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

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Currently

Reading: Still Dawn of the Aspects. I'm still focusing on my writing so when I'm ready to jump into another world I tend to go to my own. It's not arrogance, it's a desire to get it finished and move onto the next book I'm planning. Plus I'm nearly at the end of reading Dawn of the Aspects, and if you know me you'll know I hate finishing stories. Ending my own is bad enough but that has to be done or they'll obviously never be published. But when I'm reading a book or watching a TV series I hate watching the final episode. More often than not I skip them altogether. They'll either be disappointing (and the longer a series is the more likely that is) or I'll have no idea what to do with myself because it's all over. We just finished watching Stargate: Atlantis, but we put off watching the last episode for weeks (it ended up being disappointing, partly because of that pedestal). I'll get around to finishing the book eventually...

Watching: Dragonball. I watched Dragonball Z when I was 8 but I'll admit that I had little idea what was going on at the time. It was also before you could digitally record things so we had to set up the video recorder if we were going out, and when we forgot to I had the biggest tantrums. I had the best person in the world over a week ago and she told me that I always used to go on and on about it. She never watched the show but she remembers more than I do! Dragonball came before Dragonball Z, however, and sees Goku as a 12 year old as opposed to a fully grown man. I'd never seen it, and when I decided I wanted to watch Dragonball Z again, I thought I should start at the beginning instead. My only complaint is that I can't find it subtitled anywhere so I have to watch it dubbed, and often when programs are dubbed they over-compensate. However, Master Roshi's voice acting is the best. I'm totally enjoying the show :D all of my morning productivity has gone out of the window.

Listening: I just got the Avatar: Legend of Korra soundtrack in and I can't turn it off. I love it. There are a few tracks in the show that...aren't Avatar-y at all because they're more like swing music than classical Asian music, but when played on their own I can't keep still. I've got it in my head right now and I'm fighting the temptation to Charlston it out.

Playing: Nothing at the moment, like I said I'm writing, but Watch_Dogs just came out and while Dragonball has destroyed my morning productivity, Watch_Dogs has stolen my weekend productivity. It's got a good story, the graphics are good enough, the music's pretty nice and the multiplayer where other players come into your game and try to 'hack' you (the game is about a computer hacker) is pretty fun to watch - unless the guy trying to hack you literally drives a car up alongside you and stops to do it, because then it's pretty obvious who it is and you don't have to go searching for them, and that's most of the fun.

Thinking: I should buy a boat. No, seriously though, I'm thinking again about my book, but also about all of the mistakes I made while writing it - I've got notes floating around on a million pieces of paper and on several word documents, some notes contradict eachother because they were written months apart, others are repeated and somehow forgotten, and others are completely useless to me now. So yesterday, while watching Watch_Dogs, I gathered up all of my notes and finally sat down and organised them. I'm confused as hell by it all because there are 3 things happening in the book at once and I've got details for all 3 things on separate documents and now I have to interlock them. They overlap but it's fitting them together perfectly which is difficult. My next book won't be so complicated, that way I can have more work into making my characters and the world awesome rather than trying to share the awesome out properly amongst goodness knows how many - Generals, Lieutenants, Kings and Queens, ordinary individuals and so on. There are a lot of balls in the air and it's a bit hard to keep up with, so I'll be sure not to make the mistake again.


   Seeg is always using the desk to play his games, so I usually have to do all of my work on the bed. This is what my 'workstation' generally looks like. The pile of papers in the bottom right corner numbers thirty two sheets. Yes, I counted. Good thing I recycle...

Exercising: Still doing Jean Butler's Irish Dance Masterclass, but I will admit to getting a little tired of it now because I'm a bit stuck on one of the sections. I've done the first tap section for a full week now and because I'm working on perfecting before moving on, I'm getting a bit bored with playing the same three minutes over and over for half an hour a day for six days. This section has got a lot of stuff in it but's complicated, and while if you keep at it and take it one step at a time, quite literally, you can learn it, I'm just a bit tired of looking at it.

