Monday, 28 February 2011

Graham & Green Pineapple Lamp

So, this getting fit and healthy thing is all very well, but it is sadly lacking in pretty pictures. Therefore, I shall introduce you to the latest object of my affections - the pineapple lamp from Graham and Green. Tada!

It is rather lovely, in an agreeably ridiculous way, no?

Sadly, it's also £95. And it turns out that's just for the base - the gorgeous butterfly shade that goes so perfectly with the bonkers silver pineapple costs extra. Booooo. I am still considering purchasing it though, but shhhhhh, don't tell the boy...

Sunday, 27 February 2011

P90X - Days Four, Five and Six

Having failed entirely at Day 3, am now a day behind. Ooops. Not a terribly good start really...

Anyway, on with the review!

Day 4

Day 4 is entitled Shoulders and Arms, leading me to dread the reappearance of the evil pull up bar. But no! This workout only uses dumbbells and a chair, hurrah! I mainly find this one pretty easy. Which obvs means my 3kg dumbbells are way too light and am therefore cheating. Tony says you should be about to do between 8 and 15 reps, and the last two should be really hard, but I can get up to 20 reps on most of the exercises with no problems. Must get heavier ones...

Sadly, another round of Ab-Ripper X follows this. Boooooo. I still can't balance on my bum without falling over.

Day 5

Today, my calf muscles STILL hurt from the plyometrics. which was days ago now. Suspect doing it barefoot rather than wearing some kind of impact absorbing footwear was not a good idea. Unexpectedly, my arms also ache a bit from yesterday's workout, so I guess even my little dumbbells had some effect.

So, today is Yoga X, which I'm super-excited about. I really like yoga. And, the boy has agreed to do this DVD with me. Have bought him a yoga mat and everything, as I'm nice like that.

Yoga X is 90 minutes long, with the first 45 minutes being very intensive and exhausting and the second 45 minutes all about balance and calm. Am gratified to discover that my body seems to remember some of the 8 months of power yoga classes I took about 6 years ago. I'm very much liking Yoga X.

Sadly, the boy likes Yoga X a lot less than me. He had neglected to mention beforehand that not only has he never done yoga in his life, he's never even done stretching exercises pre and post workout, and this DVD is most definitely not Yoga 101. Anyway, about 20 minutes in the boy gives up and wanders off, muttering disparaging things about Tony. He then proceeds to sulkily clatter pots and pans around the kitchen during the peaceful/calming bit of the workout.

So far, Yoga X is absolutely my favourite of the P90X workouts. My calf muscles feel much, much better and I can do stairs again, yay!

Day 6

It's Legs and Back today. This involves the pull up bar. Arse. Have learned that I could not do a pull up without putting one foot on a chair if my life actually depended on it.

This one involves lots of lunges, squats and pull ups. There is a particularly horrid thing called a wall squat, which hurts rather a lot.

Not really much else to say about this one. It's pretty tiring, but I neither love it nor hate it particularly. It is, however, followed by another round of the Ab Ripper X, which I do hate. I can't do a full sit up and I still keep toppling over. I may spent a few minutes at the end of each workout simply trying to balance on my bum with my arms and legs out.

So, that's all for now. All of my muscles are aching, but in a good way rather than the pain of the first couple of days, and I'm feeling generally more energised.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The P90X Workout

In a moment of madness, I have decided to take part in a potentially suicidal fitness program, called P90X.

It comprises 12 different DVDs, each with a different workout on, and it’s supposed to make you super-fit in 90 days.

The blurb from the website:

"The secret behind the P90X system is an advanced training technique called Muscle Confusion™, which accelerates the results process by constantly introducing new moves and routines so your body never plateaus, and you never get bored!"

So, found the program on Ebay, acquired myself a pull up bar and yoga mat, and rescued my ancient set of dumbbells (purchased many years ago when I last decided I was going to get fit) from the attic of my old house.

