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

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Thursday Obsessions

   I've been crazy busy this week, redrafting my book, working on custom orders from Myth of the Wild and planning out a birthday cake for my sister (happy birthday you little weirdo), so I do like these simple posts!
My best friend, Lucy, introduced me to Once Upon A Time a while ago, and while I typically hate fairy tales, don't read them, won't write anything like them, I admit that I do like a nice romance and a happy ending. Even if I never read or write those, either. In fact, I fell head over heels for the show and finally bought the box set (I'd only seen up to season 3), and it's my only real source of silly love stories and drama. You know me - my DVD collection consists of documentaries, fantasy movies, Star Trek box sets and some stand-up comedy. I'm a varied sort of person.
I also love Wild Bangarang's new fitness tops, especially their clever 'belle' kettlebell tank.
And also Doisy & Dam's date and Himalayan pink salt chocolate bar is officially my favourite chocolate bar in the world.


Once Upon A Time   ♥   Belle tank by Wild Bangarang
Washi tape   ♥   Date & Himalayan Salt chocolate by Doisy & Dam



Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Killer Buns & Thighs (and a mobile ankle)

   I wasn't really sure how things were going to go this month after I sprained my ankle at the end of the last, but it turned out to be a mild sprain and I only had to miss about a week and a half because of it, which was great for Easter. And believe me, I needed that after Easter Sunday!
   The funny thing is, though, that I've done this workout before, over Christmas, and I got on just fine with it, but this time around my legs just couldn't keep up with it - it was nothing to do with my ankle because it was in both thighs. But that struggle was actually awesome - it was a challenge again, things that became easy for me long ago have become difficult again, and I think it's because I took some time away from it to focus on Kelta Fit through March, which was cardio rather than resistance training.
   Wow, so many back links...

   Anyway, it was wonderful having a challenge again because that means I get results. When things become easy, you plateau. The fact that I struggled so much with it meant that it did something.
   I still have one more level to do - I've been doing each level once through the week. Monday was level 2, which I've found the hardest, Wednesday was level 3, which I found sort of middle-ish, and Saturday has been level 1 followed by some cardio. Friday has been an upper body workout while Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday have been rest days. It's been rather nice starting with the one I find the hardest because it gets it out of the way and helps to work off the weekend, and it's also nice knowing right now that I've just got level 1 to go. Yay!


   It's also been a generally productive month. I've been working on a few custom orders for Myth of the Wild, as well as a future collection and pieces for next year's art exhibit, and I also finished the first draft of my book a few days ago. I have since started the next draft and I've got two chapters down already, and I'm feeling quite good about them. And daunted about the rest. I'm trying to forget about that and take it one chapter at a time.

   Next month's workout will be quite different and, mercifully, much lower impact. I'll talk more about that on Monday. And I obviously won't be posting a DVD review about this next weekend because I already wrote one in January.



Matchasaurus Cakes with PureChimp

   Ahhh, matcha. I'm addicted - I have been for a couple of years - and I have at least one cup every day. I love it. I also love cake. In Japan - because they are oh so clever - they combine the two. The issue is that the West has tried to pick this up, and there's two ways we've gone about it: take a standard cake recipe and swap some of the flour for matcha, or take a standard cake recipe and swap the vanilla or cocoa powder for matcha. Neither of these make true matcha cakes.
   Matcha is not the same as flour - it absorbs more water but less fat than flour, resulting in a greasy cake. And if you swap out the flavouring for matcha, it's being compromised by two other ingredients in the cake. Salt is added to cakes to round off the sweetness - it's not there to be tasted, it's there to finish it. But matcha does that itself, which means your cake needs no salt. Matcha is also a delicate taste, and baking powder can completely eliminate it, which means if you've removed vanilla and used matcha instead, it's not going to taste like much.
   So how do you go about making a true matcha cake while maintaining the spongy texture and the delicate taste of the green tea?
   By using a more traditional recipe.
   And you have to make sure you use good quality matcha, and that you've stored it properly - ie in an air-tight container, in the fridge. Light, heat and oxygen can very quickly compromise the quality and taste of matcha powder, so correct storage is essential. In this case, I used Purechimp - I bounce about from brand to brand, trying different matchas, and Purechimp are among the top brands I've tried, and as they're currently having a sale and free shipping, you can get 20g of matcha for just £3.95! Perfect if you're keen to try but not sure you'll like it.

   I've used this recipe a few times, and as I was given a dinosaur cake mould for Christmas that I had yet to use, I decided to whip it out for this, especially since I'm still excited about these recent discoveries that could serve to shake up dinosaur classifications! So here are some matchasaurs!

http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2016/09/the-benefits-of-matcha-purechimp.html

Ingredients:
10g sugar & 45g sugar, separated
3 egg yolks & 3 egg whites, separated
30ml oil
5g matcha powder
40g cake flour (or all-purpose flour and cornstarch; 2 tbsp cornstarch for every level cup of flour)
pinch cream of tartar

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160 C/325 F/gas mark 3 and line an 8 inch cake tin with parchment paper

2. Prepare green tea - add the matcha to 20ml boiling water and mix until smooth. Add 30ml of room temperature water and mix again, then set aside to cool.

3. In another bowl, mix the 10g of sugar with the egg yolks until the sugar has dissolved, then add the oil and whisk until just combined.

4. Add the green tea to the egg yolk mix and whisk thoroughly, so the colour is even.

5. Sift in the self raising flour and mix until almost combined - small lumps will remain, so don't over-beat!

6. In another clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with a clean whisk until frothy, then add the cream of tartar and whisk until it forms a thick foam. Gradually whisk in the 45g of sugar, and continue until it forms firm peaks.

7. Now mix the yolk mixture until smooth, and add half of the egg white mixture and mix until almost even. Add the remaining egg whites and repeat. Now, using a spatula, begin to fold the mixture until totally even.

8. Spoon the mixture into your dino moulds or cake tin, and bake for half an hour for dinos, or 50-60 minutes for a cake, or until a tooth pick or knife comes out clean.

*Don't remove from moulds or tin until cool*



Friday, 21 April 2017

Draft 1, Complete!

   Oh yes, yes, yes, that's right, last night I finished the first draft of my next book! Well, actually, my second draft, too, I suppose. Every time I finished writing a chapter I went back and redrafted it to squeeze in another opportunity to improve it. But the point is that last night I finished the final chapter!
   I started it back in March 2016, and it's taken a lot of work, but I've finally finished the first book. Unlike the last, which really should have been split into two (it sort of got away from me), this time I had a more solid technical plan and knew from the start that it would be two. It seems to have worked out very well that way, and is a much, much better story than The Archguardians of Laceria. I'm so proud of it!
   But if I'm honest, I don't feel quite right celebrating. I'm well aware that there's still a lot of work ahead for this book - it will need more redrafting and editing - and the story is far from finished because I still have the second book to write. But at the same time...I can't help smiling every time I think about the fact that I've reached a big milestone. I even allowed myself a couple of chocolates in celebration last night (yeah, that whole 'sick to death of chocolate' thing didn't last very long).

