Monday 30 November 2015

On The Seventh Day Of Christmas, Etsy Gave To Me...

   Today's Christmas Etsy Finds post has a bit of a silly theme to it. I don't know why, I just started gathering up silly animal Christmas cards and these were the best. I love the hamsters in particular, they just get funnier the longer you look at them. I may have bought the reindeer card for no reason other than I thought it was freaking hilarious...

   And now for one of mine. I have no Christmas cards to offer, but what about a teeny tiny Christmas tree to love and keep forever? The jar stands at 2.5cm tall, so it won't take up as much space as your usual Christmas tree, giving to no reason not to wear it all. Year. Round.

December: Killer Body

   So, last month I used Jillian's Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism, a 40-minute workout that felt more like cardio than anything else. I still did strength training, but given how much cardio I was getting in last month, I actually decided to flow with it and use kettlebells on Tuesday and Friday (resting Wednesday and Sunday, as always), which are a perfect combination of full-body strength and cardio.

   This month, however, I'm using her newest DVD: Killer Body. And in contrast to last month, this DVD is entirely resistance training. It's completely different to what I usually do, however. Usually, I do a full-body strength workout every other day, followed by cardio, and then on the other days I'll do just cardio to give my muscles the chance to recover while still getting in a workout. This time, however, I'll be doing strength every day, barring Sunday which will be my only rest day.
   Usually I'd not do this, but these are not full-body workouts, they are targeted workouts. There's one that focuses on upper body, one that focuses on abs, and one that focuses on lower body. The idea is that you do each twice a week, alternating days. For example, I will be doing lower body on Monday, abs on Tuesday, upper body Wednesday, and the repeat through Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This means that each area of your body gets worked to the max in their designated workout, and then gets 2-3 days of rest before being worked again which is more than enough time for the muscles to recover.
   Recovery is important. It's not really the act of resistance training that changes the shape of your body, it's the resting. The workout puts strain on your muscles and they get little rips in them - I promise it's not as extreme as it sounds. These little rips are repaired by your body quite easily once you've finished, but it doesn't sew them back up, so to speak, it fills them in with new cells. Your body does this because 1) it's broken, so it needs fixing, but also 2) whatever you were doing, if you did it again, your body would be more up to the task and it wouldn't have as many rips to fill in. Rips stop forming when you get used to the movements because your body has adapted to them, and that's when you need to increase the weight or change the moves so that you offer yourself a new challenge (which is why I change my workout every month).
   Now, obviously it's baby steps. The tiny tears formed in your muscles by strength training are miniscule, so it takes a lot of rips for your muscles to visibly change and create the gorgeous, curvey shape so many women want, which means a lot of workouts, but if you try to bypass that and push yourself too far without enough rest, not only will the muscles not repair properly, but you'll start to feel it with aches and pulled muscles and be unable to do much without the pain, work out or not.

   Muscles typically need 1-2 days of rest to fully recover, so a workout that targets muscle groups to the max and gives them 2-3 days of rest before being worked again is actually a really good set-up. However, cardio is also important for fat-burning, and it's been shown that following a strength workout with a cardio workout is the best way to burn fat. You can use all the energy in your muscles in a 20-30 minute strength workout without tiring yourself out or over-working your cardiovascular system, and then by the time you start, say, a 20 minute cardio workout right afterwards, you're already burning fat for energy rather than the glycogen in your muscles, but you're not that tired. This way you get a lot more out of your cardio and subsequently a lot more fat-burning.

   So, this month, I plan on using the three strength workouts twice a week, as the DVD suggests, keeping my usual Sunday as a rest day, but I'll be doing cardio workouts for 20-30 minutes after the strength workouts, and I'll alternate these too, just for a little more variety.

   I'm nervous about the idea of maxing out my muscles because I'm not convinced I'll be able to get from the start of the workout to the end. This isn't a concern I usually have, but it's present this time because Jillian's workouts are usually broken up with cardio intervals or by working different muscle groups. This time I don't believe that's the case.
   But I do admit that this alternating targeted strength training was a system I've been thinking about trying, and back in August I thought I'd give it a go this December. Then at the start of November I had a look at Killer Body and found that it was exactly that kind of set-up, so that's why I'm using it. Otherwise I'd have pulled a few workouts off of the internet instead. But whether this kind of workout has been my intention for so long or not, I am still nervous.

