20 February, 2014

Early Morning Workouts and Being Afraid of the Dark

This might sound ridiculous, but the one thing stopping me from getting up at 6am and going to my local gym for a morning workout is the darkness (and also the fact that I love my bed!). It's not that I'm afraid of the dark, it's that I'm afraid of what could happen in the dark. Despite the fact that my gym is less than a 15 minute walk away from my apartment, I am consumed by fear of going there when it's dark. The route there consists of  a very steep hill and some back streets and it cannot be reached by walking along a busier, main road. I don't own a car so I can't drive there and there are also no buses that pass by either.

However, all of the above makes me angry. I'm not angry about the lack of public transport, I'm angry that as a woman I'm afraid of walking these streets and this short route because of the fear I might get attacked. The fear that I'm unsure if it's really a safe area and whether the decision to go for a morning workout and make better use of my day may result in something worse. It sounds dramatic I know, and I also equally understand that the same frightful situation could also occur during daylight. I did think I was only woman who had these thoughts until I heard a colleague at work explain the exact same thought process. She wants to go running in the morning before work or in the evenings after work, but by the time she gets home and has eaten, it's dark.

She too has a fear of jogging in her neighbourhood and has recently heard reports of women being attacked as their ran their local roads. As an intern, she doesn't earn enough money to join a gym so for her, working out cheaply usually means taking to the outdoors. She wants to train for a 10k, but at present is limited to the weekends or until the evenings get brighter and she feels safer.

It angers me that there are people out there that pray on women who are walking solo with a particular destination in mind and I want to take control of this situation and simply be able to get up in the morning, at a time of my choosing and go to the gym before work. Be it when it's dark or not. The clocks will change soon and roll forward an hour which will mean brighter evenings, but it will also mean the mornings will remain darker for some time yet. Perhaps my only option is to workout from home in the mornings with a well chosen exercise DVD until the bright mornings return.

I don't wish for this post to sound like I'm making excuses not to workout but as I'm still discovering lovely Manchester, I'm unsure as to what areas of the city are considered safe to wander in the early hours. Gut instinct, will of course always prevail and my other half believes that as we live in a residential heavy area, full of apartment blocks, that its pretty safe, but there is still nothing worse than the fear that you're being followed or when you turn a corner to see a stranger on the opposite side. You get that feeling, that fight or flight feeling and your brain tells you to walk fast. Not so fast that you appear scared, but confident fast. Fast enough to get you to your safe destination. Maybe you get your house keys out and place them between your fingers, a possible weapon. Just in case. Maybe that's just what I do. Maybe I'm overreacting?

I do know I've always been like this. A move to Manchester hasn't suddenly brought on this irrational fear. I can remember being in New York and leaving the city early so I didn't have to travel the subway late at night while I traveled back to Queens. I once even paid $40 for a taxi instead of taking the subway. I also did the same in Berlin and ended up being in my apartment by 7pm with nothing much to do except eat chocolate and watch German TV for the very same reasons.I am scared of the unknown, of strangers, of....well putting it bluntly, being attacked. I'm pretty sure my newly toned legs are down to the quick paced walking I've been doing around Manchester in the evenings and not because of my increased gym activity. (During daylight hours of course!)

Tell me, do you have these fears? If you're an early morning workout person, I salute you, but tell me how do you make it to the gym safely without crazy fears blowing your mind? What makes you less of a scardy-cat? Share your experience.

19 February, 2014

Country Attire Blogging Event

On the Monday before Valentines, I eagerly made my way to the Country Attire blogging event where they were showcasing their new season to the Manchester bloggers. The event was taking place in the basement section of Revolution de Cuba on Peter Street, Deansgate and as I was allowed bring some guests, I invited my friend Abi from work along. Bless, I think she was more excited than me and we both made an effort to get dressed up for the evening.

Being the eternal organised person, I looked up Peter Street in advance as I was making my way from work. I have been known to get lost on several occasions and this situation was no different. Instead of looking for Revolution de Cuba, I somehow had it fixed in my brain that I was going to a Country Attire shop. Of course, there is no such shop on Peter St and after rechecking the invite, Abi and I laughed at how stupid I was and we found Cuba with ease. 

Upon stepping in, we spotted a few fashion bloggers heading down stairs and followed them. There we were met by a lovely gentleman who kindly took our coats and handed us a glass of something fizzy and a goody bag. The fizz tasted good, perfect for a Monday evening and we made our way into the main area where a crowd was gathering. There was a vast array of designer goods to view and we began to stroll around at our leisure. Country Attire prides themselves as being 'The Essence of British Style' and we were in for a treat as we tried on designer glasses, spotted Hunter boots and Barbour Jackets. As a sporty, outdoors person Abi had a real interest in the Barbour Jackets. 