Wishing: That I hadn't jumbled my writing up so much, and that I had been a little bit more careful a few days ago. I've managed to mildly sprain my wrist while doing a workout the other day, just as I was planning to start the 30 Day Shred again, so needless to say I'm a bit miffed. It also means I can't do my evening yoga and lately I'm getting antsy while sitting still so that's a bit of a bummer. Usually when I'm feeling a bit on the chunky side I sit around and feel sorry for myself, usually making it worse, but for once I actually feel like doing something about it and I can't. 'Tis poo. It also means that orders have been delayed a little and projects I wanted to work on have fallen by the wayside. I'm also worried that it won't have recovered in time for next month's workout. I'm extremely excited about it, but I'm a bit nervous, too. I'm certain I'm going to break something, but I've wanted to try it for years so I decided to just go for it. I'm hoping it will count towards research for my writing, too. Now I bet you're all extremely confused.

Also one last shout out to Krysten of Why Girls Are Weird 
to give a big congratulations on her wedding!



Thursday, 22 May 2014

Spring Seedling Cupcakes Tutorial

   These cute little spring and summer seedling flower pot cakes are so easy, and would look great at a garden tea party! Use chocolate cake mix and green fondant or sugar paste, and find yourself some tiny little terracotta pots - they can be found in all kinds of sizes in most garden centres, but be sure to measure your cupcake wrappers first.


   They're so cute, but they're SO simple! The hard part is really just finding pots the right size. I could almost find pots the right size for ordinary cupcakes, but most of them were either 1cm too big or 1 cm too small, and I wanted the cake cases to be hidden, but not for the cakes to just disappear inside, so instead I went for petit four/mini cupcakes. I have a small 12-slot Wilton petit four pan and lots of wrappers, and when I measured them they were the perfect fit for a set of 10 48mm terracotta pots I found on Amazon.
   I used a box mix - judge me all you like - and made a tray of the little cakes. I didn't bake them in the pots because I had no idea how they'd hold up, and I figured they probably wouldn't be food-safe either. When they were done I popped them in to see if they would fit and it was just perfectly snug.



   I made little leaves and sprouts out of green fondant, and I hurried the drying process along with this little gem, then made a small hole with a skewer in the top of the cake, put a little bit of chocolate frosting on to encourage things to stay put without absolutely covering it, and pressed the sprout in and stuck a leaf next to it. They don't look like much out of the pot, but presentation is everything in this case.





Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Irish Dance: 2 Weeks Later

   I'm absolutely loving the Irish dancing. I knew it would be hard, it's not the kind of thing you can just pick up, but I am truly getting somewhere. The control you have to have in your legs is intense but you can pick it up, but you do need good balance, too.
   The DVD is pretty good, but rather than giving you a routine to learn, it just teaches you moves, and so the DVD is made up of many sections, all of which last between 1-4 minutes. On day 1 I literally spent half an hour repeating a single 2 minute section, which might seem dull but you'd be surprised how fast that passes, and that's kind of what's required to pick it up. On day 2, 3 and 4 I spent half an hour each on the next section which was just 1 minute long, but it was a complicated move. I have since covered most of the soft-foot (non-tap) moves, but I'm having real trouble with the jumps. But, I never intend to compete or do it for a living, or even really show anyone, ever, so in the end I decided it wasn't vital for me to learn the hardest jumps, but I am still trying a few times each day, and I'm slowly picking those up, too.
   I moved onto the hard-shoe half of the DVD now, but I've spent 3 days on the first section, which I've not completed yet because there's a lot of different moves covered in 3 minutes and it takes a long time to learn them.

   All this might seem ineffective, even boring and repetative, so you really need to have a taste for the style of dance to enjoy it, which I seriously do. I look forward to it every day, even if I know I'm going to be spending all of my time on the same section I have for the past few days, because the satisfaction that comes with finally getting the hang of a move is pretty good.
   You'd be amazed how much you sweat, too, when all you're really doing are little jumps and hops and using your legs. Your upper body simply doesn't move. You have to really warm up first, and cool down afterwards, I'd say more than for any other workout I've ever tried, because your calves get completely destroyed (either that or I'm doing it wrong), but it's awesome. I've been doing it for two weeks now and I've lost half an inch around my waist already, it's incredible, and so much fun! I seriously recommend the DVD.