   On another note, I'll look good while suffering! I showed these northern lights capris in my Christmas fitness gift guide, and I managed to catch Fabletics' Black Friday sale wherein you could get two pairs of bottoms (usually £35-£40 each) for just £25 for the pair. I couldn't believe it! So I snatched them up right away, along with another pair of capris I've been looking at for two months and wondering "should I?" ever since they came out. So it was a no-brainer.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism - 4 Weeks Later

   This month's workout has been intense. I won't lie: it wasn't particularly enjoyable, it was certainly not easy, and I'm kind of glad to see the back of it. But hell, it was effective.
   I love Jillian Michaels. I have almost all of her DVDs, in fact. But Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism is, in my opinion, the most effective of all of them.
   Most of her DVDs incorporate a balance of strength and cardio, but this DVD is almost exclusively cardio. There's no equipment involved, only your own body weight, so - as she says herself - there's no excuse. And using body weight in place of equipment does mean you get good resistance training in while getting great cardio at exactly the same time. As I stated at the 2-week point, you're used to carrying your body weight around with you all day, so you have to move around much more and more deeply for your body to provide enough resistance for it to actually become a challenge and start to have an effect, and those kinds of movements seriously get your heart rate up. And it's non-stop, so your heart rate stays up.

   I didn't really enjoy the whole DVD, mostly for two gruesome circuits - 2 and 6 - but they weren't as bad as they could have been because circuit 3 and 7 were more steady and familiar, so I knew I could put my all into 2 and 6 and not suffer (much) through 3 and 7. And with circuits 1 and 5 being kickboxing, which I love, there was some enjoyment, and section 4 was abs and on the ground - still tough, but there was no jumping around, and jumping is my least favourite form of exercise. I still do it because it's effective, of course, and I remind myself of that all throughout.

   I've seen more fat-loss this month than I have for...actually since this time last year. November 2014's workout was great, and it seems I've hit a winner again this year. I presume that this is because, this past month, I've done a lot more cardio than usual. Strength training is important for fat loss because it builds lean muscle which increases calorie burn even at rest (denser muscles require more energy to move, so even basic daily tasks use a little more energy to complete, ultimately making your body more effective at using and distributing energy and subsequently improving your metabolism), but also because strength training improves your body's shape. Curves don't come from starving yourself or excessive cardio, it comes from toning and body sculpting, meaning resistance training either with weights or body weight.
   And I've done a lot of that. My issue is that I've not done enough cardio amongst that, so while I have good muscle, a good shape and a good metabolism, I also need to melt the fat away with more demanding high-energy exercise - cardio. And this DVD seemed to focus much more on the cardio element than strength, though strength and resistance was certainly present all throughout.

   I really do recommend this DVD. The funny thing is that I've not really lost anything in terms of weight or, surprisingly, inches, but I am leaner and firmer, even around the middle. It's strange because I'd have thought, to be firmer like this, my waistline would have shrunk a little bit with the fat loss, but unless I was actually a little bit bloated when I measured myself this morning, my measurements haven't changed. And yet my body has.

NaBloPoMo November 2015

Saturday 28 November 2015

On The Sixth Day Of Christmas, Etsy Gave To Me...

I quite like the simplicity of these four finds; they're muted and simple, but they're still traditional with their white, red and gold colours. They'd make wonderful accents to a dominantly white Christmas, I think!

 And now for one of mine! This little arctic fox necklace is similar to my other best-selling red fox necklace, but features a white fox on snow instead of a red fox on grass, and the bottle still measures 2.5cm tall.

NaBloPoMo November 2015

Friday 27 November 2015

Etsy Black Friday Sales

   Black Friday is upon us and many shops have already started their sales. I usually would have held a 10% discount in Peaches and Pebbles from the 25th to the 2nd, but this year I've decided to increase the amount but reduce the timeframe - though I admit that the ratio is far from the same.

