Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Culture: The Making of Harry Potter

Some may contest me calling Harry Potter culture, but for my generation, it certainly was a hugely influential book series. I have not seen a book that has sparked the same reaction from children and adults alike since the inception of Harry P - Twilight and the 50 Shades books have die-hard fans, but there are just as many haters for these (rightfully so, in my opinion). It is hard to find someone who has not read or watched a Harry Potter book or film, and even harder to find someone who didn't like it.

For Christmas, Maxx and I were bought tickets for the Warner Brothers Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter (thanks Auntie S and Uncle D). We were super excited about this as Harry P fans, and set off eagerly on Sunday lunchtime ready to embrace the wizarding world.

In short, it was FASCINATING. The skill of making thousands of props and costumes and masks was astounding, and I was constantly thinking "Someone made this!?". There were some really interesting facts, such as Hagrid is not always Robbie Coltrane onscreen, but 6ft10 former rugby player Martin Bayfield wearing a mechanized mask. I also noticed some of the static paintings from Hogwarts looked remarkably like famous former monarchs - a portrait of a young Mary I, except in this one she's holding a wand, and also Henry VII.

There were over 4000 people who worked on these films, including makeup artists, sculptors, animal trainers, actors, set designers, directors, etc. It's hard to comprehend the magnitude of the effort that went into these films, but the Tour really showcased this. Unsurprisingly, as an animal nut, I loved the board detailing the animal actors - even better was that most of them were rescue animals, which they spent a few months with, getting to know them before they started training.

One of my favourite rooms was Dumbledore's office, as I love the scenes with the pensieve, as well as a miniature of the Leaky Cauldron which uses optical illusions to make you think it's 50ft long.

For us, travelling there was very easy, taking just over an hour. Prices can be found here. The first 20 minutes are spent with a guide getting everyone revved for the tour, and watching a short video with Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe, but after that you go round at your leisure. Apparently, people have been there just 45 minutes, to 10 hours - we were there for 3 hours. We did stop briefly for a butterbeer, which was delicious! It tasted like caramel and vanilla.

It was a fantastic day out and I would recommend it to people of all ages. Even if you aren't the biggest Harry P fan, you can't fail to appreciate the effort and skill that went into creating this magical world.

Have a fun, safe New Year's Eve everyone.


Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas Eve Ride

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas with their friends and family! We had a very full house this year, as Maxx's family came over from France. I've been thoroughly spoilt as always, and was very lucky as my Christmas Day Ride around the village of North Waltham was in lovely weather. There were runners and riders everywhere, taking advantage of the pleasant morning. Ernest was in good spirits too, and was treated to some polos when I turned him out (he then stalked me out of the field trying to get the rest of the packet).

Now, to backtrack a little, Monday 23rd was horrendous, as I'm sure everyone can remember. However, Christmas Eve was beautiful! I went for a ride around the Steventon/Micheldever area, which I call the "Warren Farm ride" as I, surprise surprise, pass Warren Farm! Although Ernest didn't want to stand still after being in his stable all of the day before, I managed to get some beautiful photos, including a very dramatic one of Ernest's hair blowing in the wind.

I hope these pictures encourage you to get outside while the weather is nice!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Recipe: Chickpea Fritters

Hello everyone, I hope with only 6 days to go you're all nearly ready for Christmas. I have 3 presents left to buy and am feeling rather smug about it, actually.

But I'm not here to boast about my super-duper organisation.

About a month ago, I came home from the stables to find my mother in the kitchen 'experimenting' with something for my dinner. Now, when she's done this before it was a delicious chickpea and tomato stew, so I wasn't worried.

Here's what she made:

Chickpea Fritters
This recipe came from the BBC Good Food website, which I recommend as it has some tasty cake recipes. If you love pancakes (which everybody does) but are trying to cut down on carbs, these fritters are a great alternative - the chickpeas give you one of your 5-a-day and boost your protein intake. Unfortunately I can't tell you the nutritional info, as the website includes the side salad in the 'calories per serving', but if you follow the website's recipe including the salad it's still only 417 calories.

You will need:
  • 400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp milk (I use soya because of a dairy allergy, which I conveniently ignore whenever I eat cheese or chocolate)
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • Blitz half the chickpeas in a food processor until smooth.
  • With the motor still running, add the eggs and milk.
  • Sift in the flour and baking powder without the motor running, or you'll look like you've been snowed on.
  • Blitz again until smooth.
  • Fold in the other chickpeas.
  • Cook like pancakes! I recommend using 1, maybe 2, tbsps of batter so they're easier to flip.

These are also nice cold, and became my morning train journey snack on the way to my Men's Fitness work experience.


Monday, 16 December 2013

Body Fat update

First of all, I'd like to apologise for all the weirdness happening regarding backgrounds, fonts, colours etc - I'm trying (and so far failing) to revamp my blog and make it look a bit more savvy and professional. Even though graduation granted me wizard status, I apparently don't know how to do this very well. EURGH.

But, on a good note, I've lost more body fat! I was 21.39% in October, and now I'm 19.64%. My goal is still 18%, but I'm really chuffed to be so close now. As an added bonus, I've also lost a kilo (2.2lbs).