   Tonight I start the third draft, which means going right back to chapter 1. I've already taken a look at it, and while I was happy with it 13 months and 8 days ago, I am not now. But the first few chapters are so important, and also often some of the worst written because they're the first you do - you have to get your mind out of planning and bullet-point mode and into prose, which is difficult, and why that first chapter has - now I think about it - been through probably five drafts already. But it takes what it takes, and I really do love doing it, so my writing never feels like work.
   I also have to design my book cover, but I've got that planned out: summer's coming, apparently, and that means that the field behind my house will get a lot noisier, and on a night teenagers go out there and play their god-awful music. With my synaesthesia, it's impossible for me to write or read when I can hear music, but that gives me the perfect opportunity to turn my hand to other creative outlets - such as digital art. So I'm hoping to get the cover design in July/August, and hopefully do some character portraits, too. I wanted to do that for Archguardians but I'm more interested in writing than in drawing, and when I eventually had the opportunity last summer I was working on this book instead and lost all interest in drawing previous characters who may or may not be dead.
   So I'd like to embrace the opportunity when it comes around this time!

   You can be sure I'll update you when I...have something to share I suppose. This is another long process, but one with another milestone at the end. And I will, again, be rewarded in chocolate.





Thursday, 20 April 2017

Thursday Obsessions

Ahh, Easter has passed. Like I said yesterday, I'm kind of pleased. I ate so much chocolate that I got sick to death of it. It's very strange. Seeg makes a double take any time I turn it down.
And so this week I've been obsessing over healthier eating, and after getting my first Tribe box, I rather love their '10' bars - a good balance of protein, fat, carbs and fibre - the stuff you really need, all from natural ingredients. Yay! Also, Pukka's ginseng matcha tea. Yum.
And like I also said yesterday, we recently started Mass Effect: Andromeda, and I've been really focused on my writing - so close to finished!


Mass Effect: Andromeda    ♥    Tribe 10 bars
Writing    ♥    Ginseng matcha tea by Pukka



Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Lately

   Oh thank goodness Easter has passed! I'd been looking forward to it for so long - you know I'm a chocolate fiend - and managed to get in some amazing workouts and ate well on the run-up, but over just Sunday and Monday I managed to make myself sick of the stuff. Which is a peculiar feeling...

   In short, I had a wonderful weekend with few but epic eggs, including Hotel Chocolat's Rocky Road to Caramel extra thick egg, and a 70% dark Green & Black's collection, Seeg and I rewatched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and we had two roast dinners. Happy Kim.
   Seeg also finished Breath of the Wild on the Friday, which was a wonderful game, so cute and whimsical, and on Easter Sunday he started Mass Effect Andromeda. Mass Effect has always been one of my favourites, but with everything we'd seen of the new installment's development, we both had quite low expectations. I'm not actually someone who is too concerned with the quality of graphics, but for a game as grand as Mass Effect, and in the age of digital development we're currently in, it has actually been an issue because the detail affected is really quite hard to miss: the faces. They're not expressive, the eyes are totally empty and sometimes, no joke, seem to spin around in their heads. It's difficult to follow a character's reaction to situations or to other people, and in a game where relations between characters is essential, it's quite a disappointment. Fortunately everything else has been pretty good, and I'm still really really really looking forward to watching him play it again, but that detail - hard to miss, like I said - is undeniably dragging it down and you'll no doubt hear other actual fans (ie. not 'fanboys') saying the same. And I'm not 'spoilt' either - for the past few weeks I've seen little beyond Legend of Zelda or World of Warcraft, neither of which are ground-breaking. Mass Effect should have blown them both out of the water without an argument.

   Anyway. As for what I spent the weekend doing: I'm writing the final chapter of my book. Once that's done, it goes through another draft, and once that's done, I have to go all the way back to the beginning and redraft the entire thing all over again.
   In all sincerity, I can't wait. But it's still too soon to celebrate. Even though I want to. Then comes planning out the next book - the second half of the story - and working on a cover for the first. I was planning on holding the first book back until the second was totally finished and the story completed, but now I'm not so sure. But, if I do decide to submit the first before the second is finished, it's still going to be a way off from now, and there's a lot to do in between. At the very least, I want to make sure I have a solid start on the second...
   But still--No. Too soon to celebrate. Too soon...

   But my ankle's doing better! Which has meant that I've been able to really dive into this workout, post-Easter when it counts the most, and shed any guilt and chocolate before it gets the chance to make itself comfy. I've also got next month's workout figured out - it's totally different, but while I'm intrigued, I also admit that I'm not convinced. But after a month this intense, and what I have planned for June, an easier month in between isn't so bad an idea. So we'll stick to the optimism!

   So I've really enjoyed this Easter, which makes a change from last year when I felt so guilty for eating any chocolate at all that I spent most of Sunday doing Pilates just so that I couldn't add 'sitting still' to my list of disgraces. I was such an idiot. This time I learned to breathe and have fun, and I've come out of it much happier. Except for knowing that now I won't be able to get any more Galaxy golden eggs until next year...

   How has everyone's Easter weekend been?!



Thursday, 13 April 2017

Thursday Obsessions

Easter is nearly heeere! So I'm feeling very springy!
Seeg and I caught Fantastic Beasts in the cinema for our joint birthday - we were going to see Assassin's Creed but we weren't sure it was going to be worth it after all the reviews, because we are huge fans of the games, so we decided to leave that until it came out on DVD and saw Fantastic Beasts instead. We knew nothing about it, which shows how unsure we were about Assassin's Creed, but we both loved it, and have been saving the first re-watch for Easter Sunday <3 This, and chocolate, are presently my main obsessions.




Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them    ♥    Sacred Lotus bath bomb by Lush
Woolliam speckled praline eggs by Hotel Chocolat    ♥    Floral jersey dress by H&M



I Can Move Nearly Now The Sprain Has Gone

   I know, right? I'm full of them.

   So, as you may remember, I managed to sprain my ankle on my last session of Kelta Fit, right before I wanted to revisit Killer Buns & Thighs for April. I wanted to do a high-impact workout as a pre- and post-Easter burner, but an injury like that isn't very good for jumping lunges, you know?
   Well, it wasn't an extreme sprain, and as a few days ago I started to feel just fine again, I took the chance and gave it a shot yesterday.
   My ankle was fine, though I paid close attention to how I was moving it and I replaced side lunges with sumo squats - not exactly the same thing, but, given the circumstances, more than good enough.

