Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 In Review

   This year has been incredible. It's had some serious ups, and some rather serious downs, but we've gotten through it, and while there are some rather stark obstacles ahead, Seeg and I are ready to face them, fully armoured with the sharpest swords.
   But we'll start with the ups.



http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2018/05/we-got-married.html

   In May, Seeg and I, having been together for eight years to the day, got married. It was a small occasion, his closest and mine, without any grand reception or big white dresses. We paid for the whole thing ourselves, and while we're still saving for our honeymoon (slash-one-year-wedding-anniversary), we're covering the majority of that, too. My dad felt guilty for the matter, but I declined every offer he made to pay for this or that, and I'm very, very proud of that fact. I made the cake, and it was the best cake I've ever made, and Seeg loved it, which was the goal. I made most of it, actually, and it all went shockingly well but for the sole exception of the ceremony. We were late to our own wedding. Only by about 10 minutes, but an accident had happened on the motorway minutes before we hit the junction to join it. We ended up in rapidly diverted traffic and arrived, at last, with everyone waiting for us. They had all left after us, and so we had warned them of the traffic. It was a bit unbelievable, but the staff at the house were amazing and really put me at ease. And my dearest friend and maid of honour felt terrible because she was driving us. I take a moment to say right now: Lucy, it was not your fault. If anything, it made the day that much more memorable, and I do remember every detail so very clearly.



http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2018/06/cheng-kim-loke-gallery-exhibit-2018.html

   In June, I held my second gallery exhibit. It didn't do as well as the first, but it didn't do badly, either, and resulted in people phoning the gallery to get my name and track me down for custom pieces. Amazing. I was loved and remembered. It also meant that I could put some money away for the afore-mentioned honeymoon/anniversary and had lots of ready-to-ship stock and brand new pieces for Etsy over Christmas.



http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2018/08/its-release-day.html

   In July I listed my newest book for publishing, and it was released August 1st. In four months, The Zi'veyn sold more copies than Archguardians did in two years! And even now I am still proud of it - I had a lot of doubt after releasing The Archguardians Of Laceria, but I have (mostly) nothing but pride (about 70%) for The Zi'veyn. I got a great response for it and feel I've grabbed more attention than the first, and I know as a fact that a lot of people who bought and read Archguardians came back for The Zi'veyn. That's promising.



http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2018/07/our-day-of-falconry-with-john-dowling.html

   In October, Seeg began training in falconry. This is something I've been reluctant to talk about because I believe massively in jinxing, and to be honest I'm still not entirely comfortable with talking about it, but it's a passion he found after I took him on an experience day as a wedding gift, and it hasn't diminished. He finished the initial training last month - but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. There are still many, many things up in the air, but it's certainly something worth being immensely proud of.



   But then, after all that good, came the bad. November was a bad month. My uncle died in an RTA, killed instantly on his way to work. It was terrible, and such a shock. It took a few weeks to sink in, but I opted not to go to the cremation. My dad and my sister knew him better than I did, so I stayed home to look after mum so that he could go. Even so, I paid my respects as best I could.
   Then, a week or so after that had happened, my mum, who had been waiting for a simple operation to remove bladder stones for months and had been rescheduled twice, was admitted to hospital due to a severe bladder infection and pneumonia, both of which had been chalked up to the state she was in pending the operation. She ended up in hospital for almost a week when all she'd needed in the first place was an operation which, when it finally happened at the end of that month rather than the beginning, had her in hospital for the entirety of 6 hours. We were not impressed whatsoever. I do not blame the NHS, however - queues and red tape aside, we are immensely lucky to know that we can be treated for free whenever anything happens to us. Some take advantage of that fact, but it means that we don't have to think twice about calling an ambulance for a stranger, we don't have to just accept we have cancer or disease and wait for it to kill us. It can be a nuisance, but it is a positive thing. I just wish the NHS would get more money, and that people would take it upon themselves to look after their own bodies better. The NHS themselves have confirmed on a number of occcasions that the majority of injuries and illnesses they're dealing with are the direct result of obesity and laziness. Eating right and exercise doesn't mean jogging for five hours every single day and only eating lettuce, and neither does it mean that you can't have any sugar or whatever other foods you love ever again. But people are afraid of it; despite how easy it has been made, despite all the information out there, people choose to just ignore it and go on as they are because it's 'easier'. And then everyone suffers.

https://www.facebook.com/donate/293461544642234/293461551308900/

   The upside, however, which does conclude the year, is that the terrible state she was in for three months - unable to chew her food, sleeping all the time, never smiling even for a moment, slipping down in her chair, making squeaking noises in pain and jolting here and there - vanished. It was amazing, and each of us felt such elation at seeing her so cheerful and alive!! It really made Christmas. But it was also heartbreaking to think how much pain she must have been in and, thanks to her MS, was entirely unable to communicate.

   In short, this year has had its massive ups and massive downs, and 2018 will probably be the most memorable year of all - until I manage to catch the winds with one of my books, or Seeg becomes a professional falconer.
   How was your year? Anything noteworthy in your eyes? Nothing as big as a book publishing - perhaps dropping a dress size, gaining a promotion, or perhaps developing a personally valuable new insight?



Sunday, 30 December 2018

The Best Advice For Sticking To Your New Year's Resolution

   New Year's Day. Colloquially known as the time to make unrealistic goals doomed for failure following the first slip-up. That's a positive statement to start the year with, isn't it? Well, don't take it the wrong way. I've pointed it out because it's a sore truth, and by making you aware of that fact, I hope to arm you with a steelier determination and tag line. "I won't be among them." Indeed, if you give it all you have, the only way you can fail is by giving up.
   That's the trouble with new year's resolutions. If you say "I'll make a change tomorrow" then it feels a bit sudden and gives you no time to plan or prep, but it also means you don't fall far. Saying "I'll make a change on Monday" gives you a few days to plan and prep, get your mind in gear and have a better time of it. But the pedestal is a little higher and so there's further to fall. "I'll start on the 1st" - more time, more prep, even further to fall. "I'll start in January." It's more or less the worst thing you can do if you observe the pedestal.
   Ultimately, the best advice for any new year's resolution is drop the 'year'. If you slip up - and you will, because everyone does - then you'll feel like you can only try again at the start of another month, if not the next year, and it will simply never happen.
   Accept the fact that you will slip up and you'll find it so much easier to pick yourself back up. If you've resolved to learn guitar and miss a lesson, boo hoo, reschedule, don't quit. If you're trying to lose weight and miss a gym session or eat a piece of cake, boo hoo, enjoy the cake and reschedule the session.


