Monday, 31 March 2014

Pony Tales: "There's Someone Here To See You."

On the 14th August 2002, the plane touched down in London at around 7:00am. Over the monitor, the pilot wished me a happy 12th birthday. We’d just come back from 2 weeks in the Bahamas, staying at the luxurious Hotel Atlantis. My parents handed me a small square box with Swarovski written on it - while wandering around the shops situated inside the hotel, I’d been attracted to a tiny Swarovski anteater ornament. I didn’t intend for my parents to buy it for me, I just liked looking at it.

I don’t remember the mundane activities at the airport – getting off the plane, collecting our luggage, driving home – because I was probably focused on seeing my pony, Lucky. We’d been loaning her from the owner of the stables since 1998, although a tendon injury meant she couldn’t be ridden anymore.

The weather was pleasantly warm. I was in the club room when my brother, Gaz, opened the door and told me: ‘There’s someone here to see you.’ I was mildly surprised as I had no idea who would be visiting me, so walked past the stables, past a trailer which had just parked up, and into the car park.

“Who? I can’t see anyone?” I asked.

“No, behind you!”

I looked behind me. Gaz lifted me into the air – at 14, he wasn’t quite the 6ft2 giant he is now so I could only just see inside, but when I saw that ginger ear with a little white spot on the tip, I knew who it was.

14th August 2002

I knew my parents had bought Ernest before we went on holiday, but his arrival on my birthday was a wonderful surprise. This year marks our 12th anniversary, but I still remember that moment as vividly as the day it happened – Ernest has many beautiful markings, but it may not surprise you to know that his ear spot is my favourite.

30th March 2014

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Lent: Halfway!

Just a brief update today...

We're 3 weeks into Lent - that's halfway house! Thank GOODNESS because I am desperate for some cheese. I wasn't sure at the start which I would miss more - cheese or chocolate - but it is definitely the former. 

Mum's also desperate for a latte; she described watching her colleagues enjoy a break time latte as 'tortuous'.

It doesn't help that there are many varieties of the blessed dairy product in our fridge at the moment. Or that I recently discovered I like cottage cheese - an excellent, proteinous (yeah... that's not a real word) snack.

Heaven in dairy form
I'll be in France when I can finally eat cheese again, so I'm tempted to buy a really strong cheddar and bring it with me! I'm also going to feast on delicious French goat's cheese with a big chunk of baguette. I need to stop thinking about this now.

Well, 3 weeks down, 3 to go...


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Book review: The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton

Maxx sensed my frustrations a few weeks ago when I was becoming restless with my bookshelves. I wanted to read something different, so tasked Maxx with buying me ‘something I wouldn’t normally read or choose for myself’ (I didn’t command he buy books for me, by the way, he offered). This was not an easy task, even if I am open to reading lots of different genres.

I believe Maxx’s mission was successful (although, given he’d just kindly spent about £20 on things for me, it wouldn’t have mattered what he bought!). I reviewed one of the books last week, The Winter Folly, and now I’ll review the second!

The House at Riverton

Kate Morton has many fans. I can’t call myself one yet as I’ve only read one of her novels, but I am definitely interested in reading more of her work. The book itself is attractive, with a beautiful photograph of a summer garden behind a gate decorating the cover – whoever chose that picked a winner, as it immediately made me want to read the story!

The House at Riverton was a prime example of women’s fiction gone right. It touches on many topics, including memory, loss, family, war, love, aging and class difference, through the eyes of Grace Bradley, a housemaid at Riverton.

Ultimately, I think this novel is about secrets: Hannah likes to keep them, Grace is forced to keep them, and Emmeline is excluded from them. Trivial secrets, such as the children’s role playing game, come to have greater significance throughout the novel – but because of what they represent, rather than what they are. After David, Hannah and Emmeline’s brother, is killed in WWI, Hannah keeps one of their childhood stories in a locket but tells Emmeline she buried all of them.

While the idea of a secret changing the entire outcome of a novel is not new, one of the aspects I liked most about The House at Riverton was how one tiny, seemingly forgettable detail was the one that changed the course of the story. Instead of a dramatic revelation, the truth comes out quietly, almost unnoticeably. By then, however, Hannah’s world has been upturned, but instead of an explosive confrontation, it is her subtlety which makes the ending so much sadder.

Switching between a character’s past and present is also a common technique, however I felt Morton successfully wrote Grace both as a young girl and a very old woman. She captured the place between sleeping and wakefulness that Grace experiences in her old age, when the lines between them are blurred.