I continued to browse through all the beautiful accessories while Abi enjoyed getting her nails done courtesy of Country Attire. Two nail technicians were on hand to manicure nails using the Country Attire logo colours of white and black. There was even the opportunity to have a pretty butterfly, as per their logo, placed on some of your nails if you so wished.

I fell in love with a number of accessories, in particular a dusky pink satchel by the brand Zatchels. It was very me and definitely something I have my eye on going forward. Abi was fond of the Hunter Check Zipped Tote Bag, currently on sale at £136.95 online. I can't say the designer glassed I tried on suited me, but hey it was fun to get the opportunity to try them on and have a quirky professional photo taken too.
We were also treated to lots of canapes and more fizz if we wanted it, but me trying to be healthy tried to refrain from all the temptation. However, I did try a few treats and they were lovely. It also helped that the waiter was quite dishy! 

Throughout the evening there were a number of models wearing more of the beautiful lines of clothing available. From swimwear to skinny jeans, from casual to dressy, the change in clothing lines was seamless, in fact the whole evening was very well organised and enjoyable too. It provided an opportunity not just to view what Country Attire had on offer for the coming season but to also catch up with some bloggers and meet some new bloggers too. Including Jess from Oh So Gawjass and Georgina from A Fairy Gobmother.

With thanks to Country Attire for the hospitality // www.countryattire.com

17 February, 2014

Review: Paul Mitchell Scented Candle

I am a lover of candles. Full stop.

At the end of a working day, I love coming home and lighting a few candles around the house, cooking and unwinding. I love them even more when I'm surrounded by lots of them while soaking in a hot bubble bath. So, imagine my delight, when I was asked to review one. In the post I received the Paul Mitchell Scented Candle in the scent Lemon Sage. The Paul Mitchell brand is typically associated with hair products and they also create cruelty free products by not conducting or endorsing animal testing so a good ,ethical brand you'll be pleased to hear.

Contained within pretty packaging, the candle is secure in a glass jar and when I lifted off the lid, I could smell the lovely fresh scent of Lemon Sage immediately. I have candles placed in various areas of my apartment but I thought this one might be well placed in the kitchen, perhaps lit after an evenings cooking to balance all those nasty kitchen smells. Shortly after lighting it, its scent started to fill the room. I found it very relaxing and I just love when a candle fills a room or house with a beautiful smell. I find it comforting and homely and this candle didn't disappoint.

It also has a long burning time and also I brought it with me to the bathroom on an evening when I fancied a bath. The winds were whirling and whistling around outside, but I was relaxed and happy in my bath taking in the Lemon Sage smell. It's always the little things that makes me happy. I felt energized afterwards and I'm sure the deep smells of the candle contributed to this. 

Having had it lit for about 10 hours, there's plenty of burning time left over to enjoy. My only issue now is where to get my next one. Having tried out this great candle, I'm now intrigued to purchase some of their hair products. Goodness knows I need to find some sort of magical hair mask for dry ends! Think straw like feeling. Further info on Paul Mitchell products can be found here.

16 February, 2014

Easy Peasy Healthy Meals - Avocados and Eggs #1

Before Christmas I decided it was time I took a long hard look at the foods I was eating and the amounts I was consuming. Alarmingly, although I had already known this, I was overeating. I'm only 5ft 4" and with a boyfriend who is 6ft 5", it's relatively easy for me to eat large amounts of food. He has a metabolism many gals would kill for, while I have eyes bigger than my belly. If he's cooking something, I usually end up tucking in too. He can handle large portions while I cannot, but always end up 'giving those portions a go!'

That's not so bad if it's little and often, but over the years (we're together over seven), little and often becomes 'bigger, and all the bleeding time'. Combined with a lack of motivation for exercise and you've got yourself a weight problem, some tight fitting clothing and a growing wardrobe of long flowing cardigans to cover your wobbly bits. If my eating regime was going to change then I had to take control of our meal times together.

Since moving to Manchester, as a couple, we are cooking more, which can only be a good thing. However I decided that I would take control of cooking the majority of our meals as then and only then would I know exactly what each one contained. I wanted to be in charge of every ingredient and when serving up food, if the boy wanted more, then he could go back and get more. No more pilling high of plates.