I should point out at this stage that, whilst I am not a total couch potato, I am definitely in no way fit. I’m only little, but I’ve been reading a lot lately about how being skinny does not necessarily mean you are healthy.

I spend my day at work sitting at a desk. In fact we are actively discouraged from leaving our desks unless absolutely necessary. Then I go home and sit at my workbench. I do cycle to and from work most days, but I really don’t put a lot of effort into it to be honest. So, in conclusion, P90X may not be designed for the likes of me, given that it does seem to assume a fairly good level of fitness before you start.

Anyway, I thought I’d blog my experience with it, as (a) it will probably shame me into keeping going and (b) it may be interesting to see if a small, mainly vegetarian girl can get herself some guns!

Day 1

Day 1 is called Chest and Back. Followed by something called Ab Ripper X.

Chest and back is basically 50-odd minutes of different types of push ups, pull ups and dumbbell lifting. My dumbbells are 3 kilos each, which, I discover, is much too light for the purposes of this DVD, but I’m sticking with them for now and just doing extra reps.

The guy who will, to all intents and purposes, be your personal trainer throughout these DVDs, Tony, is actually not too irritating. He has very large muscles and is terribly enthusiastic about everything.

I discover that I am incapable of doing a single pull up, but that's okay, because Tony says I'm allowed to put one foot on a chair until I'm strong enough to do them properly, hurrah!

During the workouts, Tony suggests you write down the amount of reps you do on each thingy, so you can aim to do a little more next time. This is fine at the beginning of the 50-odd minutes and my notes are rather neat, but by the end of the DVD I can no longer move my arms properly and it therefore turns into illegible scrawl.

This is hard.

The Ab Ripper X (grrrrrrrrrr) is my idea of hell. There is a lot of balancing on your butt cheeks with your legs and arms raised. This generally makes me fall over. A lot. I am completely hopeless at this DVD. The boy made encouraging noises about it just needing practice, but I have absolutely no sense of balance and am therefore unsure about this.

Day 2

I wake up. My arms hurt. A lot. And my ribs feel like someone has punched me very hard. But today is plyometrics, yay! This is something I’ve been meaning to have a go at for ages, as it’s apparently really helpful for roller derby. It involves a lot of jumping designed to produce fast, powerful movements.

This is another 50-odd minute DVD. And it’s brilliant fun! I jump, I leap, I pretend to be a frog and I love it. I rather suspect the people who live in the flat under me love it a lot less. You are supposed to land super-quietly on the balls of your feet, but I own no trainers and am prone to generally being a bit stompy. Especially for one so small.

Anyway, the DVD finishes and I am unable to feel my legs. Sadly, the numbness does not continue and my legs start to gradually ache more and more.

Day 3


Walking is difficult. And painful. I like plyometrics a lot less today. Especially when I have to walk down stairs. Stairs really really hurt.

I am supposed to skating at rec league this evening, so I cycle to work with all of my skate gear. It is somewhat of a struggle.

I lurch down the corridors of my office like a small, grumpy zombie and am for once grateful of my firm’s policy of keeping us chained to our desks.

I’m afraid that Day 3 is going to be a big, fat fail. I have developed a vile headache half way through the day and think the likelihood of me cycling to Bermondsey, playing roller derby for two hours, then cycling all the way home again is exactly nil.

Sorry Tony, but today I am definitely not ‘bringing it’.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Experiments with Foil

A few weeks ago I briefly introduced you to my shiny new custom boxes as part of my yearly review, but now I shall go into a little more detail, in order to review some hot foiling pens.

So, basically, the fancy box making company couldn’t do exactly what I wanted. This is because I am often a pain in the bum and want something different and exciting and terribly complicated. I wanted the heart design that I use for my website background and business cards printed onto the top of the charcoal grey boxes, but I also wanted a metallic gold keyhole printed onto the front of the boxes where they close. Sadly, the only way they could do this was to entirely custom make the boxes, rather than just printing on off the shelf ones. And what would be the problem with this, you may wonder..? Well, that would be the minimum order of 3,000 boxes. Eek! As I don’t think I will sell enough jewellery to need 3,000 boxes in my entire life, this wasn’t really an option.

