Sunday 25 February 2018

Matcha, White Chocolate, Raspberry & Almond Porridge

   For a moment, it looked like spring was just around the corner, didn't it? Then came the polar vortex. They're forecasting snow.
   I suppose that's not unusual, it is still February, but as the sun was beginning to turn golden again, it's a bit...well it's a bit disappointing. I love spring, see? I used to be a winter girl, and while it's true that I find it the most comfortable time of the year, I find spring the mos invigorating, as many do. No doubt drawing closer to the sun and the improved light has all range of effects on chemical reactions and hormonal responses in our body, but even the light alone is so much prettier! And I always get so much done. I write my best work in the spring, I find it easier to shed woes and move on, and, this year, I have so much to look forward to! We're heading out to the Netherlands to see Seeg's family, I'm working on the final pieces for my upcoming gallery exhibit, I'm releasing my new book, we've got a stay-at-home vacation pencilled in for when our duties as carers are temporarily suspended - oh, and, we're getting married. Yes, much to look forward to this spring.

   So my brain is a bit bouncy at the moment, and when I was perusing Tofu Cute against my better judgement (perusing is never cheap), and I saw this new miniature Japanese matcha, berry & almond Kit Kat, I had to have it because it was so freaking adorable. The porridge it inspired...well, it wasn't planned; like so many great and terrible things, it just kind of happened. Fortunately, this is the former.

   A white chocolate & matcha protein-packed porridge, topped with chopped almonds and fresh & freeze dried raspberries. I toyed with adding some crumbled wafer or just some protein crispies on top - I didn't because I didn't want to compromise the aesthetic, but I think I'll definitely give it a go again. Because this is definitely on my must-make-again list.

30g oats
20g whey protein (or preferred, or replace with oats)
sweetener of choice
1 tsp matcha
100ml skimmed milk (or preferred)
100ml water (cold for overnight oats, boiled for porridge)
10-20g chopped white chocolate
40g raspberries
5g chopped almonds
Optional: freeze dried raspberry pieces

Overnight Oats
1. Combine the oats, whey, sweetener and matcha in a bowl or jar.

2. Mix in the milk - I usually use a shaker bottle to prevent the whey from clumping, but a blender will work too, or perhaps an electric whisk.

3. Add in your chopped white chocolate, stir and set in the fridge overnight, omitting water.

4. Heat in the morning, if desired, with 50ml of water, and top with raspberries and nuts.

1. Combine the oats, whey, sweetener, matcha and chopped chocolate in a pan (or shaker bottle)

2. Pour in the milk, stirring as you go (or shake, then transfer to the pan).

3. Boil the water and pour into the pan, stirring again.

4. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes to thicken.

5. Transfer to a bowl once it's reached your desired consistency, and top with nuts and berries.

• I used Pulsin's premium whey
• I used 10g Green & Black's organic white chocolate
• Doubling the raspberries will yield 1 of your 5 a day

Full recipe with 10g white chocolate, 40g raspberries & sprinkling of freeze dried raspberries:
330 cals, 7g fat, 30g carbs, 4g fibre, 28g protein

Friday 23 February 2018

Friday Favourites

We're buying our wedding rings today. I am so excited!! We know what we're after, we just have to go in and make sure the sizes are right. We're stopping in Wagamama for some gyoza for lunch too - yum! And all the green tea I can drink.
As for this week's favourites, my media is Assassin's Creed Origins' new DLC, which is quite different from the usual stuff. AC games are very historical, while the story has an element of fantasy. Assassins working at pivotal points in history, where there are a lot of famous figures as antagonists with the plot being more of a fantasy twist on their true activities - such as famous tyrants who, among their well-known actions, are also after the Apple of Eden in a bid to bend everyone to their will. Origins is based in Ancient Egypt during Cleopatra's reign, but in this newest DLC, Discovery Tour, we don't actually play any new story. Instead it's an interactive tour. These games are made with a lot of involvement by historians and Origins was no different, and this DLC actually teaches rather than offers any game play. It's actually awesome if you're in to history, as Seeg and I are, and is so vast that Ubisoft have actually released the DLC as a standalone program on Steam so that even people without Assassin's Creed Origins can get involved, and it's a great way for kids to learn. Personally, I consider it a valuable resource as a writer, an insight into a dead religion, way of life and ancient wars and invasions.
Otherwise, I have my eye on these gorgeous ivy lights from Paperchase for our wedding dinner decor. I'm pairing them with tiny handmade nests and Hotel Chocolat praline eggs as favours.