As a character, Grace was thoroughly likeable - her devotion to Hannah was admirable rather than pathetic, showing her as loyal and steadfast even in the most dangerous circumstances. This steadiness was reflected in her old age, with her determination to visit Riverton one last time.

Emmeline, Hannah’s younger sister, was a troubled character; while it would have been easy to label her as shallow, she lost her brother in the War and her sister to a husband who took her away to London, all by the age of 16. She is excluded from memories of her brother through Hannah’s deception about the stories. Hannah becomes the love interest of both men Emmeline wishes to have a relationship with. While her adoration of Teddy and Robbie seem unrealistic, in a child’s mind they hold much more brevity. Her melodramatic actions at the fateful Riverton party reflect how lost she is, despite her apparent popularity and frivolous lifestyle. I can understand why readers might not feel sorry for this privileged young woman, as many others suffered the same losses from the War as she did while living in much harder circumstances, but I think this also serves as a leveller. Death did not discriminate across social classes during the War.

I would highly recommend this book. Unlike some women’s fiction, I found The House at Riverton refreshing and unpredictable.


Thursday, 20 March 2014

Spring has Sprung!

Strip off those layers! Take off those muddy boots! And I’m not just talking to all the horses and ponies out there - Happy First Day of Spring everybody! Happy Happiness Day!

I’ve been feeling ‘Springy’ since the beginning of this month - temperate weather, beautiful flowers blossoming like Yorkshire puddings in an oven, and Ernest changing rugs have all made me feel decidedly chirpier (except the whole Mumps incident of last week). I wish the weather could be like this all year round! Look at the daffodils bobbing their heads – they agree with me. Bob bob bob.

In honour of this glorious day, here are my top 5 reasons – from a fitness perspective - why Spring is the best…

Outdoor Sports
Who doesn’t fancy reliving the age of innocence, aka primary school, and playing a game of rounders? Spring is for outdoor sports, or, taking your sport outdoors – lift weights in the garden, do your HIIT circuit at the park, get off the treadmill and breathe the fresh air rather than your own sweaty body smell. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing Ernest in daylight during the week!

Healthy Eating
Let’s do a role play: it’s mid-December. You’ve just got in from work. What do you go for, salad or stew? OK, let’s do another one: it’s mid-April. What do you go for, salad or stew? Alright, I would probably choose stew both times as well, but isn’t it easier to eat lighter and healthier (not that stew has to be unhealthy, but dumplings are so delicious) during the Spring and Summer months? 

Fitness Motivation
Either you kept up a healthy regime during Winter and are ready to show off your bod-ay, or you ate like one of the three little piggies and... well, aren't. Assuming most of us are in the latter category and still have some work to do, Spring is the perfect time to get fit and ready for Summer. It's easy to imagine our sexy bods with Summer six months away, but as it creeps ever closer, it's so much easier to get motivated and start working out ready for bikini season.

Yep, that's right - it's getting warmer, so it's going to get sweatier. Excellent news for obliterating your body fat, getting rid of nasty toxins and transforming into a not-so-dumb-belle (or not-so-dumb-boy - I don't discriminate). Don't want to work up a sweat? You're probably on the wrong blog, my friend.

Energy Levels
This does not need explaining. Anyone else guilty of going to bed in Winter at 7:00pm? On a Saturday night? Begone Winter hibernation, hello Spring nights!

Maxx and Ernest last Sunday.

Monday, 17 March 2014

New PT Workout: #4

I am SO GLAD I'm going back to my internship tomorrow. I'm starting to feel human again and am ready to get back to London. 

I wanted to post this last Monday, but felt a bit of a fraud writing about fitness when I was facing a second week off from working out. I've actually been doing this programme since February 10th, but I'll continue for an extra couple of weeks to make up for the sessions I missed.

Warm-up: 10-15 minutes hill walk/sprint

Goblet squat 20 reps x 3 sets
Mountain climbers 20 x 3
Single arm kettlebell swing 20 x 3
Press ups 15 x 3
Pop squats 15 x 3
DB single arm row 15 x 3
DB side lunge and touch 20 x 3
Kettlebell snatch 10 x 3
DB lunge and rotate 20 x 3
DB squat and press 15 x 3
Long arm crunches 20 x 3
Jackknife 20 x 3

Warm down: 5 minute walk & stretch

This workout has a couple of moves I've never done before: pop squats and kettlebell snatches. I foolishly thought they would be easy as I don't do these with a weight: wrong. They are really effective, proving you don't always need to throw weights around to get results. Just your own weight!

