Friday 30 June 2017

Friday Favourites

Ahhh, Friday. Couldn't come soon enough. All week I've been glued to my laptop working on my book's next draft, and I feel drained. Fortunately this week hasn't been short of uplifting details, and for once I can put together a Friday Favourites of things I actually own rather than things I've been crushing on!
Piit28 is hard, it hurts, but it's such a satisfying burn and I've been feeling really great all week knowing that I'm doing such good work. It's also a great opportunity to clear my mind and get it out of the book and back to my actual surroundings.
I picked up a gorgeous new mug on my recent visit to WWT Slimbridge, featuring a beautiful cerise squirrel by Sarah Young, which has been filled with about 5 cups of teapigs' limited edition birthday tea already. And at the end of the day, when I've finished as many chapters as I can, I've been chilling out with No Man's Sky or Duplessy & The Violins of the Worlds' Crazy Horse album.

Cerise squirrel mug  by Sarah Young   ♥   Blogilates' PIIT28 1.0

Sunday 25 June 2017

Piit28 - 2 Weeks Later

   Crikey, I forgot how hard Piit28 is! Pilates is always deceptive, and so is the idea of 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest. It doesn't sound like much, especially when those 45 seconds are Pilates - how can clams and grasshoppers be so hard?! When they're coupled with tuck jumps and stupid flipping frog hops, that's when. Suddenly those 45 seconds become a nightmare.
   But they work. There are no two ways about it. When it hurts, when it sucks, I just tell myself that that's when it counts the most. It's pushing past your comfort zone that gets you the results you want, and deserve, and that's why I chose Piit28 this month, because it does all of those horrible, wonderful things.

   I have to say, though, that Cassey's attitude is the only thing, along with the fact that I know it's working, that keeps me going. She must be immensely strong, because she can keep up that bubbly attitude and simply keep talking while doing the 7 minute circuit, and, I know, I know, she only does it once and you have to replay the video, but those are some tough 7 minutes, even on the first round, so you have to admire that strength.
   I toyed with the idea of becoming a qualified Pop Pilates instructor, but it was clearly just a daydream, because I realised while doing even the easiest and most classic of Pilates movements that I could never demonstrate and talk at the same time, and I can talk for England. It's only when you consider taking on her role yourself that you notice the finer details that really highlight her passion and abilities. But, you could also say, if I put the same time and dedication into one single form of exercise like she has Pilates, I could get that strong and capable, too.
   And, if I'm honest, though I love kettlebells and kickboxing, if I was going to instruct anything, it would be yoga or Pilates.

   So, these past two weeks have been brutal but incredible, and while I know I'll probably feel different when it comes time for tomorrow morning's workout, right now I can't wait to get down to it! Two more weeks to go!

Friday 23 June 2017

Friday Favourites

With the heat wave, this past week has been filled with every effort to keep cool. I've had the Wind Waker soundtrack on repeat for the images of the sea - and because it's freaking fun - I've been wearing loose clothes, stuffing my face with ice cream - I can't get enough of Green & Black's caramel and hazelnut organic ice cream, but, alas, Tesco doesn't stock it so one pot has had to be enough. For everything else, there are Magnums.
I've also seriously been keeping my mind busy. I've done incredible work on redrafting my book - I've been averaging 5 chapters a week, but just knocked out 11! Woo! Progress. I'm past the half way mark now! And I'm still loving it. I have a thousand times more confidence in it than The Archguardians of Laceria - and I felt that that one was good enough to publish!

Legend of Zelda Wind Waker OST   ♥   Innocent tank from EMP
Green & Black's caramel hazelnut ice cream   ♥   Redrafting my next book

Thursday 22 June 2017

That Was a Nice Summer...

   Crikey. Okay, so, I don't know where you're reading this from, but England has just had its summer. 20 C is positively tropical, and I can only just handle that, but this past week has seen highs of 33 C, locally. It's been awful.
   I'm sure many of you are scoffing at this, but it all comes down to what you're used to, and in England, we don't really get high temperatures, especially in the south west. So going from 20 C to 31 C literally overnight was a shock. Fans have been on through the night, ice cream has become a (welcome) daily necessity, and I've been drinking about 3.5 litres a day. Fortunately, I knock my exercise out in the mornings, so it's still comparatively cool and windows open and fans on are enough, even to see me through PIIT 28. But Seeg exercises in the afternoon and has had to skip a couple. I can't blame him. I've struggled with my shop - putting tiny creatures into tiny jars is fiddly at the best of times, but trying to do it at 5pm when you're hot and already frustrated is just impossible.

