Monday, 31 March 2014

The Skinny Bird Challenge

I'm a seasonal eater - in the autumn and winter I fatten up a bit (for survival reasons, obviously) and in spring and summer I eat healthily and exercise more. But this last year or two I've gained even more weight in the colder months and not dropped as much in the summer, resulting in me putting on more weight than I'm comfortable with.

One of my wishes for 2014 was to be healthy. I really didn't exercise very much in the months before I met Allan and he's encouraged me to go hillwalking, but I need to do more.

So here's the challenge:

Between 31st March and 31st May, I plan to lose a stone (just over 6 kgs). I'm currently almost 10st 8lbs so the hope is to be 9st 8lbs (at least) by the end of those 9 weeks.

Obviously getting back to a weight I'm happy with is a great motivation, but Allan and I are going to a close friend's wedding at the start of June, so the timing is perfect.

As the weather heats up I naturally eat healthier foods so that side of things shouldn't be too difficult (I hope!), the main change will be regular exercise.

As well as the hillwalking I hope to do a lot more general walking which I've really enjoyed recently, especially when there are geocaches to be found! I also joined my local council-run gym recently and they have a different fitness class on every night Monday-Thursday, as well as a swimming pool.

I'll have a weekly weigh-in and keep you up to date with my progress, and if anyone has any tips let me know, I'll need all the help I can get! If you're doing something similar maybe we can motivate each other!

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

Monday, 24 March 2014

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. Did I mention how much I love Brooklyn Nine-Nine? I want to work there.

2. I'm loving being a volunteer! A definite highlight this week was being accepted as an events volunteer with CLAN Cancer Support and getting started with some fundraising.

3. I had Gumtree karma this weekend! I quite often put things on as freebies, so my reward this week was getting a new chest of drawers for free! They are the perfect size to fit into my wardrobe and the cool spaceship stickers are a bonus!

4. I went to see Muppet’s Most Wanted which of course was ace cos I love those Muppets! So many cameos though, it’s like spot the celeb! I almost blinked and missed James McAvoy and Russell Tovey!

5. I also had to try out the new Baskin Robbins counter at the cinema, did you know about the Lucky Eight? And you didn’t tell me?! 8 mini-scoops of ice-cream in one big waffle cone and I had Banana Caramel, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Mississippi Mud, Pistachio Almond, Cotton Candy, Rum Raisin, Jamoca© Almond Fudge and Mango Sorbet!

6. It's been far too long since I've seen The Lost Boys. Even the opening credits gave me goosebumps!

7. I usually overlook TK Maxx but the last couple of times I’ve been in and seen some amazing stuff! I got this fab Moschino scarf and a Saville Row Company shirt with 60-70% off! BOOM!

8. I used to get excited about a new pair of heels, but now it’s hiking shoes! I was struggling to find a pair of trainers that I could wear for country walks and hiking in the summer instead of my big boots and these were a total bargain and they’re so, so comfy!

9. And I got to test them out on a walk on the beach and nature trail at St Cyrus in the beautiful sunshine!

How was your week? Let me know your highlights!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Volunteering & Charity Work: An Update

At the start of the year I did a post on my wishes for 2014 and one of them was to do more for charity. I'm glad to say that I've making real progress on this in a few ways.


First of all I joined my local community association. I saw a post on Facebook asking for people to volunteer as part of the group in bid to bring more activities to the local community centre and area as a whole.

I went to the first meeting and offered to be the social media and web co-ordinator and that's exactly what I am now! We meet up every month or so and we're making good progress with setting up the committee (which takes longer than you'd expect!) and getting ideas for classes, hobbies and events for everyone in the area.

Secondly I have joined the charity committee at work. It's the 25th anniversary of the centre I work in so we are making a big deal of it including doing a lot for our chosen charity, CLAN Cancer Support. So far we've organised a pancake day bake-off and I've co-ordinated a donation drive and regular bake sales (who doesn't love home baking?!) as well as a full calendar of fundraising for the year ahead.

And finally (for just now!) I had a meeting with CLAN today and I've been accepted as an events volunteer! This means that I'll be helping out at a number of activities, days out and social events throughout the year to help raise funds and awareness of how CLAN can help those who have been affected by cancer.