So, I had my customary “how hard can it be...?” thoughts about printing my own little keyhole on the front, after the fancy box designers had done their thing with the top of the boxes. Here are my naked boxes, bereft of their little keyholes. Still pretty, but a little bit sad, no?

Anyway, if you are at all familiar with my crafty projects, you will have an idea of how well these things that my little brain decides will be super-easy usually go.

I did a bit of research on hot foiling. Apparently people who make cards use it a lot. The catch is, however, that they print the hot foil onto a design on the cards that has been printed on a laser printer. Now, (a) obvs I can’t put a box in a printer, and (b), laser toner won’t show up on the black boxes anyway. Bum. A little more research showed me the apparent wonders of foiling pens. And here is how they worked out.

1. Tonertex Write & Rub Pen

This is a pen filled with a special type of glue. You write/draw on the thing you want to foil with it. The glue comes out a kind of milky white colour, then you wait for it to dry clear. Like so:

Then, you just rub the special foil onto the dried glue with your finger.

It does make it shiny, but as you can see it's not really the right method for getting the neat finish I'm after. The glue is very runny and the nib isn't particularly fine, so getting sharp edges and corners are impossible.

Right, next.
2. Battery Operated Hot Foil Pen

This seemed good in theory. It has a rounded plastic nib, which contains a heated element, and you write directly onto the shiny side of the foil with it.

I started off by making a template, so my edges would be neat. Like this:

Then, placed the foil on the box, placed the template over it and heated up the pen.

I have to say, the results weren't so great. Firstly, you have to hold down the little button on the side of the pen whilst you're working, which is kind of awkward. Also, it turns out all colours of foil are not created equal. The gold, for example, is rubbish! It comes out all patchy, no matter how hard you rub over it with the pen. See?

The silver turned out pretty nice:

Having abandoned the gold, the silver is what I ended up using on the boxes I had to send out to customers, as with the template it looked pretty neat.

Just out of curiosity really, I tried all the different colours of foil and gold was definitely the worst.

Anyway, even though the silver turned out pretty nice, I still really wanted the keyhole to be gold.

Having given up on this foiling nonsense as too unpredictable, I purchased a sheet of shiny gold vinyl sheet, cut out my little keyhole with a scalpel, and stuck it to the front of the box, using the battery hot foil pen (switched off) to rub over it, as I liked the effect it gave with the foil of kind of embossing it into the stripes on the box. This worked perfectly and gave me the perfect little shiny keyhole I was after. Hurrah!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Ooooh, Published!

I meant to write about this a couple of weeks ago, but in all the busyness of January, I forgot.

I was contacted by lovely Jayne of the Guild of Jewellery Designers, asking if I would be happy for my silver skate charm that I've been working on to be the subject of an article on their website, showing the process from inspiration and design through to the finished piece. Of course, I was indeed happy!

So, it can be found here (although my website is not yet finished, so you can't buy them yet!):

Words mainly by me, with a couple of tweaks from Jayne.

So there you go, my first ever article. Exciting, no?

In other news, my lovely friend Richard is visiting from L.A. next week. This makes me very happy, as it's been far too long.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Am Still Baking Genius

I must confess, I am having rather a lot of fun with my new bread maker. I am so very rock and roll...

It was with some trepidation that I attempted a granary loaf, having been told they can be a bit hit and miss in bread makers, but look...

How marvellous! A perfect loaf of bread with bits in.

On a roll now, I then had a bash at rye bread, as the machine comes with a special knobbly blade thingy with which to make rye type things. And tada!

Okay, so it doesn’t look terribly impressive this one, but rye bread is supposed to resemble a brick. Honest...

Anyway, it was rather lovely, especially toasted, cut into soldiers and dipped in boiled egg.

Appear to have become somewhat of a bread fiend now. Hurrah for carbs!