Saturday 27 April 2013

Cheese heaven

After a long (and slightly poorly) week, I was in desperate need of some relaxation. So we had a lazy morning and eventually headed out the door about midday!

Our destination was Borough Market, near London Bridge. It was full to bursting with people (and amazing stalls). The mission was simple: bread and cheese for an indulgent evening :) Given my recent lack of cheese in my diet, this seemed like a fantastic idea! I tasted loads of cheeses (and a few saucisson secs too). I picked a good range of cheeses and a huge loaf of crusty bread. We also decided to buy some exciting looking mushrooms for a risotto.
I was too busy enjoying the market and sampling the cheeses to take any photos! But this is what the cheese looked like when we got it home (before unwrapping, obviously).

And here's the mushrooms

Along the way there were a couple of diversions - lunch ended up being: a super-huge Red Leicester cheese straw, a cream filled donut, fresh lemonade and two empanadas. In that order. Yum yum!

Then there was a lazy afternoon, mostly involving a sofa and the TV...

Dinner was a-ma-zing...

Mushroom and asparagus risotto. Not cooked by me :)

Our dinner! How exciting...

This cheese was so yummy (and liquid) that it started to leak once cut open!

Thursday 18 April 2013

Monitoring sleep

Whilst flicking through Zest magazine last week, I spotted a page of health-related apps. Interesting. I decided to download a couple, including this sleep app:

It's rather clever - you place your phone on your bed (there's a testing setting to check it's positioned correctly) and it monitors your sleep by your movement.

Every morning, it graphs your sleep and rates the quality. If you set the alarm, then you need to identify a 30min window; the app then decides exactly when to wake you, aiming to do it when you are in light sleep so that you wake feeling fresh rather than groggy.

It does all sorts of other clever things too. My favourite is the "sleep notes". Every evening you answer a short list of questions (either preset or your own). Then in the morning the app works out how the categories have affected your sleep. The more time you do it for, the more accurate the results.

e.g. Apparently, having a light dinner and working out in the day tend to improve the quality of my sleep, whereas eating dinner late has a negative effect:

I've used this app every day for the last two weeks and am still finding it fascinating. I'm not particularly feeling the benefits of being woken at the "best part" of my sleep cycle, but I expect that will come in time.

Monday 15 April 2013


... I can't believe that it's been a week since the latest UK Ballet Tweep Meet and I haven't got round to blogging about it. Madness.

It was pretty much a bigger and better version of the first one. Seven dancers from far and wide all met in London for a fantastic class by Karis at Everybody Ballet. There was lots of stretching and beautiful exercises choreographed to real ballet music.

No spectators taking pictures this time - this is the only proof that we were there!

Afterwards, drinks and food. A chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. A blissful way to spend a Sunday.

Saturday 13 April 2013

Exciting snack box

I am completely behind the times with this, but last week I signed up for graze - healthy snacks delivered by post. I did it on a whim and was overwhelmed when I visited the website and was confronted by over 100 snack options!

The first box arrived yesterday...

It's an exciting-looking box.

Inside was a cute introduction leaflet, and a personalised flier explaining what was in this box...

What I love is that you rate what you're sent and then they use your ratings to send you things you like the best. And there is such a variety of different snacks. The first one was yummy; I hope the rest are too.

If you're interested in trying it out, you can enter my special code and get your first box free! In return, I get a £1 donation to charity for each person who uses my code...
Interestingly, the code that they sent me today had a "D" added to the end. I don't know if that matters at all...

(There's no obligation to continue receiving boxes - you can cancel your order after the first box or at any time after that.)

Friday 12 April 2013

Fitness shake up

I'm sure I've read multiple times that changing your workout every now and again is a good idea. Something to do with challenging your muscles to work in different ways... ?

Currently, my main focus is ballet classes (which I'm sure everyone reading this blog is sick of hearing about!). It inspires, motivates and pushes me to work harder.

However, to develop in my ballet I need to do other work: cardio, strength and stretching. Luckily I've recently gained access to a gym. It doesn't have a swimming pool (I do enjoy swimming) but the range of equipment has inspired me. I *might* even start running on the treadmill once my IT band has been stretched out (slightly overdid it with nearly seven hours of ballet classes last week!).

On top of generally working out and having a go on the machines (my current favourites being the cross-trainer and rowing machine), I have one specific goal in mind: to work on my core strength and upper back muscles.

If I'm feeling brave then I might start having a go at pull ups, encouraged by a recent post by Janetha at Meals and Moves blog. She demonstrates a progression of moves to build up to a full pull up:

I've got a long way to go!

Wednesday 10 April 2013


Last week we watched The Adjustment Bureau. The DVD arrived from LoveFilm ages ago, but it never quite felt like the right time to sit down and watch a "serious" film. I had added it to my film list on the recommendation of a friend - he said it was a bit like Inception but that he'd enjoyed it more. He certainly didn't mention ballet...

I was blown away! It was a great film, but the dancing was particularly fantastic - I obviously recognised Emily Blunt as an actress (from The Devil Wears Prada!) and was amazed at her dancing. The filming was done in a way that the viewer knew she was dancing. There apparently was a body double for a couple of the trickiest moves, but she did almost everything.

The moment the film finished, I was online searching for more information about the Emily Blunt and her dancing. The first impressive fact is that she hadn't danced at all before taking this role. The director had planned to cast a dancer to play the part of Elise, a contemporary ballet dancer, but when Emily auditioned the production team realised that she was right for the part.