Oh, and, also, chocolate salami. Forget chocolate eggs, this is what you really want. Trust me, chocolate has never melted in the mouth so smoothly. It's also locally made, heyo.

Monday 19 February 2018

BarreAmped Bounce - 2 Weeks Later

   I've been using BarreAmped Bounce for two weeks, and it is pretty much as expected. Well, almost. The barre movements are very familiar, but in no way easy - seriously, when does that stuff ever not burn? But the inclusion of the trampoline feels like a gimmick the whole time through. It does provide an unstable platform which can challenge your balance in relevĂ©, but even then, since you'd probably be holding on to a bar even on firm ground, the trampoline makes little difference. The cardio intervals are also immensely tame and feel more like a breather - which is just the opposite of what a cardio interval is supposed to be.

   I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed. I did intend for this to be a low-impact month after 9 weeks of Killer Body, but I had hoped for a little bit more. I've had to draw on personal knowledge of cardio and the body to get the most out of the jumps, and had to look at the trampoline logically to apply it.
   Jumping is great cardio because of the effort you have to exert to launch yourself off the ground. The trampoline, being elastic, removes a great deal of that effort. So, naturally, you have to apply effort in other ways on the trampoline if you want to get anything for your time.
   Now, I suck at tuck jumps, which Jillian Michaels loves to force on you, but on the trampoline I get more height and a softer ground to land upon, giving me a little bit of forgiveness if I mess up. So in that case, I turn normal jumps into high knees, and anything more than normal jumps into tuck jumps or rock stars and get quads and hamstrings more involved, safe in the knowledge that I've got the height to really lift my legs as high as I can. This hasn't returned the explosiveness of a tuck jump on hard ground, but it's a hell of a lot more than just bouncing up and down.
   Only when I started doing this kind of thing did the cardio intervals actually have any impact on my heart rate, and even that was light.

   The barre sequences are quite similar to those on her original BarreAmped DVD, which is a little disappointing and only really serves to highlight the gimmickiness of the whole thing all the more. But those movements were never easy and at least I can rest assured knowing that I'm not completely wasting my time.
   In light of this, I'm going to do some research and write an article about rebounders and trampoline workouts, because I'm a strong believer in 'it's how you use it', and I know they can be effective. I just don't think this is it.

   I will continue to use this DVD for the next two weeks, as planned, but unless I have a personal revelation - which shouldn't be the case, since the DVD should be providing all the instruction I need - I don't see its effectiveness changing.
   But, I suppose, at the end of the day, it certainly still is a BarreAmped DVD, it fits well beneath the brand, and if I really wanted cardio and barre combined I'd be using her really quite effective BarreAmped Cardio Fat Burn DVD instead, which I used and reviewed last year.

Friday 16 February 2018

Friday Favourites

What a slow week. It's been nice, actually. Orders slowed when Valentine's Day came about, which meant I had more time for Seeg and for my writing, and I've also had the chance to restock on some of my staple products like my korok necklace and fox necklace, and make a start on a custom order that I didn't think I'd get around to for another week. I even started putting together my wedding invitations!
So it's been a slow, calm week, and while that also means that money has dropped, I have, at least, been able to breathe.
I had a good Valentine's Day, too. I did the below Happy Heart Vinyasa session, we watched Mulan with Wei Zhao (very good), shared some Love Brownies, and generally had a lovely day. We never do anything grand, but a movie goes without saying, and, honestly, I always find that that simple together time at home is enough. That's not to say I don't make gestures, like preparing a special breakfast, adding a Valentine twist to simple meals to make them into something new while remaining quick, easy and healthy, and, of course, a card, and he did also get me flowers ♥