   I'll update again at the end of the month, and write a full review for the DVD, too.



Monday, 12 May 2014

Lyndsey Green Illustration

   I decided to treat myself after completing the 30 Day Shred, and while I'd liked to have done so with cake, I thought it probably wasn't quite appropriate, so I decided to go a different way.
   I've always liked Lyndsey Green's illustrations, I like the fact that they're almost realistic, but have a quite whimsical touch to them. She brought out a lovely little zine full of foxy facts in February, 10% of the sale of which goes to LACS (League Against Cruel Sports). It took me a while to get around to buying it, purely because I kept forgetting. I love Etsy, there are so many amazing products on there I want, but because I'm a seller, I tend to get a little more preoccupied with that than with shopping on there myself.
   But, when it came time to treat myself, I decided what I'd get. The zine cost £5, and I bought a couple of cards as well, so it wasn't the kind of splashing out you'd expect after such hard work. There are two reasons for that: 1) I'm damn near broke, and 2) I'm trying to save up for a few things such as new exercise equipment and...well, also a gaming computer. My priorities are straight, I assure you.
   But I was happy with the purchase and was eagerly awaiting the little book. I found out shortly after as well that I was Lyndsey's 1000th sale - so that was exciting! I felt even better about my purchase after that, knowing that I'd helped her reach that landmark, because I remember how exciting it was to reach 250 sales myself. I doubt I'll ever reach 1000 sales, though, I think I'll probably end up closing up by that point, but we'll see what life throws my way.
   I was working out when my package arrived, I was working on the second day of this month's workout (Jean Butler's Irish Dance Masterclass), but it was worth pausing the DVD to answer the door for it.
   My first thoughts were 'that's some excessive packaging for a bit of paper' because it was bulky, and I got kind of confused and even a little worried that I'd been sent someone else's order. I opened it carefully just in case, but the first thing I found in there (along with products I didn't order) was a little note thanking me for being the 1000th sale and to enjoy my free goodies!


   Amazing. Seriously. This is a fraction of the reason I love Etsy so much. The individuality of each shop, the personalities that shine through in packaging, correspondance and service, and the fact that your purchase does mean something to the individual. I had no idea I was going to be sent extra freebies for being the 1000th sale, and in truth I wouldn't expect it, either. I had a quick look on her Facebook page and found that it had been mentioned that her 1000th sale would receive a goody bag, but I think it could possibly mean a little less if her 1000th sale had come from someone who purchased just for a few freebies rather than out of support.
   Regardless, Lyndsey Green's work is amazing, and I'm so happy to have a wonderful new tote bag for my post office trips, a lovely print to sit beside my mirror, and a stash of cards for whenever I need them.
   If you haven't already, have a gander at her work. I must have her Wolf Song print. I love it, and I can say with confidence that my boyfriend would, too!



Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred Review

Price: £5/ $8
Length: 3x 20 minutes
Workouts: All-over body (cardio, abs, strength)
Suitable for: everyone
Rating:   ★★★★★
Based on 30 days of use.


   As you all know, I just completed the 30 Day Shred. Now it's time for my review of the DVD. Calm down, I know, it's terribly exciting, but please try to contain yourselves.
   The shred is made up of 3 levels. Each level lasts 25 minutes, 5 minutes of which are warm-ups and cool-downs, and the workout itself lasts for 20 minutes. You spend at least 10 days on the first level, after which point you move onto the next and spend another 10 days on that, then you move on again. Each level is progressively harder, but after the first couple of days on each level, you will find it easier. There are two demonstrators behind Jillian who are also doing the moves, but one of them is high-intensity for those who are more experienced, looking for a challenge, or have already spent about 5 days on that level. The other is for people who are new to it, have injuries, or simply can't keep up. Jillian talks you through everything while the others are doing the moves, but she does of course, get involved too. Some people say she's annoying, and I thought so too at first, but in the end you come to rely on her motivation, and I quite like her now.

   Unlike most workout DVDs, I actually found the warm-up to be really very adequate - perfect in fact - and it really got you warmed up and stretched, ready to go. Trying to use weights without having done that first is foolish.