I've also joined's BodySpace: PJones90 (original indeed). Add me! I'd love to chat endlessly about fitness, nutrition, weights and, most importantly, how great it is to have a muscular back.


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Pony Tales: Has Spring 2014 arrived?

This wasn't the original Pony Tale I was going to share with you, but as I had such a beautiful ride today I thought I'd write about this instead. Perhaps it was prophetic fallacy - I was told this morning that my mumps are no longer contagious so I can start going out again. Out Mum and I went to the stables, 20 minutes later (she drove me so I couldn't go riding for too long and fatigue myself)!

Ernest's favourite place, the cross country field
What a day. Blue skies, warm sun, a light breeze... Ernest was munching hay in his stable with his rug off, and judging by all the mud, he had gone out without his turnout rug on as well. I even had to ride wearing sun glasses!

We walked around the woods and along the cross country field for about 45 minutes, Ernest on a long rein and me taking photos every so often. The wildlife certainly enjoyed the weather today, too, as I saw pheasants strolling through the undergrowth and rabbits hopping around. On Sunday, I even caught two does and a stag grazing in one of the clearings.

I was so relieved to get outside and see Ernest today. My face is still achey and tight with all the swelling, but it's hard to think about that when I spend time with my favourite boy. He always knows when I'm feeling unwell as he behaves differently - very cuddly and gentle, nuzzling my hands softly and letting me lean on him while I'm grooming.

I'm hoping to ride every day for the rest of the week, including a very long hack at the weekend if the sun is still shining.


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Recipe: Banana pancakes

Mumpy Tuesday did not start well. I made a beetroot, carrot and spinach smoothie, but it was RANK and the colour of actual poop, so it had to be binned.

I was very hungry after this debacle, so decided to make banana pancakes – the recipe is by Deliciously Ella and is vegan and gluten free. I’m very conscious of eating well for three reasons: I don’t want to have any food reactions when I’m already in a lot of pain, I’m not able to work out to my usual intensity so don’t want to put on weight, and my body is not going to fight off the Mump Monster if I eat processed rubbish. I also have a lot of free time this week to experiment with new food recipes, and I’m happy to say this one was a success.

You will need:

  • 1 cup of gluten free oats
  • 2/3 cup of ground almonds
  • 1 cup of water
  • ¼ cup of ground flaxseed
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup / raw honey / raw agave (I used agave)
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • pinch of sea salt (I didn’t have any sea salt so just used normal table salt)
  • coconut oil for cooking (I didn’t have any so just didn’t use anything!)


  • Blend the oats until they become powdery
  • Chop the bananas and blend with the oats – I added the water here as it mixed together better
  • Add all of the other ingredients and blend
  • Heat the pan, then add three spoonfuls of mixture
  • Fry on both sides for about 1 minute each

The recipe makes 4-5 medium size pancakes. I ate mine with a drizzle of maple syrup, but they were delicious enough on their own!

1. I think that'll be one for the dogs!      2. The perfect stack     3. Princess hoping to get another pancake

At University, my housemates and I tried a different banana pancake recipe, but this one worked so much better. It’s quite carb heavy with the oats and bananas, but the flax and almonds add a dose of healthy fats and protein. If I was making these before a workout, I would substitute some of the flax and almonds with a scoop of protein powder.


Monday, 10 March 2014

Book review: The Winter Folly, by Lulu Taylor

What a Monday. I've got Mumps! Mumpy Monday. I'm on house arrest - but I am alright to go riding, as I checked with the doctor. She said the fresh air will probably be good for me. Yes!

Anyway. Here's a book review. Lord knows I'll be reading a lot this week...

The Winter Folly

The novel is written in the third person from the perspective of Delilah, the new wife of John Stirling (owner of Fort Stirling), and Alexandra, the wife of Nicky Stirling (owner of Fort Stirling in the 60s). The chapters take place in both the present day and the 60s - this allows the reader to witness how events of the past affect the present tenants of the formidable house. 

The Winter Folly had the potential to be excellent. The plot was tragic and unpredictable, with some genuinely shocking revelations. Taylor’s strength was her ability to make important facts seem trivial until the right moment came to reveal their significance, and she raises interesting questions about how a house can come to own and trap it's inhabitants.