   But I have to say: it was so hard. And I mean in my quads. Ouch. It's really strange, because there's no reason that a small injury in one ankle and taking care over it while moving could have such an impact on both thighs. I struggled with everything - or, rather, everything was a challenge. I could do it all - I've done this workout before - but my goodness it was as if I hadn't ever done a thing like it!
   I'm so used to doing this kind of workout. I find it maintainable, and I can use the intermediate and advanced mods. But last month I made a change and used Kelta Fit - a cardio dance workout with minimal resistance - and I really do think that that is responsible. Taking a month away from resistance, as much as I love it, seems to have reset my body and all of a sudden, beginner modifications on level 1 are challenging. It was ridiculous!
   But it made me happy.


   This 'body reset' seems to have made my old favourites - workouts I used to find so easy - a challenge again, and that means that they will yield great results. My flexibility hasn't reduced, it's purely the strength and power in my legs. I can perform the movements for the full duration, for the most part, but it really burns, and I find myself struggling sooner than usual, and some sets I did have to stop half way through. Only for like, 2 seconds, but still.
   Everyone is different, and I love lower body workouts so my lower body is quite strong thanks to the effort and time I've put in, so for me to be struggling on this workout is strange. But, as I said: results.

   I'm not going to push too hard because I don't want to aggravate my ankle, but I'm actually quite pleased by how challenging it is. I'm going to take a month every now and then to do a low-impact workout and break up the intensity - I've already found one for next month - and I'm going to see if that really is what has made a difference.
   Time will tell!



Sunday, 9 April 2017

Kelta Fit DVD Review

Price: £13
Length: 3x 30 minutes
Workouts: All-over body (cardio, abs, strength)
Suitable for: Anyone with some level of kettlebell experience
Rating:   ★★★★☆
Enjoyment:  ★★★★★   Difficulty:  ★★☆☆☆   Results:  ★★★☆☆
Based on 4 weeks of use.


https://keltafit.com/
   Dance is my guilty pleasure. Truly. Fantasy is my first love, be it books, games or music, and while many people might think that passion makes me a loser, my friends quite correctly disagree.
   Until it comes to dance. I don't understand why, but I cry whenever I watch The Lord of the Dance. Warriors is my favourite track and routine. I'd love to be able to do it. And so I admit that I try to embrace any unusual dance workouts I can. Anything not advertised as 'sexy' - unfortunately, they are few and far between, to the point that the only two I've found are Kukuwa, African dance, and Jean Butler's Irish Dance Masterclass, which was more instructional than fitness. Kukuwa has become one of my staple workout DVDs if I'm looking for cardio but not in the mood for 'actual' work like burpees or jumprope, but I really wished there was a proper Irish dance workout DVD out there I could rely on.
   Well, Scottish isn't Irish, but it's close enough in terms of fun, and as far as Irish Dance Masterclass is concerned, Kelta Fit has answered the dilemma.


Overview
   Made up of four 9-minute Scottish dance routines, Kelta Fit promises an amazing highland workout that will burn fat and calories while toning up your legs. The unique movements of Scottish and Irish dance make this dance workout one like no other, and the lively traditional music - fiddles, not bagpipes - make it physically impossible to keep your feet still. You simply cannot not want to move.


Previous Experience
   Irish and Scottish dance are, to us uninitiated, quite similar in appearance, but while I have used Jean Butler's Irish Dance Masterclass in the past, which was more of an instructional DVD than a workout DVD, I didn't really feel I could apply much of what I'd learned there to Kelta Fit. There were only two points that carried over, and both of them were more performance-related than anything that would help or hinder the workout:
1. tap your feet, don't slap them when you're jumping and pointing your toes on the ground;
2. keep your inner thighs tight when doing your Sevens in full-speed.
The DVD doesn't provide either of these tips because they're not important. Instead, the DVD explains and demonstrates the movements with perfect clarity.
In short, Kelta Fit's DVD tells you all you need to know, with no previous experience required whatsoever.


Difficulty
   You would think, being such a specific and specialised form of dance, that this workout would be difficult to grasp. You would expect to flail around, messing up over and over and needing to run through each section five or six times before you get confident enough to really feel the workout and lose yourself in the routine.
   But that is not so. The moves are specialised, as in they're recognisable as cultural rather than general 'dance', but they're also really simple and take very little breaking down.
   When I'm trying a new dance workout, I prefer to run through a single section three times before trying another so that I can get to grips with the routine and make some actual progress the next time. But that's not the case here, either. Because the moves are so simple, you learn them very quickly, and because you learn them so quickly, time isn't wasted learning, but is spent dancing instead. Which is exactly what you want from a dance workout.


Sections
   The DVD claims to have six 9 minute sections, but this isn't really the case. It counts the warm up and the core/cool down among those 6, which is kind of pointless since they're obligatory to any workout and can't be considered work. This is a bit of a disappointment, really, because it means you get 4 dance routines rather than 6, which reduces the longevity of the workout.
   That said, however, all four of the actual routines are of a consistent and demanding intensity, the warm up is dynamic and high-energy, and the core/cool down begins with 5 minutes of abdominal moves before moving into stretching, so even though a warm up and cool down are necessary for any workout, both provided on this DVD are up to a higher standard than most dance workouts.
   The four routines all feature a variety of cultural dance moves, but none of them are repeated in the different sections, and though the music is all very upbeat, each routine also has a distinctly different tune. As a result none of the four sections feel monotonous, they all have their own edge and it's easy to pick favourites. Three of the four sections also involve lower body resistance - lunges in the first, squats in the second, and calf raises in the third - but they don't suddenly interrupt the dancing, they're actually quite well-inserted.
   Every section is repeated, the routine lasting about 4.5 minutes and then started over from the beginning for the second half, giving you another chance to grasp it, enjoy it, and apply more energy through confidence. They're also separated by DVD chapters, so it's easy to repeat a single section (or skip one) without having to go back to the menu.


Verdict
Enjoyment:  ★★★★★  - Immensely good fun! The music is unique, the moves are traditional and recognisable, and each routine is well-put together and have different feels from each other.
Difficulty:  ★★☆☆☆  - The moves are easy to learn, which means more time dancing, less time struggling - but don't underestimate it! It's much more effective than it looks.
Results:  ★★★☆☆  - Good for both fat burning and toning the legs.