I think that's pretty good progress! I've really enjoyed everything so far and can't wait to get stuck in to the huge variety of opportunities and activities over the next few months!

Do you volunteer? I'd love to hear from anyone who does!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Bird Food: Fruity Tea Loaf

My last few baking attempts haven't gone quite to plan, but I'm glad to say that this one is so easy and so tasty it's hard to mess up!

My Mum used to make tea loaf when we were little and I've been a fan of any kind of fruit cake ever since. You can eat it on its own or with butter and when I took it into work everyone loved it, so it's definitely worth a try!

This recipe is from a card I picked up in store at Sainsbury's years ago, but you can also find it online. The website suggests using more expensive ingredients, but I stuck to lower cost brands and was complimented on the taste and the flavours from the mixture of fruit.

You'll need:
350g mixed dried fruit (I bought the Tesco Value fruit)
350ml black tea (I used my usual brand)
2 eggs, beaten
270g self-raising flour
200g dark soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the dried fruit in a bowl and pour over the tea. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C, gas 4. Butter a 2lb loaf tin and line it with baking parchment. (Although I have a fan assisted oven, I just use the conventional oven for baking, and I used a non-stick tin so I didn't bother with parchment or greasing it).

Add the eggs, flour, sugar and cinnamon to the fruit mixture and combine well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. (I only half filled my tin and managed to make two loaves from this mixture).

Bake for 1-1½ hours until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. (Mine took an hour).

Turn out of the tin and cool on a wire rack, then slice and serve with butter.

I wonder what this would taste like using different teas, even fruit teas? Or with some sherry mixed into the tea? I'll just have to make more to find out!

If you give this recipe a try let me know how you get on!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. Panda is OK! I had to take Panda to the vet because one of his eyes were turning cloudy. Luckily it was only an infection and the nice vet gave him some medicine so he's all better now!

2. Mum found my old school satchel from when I was little, so I gave it a good clean up!

3. The daffodils (and the sun) are out!

4. Has anyone had this Almondy Tarta thing? Allan took it home from Tesco the other day and it is delicious! Delicious + Daim bits = DELICIOUS!

5. Talking of deliciousness, I've been baking again so I have another tasty cake recipe for you this week! Everyone so far has liked it, let's see if you do too!

6. I haven't been to my usual haunts for a while but managed to bag myself some cheap and cheerful thrifty treats this week. I'm excited about sharing my finds (including this book and a possible outfit post!) later this week!

7. We had our annual work bowling night out at the weekend. Last year I got a trophy as part of the winning team, but this time I was top scorer! I was surprised but very chuffed!

8. We couldn't let the nice weather go to waste so we went geocaching, which I've been itching to try. If you're not sure what geocaching is, it's a great, fun day out and I'll tell you all about it later this week too!

9. And to finish a great week off I made some slightly strong but refreshing sunkissed cider!

How has your week been? What have you loved?

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Wanderlust Tag

Apologies to all those other tags I've done, but this is my favourite! Mention travel to me and it's like catnip, I can't get enough of it. Give me an excuse to explore near or far and I'm on it (funds limiting, although I can usually wangle my way around that!). My lovely friend Danielle at Underland To Wonderland knows this so she tagged me in (sorry it's so late Danielle!).

1. Your most treasured passport stamp?
The one I got when I arrived in Japan, the best holiday I’ve ever had. I hate that you don’t get stamps from every country now, damn you EU!

Daibutsu (Great Buddha) Of Kamakura, Japan

2. Can you recite your passport # from memory if asked?
Not a hope! My brain is already full of numbers and passwords, I have no space for any more!

3. Preferred method of travel; planes, trains or automobiles?
Trains definitely. I love how quick planes are and when you are on one you know you could be going anywhere in the world, but there's something lovely about sitting back and watching the world go by from a train. You can't beat it, especially on a sunny day going through the countryside and along the coast.

4. Top 3 travel items?
Aside from the essentials I don't travel without my pashmina, which is a great cover-up/scarf/blanket especially when on a plane, my camera for obvious reasons and something good to read!

