Wednesday 28 November 2018

Chocolate, Redcurrant & Cinnamon Porridge

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

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

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

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

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

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil the water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 25 November 2018

Cyber Monday Sales! Etsy + Kindle!

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

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

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

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

Thursday 22 November 2018

Fitness Christmas Gift Guide

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

Monday 19 November 2018

German Christmas Fig Porridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil the water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 16 November 2018

Friday Favourites

I haven't cried so much at a piece of fiction for...I don't know how long.
We finished Red Dead Redemption 2 - well, 'finished'; we started the epilogue. I also have to say, I'm glad it's over. It was such a good game but the story became so intense, and you could just see what was going to happen and both you and Arthur are powerless to stop it, it just really started to weigh on me. It was the best story I've experienced in a long time.
Also, I got a phone! My first ever brand new phone! A Nokia 5.1 - hardly top of the line but more than good enough for me, and I got it this gorgeous tribal bear head case. I am now as cool as everyone else.

Work on my book has slowed down this week, which is a shame. Getting it finished by the end of the month is looking less and less likely, but I don't want to rush it, so it will take as long as it takes. I wanted to avoid putting it on the back-burner when Christmas sales take off, but I don't think I'm going to have a choice. Still, I still have 2 weeks, so I guess we'll see!
Also, all of my new pieces are up in my Etsy shop, and this week I began the process of listing Christmas pieces. Most of them aren't too seasonal as wildlife is still my core focus, but the snowmen (still to come) are admittedly rather specific...

Wild Bangarang frost leggings   ♥   Red Dead Redemption 2

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Gamer Christmas Gift Guide

   Writer I may be, but games are my favourite form of entertainment. Good games can be better than books. They can require hours of game play to reach the end of the story (we've been playing Red Dead Redemption 2 for over 100 hours and we're still not at the end of the story), throughout which you're doing additional and optional side-quests that provide a greater depth and understanding of the world and the characters by allowing you to do things that would never be a part of movies, TV shows or books because they would be too slow or irrelevant. Games are not what they were fifteen years ago. The graphics have become mind-blowing. The writing is taken very seriously - much more seriously than most films and TV shows these days - and the characters are alive, so much so that you begin to build a bond with them. Decisions you make can impact the world and other characters' responses to you, making the world more lively and dynamic and giving you a real position of power within the story itself. Rather than being led, you're doing the leading. Voice actors are worthy of fame, and, these days, a lot of games are made with motion capture technology (think Gollum), making character movements much more natural, facial expressions recognisable, and employ the subtle little things like reflex-reactions that betray our own moods and thoughts.
   The depth of books, the sound and visuals of movies, and the length of whole box sets, it's the best of all forms of media. Even the soundtracks are becoming something to covet. They make up a large proportion of my playlist.
   So, gamers are not to be mocked. Unless they play Call of Duty. But knowing what to get them can be tricky - so here are a few suggestions:

5 - Gaming convention/board game cafe (Chance & Counters, Bristol, £5 pp)
12 - Northgard, £24

For gamer stocking fillers, check out Merchoid, Gamerabilia & developer websites (Bioware, Bethesda, Blizzard etc).

Monday 12 November 2018

Pumpkin & Stem Ginger Porridge

   It doesn't really feel like autumn lately. Sure, the trees outside are naked, the sun's getting whiter, but there's been a southern wind drawing in warm air from the mid-Atlantic, so we've been in double digits for the past two weeks and it's set to continue for the next week, too. Bleugh. I'm a cold-weather girl. I like my jumpers, coats and scarves, I like to feel cosy and bundled up, and I like the certainty of knowing if I bring a coat out with me, I'm wearing it rather than carrying it around.
   Even so, I've been doing my best to enforce my favourite season, and warm porridge has been one way of doing it, as well as wearing summer tops so that I can find an excuse to wear my jumpers. I have so many of them. Jumpers and leggings are my weakness.
   And so here comes another porridge. I'm a little late to the pumpkin party, but bank it for next year, I guess! Sweet and spicy pumpkin & stem ginger porridge, topped with pecans and, of course, pumpkin seeds. Which I had to scavenge from a box of granola because I forgot to buy any...
   A warming autumn porridge, perfect for cold mornings. Or mornings you wish were cold.

Serves 1
30g oats
20g whey protein
100g pumpkin puree
100ml skimmed milk
50ml water
1-2 pieces stem ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger), chopped
2-3 tsp (15ml) stem ginger syrup, from jar (or sweetener of choice)
Optional pecans + pumpkin seeds to serve

Overnight Oats
1. Combine oats and whey in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and ground ginger and granulated sweetener if using, then, stirring all the while, add the milk (or shake and transfer to a bowl).

2. Stir in the pumpkin and stem ginger and leave in the fridge overnight.

3. Heat the following morning on the hob, or in the microwave - stir in 50ml water and microwave for 1 minute, stir, then again for 20-30 seconds until desired consistency is reached.

