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

Friday, 21 July 2017

Friday Favourites

This week has been cold. It's been amazing. I've slept better and been generally more comfortable - though ice cream has still been on the menu. After a migraine on Tuesday evening, I treated myself to one to celebrate my survival.
Otherwise, this week I've been working on my plan for the next book - working out both sides (hero & villain) and merging them together, and now I've got lots of details floating about that I need to work on, from simple matters of the after-effects of war, to more plot-relevant details. So I've been binge 'watching' Death in Paradise again, which means it's on in the background while my nose is glued to a notebook.
I've also been really enjoying Twinings' new sweet green teas, particularly lemon drizzle. It smells just like it, which has resulted in of such a cake...
Also, I accidentally left my Birchbox subscription running and got the best box ever out of it! I particularly love the coconut & vanilla mineral deodorant <3

Death in Paradise   ♥   Lemon Drizzle green tea from Twinings Teashop

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Unicorn Pancake Breakfast

   Happy Tuesday! I have to say, breakfast is a pretty important meal - and I don't just mean for fuel or 'breaking the fast' and getting your metabolism moving for the day ahead, but also because it can really cheer me up. I get affected by bad dreams rather stupidly; even if I can't remember them, if I've had a bad dream, I'll be in a bad mood all morning. Not angry, necessarily, but sometimes sad, unsettled, tense or jumpy. And I'm never quite sure why. I'm in one such mood today.
   But a nice breakfast can calm me down and get me off to a better start, and after seeing so many 'unicorn' smoothies, I wanted to try something myself. Which wasn't hard, since anything can be made 'unicorn' by adding some pastel colours, and unicorn in particular favours pastel blue and pink. Which creates a problem, doesn't it? Blue is easy with artificial colouring, but if you're looking to stay healthy and join the 'unicorn' craze, you're a bit stuck. Right?
   It took some research, but the secret ingredient is butterfly pea flowers. This intense blue flower has been used in Southeast Asian cooking for a very long time, and is also consumed as a tea. You can get it powdered in the west, but it's not that common, and trends for about £2.50 for 10g on Ebay. But that's enough. I generally use 1/4 teaspoon when I use it and it's more than enough. It's also very dark - I was a bit concerned that I'd gotten some rubbish and that perhaps it was only a specific variety that was so blue, because mine was inky as a powder, but once added to my eggs (yes, my eggs, all kinds of things wind up in my eggs) it turned wonderfully pastel.

   Anyway. Unicorn breakfast pancakes. Or breakfast 'pizza'. It's clean, oh so healthy, and so very easy! A simple, giant pancake topped with yoghurt coloured with butterfly pea flower and a crushed raspberry, topped with blueberries and raspberries and a few yoghurt flours (drawn in yoghurt and frozen).

   I always use Flapjacked's protein pancake mix because you just add water, a single serving is 200 calories (which is easy to half, since it's 1/2 cup mix to 1.3 cup water), 20g of protein, they're made from oat flour and nothing artificial at all. Plus they make great pancakes, and great cakes! Sometimes I'll just spoon the batter into mini cupcake moulds, press a strawberry into each, add a sprinkle of baobab on top and bake at gas mark 4 for 10 minutes. Divine. You can get Flapjacked's protein pancake mixes through Protein Pick & Mix under snacks > breakfast > pancakes.
   I usually use the buttermilk base because it's totally neutral. It's not sweet in the slightest as there's also no added sugar, but a few drops of vanilla can change that, as can the simple addition of fruit, so I usually add a few berries into the batter. I didn't do that with my unicorn pancake pizza, though.

   I also used Yeo Valley's honey greek yoghurt as a top, because it's probably my favourite yoghurt ever. I used to buy big tubs when I was a fatty and eat the whole thing, or bake some chocolate cakes and eat them with cold honey yoghurt. So freaking good! And because Yeo Valley is so clean - greek, organic, bio live yoghurt - I've never had to say goodbye!
   And if you're wondering, I did buy the flower powder through Ebay. I haven't yet found a more reliable source in the UK.

makes 2 unicorn pancakes
pancake mix (I used 1 serving of flapjacked protein pancake mix)
1 pot of yoghurt (I used a 100g pot of Yeo Valley Greek with honey)
handful of blueberries
handful of raspberries
1/2 teaspoon butterfly pea flower
Note: I only made one pancake, so I used half of a serving of pancake mix and half of a pot of yoghurt.