   If you're trying to lose weight, don't join a gym. Unless you plan on hiring a personal trainer, it's a waste of money. Most of the machines can be rivalled if not defeated by free weights (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells) and many of them - like leg press machines - are completely pointless unless you wish to improve your ability to swing your legs while sitting on the loo (yes, we shorties are lucky, though leggy ladies will never admit their jealousy). Instead, buy a set of weights. You don't need much space to use them, and you can use free websites like Darebee or Shape, Youtube and so on for brilliantly effective workouts. Alternatively, try Blogilates for a ridiculous number of free Pilates workouts - videos and printables - for beginner to advanced, which are low-impact, apartment-friendly and require no kit, but are also very effective at changing the shape of your body.   By buying your own weights, you will never have to renew a gym membership. Buy weights once, and then you have them. You'll also be unable to use traffic, insecurity or finances as an excuse, and time also becomes less of an option. You also won't have to share kit and you can fully control your environment. I started out with a simple set of dumbbells (1kg, 1.5kg, 2kg & 2.5kg) which cost about £15. Over the course of 5 years I've accumulated 3 kettlebells (4kg, 6kg & 8kg, about £10-£15 a piece), a barbell (£30 for a 2.5kg bar, 2x 1.25kg plates, 2x 2.5kg plates, 2x 5kg plates totalling 20kg), a single extra 10kg plate (£25, bringing the barbell up to 30kg, which is well beyond my abilities even now), as well as resistance bands, a workout bench, some gorgeous yoga mats and and endless amount of activewear. And I've barely noticed the expenses, either, and with a collection of DVDs and a few bookmarked Youtube channels, I could spend not a penny more and have the kit and instruction to last a lifetime.

http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/p/fitness.html

   If your goal is to eat better, don't take on any fad diets - keto is dangerous, low-carb is impractical and will lead to binge-eating, raw is actively not recommended by any nutritionist, and prioritising protein is also pointless. You need carbohydrates for energy. Too little will - and trust me on this - make you drowsy, weak, irritable, will stand in the way of weight-loss goals, compromise cognitive abilities, and did I mention make you irritable? So very, very irritable? You need fats for the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals as well as protection for cells. You need protein for repairing cells especially if you workout, but as you don't need more than 0.83g of protein per lb of body weight (not the fabled 1g per 1lb, because any more than 0.83g even for professional body-builders stops being effective and just becomes consumption), you get more protein in your diet than you need. I train very often and have done for a while. I only need 106g protein - any more than that is excessive and is just converted into fuel instead, because my body has no need of it.
   Do not cut out all the foods you love, either, as that will also lead to binge-eating. The best method is to take on the 80/20 standpoint. 80% what your body needs, 20% what your tastebuds want. Eat well for the majority of the week and the occasional treat won't do a thing to harm your healthy-eating or weight-loss goals. Cutting it out entirely means that you're very likely to over-do it when you finally do allow yourself a taste. It will also make you miserable and irritable.
   Do not go for cheat days. It's so easy to undo two weeks' worth of work in a single day. Instead, if you need it, take a cheat meal by all means. I do every week. Usually pizza or a Chinese take away. It hasn't done a lick of harm despite doing this once a week, every week, for years. I also set aside another night in the week for scoffing chocolate or biscuits in front of a movie with my husband. Again, no harm at all. And certainly something else to look forward to. And if a chocolate bar slips in at another point of the week, yep, that's fine, too.

https://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2018/11/chocolate-redcurrant-cinnamon-porridge.html

   If you're trying to learn a new skill, set aside an hour once or twice a week to practice it. It could be drawing, teaching yourself a subject, learning to play an instrument - I took up the violin, using the Online Piano and Violin Tutor on Youtube, and played for 45 minutes a week and really got somewhere. I had to set the violin aside for 2 months to see to my Etsy shop over Christmas and never really picked it back up. I've been trying to do so again, and setting aside an hour a week is really working for me. I can find an hour. The trick is not to expect instant gratification. Learn, listen, observe, and don't ever be afraid to try new things. Even if the bow screeches.
   If it's a creative avenue, don't pick up a pencil or some such and expect to draw a masterpiece in a month. And don't feel guilty for using other artists' work as reference - read: reference. Don't ever copy a picture and then take credit for imagination and composition, but don't feel like you can't try to copy it at all. Give credit where credit is due, but keep in mind that it's a brilliant exercise for observing use of pens/pencils/tablet brush settings and getting a better feel for things without worrying about what you're going to draw. I've spoken to a lot of artists, traditional and digital, all of whom have said the same thing. Copy someone else's work if it's just an exercise at practise and technique. And if you're drawing your own pictures, then using multiple images from other artists as reference for certain parts, like a hand or positioning, is even better. I do it myself. And use your phone or a mirror to use yourself as a reference, especially for hands, which I've noticed tends to be a universally hated detail among artists. No one I know likes to draw hands.

http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/p/drawing-illustrations.html


The ultimate advice for any new year's resolution

- Don't expect instant gratification.
- Don't set unrealistic goals (dropping from a size 20 to a size 8 or going from novice to concert pianist in 12 months).
- Definitely expect to slip-up, and when you do just dust yourself off and get right back on the horse before it runs out of reach.
- Don't tell people your plans, show them your results - don't share your resolutions, and then you won't feel as embarrassed when you slip up, and you'll be doing it more for yourself than for the approval of other people.
- Don't give up, that's the only way you can fail.
- Don't view it as a chore, it's something you've chosen to do and you should enjoy it - or why bother? Some things will be a nuisance at first while you learn to get to grips with it, but once you've found some footing, the fun sets in. Once you learn how to punch and, for the most part, avoid hitting yourself in the face, kickboxing is amazing fun. Once you learn not to hold the pencil too tightly or press down too hard, drawing is brilliant. Once you work out how to hold the bow and bow cleanly over open strings, it makes the task of bowing finger notes more rewarding. The screeching will return because you're thinking about too much else, but it will clean up and you'll be so happy with the sound and feel braver. As you will with all of the above.

   Don't tell me your resolutions. I'm only sharing mine in my next post because it's much smaller than my other resolutions, and because I also know that I'm the kind of person more likely to succeed if I publicly set it in stone.
   Good luck this year!