   The upside is, though, despite how difficult putting jewellery together has been, I've not been otherwise hindered. I've been working on a new jewellery collection for the summer and I'm totally on schedule with it (hoping to release it early July), and I've been doing some amazing work redrafting my book. Last week I got 11 chapters done rather than my average of 5, which gave me such a sense of accomplishment, and while I had music stuck in my head on Monday that totally blocked my concentration, I'm more or less keeping up momentum despite book work being done on an evening when the temperatures have been at their worst. Fortunately that means it's also been too hot for idiots to go out into the park and play loud, awful music until midnight, which blocks my work because of synaesthesia, and because writing doesn't require much movement, I'm free to sit down, stick a fan in my face and work for 5 hours until bed time.
   Speaking of which, I know it was trending, but I've not actually had much trouble sleeping. The only issue has been having to have the curtains open through the night to get air flowing, because with the early sunrise, by body is a bit quick to decide it's time to wake up. 5am is too soon. I don't care if it's light out.

   Who knows? Perhaps this heatwave would have been worse had my attention not been so focused. I certainly had plenty to take my mind off of it. And Seeg has just picked up Assassin's Creed Black Flag again, and its focus in the tropics has certainly felt appropriate.
  But I'm looking forward to returning to lovely English weather - clouds, drizzle and wind - and perhaps another week of summer a month or so down the line. Because that's more or less how it goes.

Friday 16 June 2017

Friday Favourites

Rain, clouds, high winds and gloom. Yes, that's right, summer's well and truly on its way!
I'm still loving a few favourites from our 7 year anniversary a few weeks ago - Green & Pleasant's independantly brewed cider, ale and lager contain no nasties at all and no added sugar, and as someone who doesn't usually drink, I actually quite enjoyed them! And, also, how can I not love the custard cream cushion? I excitedly told the postlady what it was when she delivered it, and it really brightens up the room alongside the teacake!
We also watched the Assassin's Creed movie during the holiday, and while games generally don't translate well to movies, AC did. The only issue really was the animus - in the film, a huge mechanical arm; in the games, a high-tech hospital bed. But it worked. I cannot fault the film at all, and the decision to have them speaking Spanish throughout every scene in ancient Spain was also a nice touch.
And, finally, we ventured out to Puzzlewood with my lovely Lucy last week, soaking up the surrealism, and went to Bella Italia afterwards for a meal. Their 'less is amore' range lets you swap the pasta for spiralised veggies, and as I'm not personally that big on pasta, I decided to give it a try, choosing the same dish I had with pasta last time, this time without. The flavour didn't change, the texture barely did, but it dropped the meal to less than 300 calories, issued one of my 5 a day, and justified The Godfather afterwards. They even have the recipe for spiralised gamberoni posted on their website.

Green & Pleasant   ♥   Custard Cream cushion by Nikki McWilliams
Bella Italia's 'Less is AmorĂ©' gamberoni   ♥   the Assassin's Creed movie

Monday 12 June 2017

June: PIIT 28

   I had fully intended to use a 'new' (old, but new for me) Jillian Michaels DVD - you know, one of the very, very few I've not used yet - but I actually kind of wanted to get some proper HIIT in. Flow Movement was fine, but very low-impact, and while Lean in 14 is a reliable post-holiday slimdown workout, it's not particularly HIIT-ish, but rather it's quite steady-paced.
   I hate HIIT, it's hard, but it's hard because it works, and lately I feel like I've been too comfortable. Yes, I have been struggling with things, but it's not the kind of struggling that yields results. I want to push PBs and break some barriers, and HIIT is the best way to do that.
   Sooo, I'm revisiting another workout: PIIT 28. I've only used Cassey Ho's pilates HIIT workout once, and I do not have fond memories aside from her attitude in the videos. Which means it's exactly what I'm after.