1. Make your pancake mix and prepare your pancake. I actually oven-baked mine by lining a cookie sheet with greaseproof paper and spreading my batter over that, and cooking it for 10 minutes at 180 C/350 F/gas mark 4. It was personal preference.

2. Divide your batter in half and make your two giant pancakes.

3. Set them aside to cool a little and mix up the yoghurt. Split the pot in half and add 1/2 teaspoon of butterfly pea flower to one half (unless you'd like more blue than pink, then add more yoghurt) and 2 raspberries to the other, smoosh and mix.

Note: the butterfly pea flower will seem a bit gritty, so leave it to stand for a minute then mix it again,
then another minute and mix it again. This allows the colour to smooth and intensify.

4. Spread your yoghurt, as desired, over the pancakes, then top with fruit and any decorative bits - shavings of organic white chocolate like Green & Black's, chia seeds, dragon fruit/pitaya. Whatever strikes your fancy. I drew some flowers with yoghurt onto baking paper and froze them. They melted very quickly - I managed to get 2 off before they got too soft, but they firmed up again quickly enough. Just have to work quickly with them!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Friday Favourites

I've been obsessing over blueberries lately, though I've not been eating them. It's just been the idea of them, so I gave in and bought some to make some white chocolate and blueberry protein pancakes for breakfast on Tuesday and, of course, yum. Best breakfast ever. I've been using Flapjacked's buttermilk protein pancake mix as a base because it's easy and there's nothing artificial at all. I get it through Protein Pick & Mix. Though I have to admit that I don't fry them, I bake them in the oven. So they're more like cookie-cakes than pancakes...
Also, one of my favourite artists on Etsy made this awesome paleolithic cave painting piece - it's totally unaffordable, but it's so awesome. I had to share it.
Also, Vikings is amazing. Seeg and I just started watching it, and I'm hooked.

Paleolithic cave painting by DemiurgusDreams   ♥   blueberry & white chocolate pancakes
Victoria's Secret shea body oil   ♥   Vikings

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Hotel Chocolat Teaolat Review

   Tea is wonderful, isn't it? I never drink anything but tea or water. It's so light, pure, and the warmth is good for you. In fact, though it doesn't sound it, warm drinks are more hydrating than cold drinks because your body doesn't have to warm it up before it can absorb it. It's put to use moments after you drink it - every reaction in your body requires water, and that, of course, includes sweating, which is your body's natural temperature-regulator. Sweat evaporates on your skin, cooling you down. And if you're hydrated, you can sweat properly, and not lose out on the water your body needs for other tasks like digestion and brain function.
   Tea is also calorie-free - which means you get flavour for free! It's only when you add sugar and milk that calories start to step in, and most tea - green, herbal, fruit, white, etc - are best enjoyed straight, with neither sugar nor milk.

   But, regardless of how hydrating tea is, sometimes you just can't beat a cold drink. Iced tea, which is a marvellous thing, is generally prepared with teabags, topped up with cold water and sweetened with some sugar, syrup or fruit. This is because the flavour isn't translated so well in the cold (though, as a side note, I find that does not ring true for pizza), and as such shouldn't be consumed as copiously as a good cup of tea, but they should certainly still be enjoyed.

   I also love hot chocolate, but it's thick and full of calories so I reserve it as a winter treat. In fact I love all things chocolate - you remember the chocolate tasting and smelling stamps I have in my epic stamp collection - so when I discovered that Hotel Chocolat made chocolate tea, sampling it shot right to the top of my to-do list.

   Hotel Chocolat's Teaolat teabags contain only natural ingredients, and cacao shells top that list in all cases. Taken straight from the encased cacao bean, the shells are high in antioxidants and are usually discarded by chocolate makers. Fortunately, Hotel Chocolat have found a decidedly unique and delicious use for them, and at less than 1 calorie a cup, you get the taste of chocolate for free!

