Back Into Routine

The summer holidays are over.

We’re all back at work and school.

We had such a brilliant six weeks. We spent lots of time outdoors in the sunshine. We went to the National Museum in Cardiff. We had a day at Bristol Zoo. We had family come to visit. We spent a few days in London, including a day at Chessington World of Adventures – somewhere neither me nor Pip had ever been before!

 

Pip also completed the Summer Reading Challenge for the second year in a row. She’s already excited about being presented with her medal at school.

Today is her first day of Year 2. I was a little sad dropping her off this morning. I’ve (mostly) loved our summer together. She seemed very excited about getting back to school, which was good to see.

I’ve been a bit naughty over the last couple of weeks. After losing one and a half stone in June and July, I let things slide a bit while we had guests and then while we were in London. I haven’t been exercising much and I’ve eaten all kinds of unhealthy foods. I’m terrified of what the scales will say when I next step on them! I’ve decided to give myself a week to get back on track before I do. I’m throwing myself straight back into diet mode this week, although I’m working nearly every day so fitting exercise in around that plus school runs plus housework and everything else will be difficult. I might try some HIIT workouts, as I know they can be pretty quick but still effective. Wish me luck!

This is the first September in many years that I haven’t had a new university course to start. I’m feeling a little unproductive. So I’ve decided to try and get into a good writing routine. I must try and finish a whole story, rather than flitting between them and never getting any results. Of course, this is yet another thing to fit in amongst everything else but I must try!

How was your summer? Are you glad to be getting back into a routine or are you missing the holidays already?

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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In the last weeks of my university studies, one of the things I looked forward to most was being able to read purely for pleasure. So once my last course was over, I went searching through the Apple iBook store for something new. As it was a recommended title as well as a fantasy novel (one of my favourite genres), I went with Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

This book is inspired by folk and fairy tales and really has that feel to it. The scary bits (and there are a few) really feel like something out of a childhood nightmare. Novak has tapped into some primal fears and conjures up some truly horrifying images.

The protagonist is a young woman. She’s clumsy, always untidy, a bit moody and doesn’t think very much of herself. But she’s also brave and strong and she grows throughout the novel, becoming more aware of herself and her abilities as the story goes on. A brilliantly realistic heroine.

I like the realism in the characters. So often the characters in fantasy fall into stereotypes: the dashing hero, the pretty princess, the bad guy who’s nothing but bad through and through. This book doesn’t do that. The characters are flawed. Some are entirely unlikeable, even if they’re actually good guys! There is a touch of romance but it’s not a main theme. I’d say friendship and loyalty are more key here.

My favourite part of this book is the magic. It’s elegant yet natural. There’s real beauty to it (even when it’s being used for evil) and Novik’s descriptions paint a good picture of how it works and looks.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy, quest stories. It’s thoroughly enjoyable and I personally rate it pretty highly.

 

 

It’s all good…

The title of this post might seem odd to a lot of people. There’s a lot of anxiety in Britain right now after the EU referendum and with the political parties picking new leaders. I was getting pretty stressed over this stuff so I’m writing this post to focus on the good things that are happening in my life right now…

After six years of study, I have finally been awarded my degree! 

It’s not something I really thought I’d manage, after dropping out of sixth form and having to support myself living alone at a fairly young age. But with lots of encouragement and support from my Husband (thank you!) and some very useful funding, I’ve done it! I really feel proud of myself, which is quite a rare thing for me. I feel like I’ve overcome the difficulties I had from my tricky childhood and I guess this is a real sign of how far I’ve come.

 

I had a night out with my Husband! 

This may sounds very mundane but fellow parents will know how rare this is. Even if we hire a babysitter, we can’t really relax. But this time, my lovely brother-in-law came to visit and looked after Pip while we went out. We had such a great time and it really reminded me of how we were before becoming parents. Of course I was suffering a bit the next day but it was worth it!

 

I’m actually managing to successfully diet! 

I have started diets too many times to count and they never go very well or last very long. But with my weight hitting an all time high, I’ve been really determined to do something about it. I’m now in my fifth week and I’ve lost just over a stone, just through eating healthily and exercising, mainly videos from Blogilates , a site full of free pilates and cardio videos, plus lots of healthy recipes and other tips. I’m starting to feel and see the difference in my body. I feel so much healthier and stronger than I did five weeks ago.