   If you don't like Scottish dance or music (no, a fiddle, not bagpipes) then you probably won't enjoy this DVD. But if you like a little taste of another culture or to try a variety of dance, this workout is simply amazing. As soon as I put it on, the music makes me want to move. Any sluggish morning's "oh I can't be bothered with this" is immediately overwritten by an unsuppressable desire to dance. For me, at least.
   But regardless of taste, Kelta Fit offers a totally unique dance workout which will get you sweating, will really work your lower body, and burn fat and tone your legs. But unlike most other dance workouts, none of the moves can be called 'sexy', which means you can totally avoid feeling silly or embarrassed like I usually do with wiggly hips and 'come here' arms. Even when I'm in an empty house with the curtains tightly drawn.
   It's also a lot tougher than you would think. That's not to say it's difficult, but it is more physically demanding that you expect it to be - though that's not something you notice until you've finished, or if you've used it a few times. But it's honestly so much fun that it doesn't feel like work, and you don't dread doing it before hand.
   Kelta Fit is absolutely worth your time. Ceilidh may be Gaelic for 'gathering', but the DVD alone is great fun as it is. Of course, if you can get to a class, you'd be a fool not to join it if just for the atmosphere. You'll sweat, burn fat, tone your legs and honestly have amazing fun - and learn some genuine Scottish dance moves!
   What more could you want?!



Thursday, 6 April 2017

Thursday Obsessions

Well, spring is here and with it I've become more positive. My writing has gone through some changes, and though I managed to aggravate my ankle by accidentally sitting on it yesterday, I'm feeling good.
But, with spring comes obsession - for me, anyway. New season, new life, new 'wants'. Fortunately, the things I'm obsessing over right now are things I already have <3

Gisela Capri by Fabletics    ♥    Friends boxset
Rocky Road Easter egg by Hotel Chocolat   ♥   Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild



Monday, 3 April 2017

April - Killer Buns and...Sprained Ankles.


     Well, I was ready. I'd just finished a month of mostly just cardio - enjoyable cardio - and my muscles were feeling well-rested, if slightly unchallenged, and I was raring to go for this month's workout. I admit that it was nothing new - Jillian Michaels' Killer Buns & Thighs - but it was one I enjoyed the first time I used it, if unconventionally, and with Easter around the corner and a Hotel Chocolat Extra Thick egg waiting for me to murder in two weeks, I really wanted something demanding again.
   Like I said: I was raring to go.
   But, that's not going to happen just yet.

   On the last day of Kelta Fit, the very last day, I sprained my ankle. I'm not even sure how it happened - one moment I was dancing around, doing some of the simplest how-could-you-fall-over-your-own-feet-doing-these steps, and the next I was in a heap on the floor, my ankle hurt like crazy, and I couldn't get back up. I admit I didn't try too hard because...well it hurt, but I must have sat there for a few minutes before being brave enough to try again.
   The fact that I managed and walked off into the kitchen for something cold means it's a minor sprain, but it's been enough to keep me off my feet for two straight days and I'm quiiiite sure I'll need another week or so at this rate.

   The workout isn't to blame, of course, just the idiot using it. I must have landed funny or something - I've needed a new pair of trainers with shock absorption for, well, years - but after all the crazy stuff I've done in so many of these DVDs, that it would be a simple and enjoyable dance workout that I'd injure myself on...it just stings a little.

   But the upside is that at least I'm not missing out on anything new because of it. And if it gets me down much more, I could always just do some boxing. Or Pilates. Pilates are amazing - you can do a full-body workout while staying on your bum. I do have Cassey Ho's DVD and her book, Hot Body Year Round, and they're both perty good...
   I suppose that is an option...
   I'm allergic to keeping still.

   I will pick this workout up as soon as I'm able to without the risk of making it worse. At the latest, I hope to be on it by Easter.
   But in the mean time, I get to sit around watching Seeg play Legend of Zelda or watching TV with my mum. As long as I've got games and Eden, I'll be just fine.
   Thank goodness writing and making jewellery are sitting-down jobs.
   Speaking of, did you see my korok?! Breath of the Wild is my first direct exposure to the Legend of Zelda franchise, and I have to admit that I am in love with it.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/507235236/korok-necklace-legend-of-zelda-gamer?ref=shop_home_active_2




Sunday, 2 April 2017

Kelta Fit - 4 Weeks Later

   Ahhh, Kelta Fit. It's been a wonderful four weeks, genuinely so enjoyable, and what a novelty to not eat my breakfast while dreading the tough workout coming an hour and a half later.
   Though I will admit that the rose tint began to wear off around the middle of the third week - it took a while, but it finally began to hit me how demanding the workout actually is. The moves are simple enough to pick up in your first run-through, which means most of your time is spent moving, not learning. Perhaps it's because the moves aren't complicated; you can put your focus into the intensity, and with music like that, you really want to jump and hop and skip about. Perhaps that's where the real difficulty comes from: the fact that it's comprehensive.


   But despite gradually realising how tough the workout is (once the music started, the first inklings of dread were always chased away), Kelta Fit has decidedly become a new staple for dance cardio. It's not as high-impact as Kukuwa, but it's such a very, very different thing, it's loads of fun and I actually get a sweat out of it, which I don't from most dance-workouts that aren't Kukuwa. Which means that now I have a completely different dance option when I'm looking to add a little extra cardio in after a resistance workout, one that's a little lower-impact but certainly effective, and one I'd be able to summon the enthusiasm and energy to do.


   I didn't expect much from Kelta Fit, and I said as much in the initial post at the start of the month. I expected some of the sequences to just be resistance because most other dance workout DVDs have sequences of dance-inspired toning moves, like barre, especially indie workouts like these, and that's why I was additionally dubious about the impact of the workout. But it's turned out to be so much better than I expected! It exceeded expectations and almost met my hopes - the one single area it slips up in is the fact that there are only 4 sequences, not 6, so I now feel like I've been robbed of another 18 minutes of amazing dance routines. And that's a bummer.
   But. Seeg - Mr Brutally-Honest-Whether-I-Want-It-Or-Not - says I look and feel like I'm losing weight again, which means that my plan to back off of constant high-intensity workouts is working, and that this workout, one I thought would be ineffective because it was low-impact, is actually just as epic as it is fun.

   I feel guilty for being surprised.
   I'll post the full review a week today - Sunday 9th. Come back then if you're interested in more technical and practical information about Kelta Fit.



Tuesday, 21 March 2017

McWhirr's Chocolate Review

   Anyone who's spent half an hour with me (or has seen me in a grocery store or cafe) knows that sugar is my vice. I eat fast food like 5 times a year, I have alcohol even less, I never drink coffee. It's all about cakes, biscuits and, above all else, chocolate.
   But I don't eat it often. It's true that I have a Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club subscription, even if I have set it up to deliver once every 8 weeks, but the truth is I have a serious problem with guilt. All it takes is one chocolate, one single chocolate to send me into a whirlwind. Three will send me into a spontaneous jumping jack Tabata session. And I admit that I have a post I want to write on this in the near future...