The next body fat test is February...


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Culture: National Portrait Gallery

Last Tuesday, Maxx and I went on a date day to the National Portrait Gallery. I've never been there before, even though my favourite painting is housed just next door in The National Gallery (if you wanted to know, it's The Execution of Lady Jane Grey).

I am obsessed with the Tudor period, so I was super excited to see that there was a special exhibition called 'Elizabeth I & Her People'. The tickets were £13.50 because we 'Gift Aided' them, and they were definitely worth it! Information about prices can be found here
As well as seeing some iconic portraits of Elizabeth I and the key courtiers from her reign, there were artefacts from the period, including a sword, pistol, sweetmeats case and jewellery. It amazes me the condition of these items, and I wonder whether they were discovered or handed down through generations. 

We also learnt that, as Elizabeth I didn't like having her likeness painted, a stencil was made and passed around for various artists to use. This explains the almost identical face in many of her portraits. 

Attributed to George Gower, c. 1588.

After the exhibition, there were thousands of other pictures to see. Literally, 195,000. Luckily neither of us are particularly interested in contemporary art, so we had more time to spend looking at paintings from the Tudor, Stuart, Regency and Victoria periods; aside from two breaks, touring the aforementioned exhibition and these areas took five hours, so I'm glad we didn't want to see the newer portraits! 

One of my favourite portraits is of Anne Boleyn, the classic image you think of when casually ponder Henry VIII's second queen and her dreadful fate. I remember painting her when I was in primary school, aged 10, meticulously copying every pearl on her headdress. It was really astounding to see that famous picture, those dark eyes looking out with an unreadable expression. Although I assumed it was Holbein, who was a popular painter at the time, the artist is actually unknown. Just as with Delaroche's painting of Lady Jane Grey, I found myself transfixed. Both their fates were gruesome and fearful, but Anne Boleyn's vilification resounds to me like an ambitious woman cruelly betrayed by Cromwell and her own husband.  

Unknown artist, late 16th century.
I think you can really see the likeness between Elizabeth I and her mother, particularly in the shape of the nose.

 Although I’m a fervent fan of literature from Regency period, I didn’t know a lot about it, so enjoyed reading the placards next to each picture of the important politicians and royals from this time. There were also the portraits of the key Romantic poets and writers, first and second generation, which meant I got to babble away to Maxx about who wrote what and why it was important. We lingered over Mary Shelley in particular, as I reminisced about all I had learnt about Frankenstein while writing my dissertation!

I will admit to being a little disappointed with the lack of portraits of Queen Victoria in the museum, although there were plenty of other influential figures to gaze upon, including Winston Churchill’s father. 

Aside from this, the facilities at the Gallery were excellent, and I didn’t find the food overly expensive. We had a drink and snack upon arrival, which was delicious: Maxx, being French, had a coffee and a croissant, while I had tea and an apple crumble slice. Yum YUM. The gift shops had an excellent array of postcards, so you can take your favourite picture home with you. Maxx treated me to a new book: The Anne Boleyn Papers by Elizabeth Norton, a collection of her personal dispatches and those of the people most involved in her short reign (1533 - 1536). 

This was a lovely, relaxing day out. We ambled at our own pace, viewing some masterpieces and stopping when we felt like it. I'd recommend it for anyone looking to have a civilised, quiet day out, away from the bustle of the capital.

The 'Elizabeth I & Her People' exhibition closes on January 5th, so get there soon!


Sunday, 1 December 2013

New PT Workout: #2


From the 9th - 20th, I'm doing work experience with Men's Fitness!! And in February, I'm doing an editorial internship for 2 months with Oneworld Publications.
On Friday 29th, my mum's pet hedgehoggy Lola had a baby chog! It's really white and makes cute little squeaking noises. I'll take some photos shortly.

Now on to some fitness business. I've been doing this workout once a week since the 21st October and have already seen a huge difference in muscle tone and strength. It's the hardest workout I've done so far but, actually, the most enjoyable.
So here it is... my hardest workout to date!
Warm up: 10 minute run/hill walk
Bulgarian split squat, 4kg - 20 reps
DB Chest Press, 6kg - 15 reps
Deadlifts, 20kg - 20 reps
Lunge and rotate, 7kg - 20 reps
Assisted pull ups, 14kg - 20 reps
Leg press, 70kg - 20 reps
DB alternative shoulder press, 4kg - 20 reps
Mountain climbers - 20 reps
Crocodiles on TRX - 20 reps
Get into the plank position, and crunch your knee up towards your arm. You'll look like Spiderman climbing up a wall.
Overhead tricep extension, 7kg - 15 reps
Suitcase crunches, 2kg medicine ball - 20 reps
Lie on your back holding the ball. Go into a crunch with your arms outstretched and bring in alternative knees to your chest. That's ten reps each leg. 
Prone cobra - 30 seconds
Lie on your front and raise your legs and arms off the floor. This will work your lower back.
Do 2 sets, 3 if you have superstrength.
Cool down: 10 minute walk.
If you're doing this at home, I changed:
deadlifts to bent over rows
leg press to squats
crocodiles on TRX to crocodiles not on TRX