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

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Teapigs: Super Power Green

   I reviewed Teapigs not long ago, but I actually wanted to revisit them and look at one of the products in particular: Super Power Green.
    I've already said how good matcha is for you, but Teapig's super power green matcha powder has a few points I think are worth repeating here:

1) Tea powder uses the entire leaf. When using a teabag, the majority of the leaf gets thrown away. The powder is more concentrated and contains more good things than a teabag does, and is a better option than ordinary green tea, too - one number I can't get my head around is that matcha powder has 137 times more antioxidants than ordinary green tea!
2) The energy boost. I used to drink those sugar- and caffine-filled energy drinks when I was younger but they never did anything. I never felt more energised, even when I tried to be (mind over matter) and all I did was gain weight. What annoys me about these energy drinks more is that they're so easily available, and all these 12 year olds run around with them and think they 'need' them. Ahem. Matcha can give you an energy boost for 4-6 hours, but while giving you an energy boost, is also calms your mind so that you can stay focused. Keep in mind the fact that Buddhist monks have been drinking powdered matcha tea for centuries, and that's a fact that certainly strikes a tune with me and my interest in Ancient China and Feudal Japan.
3) Teapigs' Super Power Green was voted the best slimming and fitness product for 2011 - that might have been 3 years ago, but it's just as valid now as it was then, as it helps to speed up your metabolism, and a 'shot' of matcha (half a teaspoon is all you need a day) before a workout can help to improve your fat burn.
4) Tea powder can be easily added to other things. Some people don't like the taste of green tea - it took a little while to adjust to it myself when I started drinking it, but I quickly fell in love with it. But for those who don't like it, the powder can be mixed into smoothies, fruit juice, porridge, yoghurt and so on without even noticing.

http://www.teapigs.co.uk/tea/shop_by_category/matcha_shop/matchakit.htm
   Teapigs sell a wonderful modern matcha kit which I got my hands on, that includes 30g of the powder, a shot glass, a spoon with a half-teaspoon/1g capacity, and a frother for proper mixing. That's all you need a day, a single cup of 1g of powder, for its effects.
   The reason I'm revisiting this product today is for its health benefits, and that because in January 2012, 710 people tried the product for two weeks and 99% would buy again, 80% found increased energy levels, and 60% had improved skin, hair and nails (this sort of thing depends on the other things you consume - for example too much sugar or oily foods is only going to counter the effects on your skin).
   I'm going to give the product a 2-week go as well, and see what sort of results I get. I'm going to begin it tomorrow, September 1st, along with my new and very appropriate workout. Combining the two could well help my motivation for the workout. I know how silly that sounds, but things like this help my frame of mind big time.



Saturday, 30 August 2014

Kickbox Fusion: 4 Weeks Later

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

   For a workout I got off of the internet, with no instructor for the routine to help me keep my pace, I actually found Kickbox Fusion to be one of the best workouts I've done! I had trouble with some of the moves, and I admit that I actually ended up cutting the kapow kick out of my routine because I was evidently doing it wrong and it really started to hurt my knees - with a consistant DVD instructor that may not have happened, as instructors that go through it with you tend to mention things you should avoid and check, like your form, while doing so.
   It got my heartrate up massively, and with the modifications I gave it - 1 minute of each move instead of 45 seconds, with a 1 minute active rest between each set (15 seconds shuffle, 30 second butt kicks, 15 seconds shuffle) - I managed to last longer and do more, and once I'd finished the routine I wasn't so exhausted that I had to stop, so I was able to add another half hour of dance cardio at the end every day, which is a big win.

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/lose-weight/total-body/kickboxing-workout/?sssdmh=dm17.742262&esrc=nwfitdailytip061014#page=8
  Yes, it's difficult, but it gets results. I've said it time and time again: if a workout is easy, it's useless, and just because a workout was difficult for you once upon a time, doesn't mean it's still effective, either. I've got dance DVDs that I adore, but I've used them so much that the movements are second nature to me and my attention to what I'm doing wanes, which means my intensity wanes because I don't have to focus on doing it right - which leads to me doing it wrong sometimes, too. You really ought to adjust your workout every month - try new machines at the gym, new classes, move onto a new level of/buy a new DVD, try something completely different. This helps to avoid plateaus and lets you continue to challenge yourself and your body as well as keeping working out fun. And that is the exact reason that I made this new year's resolution back in January - easily my most successful new year's resolution, too.