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Killer Body DVD Review

Price: £10
Length: 3x 30 minute workouts
Workouts: Upper Body, Core, Lower Body
Suitable for: Everyone
Overall Rating:   ★★★★★
Enjoyment:  ★★★☆☆   Difficulty:  ★★★★☆   Results:  ★★★★★
Based on 8 weeks of use.
   So I've used this DVD three times now and as far back as 2015, and it's taken me until now to write a review. That's not because it's bad - it's actually because it's such an incredibly brilliant DVD that I use it at those severe times of the year, like Christmas, and don't have the time to write a review. But I finally got around to it, and that's a very good thing, because this is one of my absolute favourite Jillian Michaels DVDs. There's so much room for growth, so many unique moves, and with a workout for the upper body, another for the lower body, and another just for the core, it's easy to use it every single day.
   Well, not for me, perhaps, because I suffer migraines and frequent high-impact workouts both aggravate them and bring them on, but for normal people who aren't plagued by such things! But when I assign it as a month's workout, I will always use it on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and rest on the others. It works best for me and seems to be my migraine boundary.
   If you're looking for information about the workout as well as my honest opinion, read on!

   'Killer Body' is a big promise, but, as usual, Jillian Michaels is in a position to make them, and this DVD is the means to achieve it. With three workouts combining weights with compound moves while focusing in on upper body, lower body and core, it's not for the faint-hearted - but if you want a 'killer body', you have to be ready to push.
   Compound moves are more effective at burning fat that isolated weights or cardio alone, and take less time to do, which means that you can get an amazing workout into just 30 minutes and visible results after a few weeks of use. And while weights are involved in the core and lower body workouts, if the focus isn't on the upper body, you have permission to go lighter.
   With the DVD being broken into different areas of the body, it can be used every day as long as you don't use the same workout on consecutive days - but, as always, the workout starts the change, and the rest and recovery makes it. Aim for at least one rest day a week, or one total rest day and one active recovery day with an activity such as yoga to help stretch and repair the muscles.

   The workout requires simple kit: hand weights and a mat. Definitely make sure you have a variety of different weights, however. Every movement is different and smaller muscle groups are not necessarily as strong as larger, and muscle groups you rarely use or target will of course be weaker. Personally, I used everything from 1.5kg (3lbs) to 4kg (9lbs), and at one point doubled up to hold a 4kg and 1kg in each hand because my heaviest wasn't quite enough. I do love a good deadlift.

Difficulty & Structure
   Each workout consists of four circuits, each run through twice and then followed by a 1-minute cardio interval before moving on to the next, and each move is provided with beginner and advanced modifications. The best way to approach it, as with any workout, is to try the original movement rather than going straight for the beginner mod, and, if you can, try a few reps of the advanced. It doesn't matter if you can't finish the set with advanced moves, or the intermediate if you're still personally at the beginner level, but trying is how you will grow.
   As for which weights to use, it's best to have a variety on hand because for some moves you'll want to go lighter, and others heavier. Having just one set of weights will mean some moves are too challenging to complete, while others you may breeze through too easily. If you're unsure what to use for each one, use your judgement, and consider how you feel. Generally the correct weight is one that is light enough for you to complete the set with good form, but just heavy enough that you struggle for the final 2-3 reps. As soon as you stop struggling, it's time to up the weight - and congratulate yourself!

Upper Body
   The upper body workout isn't too deadly, and while the focus is on the arms, back and chest, your legs do, of course, get involved in order to burn more calories and fat. But te whole workout is still pretty well-balanced and no particular circuit is any harder or easier than the last. Instead, every other move is a challenge which gives you plenty of room to grow. A variety of weights are good to have on hand - heavier is better, as your focus is upper body, but for some moves you will simply need to drop down to something lighter. Standing chest flyes are always murder, so I typically use lighter weights than I would for lying chest flyes.

   The core workout is, to my mind, the most manageable of the three, but it is by no means easy. Weights aren't used as often in this workout - about 4 times, I think - instead it's mostly body weight, which means pushing yourself is more about depth and height than it is about the number on the dumbbell.
   Crunches are involved, of course, but Jillian Michaels knows the body well, and knows that there are a myriad of ways to hit the core, oblique, internal and external, back and so on, so don't expect to spend much time lying down.
   I often follow this workout with some kickboxing, so that does suggest that it is the kindest when it comes to cardiovascular activity.