5. Hostel or hotel?
Definitely hotels. I’ve stayed in both and hostels definitely have a purpose, but I’m a lady who likes luxury so the fancier the better!

Waldorf Astoria, New York

6. Are you a repeat visitor or do you explore new places?
I don’t really like to go back to the same place twice, but I’d never rule it out. There's so much of the world to see that I'd rather experience somewhere new. If I’m returning to a country I’ve been before I always try to go to a different part.

7. Do you read up on your destination (culture, history, safety) or do you wing it?
I do a bit of both. I think it’s important to do a bit of research, find out the essentials about safety and behaviour and to figure out what you want to see when you’re there, but you need to be flexible in case exciting opportunities arise!

Alvor, Portugal

8. Favourite travel website?
Lonely Planet. Pretty much everything you need to know about any country all in one place, and your questions are answered by travellers, the people who have been there and done that!

9. Where would you recommend a friend to visit? Name city & why.
Tokyo, Japan. Everything is different there and there’s so much to see and do. It’s so clean and nice and efficient and safe.

My happy place - Home of Hello Kitty and all her friends!

10. You're leaving tomorrow, money is no option, where are you going?
If money was no option I’d travel every country it was safe to. I’d have a never ending worldwide adventure and suck in all that culture and wonder until I die! But if I could only go to one specific destination, maybe somewhere ridiculously beautiful and tranquil like the Maldives would do me the world of good right now!

Thanks again to Danielle for tagging me, this was a lot of fun to write!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. This week was Shrove Tuesday so of course I have to mention my love of pancakes! We had scotch pancakes which are a smaller, thicker and spongier cousin of the crepe, and taste delicious with butter and jam!

2. I've been neglecting my cinema-going this last wee while so I made the effort to catch American Hustle before it left the big screen. I'd heard mixed reviews but once you get past the initial hair shock it's a good film!

3. I treated myself to a small splurge in Primark and got this cute little navy polkadot satchel for £6.

4. Allan writes cute messages for me on our blackboard, but I beamed when I saw his drawings of the piggies!

5. For the first time in ages I had a night out! Against my better judgement I wore heels, which then killed my feet as expected, but I had a great catch-up with my favourite ladies!

6. On Sunday we opened the front door to find this handsome little fella shivering on our doorstep. I'm a sucker for a cute face so we let him in for a bit of warmth and a drink of a water until we could trace his owner.  They're now happily reunited!

7. We've been having some issues with damp in our bathroom so we have to bite the bullet and remove everything surrounding the bath to dry it out. Allan took great pleasure in this but I feel a bit sad that we're not making it pretty straight away.  On the plus side we now have a circular shower rail in the middle of the bath to stop the leaking so (hopefully!) no more damp!

8. I'm starting to find lots of pretty spring flowers in my garden. I have no idea what's been planted here so it'll be a nice surprise!

9. I've been baking again and I have a few more treats up my sleeve, all will be revealed shortly!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. This week I went into Pets At Home and nearly came out with this big floofy bunny! I love looking at the cuties in pet shops, although I do want to take them all home with me!

2. I got a surprise package of macarons in the post from my friend for my birthday which were delicious!

3. I've been working hard on the volunteering side of my wishes for 2014 and I'll hopefully be writing a nice big update for you shortly.

4. I love that we've started to get spring weather! Everyone's beginning to cheer up a bit and get out and do things. I even got treated to a refreshing Irn-Bru at work!

5. I'm ridiculously late in watching Moonrise Kingdom but I got there in the end. Such a lovely film with an awesome cast. I wish I'd been as cool as those kids, dancing to records on the beach!

6. The shops are full of delicious Easter treats, but luckily my bestie Leanne from Broke In The Big Smoke sent me some amongst lots of ace treats for my birthday!

7. I took Mum to see the National Theatre Live production of War Horse at the cinema and we loved it. The puppetry is so amazing that you forget it's not a real horse.

8. My new kitchen floor has been laid! Look how shiny and pretty it is! I'm so glad I have a handy Dad.

9. Yes, I did get up at 7am on a Sunday to hike in the snow, but it was amazing to see it glisten in the sunshine on our climb up Glen Doll.

How's your week been? What have you loved about it?

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