Saturday, 29 December 2018

Christmas 2018

   This Christmas has been...well, it's been. I found I wasn't all that aware of it until about 7pm on Christmas Eve. Of course I'd done all my shopping, wrapping, posting and decorating - everything that needed to be done - but in all honesty the Christmas spirit didn't really reach me until then. I was working too hard on the run-up, I think. But I realised something while sitting down to a Christmas dinner of pheasant and mead, and that was that while I love Christmas day, as I've grown older, it's the season as a whole that I adore. I found that I was more excited over December 1st than the 25th, and to be honest, I'm so happy with that realisation. I'm growing up, but I haven't lost the love of Christmas like so many others do!
   Spreading the excitement over the month took so much pressure off of the day itself, and meant that no one single day had to be 'perfect' - the myth of the perfect Christmas is, after all, a thing. Come December 1st I open advent calendars, break out my Christmas mugs and bowls, swap from regular post-workout protein to a really thick and rather decadent salted caramel protein, stop drinking any regular tea and switch to winter spiced black or rooibos and so on, put spice in everything, cranberries in every porridge, light a scented Yankee Candle - always 'Christmas Eve' - at breakfast every morning, among so much more. It all lasts until the very end of the month, through and past Christmas, and I truly love it.


   Christmas day was great, of course, filled with chocolate but, but, this year I did not eat so much that it hurt. I just felt a bit sick. But that's allowed. My husband loved his gifts - Cayde's Last Stand, a peregrine falcon mug, Red Dead Redemption bottle opener & sawn-off shotgun, and a Sea of Thieves t-shirt and silver coin. I had some rather wonderful gifts too, including Johan Egerkrans' The Undead, some of my favourite over-priced Matcha and the entire Malloreon book series. But the thing is, our birthdays are so close to Christmas that we have to buy double the gifts, and we generally agree that the birthday gifts should be better than Christmas, so we divide them up appropriately. So as dull as the gifts I gave him might seem, for his birthday I gave him a giant hardback book from the Bodleian University about Tolkien and his life and work, the Gamecube copy of Lord of the Rings, Return of the King, a wonderful eagle from Demiurgus Dreams, and a dream catcher I made for him from 2 roe deer antlers, some embroidery thread and some analine-finished leather, which I'm so proud of and will be sharing here in a couple of weeks, once I get a good picture of it.


   Yes, birthdays that close to Christmas. You could argue that it's unfortunate - and it is, in a way. It's more expensive, it lumps all the celebrations into a single pocket of the year, and it can somewhat diminish the occasion, but it also means we can get gifts in the sales pre- and post-Christmas, meaning better things for less, and a greater variety of desserts and birthday cake alternatives are on the shelves. I bought Seeg an ice cream log - chocolate ice cream surrounding vanilla ice cream, surrounding a thick rod of praline, all set upon a chocolate biscuit & hazelnut praline base. It should tick every box.
   But, more than that, I'm actually quite fortunate. My dad has said he feels sorry for me, getting all excited about Christmas, then it's all over in a day. The above 'Christmas Season' jolliness renders that concern needless, but as my husband's birthday is so close to Christmas, it means that the festivities are prolonged. And with my own just a week and a half later, by the time that has come and gone, I'm really quite tired of the festivities and more than ready to go back to normal. So the first two weeks of January are a funny mix of tame and well-behaved indulgence. I tend to opt for healthier things that I love for my own birthday because I'm so sick of sweets - so high-protein blueberry pancakes rather than chocolate porridge, and some lovely roasted chicken or some such rather than a birthday take-away. Cake, however, is mandatory. Unless there's a good-looking ice cream log somewhere. This year, however, I'm relying on a sticky toffee cake from my sister. We shall see. Failing that, I...well I suppose I'll cry. I made our wedding cake with 1000% success rate despite having never made a cake like it, but I'm so hit and miss in the kitchen that I no longer trust myself to make even myself a birthday cake. Though I did make a rather large purchase from Protein Pick & Mix which included a few birthday cake protein bars - a Grenade Carb Killa, because you just can't go wrong with those, and birthday cake Battle Bites. And a chocolate protein pudding. All low sugar, high fibre and high protein. My birthday is also a training day this year, after all!

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bq5CNthl5aX/

   Yes, it has been a wonderful season. But, unfortunately, it hasn't all been blissful merriment. Myth of the Wild has suffered this Christmas with some unhappy customers. The US customs office has had some severe delays and has resulted in many packages to the US not arriving in time for Christmas despite orders placed before my deadlines, and those deadlines themselves are two weeks before the final posting date (according to the UK and US postal offices) to avoid exactly this. So I'm extremely disappointed, as are they, and there's nothing at all I can do about it except apologise and ask for patience. And, to top it off, I have been brought down a little further by a single angry customer, from whom I anticipate a strongly negative review very shortly. All I can take away from it the confidence that I handled the matter professionally and politely, and that I stuck to my guns rather than letting myself get bullied. Rudeness won't be rewarded by the bending of rules which have been put in place for good reason in the first place. More than that, however, it's not right to say here. But it has shaken me, I admit. Literally. I was trembling for 2 hours after it occurred, and I gave up trying to write and just sat on the PS4 instead because I just couldn't think straight. But I am also so proud of my attitude. Not once was I anything less than optimistic and polite, and I give myself a pat on the back for that rather than let it get the better of me.

   Anyway. Christmas and two birthdays - and, speaking of which, Facebook has prompted me to begin a fundraiser for a charity of my choice, and as my mum is so severely afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis, for whom I care full-time, I figured the MS Society was the obvious choice. So if you can spare a few pounds, please do head over to the fundraiser page and contribute. There is no cure for MS, and there likely never will be - not for those as far gone as my mother - but the research gives hope to the newly-diagnosed who they can still help. And I tell you, after my experiences with my mum and her MS - in short, she can presently no longer sit up by herself, feed herself, and I've not heard her speak even a single word in months - I'm not sure what I would do with myself if I was diagnosed tomorrow. So the deeper we can get into research and the closer we can get to management, the better.


   Anyway, I'm raring for the new year. I have some prosecco flavoured BCAAs for January, a new 10kg barbell plate, some ideas for a new and rather difficult collection on Etsy, I've got the notes all ready for the end of my book and now all that needs doing is putting them into prose, and though I still have one more book of the trilogy to write, I've found my mind drifting ever more often onto what my next story will be, and who the main character will be. The characters tend to just form on their own from images, games, movies, songs, art and so on that kind of mash together until they become someone. I never force it, and I'm proud of that fact. As for who I choose, that happens naturally, too. Right now, I have a few individuals in mind but I'm giving them the chance to grab my attention. A world will generally build up around their profession or talent, and a story from that. There is one individual who is stepping forwards further than the rest, but they don't have much of anything about them, while a profession is also presenting itself but it just doesn't match with the individual at all. So I'm giving the rest a chance rather than locking anything in. It'll be a while before I get to it, but I like to have a solid idea in mind before I finish whatever I'm presently working on. Which means, really, I want a solid idea and more than just scaffolding around a plan in a year's time.
   I am immensely optimistic. I've also sold more copies of The Zi'veyn in a period of four months as I had The Archguardians of Laceria in two years! And rightly so, for it is immensely better.

