enthusiastic.
   There are a lot of things that help me stick with exercising, because I do feel like giving up sometimes, especially if I hit a plateau. One thing I do is buy a new workout DVD. If I can do my current disc with my eyes closed, it's time to buy a new one. Once I can do that with my eyes closed, time to buy another. New DVDs help with motivating me hugely. Don't get me wrong, if you've learned one, bought another, learned that, bought another, and then learned that one, you can go back to the first DVD. You will still know it, so you won't have to relearn it, but it'll still be effective because it'll be different to what you were doing, and you'll rediscover how hard it was.
   Another thing that helps me is new equipment. I'm a lot more eager to weight lift if I have new weights. I'm keen to use my resistance band if I bought a stronger band. Or, hell, same band, different make/colour. Because I know that new equipment means new exercise. I actually exercise twice a day. I dance in the morning to wake me up, and because it's fun, and I use weights and resistance bands in the evening when I'm far more awake, my muscles aren't still asleep, and I'm looking to tire myself out so that I can really relax that evening (believe me, I sleep a lot better after doing weights 2 hours before bed). Plus it means that I'm less likely to go a weekday without working out. If I feel sick in the morning and skip dance, but better in the evening, I'll still use weights.
   Another thing that helps are new clothes. I love Sports Direct because it's high quality stuff but more affordable, like an outlet store. I have 2 different tops, 4 different trousers/crops, I also have weighted gloves, legwarmers because they looked cute on an instructor, and all kinds of other things. I'm keen to wear them, and once I'm in them I feel a little sexier, even if I'm not, and that motivates me, too.
   The final thing that motivates me are images. Sometimes they're obvious - things like instructors' abs and images of actual muscle vs actual fat, or compilations that say truly motivational things (meaning actually actually motivational, and not silly things about the universe. Just honest truths, like 'you'll never get that gap between your thighs if you pick up that cookie'). And...sometimes they're really silly, embarrassing and quite nerdy. I saw an image of a new Troll model in WoW (model, in this case, simply means figure/image), and I saw her digital, pixely blue abs and just thought 'I want that body, she looks strong and fierce!' and that motivated me for a good week when using weights. I know it's silly, but if it works, it works. Hell, just thinking of that image has made me start to itch about picking up my weights.
   Bottom line: if something motivates you, keep at it. Treat yourself to an expensive pair of yoga pants every now and then. Buy a new flashy set of weights. If a picture or person motivates you, slap a picture of them up somewhere or set it as your desktop background - put it somewhere you'll see it every day, but not all day. And, if you need to, put a mirror in the fridge. Michael McIntyre is, in fact, a genius.

Ol' Faithful.
   Even after all of these tips, there is one blaringly obvious fact: that eating well and keeping active will make you lose weight. You can take all the dietary supplements you want, drink all the green tea you want, or you can sit here and scoff at the very idea of all of this voodoo, but at the end of the day, you will lose a lot more weight if you eat properly, and exercise frequently than if you don't. There is absolutely no arguing with this fact, which is why I've saved it until last. If you don't want to risk weights, then don't. If you don't subscribe to dietary supplements, then don't buy them. If you don't want to drink green tea with a shot of lemon every morning, then don't. Half of these things may not even work for you, while the other half may work wonders - it varies strongly from person to person, but one thing that doesn't is the fact that eating well and keeping active causes weight loss. And there are so many different types of exercise! You can stick to aerobics DVDs or get a personal trainer and hit the weights in the gym - or you can do something much more exciting like Zumba, indoor rock climbing, kickboxing or yoga while suspended by big red ribbons. It doesn't have to be boring!
   Bottom line: you are in control of your fitness - you and only you. If you're happy as you are then I truly envy you, because I'm not, and I never have been. I have such little self-esteem that I never take pictures of myself. You'll probably notice that there are only like, 3 pictures of my on this whole blog because of it. In fact, if I get to where I want to be, I may well still not be happy because I'm so used to judging myself. But aside from all of that, I know what I want, and I know that I am damn sure the only person who can get me there. And so are you. Don't wait for Monday, the first of the month or the new year. Get to it right now. It's proven that the longer you leave something, the bigger you build it up to be in your head, and the harder it'll be to start, and then, when you fall off the horse - because you will, regardless of when you start - you'll find it so hard to get back on it because you'll have expected to fail. Instead, get to it right this second - seriously! Go for a run around the streets, or just get up and do a set of 10 jumping jacks. You'll feel amazing for it - I promise you that it's not a cliché - and get yourself on track to where you truly want to be, whether it's 5 pounds or 5 stone away.



Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Next Time...


The next time you think life is hard, remember:


You don't have to take the Ring to Mordor.




Monday, 2 September 2013

Bookmark Dump



In 2005 there was an incident called the Corrupted Blood Incident. Real world epidemiologists and anti-terrorist officials took notice, and observed peoples reactions to the event. It was a highly contagious disease that could kill in seconds, and was spread from one person to another by simply being near them. Some people who could help to heal affected individuals offered their services, while other people who couldn't help in that manner directed people away from the infected areas, such as major cities and towns, while some other people entirely decided to spread it - some by accident, and others on purpose. Remember I said that real world epidemiologists studied the case to watch human behavior towards it, and anti-terrorist officials observed the people spreading the disease purposely? This all happened in World of Warcraft due to a bug. Yes, a debuff (a spell cast upon someone by someone else or due to an action that inconveniences the character) contracted from a raid boss was spread purposely through the game by other players who found they could teleport out of the instance to major cities and spread the disease. Major cities are filled with players both high and low level, and while the high level players could survive it, lower levels were killed off almost immediately. These are real people spreading it around, and real people directing others away from cities rather than just playing the game and doing their own thing, and actual organisations and scientists studied this. Dying in World of Warcraft isn't permanent, but it is bloody annoying.

Bethesda are releasing a single anthology of all of The full Elder Scrolls games so far released, starting from Arena, released in 1994 going all the way to Skyrim released in 2011. Yes, it includes Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, both of Morrowind's expansions, Oblivion and all of its DLC, and Skyrim and all of that game's DLC. For £50. Morrowind alone costs £30!

A screenshot I took on World of Warcraft for day 12 of the #WoWscreenshotaday challenge made it onto WoW Insider's daily feature of 'Around Azeroth'



Building your own gaming computer: introduction and planning.

The Burdens of Shaohao full video list.


MachinimaPrime made a Skyrim fanvid. It's good, but I was a little disappointed in Astrid. But I'm not keen on that bitch anyway.