   I did make two mistakes on the first day of level 1: I used weights that were too heavy because I was a little too overconfident, and I also followed the harder instructor for the same reason. I pulled muscles and was in pain for a few days (I didn't quit, though, and I did stick to the shred, stretching my muscles out and subsequently eliminating the pain), and on day 2 I went for my lightest weights, which were 3lbs, and followed the easier instructor for a few days. Once the ache had passed, by day 4 I think it was, I was able to follow the harder instructor, but I stuck to small weights.
   During level 2 I found a few moves to be too easy even under high intensity, so then I was able to increase my weights, and the same again in level 3, increasing some of my weights right the way up to 8lbs for some of the moves I was most familiar with. The trick isn't to show off, but to push your body and keep it difficult, but not so difficult that you can't move the next day.
   There are a few moves that, even by the end of level 3 I was still following the easier instructor, the most obvious of which to me was the push-ups. I struggled bigtime initially even with my knees on the floor, but while I now have them down, and all the variations from the 3 levels, I haven't tried it on the balls of my feet yet. I plan to do the shred again, and this time I'm going to try to do push-ups that way.

   I've known a few people who have tried the shred. Some gave up immediately after one day at level 1, claiming it was too hard. Others went right through to the end and got incredible results. I knew it was going to be hard, and when it comes to workouts, I don't quit. Which is funny since I quit at almost everything else! So even when I began the DVD at level 1, knowing it would be hard, and feeling like death the next day because of my own mistakes, I kept going.

   There is a long introduction to the DVD which you can't skip the chapter of, and I don't remember if you can fast forward it, but that's more than enough time to set up your mat and weights - that's all you need. If you have handweights of varying weight, I'd suggest making sure you had two different ones on hand when you hit the half-way mark of level 1.
   She doesn't give you the chance to stop and take a drink of water, but I would recommend having a bottle on hand and when you really need to, stop and take a drink. It's for the best.

   I definitely, certainly, hugely, whole-heartedly recommend this DVD. I know many people do, and Amazon's reviews speak for themselves, but if you're wondering whether or not to try it, try it. There is a very good reason for all the hype. Yes, it will be hard, most certainly, but you'll adjust and each level will become a little more managable, your stamina will increase surprisingly quickly, and the results at the end are amazing. Workouts are not going to be easy if they're going to be effective, and the shred is effective. Buy it. It's only 20 minutes a day, and the satisfaction at the end beats a chocolate cake. Although I admit that a chocolate cake sounds mighty good right now.



Tuesday, 6 May 2014

May: Irish Dancing


Fun Rating: ★★★★☆    Difficulty Rating: ★★★☆☆     Results Rating: ★★★★☆

   I love dance. I don't know why, I just do. I can't really do it myself without a DVD, and even then it's just dancing. But that's not that kind of dance I'm talking about, I mean dance dance.
   I don't know why it happens, but when I first saw the Lord of the Dance on TV when I was little, I cried in amazement. I'm 23 now, and it still overwhelms me and brings a tear to my eye to see and hear the dancing. It's not just Irish dance, mind you, it's also tap, ribbon dancing, anything impressive. Ballet doesn't move me, though, I don't really see the appeal, but that doesn't mean that I don't respect the dancers and their discipline.
   I often watch clips of the Lord of the Dance on Youtube, and I often think "I wish I could do that."
   There was a kid in my high school who could do it, he performed in a talent show I was in (I was singing, like almost everyone else), and he was AWESOME. He was a little shit we discovered afterwards, though, which my friend and I were surprised by, but what can you do? We foolishly assumed that by doing something that a lot of people consider to be 'lame' would make him a nice and shy individual. We were wrong.
   Anyway, I'm trying it.
   Yes, my legs will have dropped off by the end, and they'll be badly bruised I'm sure from where I'm bound to end up kicking myself, but I've bought Jean Butler's Irish Dance Masterclass, and that shall be this month's workout.
   She's a master of Irish Dance, the original star of Riverdance, a seriously talented lady, and in this DVD you're shown the basics as well as harder routines. I've not actually played it yet so I don't know much about it, but I am very keen to give it a try. I don't like to put it in the machine until I'm pumped up and ready to go, so in an hour or so, hopefully some of my questions will be answered.
   I even bought some dancing trainers to allow for more flexibility of the foot since it's clear just from watching Youtube videos that normal, rigid trainers won't be much good, but I'm under no illusions about how hard foot-flexing will be, or the dancing itself. But I am excited. I just hope the music is good!