   In short, I really do recommend this workout. It's simple as there are only 8 moves you have to learn and perfect, and while they're admittedly tough, you do see your own improvement as you go along as they stop being quite so difficult when you get better at them. Duck-a-punch really pulled at my lower back, but now it's no problem. I can still feel it there, but it doesn't hurt or ache while I'm doing it because doing the movement so much has strengthened and toned my back enough.
   My body feels tighter and more toned, especially around the waist, which is insane because I never get that strong a feeling of a workout having been so effective, and to top it off it was great fun to do. I used my usual dubstep mix, but I built it up with more epic orchestral dubstep and let my imagination go. It was awesome. Easily one of the best workouts of the year.



Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Ask Me Anything

Sir Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2007. What would you do if you found out that you, too, suffered 'The Embuggerance'?

   I actually only found out that Terry Pratchett had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's about 3 or 4 years ago. I've never read his works, but I do hold a great respect for him, and I've seen the TV adaptations of The Colour of Magic and The Hogfather and enjoyed them very much. He has a unique style and he's doubtlessly contributed a lot to the fantasy literature scene.
   Since I found out he'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I've been unable to view it in another other than a creative perspective, and it's actually been because of that that I work harder and longer on my own writing now. You don't know what will happen to you in the future, you have no way of knowing at all, and that's scary, but it spurs me on. On lazy days where my brain won't work, instead of writing perfectly I write my book in note form to make sure I get some work done, and it usually comes out quite well and is often what I need to turn my brain on, at which point I go back and rewrite the notes properly with narrative. Funnily enough, it's when I work that way that I feel I work best.

   But, if I found out...I really don't know what I'd do. I support euthenasia, I always have, especially because of my mother's condition - no one has the right to tell us what we can and cannot do with our lives like that - and I respect his position on it, too. But to be put in that situation myself...
   Seeg's grandmother has Alzheimer's. I met her once. She doesn't speak any English, and I don't really speak Dutch, so I sat quietly and politely, answering questions translated by his parents and otherwise hanging back so that Seeg could see his grandmother. We were with her for about two hours and we lost count of how many times she asked who everyone was. I didn't really find the situation too awkward because of my experience with my mum - she often forgets who she is - but I did find it sad.

   Alzheimer's would take a massive toll on anyone, most certainly, your mind just slips away, and as a writer - an activity that requires attention, great thought and memory - it would destroy your career. Terry Pratchett has done well despite it over recent years, as he said it's a slow moving disease, but it does move, and it seems that it's only started to affect him recently, especially with his need to cancel his appearance at the International Discworld Convention.

   ...In short, I don't know what I'd do. I hope I never suffer in such a way, but there's little you can do to prevent it. Keeping fit and healthy can reduce the likeliness of certain things, but I don't believe that Alzheimer's is one of them.
   "...rather than let Alzheimer's take me, I would take it. I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the 'Brompton cocktail' some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death."

   One could hope.





Friday, 22 August 2014

Teapigs Review + Giveaway [closed]

   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!


Giveaway closed; winner has accepted the prize and is now on its way to Norway!


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.


Disclaimer: I was sent this product to review by the brand itself. The quantity and precise products sent were their choice, not my own. All opinions and images are my own, and all appropriate research has been done by myself from a range of sources rather than relying entirely on the product's website, especially where health products are concerned. I do not accept a product to review if I do not believe it is safe or worth my own time, regardless of any kind of reimbursement. I trial the products for an appropriate amount of time before writing reviews to check for wear-and-tear on physical items and side effects from edible (be it supplements or food). If I have negative points to voice, I will voice them, and I never, ever accept product reviews or reimbursement on the promise of a positive review. My reviews are and will only ever be honest.



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 Kickbox Fusion. 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.




Tuesday, 5 August 2014

World War 1

   How must it have been 100 years ago when Britain joined World War 1? Children probably wouldn't have understood, but what of the adults? I've experienced enough in my life to know that I'm the kind to be paralysed by fear, and it is not a pleasant experience. Admittedly those were times when I was at risk, but what about war? When I wouldn't be a prime target but rather potentially just a statistic?

   I worry about everything going on in the world right now - I'm quite sure many do - but I'm lucky enough at the moment that my country isn't involved enough for my home to be at risk. But when Britain went to war 100 years ago with an enemy who had the same technological capabilities as we did, it must have been a frightening experience for everyone. The soldiers go without saying, and while it's a shame they had to die, at least they succeeded in the end. But the very fact that the enemy possessed similar technology is the most frightening part, because the odds of success are far more balanced for both sides.

