Tuesday, 27 May 2014

I Bought An Olympic Bar!

In celebration of my 100th blog post, let me tell you about my exciting new purchase... 

This weekend I went away on a family visit up north. Before heading home, we decided to visit the shopping outlet Junction 32. My cousin had her eye on the Cadbury’s shop and Next, my brother and other cousin on Nike, and me on nothing in particular. 

Well… that was until I saw there was a Fitness Superstore. I bought my dumbbells from FS a couple of years ago (we had to load them into the back of my friend’s mummy wagon, then transfer them all again into my KA – poor little egg could barely move after!) and was very happy with my purchases. However, I’ve recently found myself pining after some barbells.

The Fitness Superstore at Junction 32 is glorious - it’s well organised with knowledgeable, super-friendly staff. The man I spoke to answered all my queries – including "what even is an Olympic bar?!" (see below) – and asked me appropriate questions to determine which barbell was best suited to my needs. 

I decided to buy a 5ft bar as doing a few reps of clean & press felt very wobbly with the longer ones. The bar itself already weighs 10kg, but I also invested in four 5kg plates and, of course, two clips. The total came to £79.99 – the bar was just £49.99, down from £119.99.

An Olympic bar is like a barbell, only stronger so it can hold more weight – they are typically 7ft and weigh 20kg before extra weights are added.

While considering which bar to buy, I decided to deadlift 50kg in the middle of the shop - that's my body weight and 20kg more than I've ever done before. Not a perfect deadlift but not too shabby either! Maxx offered to video - I obviously said yes (with the agreement we would delete it if it went wrong).

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Pony Tales: Ernest and The Hat

I like to put things on Ernest's head. It used to amuse me greatly to put my gloves on his ears - partly because it made him look like a deer and partly because it meant I wouldn't forget to wear them out riding. One dressage competition many years ago, I dressed up as Father Christmas and dressed Ernest up as Rudolph - I coloured in his nose with red lipstick and sellotaped a reindeer antler headband to his bridle. He didn't bat an eyelid but inside probably thought 'somebody save me'.

One day I was bringing Ernest in when I bent down to pull up my sock - don't you hate it when you get slippy sock syndrome? So uncomfortable. I was wearing my black knitted beanie hat, which my Grandma M had knitted me a long time ago (I now have them in navy, purple, yellow, black with a yellow and white stripe, among others) - it's super stylish and warm, if I say so myself, and many of my friends have requested a beanie from my grandma since they saw me fashionably modelling my black one.

I digress.

While I was bending down to pull up said slippy sock, I felt a certain steed breathing warm air on the top of my head. Then, very delicately, my hat was pulled slowly off. I stood up and saw Ernest holding it is his mouth, ears forward. He then started waving it around, but didn't drop it.

This was highly amusing to me, and I giggled all the way down to the yard where Maxx was waiting for us - we like to go on family walks with Ernest. I told Maxx about the hat incident and we decided to put my hat over Ernest's ears. 

He loved it! I thought he would shake it off, but he kept it on and had his ears forward the whole time. I tacked up and got on, and he still didn't shake the hat off. We started walking to the woods, hat intact, ears still forward - I only took it off in case he changed his mind. 

Ernest is a quirky creature - he's grumpy, loyal, intelligent, playful, funny, gentle when I'm tired or ill, inquisitive and sometimes just downright odd.  I recently put my purple hat on him, but as it wasn't his hat, he shook it off - how would he know it's not his hat? He can't see colours!

Maxx and I now talk in Ernest's voice yes my animals have voices and always ask, 'Where's my hat? Can you bring me my hat please?' I even had an email at work reminding me Wednesday was 'BringMoominHatDay' Ernest is called Ernest, Biff, Moomin, and anything else I think sounds good.

This might seem a bit of a weird Pony Tales, but it reflects Ernest's long-suffering character and our relationship - I do strange things to him, he puts up with it.

Such an expressive pony - look at the annoyance in the second photograph!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Back on the (running) Wagon

Inspired by my best friend and blogger extraordinaire Boop (she told me her name was Becky but I think she's lying), I decided to lace up my trainers and go for a run. Only this time, I told myself I wasn't going to try and run a 5K or run for a specific time - I was just going to jog along, enjoy the sun and have a chat with Maxx, who joined me. 