Lower Body
   Lower body is easily the hardest workout on the disc, but with your lower body muscles being so much bigger than your core or upper body, there's a lot more room to burn calories and fat in this section than the others, and while core and arms do get a look-in, the focus is definitely on the legs.
   The first two circuits are the worst, but you should have more energy at the start, so you can get through them, especially knowing that the majority of movements in circuit three and four are slower and more controlled, making it easier on your heart rate. But that's also not to say that this is easy, either. It's all a challenge, but if, like me, you hate cardio, the second half is almost enjoyable. That said, I love a good lower body workout!
   The weights used in this one are the most varied. It's not upper body day, so you don't really need heavy weights, but at the same time, even my heaviest weights aren't enough for deadlifts anymore, to the point that I resorted to holding two weights in each hand for it. But that's also my own experience; everyone's strength is different, and, as I said, I love leg day!

   This has been my go-to workout for the Christmas season for both 2015 and 2017, while in 2016 I followed the same structure with Jillian Michaels' Killer Buns & Thighs and Killer Arms & Back DVDs, and it has never failed me. It's hard work, but it's varied enough to be enjoyable - in fact, while I usually use it for 6 weeks over Christmas, this year I used it for 9 weeks, from December 4th (I always start new workouts on a Monday) to February 3rd (and end them on a Saturday), and I didn't get bored at all!

Monday 12 February 2018

Bananas - You Will Never Throw Them Away Again

   Bananas. I've learned to love them. But what I can't get behind is their shelf life - ie, they don't have one. I would buy ready-to-eat bananas on the Monday and, by Thursday, they'd be brown, bruised and generally unpleasant. And because I'm against food waste and eating needlessly, I would just suck it up and eat them as they are rather than throw them out or make banana bread.
   So, when I found a trick to help bananas keep their freshness, I had to try it. And when it worked, I had to share it - which I did in my recipe post for banana, maca and blueberry pancakes. But I'm mentioning it again, and in greater detail, because bananas are one of the most wasted foods in the country, all because of that shelf life.

   First of all, why do bananas go bad so quickly? Well, it's the same reason that fruits kept in close contact (ie the same bowl) as bananas ripen faster, and it's simple science. When picked, banana stems are broken. This contrasts to other fruits whose stems aren't truly part of the fruit. But, in the banana's case, the stem is part of the banana skin. When harvested, the stem is broken, and this exposure of the inside of the stem and skin to the air encourages the production and release of ethene (formerly ethylene) gas. This gas is a hormone that acts upon the fruit and encourages ripening by breaking down cell walls, converting starches to sugars and removing acids. This gas isn't limited to touching only the banana but the other fruits around it, which means they ripen with the banana.
   So, the simplest way to prevent this is to cover the broken stem and stop the gas from escaping. And chilling the bananas - like all fruit and veg - also slows the maturity. The combination of the two is almost fruit sorcery.

   There are two ways to wrap the top: clingfilm, or plastic or NatureFlex and elastic bands, both of which can be reused if done carefully - the clingfilm, when wrapped neatly, can be used again on the next bunch of bananas, and the plastic and elastic bands even more so.

   The trick is to separate the bananas if you buy a bunch. Break them all apart and wrap the stems individually. It's true it will use more plastic, but, as I said, it can be re-used, and it will be both easier and more effective than trying to wrap the top of the bunch as a whole, and each banana will actually be subjected to even less gas.
   Next, store them in the fridge. I promise they will keep for at least a week. I always do my shopping on a Monday afternoon, but I have bananas after my workout, which means I still need one for the following Monday morning. Which means I rely on this method to keep bananas fresh for 8 days.

Day 1

   Here is a picture of my bananas, purchased Monday afternoon. As you can see, they are not green bananas, they are yellow and ready to eat. I separated them, wrapped the stems, and then put them in the fridge.

Day 8

   Here is a picture of my last banana, which I had on the following Monday morning. It looks gross, right? The skin has gone completely brown, and it's not quite as firm as it was when I bought it. But only a little. And the stalk is still yellow.

   And here is a picture of that last and unpleasant looking banana, peeled. It is perfect. The skin had turned brown, but that was all, and the softness was in fact just from the skin itself, which you do not eat. The banana itself was firm, sweet and unmarked. As were all the others I'd had through the week, and every time I've used this method over the last month.