However, the pace was often interminably slow because of the overly descriptive prose, and I found myself flicking ahead to see if anything interesting was coming up. I skim-read over the endless paragraphs of feelings and confused emotions, and had to have day-long breaks from reading as I got bored... I truly believe about 100 pages could have been edited out.

The characters themselves, typically of women’s fiction, were fairly simplistic: troubled, brooding husband, worried wife trying to understand him, attractive gardener, flamboyant London friends and friendly American tourists. Delilah and Alexandra were fairly typical, tortured heroines - I felt Taylor could have created a stronger relationship between the two, as they both experience the suffocating feeling that Fort Stirling invokes.

I would tentatively recommend this book because the plot is actually very good. While many writers of women's fiction tend to wrap everything up perfectly at the end, Taylor does not resolve every conflict; Delilah and John fix their relationship but still can't conceive. The final couple of pages were the most touching. 


Sunday, 9 March 2014

My blog has a new face!

I can't even begin to describe how poopy I feel. I have allergy belly (doctors keep referring to it as IBS so I'm assuming that's all confirmed now) and I woke up this morning with a swollen gland by my left ear that keeps throbbing, as if to remind me it's still there! I got that, gland, by the fact that one side of my head is fatter than the other!

That's my explanation as to why I've not blogged this weekend. It was International Women's Day yesterday, which I wanted to post about, but it's not timely anymore. I hope you all celebrated the important women in your life, the ones who made you who you are today - if you're a horrible person, blame them. Just kidding, it's probably your fault if you're a meanie. 

But... that's not why we're here. Back in January I started the ball rolling with getting my blog redesigned. It's finally finished! Peaches and Cream designs has done a stellar job transforming my space from basic to bootylicious. 

When I had to fill out a questionnaire to get an idea of my design inspiration, colours that I liked etc, I had no idea what to say - I believe the only thing I wrote was "not red. I don't like red". Ana has done an incredible amount of work, creating a blog I am now proud to put on my CV (under 'Interests', FYI). I was particularly impressed by her ability to create a logo, based on a very childishly and badly drawn sketch I made. 

We regularly kept in contact, sometimes just to have a chat, and I was updated at every stage of the process. Seeing the finished product is really special, because it's a custom design that no one else will have. It's a really personal design, and I was so pleased that Ana managed to use my photo of Ernest's colour to create the banner. It was no mean feat for Ana to do this, as I barely knew what I was after!

I would recommend Peaches and Cream designs to everyone, as Ana clearly has the talent to create something truly wonderful with barely any direction. 

I hope you like my blog's new 'face'! Let me know what you think in the comments box below.


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

What I'm Giving Up For Lent

Shrove Tuesday: Tuesday 4th March.
Lent: Wednesday 5th March - Thursday April 17th.
Easter: Sunday 20th April.

I have mixed feelings about Lent. I don’t believe in a Christian God, so the premise of giving something up for 40 days and 40 nights to understand Christ’s sacrifice is a bit pointless. However, I do live a comfortable life with food, shelter, family, money and safety, so I do think that giving something up – even something trivial – is a good thing.

My mum has decided to give up lattes. I can’t tell you:
a) how much my mum loves a latte (one shot skinny) and
b) how many she drinks (less than she used to but at least 5 a week).

To support her through this testing time, and to see if I can actually do it (I like a challenge), I’m going to give up cheese and chocolate. I’ve chosen these because I will genuinely miss eating them, and it’s always easier to do something like this if you’re doing it with someone.

When I say chocolate, I mean processed bars/desserts etc. I've recently discovered Deliciously Ella - as well as healthy savoury meals, she also concocts wonderful desserts, many using raw cacao powder and nibs. As these are natural, non-processed products, I think they are acceptable to eat during Lent. So goodbye B & J's ice cream, mini eggs, chocolate puddings, Nutella, Cadbury's, etc, hello raw cacao.

I’ll be interested to see if my body fat lowers during Lent… I might finally get to that long-awaited 18%! Yes I know, Boring Barry talking about body fat again.

I tried giving up homework when I was at (Catholic) school (worst experience of my life), but it didn’t last long. They should have given up pestering me about trivial things – “Don’t dye your hair purple for the school photograph”, “No piercings” (left with 9), “Don’t lock your teacher in the photography room”. I could go on.

So, are you giving something up for Lent? Have you heard of Deliciously Ella?


Monday, 3 March 2014

I Hate Being Ill / Things To Do When You're Ill

Today, I am grumpy.