I had started to feel that I should be able to run a 5K easily, having completed a half marathon - even though I hadn't run for a few months - and was constantly disheartened that I could only do about 15 minutes in one slog. What changed yesterday was: I took the pressure off. I took my pace back. Maxx and I chatted and admired the view and nearly ran into fallen tree blocking our path, and before we knew it we'd run for over 10 minutes. 

Our village has recently had some outdoor exercise equipment installed, so we stopped next to the pull up bar and attempted to do a set. OK, Maxx managed 3 fine... I half managed with him assisting me slightly. It was fun! I'm desperate to be able to do a full set of pull ups, so we agreed we'd include a set of 5 every run.

We set off again for another 8 minutes, stopping because I had a painful stitch. After a minute, I wanted to get going again - before, I would have just walked sulkily home. We ended our run by doing a lap of the athletics track by the village hall, with a 100m sprint to really finish us both off. I was the fastest! That's a lie.

My aim is to do another half marathon, then a full, then perhaps an ultra to raise money for Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare. But for now, I'm happy building my stamina back up and just enjoying any length of time or distance I can do.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Culture: Beaulieu

The week before I started my new job which is awesome and I literally can't get over how lucky I am, I had the pleasure of teaching 3 lovely Japanese students. As part of their programme they had to research and organise a day trip, and after examining our options, the girls decided on Beaulieu. I took Maxx there last year for the Bond in Motion exhibition and knew it was a thoroughly enjoyable day out, even if you aren't a car enthusiast (which I am definitely not), so I was looking forward to going again.

First on our itinerary was the Palace House and Abbey ruins. I love a grand old house, and as soon as you walk in you're presented with a couple of enormous portraits and glass cases full of artefacts from the past and present owners' lives. The house is styled in the late Victorian period, 1889 to be specific, so the staff are in costume, the kitchen has a big chalk board with a menu written on it which would have been typical for the time, and there's a picture of Queen Victoria hanging up. 

Sir Thomas Wriothesley was the first owner of Beaulieu, after Thomas Cromwell sold it to him in 1538 (middle portrait)

The staff were really friendly - one gentleman, I believe he was the butler, gave the girls a talk on the house and who would have worked there, what their roles were and a brief history on working in the Victorian era. From a teaching perspective - remember I was actually working that day hard life huh - this was a great listening and vocabulary exercise. 

The first time I visited, I was thrilled to see a portrait of John and Sara Churchill - during my 2nd and 3rd years of University, I studied 18th century literature and came across both of these important figures, so it was cool to learn the connection of the Churchill's to the Montagu family (who own Beaulieu). 

Walking to the Palace House through the gardens

I also love a good ruin, and the Abbey doesn't disappoint - it's 800 years old! You can walk around the cloister and admire the herb garden which borders it, as well as visit the excellent little museum which explains how the monks lived. Again, from my perspective, this was great as the girls learnt a lot of new vocabulary and many interesting facts on England's medieval culture. I hadn't visited this museum before, but was impressed - there is an informative board explaining how the monks' day was spent, over 50% of which is in prayer. All of us found this fascinating.

Although the weather was drizzly and a bit cold, it was atmospheric walking around the Abbey ruins and Palace House. The girls certainly brightened the place up with their array of colourful brollies!

The Abbey ruins and cloister

After a lunch break, we visited the Motor Museum. If you like history but not cars, you'll still find the museum interesting - looking at how cumbersome some of the old vehicles were, and how they transformed over the last couple of centuries, is somewhat strange. Some of the first 'cars' could still be pulled by horses if they stopped working! 

On the first floor is an array of vehicles from across the world, but the ground floor is where speed demons might find most exciting, as that's where the record-breaking land speed cars are held. There's also an old London bus which you can board; this is a perfect picture opportunity.

There was also a chance to preview the next exhibition, which is on motorcycles - a great advertising tool, as there are already a multitude of bikes from across the globe. I think that'll be one to take Maxx to, as he loves motorbikes and watching the Moto-GP. 

Overall, this really is a day out for everyone. If the weather's nice, you can stroll through the gardens and Abbey ruins. If it's cold, you can stay warm in the House or Motor Museum or Abbey museum. The food is fresh and tasty, and the gift shop is well-stocked with a range of mugs, models, keyrings etc. 

For travel details, click here, and for prices and opening times, click here.

My personal favourite (red car, right)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Whittard's Japanese Dragon Pearls

I am a huge fan of Whittard's tea products. One of my bestest friends in the whole wide world - HOLLAAAA BOOP - used to work there, so every birthday and Christmas and sale and just randomly I would receive a lovely treat.

