Friday, 27 February 2015

Culture: Hever Castle

Anne Boleyn

Last Saturday, Maxx took me to Hever Castle. Famously known as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, I was really excited to explore the castle and the beautiful, extensive gardens, as well as stay in the luxury guest rooms just next door.

It really was the most relaxing weekend away I've ever had. I felt truly replenished and at harmony during our brief stay. Maxx and I arrived around 3:00pm on Saturday - the castle closes at 4:00 during 'off' season - so we had a quick nosy in our magnificent room in the Astor Wing before wandering around the gardens until they closed. First things first - there were so many ducks. It was heavenly as I love ducks (I know I love almost all animals but the duck is in my top 5). There were also 3 swans, including one just over a year old who was adorable. He made this honking noise which was just so cute - I was feeding him by hand on Sunday.

We chilled in our room - 'Hazel' - for a couple of hours before getting ready to go to dinner. The hotel was beautiful; the walls were lined with landscapes and portraits, and there was a billiards room and music room to relax in if we wanted to. Our room was spacious, with a comfortable double bed, TV, tea and coffee set, armchair, desk, wardrobe, and possibly the most opulent bathroom I've ever seen. There were Molton Brown smellies, with a bathtub from a bath-lover's dreams. It was perfect.

Astor Wing
There isn't a restaurant on the premises, however the hotel had handily compiled a list of nearby pubs. We chose the King Henry VIII, a two-minute drive down the road (we didn't fancy walking along the winding, black road!). The food was delicious, but what I liked most was that the walls were covered in portraits of Henry VIII, his wives and children. 

Sunday morning, we went to the breakfast room for our Full English. There was also yoghurt, cereal, fruit, porridge, toast, pastries and fruit juice available. This room had beams running across the ceiling and was also full of paintings. Maxx and I barely spoke to each other - we were too busy looking around and eating!

Kent swanAfter another short amble around the gardens, we went inside the castle. It's quite a haunting experience, being in someone's childhood bedroom when you know the stark truth of what happens to them. Anne Boleyn's life is overshadowed by her brutal death, and it was hard to forget about that when walking through her old home. There are a few artefacts of Anne's in various rooms, as well as love letters between herself and Henry, original furniture dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, and old torture instruments from Europe. Included in those were three German beheading swords - the guide told me they were similar to what would have beheaded Anne in 1536.

The Castle is quite small so it only takes about an hour / 90 minutes to explore. With the rest of our sunny afternoon, Maxx and I walked around the grounds. There's an Italian Garden, showcasing many sculptures and busts, as well as a maze, water maze, Japanese tea house and several water features. The gardens were lovely, with a few flowers starting to blossom - I can't wait to go back in summer and see everything in bloom.

Hever Castle is one of my favourite castles in England. I can't really explain why, but I felt a special connection to Hever - I think I'll go back many more times in my life. It was such a memorable, wonderful weekend in every respect and I hope to return very soon. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Body Fat Update

Joy to the world, I've lost body fat again. Working my way down...

I'm now 20%

The lowest I've ever gotten was 19%, but that delicious 18% has still evaded me. Maybe I'll stop talking about it when I get there. Probably not.

The last couple of weeks I've been particularly run down and lethargic, and haven't eaten as clean as I could have, so I'm now working on hitting 5 clean days a week as mentioned in my last post. I need to lose 7lbs to hit my target weight, then maintain it for the rest of the year!

I weigh in every Monday, but my next BF update will be end of March. As long as I maintain or lose a little, I'll be happy as a clam.

Friday, 20 February 2015

What I'm Giving Up For Lent 2015

Lent: 18th February - 2nd April
Easter Sunday: 5th April

It's that time again when I challenge myself to give up something I love (eating). By 'that time again', I mean I did it last year and want to do it again. I managed to last the whole 40 days and 40 nights without cheese, but did eat chocolate a little before the end.

My mum's decided to give up chocolate, so I've decided to do that too. I really want some already, but the first week of any diet/abstinence is always the toughest. I can't stop thinking about Twirl bars...

In addition, I'm going to try to have a minimum of 5 days a week of clean eating. At the moment I average 3. I'll also try to work out a minimum of 2 days a week. I’ve really lost my workout mojo – a combination of stress and post-teaching-tiredness – so hopefully this will give me a buttkick back into it.

I ride an average of about 3-5 times a week, dependent on how busy I am work-wise.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Guest Post: Mandy's Jogging Diary - weeks 1 - 4, by Mandy Jones

One Sunday (Dec 2014) I marshalled a five-mile off-road race. At the end I watched the prize giving. For some reason (must have had a brain wobble) I suddenly became overcome with wanting/needing/necessity to try the race the following year (yep def a brain meltdown). 

Opening my big mouth I turned to my daughter and blurted out my thoughts...... Of course she was delighted..... Well I turned to the NHS website and decided to use the couch 'potato' to 5k as my training method. 