As in, childishly grumpy, and ever-so-slightly petulant. My stomach has decided to throw a wobbly and is incredibly painful and unnecessarily rounded, as if I was carrying a small baby elephant inside it. Every few months this happens, except this time the pills my doctor gave me aren't working.

Sometimes, being ill can be quite nice: snuggled up in bed with that cuddly toy no one knows you still sleep with, drinking tea, being cared for by your grandparents and wearing PJs all day. Well, today is not one of those days. I want to be at my internship, learning and reading and talking to the funny publicity team (funny haha, not funny in the head).

I love my house, and being around my greyhounds all day. But I'm very antsy, as I feel guilty for being at home even though I'm genuinely ill (I never got this feeling when I was off school... funny that). So, to combat these feelings and stop myself going crazy until Maxx comes home and can play The Big Bang Theory Cluedo, I've compiled a list of things to do:

  • Look at pictures of greyhounds on Instagram
  • Look at pictures of muscly people on Instagram
  • Snapchat my friends pictures of my swollen belly
  • Fuss my dogs
  • Read the blogs I follow
  • Show a vague interest in the Oscars
  • Drink a lot of tea
  • Play TBBT Cluedo by myself  that's a silly idea, forget I said that
  • Sleep
  • Tidy my room what is happening to me?!
  • Paint my nails
  • Help my mum with her dissertation

Other things which seem to be popular 'ill hobbies' include:
  • taking a bath
  • moisturizing your entire body
  • watching TV all day
  • watching Disney films all day
  • reading
  • eating unhealthy food pas possible with my tumtum
  • sweating

I hope you are all well and having a productive Monday. I'm off to the doctors, ta ta!


Saturday, 1 March 2014

February Round Up

This last month has seen less astonishing amounts of rain and more temperate weather, which means Ernest can soon change into his lightweight rugs (because that’s how you determine seasons, by which outfit a pony is wearing – duh).

I had the pleasure of teaching a lovely group of Korean students from mid-January to early February, whom I truly miss and hope to visit in 2015/16. I learnt in summer 2013 how tiring teaching really is, but seeing my students every weekday really brightened me up when I was feeling exhausted.

On the 17th, I started an eight-week internship at Oneworld Publications. I cannot describe how much I am enjoying myself. I get a frisson of excitement opening the cupboards in Publicity’s office; it’s full of stacked books with colourful covers and interesting titles. The people are approachable, answering my questions and giving advice, and the work is interesting, confirming my insatiable desire to work in this industry. There’s a sense of secrecy when reading an unpublished manuscript, as I’ve been required to do when assisting the editorial department. I feel like I’m guarding a religious object, something sacred and untouched that must be protected carefully. This work experience has shown me how the publishing process works – it’s been like a glimpse behind the stage curtain, but rather than removing the mystery and making it seem mundane, it makes it more exciting.

Still no permanent job in site, though.

Hair colour abstinence
I’m still growing out my hair colour. I now have about an inch of re-growth, which thankfully doesn’t look too hideous. I am starting to feel intrigued about what my hair will look like after a year of no dying. It’s certainly in better condition, but that could also be the fabulous cut my hairdresser gave me, as well as my Aveda hair products.

During a common row over which Harry Potter house we would be in, I managed to say to Maxx (in French) that he resembled a badger (thus putting him in Hufflepuff – actually turns out we’re both Gryffindors. Not that there’s anything wrong with Hufflepuff). That, to me, is an improvement. We’re visiting France in Easter for an anniversary party, so I would love for Maxx’s family to see a sizeable improvement in my French. It’s hard being a mute for 5 days.

Competitions, SJ or otherwise
I’ve still not entered any competitions, but have begun schooling regularly and having a weekly lesson. My plan for this weekend is to enter several competitions over the next few months, before other plans are made. I’m eager to compete, to see if the judges’ comments reflect the improvements in both of us.

Running… what is that?
Honestly, running’s not been on my mind as I’ve been enjoying weightlifting so much. The New Forest Festival of Running is coming up at the end of March, so I will need to get training if I want to run a 10K (6 miles).

Body (still) fat
That’s a joke - I know I’m not fat. But my BF is still the same, so an increase in cardio can only be a good thing to shift that last 1-and-a-bit %! Pleasingly, I am in the ‘Athletes’ category now.

New country
This won’t change until later in the year, but the plan is still to visit Berlin. Can’t. Wait. I recently completed a silly online quiz to see which European country I should live in – I got Norway, because apparently I’m tolerant (hmmm…), independent and reliable.

How was your February? Have you taken the aforementioned quiz?