   The lights of England have gone off for an hour tonight from 10pm to mark the moment we officially joined the war, and I write this originally the old fashioned way and by candlelight.
   One hundred years ago I would be shaking in my bed. I would be petrified. What would happen to me? What would happen to my family? My country? My future? My children's future - assuming I had a future that lasted long enough to have them?
   During World War 2 a bomb fell into my great grandmother's house. It didn't go off - if it had I certainly wouldn't be here right now. In fact, she still has the damned thing! So while I would like to say 'what are the odds that I'd have been directly affected during the war,' the question has been answered even before I could ask it.
   I dare say everyone was affected. I expect everyone knew someone who died, or knew someone who knew someone who died, be it on the battle field or on home ground, soldier or civilian.
   But 'Keep Calm and Carry On', a British slogan that came about during the 2nd World War. And keep calm and carry on we did. But I can't see how. I try to tell myself that it isn't because I'm spoilt that I wouldn't be able to cope, that I'm somehow more protected than we were 100 years ago, but rather that it's how many people felt, my age, under and over. How can you keep calm and carry on when bombs are falling around you? When 16 year olds are being shipped out to war, staring death in the face at far too young an age while you're at home trying to make ends meet.
   I watch Dad's Army and I hope deeply that people were able to keep so cheerful. It was a comedy show, yes, but at the same time people still had to find food, they still had to live, and they were ingenious in how they went about it. How would we ever cope on rations now? Drawing lines down the back of your legs to look like stocking seams? And I say this knowing that it is fuelled by the fact that, these days, we're spoilt. If we were thrown back and told to survive in that situation given everything we have now I think we'd have a harder time of coping.

   I fear for World War 3. After all, I doubt anyone expected World War 2 to happen so soon after World War 1 ended. A mere 21 years later. How must that have felt? To survive the first war that involved many people from all over the globe with equal or near-equal technology, and then to have to go through it all again so soon?
   World War 3 will happen. Where opinions exist there will be conflict, and these conflicts can happen amongst a small group of high school friends, and it can happen between nation leaders. And that's scary. It takes two people to argue, but it only takes one person to take things too far. And it's an easy thing to say "make sure you're not that one person", but we can only ensure that of ourselves if we want to. And not everyone wants to.

   I suppose, however, I'll end my tired ramblings on that note anyway: make sure that you are not that one person to take things too far. Whether you're in high school or a nation leader (though I find it unlikely that a nation leader would be reading this), just make sure you don't take anything too far, even if you only ensure that for your own sake. All actions have consequences, be they good or bad and regardless of whose favour they work in. 



Monday, 4 August 2014

August: Kickbox Fusion

Read Also: 2 Weeks & 4 Weeks

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

   Okay, so this month it's a little different. You've undoubtedly noticed that I usually use DVDs, this is because you're given appropriate music for dance routines, you've got an instructor to remind you of your posture and form (dance or not) and to tell you what not to do, as well as to help you keep time. This month it isn't like this.
   I receive daily newsletters from FitnessMagazine.com and while these are usually contradictory nonsense about what to eat and what to avoid and so on and not usually worth even clicking, they do occasionally offer a great workout routine, and recently I was emailed just that.
   I've mentioned kickboxing in the past, though I use 10 Minute Solution kickboxing DVDs for 30-40 minutes a day, and I usually put my own music on instead of listening to the instructor and go to my own beat. I know the DVDs well enough to do that at least. But I was emailed a routine called Kickbox Fusion instructed by Natalie Uhling of NUfit and it was, for once, right up my street.

Natalie Uhling; image © James Michelfelder
  It's a mix of strength, hip hop and kickboxing, but a lot of that is present only really within the attitude of executing the moves, or at least as far as I can see. Still, it looks great.
   The workout is about 30 minutes long, and there are 8 moves. As with most workout routines on the website, there is a video of each move with an explanation during, as well as a written explanation and description beside the video as well. The idea is that you do each move for 45 seconds with a 15 second break before moving onto the next, then take a 1 minute breather after each circuit before doing it again, about 3-4 times. I'm quite looking forward to it, and since I already have my playlist worked out from my other kickboxing, as well as familiarity to form and force, I think it could go well! I'm quite excited to start today!
   I'll be sure to update on progress on the 18th!

Find the routine here with videos and written explanations of each move.
Or see the video only of all moves put together with an explanation from Natalie for each move.