   Now, if you do have some overripe bananas, I have some suggestions for you, and they aren't banana bread.
   My favourite thing to do with overripe bananas is make banana pancakes - but in this case, they're made with only a banana and an egg. Sounds crazy, but it works. They're not fluffy like usual pancakes - they never could be without flour - they're more like the middle part of French toast. But the reason this is my preferred use is fourfold:
1. You're not adding extra ingredients like flour, butter, sugar and so on. Instead, it's just an egg, which is a whole food.
2. That egg actually enhances the nutrition of the banana, providing both healthy fat and protein, while the banana provides carbs and fibre. That makes the whole thing much more well-rounded and nutritious than just a banana.
3. You don't end up with something that will make multiple servings, making it ideal if you have fussy eaters under your roof or know no one else would be interested in eating it.
4. It's also very easy to improve - add other fruit, spices, powdered superfoods and so on to get even more out of them.

   If this isn't for you, there are other things you can do with overripe bananas that aren't banana bread. The trick is to put the banana into a position where its texture and firmness don't count for anything. Such as:
1. Breakfast muffins - or any baking, really, including any regular pancake recipe. Mash or puree and add to the mix - it's a wonderful replacement for sugar.
2. Banana sauce - puree with some milk and you've got some nutritious banana sauce for your muffins or ice cream.
3. Smoothies - fairly obvious, but they increase the yield of a smoothie without adding an overpowering sweetness or flavour, as bananas are generally quite mild. The banana also counts towards your five a day along with any other fruits, superfood mixes or greens you add.
4. Canvas cake - mash or puree the banana and add it to the mixture once you've added your water and egg white. Top it with plain yogurt and a handful of nuts for a banana nut canvas cake that also counts as one of your five a day.
5. Porridge! Replace your sugar, honey or sweetener and add more volume, and one of your five a day.

   There. As far as I'm concerned, this post officially rules out the need to throw out bananas ever again.

Friday 9 February 2018

Friday Favourites

I've not been having a great time lately. I've been moody, and I got two book rejections in quick succession which has knocked my confidence. I'm still going, though, because I know my new book is worth it, and there are countless reasons beyond it just being bad that can get it rejected - timing being a huge factor. I just have to keep plugging away. I only need one 'yes'.
But I've not been as cheerful and I feel a migraine looming.

And the fact that it's almost Valentine's Day isn't much to cheer me up as Seeg and I don't really do anything with it, as I said in a recent post, which I am fine with, but when it starts to roll around, the single teenager in me starts rearing her pudgy head and I can get a little upset. But I learned long ago that he is not a mind reader, so though  I do lay down hints that don't get picked up, I usually end up making some minor gestures myself, such as suggesting we watch a movie and getting something both yummy and festive to eat with it (yes, movie always equals food in this house). So, this year, I'm proposing Mulan with Wei Zhao, and I've bought a lovely little 4-brownie box from Love Brownies - double chocolate and caramel fudge for him, and white chocolate raspberry and salted caramel for me. Yum. I've mentioned them before, and they are still worth every decadent bite. I'm also making a duck, sausage and oat cassoulet (oats, not beans), and putting little heart-shaped cuttings of bell peppers in it.
I've been laying hints for the new Legend of Zelda lamps - either the Sheikah eye or the rupee - but in keeping with the Valentine theme, I'm sharing the extra life heart, and also some gorgeous Victoria's Secret gym capris in 'tease floral'. Tell me they're not gorgeous!

Anyway, as a final note, I hope you all read my last article, because I really do believe it's important to show yourself some love. We're all guilty of burning out and neglecting ourselves, so whether you're single or not, make some time for yourself on Valentine's Day. You'll be surprised what good it can do you! Valentine's Day isn't just for couples!

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Valentine's Day - Who Said It Was Only For Couples?

   Valentine's Day is probably one of the most controversial of all holidays, isn't it? In fact, most of you probably immediately thought, with various degrees of hostility, 'it's not even a holiday'. Well, no, it really has been commercialised to all hell to the point that its origins are as good as lost. And above all else, it's loathed by most who are single. I understand that, of course; we've all been in that situation. But it's a shame. Not because it becomes a day of misery, but because its purpose is so rigidly accepted. It's not questioned or interpreted any differently. It's either adored, or it's loathed. And sometimes an individual's standpoint can change with every passing year, depending purely on circumstance.