4. Stir in the ginger syrup (or honey, if using no other sweetener) and serve with pecans and seeds.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil 100ml water

2. Combine oats and whey in a saucepan, then ground ginger or granulated sweetener if using, then, stirring all the while, add the milk, then the boiled water.

3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer and add the chopped stem ginger, heating for 15-20 minutes to thicken.

4. Add the pumpkin puree in the final 5 minutes of cooking. Add more water if necessary.

5. Transfer to a bowl and stir in your stem ginger syrup (or honey if using no other sweetener), garnish with nuts and seeds and serve.

• I used Pulsin premium whey
• I used Libby's pumpkin puree (no added sugar)
• I used Biona stem ginger in syrup
• 1 piece stem ginger & 2 tsp syrup = ~20g

Without nuts or seeds
325 cals, 3g fat (0.5g sat), 44g carbs (8g natural sugars, 13g added*), 5g fibre, 27g protein
*stem ginger syrup

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Wildlife & Animal Lover Christmas Gift Guide

   Like books, anyone who's known me for five minutes knows I love animals and nature. From 'AWW SO FLUFFY' and admiring views right the way down to an obsessive need to know how they - creature and landscape - were formed. That kind of interest has fuelled a great deal of my fantasy writing. You'd be surprised by how large a role science has played in making The Zi'veyn.
   And so it was natural that animals and wildlife should be my next choice for a Christmas gift guide. Here I've gathered far more unique Christmas gifts for animal lovers and wildlife appreciators, from ornaments and jewellery to experiences and memberships. This guide should help you find something your nature-loving friend doesn't have, or at least give you some ideas and avenues for thought.

Monday 5 November 2018

Spiced Pear & Plum Wine Porridge

   Happy Guy Fawkes! If...that's an appropriate greeting...well, regardless, be sure to make this Catherine wheel toad in the hole for dinner tonight. You can thank me for it tomorrow.
   Anyway, in the mean time, it is morning, and that means porridge! Especially on a dreary morning like this. There is no better way to cheer the day than with a warm, creamy bowl of porridge, and this one is especially autumnal.
   Don't scoff at the wine - the fact is that cooking will burn off most of the alcohol, and you're using so little that it shouldn't matter. I'm a serious light-weight - ask anyone, it's quite severe - but I have never felt anything from this recipe, from Øllebrød, or similar. You will be fine. But, if you are concerned, use plum juice and a little spice instead. Or, for a middle ground, plum cider. Rekorderlig's spice plum cider is actually the best in the world.
   Sweet, spiced and warm, full of vitamins and minerals, this porridge will set you up wonderfully for the day.

Serves 1
30g oats
20g whey protein
100ml milk
50ml water
50ml plum wine
1/2 tsp mixed spice
sweetener of choice
1 pear
Optional almonds

Overnight Oats
1. In a bowl (or shaker bottle) thoroughly combine the oats, whey, spice and sweetener, then, stirring all the while, add the milk (or shake to combine).

2. Set in the fridge overnight.

3. Move on to step 4 below. To heat, add an additional 50ml water and heat in the microwave for 1 minute, stir, add the warm chopped pear at step 5, then heat again for 20-30 second bursts until desired thickness.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil 50ml water.

2. In a pan, thoroughly combine the oats, whey, spice and sweetener, then, stirring all the while, add 100ml milk then the boiled water and bring to a boil over medium heat.

3. Reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes or until desired consistency is reached.

4. Meanwhile, chop your pear - I cut mine in half and then cut slices out of the middle, set them aside and then chopped the rest - and drop into another pan with 50ml plum wine. Heat over medium for 10-15 minutes; add a tablespoon more wine if necessary.

5. Once softened, turn off the heat and scoop out the chopped pear, adding it to the simmering porridge, and reserve the remaining warm wine.

6. Stir the chopped pears through the porridge and, when desired consistency is reached, transfer to a bowl. Top with pear slices and chopped almonds and drizzle the warm wine over the top of the sliced pears. Serve immediately.

• I used Pulsin premium whey
• I used Kikkoman plum wine
• I used 5g almonds
• I used Stevia as my sweetener
• Much alcohol is burned off in cooking

Without almonds
394 cals, 2.5g fat (0.5g sat), 47.5g carbs (natural 28g sugars), 7g fibre, 26g protein, 1 of 5 a day

Sunday 4 November 2018

Resistance Training - November to January

Check-In: 3 Months

   And so begins another training plan. I'd be lying if I said I didn't love it. I've never found a workout I could stick with for so long, so I know I'm on to something good.
   I'm using the same set-up as July-September: two lower body workouts, one total body workout, and one cardio/HIIT day - but among all that strength and power, there is one thing I know I'm lacking: muscular endurance. Believe it or not, I get that from yoga, which I've not done for ages, and when I finally did a few weeks ago, I struggled so much to hold any kind of warrior pose for more than four breaths. I used to manage ten no problem.
   Speed, power, utility, flexibility and range of motion, I have down. The ability to remain within one of those positions, I do not. Not any more. But my favourite time to do yoga is early in the morning when it's still dark - ie winter - and with the days drawing in shorter now, it's a great time to start. So I'm implementing a yoga session into my week's plan as some active recovery to try and round it all out. I read time and time again that yoga is great to supplement strength training with, and it's about time I started using it again. I'd also like to pick qi gong back up. I was thinking about Tai Chi, but at the end of the day, I already know Qi Gong and it gets the same MBI (mind-body intervention) and calming effects that Tai Chi is popular for. I'll try to fit it in on Thursdays and/or Sunday.