   The thing is, chocolate is good for you, but conventional chocolate - the stuff you think of when someone says 'chocolate' - is loaded with sugar, because raw chocolate - cacao - is bitter, and to the average person, not the tasty treat they're looking for. It's true that it has its own unique flavour, which is why the Aztecs loved it so much, but when it gets turned into a chocolate bar to suit the masses, lots of the goodness is removed and replaced with other ingredients, including lots of sugar.
   This is part of the reason dark chocolate is so much better for you than milk, which is in turn better than white: because it has a higher cocoa content, and subsequently a lower sugar and other-ingredients content. But dark chocolate isn't for everyone. I admit, it's for me, but it took time - like matcha! Super good for you, but definitely an acquired taste.


   Fortunately for the health-conscious, calorie-counters and diabetics, this is where McWhirr's Chocolate steps in. Bristol-based (woooo), these chocolatiers have developed a handmade bean-to-bar chocolate bar with absolutely nothing artificial and no added sugar. It's sweetened naturally with xylitol and stevia, has a high cocoa content (both their white and milk bars contain 42% cocoa while their dark has 67%), minimal ingredients, and works out at 69 calories per 4 pieces (a single row of the bar), or 415 calories per bar (518kcal per 100g). The range includes four different whites, milks and darks, some infused, others sprinkled.

   McWhirr's is bean-to-bar chocolate - it's not raw, it doesn't need to be stored in the fridge, it's proper, tempered chocolate made by hand in their Bristol factory from the original bean to the bar itself. This means it's real chocolate, and the perfect chocolate bar to have in the cupboard or in your handbag for when you really need it. I won't kid you - oats, nuts, seeds, fruit, they're all better options if you're feeling peckish, but sometimes nothing but chocolate will do.
   "But this isn't chocolate," I hear you cry, "it's a 'healthy alternative'!" It's true that 'healthy alternatives' rarely stack up to the real thing, but in this case, McWhirr's comes so very close.


   McWhirr's actually tastes like chocolate and is just as smooth and creamy as anything you'll find in a supermarket, just a touch milder in sweetness - but with no added sugar, you can't expect it to be identical to Galaxy, can you? But, having said that, it's worth stating directly that 'milder in sweetness' doesn't mean 'unsweet' and it certainly doesn't mean 'bitter'. Even at 42%, it bears no resemblence at all to dark chocolate, but rather is very definitely milk chocolate, just with a higher cocoa content, and like I said before: the higher the cocoa content, the less room there is for other ingredients. And as it's milder in sweetness than mass-produced stuff, it results in fewer cravings, helping you to stop at 4 pieces rather than 4 rows. And that reduces the already meagre guilt factor even further.
   More importantly, the lack of refined sugar also has minimal effect on the body's blood sugar levels, making it ideal for avoiding sugar, reducing the risk of diabetes and hyperglycemia.

   I'll also mention this: I hate products with stevia in them. It has a horrible taste, worse aftertaste, and always overpowers the product it's supposed to only 'sweeten'. In short, stevia is more like a flavour than a sweetener. But, in this case, you'd never know the stevia was there. There are no unusual tastes nor any funny textures whatsoever, it is chocolate, pure and simple in every sense of the phrase.

   The chocolate isn't compromised, it has a perfectly tempered snap, the variety of flavours aren't too thin, the packaging is cute, it's creamy - it is, in short, chocolate. Even Seeg liked it, and he's hard to please, especially when it comes to my 'healthy rubbish'.
   Truly, it is 'the delicious way to cut down on sugar'.

   You can find McWhirr's chocolate on their website with delivery worldwide, and you can also find them at fairs and markets within Bristol - keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming events and appearances, where they stock more seasonal chocolates as well as free samples!

https://www.facebook.com/mcwhirrs/photos/a.1536309526690832.1073741829.1376298519358601/1599503250371459/?type=3&theater




Sunday, 19 March 2017

A Touch of Honesty 1.2

   Right. I've neglected my blog from a persona standpoint for a while now because so many things have been stressing me out. I spoke about them a little while ago, and there's been a single development: Seeg's application for a permanent residence card has been processed. And rejected.

   As it presently stands, he doesn't have to leave the UK. He can carry on as he has been for the last 6 years because the permanent residence card is just a formality, it doesn't affect his right to live in the UK as a Dutch national. But how long that will be the case, we don't know. That's why this mattered. Leaving the EU means that things will change for EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU. It's said people already living here won't be affected, something I doubt that very much, but now that his application has been rejected because he's been helping me look after my mum rather than working, it makes me wonder just how we're going to be able to stand up against it if 'working' is what constitutes as 'living' here.
   So this has been keeping me up, making me panic and just generally making me want to lock myself in the house, draw the lights, unplug the internet and pretend the world outside doesn't exist.
   I've not given in, of course - beyond simply distancing myself from this blog and social media on a personal level - and the coming of spring is helping to ease me, but the trouble is that we have no idea what's going to happen now, and that means that we have no idea how to prepare nor what we can do against it. The permanent residence card was our safety net for the Brexit changes - assuming of course that the permanent residence card for EEA nationals itself isn't affected, either - and now we've got nothing but tightly crossed fingers and toes. And I don't like it. It's all completely out of our hands.

   This is immensely important to us. We've been a couple for 7 years this May, and living together for 6. We're committed, we're determined - but what can we do if the law changes and he has to leave? I can't follow, not with my mum in the condition she's in.
   I'm trying to remind myself that there's no point in stressing, because with absolutely nowhere to turn but also no clue how severely it's going to affect us, everything's up in the air. As it is, the only thing we can do is turn our minds away from it and leave the stressing and panicking for when there's actually something to stress and panic about. Otherwise we're putting ourselves through undue strain for potentialy (hopefully hopefully hopefully hopefully hopefully) no reason.

   Fortunately, there's been much in the way of distraction. We've just finished Horizon Zero Dawn, which was simply amazing, and now we're playing Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. This Thursday - though we're extremely unenthusiastic about it - Mass Effect Andromeda comes out, and it also looks like patch 7.2 for World of Warcraft will be coming out quite soon, too. So there's much in the way of video game distractions.


   Then there's the fact that I've also almost finished my book (the first of two) - I'm tantalisingly close to the end - and so that has been seriously absorbing my attention in between, and will continue to do so for a while. Once I've finished writing it, it needs redrafting, and then I need to refine the plan for the second one. I'm not doing a thing with the first until the whole story is finished - no agent submissions, no self-publishing - so don't expect to see anything about it for at least a year.

   But that's where I am right now. I'm tense, but I'm successfully distracted. It's when I go to bed, turn out the lights and snuggle up to him that it all comes crashing back into my mind.



Kelta Fit - 2 Weeks Later

   Oh. My. Goodness. It's so amazing to have a workout that genuinely excites me again! I've been working so hard with high-impact, demanding workouts with body weight and stuff for so long, so it's so nice to have a change, especially one that's actually conventionally fun! The thought that I've already used Kelta Fit for two weeks makes me sad! I'm already half way!