   This year I'm offering 20% off, but only for today, and again on Monday 30th - so if you miss out today, know that the sale is coming back at the start of the week. The code is BLACKFRIDAY2015

   Etsy isn't doing much to promote Black Friday - instead, they've been focusing on what makes Etsy gifts unique, and I actually think that this is a much better approach. I've always hated changing my titles, tags and descriptions to fit into Etsy's Black Friday searches, it knocks my products off of relevant searches in favour of being thrown into a massive and far less specific search, and because it's less specific, relevancy is pretty much impossible. But despite this, and the fact that it never worked out for me, I always did it, so I was really pleased to see Etsy's alternative take on it this year. I don't feel the pressure of having to compete with completely different sellers just to be seen.

   But because of this, a lot of Etsy sellers are struggling to get their sales noticed, so I've decided to host an Etsy link-up for anyone having a Black Friday Etsy sale.

Link-Up Rules:
1) Don't put your shop name, instead write your product type. Mine would be 'woodland jewellery', for example. This way readers won't be overwhelmed by shops and not bother visiting them at all, but rather will be able to find things they might like quite easily.
2) Make sure your discount code is visible in either your shop's banner or your shop announcement
3) Alternatively, if you have a sales section instead, link directly to that, not your whole shop.

NaBloPoMo November 2015

Thursday 26 November 2015

Upcycled Baubles & Preloved Advent Competition

   I've always loved Christmas decorations, even just baubles. I get drawn in by the colours, the glitter, the shapes, even the sizes! If it's huge or absolutely tiny, I want them. So, naturally, I have a few too many. Despite about 7 trees of varying sizes going up in the house, I have more baubles than I can fit onto them - and even after stringing them along twine and hanging them everywhere else as well.
   In an attempt to finally de-clutter my house I went through a lot of storage spots and got rid of things - I am a hoarder, big time - and I've made a lot of new space in the house. I decided I'd take what remained of that motivation and frame of mind and attacked my Christmas decorations, too, getting rid of quite a few things. Of course, my motivation dropped after looking at all the glitter and I'd already gotten rid of quite a lot, so I wondered just what else I could do with them. Gift toppers, stringing decorations and table ornaments. I always do that. What else?
   I looked at them for a while and then I had it! Little bauble people! I figured that, with the varying sizes of baubles I had, a little hot glue and some felt, I could probably put something together!
   I'm loving nordic and neutral tones this Christmas, so while shopping around for felt, I decided to buy a grey mix pack from Dovecraft. 4 shades and 8 sheets, it came to £3 - perfect.

   Don't they look great? So simple but so cute!
   I gathered up some good sized baubles and paired them up, then removed the little caps. I kept them both turned the right way up so that the neck of the large bauble acted as a neck for the little villagers to give it a little more height around the top of the coat, and the neck of the smaller bauble would be hidden beneath a hat anyway. I used a little bit of hot glue at the bottom of the top bauble and stuck them together - the beauty of hot glue is that it dries and hardens really quite quickly so you don't have to stand around holding it together or trying to find some way to prop it up!
   To make the clothes, I cut some felt and wrapped it around like a little cloak and used a little more hot glue to stick down the edge of the overlapping felt beneath, and a dab at the top corner where the two join.

   I rolled some felt into a little hat and secured it with more hot glue, placed it on the head and applied a little dab of hot glue at the front centre and back centre of the hat, then cut a strip for a scarf and just wrapped it around. Felt tends to gently stick to itself so I didn't bother gluing the scarf down.

 I ended up making a few, and I scavenged a smaller bauble from a set I kept that didn't have a cap for one reason or another to make a smaller one instead, and used one of the 'head' baubles as its body instead.
   I really love how these little bauble villagers turned out, and best of all is that it only cost me £3 for the felt to make! They're bigger than I expected them to be, too, but I think that's a good thing. I've made small hanging ornaments into much larger home decorations!

