Friday 28 April 2017

Friday Favourites

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

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

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Killer Buns & Thighs (and a mobile ankle)

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

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

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

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

Matchasaurus Cakes with PureChimp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 21 April 2017

Friday Favourites

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

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

Wednesday 19 April 2017


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

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

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

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

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

   How has everyone's Easter weekend been?!

Friday 14 April 2017

Friday Favourites

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

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

Thursday 13 April 2017

I Can Move Nearly Now The Sprain Has Gone

   I know, right? I'm full of them.

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

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

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

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

Sunday 9 April 2017

Kelta Fit DVD Review

Price: £13
Length: 3x 30 minutes
Workouts: All-over body (cardio, abs, strength)
Suitable for: Anyone with some level of kettlebell experience
Rating:   ★★★★☆
Enjoyment:  ★★★★★   Difficulty:  ★★☆☆☆   Results:  ★★★☆☆
Based on 4 weeks of use.
   Dance is my guilty pleasure. Truly. Fantasy is my first love, be it books, games or music, and while many people might think that passion makes me a loser, my friends quite correctly disagree.
   Until it comes to dance. I don't understand why, but I cry whenever I watch The Lord of the Dance. Warriors is my favourite track and routine. I'd love to be able to do it. And so I admit that I try to embrace any unusual dance workouts I can. Anything not advertised as 'sexy' - unfortunately, they are few and far between, to the point that the only two I've found are Kukuwa, African dance, and Jean Butler's Irish Dance Masterclass, which was more instructional than fitness. Kukuwa has become one of my staple workout DVDs if I'm looking for cardio but not in the mood for 'actual' work like burpees or jumprope, but I really wished there was a proper Irish dance workout DVD out there I could rely on.
   Well, Scottish isn't Irish, but it's close enough in terms of fun, and as far as Irish Dance Masterclass is concerned, Kelta Fit has answered the dilemma.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 7 April 2017

Friday Favourites

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

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

Monday 3 April 2017

April - Killer Buns and...Sprained Ankles.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 2 April 2017

Kelta Fit - 4 Weeks Later

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

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

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

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