   If I'm honest, I couldn't really distinguish anything but the chocolate in these teas on the first cup. I could smell the lemon in the cacao, lemongrass & ginseng Energise tea, but the ginseng was nearly non-existent. I could also smell the lemon in the cacao, camomile & lemon Unwind tea. As for the English Breakfast, the Assam was there, but the cacao dominated all three. But, when it comes to tea, the goodness from the herbs and leaves will still be in the water. Whether or not you can taste it doesn't make a difference.
   Having said that, when I brewed a second cup from the teabag (don't judge me), the ginseng suddenly revealed itself.
   But it should be stated that this chocolate is not a sweet chocolate. It's brewed directly from the cacao shells which, if you're familiar with cacao powder, is basically pure chocolate, but not as bitter as a dark chocolate bar. But it means that the goodness of chocolate - the true physical and mental health benefits people shout about but only actually apply to the darkest bars or the purest powders -  is present in this tea, so you can reap the benefits guilt-free. It's kind of like a calorie-free, light hot chocolate.

   And this goodness can also be found in Hotel Chocolat's iced teaolat range, which is new out this summer. First of all, it's needless, but I'll point out the colours of the tea because they are gorgeous. Then the bottles, because they're adorable.
   These iced teas don't conform to the typical iced tea recipes with added sugar. Instead they use fruit juices to flavour and sweeten, with naturally-occurring sugars rather than any added, or anything artificial - just like everything else Hotel Chocolat offers, there are no artificial sweeteners, flavours, colours or preservatives. They also have added B3, B6, B7 and B12, which is a good thing for people like me who suffer from migraines, as vitamin B6 is proven to help reduce them.
   Made with a base of water and white grape, these chocolate iced teas are only 60 calories per 330ml a bottle and 2.5g sugar - all natural.

   I tasted the difference in each iced teaolat, as subtle as they were. I tasted the raspberry, and the cacao was mild but the scent was present; the sparkling lemon, with tonic water rather than carbonation, was a good pairing, and the cacao here was the most prominent, as a swift and pleasant aftertaste. And as for ginger and chai, it's simply gorgeous.
   Absolutely, 100% guilt-free iced teas with a unique chocolate twist

   If you haven't tried Hotel Chocolat's tea range - teaolat bags or iced - I urge you to! They're worth the price tag, as everything in Hotel Chocolat's walls are, but you might want to save them for when you're searching for a chocolate fix without the guilt or simply for the right moment. And certainly all for yourself!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Something A Bit Different...[Vlog]

   How's that for something a bit different?
   I've wanted to make a video blog for ages but I've never felt that I had anything worth the trouble of making a video to say. But, when I finished my book on the weekend, and I was so excited, I decided to just go for it. Because what do I have to lose?
   Like I said in the video, I've felt for a long time that my blog has lacked personality, so I wanted to imprint myself on it a little bit more. But this won't be a frequent occurrence because my rate of news probably won't change at all. But I'm happy with it this way.
   Oh, and excuse the accent. It's atrocious, I know. I was raised in north Bristol where everyone speaks properly, but my parents are both from south Bristol so they and their families talk with rolling R's and rougher country accents. So my accent is a peculiar fusion. One which I've only just become aware of. Frightfully aware.

   Anyway, as I said in my very first vlog, I've finished my book!! Yes, after 11 weeks of rigid work I've finished redrafting, tweaking, adjusting and polishing; the whole thing has been formatted and is ready for printing barring the absence of a cover, which I'm hoping to get point. But like I also said, this book is the first of two, so I'm going to sit on this book for a while until I'm in a comfortable place with the next, then I'll submit it to literary agents. And when they reject it - because timing in the market and their own workload is just as relevant a factor as the writing itself - I'll self-publish it. I'm so much more confident in this one than The Archguardians of Laceria (which you can read the first chapter of for free here), but even that one I felt was good when I wrote it. So I'm hoping this one truly is better. And when it's published, I'll definitely be sending this one out to my favourite fantasy book bloggers!

