Thursday 23 April 2015

My Next Challenge

I'm trying to focus on doing more of the things I enjoy. So, with that in mind I am currently in training for a 5k open water swim!

To put it in perspective, I expect to take around 2 hours (which is the cut off point!), so it's roughly the swimming equivalent of running half marathon.

My haul from Decathlon - all in the name of training!

For the last month I've been in the pool 1-3 times a week (depending on other activities), and from now on it should be three times every week. Other activities (particularly ballet) are going to have to take a back seat.

So far in my training I've managed to switch from breast stroke to front crawl, and swum 2k continuously. Now I've just got to build up my distance, increase my speed, learn to swim in my brand new swimming wetsuit, and cope with the additional challenges that swimming in open water brings.

Not much then!

I am swimming for charity, so please feel free to contact me if you would like the link to my Just Giving page. It also has weekly (ish) updates on my training.

Friday 17 April 2015

Ballet Weekend: The Photographs

A more artistic look at what happened at the London Amateur Ballet Spring Intensive.

Rehearsing the Ribbon Dance (I'm hiding back left in the black leotard and long legwarmers).

In class (led by Ricardo Cervera).

Being given corrections on my port de bras.

Double pirouette!

Matching leotards - post-performance silliness in the studio!

I really did wear a tutu!

Monday 13 April 2015

Floating on a ballet high

For the last three days I have been ballet-ing it up in South West London. Five-ish hours a day of classes and rehearsals, followed by a mini performance. And I loved it.

The London Amateur Ballet company was set up by Tom Lincar-Boulton in 2012. It is pretty unique in that it provides the opportunity for adults to learn real ballet repertoire and perform. They run weekly classes at a range of levels giving everyone a chance to experience something that is usually reserved for the best of the best.

My first experience was this weekend's Spring Intensive course. I was pretty nervous (which is silly considering that I was paying to enjoy three days of ballet) and completely overpacked my bags (prepared for every eventuality!).

The course was focused on the ballet La Fille Mal Gardée, a light-hearted ballet about a village girl falling in love. I learnt two pieces of choreography: a group village girls dance and a solo which involved waving a ribbon around. It was all a bit cheesy, giggly and lots of fun.

New things I experienced this weekend:
  • barre a terre (floor barre) - this basically consists of doing many repetitions of "simple" ballet exercises whilst sitting and lying on the floor. It works muscles that (a) you didn't know you had, and (b) are really important to develop strength in ballet.
  • pilates - yes, I've somehow managed to never do a pilates class (although I do have Darcy Bussel's Pilates for Ballet DVD, but I don't think that counts!).
  • ballet class led by a current Royal Ballet first soloist (Ricardo Cervera). He was charming, very patient, explained everything really clearly and gave useful corrections. A fantastic experience in itself.
  • performing ballet in front of an audience. The last time I did this I was about 16 years old. I'd like to think this performance was better, but having seen clips from the video I'm not sure that's the case...

I also got to meet a huge number of lovely people. Despite the "snooty ballerina" stereotype, I experienced was a really friendly bunch who all had ballet in common. I chatted to everyone, including a retired psychotherapist, visitors from Sweden (who had flown over specially), dance students, an engineer, mums, all sorts! I may have already forgotten half their names, but I can't wait to see them again in a class or next intensive.

I embraced everything - the legwarmers, the tutus and the sweatiness of wearing dance gear all day! For three days I was a dancer.

As you can probably tell, a full day at work today coupled with tiredness and achy muscles hasn't dampened my spirits. Ballet is fab!

Proper photos to follow, but for now here's a few iphone snaps to satisfy your curiousity:

Ribbon Dance

Tutus! Rehearsing the village girls section.

A smiley, sweaty selfie post-performance!

Sunday 5 April 2015

Sunshine and hillwalking

To take full advantage of the extra long weekend we took a day trip to the Peak District for some fresh air and exercise.

The walk, which was about 8 1/2 miles, was a giant circle, including a climb to the top of Higger Tor. It was, of course, beautiful and very picturesque, and surprisingly sunny for the first weekend in April.


Friday 3 April 2015

Forty-ish days of vegetarianism

For Lent this year I went vegetarian.

In some ways it wasn't too bad - I enjoy vegetarian food and it didn't push my boundaries too much to cook and eat vegetarian.

However, in other ways it was really difficult:
1) Getting the right "texture" in dishes - we avoided meat substitutes like Quorn, so instead used vegetables, cheese or pulses as the filler.
2) My cheese consumption went sky-high! Cheese became my main staple in far too many meals. The fridge was full of different types of cheese. At one point we had at least 11 cheeses in the house. Then I discovered that some cheeses (particularly Parmesan) aren't actually vegetarian. Oops.
3) Restaurants were awkward. I hadn't realised quite how few options a vegetarian has in most restaurants, even in vegetarian-friendly cuisines like Italian. We didn't do a lot of eating out!

I had a few real cooking successes:
Caramelised Red Onion and Goats Cheese Tart

Homemade Vegetable Spring Rolls

Roasted Romanesco (which was served with a cheesy sauce)

Vegetarian Moussaka

I also made a yummy vegetable lasagne, packed full of courgette, aubergine and mushrooms, and couple of rather nice curries, but I totally forgot to take photos (#badblogger!).

Lent for me is about making a sacrifice, and there have definitely been times over the last six weeks when the limits of being vegetarian were hard. I am very much looking forward to returning to my normal diet - the roasting joint is sat in the fridge, ready and waiting for Sunday!