She trained for months with the Cedar Lake dance company before filming began. This article on Female First includes a fantastic short video about her training.

I am a teeny bit jealous of her natural ability and the training opportunities that she was given. :)

If you just rent one movie this year, my recommendation is The Adjustment Bureau!

Saturday 6 April 2013

Things I didn't know when I bought my fluffy hat

Honestly, when I found this hat and tried it on for a laugh I had no idea how useful it would be. I remember looking in the mirror and thinking "gosh, it doesn't look as bad as I expected". So, despite it being purple and fluffy and making me look even taller than my not-quite-six-foot stature, I trundled off to the cashier.

I never expected...

That we would have so many cold days and I would end up wearing it over and over again.

It would get commented on so often. Well, it is big and purple. But I guess that's partly because I didn't really expect to wear it very much!

That it's warmer than any other hat I own. On firework rigs I often sport two hats - a fleecy one with a knitted one on top. The purple fluffy hat is two-hats warm! (Although entirely inappropriate for rigging in - I will not be wearing it on site!)

Snowflakes land on it and stay for ages - it's a good look :) And we've had a surprising amount of snow this winter.

I hope that at some point spring will finally make an appearance, but right now it's the 6th April and I'm still wearing the hat!

Friday 5 April 2013

Taking a break

I had this past week off work. Traditionally this doesn't go particularly well for me: either I end up working/thinking about work for the whole time, or I plan to do loads and loads of useful stuff and then fail to get anything much done. Whichever way it goes, I tend to end the week still tired and stressed.

This week has gone better. I put this down to my new "to do list" strategy, which involves a short list for the day including nice stuff. For example, one day's list was:
buy new buttons for coat
book haircut
buy a birthday card
ballet class 4.30pm

It's been a revolution! I've got more done than usual and feel more relaxed!

The week started with four ballet classes (two on Tuesday and two on Wednesday). It was a fabulous feeling! I was originally planning a Thursday class as well, but my mind and body were both tired so I gave it a miss.

I also had a bit of a sewing frenzy; my poor black coat has been missing a button for ages (probably over a year). I finally headed to the department store and chose a new set of buttons (I couldn't match the other buttons). Once I got stitching, I didn't stop!

My fabulous bunny socks were losing their bows, so I reattached them firmly.
After those jobs, I picked up a project that I have been working on (occasionally) for years. At least ten years - crazy:

And as well as all that, I've also bought several cards and presents (April is a busy time of year!), had my hair cut for the first time in months and eaten some really yummy food...

Fruit and yoghurt breakfast. I'm rarely this organised in the morning!

Chorizo and bean stew from a food market.

How do you manage "free" time?

Thursday 4 April 2013

More ballet gear

I felt it was time to double my leotard collection. Don't panic - it was only a collection of one!

I bought this simple but lovely one:

Not me. I wasn't about to take a photo of me modelling the leotard!

Although I nearly ended up with three..

I prefered it in black.
A year ago, I wouldn't have even considered this style with the high, wide neckline. Spending time in dance classes seems to have changed my tastes! For now, this is on my want list with the proviso that I work more on my back - it needs to be consistently straight and the muscles need to be working harder otherwise this leotard will look a bit rubbish.

Yup, I actually want it in this colour!

I also fell in love with a warm-up/cover-up type jumper-y thing, but they didn't have it in the right size :( May have to order it online...

It doesn't look like much in this picture, but I promise it is very cute :)

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Something amazing

Yesterday, I enjoyed drinking some liquid gold :)

We nipped into Caffe Vergnano 1882, partly because it had a sign on the door advertising that they had been named "coffee shop of the year", but mostly simply because it was freezing cold and it was the first cafe we had come across.

The menu was huge! A separate page for each type of coffee, tea, etc. and some really interesting sounding blends. I'm not much of a coffee drinker (ok, I can't stand the stuff), so I usually go for a nice cup of traditional English breakfast tea. However, I spotted the hot chocolate page and seeing as I haven't had it for a while, I treated myself. I decided against the hot chocolate and rum blend as it was only 11.30am (although it did sound rather interesting), and went for the hot chocolate and cream.

Oh wow.

It was like a melted Easter egg (a dark one of course) mixed with whipped cream.


Monday 1 April 2013

Life without cheese

I like to challenge myself over the lent period. This year it was giving up chocolate and cheese. And it was pretty tough - not the chocolate part (that's actually pretty straightforward, although I had to turn down at least two very yummy looking and smelling slices of birthday cake).

Giving up cheese was hard! I chose it because I have been eating a lot, especially since Christmas...

I missed it really badly. Cheese is in a lot of my favourite foods like lasagne and macaroni cheese. I use cheese all the time in cooking - adding a small amount the dishes often makes it tastier. Plus, I've been finding new and amazing cheeses (a current favourite is gorgonzola).

One of the trickiest times was meeting friends at an Italian restaurant. I had to study the menu for a dish that wasn't either cheese flavoured or topped with cheese.

But it has been a positive experience and I've learnt a few useful things:

- you can cook without cheese! Fajitas, pasta bakes, etc all taste surprisingly good without added grated cheese.

- soured cream is my cheese craving substitute. I loved this stuff anyway, but in the last few weeks it has become my lifesaver for those I-really-want-cheese-now moments.

- sometimes it's good to be more adventurous with food choices, and giving up something you love certainly encourages you to do that.

- I do actually have some willpower. I was beginning to wonder (especially since I pretty much stopped running) if I had any left at all. It's good to know that I do!