   I don't generally use dance workouts because I never really get much of a sweat out of them - Kukuwa has been the only exception. And because I'm addicted to sweat and burning muscles, I've kind of avoided dance workouts for the past couple of years. Kukuwa only got a look-in because it seemed (and was) higher-impact and more fun that most of the rest.
   Kelta Fit looked like it was going to be one of those low-impact workouts which is great for beginners, but nothing but a 'waste of time' for myself because it didn't involve deadlifts or jump squats. But I decided to give it a go because of my new year's resolution which was to kind of back off of heavy workouts and try something a little calmer from time to time.
   Well, Kelta Fit is certainly not Jillian Michaels, and there are no kettlebells or burpees involved, but my goodness it gets you sweating and your legs burning.


   In my first post I said I was expecting six 9-minute workouts consisting of a mixture of dance and dance-inspired resistance (barre), or perhaps the six workouts to be divided between the two categories, ideally 4/2.
   Instead, it turns out that there aren't 6 sequences, but rather 4, as the warm up and cool down (with a 6-minute abs section) are counted among them. But the warm up includes some simple dance moves to get your heart rate up, and the six minutes of ab work is simple but effective and makes up more than half of the sixth section.
   But don't be concerned. It occurred to me on my first morning that a barre workout along with the promised 'lively traditional music' wasn't likely to work very well, and indeed it wouldn't. Instead, the four workouts are all filled to the brim with dance, every single move is from Scottish and Irish routines, and you're given told which dances some of the steps come from, too, like the Britannia two-step or the Virginia Reels. The moves seem easy, and though they're not complicated and they're taught comprehensively, even for absolute beginners, you'll find yourself sweating and your knee refusing to lift as high as when you started after completing just one section. But there are also resistance moves in two of the four routines - squats and lunges - but they don't feel like they drag you out of the dancing spirit, and they're well-inserted as well as really good fundamental leg-toning moves.


   The music is also simply amazing. Irish and highland dance is my guilty pleasure - sequences from Lord of the Dance impress me so much that I cry more often than not. I will put my hands up and admit that I am lame in this way. And only this way. And that Warriors is my absolute favourite routine. And that I'm a sucker for villains.
   But the music - back to the music - you cannot possibly not want to move to it. You just can't, it completely goes against the laws of physics. From the moment the music started playing in the warm up, I was honestly grinning like a fool.

   I absolutely love it. I can't wait to start my exercise every morning, it's so much fun and truly something I look forward to now. There's no dread, no trying to make deals with myself and then doing it anyway, no feeling mentally exhausted just from the idea of it. I genuinely want to do it.
   Oh gawd I can't wait to do it again tomorrow!



Sunday, 12 March 2017

Kettlercise Ignite DVD Review

Price: £13
Length: 3x 30 minutes
Workouts: All-over body (cardio, abs, strength)
Suitable for: Anyone with some level of kettlebell experience
Rating:   ★★★★★
Enjoyment:  ★★★☆☆   Difficulty:  ★★★★☆   Results:  ★★★★★
Based on 5 weeks of use.


https://www.kettlercise.com/kettlercise-shop/product/8388-ignite-dvd/category_pathway-55

   I'm a big fan of kettlebells. Because their weight isn't distributed evenly like hand weights or barbells, they take a lot more concentration to control, and there are a range of different exercises you can only do effectively with such an unbalanced weight. These movements are quite often explosive and a lot of the power comes from the lower body, making every move a full-bodied compound exercise, using more calories and getting in lots more fat-burning while still creating lean muscle and a shapely silhouette.
   Kettlercise have always been amazing at delivering effective kettlebell workouts, and though their Ignite program is aimed at more experienced kettlebell users - ie someone who has used any of their other DVDs already - even as their 7th installment, it hasn't lost that intensity.




Overview
   Kettlercise Ignite consists of three 20 minute workouts, each with a 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down, and instructed by two familiar faces: Anoushka and Stacey, with Mandy in the back, all of whom you would recognise from Lean In 14. All three workouts utilise kettlebells to a slightly different end: cardio, interval training, and after burn. You wouldn't think that three kettlebell workouts could be so different, and that's a very good thing because it keeps it from becoming exhausting. I used this DVD 3 times a week on non-consecutive days for 5 weeks, and never once got comfortable or familiar enough with the DVD for its difficulty to drop. Some moves are repeated - windmills and swings are, after all, some of the most effective kettlebell moves - but there are a wide variety and a number that are only found on one workout.
   20 minutes might not seem like long, but Kettlercise transitions from one move to the next without even a few seconds' break, so you can rest assured that those 20 minutes will be truly packed full of sweat, fat-burn and muscle toning. Kettlebells are one of the top five most effective workouts for fat-loss, and most classes, Kettlercise or otherwise, average at 25 minutes.

Kit
   This should go without saying, but a kettlebell, or selection thereof, is necessary for this workout. I have three on hand - 4kg, 6kg and 8kg. I haven't used kettlebells in a long while, so my 8kg went mostly neglected, but my 6 and 4kg were more than enough. Some moves you will want a lighter weight on, especially upper-body-specific moves like front raises or snatches, in which a heavy weight can be harder to control, but in this case I go as heavy as I can while maintaining good form, and when a move that drives most of its power from the lower body comes along, like a swing, deadlift or squat, I increase the weight.
   A mat is also a good idea for comfort's sake. Every workout has some abdominal moves at the end and a mat makes them more comfortable and subsequently easier to complete a set of.

Difficulty
   While it's not usual for a workout DVD to have a separate instruction disc or segment demonstrating the form of the movements for beginners, Kettlercise are good enough to offer this on most of their DVDs because kettlebells and the movements performed with them are different from dumbbells and other weights due to its shape, affecting the distribution of its weight and the challenge that comes with just holding it correctly to keep that uneven weight under control. But that isn't present here, and that's no doubt because both DVD and website state clearly that Ignite is not for beginners. They advise that you only use if you've used another Kettlercise DVD or have attended some other kettlebell workout and are familiar with the weight. The workouts are not easy, and while there are modifications, they are few and far between and the moves themselves are challenging.
   As such, this DVD is simply not suitable for beginners, though Kettlercise for Women volume 1 & volume 2 are, as is Lean In 14.

Melt Down
   Melt Down is horrible, but it's worth doing. This is a cardio-specific workout, a kettlebell workout dotted with cardio intervals throughout such as burpees, crab toe-touches, kettlebell star jumps and so on, but fortunately they're spaced apart widely enough that you can still do the rest of the workout. Kettlebell movements are quite dynamic, full-body and high impact already, so pairing them with body-weight cardio moves hikes your heart rate up fiercely, and with the inclusion of simpler moves like windmills - still full-body, but certainly slower and more controlled - you get that wonderful interval training which is proven to burn additional calories by forcing your heart rate to rise and fall multiple times and keeping your body guessing.
   I despise cardio, and this workout more than the others on this DVD. And that's why I would never skip it - because it must mean it's effective. No one likes burpees, and that's because they're hard enough that they provide results for everyone regardless of fitness level. Indeed, a full burpee is kind of an advanced move, but it's one that is easily modified for intermediate and beginners.