With that I also set to researching lots of easy, healthy meals that I could whip up when time was short. I have become increasingly interested in following the Paleo diet, which asks that you only eat whole, plant based foods and organic meats. You literally cut out all the processed crap. In comparison to my diet before Christmas, I've done well following this lifestyle, but I'm no angel either. There is always room for improvement and it's very much a work in progress.

One of my favourite Paleo meals, I've decided to share with you. Full of good fats and very filling too, I suggest giving it a go. As the blog title suggests, it's easy peasy. The  ingredients are as follows;

- 2 Avocados
- 4 Eggs
- Sprinkle of chives, salt and pepper

The recipe simply calls that you slice the avocados in half and remove the large seed inside. Personally, I love avocados when they are quite ripe and soft. This makes them easier to cut in half and easier to remove the large seed inside. I also scooped out some of the avocado and placed in a bowl, saving it for later for some side salad. Turn your oven on to about 140 degrees and place your sliced avocados on a baking tray.

Crack open an egg into each avocado and when done sprinkle some chives, salt and pepper on top. Place your baking tray into the oven and bake for about 15 - 20 minutes, keeping an eye on the eggs. Our oven seems to cook at lightening speed, so usually we half the baking / cooking time a recipe suggests, otherwise dinner is burnt!

While your eggs and avocados are cooking, you can prepare a little side salad. The beauty of this dish is that you can simply eat it on its own as a quick, healthy snack or perhaps add a colourful salad, maybe some quinoa or brown rice and hey presto you have yourself a nutritious meal. In this instance, I opted for a bright salad. I roughly chopped up some tomatoes and a red onion and added some basil and a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Take your now baked avocados and eggs from the oven and allow to cool slightly. When ready, serve with your side salad and add a healthy bunch of rocket. There are some who knock the avocado, claiming it's full of fat, but the reality is, it's full of healthy, good fats and have proven to be a nutritional powerhouse of a fruit. They are an excellent source of fibre and vitamins and help reduce the amounts of bad cholesterol in your blood. Yay for the humble avocado and yay for easy meals! 

Do let me know if you give this a whirl!

13 February, 2014

Valentines at Selfridges

It's Valentines eve folks and this year, I'm celebrating my 8th valentines with my other half! (8th!!). The years have flown by and each year it also gets a little harder to purchase something that will surprise him. Something that shows he's appreciated and loved, very much. We've pretty much decided that we will have a low key evening and the fact that I'm trying to get rid of a nasty cold right now means my evening will probably involve a hot water bottle, a blanket and a hot bowl of chicken soup.Romantic or what?

However, in a bid to find a unique gift,  I have come across these sweet images from the 'Peanuts' collection which you can purchase and have personalised in Selfridges. I'm all about personalised gifts and this is a world exclusive for Selfridges! You can pop on down to their Peanuts Art Print Pop Up which is run by the Fine Art Print publisher 'Art You Grew Up With', select your size and 'ta da', a lovely Valentines gift and a new piece of art for your home. A unique gift, I think you'll agree and something different from the usual bouquet of roses and boxes of chocolates.You can even purchase them for your friends!

There are a number of sizes to chose from; classic framed (£29.99), unframed (£14.99), large framed (£59.99),unframed (£34.99), extra large framed (£149.99), unframed (£74.99). If you still haven't found that special something for the love in your life, these pretty prints are available at Selfridges Trafford on the upper level, so hop to it folks and snap them up while you can.

I think it's high time I hopped on the bus and discovered what the Trafford centre was all about! Who's with me?

03 February, 2014

Positive Quotes

Happy February everyone!

I'm glad to see the back of January and when I say that I feel guilt for wishing my life away. However, I've never made it a secret that I always found January to be a difficult, emotionally draining month. It's cold, you're broke and the dark mornings continue from November and December. Shudder....those dark mornings get  me. Every.single.time.

However, great news! This morning, I jumped out of bed at my usual time of 7:30am and it was bright outside. Gone were the dull, dreary mornings and in its place, light. Beautiful light streaming through my window, into my bedroom and at once, all seemed right with the world. Outside there was a lovely yellow / red sky. I could hear birds singing and there wasn't an ounce of rain. Spring was arriving and I thought 'Today is a great day, Monday blues be gone!'.

I got myself together, made my favourite breakfast of porridge with cinnamon and enjoyed it while taking in the new day. I never underestimate the power of light and a bright, happy morning. It feels like fuel for my body and with it, I know I can take on the day, do my best and do it all with a smile on my face.

To celebrate the arrival of these pretty mornings, I'm here to remind you that 'Today is going to be Amazing" - and not only today, but every day. Remind yourself of the great things, the happy things, the truly amazing things and go tackle your day.
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