Saturday, 2 August 2014

Jillian Michaels' Yoga Meltdown DVD Review

Price: £9/ $8
Length: 30 minutes per level
Workouts: All-over body
Suitable for: Everyone
Rating:   ★★★★☆
Based on 4 weeks of use.


    Jillian Michaels' Yoga Meltdown is amazing. I love it. I was already a little bit familiar with yoga prior to using this DVD, but not through classes or other DVDs, only through what was printed in Women's Fitness Magazine, so while most of the moves themselves were new to me, I was experienced enough to know how to keep my balance, and perform the pigeon pose during the cool down perfectly, which I was very proud of

   I was always sceptical about how yoga could possibly help you lose weight. I thought it was more of a calming exercise than a workout, and I didn't really think that this DVD would be any different. Well, I was wrong. The moves used in this DVD are not easy - easy moves are used for the warm up and cool down - and what makes it a truly viable workout is that Jillian has you rep in and out of the poses to build up cardio before having you hold them for 15 seconds. And you might think while you're moving in and out of the pose that you can't wait to be able to breathe and hold it - you'd be wrong. Holding the poses is taxing in a different sort of way. For example, moving in and out of the Warrior II is hard on your legs, but holding it is even harder on them, and kills your arms as well. It's insane, especially when it really looks like nothing. It's not nothing.

   The DVD is broken up into two levels, and both levels are made up of 3 circuits lasting a total of 25-30 minutes. Each circuit features three different moves, which you rep in and out of and then hold for 15 seconds. You go through a set on one side of your body, then repeat the set on the other, and then you're presented with either two sun salutations (Level 1) or a bonus move (Level 2) to end the circuit before beginning the next.
   As with all workouts, this isn't supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be easy enough to keep up with after the first few days, and it will gradually become easier. Balance is a must really, but balance improves in time, especially with workouts like this. My balance used to be atrocious, but it's pretty miraculous now. My boyfriend and I did a spontaneous balancing contest the other day (yeah, we're that cool) and I outmatched him by a few minutes. This is simply because I'm becoming fitter - though that doesn't mean that I don't struggle with some of the moves, because I certainly do.
   I also didn't think you'd get much of a sweat going either, but I was proven wrong there, too. I actually consider Level 1 to be more efficient than Level 2, perhaps because, with two sun salutations between each of the three circuits, it feels like it's all broken up better, whereas Level 2 is definitely harder, but instead of sun salutations (which are used in the warm up instead) you do bonus moves which are very difficult, but are there to give to something to work towards. You won't be able to do them at first, but you shouldn't feel bad if you can't. They're bonus moves.

   My single complaint is for the 'perspective-altering' motivational speeches she gives throughout the workout, but, in fairness to her, the things she's saying don't occur to many people and they are things worth taking to heart. For example: it's not about being perfect, it's about practise. And though it's kind of cheesy for her to say these things in a yoga DVD, she isn't exactly wrong in what she's saying.

   I would highly recommend this DVD. I'm still unconvinced about yoga by itself making a great workout, but Jillian's managed this perfectly. I lost a few pounds from it, and that's great considering that it's a workout I'd say is perfect for those days when you just don't want to use weights or dance or do anything with lots of high energy movement, but still want a decent workout.



Friday, 1 August 2014

Giveaway Winner and Ongoing 30% Discount

   Thank you everyone for entering Peaches and Pebbles' 3rd birthday giveaway! The competition is now closed, I'm afraid, and the winner has been chosen, contacted, and confirmed, and tomorrow the fox jar necklace will begin its journey to Germany! Awesome.
   For the rest of you, because I know how much it sucks when you lose a giveaway you really wanted to win, I'd decided to extend the 30% off discount for another 5 days, up to and including the 6th of August. The discount can be used on a fox jar necklace (making it £12.40 rather than £18, or approximately $21 rather than $30), or any other item in my shop, including the sale section.

   30% is a hefty discount for my shop, as they never usually rise beyond 25% even on a special occasion, so snap up a great deal while you can! New items are added often, but lately they've been scarce as I've been working on pieces for an upcoming art show next year. All pieces unsold from that will of course be put up in my shop.

   Sign up to my shop's newsletter to keep up to date with new products, sales and giveaways (usually one newsletter a month, unless I have nothing to notify anyone about - no use sending an empty newsletter!).

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/169717067/snow-leopard-jar-necklace-miniature https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/84697662/book-flower-ring-book-lover-gift-ring
https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/98209165/birdhouse-necklace-floral-miniature https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/165732836/custom-address-envelope-necklace