Detonator
   Detonator is a much more typical kettlebell workout. It uses familiar moves like swings, windmills, side bends and such, but stands out by combining moves into pairs, such as a bicep curl at the mid-point of a weighted squat, or a lunge with a swing. This works more muscles at once, allows the use of familiar, simpler moves like those squats and bicep curls without letting the heart rate drop too far, and is lower-impact and yet still immensely effective because the cardio doesn't come from jumping, but from engaging upper and lower body at the same time, and so continues to burn calories after the workout is finished while repairing the muscles used.
   This workout is the most straight forward of the three, making it perfect for those who are experienced but out of practise, or for those who want a fat-burning workout without the jumping around.


After Burn
   After Burn is a more advanced 'Detonator'. It stacks up moves, but by using 'complexes'. These are seen in their Lean In 14 program, and rather than combining two moves, it combines up to four. Needless to say, it's complicated. The clue is in the name. This really works your nervous system too by making you think, and it works the most muscles it can. It also means you can go deeper into a lunge or a squat because you're not just repeating that single movement over and other; instead, by performing an overhead press after a squat, you get those few seconds before squatting again, and in a chain of four moves, only one of them is a squat, giving you even more time before dropping into it again. It's less about the number of reps in this case and more about the range and depth.
   Like Detonator, this also gets your heart rate up, and is the most advanced of the three simply for its complexity.


Verdict
Enjoyment:  ★★★☆☆  - Not conventionally fun, but the variation between the three workouts does give a greater enjoyment to the workout, as it feels less like doing the same thing every session.
Difficulty:  ★★★★☆  - Kettlebells are always hard - that's why they're effective. This DVD takes kettlebells further by stacking moves, and these are both physically and mentally challenging.
Results:  ★★★★★  - You simply cannot avoid results with any of the three full-body, cardio-resistance combination workout.

   Kettlercise seems incapable of bringing out bad DVDs. You would think there was only so much that could be done with kettlebells, and while many of their workouts are similar, they still manage to maintain enough difference to develop favourites, and this is one of my favourites. Having used many of Kettlercise's DVD, I'd say that this is the staple piece, as it offers three 20-minute kettlebell workouts that each provide a different angle on the form, and that makes it invaluable.
   Results are also guaranteed due to the nature of the workout - it's high-impact enough to melt fat on the spot, but it's loaded with resistance which also means you're toning up lean muscle, creating a curvy silhouette and increasing your metabolism, and also means you continue burning calories afterwards while your body repairs itself from the exertion. It is, simply, epic.



Monday, 6 March 2017

March: Kelta Fit



   I'm quite excited for this month's workout. Back in 2014, I used Jean Butler's Irish Dance Masterclass, and while it wasn't inherently a workout DVD, it was physically demanding and provided a good sweat and some good toning even while truly learning something new. It is dance, after all.
   And in 2015, I used Kukuwa's African Dance workout, and while that was a workout, it was undeniably African in its style. It's still my favourite cardio workout to date, and the only dance workout that still proves to be a challenge for me personally.
   Finding genuinely original workouts with a cultural theme or origin is actually quite difficult, and that's a real pain because they can seriously spice up you workout.
   So when I found Kelta Fit, I snatched up a copy right away.

   Kelta Fit is a Ceilidh ('kay-lee', Gaelic for 'gathering') dance workout which combines genuine Scottish dance moves with aerobic exercises and lively traditional music, so I've got high hopes for enjoyment - but, I will admit that I've not watched any of the videos, so I don't know entirely what to expect here. This is how I prefer to start new workouts - I never even remove the outer packaging until I'm ready to begin the first session, and I especially never play the DVD and watch it before using it. So the first time I see its contents is the first time I use it. That way I can't dread difficult-looking moves before I've even begun - or, alternatively, be put off by easy-looking moves.


   The DVD contains 6x 9 minute workouts, and I'm hoping that they'll each be dedicated to either dance or resistance, not a mixture of both which would break up the intensity. Ideally, I'm hoping that four will be dedicated to dancing and two to light resistance, like barre. I'll be content if it's three-three, but if it's two dance and four resistance, I will be disappointed. But, as is always the case, I'm not going to know until I use it later this morning.
   I also expect it to be low-impact compared to what I'm used to, which you can find in my Fitness Archive, but that will be a welcome change, especially after having just completed five weeks of Kettlercise. I wouldn't usually knowingly select a workout that I felt would be below by insane standards for difficulty, but in keeping with this year's new year's resolution, I need to step back from constantly high-impact workouts because my body just can't keep up with it. So this should be ideal - and there are three levels of intensity, which is unusual for a dance workout, so I'm hoping that that will make a difference if it turns out to be too low-impact for me.

   I'm going to give this workout four weeks. The plan is to use three of the six workouts a day, and while it'll probably be a bit messy for the first two or three days while I work out which section offers what, I'm hoping that my half hour will start with one resistance session and then two dance sessions, without repeating any of them the next day. Which is one of the reasons why I'm hoping for two resistance and four dance.

   So I'll blog again in 2 weeks and outline whether it was what I hoped it would be, and if it's challenging enough to meet my expectations of ease/difficulty. And, just as importantly, if it's fun.

   I've got new leggings (what a surprise) and they're from Wild Bangarang again.
   Koi.
   I'm sorry but they are simply epic. This is from their fitness range which, to my surprise, is actually made differently from their other leggings like my Sylvanas and Nozdormu. They're thicker, they have a little more compression and they have a wide, flat waist band rather than a general elastic waist. They're really comfortable and have a different, more accurate size guide. While it was their original World of Warcraft range that drew my initial attention, their koi capris were quick to catch my eye, if slow to slip into the shopping bag...



Sunday, 5 March 2017

Kettlercise Ignite - 5 Weeks Later

   After 5 weeks of Kettlercise's Ignite program, I'm still surprised with how varied the three workouts are. After all, how different can kettlebell workouts be?
   I used the DVD three times a week and gave the three different workouts five runs each (except 'Melt Down', as I was graced with a migraine not five minutes after getting out of bed, and had to skip that day's workout), which meant that, especially because each workout was different from the other, I didn't get anywhere near comfortable enough this month for the program to stop being a challenge.