   So, I'm armed with floral favourites - I would love something from her beautiful PopFlex range but, being a full-time carer, I just can't possibly afford it - my beautiful mint green yoga mat and the living room fan on full power. I'm daunted despite having done it before, but I know it will work and, if I push myself and give it my all, as much as it will hurt, it will work all the more and certainly be worth the pain. And it's only 28 minutes a day!
   I'll probably take it easier next month, though - I'm thinking Kukuwa. I am still had over heels for that African dance workout, it's so unique and the most effective dance cardio ever because every part of your body is always in motion.

   So I'll update again, as usual, in two weeks. I know I've done it before - 2 weeks, 4 weeks and a workout review - but given the unenthusiastic place I'm in with my exercise right now, and how I feel I've not seen results in ages, I'm hoping I'll be able to give a positive update for once.

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Wakame & Shrimp Summer Seaweed Salad

   Summer is on its way. Or so it would have you believe. I reckon we've had our summer here in England. And it was a very nice week.
   But all these summery inspo pictures on my twitter feed and people sharing their summer plans, I start feeling the summer vibes (if I turn my back to the window). I'm wearing tank tops, yearning for ice creams and generally turning towards cooler food. I'm also itching to travel, but as that's not an option, I can at least indulge in the flavours of far away places.
   But I'm not keen on heat. Tropical places look gorgeous, but I wouldn't enjoy them. I can barely stand an English summer. So, in truth, I don't really want to go much further south than I already am.
   My bucket list of destinations is the Arctic, Canada, Norway, Iceland and Japan. Japan is kind of the odd one out on the list because it's warmer than the others - indeed a few of the southern islands are tropical - but it's the culture and the food that interests me, not just the sights. In fact, Japanese is my favourite cuisine - all the fish, the noodles, the miso, green tea, and the fact that their confectionary is packaged by the serving - no share sized bags. It's easier to stop when you're supposed to; the temptation to gorge is made harder to indulge if you have to consciously go through another wrapper.
   Over the holiday week Seeg and I made a few Japanese dishes, including simple niku udon (beef udon) and our favourite: okonomiyaki. But the latter in particular is quite heavy and so reserved for holidays (2 or 3 times a year).
   So, with my desire to travel for a summer holiday and my love of food, I put together a nice, cool little Japanese lunch to spice up mid week: a wakame seaweed salad with shrimp.

   It might sound a little odd, or perhaps look unappetising, but you'd be wrong. It's also quite nutritious.
   The wakame seaweed doesn't offer much of a taste, instead the flavour comes from the marinade of soy sauce, white rice vinegar and miso paste, the latter of which intensifies the flavour without making it saltier. Instead the wakame contributes more variety in texture than much else, chewy but not rubbery, giving the small dish a lot more body.
   As for why I would eat seaweed, wakame provides a great source of iodine, as many sea vegetables do, and iodine is required to produce the thyroid hormone, which keeps cells and the metabolic rate healthy. It's also a good source of magnesium, and as I suffer from magnesium-related migraines, I'm always keen to keep myself topped up on that mineral in particular.
   Miso is also packed full of vitamins, and it's a healthy, fermented food full of good bacteria and enzymes which is great for your gut. The western diet doesn't get much of this, but it's quite common in the east, which is thought to contribute to lower BMIs. But heat can kill the goodness of miso quite quickly, so miso paste is usually added at the end of recipes to minimise the exposure to heat. In this case, we're adding it to room-temperature fluid - soy sauce and white rice vinegar - and then refrigerating. Miso paste should always be stored tightly sealed in the fridge.

Serves 1; 200cals, 35g protein, 7g carbs
2 tbsp dried wakame seaweed
30ml / 1/8cup white rice vinegar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp brown rice miso paste
150g / 5oz cooked and cooled shrimp/prawns
1 green onion, chopped

1. Put the dried seaweed in a bowl and cover with warm water. Leave to soak and expand for 10 minutes.

2. Mix the rice vinegar (sometimes called rice wine vinegar), soy sauce and brown miso paste until combined.

3. Remove the wakame from the water and plunge briefly into boiling water, then rinse in cold. Remove from water and squeeze out the excess, then combine wakame, shrimp, chopped onion and the vinegar mix in a bowl.

4. Chill for 2-3 hours before serving.