Run one arrived, sun shining, iPod blaring some 'get up and go' song - I felt INVINCIBLE woohoo - and off I went. Warm up good, first 60 sec jog ok, next okish, next mmm, next oh my what the hell do I think I'm doing? I finished the training and felt really good about myself. 

However, the next few days, boy I ached everywhere -mshoulders, hip flexors, calf muscles etc etc.. and to be honest didn't want to do any more. Run two arrived and the sun was shining again (thank goodness). I wasn't sure about this, but, teeth gritted, off I jogged. Not so bad as I thought and didn't feel quite as knackered as run one. I so admire anyone who can run more than one minute at a time! Let's see what run three offers. I don't feel quite as worried about the next one.

Well I've struggled through week two, and now entered week three. The first run involves a 90 sec run, then a 3-minute run and then a repeat of this. Oh boy, couldn't quite complete the first three minute run, but managed the second. This is soooo hard, how do people do this? 

So Sunday 1st Feb arrives and I head off for the second run of week 3, not going to give up. I decided to run along a straight piece of quiet road to see how far the 3-min run is. This did help me as I could judge how far I needed to jog for the last run.... I used markers such as: get to the lamp post, next the nice brown gate, then the roundabout. I'm knackered, but I completed it. I did have a tear in my eye and felt so proud of myself - yes I CAN do this. Planning to do the last run of week 3 on Tuesday... Onward and upward (I hope :-) !!!! )

So week four arrived and it was a bit of a shock: run 3 minutes, then 5 minutes, then repeat.... FIVE minutes, is this even possible? Well just about managed the run and felt quite pleased with myself. However, I made a huge mistake in run 2. I came in from work, tired but just wanted to get out there and get it done. I also didn't plan my route properly and got lost. The whole run was a shambles and I struggled to hit the 3 minutes and the five minutes. 

What a debacle, but I did learn a few valuable lessons:
1. plan your route 
2. you have to be mentally prepared, especially if you don't have the fitness to do these runs. 
I mean it, because if you are like me and so far out of your comfort zone, you have to fight to complete EVERY run! 

Morning of the 15th Feb and I have just completed run number three of week 4. Much more prepared, didn't quite manage the first set of 5 minutes, but managed all the rest. I would be lying if I didn't say it knocked my confidence with the other run, but after this morning, I'm feeling better and back on board.

Monday, 9 February 2015

My Fitness Pal - Month One

I've now been on My Fitness Pal for just over a month. I became tired of it pretty easily when I used it a few years ago, but as I really wanted to lose between 10lbs - 1 stone, I thought I'd give it another go. It does work for thousands of people, after all.

Month one has been pretty successful. I'm 4 1/4 lbs down - good for someone who struggles to lose weight (partly because I'm slim so there isn't that much to fall off anyway, just a bit too much squish in a couple of areas).

However, the last couple of weeks, I've struggled to log. It could be because I know I haven't been as good with my eating, or because I've been extremely busy and tired. With the former, My Fitness Pal makes you face up to bad food choices, which is what most people need.

I like that I've been more environmentally friendly by not using paper to record my food intake, and the 'report' tab creates a strangely satisfying chart to show my weight loss. However, I don't want to be recording my food forever. I don't want to be so hyper-conscious of everything I'm eating, either.

This next month, I want to see if I can continue to lose weight without keeping a food and exercise diary. I still have 5lbs to go to reach my goal, but this month I'm going to diet without My Fitness Pal.

Next update: 4th March.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Pony Tales: Showjumping... and Falling Off

This will be somewhat of a mini post for two reasons - one, I am extremely tired. Two, I have an awful headache due to a very... acrobatic fall earlier today.

Since the start of the year, I've managed to get some showjumping practice in nearly every week. I'm a bit rusty, so my focus at the moment is to get into the correct position over some smaller fences and work on my approach to the jump before upping the height.

Last week, we managed to get to around 2 ft 6 / 2 ft 9. It was really enjoyable and gave me a lot of confidence, even if my position still wasn't perfect.

Today was not so great. Ernest was feeling quite fresh, as he's not been out for nearly four weeks due to bad flooding, and it was windy. Something clearly jumped out of the bushes behind him while we were jumping a small cross pole, as he shot off across the school upon landing, bucking furiously. Suffice to say I went somersaulting over his shoulder and landed in a heap. I think I hit my head on him, which explains the bad headache. My knees are also very painful and I have a bruise in a very unusual place when I bashed into the saddle during my rapid exit. Diagnosis: ouch.

However, as all riders know, you have to get back on straightaway if possible. Maxx picked me up (literally), helped me back on, and I jumped the cross pole again before taking Ernest for a hack.

What's frustrating is I also think he became a bit silly because we were jumping with friends, unlike last weekend. He became overexcited in the warm up arena at a clear round showjumping event in November and bucked me off then, too. Perhaps I need to practice with friends more, perhaps on both the aforementioned occasions he was just overjoyed at the thought of jumping again. Either way, I'll try to do a couple of fences this week to make sure I don't lose confidence.

horse riding