   I will also admit that I plan (plan, mind you) to start the shred again after 2 weeks have passed - I don't see the point in leaving something out if you know it gives damn good results - but my priority is the dancing. If I wake up tired one morning and know I'll only be able to manage one of the two workouts, it'll be the dancing.

   So, that's May. I'll post about it after two weeks to let you know how fun, hard, and hopefully effective it is. I'll be sticking with my kettlebell workout in the evenings, though, so this won't be all I'll be doing, as always.



Monday, 5 May 2014

30 Day Shred - Level 3

Fun Rating: ★★☆☆☆    Difficulty Rating: ★★★★☆     Results Rating: ★★★★☆



   Level 3 of the 30 Day Shred was difficult, I'll say that right now, but I will also go on to say that, for me, it was possibly the easiest level as far as strength and abs went. The only reason for this, however, was that the majority of the moves were already very familiar to me from my normal weight training. The cardio section was still very hard - the hardest yet - and I did struggle with it. Of course, that wasn't to say that I felt the whole level was ineffective, because I didn't. I usually do around 8 sets of 5 reps per side with my weights per move, but in the shred you're looking at about 30 seconds of reps on one side alone, which is certainly far more than 5, and so very taxing.
   The whole thing was a load of fun, though, and because of my familiarity, I was able to increase the weights as well. But I recognise for someone who doesn't really do much, if any, strength training outside of the shred, it's seriously no joke, and it will be hard. But the results are totally worth it.

   And so I now move onto that. The DVD says you can lose up to 20lbs in 30 days. Bare in mind that that is if you 1) stick to the shred, 2) stick to the diet plan (which I couldn't actually find anywhere), 3) are relatively inexperienced. For someone of a more experienced fitness level it won't be quite as taxing (but that doesn't mean less effective), but you also have to realise that you need to have weight to lose. I'm not boasting, I promise you, but I do not have 20lbs to lose, and so I knew from the beginning that I wouldn't manage to shed even a quarter of that, and I was right. And it's also important to remember that the less weight you have to lose, the harder it is to get it off. The bigger you are, the bigger the results you'll see, but over time, as you slim down, the results are smaller, too. So you have to work harder and do harder things. But it can all be shed.
   There is one very important thing to remember if you're concerned about how people see you (but really, who the hell cares what a stranger thinks?): people don't walk past and pick you up. They look at you. And I do enough weight training to not give a damn what the scales say anymore because they mess with my head. I'm far more interested in my tape measure.

   I have an endomorphic body type, which, sadly, means I gain muscle easily, but gain fat even easier, and it's very difficult to get that fat off. It's a real nuisance, but I'm doing the right things about it. For my body type, I need to mix a lot of cardio and strength, and watch my calorie intake. But that also means that the shred is perfect for me.
   Along with the shred, however, which is only 20 minutes long, I also added an extra 20-30 minutes of cardio onto the end of it with a mixture of high intensity dance DVDs, and I also did about 45 minutes of strength training very other evening as well, but this was all stuff I did anyway, meaning the increased results I gained were down to the shred.
   Now, as I suggested above, I didn't lose 20 lbs. I didn't lose 10, in fact, I only lost 4. That might seem off-putting to a lot of people, but as I've said, while I do have jiggle, I don't have 20lbs of it. There is a very real and noticable difference to my body, which is also a lot firmer, which I am so, so happy about. My legs are flipping incredible, and I think they got the hardest workout of all.
   I struggle big time to lose inches, despite everything I do about it, and it's taken me three years - yes, three years - to lose three inches. I only lost half an inch over this past month, and that might also seem off putting to others. "Why did you even bother?" you might be asking. Well, to have spent 3 years losing 3 inches, and then to see half an inch drop off in a month - that's pretty freaking awesome. I had only actually expected to lose one inch at most, and while that means that I technically only got half as far as I had wanted, I'm not knocking the progress at all. It's amazing for me.