   I'm a very firm believer that you should show your affection to your partner all year round, and the only occasion that it should be expected and indeed enhanced are personal occasions like anniversaries. Not Valentine's Day. In fact, Seeg and I have been together for nearly 8 years and have only celebrated Valentine's Day twice.
   But, let's put romantic love aside for a moment and consider something else.
   When was the last time you showed care and affection for yourself?

   Most of you reading this are probably of the same mind as me: that the best thing you can do for yourself is keep active and eat right; bring your body to its optimum health. Feel good inside, feel good outside. But I admit that I tend to push myself too hard, sometimes to injury, superficial or beyond, sprained ankles to chronic migraines (I preferred the sprained ankle), and not because I love my body. It's because I don't. I'm extremely guilty of self-hate. I avoid any reflection of myself sitting down because I look slimmer standing up, and I hide from any unflattering angle, turning a blind eye to how I really look and effectively envisioning myself as looking worse than I do because I refuse to face up to it in case I see something I don't like.
   So, it has to be said again: when was the last time I showed any care and affection for myself?

   Valentine's Day is so often used to express love and affection for others - partners or friends. Though, in Japan, Valentine's Day is actually reserved for women to give gifts to men. The reverse happens one month later on March 14th - tactful, I think, if Valentine's Day matters to you, as the woman sets the bar of expectation!
   But why do we overlook ourselves? Are we afraid of being selfish? Single, involved, married - it makes no difference in this case, because every single one of us has ourselves, and our bodies and minds - especially in this toxic, social media-dictated world - need the extra care, we need to take the time for self-affirmation.
   So perhaps, this Valentine's Day, you should take some time for yourself. Regardless of having a partner or not, take the opportunity to love yourself.

♥ Love your Body
    Yoga is often hailed as being the best body-loving workout. And it's right, in a way; it involves strength, mobility, flexibility, but also stretching, and internal massage through twisting which can aid digestion, hormonal regulation and boost mood. It's brilliant on so many levels.
   OM Yoga magazine featured a wonderful self-love yoga sequence by Lucy McCarthy (issue 81, page 30), short and sweet - about 7 minutes - and suitable even for the beginner yogi. Do it in the morning to start your day with a little bit of self-awareness, and again before bed to reconnect and bring yourself down after your day.
   Wear something that you feel comfortable in. It doesn't have to be fancy, shiny or red, but wearing things that you feel confident in can make a huge difference to your mood. Break out your Pepperberry sweaters! I'll be sporting my twist-front jumper with my favourite jeans - it looks good, feels good, and while I have a few dresses that I look smashing in, the jumper-jeans combo is much lower maintenance.
   End your day with a private Epsom salt bath to restore chemical balance in the body, especially if you're in the second half of your cycle when your magnesium levels drop and you're feeling particularly bad about yourself. It can also help stave off muscle cramps, and help to recover if you had an intense workout that day. Throw in a LUSH bath bomb and some candles (note: candles don't go in the bath), and you're all set.

♥ Love your Gut
   Fill your meals with some good, body-loving food - lean meats, steamed veggies, a small amount of starchy carbs like rice or potato, and lots of warming herbs and spices to really boost your dishes. Sip on green, black and herbal tea, without sugar or milk, and be sure to get in your daily cup of matcha.
   And don't shy away from a cup of hot chocolate - but make it with raw cacao rather than sugar-laden chocolate, as it's a heart superfood, and Aduna's super-cacao in particular has been scientifically proven and verified by the EFSA to support heart health. If you're not keen on dark chocolate, which pure cacao is, add a little honey. For an authentic Mayan chocolate (xocolatl - 'bitter liquid'), add cinnamon and chilli. Yes, really. Cayenne pepper will do. Alternatively, go for a more commercialised version with cinnamon and orange.