   We have more hopes for the year ahead, but they're not simple and quite unstable, too, but all we can both do is work hard, keep our feet on the ground, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And with Brexit happening in three months, it's made things much, much harder for us both.
   But we have to have hope, right?

   What do you all have planned for the new year?



Tuesday, 18 December 2018

FREEDOM!

   I was supposed to write this post yesterday, but I was too busy relaxing and time got away from me...
   Anyway, freedom. I made my last post run of the year yesterday, and now I can finally enjoy Christmas. I love the week running up to the event - the Monday is always my last posting day, after which I come home, have a Christmas sandwich I bought from Tesco on the way back, then get in the bath with a hot chocolate, Lush bubble bar & bath bomb. I was going to go for a Hotel Chocolat hot chocolate, but the sandwich was hefty at 530 calories, so I chose Options instead. It was still delicious. That's what I love about Options hot chocolate - 40 calories and, often times, better than most other hot chocolate. Except HC. But the sandwich was also well worth the compromise!
   I used the Puddy Holly bubble bar, which turned the water green, then a Holey Night bath bomb which turned it teal. It smelled wonderful, and my skin was oh so soft. Threw in some Better You magnesium salts since I suffered a migraine on Saturday and had done a great lower body workout that morning.
   Today I worked on a birthday gift for Seeg since other plans fell through, tomorrow I'm doing some Christmas baking, Thursday is write write write, and on the weekend, I'm wrapping with a side of chocolates! All while waiting for the final Christmas gift to arrive. YAY.

   I've already snatched a few days off over the last few weeks - among others, we went out to Glastonbury Abbey to take a peek at the spot of King Arthur & Guinevere's supposed graves and snatch a cheeky hot chocolate from Hotel Chocolat, and headed out to Whitehall garden centre, Whitechurch, with my parents to look around at their Christmas displays, get some cake and see the reindeer. It might sound dull but garden centres were always my mum's choice so I've grown up with them as frequent weekend mornings out, and with my mum's disability, it's one of the few places you can generally guarantee to get a wheelchair through. But it's certainly one of the better ones - and with no funny smells. And some killer chocolate cake.
   Both of these pictures were snapped with my phone - I'm still adjusting to it. I'm surprised by how much use I've gotten out of it, though, and with the installation of WhatsApp, my sister and I have even gotten closer! Otherwise, I've been able to take quick snaps of WIPs without the need to set up the shot and over-edit it on the PC, which has made my twitter & instagram feel a little more personal on the business side, rather than just completed product snaps, and more like the small handmade business that it is.


   Work on the gift, which I will share after the fact, went well, but it's difficult for me to see past the nuts and bolts to the finished thing. That's always been the case with me, and while I showed a picture to my sister and by best friend and they both said it looked great - the former, who is so often sarcastic and underwhelmed, seemed to genuinely mean it - it still feels cheap to me. I'm probably looking too deep into it, but I hope he likes it either way. I've mentioned it to him, and unsettled him by saying that it will either go really well and look amazing, or be a rubbish mess. I'm slightly more concerned after just how easily the most complex part of it went, but more on that later.

   This week is set to be slow and chilled out. I can't wait. I've been so busy for a month and a half, either fretting over a sudden influx of sales and worried I won't get them out quickly enough, or worried that they'd suddenly slumped! I can't really win. Every day was a worry. Now, though, it's all put away, all orders have been shipped bar one custom order, the shipment timeframe of which was agreed upon before hand, and it is too late now to post anything else for reliable Christmas delivery.
   So. Give me my pen and some paper or a PS4 controller, and I think I'm all set!

   What do you have planned this week?



Friday, 14 December 2018

Friday Favourites

It's the final week of Christmas sales in Myth of the Wild - in fact, today is the penultimate deadline! After midnight tonight, the only orders that will be processed before next year and shipped out in time for Christmas are items purchased from the 'Ready To Ship' section, which goes live later today! Free UK shipping will persist until Monday morning, but the 10% off sale ends midnight tonight, as does the offer of free gifts on all orders. So get in quick!

Now I've gotten that out of the way, phew. It has been the worst Christmas my shop has seen, but I have been kept busy and I have done my best to keep my spirits buoyed. All that said, I haven't had a moment to write for a few weeks, so that must be a good sign. I managed to get a few pages of notes written at the hair dresser's, though! Snatch moments where I can, and that was the first time in a week and a half. Otherwise I've been working on restocking the best-sellers, but as sales have suddenly dried up, it feels almost for nothing, even though I know that they will sell, and that I've got stock ready for the new year, which will give me an easier start. Still, it is what it is, and I should be greatful, really!
I have, however, had ample opportunity to watch Christmas movies. Not writing means I can put these things on in the background and avoid working in silence, which I just can't stand unless I'm writing. And my two favourites are Miracle of 34th Street and Arthur Christmas, one of the most underrated Christmas films there is. Also, high-protein hot chocolate designed for having just before bed, thank you, some invisible and oh-so-comfy knickers with festive foil stars, and the best Christmas perfume - I'm not one for perfume at all, but when I bought Lush's Lord of Misrule shower cream and fell in love with the scent...well...I had to. One spritz lasts all day. It's remarkable, and smells just like the cream!

Oh, and also, arm yourself with information this Christmas and check out these two articles from Shape Magazine:
5 Myths About Holiday Weight-Gain
Exactly What to Do When You Overeat, According to Nutritionists
I learned a few things from both of them, and I'll certainly put them into effect and/or keep them in the forefront of my mind, like the fact that fasting and skipping meals because you overate the day before is a no-no, and turning to a high intensity workout the next day won't do much to help offset anything, especially if you're still feeling stuffed, because it's probably just bloating. You just don't put fat on that quickly.