   I also shared my new Asian wildlife jewellery collection, which has started to roll out today. I'm listing two a day, starting with the full collection bundle listing and the individual sika deer today, and by Friday evening they'll all be up! Yay! I don't expect them to do very well, but only because some of the animals like the crane and the takin are kind of obscure. But if I wanted to make things just to make money, I'd be making dogs and cats. When was the last time I had either of those listed that weren't leopards or wolves? It's true I don't enjoy it as much as I used to, but that's all the more reason to stick to making the things I want to make. And I'm lucky to receive custom requests, too. I've had one for a platypus, one for a hippo, one for a group of meerkats, and I got another unusual request just last night! I wouldn't get those kinds of interesting requests if I didn't make such specific pieces.

   Anyways, I'll video blog again, because I enjoyed it, but it will be a way off. They'll be tagged 'vlog', so you'll be able to find what few I make easily enough.

   Also, I have no idea how to say goodbye. And I didn't want to refilm it because then it would be stiff and forced. And that was so not the point. If I look foolish, I look foolish. I am foolish. This is me.

I do not own the music used in this video. Bowerlake, Autumn, from Fable 2

Monday, 10 July 2017

July: African Dance & Pilates HIIT

 Read also: 3 Weeks Later

   Ahh, July. I say that like it's a good thing. It isn't. I dislike the summer. It's hot, it's sticky, you can't do anything, and your wholeday revolves around keeping cool. I've never liked the summer. Ice cream and bright colours are the only upsides. Yep, I live in England. How anyone further south survives is just beyond me.
   Fortunately, I always get my workout done in the morning, so it's not usually too hot. Windows and doors open, fan on, whack a water bottle in the fridge as soon as I get up and I'm all set.
   So you can imagine that doing Piit28 last month was doubly difficult. But because it was so difficult, in line with my new year's resolution to know when to back off and take a break when I need it (my body hurts), this month I'm going to something simpler.
   I'm keeping it colourful and enthusiastic, so Cassey Ho is remaining on my line-up if much lower impact, and I'm pairing it with my old favourite, Kukuwa. Pop Pilates and African dance. Tell me I've got it wrong - I dare you.
   But I'm not alternating days, or doing 20/20 minutes. Instead, I'm putting together a low-impact HIIT workout combining the two. And it is only feasable because of Kukuwa's unique structure.

The Cardio
   Unlike any other dance workout DVD, Kukuwa is very high-energy dance that never slows down and is, truly, total-body all the time. The reason it's so high-energy and so full-body is because the movements are simple and quick to learn, which means you can really put all your energy into them. This also means that time is not wasted relearning the moves every time you use it. You can put it on and jump right in. Literally.
   There are two sections on the DVD, intermediate and advanced, and both are made up of 6 5-minute routines, and they truly are 5 minutes, give or take 10 seconds. And this is important to this HIIT routine, too. Each routine is on its own DVD 'chapter', making it easy to flick back or forwards to the start of a routine with the touch of a single button, which, again, is important for what I'm trying to do this month.

The Resistance
   Pilates is harder than it looks - it seriously gets into your muscles, and it burns quickly, but it's also very low-impact as far as heart rate is concerned. See where I'm going with this? You can get your breath back.
   I've got Cassey Ho's Hot Body Year Round book on hand for this, a veritable bible of Pilates moves, bright colours and clean, seasonal recipes, and they're the kind of moves that 30-45 seconds of is more than enough. The book splits the workouts into areas of the body, grouping bum workouts, leg workouts, arm workouts, back workouts and so on all individually for each season, and each feature about 6 or 7 moves. That means that this book provides about 25 moves for your bum, 25 for your legs, 25 for your arms - you get the picture. It's jam-packed. But that also means that I can either mix and match areas, or focus on the lower or upper body. And I can swap moves out for others if they get stale.