   Breakfast - banana, maca and blueberry protein pancakes to kickstart your energy levels for the day
   Lunch - soba noodles
   Dinner -
   And, of course, don't deny yourself a little bit of something you love. However healthy you eat day in, day out, it's unhealthy to cut out the things you love. Personally, I don't drink alcohol, I don't drink caffine and I don't eat fast food, simply because I don't like it, not because it's unhealthy. But that doesn't mean I don't have a vice. I do. It's sugar. I've been a health and fitness blogger for four years and have never once given up sugar because I would lose my mind. Cut down on it, sure. But I still have it two or three times a week in small sittings. Bar one: movie night wouldn't be complete without cookies or chocolate.
   Hotel Chocolat is my favourite. Decadent, smooth, creamy, and true to every claim of taste and texture, all while being low in sugar, high in cocoa and tainted by nothing artificial or unsustainable at all. Truly. It's the most guiltless indulgence you can have while still eating real chocolate. And if you're worried about going overboard or are looking to keep treats to a minimum, just pick up a selector - it's only 6 chocolates!

♥ Love your Mind
   Congratulate yourself on your recent achievements - be it career, financial, the decision to opt for a healthier meal, or even just eating breakfast if you were the type to skip it (skipping meals is never the answer). Consider the things you dislike about yourself, too. It might sound counter-productive, but rather than obsess, think about why you dislike it. You will very likely discover that you have no good reason. But admitting the things you dislike about yourself and actually thinking about the reason behind it rather than blindly villainising it is, truly, the first step towards making a change. If it's your weight or your outlook, it's in your hands. If it's the spacing of your eyes or your guffawing laugh, let it go. Because, honestly, absolutely no one cares. Some things really don't deserve a moment of the attention we focus onto them. We just need to figure out what those things are.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day, and dedicate some time to yourself. Because, honestly, you deserve it. No one puts up with as much of your neurotic crap than you do.

OM Yoga magazine, monthly issues available in store
online, and by subscription.

Monday 5 February 2018

February: BarreAmped Bounce

   I got a trampoline for Christmas. Yes, I am actually five years old. But that means that I can finally try rebounding and use Suzanne Bowen's newest BarreAmped DVD: Bounce!
   Following on from last year's efforts to back off of my workouts every now and then, after completing Jillian Michaels' Killer Body workout over the course of 9 weeks, it's the perfect time to step back. So, this month I'm turning to BarreAmped Bounce as my 'something low-impact' for the next few weeks, and while barre, like Pilates, can certainly get great results, it's all in the definition of the muscles and it's kind to your heartrate. Which really just means it's not very cardio-focused. And I hate cardio. I do it because I must, but unless it's kickboxing, I would rather be lifting

   BarreAmped Bounce consists of five workouts, averaging 13 minutes each, split into various focuses - arms & abs, thighs, booty, total body and cardio. I'll be pairing them up for each session and following each with the cardio section. Arms & Abs with Total Body, and Thighs with Booty. I'm expecting more resistance involved in all but the cardio section, so I can stick to my usual set up of resistance first, using up the energy (glycogen) in my muscles without wearing myself out, and then use cardio and get better fat burn because, by that point (about 25 minutes in), I will have used up the glycogen without getting fatigued and my body will have to turn to its fat stores for fuel instead.

   I say all this, but I am also aware that this program is most likely going to be so low-impact (by my standards) that the difference between the resistance and cardio sections will be minimal, and far from what I'm used to. But the idea this month is to wind down without stopping, and to try something new. And this looks like fun!
    I'm using this DVD for only four weeks, so I'll update, as usual, half way through and again at the end.

   And, of course, yet more gorgeous leggings from Fabletics. This gilded granite print is covered in flecks of metallic bronze! If it's metallic, I'm sold.