Healthspan 40 Winks protein hot chocolate   ♥   Lord of Misrule perfume
Arthur Christmas   ♥   Victoria's Secret no-show cheekster



Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Christmas Touches - 2018 Details Haul

   What a hectic month. I'm sure pretty much everyone can relate. And I've had Myth of the Wild to contend with on top of that - but my UK order deadline is rapidly approaching, Friday 14th, so come Monday it'll all be over and I can turn my mind onto Christmas. But the harder I work over the weekend, the more I'll appreciate it! The decorations went up this weekend past, which is one of my favourite things. I love to hang fairy lights across the ceiling, and it makes movie night much prettier. Because that's clearly what people want from movie night. Pretty lights.

   I don't usually spend very much on silly indulgences throughout the year - except perhaps on gym leggings - but come Christmas, I'm as daft as anyone else. It's my favourite time of the year, and I want it to be perfect - which, while we're on the matter, is an illusion - so I do tend to let myself get sucked into trends. The very moment I heard that mead was the drink of choice over mulled wine this year, I bought two bottles. And if a favourite product comes out with a Christmas tone, I want it. But I admit that I've been much more sensible this year, aside perhaps from the Warcraft Christmas jumper, but I did sell an old one to justify it! Otherwise, everything I have given into, like mead, I am excited about. Because I'm good all year, and this is my favourite season. And so I present to you my haul of lovely little things to make Christmas that bit more special.


Mead
  

   Being a fantasy writer and history lover, it's not surprising that anything old, traditional or medieval is likely to tickle my fancy, and as mead is the oldest fermented drink, it appealed to me no end. I bought two bottles from English Heritage, banquet mead, which I'm keeping for Christmas dinner, and traditional mead for an evening of board games with the husband. I rarely drink - I generally don't like it at all, but every now and then, on a special occasion, I don't mind, and Christmas I am liable to have about five alcoholic beverages. Five whole glasses. I know, slow down, right? But that means that if I have anything, I want it to be good.
   It should also be noted that my alcohol of choice at Christmas is actually Buck's Fizz. Because I'm not really a grown up at all. And long may it be that way.


S'mores Naked Marshmallows


   Something for our board games and for Christmas morning's hot chocolate. I got myself the Naked Marshmallow advent calendar last year and leapt on it again this year. I love their s'mores marshmallows. They're filled with solid chocolate chips and coated with biscuit crumbs. They. Are. Amazing. So I bought a few boxes for Christmas morning, and another for a tiny gathering.


Personalised Porcelain Bauble


   Every year Seeg and I buy a single bauble, and date it. 'Cause we're cool like that. This year, though, I made it personal, without need for a tiny sticker on the thread. We got engaged last Christmas Eve, and married this past May, making this our first Christmas as a married couple. Albeit our ninth together. It took a while to find what I wanted - I had an idea in mind, but each piece I found were made of plastic and stickers, and it just seemed tacky. Then, finally, I found PeppyCraftsUK on Etsy, and fell in love with the simplicity of the baubles. I was torn between this one and another seller's but settled on Peppy Crafts because it was a great deal less busy and overwhelming. I love it. The quality is excellent, the paint is smooth and solid, and it looks amazing.


Lebkuchen Lindt Lindor


   Another treat for our board games day! I have a fascination with lebkuchen this Christmas - it made it into a porridge just yesterday! And so when I was on the German Lindt website buying up Christmas chocolates, because the German Lindt stores have a much broader selection than the English ones, and I found limited edition Lebkuchen Lindor, I leapt upon that, too. I bought plenty.
   I'm pretty sure most of my money goes on food over Christmas...


Red Dragon Inn


   Everyone needs board games, and even more so at Christmas! I hadn't played board games in years until I met Seeg. Board games are still very much a big thing in The Netherlands, and when we go over there we play loads with his friends and family. It's great fun! My best friend is a board game nut, too, which I somehow never actually knew, and so we get together as a three to nerd out with it from time to time. Red Dragon Inn was Seeg's discovery. We've played it once for about three hours (a single game can last about 20-30 minutes) and it was awesome. It's ultimately just a drinking game in card form, where you play the part of some fantasy character or other and try to prevent your fortitude level and alcohol level from overlapping. If they overlap, you're drunk and you're out. It's awesome, and so simple. And you have to read the cards' lines as the characters would speak them. We opted for RDI2 for characters' sake. Dimli the Dwarf is my favourite. But I love dwarfs. It's a well-known fact. I do not like elves. Each Red Dragon Inn works the same, they just involve different characters and they can be combined.



Grenade Gingerbread Carb Killa Bars


   A healthier option when hunger strikes at Christmastime. When Grenade brought out their gingerbread Carb Killa bars, I stocked up and fast. They're not as spiced as I'd have liked, but they're delicious all the same. Guilt-free chocolate bars for the days when my protein intake isn't as high as it should be - which is around 0.75g of protein per lb of body weight if you're trying to build muscle, not the convenient and mythological 1g per lb. But that's a matter for another time. They're low in sugar, too, opting instead for polyols which are safe, and so are low-carb. Not something I opt for anymore, and I'm glad of it, I have so much more energy since I put carbs back on the menu, but at this time of year, when there are lots of sweets and pies and whatnot on offer and it's easy to get too much sugar while your protein levels drop, it's smart to have these on hand.


Tolkien Letters From Father Christmas

   I always wake up far too early on Christmas morning. Around 5am. I did say that I've never grown up. And I love to read in bed, but while I'm usually at that around 8am, there's a bit of a difference in natural light level. I can't turn on the light or I'll wake Seeg, as much as I want to, and it's much too dark to open the curtains a crack and read. It's hopeless. And so I'm very glad I bought a Kindle a few years ago. It's barely used, but it does mean I can read on Christmas morning underneath the covers. Like a 10 year old. And this year, after seeing it on the Bodleian Library website regarding the Tolkien exhibit we were much too late to discover, I got it on the Kindle specially. I just have to remember to charge it and update it the weekend before. What a disappointment it will be to forget...


Is there anything you've bought this year to make your Christmas that little bit more special? A food? A family activity? Perhaps it's something you've planned like a surprise outing or visit! Please do share, I'd genuinely love to know all about it!



Monday, 10 December 2018

Lebkuchen Porridge

   It's the laaaast weeeek! A week today, that will be it. Myth of the Wild will be closed for Christmas and I can start enjoying the season like the child I am. Lots of chocolate, stupid movies, loud music and jumping. I love it. So. Much. Not that I don't enjoy running my shop over this season - it is a stress, but to be honest, I love hearing from happy customers, and I seriously love the sensation of lying down after working until 11pm every night, and especially putting the hard work behind me after my final post run. I always buy a seasonal bubble bar and bath bomb from Lush and pencil in a long and lazy soak in the bath after lunch that day. It is awesome. It's also during that week - or that Monday to Thursday - that I do all my Christmas wrapping which, as always, involves a hot chocolate and a box of chocolates with a Christmas film, all the Christmas lights on and singing rather spasmodically to make my mum laugh. Since her operation - which I have yet to mention, I think - she's been in an understandably much better mood and is finally smiling and laughing again. I'm hoping to get out to dinner with my best friend and have a games day, and perhaps play some video games myself. I've just got to Skellige in The Witcher, and I never did finish Mass Effect 2.