   My loss in context:
• My face is slimmer. Rather than my cheeks being a straight line, there are cheekbones now.
• I used to be able to draw my elbows against my waistline and I can't anymore.
• My sides are firmer and the squish on my tummy has considerably lessened.
• My thighs are far firmer and narrower than they were.
• My back is more toned and very firm.

   My results might seem small compared to what other people of other body types have gained, but I know my body, and I know that those results are awesome. I will do the shred again, most certainly, but I'm going to take a few weeks off of it. I've also got a couple more Jillian Michaels DVDs, because I am simply in love with her right now, but for May I do have something...a little different in mind.



Sunday, 4 May 2014

May Bank Holiday Sale

   Hello everyone! I'm just quickly updating to let you all know that there's a quick sale happening in Peaches and Pebbles. You can either opt for free shipping anywhere in the world with the code MAY052014SHIP, or you can choose 20% off of any order with the code MAY05201420. The coupons will expire on Tuesday the 6th, so don't miss out!
   Also, if you're new to Etsy, if you sign up today you can get a free £5 voucher to spend in any Etsy shop! Valid on new accounts, only.


https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/81090382/miniature-envelope-necklace-cream https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/89662201/heart-in-jar-necklace-mothers-day-gift
https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/122136362/purple-dinosaur-fossil-earrings-natural https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/109978328/fox-jar-necklace-spring-mothers-day-gift




Friday, 2 May 2014

An Ectopic Heartbeat?

  As you are all doubtlessly aware by now, I've been pretty obsessed over my writing for more than a month now. It's all I think about, it's all I want to do, I'm interested in nothing else. Call it empty if you like, but that's passion for you: empty for some, absorbing for others.
   Well, my heart has started to do funny things. Pounding very hard out of the blue for no reason - I've not thought of anything to stress me out, I've not thought of anything to get me excited, and I've got nothing I'm particularly looking forward to. Everything's quite normal, so there was no reason for it to do it. My heartbeat doesn't speed up, it just hammers. It went on for about a week and a half, at first it only did it a couple of times, mostly at night, but as time passed it started doing it in the afternoon, and it was literally every 5-10 minutes at night. Needless to say I panicked.

   I made an appointment with the doctor, and after explaining the situation, taking my blood pressure, listening to my heart and so on, they told me it was likely just an ectopic heartbeat. But here's the thing: I don't consume any caffine, alcohol, and I don't smoke. I keep away from 'energy' drinks, and I drink very, very little soda. I'm not pretentious, I just simply don't like the taste of any of it, and I find soda kind of like drinking fizzy syrup.
   Which meant the only other thing it could be down to was anxiety.
   "But your mother," you could be saying, "surely worry over your mother would cause it."
   Well, yes, it would if it wasn't for the fact that she's been the way she is for years and she's not really getting much worse (touchwoodtouchwoodtouchwoodtouchwood), and I'm coping with it all really quite well.
   I had suspected when it started it was book-related, because I'm at quite a tense and pivotal point in the story now. I don't usually manage to get any real writing done until the afternoon, and always most of it at night and in the evening. It usually starts about an hour before I'm finally able to get to work, happens periodically throughout, and continues to happen, and far more frequently, once I've put all the work away. At that point my head is still firmly in the story, but because I've run out of time that day and need to get some sleep, I start fretting that I'll forget my train of thought, or that what I wrote that day is full of problems that need to be ironed out, and sometimes I have no idea how to do that, and I start to panic.

   Ectopic heartbeats are common in adults and don't usually require treatment. It's only if the episodes last about 20 minutes that there could be a problem, but they're in the range of 30 seconds to a minute, and they said (yay!) that I'm too fit and healthy to have developed any kind of heart defect, though it's not impossible, but there are no signs of anything except anxiety.
   Still, it does panic me when it happens frequently out of the blue like that and I have way too many episodes in one night, but I'm going to trust her judgement and try to relax. Return to yoga in the evenings, I think.