   Preloved is hosting a competition this Christmas to win a wonderful piece of upcycled funiture, and I think that these little bauble villagers will fit in perfectly. The idea is to create a Christmas decoration for under £5, and at £3 for the felt, I'm pretty comfortable! I urge you all to participate in Preloved Advent because these kinds of challenges are really fun all on their own, but when you throw in the possibility of a prize, it suddenly becomes that much better!
   Entering Preloved Advent is easy enough, just email your entries and their cost to, tweet @Preloved and tag with #PrelovedAdvent, post the image on their Facebook wall with #PrelovedAdvent or tag @prelovedofficial on Instagram.
   Entries for Preloved Advent are open until December 18th and the winner will be announced that very same day on Twitter between 12 and 1pm in their chat with Eco Create.
   It's such a fabulous idea, and even if you don't get involved with the competition, it's still well worth upcycling your old decorations into something new!
   Preloved also have an advent calendar with loads of prizes from Zavvi, LookFantastic and MyGeekBox, so its' well worth bookmarking for December 1st!

NaBloPoMo November 2015

Wednesday 25 November 2015

A DIY Christmas

   I've worked through a high street Christmas, a designer Christmas and a handmade Christmas. Now it comes down to the individual: a DIY Christmas. Make it all yourself - the decorations, the food, the accents. It can sound daunting, especially if you want it cohesive, but once you pick a theme - such as the arctic, rustic or traditional Christmasses I've already touched on - you'll find it can become quite simple. An arctic theme, for example, is dominantly white, silver and glass with a few warm or coloured accents. So typical stainless steel cutlery, white crockery, white baubles and lots of paper decorations and you're all set with the basics. But if it's going to be handmade by you, you'll want it to be wondrous - I do, anyway. So cut paper snowflakes in intricate designs; add pearlescent sheens and silver glitter to existing white decorations; paint usually bright or detailed pieces like stag decorations, antlers, even a bowl of fruit, entirely white; use white fabric paint to paint snowflakes or spots onto a white table cloth - they would never be exactly the same shade of white.
   In short, in such a case, the handmade quality is in the detail and, occasionally in the case of a white deer or bowl of fruit, lack thereof.
   See? It doesn't need to be daunting!

   I'm on Pinterest an awful lot and I've done every Christmas search under the cold, winter sun. There are lots of things I want to try that I will, won't and would love to but can't, and I've collected up the best for this DIY Christmas post! All link back to their original sources - or as close to the original source as the pins will allow - to various blogs and websites. I've tried to pick out crafts that are simple but also pack a big punch, but not all are the case. I may have also slipped in a post or two of my own...

DIY Tree Ornaments

Simple letter ornaments by Pizzazzerie ♥ Easy glitter baubles by A Pumpkin And A Princess

Home Decorations

Rudolph toy animals by Camille Styles ♥ Candy jar mantle on Midwest Living

♥ Homemade evergreen garland by Craft Thyme

Mini marshmallow topiary by A Blackbird's Epiphany

Christmas Food & Baking

Sugar cookie decorating gift set by The Partiologist ♥
♥ Pinecone cakes by A Blackbird's Epiphany

Peppermint egg nog punch by The Crafting Chicks ♥
♥ Peppermint Stick Platter by Munchkin Munchies

Chocolate orange Christmas tree puddings by A Recipe For Aperture ♥
♥ Chocolate forest cake by Chocolate And Carrots

Christmas Table

Moss & red berries tea lights by Kristin Eldridge ♥ Christmas tree place cards by Martha Stewart

Swanky stir sticks by Julie Blanner ♥ Wreath chair backs via Merriment Events

♥ Miniature Christmas stocking favours by A Blackbird's Epiphany

Christmas Wrapping

Christmas wreath gift wrapping by Craftberry Bush ♥ Black & gold marker wrapping by Lil Blue Boo

Confetti wrap by Style Caster ♥ Home printed wrapping paper by The Pretty Blog

Ornament cluster gift topper by Homey Oh My ♥ Lace gift wrap by A Beautiful Mess

Christmas Fun

Gingerbread man pinata by Studio DIY ♥ Washi tape snow flakes via KNOT Magazine

Giant ornament balloons by Studio DIY ♥ Ceramic tree tealights by A Beautiful Mess

Christmas story snow scene by Salt Tree ♥ String ball winter scene by Sempre Clarisse

NaBloPoMo November 2015