   Otherwise, there is still one week for Christmas orders in the UK, and with the end so close in sight, I'm actually finding myself quite enthusiastic to keep working and work hard up until that point. So I invite you to browse! There's a flash 10% off, and free UK delivery until the 17th. Order deadlines are:
- book flowers & custom koroks: Wednesday 12th December
- animal & wildlife jars: Friday 14th December
- 'ready-to-ship' section: Monday 17th December at 7am
   The 'ready-to-ship' section will be created on the 14th and will contain only products and stock levels that have been made ahead of time and are ready to ship, and will contain the remaining left-overs from my gallery exhibit, too, like wolves, cheetah and deer, assuming I still have any left. And a few book flowers in the most popular titles, like Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice.


   For now, though, it's breakfast time, and I bring you this year's seasonal favourite: lebkuchen porridge. A simple porridge with spice, honey which is used in almost every lebkuchen recipe, and optional fruit. Apricot is most commonly used, but pear works well too and isn't as sweet or strong, so brings out the spices a little more.
   I've written the recipe with skimmed milk, but, honestly, whole milk is best here because it gives such a creamy texture, and that texture combined with the gentle sweetness of the honey and the tickle of the spices makes such a luxurious bowl. Yes, porridge really can be luxurious.

Ingredients
Serves 1
30g rolled oats
20g whey protein
1 tsp lebkuchen spice (see notes)
100ml skimmed milk
100ml water
10g honey
5g chestnut flour for garnish
Optional 1 pear


Method
If you're using a pear, peel and chop it, and set it in a pan with 2 tbsp hot water and simmer for 10-15 minutes, then mash with a fork. Do not drain. If you're making overnight oats, this can be done either the night before with the oats, or it can be done the next morning while warming. It makes little difference.

Overnight Oats
1. Combine oats, whey and spice in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and, stirring all the while, add 100ml milk (or shake and transfer into a bowl).

2. Set in the fridge overnight. If you'd like it warm the next morning, add your warm mashed pear and whatever water is left into the cold porridge mix, then heat in the microwave for 1 minute, stir, then 20-30 second bursts until desired consistency is reached. Add more water if necessary. Move on to step 4 below.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil 100ml water.

2. Thoroughly combine oats, whey and spice in a pan. Then, stirring all the while, add the milk and then the boiled water, then bring to a boil over medium heat.

3. Add the warm mashed pear and its remaining water if using and reduce to a simmer on the lowest heat. Allow to thicken for 15-20 minutes, until desired consistency is reached, stirring to prevent sticking and burning.

4. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 10g honey.

5. Set a snowflake stencil over the top of the porridge and sieve 5g chestnut flour over the top. Carefully remove the stencil and serve.


Notes
• I used Pulsin premium whey
• I used Steenberg's lebkuchen spice mix
• Make your own lebkuchen spice: 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise, 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
• I used Rowse wildflower honey
• I used Amisa chestnut flour
• I made a paper stencil and cut long tabs into the straight edges on 4 sides, folded them along that line so they didn't intrude in the shape and used them to lift it away.


Nutrition
Without pear
260 cals, 2.5g fat (0,5g sat), 31.5g carbs (5.5g sugar, 8g honey sugar), 2.5g fibre, 25g protein
1 pear (152g) adds:
85 cals, 15g carbs (14g sugar), 4.5g fibre, 0.5g protein




Friday, 7 December 2018

Friday Favourites

[[Flash 10% off, free UK shipping and free gifts while stocks last! Shop Myth of the Wild while you can!]]

This week has been busy, but so good. I've been keeping on top of Christmas sales for the first time in years, and while I've got no chance at all of getting this book finished by the end of the year, I have been able to snatch an hour here and there to make notes, which will make the job a lot easier when I come back to it at the end of the month! Staying on top of sales is hugely rewarding, and while I'm working until 11pm most nights, I've grown to truly appreciate going to bed. Lying down is so nice.

Seeg and I went out with my best friend this week, we took a trip to Glastonbury Abbey, which was awesome, and made a little stop-over in Clark's Village to finally try a Hotel Chocolat hot chocolate from their cafe. Below is mine on the left and Seeg's on the right. We felt sick afterwards, but still waddled up to the Lindt shop and bought 500g of Lindor pick and mix... It can't be helped, we're fatties at heart. It's why we work out so much.
I'm also a little bit gutted, to be honest. I bought the greench jumper too late! It came out last year, I let it pass by, but decided eventually that I wanted it. When it returned this year I fell in love with it. And I delayed. I snapped it up on sale on December 1st, but there was a warning that it wouldn't arrive in time for Christmas. The notice has been updated, and now says orders placed after the 26th November won't arrive in time. I'm crossing my fingers all the same, but hell.




Warcraft Greench jumper   ♥   Hotel Chocolat hot chocolates at Clark's Village



Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Etsy Christmas Order Deadlines

Juuuust a quick update: it is now too late for overseas orders from Myth Of The Wild to arrive safely in time for Christmas.
My deadlines are laid out based on personal experience since 2011, and while it is possible that things could arrive when ordered after the below deadlines, I really wouldn't bank on it.

❅ Worldwide Christmas Order Deadlines ❅
Aus & NZ - 23rd November
US, Canada & EU - 30th November, 1pm
UK book flowers - 12th December
UK jars - 14th December
UK ready-to-ship category - 17th December, 7am

The 'ready-to-ship' category will be visible in my shop on the 15th and will contain all the listings and quantities that are presently available and made ahead of time. They will be a mixture of jars and of book flowers, mostly necklaces, in various titles. These will be, as the name suggests, ready to ship, and therefore any purchases made from this category will be shipped out on my last post run.

My final post run of the year will be midday on the 17th, therefore UK orders placed after these dates very likely won't arrive as there's no wiggle room for later posting.
Please note that standard shipping is not tracked - if you'd like tracking, please select it from the drop-down menu in your basket/during checkout. Please also note that tracking/signed for does not mean it will be posted any faster, nor will it move any quicker once it has left my possession.