Today we were buying some Guatemalan Elephant coffee when I noticed a jar of curiously-named little pearls (I don't mean actual pearls, I mean leaves curled into balls) sat near the til. Whittard's jasmine tea is delicious, and let's face it anything with the word 'dragon' in the name is bound to be magical, so I bought a 50g bag. At £13, this might seem expensive, but I reckon there's at least 100 pearls in there - that's 13p each. Not so expensive after all.

This tea is delicious. It's light, slightly sweet and very refreshing. Jasmine is supposed to help you lose weight, which is an added bonus to drinking this potion of wonderfulness, but it's also cool watching the little pearls unfurl in the water. 

All you need to do is pour boiling water into a cup, add 3 pearls, wait for 3 minutes, then strain. If you're making a teapot, use 10-12 pearls. I've had 5 cups this evening while watching Eurovision.

I hope you enjoy this tea as much as I do!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

First Day of New Job!

Today was my first day as a Publishing Assistant! I was so hyped up to start that I didn't sleep too well last night. I'm the 5th member of staff in the whole company - my Dad keeps calling me 'The Fifth Element' now - and the office is situated in a quiet, picturesque town close to the River Thames.

Arriving early means coffee and book time
As with most first days, I had informal meetings with all other members of staff, including the company owner, before doing a little bit of work at the end of the day. There was a lot to take in, but I'm really excited to see my role develop and evolve; I have a really good feeling here, as everyone is friendly and really cares about what they do. 

Being a medical publisher, I heard the words 'poo', 'fecal incontinence', 'itchy red penis' and 'vaginal discharge' all in my first staff meeting! The company owner even asked me: 'Do you think poo should be in it?' - referring to a page name on the website. I think I'm in the right place.

I forgot to take a picture when leaving, but I even have my own desk! And not just a table in a corner - a proper desk with a table on one side! Tomorrow I'm bringing in my picture of Ernest, which will sit next to my computer. 

I can't express how delighted I am to be working not only in publishing, but for this company - I truly feel like I have found the right place for me. Now I just need to prove myself and pass my probation!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

April Round Up

Are we seriously in May? May? MAY?!?!?!?!? I mean, I like this month and all, and it's getting closer to my birthday, but what the f! This year is going so fast - maybe it's because I'm getting old... I certainly feel it with my wisdom teeth coming through. Which hurts, by the way - it's like having a spiky plum in the corner of my mouth.

This month has been an emotional drain. Family problems and losing Lucky have made this a month I'd rather forget, but there has also been one huge change for the better...

I was offered the role of Publishing Assistant at Health Press Limited on the 16th April, and to say I’m excited to start is an understatement. As we went away on the 17th, it was an excellent way for Maxx and I to start our Easter break –we’ve even talked already about opening a joint savings account! Since 1st April I've also been giving private English lessons in my hometown, which I'm also really enjoying and finding very rewarding.

Still not dyed it, and to my surprise the colour coming through isn’t too bad. It’s not the nicest colour, grown out mouse with ginger ends, but it’s also not the worst! My hair is really soft at the moment too, which is definitely from leaving it alone and from using my Aveda products.

I was nervous about going to France and being mute, so I was chuffed on the boat when I spoke to a couple of the staff in French. I like to think I spoke more French in France than English, and felt more confident speaking with different people. I’m slowly getting to grips with French grammar, too.

SJ Competitions
There were a couple of competitions at the end of April I wanted to enter, but Ernest went lame last Thursday - typically, I’d just booked a SJ lesson for Friday afternoon. He got his leg stuck in his rug straps all night and has hurt the tendon by his hoof – the swelling and lameness has seriously gone down over the last couple of days though, so I’m hoping we will finally get out in May.

I went for a short run in France, except it turned out to be more intervals than a solid 20/30 minutes. When did I get so terrible at running? Oh yeah, when I stopped doing it regularly.

Body Fat
Still the same as I mentioned on Monday. I still cannot believe I’ve put on 1.5 inches around my waist! But I'm not going to obsess about it I'm definitely going to obsess about it.

New Country
Maxx and I are still going to Berlin, but what we’ve decided is that next year we won’t go abroad except to visit Maxx’s family in France – now I’m employed, we want to start saving for a house and other big scary adult things.