Sunday 4 February 2018

Killer Body - 9 Weeks Later

   Nine weeks. It's the longest I've ever spent on a single workout. So you would expect boredom to set in, especially when we're talking about a workout I've used at least once before and only provided me with three 25-minutes routines. Except, it didn't.
   Jillian Michaels' Killer Body is my go-to Christmas defence, used through the course of December and into my birthday, early January. It's tough, with disgusting 1-minute cardio intervals, brutal supersets and plyometrics. But perhaps, because I was initially using it for a greater purpose - to ward off Christmas weight-gain - I had the determination to see it through. And then, at the beginning of January, I had the conveniently timed realisation that I had long ago set up camp in my comfort zone and always opted for weights I knew I could use, modifications that I knew I could complete. And your body won't change if you don't push it.
   As of my very first workout of the year, Monday January 1st, I strove to use heavier weights. And for five weeks, I blew my mind. All this time, I could have gone heavier. I could have jumped higher. I could have pushed myself harder much sooner. But I had been too afraid of being unable to complete sets, of having to stop and drop down to a lighter weight and miss a few reps or take a 4-second break in the middle of a set when stamina, endurance or speed meant everything. But I broke those barriers on this workout, and for five weeks, I've progressed into using heavier weights on almost every single move. And I think it's time I bought some heavier dumbbells. In some cases, my 4kg aren't enough anymore, especially where deadlifts are concerned. I always used two 4kg dumbbells or an 8kg kettlebell. These past few weeks, I've been threading two 2kg dumbbells through the handle of the 8kg kettlebell and deadlifting 12kg with suitable challenge. And it has changed everything.
   Every day, my workout has been empowering. I've not dreaded it, despite the difficulty, because it has suddenly become interesting again; heavier weights have returned to it something I didn't even realise was missing: challenge. And in every struggle, I have known that I've been making progress, and that, finally, I'll start seeing results again.

   I'm actually sorry to see the back of the workout, but it has proven a few things to me in the last 5 of my 9-week run, and that is that I am strong, and that, despite knowing better, I hadn't been doing all I could to lose weight. And I hadn't even realised it. And that by setting myself more tangible challenges, like lifting heavier weights, rather than obscure targets like 'lose the belly jiggle', I could redirect my attention onto something more obtainable, and something obtainable quickly. And when I obtain it, I can adjust the goal and set my target at a heavier weight or faster movement and greater agility. And in five weeks, I have already been able to move those bench marks. I could deadlift more than 12kg - I just don't have the means to do so. My 2.5kg's won't fit through the handle! So - once I've secured the finances for the wedding and honeymoon - new kit is on the horizon.

   Honestly, even without my epiphany, I would recommend this workout in a heartbeat. The three workouts are varied, they each feel different, and though the lower body one in particular hurts, it does the job and it does it well. This has been the best spent month in a long time, and while I resent moving on to something a little easier tomorrow for the coming four weeks, I know I need it. But it's another opportunity to push myself in different practices, and try something different. Pushing yourself is important, but variety is just as much, and keeping yourself interested above all else. Lose interest, you'll lose heart; lose heart, you'll drop your effort. Drop effort, you'll never see any results - be that in body or in skill - and you'll ultimately be wasting your time.

   My full DVD review will be up next week - overdue by two years, but with 2017's revisit, it's up to date and written from recent experience.

Friday 2 February 2018

Friday Favourites

This week has been quite fantasy-oriented to be honest. Ever since I started writing the second book of my trilogy (the first will be out later this year), I've felt disconnected from it, and I've realised why: after I proof-read the first book and prepped it for agency submission, I was on top of it. But then I had to race to the end of the story because I was working on the detailed plan for the second (I obviously knew where it was going, this redraft of the plan adds much more detail), so I got it all jumbled in my head when I went back and started writing it. Then I had to stop to keep on top of Christmas sales which meant I didn't have any time to write for two months, then I came back and tried to pick up where I'd left off, even more disconnected.
I finally decided that I had to go back and read book 2 from the start to regain the bearings that weren't quite there to begin with. And it wasn't nearly the chore I'd expected. In going back and re-reading it, I realised that it was much better written than I'd thought, it flows really well, is neither too fast nor slow, and is, frankly, gripping. I really enjoyed reading it through. And I got my bearings, more than I had when I even started, and found that I didn't have to go back and rewrite anything because I'd forgotten anything in the time it took to write it. It left me feeling really confident and really keen to go on.

Outside of that, Seeg and I also cleared Antorus, The Burning Throne raid, completing what turned out to be the best expansion World of Warcraft has ever had, and also, actually, the first expansion I've ever truly completed. And I'm psyched for the release of Zandalari trolls as a playable race.

And on a more generalised note, I've made these blueberry, maca and banana pancakes three times already, and once with apple instead of blueberry, and they are still to die for.
Also, yummy Fabletics February releases and yoga in the Natural History Museum beneath the whale skeleton. I wish I could get out there for it :(

Argus raid completion   ♥   Fabletics' tropicales salar leggings
Maca, banana & blueberry pancakes  ♥   Yoga at the Natural History Museum