Monday, 3 December 2018

Christmas Chocolate Orange Porridge

   When it comes to Christmas, I am a fan of woodland themes. I buy all kinds of deer ornaments every year, though there is nowhere to put them all - I may also be guilty of buying a 45cm glittery jackalope from Paperchase when it was on sale in last year's new year sale...and it hasn't yet left its box. It's lurking in the spare room and I'm desperate to find somewhere to park the thing this year!
   Anyway, the love for woodland themes also lends itself to all of the dark, forest green and deep reds, with snowy bark thrown into the mix, and, of course, pinecones.
   Which leads me rather clumsily into today's porridge recipe: Christmas chocolate orange porridge with protein pinecones and chestnut flour!


   Chestnut flour is a great alternative to icing sugar or powdered sugar for that snowy Christmassy effect. Chestnuts are sweeter than other nuts, and low in fat, but unlike sugar, it's not too sweet, making it perfect for breakfast time, and can be used in place of any decorative powdered sugar on cakes, cookies or any other foods you want to give the snowy treatment to. It's not as easy to find as powdered sugar, of course, but larger supermarkets will stock it and, failing that, websites like RealFoods or Dolphin Fitness sell pouches without high shipping - but what you gain from cheap shipping, you lose in shipment time. It could take about a week to receive it, perhaps longer over the Christmas period, so keep that in mind!
   See chestnut flour in my German Christmas fig porridge.
   I also used Bounce mini bites for the pine cones. I think they look great! They take a little bit of kneading, but it works.



Ingredients
Serves 1
30g oats
20g whey protein
10g cacao powder (or chocolate protein) 
Optional 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Optional 1/4 tsp cloves
100ml skimmed milk
100ml water
25ml orange juice
3 mini chocolate orange bounce bites
Chestnut flour, for dusting


Method
Pinecones
Take 3 mini Bounce balls or similar, and soften them into a longer, finer shape. Stick a skewer into the bottom and push in about half way. Hold the skewer at the point right beneath the ball, so your fingers are resting right against the bottom of the ball and stop it from being pushed down the skewer any further. Take a sharp, tapered knife and, beginning at the bottom, drive the tip in a short way at a downwards angle, then lever the blade downwards so the blade is horizontal. This should open up the cut. Work around the bottom and then start moving up until you get to the top. The shape will grow shorter and fatter at the bottom with the downward force on each layer to make a more pinecone shape. The lower cuts will also close as you work your way up, but that's fine. Once you've reached the top, go back to the bottom and open the squashed ones back up with the same method. This should take about 10-15 minutes for all three.


Overnight Oats
1. Combine oats, whey, cacao, cinnamon and cloves in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and, stirring all the while, add the milk (or shake to combine then pour into a bowl). Set in the fridge overnight.

2. Add 50ml water and heat the following morning either on the hob or in the microwave - 1 min, stir, then 30 second bursts until desired consistency. Add the orange juice, stir it through, microwave again if desired. Arrange your pine cones, then dust with chestnut flour and serve.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil 100ml water.

2. Combine oats, whey, cacao, cinnamon and cloves in a pan and, stirring all the while, add the milk, then 100ml the boiled water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to prevent burning, then reduce to a simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until desired consistency. Add more water if need be.

3. Add orange juice in the final minute or so and stir through.

4. Transfer to a bowl. Arrange your pine cones, dust with chestnut flour and serve.


Notes
• I used Pulsin premium whey
• I used Aduna cacao
• I used Tropicana orange juice with bits
• I used Amisa chestnut flour
• I used mini bounce bites, but you could use any mini protein balls, or make your own!
• I measured out 5g of chestnut flour, and used probably only about 1-2g. Nutritional table is for the full 5g.


Nutrition
Without mini bounce balls
240 cals, 2.4g fat (0.5g sat), 26g carbs (8g natural sugars), 3g fibre, 25.5g protein
3 cacao orange bounce bites add:
120 cals, 5g fat (1g sat), 11g carbs (9g sugar), 3g fibre, 6g protein





Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Chocolate, Redcurrant & Cinnamon Porridge

   It's the final week of November. I can't believe it! I'm so excited! Advent on Saturday! Chocolate every day. And a marshmallow. Yes, I have two advent calendars, judge all you like, I really don't care.
   I'm being drawn more to deep and royal reds than usual - it's a festive sort of colour! I've been trying to find burgundy or deep red leggings for my winter workouts, but any I find are out of stock or not the right material, so I've decided to hold off rather than race in and hope that Fabletics come up with something on Saturday. At the end of the day, I love their products the most, so I'd rather wait and see if if they can bring out the colour I'm after.
   Anyway, here's another porridge recipe perfect for adding a dash of Christmas festivity to your morning: a spiced chocolate and redcurrant porridge. Or you can use cranberries instead...



   Full of antioxidants and amazing flavour, this is a wonderful mixture of taste and texture which is sure to wake you up, put a skip in your step and seriously supercharge your day! Perfect for mid-winter mornings! More like a dessert than a breakfast!

Ingredients
Serves 1
30g oats
20g whey protein
10g (1 tbsp) cacao
pinch cinnamon
100ml skimmed milk
100ml water
sweetener of choice
25g redcurrants or cranberries
Optional drizzle of cream for garnish
Optional cacao nibs for garnish
Optional string of redcurrants for garnish


Method
Overnight Oats
1. Thoroughly combine oats, whey, cacao and cinnamon in a bowl (or shaker bottle). Stirring all the while, add the milk, then the sweetener (or shake and pour into a bowl).

2. Leave in the fridge overnight; if you'd like it warm the next morning, add 50ml of water and microwave for 1 minute, stir, then microwave in 20-30 second bursts until desired texture. Add more water if necessary. Move on to step 4 below.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil the water.

2. Thoroughly combine oats, whey, cacao and cinnamon in a pan. Stirring all the while, pour in the milk, then the sweetener, then the water, and bring to a boil over medium heat.

3. Reduce to a simmer and allow to thicken, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if necessary.

4. Put your redcurrants (excluding the string for garnish) in a microwave proof bowl and heat for 30 seconds until the berries begin to burst.

5. Transfer your porridge to a bowl and spoon over your drizzle of cream, if using, then spoon over the warm redcurrants and sprinkle your cacao nibs. Arrange your string of redcurrants and serve!