 

My work life is improving! 

Firstly, I’ve been moved departments at work. This wasn’t exactly my choice but it’s meant I have more working hours and therefore a bit more of a wage, which is always nice. Plus, being trained at something new is always good. I’m also looking for full time work and I’ve had a couple of interviews recently which I’m really hopeful will lead somewhere good.

 

It’s nearly the summer holidays! 

I’m lucky enough to have some time off with Pip and even a little bit with Husband too. I’m busy planning tons of fun stuff to do. It’s going to be an awesome six weeks!

 

So there! Plenty of great things are happening right now. I think it’s really important to remember that when things get tough.

What good things are happening in your life right now?

Going healthy for a very good cause

I have started dieting again. Yes, I’ve done this over and over again and it I always lose a bit then give up.

This time, I have a better reason. It’s not about fitting into a little dress or getting to a certain weight. It’s about my daughter.

Just over a week ago, my daughter offered me a piece of chocolate and I refused (I had already decided to lose some weight). I explained that I was trying to be healthier because I weighed too much. She looked outraged and insisted that I looked ‘perfect’. At first I thought she was just being sweet but as we spoke more, it became clear that she believed it. She really thought that I’m what a healthy adult looks like. I realised that I have been setting her a terrible example. I make sure she eats plenty of fruit and veggies and refuse too many unhealthy snacks. I’ve taught her about what foods are healthy and unhealthy. But then I sit there munching through crisps, chocolate, pizza, sugary drinks and endless amounts of other crap with very little good in between. I’ve basically sent her the message that she needs to be healthy now but as soon as she’s an adult, being like me is normal and fine. I’m not going to shy away from this – I felt awful.

So, that was the kick up the backside that I’ve needed for a while now. I bought some bathroom scales and weighed myself. That was something of a shock, let me tell you. I knew I was overweight but I didn’t realise how far I’d let myself go. I was obese. I weighed just about 14st and at 5ft 7, that is not good. That gave me my second wake up call. I was going to lead myself into all kinds of health problems if I didn’t change now.

For the last week and a bit, I’ve been much healthier. I’m not on a crazy diet, I’m just making healthy choices. I’ve lost half a stone so far. That’s a lot for one week but I know that’s just because it’s the first week – it’s bound to slow down. I’m aiming for 2lb per week, the healthy amount to lose according to health professionals. More than just shedding weight, I’m already feeling a bit stronger and more energetic. I’m doing a mixture of brisk walking, jogging and pilates.

I’m also joining in with Pip’s tennis lessons on Saturdays and I hope that’s something we can carry on together. She loves running too so I think we might try having a run in the park together. We’ve also been trying out new healthy recipes and snacks. I really want to show her what being healthy as an adult looks like.

I have no aspirations of being skinny or super toned, I just want to be within the healthy weight range and reasonably fit. Rather than my usual rush to get there as soon as possible, I’m taking it a bit slower and giving myself a full year to get there.

I’m really hoping I can maintain it this time around. With the motivation of knowing I’m doing this for my little girl as well as myself, I’m feeling positive.

Wish me luck!

A Royal Birthday Weekend

This weekend, we’ve been celebrating the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. I am a big fan of this admirable lady, who has worked hard for our country throughout her entire life and continues to do so, even into an age where nobody would blame her for taking it easy.

Up went the Union flag bunting, out came our Alice in Wonderland tea set and me and Pip did some baking.

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We made cheese scones, filled with either ham and soft cheese or apple & pear chutney, and a fruit tea loaf, which came out a little stodgier than I’d like but it was still nice.

I also picked up a Clarence the Corgi cake from Morrisons. Essentially it’s a chocolate swiss roll with icing decorations but the idea is great and it was rather tasty too!

We really enjoyed watching the Trooping of the Colour on TV. Pip loved the horses and was amazed by the Red Arrows flying over. I think it’s nice to see the Royal Family altogether, to remember that they are a family and a close one too.

Pip also went to her second tennis lesson this weekend, as part of the Tennis for Kids campaign, being run by LTA. I’ll probably write more about this in a separate post. In the meantime, it’s well worth searching a for a course in your area in case there are places available – it’s always good to learn something new, especially something fun and active for the summer!

 

 

Our Summer Half Term 2016

This morning I was a little sad to send Pip back off to school but I’m also breathing a sigh of relief to have a quiet day at home to myself. We’ve had such a busy half term week!