African Dance & Pilates HIIT
   So, my plan is simple: play a full 30 minute Kukuwa program - either intermediate, or advanced. However, I will only be doing the last 3 minutes of the 5 minute routines. It's true that it doesn't take much time to learn the moves, but after the first minute or two, all the moves have been strung together and so the final three minutes are higher impact and more confident than the first. This means I get the most out of the cardio.
   As for the first two minutes, I will not be idle. This is Pilates time. I'm going to string together 3 Pilates moves, performed for 30 seconds each with 10 seconds to set up between each. When this is done, I get up and boogy. When the routine is over, I hit the mat again and let the DVD play for the music, and after two minutes of 30/10/30/10/30/10, I dance the last 3 minutes. And then the next routine starts.
   This will give me a solid 30 minute workout combining dance cardio and Pilates. It won't be too high impact because even Kukuwa doesn't compare to a routine combining jump squats, burpees and tuck jumps, but it will definitely be enjoyable, and after the difficulty that is Piit28 last month, I'm going to welcome it.

   I start this workout for the first time in about an hour, and I'll blog about it in 2 weeks. Perhaps. I say perhaps because I'm only giving this 3 weeks, total, so perhaps it will be in a week and a half. Piit28 ran over the end of the month because my 2-week post-holiday slim-down threw my calendar out the window, but as this month's workout won't be as effective as Piit28, nor what I have planned for August, I didn't want to compromise on them in favour of an experiment. But if it's going to be effective, 3 weeks will be just enough to tell.

   Also, hell yes, pretty turquoise-mint Pamela shorts by Fabletics

   I'm rather looking forward to this!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Piit28 - 4 Weeks Later

   Ohhh man I'm glad that's over. Piit28 hurts. I've said it enough that you'd think it wouldn't surprise me every day, but it does. But I've finished my second run (my first was back in October) and while I'm glad to see the back of it...I'm also not. It's hard, but it works, and while I don't waste my time on workouts that don't, this is one I have total confidence in. But I just can't maintain it for more than 28 days. It's true that Piit28 is very, very well put together, because breaking the workouts into body areas means you're able to work out 6 days a week without putting undue strain on muscles or compromising recovery, and that means you can do your best every day and maximise your calorie burn by fitting more into 28 days.
   But I'm used to 4 days a week, not 6, and I adore my rest days. I like getting up a little later, having a more interesting breakfast rather than something small to make sure it's settled by the time I start my workout, and tending my Etsy shop or playing some video games instead of jumping around. I burned out a while ago, and I found that it's these rest days that give me the strength to keep at it all.
   But I can sacrifice 2 rest days a week for a month if it means greater results. Why else am I doing it?

   Also, I belatedly discovered that completing Piit28 earns you an additional reward aside from immense fat burn and muscle toning: a free Piit28 tank top! Yay!! So here's mine, earned from October and redeemed 2 weeks ago, arriving just in time to mark the end of the second run! Also, bonus Nozdormu leggings from Wild Bangarang.

   July's workout is going to be more low-key after this month, and it's actually something I'm putting together myself, fusing two different workouts to make something new and more effective than they would be on their own. I have little idea how well it will work, but I suppose I'll find out when I try it tomorrow!

Friday, 7 July 2017

Friday Favourites

It's been a very green week. It seems every single neighbour has decided to cut their grass this week, so I've been blessed with the goregous green smell every single day. I've also been drinking more matcha - not sure why, it's just kind of happened - and we just summed up BBCs Robin Hood,which is an amazing programme, it's just a shame that in the third series they traded the writers and a few of the good actors for better costumes. But it still had me crying in the end!
Also, how cute are these shorts?! I've been after a pair for ages for my exercise, and this is the first I've seen that I absolutely adore. They are, obviously, from Fabletics. Everything always is.

Nature sniffings   ♥   Pamela shorts by Fabletics

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Christmas In July Sale!

Yes, that's right, this year I've decided to participate in Etsy's Christmas In July sale - so from now until July 10th, you can get 20% off shop-wide* with the code ETSYCIJ17. Get a head start on your Christmas shopping with my biggest discount of the year, or treat yourself!

* Exceptions: full collection listings and gift sets, as they're already discounted, and custom orders, which are priced according to the work