Notes
• I used 12g cream
• I used 5g cacao nibs
• I used Pulsin premium whey
• I used Aduna super cacao


Nutrition
All of above minus additional string of redcurrants
330 cals, 8.4g fat (4.5g sat), 31.5g carbs (10g natural sugars), 8g fibre, 28.5g protein




Sunday, 25 November 2018

Cyber Monday Sales! Etsy + Kindle!

Yes, it's that time of year again! Cyber Monday is upon us, and I've already taken advantage of it, buying the more expensive gifts I was gambling on - discount vs Christmas delivery and stock levels - and it's paid off! I even got myself a couple of goodies ^^
   But it does, of course, mean that my own Etsy shop has come into sale season!


https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MythOfTheWild?ref=seller-platform-mcnav https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FSQLYRZ


Head over to Myth of the Wild today for 15% off and a free gift with every order!
It ends at midnight on the 26th, when the discount will reduce to 10% until Saturday. Free gifts, however, depend on stock levels, and they're already half depleted!

On top of that, my latest book, The Zi'veyn, is free on Kindle from today until Tuesday!
Snap it up this sale weekend for, well, nothing! Follow the link above, or find it easily on your own regional Amazon pages. Plus, if you're not sure, read chapters 1-5 for free beforehand if you like!


 Myth of the Wild Christmas order deadline dates:
Aus & NZ - 23rd November
US, Canada, EU rest of world - 29th November
UK - 14th December



Thursday, 22 November 2018

Fitness Christmas Gift Guide

   It can be hard to know what to get someone who sees fitness as a passion, someone who loves to move, lift, twist or jump. So, hopefully, I've just made the job a little easier for you! This fitness gift guide is made by gym-goers, for gym-goers, and is full of wonderful gifts they'll use and love, from fit kit to experiences! Including golden dumbbells, chocolate brownie protein, beautiful yoga wheels and post-workout muscle oils!






Monday, 19 November 2018

German Christmas Fig Porridge

   Last night was the first night I needed a pair of socks in bed. At last. A warm air has been blowing from the southern Atlantic for a few weeks and we've been up in double figures! It's November! The only warmth I want comes from soup, radiators and wools! But now there's a crisp wind blowing from the east, which is dropping is to below average temperatures for November, but I'm more than happy to welcome it.
   I'm also just about ready for Christmas. I've got my shopping lists all worked out, for the most part, I've got treats planned in, a few days out lined up, and placed a huge order from the German Lindt website for all the gorgeous chocolates you can't seem to get outside the country. Yum.
   Getting my book finished by the end of the year is looking less and less likely when writer's block creeps in, but I'm doing my best without rushing; worst case scenario, it takes a month longer than intended. The moon will not fall from the sky. I've also been listing lots of new pieces in my Etsy shop, and have moved on to my Christmas editions! Ermine, reindeer, snowmen and so on. So I have been quite busy!

   But as we creep closer to Christmas, in the time in between shop- and book-work and Christmas prep, premature festivities have also begun to creep in. My meals are becoming decidedly more festive and porridges are usually the first to feel the joy.
   So here's the first I have to share with you: a German fig porridge. Spiced fig, pear and vanilla porridge with honey-caramelised figs, cinnamon and chestnut flour on top.

   The porridge is subtly sweetened by the fruit, and without their own overpowering flavours, the spices show through wonderfully, and the chestnut flour adds a nice touch of sweetness to each spoonful. Plus chestnut flour is the ideal alternative to powdered sugar for that snowy effect! Unlike other nuts, chestnuts are sweet and low in fat, and the flour even more so. If you want to add a snowy effect to foods without using powdered sugar, chestnut flour is perfect.

Ingredients
Serves 1
30g rolled oats
20g whey protein
1/2 tsp gingerbread or lebkuchen spice
100ml boiled water
100ml skimmed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract/paste/1/2 scraped vanilla bean
2 figs
1 pear
1 tsp (5g) butter/vegetable fat spread/coconut oil
1 tsp (5g) honey
pinch cinnamon
1 tsp (5g) chestnut flour


Method
Overnight Oats
1. Chop 1 fig, and peel and chop your pear. Set them in a pan with a splash of hot water and simmer for 10 minutes. Add more water if necessary, and watch to ensure it doesn't burn.

2. Combine oats, spice and whey in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and, stirring all the while, add the milk (or shake and transfer to a bowl), then stir in the fig and pear along with any remaining water from the pan. Set in the fridge overnight.

3. The following morning, take your remaining fig and slice or chop however you'd like. Put your chosen fat (butter, vegetable, coconut) in a frying pan and melt it. When it begins to bubble, add your honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon, mix it up and add your sliced figs, skin-side up. Let it heat, soften and caramelise, then set aside.

4. Add vanilla and 50ml boiled water to your porridge and heat - either transfer to a pan on the stove, or microwave for 1 minute, stir, then heat again for 20-30 second bursts until desired consistency. Add more water if necessary.

5. Add honey-cinnamon fig, dust over chestnut flour and serve.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil the water.

2. Combine oats, spice and whey in a pan and, stirring all the while, add the milk, then the boiled water.

3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer. Add the vanilla and simmer for 15-20 minutes until desired consistency is reached, stirring frequently.

4. Meanwhile, chop 1 fig, and peel and chop your pear. Set them in another pan with a splash of hot water and simmer for 10 minutes. Add more water if necessary, and watch to ensure it doesn't burn.

5. Take your remaining fig and slice or chop however you'd like. Put your chosen fat (butter, vegetable, coconut) in a frying pan and melt it. When it begins to bubble, add your honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon, mix it up and add your sliced figs, skin-side up. Let it heat, soften and caramelise, then set aside.

6. When the porridge is almost done, add the pear and fig mix (mash it a little with a fork if you'd like) along with any remaining water and mix it all up. Heat a little longer if thinned.

7. Transfer to a bowl, top with honey-cinnamon fig, dust with chestnut flour and serve.


Notes
• I used pulsin premium whey
• I used 2 brown turkey figs, weighing approximately 35g each
• I used 1 conference pear, approximately 100g
• I used Amisa chestnut flour, weighed out 5g, used about 2g
• I used Stork vegetable fat spread
• Gingerbread spice mix - 2 tbsp cinnamon, 2 tbsp ginger, 2 tbsp allspice, 1 tbsp nutmeg, 1/2 tbsp cloves, pinch black pepper
• Lebkuchen spice mix - 2 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp ground green cardamom, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground star anise, 1/4 tsp ground mace


Nutrition
375 cals, 7g fat (1.5g sat), 47.5g carbs (32g natural sugars), 6.5g fibre, 26.5g protein, 2 of 5 a day