On Monday, we went for a walk and picnic in Cefn Onn Park, to the north of Cardiff. We hadn’t been before but it came highly recommended and it’s close to Lisvane and Thornhill train station, making it easy for us to get to as we don’t drive. It is a beautiful place, filled with pretty flowers.

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Cefn Onn Park, Cardiff

There was a pond with big koi carp appearing occasionally through the murky water and a multitude of tadpoles clinging to algae covered rocks all around the edges. Pip spotted a dragonfly but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a shot of it!

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Tadpoles in the pond

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By the stream

 

There are picnic tables and plenty of benches but we chose to use our picnic blanket and eat on the big picnic meadow to the north of the park. Recently I bought a really lovely picnic backpack from Mountain Warehouse. It comes with cutlery, plates and cups for four people, plus a nice big food storage section and an insulated removable bottle pouch attached to the side. There’s even a little chopping board, bottle opener and salt & pepper shaker in there! I knew it would be perfect for all of our summer outings.

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A perfect place for a picnic. I promise that’s a glass of squash! 

We’d spent Sunday afternoon preparing some yummy picnic food. Pip snipped the herbs for our pasta salad, helped to fill the tortilla wraps and she really enjoyed dipping strawberries in chocolate!

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Zesty pasta salad with tomato salsa

On Tuesday, we went to Penarth for some fossil hunting. We’d been there before (here is a post about our previous trip) and Pip, an aspiring palaeontologist has been really keen to go back for ages. We found a few ammonite fossils this time, to add to our collection at home.

We had ice creams on the pier, while looking out at the beautiful views all around.

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Ice cream and the stunning view from Penarth Pier

We picked a nice spot in Alexandra Park for another picnic. It’s a lovely green space, with plenty of shade to relax in after a long walk on the beach. There’s a also a small aviary there and Pip loved watching the little birds flit about.

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Alexandra Park, Penarth

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At home in the afternoon, once Husband had arrived home from work, we all made ice cream sundaes to cool down.

On Wednesday, the gorgeous weather turned a bit grey and dreary so we had a day indoors. We watched the new BBC adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, my favourite Shakespeare play. Pip loved the fairies and magic in it, plus we both giggled at Matt Lucas’ portrayal of Nick Bottom. I really recommend watching it – it’s a bit of a departure from traditional stagings but I really liked all of the changes and the special effects and the cast were superb.

Afterwards we got out our new fabric pens and designed t shirts inspired by the play. I was pretty impressed that Pip remembered a quote that she wanted written on hers.

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T-shirt inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and created with fabric pens

I had to work on Thursday, Friday and Saturday but Pip got plenty of fun time with Husband. They went off to Cardiff Bay together on Thursday.

After work on Thursday, I went and bought myself some new fish. The tank now contains five neon tetras, seven platys, four otocinclus catfish and a cherry shrimp.

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Platy

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Otocinclus catfish

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The platys

On Saturday, I took Pip to her first tennis lesson before my shift started then to her friend’s birthday party after my shift. I was pretty tired by the end of the day, as I’m sure you can imagine!

We all had a well-earned chilled out Sunday at home.

It’s been an all round brilliant half term. I know it won’t be long until the summer holidays are here – I’ve already been busy planning!

 

A Fresh Start: Less uni, more blog

FullSizeRender 3I have finally finished my university studies!

Ok, I haven’t had the results back so I have yet to actually get my degree but still, my final assessment has been submitted!

In one sense, it’s a big relief and I’m feeling rather pleased with myself. Six years of hard work is over and now I’m reaping the benefits. I might not have the certificate in my hands just yet, but I feel like I’ve learnt so much and really gained a lot of confidence from studying. It’s been a genuinely worthwhile, fulfilling experience.

In another sense, I’m feeling a bit daunted. I’m not a student anymore. And it’s more than just paying full price at the cinema. There’s a big empty space in my very identity. A part of my life has just ended and I’m looking forward to the rest of it and, professionally speaking, it’s a bit of a blank page right now. And any writer knows how terrifying those are.

But I do have ideas. Lots of ideas. Blogging ideas and novel writing ideas (and even a synopsis at the ready!). Now I’ve got time for it, I really want to throw myself into it and give it my best shot.

You’ll be seeing a lot more of me around here from now on!