   As always, I've turned to Whitney Simmons for my lower body workouts. Why? Because she is amazing with them, her results are insane so I'm sure I'm in good hands, and they take about 30-40 minutes.
   I'm also taking my total body workout from Women's Health magazine, issue 59, October 2018, Katie Piper. It's more of a circuit workout with some speed; either I'll increase the reps and slow it down, focusing on depth and range of motion, or I'll just go for it. I am not looking forward to the box jumps, but I've also never pushed myself into them before, and in all honesty it looks to be the hardest move.
   My cardio/HIIT session will be - surprise surprise - Core de Force of choice.

Monday - lower body, Whitney Simmons
Tuesday - yoga
Wednesday - total body, Women's Health issue 59, Katie Piper (subbing gym rings for bench & yoga blocks)
Thursday - Qi Gong
Friday - lower body, Whitney Simmons
Saturday - Core de Force of choice
Sunday - Qi Gong

   I also got myself some lovely new leggings, this time from Grenade. I've always loved camo, and while I'm not a fan of obvious branding, I really liked the placement of 'GRENADE' across the back of the waist. I also love their carb killa bars. Just sayin'.
   As always, I'll update in 4 weeks!

Saturday 3 November 2018

Core de Force 2.0 - 5 Weeks Later

   I could kick you in the head.
   Wait! Stay, please! I didn't say I would, only that I could.
   I've been using Core de Force 2.0 for five weeks now, and while I was already pretty good at kickboxing (toot toot), I have only grown. Like everyone else, some days I'm just not on top form, but on the average day, I can kick at shoulder-height. On good days, I'm hitting head-height. My head, probably - I am ickle - but it's so satisfying to see and feel it happen. And not only that, but where other kickboxing workouts involve fists, knees and feet, Core de Force - both the original and 2.0 - introduce elbows and defensive moves like rolls, slips and guarded knees. It's much more varied, with jujutsu and Muay Thai moves and combinations, all of which are revisited and, most importantly, recombined (goodbye muscle memory, hello nervous system).

   Unfortunately, 2.0, Mash-Up and Kick Butt have incorporated the most painful moves. Roll jumps are fine for 30 seconds, but 60 seconds is death. But at the same time, they're the most effective moves, and seeing the rolls and slips and Muay Thai moves come back in new combinations - moves I haven't found in any other program - does so much for enthusiasm. Rather than just jab, cross, side kick, roundhouse kick etc, you have slashing elbows, roundhouse knees, clinch knees, body jabs, ground-to-fighter stance switches, and all mixed in with body weight spikes like jump squats, firefly push ups, alligator push ups, triple lunge to ginga hops. You work your body from every angle, get in some intense cardio without losing muscle mass, some genuine and consistent HIIT intervals, huge variety, and you challenge your balance, your nervous system, your concentration and your speed. And with the addition of the two agility workouts in 2.0, you really get to key in on that last point. You don't need an agility ladder, you can always lay out some tape on the floor, or use the seams of floorboards as guidelines, but when I tried it with the ladder, I found that it really added a whole new level to the proceedings than when I tried it without. It's also true I stepped on it a few times and nearly died, but that really kicked up the matters of concentration and being aware of your space.

   Basically, I had an awesome five weeks with this workout. I tried the original Core de Force back in June, and I've not used any other kind of cardio workout or DVD since. Even when I returned to strength training July-September, I used it as a supplement and for my HIIT/cardio day. Because it is fun. It is effective. It is challenging in all the right ways. And I love the instructors. I usually get mind-numbingly bored of cardio very, very quickly, but that didn't happen in June, and it didn't happen in October, either. And with both the original Core de Force and 2.0 in my possession, I now have twelve incredible MMA videos that last 20-40 minutes, each of which I can trust to deliver amazing workouts that I will feel like doing whatever my mood.
   I'm moving on to a new resistance training plan for November-January, but I am absolutely going to keep using Core de Force to supplement and for my HIIT/cardio day. I fell in love with strength training because it's empowering, functional, and especially useful for me since I'm a carer for my mum, who can't stand up or move herself. But I also fell in love with it because it wasn't cardio. Now, though, I think I have finally found a cardio that I can give my heart to. I've loved kickboxing for years, but Core de Force truly takes it above and beyond.

   I'm fangirling a little bit, but we'll all survive! It's genuinely been money well-spent.