   The DVD and website both advise that Ignite should only be used if you've got previous experience with a Kettlercise program, and there's good reason for it. There is no how-to on this DVD like there are on the others, and, like the other DVDs, you transition from one move to the next without a pause so you do need to know what you're doing. As such, Ignite is not suitable for kettlebell beginners. But if, like me, you've got an unreasonable love for the kit and the unique and highly specific moves you can only really perform with them, if you want them to be effective, then this DVD is awesome.


   Melt Down is horrible, my least favourite - you know I hate cardio - but it's one I still begrudgingly do. Kettlebells are challenging enough without adding burpees into the mix, that is just not fair. But it is effective. Detonator and After Burn are much nicer, but though they might be void of jumping, they're just as effective at melting fat. Kettlercise have maintained their usual system of giving you no break at all between the moves, and they've revisited their 'complexes', the stacking of individual moves to utilise more muscles at once, raise the heart rate through the demand, all without your feet really having to leave the floor. Hoorah. So no one workout on the DVD delivers less results than the others, even though some might be 'easier' than others if just because they're not as frightening and so 'easier' in terms of finding the motivation to do. 


   I'm not sad to see the back of it, though, and that's my own fault. I've slipped into a habit of eating only 1300 calories a day, though I know I'm supposed to be getting 1500 without exercise, so I've been feeling increasingly run down since after Christmas in an attempt to compensate for Christmas and birthdays by creating a calorie deficit by both exercise and eating less, which is simply wrong. So I'm somewhat exhausted right now, and I'm really looking forward to March's workout which, I expect, will be much lower impact but hopefully more conventionally fun.
   But I would, without a doubt, recommend this DVD to anyone, and it's joining my 'would use again in a heartbeat' collection. Once I start eating a little more...

   I'll blog again with a DVD review next weekend, so if you're after more technical info on the DVD, be sure to come back!



Friday, 3 March 2017

A Touch Of Honesty

   This blog has been a bit void of personality lately, and in truth I've not felt like opening up. Brexit has thrown so very much up into the air, and with the decision to leave the free market, the residence of all non-UK EU/EEA nationals is in question. This very much affects me because Seeg is Dutch. He's been living in the UK for 6 and a half years now, helping me to look after my mum, and has just applied for proof of right of residence. It's been said officially that people already living here won't be affected, but no one can be sure. Leaving the EU is going to be a long process, and once it's all finally done, all kinds of things could change. As such, the idea of deportation is dogging us, and while I would happily follow him and live in The Netherlands, my mum's disability makes the matter complicated. Just getting a job, moving out and making a start on my own life is complicated, and that's also why I'm relying so heavily on my Etsy shop.


   And that's the second issue: my shop is failing astoundingly. Since about October my sales have been dropping, and I'm now matching the stats from three years ago. It's seriously getting me down because I haven't the faintest idea what to do about it. I've given my shop an overhaul, rewritten every single listing's title, tags and description, made new pieces, tried different forms of advertising, but it's now gotten so bad that I can't even afford to advertise anymore, making the whole matter worse. It feels like a downward spiral and it's making me feel even more hopeless.

   Seeg has also had some kind of problem with his legs and lower back for at least 6 months, which has now gotten so bad that he needs physiotherapy, and while I'm glad something is finally being done about it, it adds another worry and appointments are affected by caring for my mum.

   In short, right now, nothing is as simple as it should be, and though I'm trying to look on the bright side, I've gotten to a point of feeling so hopeless that even though I've received a few custom orders, I can't find the energy or motivation to do them. I have, of course, and I've given them my best efforts, but I haven't enjoyed it. I've been trying to meditate, but if I'm honest, the thought to do it doesn't occur to me anymore and I just want to sit and wallow in my own self pity.
https://www.etsy.com/shop/thePicsees

   Eesh. I'm glad I wrote this. I know it's whiney, but at the same time, I've not actually taken the time to try to get these thoughts in order, and now things at least seem plainer. I know why I'm stressed, and while none of them are matters I have any real control over - I can't slap any clarity out of the government, I can't force people to buy my stuff, and I can't fix his back - they're also matters I might as well put out of my mind. I have a strong belief in this Buddhist proverb, and I need to remind myself of it from time to time: if you have a problem that can be fixed, then there is no use in worrying. If you have a problem that cannot be fixed, then there is no use in worrying.
   This is a time for finding something new to do - trying a new craft, watching a new TV show, trying a new game.
   And when it comes around to it, my current book, at least, is going well. I'm starting to doubt my abilities, but I know I have all the time in the world to tweak and polish my book before submitting it, and the first draft is absolutely never printable. And it's a two-parter, which Archguardians should have been in hindsight, so while the first book is nearly done, I'm not submitting it anywhere until the second is finished. So there's still plenty of time and no need to worry about it.

   But yes. That's me. Perhaps, if this keeps on, I'll annoy you all and start writing short, weekly, positive posts. Remind myself every day of something I'm happy with, grateful for, enjoying and so on, gather them up and stick them up here for all and myself to see. It's the simple, daily things that are all too easy to miss, after all. You don't obsess or over-think the things you enjoy them, you just enjoy them...right?



Thursday, 2 March 2017

Archguardians Of Laceria Book Bundle Giveaway

   It's World Book Day! I used to love World Book Day in primary school, there was always a little book fair in the main hall and I used to go after school, pick out everything I wanted, have them put it on hold and then go home and tell mum she needed to come to school and pay for it all. She was never impressed, but I always went overboard. They also used to give out book tokens to get either £1 off of a book which, back then, cost about £3.99, or a free book to the value of £1 which came out especially for the event, like little 60-page books, but I loved them because they were small and cute.

   Well, I'm not in primary school any more, of course, but I still love World Book Day because books, but also because lots of book fanatics go overboard on costumes, parties, and there are all kinds of unique book-themed things circulating. It's also an opportunity to shamelessly promote my own book and book jewellery.

   And that's what I'm doing right now! Because my book came out in paperback recently, I wanted to host another giveaway for my little Archguardians collection just like I did on its original release! It includes:
• a print of a hand-drawn map of Laceria
• a jar of Alvetha's jasmine tea
• a bottle of rakikik either as a keychain or a necklace (winner's choice)
• a sticker of the book cover
• an Archguardians book flower necklace
• a free copy of the ebook (£2.99) - or, if you already have the ebook, I'll give you a copy of the paperback edition (£16.50) instead!


   This giveaway is open worldwide - though the book is in English - and closes on March 16th. There will be three winners. There is no cash alternative, and if a winner would like the paperback version, they must provide proof that they have the ebook version - literally a picture of their ereader with the book open on its screen will do.
   Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. The winners will be contacted by email on March 17th and will have 72 hours to respond. If no response, a new winner will be selected and emailed, and the original winner notified that their chance has passed.


 Winners will be contacted later today (17th)
Remember: if you'd like to win the paperback, buy the ebook and provide a photo of the book open on your device!