The Great Christmas Bake Off

Thankfully my mum and I didn’t overthink the task we were about to take on last night at about seven o’clock. If we did, we simply would have chucked our oven gloves on the side, turned off the Christmas lights and cancelled 25th December. But the baker in us cheered and smiled with glee when half ten came about and we had three yummy-looking (and tasting!) – albeit appearing as “homemade” as they are – Christmassy delights in front of us. For my mum’s 50th I set her 50 challenges to complete and one involved baking mince pies, cookies for Santa and a Yule log (my fave).

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Mum and I have always baked together. My brother often got involved too- even if it was just to lick the left over icing off of a wooden spoon. Part of the biscuit process threw me back to making “rock cakes”; using our hands and fingers to rub the butter and flour together. Over time an essential part of our baking sessions involved my mum’s iPod and a playlist of songs to accompany us. Because if we dance, we can have an extra cake, right?

Since I have worked this morning (Christmas Eve) and will be this evening too I definitely needed a few hours of good old-fashioned festive to inject some merriment into me. And, of course, it did! We started with a lot of Christmas songs while we baked the mince pies and we were delighted with how they turned out- the sometimes uneven stars surely being charming and not just a bit naff, yes? Then we baked the cake of the Yule log and my mum did a brilliant job of rolling it up. Then, soon enough, the biscuits were baked in all sorts of different shapes. Everything was going just a bit too well.

Dancing to mum’s “dance” playlist (yup, my mum creates and names her playlist ready for her time in the kitchen) we went rogue with our icing method and it really did look like we let a three year old take control. So after the third biscuit was looking a bit sad, we gave in and decided we liked the biscuits just how they were. Now with the Wicked album being witness to our terrible renditions of Elphaba’s songs, we made chocolate buttercream and grinned like proud three year olds when it really did look like a log.

Merry Christmas everyone!

~ Kat ~

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HIIT Under the Christmas Tree

This morning I knew I had a lot to do but was aware that if I didn’t get my endorphins pumping I wouldn’t feel ready for the day. It was a super foggy and crisp morning and the cold woke me up rather than encourage me to retreat back to my bed and sleep until Christmas morning arrives. Once my porridge had settled I ran a short run followed by a 5/10 minute HIIT session- something I will be doing again and again because I felt it in my muscles and my breath that it was doing me good. It altogether took up about 15 minutes of my time. After doing a HIIT routine from one of Carly Rowena’s videos, I knew I wanted to accompany my current cardio training with a lot more HIIT.

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Reindeer can’t do their job without weekly HIIT training (just wanted to spread this photo further across the internet to embarrass Aaron)

  1. A mile run as quickly as possible
  2. 10 x jump squats () (focus on form or the burn won’t be nearly as good!)
  3. 10 x star jumps
  4. 10 x sit ups
  5. 30 second plank
  6. 5 x press ups
  7. Repeat 2-5 4 more times!

Since I didn’t have a lot of time and didn’t want to kill my body completely before a super long day, I think this HIIT routine was perfect. It isn’t too strenuous but it most certainly does something on a morning where exercise needs to be shoved in. It definitely has a strong focus on the parts that are central to running – the core and the legs – with a pinch of upper body too! I’m going to coerce my mum into joining me in the next week and see how she likes it! (You’re welcome mum.)

I do think HIIT is the way forward for those who believe they don’t have enough time to exercise. Whether it is as little as 15 minutes or 30 minutes sweating in the living room, HIIT makes a lot of difference when it comes to fitness. Especially when different routines and exercises are tried out, improved and intensified. A glorious result is that it translates into more traditional cardio and is found that exercise such as running might just become easier!

~ Kat ~

A Merry Balanced Christmas

With three different types of chocolate tins sat under the tree, party snacks in the cupboard and fizzy drinks in the fridge, it’s easy to succumb to cravings and then believe it puts us on Santa’s naughty list. Ultimately, it depends what type of Christmas we each want. I, personally, want a balanced one. And for me that includes roast potatoes, pigs in blankets and a Lindt chocolate melting on my tongue. But it also includes eating as many fruit and vegetables per day and eating healthy a fulfilling foods as well as keeping up HIIT training, running and swimming. I refuse to feel (my version of) limited on Christmas Day, and worse than that, guilty. Here are my happy rules I plan on sticking to in order to have a happy and balanced Christmas.

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When I see the pringles

FOOD

I am saying ho oh no to Pringles and chocolate tins, I think… forever *Gasps*… Kind of. I love Pringles. But they’re the one thing that proves you can love something too much. I will happily eat the whole tube and that personally is something that, after the initial glee, makes me feel a bit rubbish. Bye bye Texas BBQ Pringles. *Tear rolls slowly down cheek.* I’ll be less strict with the chocolate tins, but I started this rule last year. I don’t really enjoy eating 6 toffee pennies and 4 chocolate triangle chocolates. I sometimes like one or two. So I’ll be keeping a close eye on my hands when the tins are opened- unless we get lucky with getting a Celebrations box- BAGSY MALTESERS.

I have never understood the idea that people “diet”, reach their goals and then revert back to their old lifestyle as if their goal has been achieved and that’s that. However, in terms of Christmas Day, I am going to do this. But in a much healthier way- because it is one day, after all! In the last week and for the next week I am, apart from my Advent calendar chocolate, sticking to only nutritious and fulfilling foods. I have been stricter than my normal every day eating because I want to feel completely ready to roll up my Christmas jumper sleeves and tuck in when the clock strikes 2 o’clock.

DRINK

Quite simply I don’t want a Christmas that entails alcohol. I am working too much alongside having a lot of revision to do and a lot of exercise goals I want to reach. However when I will choose to drink, the main rule is this: STAY AWAY FROM THE WINE, KAT. *Whispers soothingly to self.* Choose gin with slimline. A glass or two of Bucks Fizz on Christmas Day and then a gin and tonic here and there. Hurrah!

EXERCISE

Since working quite a lot of hours and having a lot of revision to do, the one thing that is a complete stress relief is exercise. And so far I have chosen exercise over sleep ins and have and will continue to feel great for it. With no gym at home to go to, running has been my best friend. On top of that I plan on swimming a couple of days each week and I’ve been walking to and from work too. All of these do such wonderful things to our bodies that I’ll easily have a balanced Christmas and have no problem with indulging in the annual Christmas fry up on the morning of the 25th.

CONCLUSION

So I’ll be upping the cardio, making as much as possible from scratch, and with the help of coconut oil, be making everything as healthy as possible. And on Christmas Day I’ll eat whatever I want (apart from those Pringles!). I want to be able to earn money, revise, rest and see friends while feeling healthy and fit and enjoying festivities. I’m looking forward to a hot chocolate with my brother on Christmas Eve and drinking a few calories when I have a few J20s on Christmas Day without feeling guilty at all.

~ Kat ~

The One Where I Talk About Wales

Studying in Cardiff has a lot of perks- its main being its location. I hope the New Year brings me lots more Welsh adventures while I’m there for half a year more. Breaking up for Christmas this year was for sure harder than it’s ever been. Not only did we all endure the student crisis that is ONE MORE SEMESTER AND WE ACTUALLY REALLY GENUINELY HAVE TO ADULT, but we realised we only had half a year more of seeing each other and Cardiff every single day. And Cardiff is a cracking place. So, cwtch up with a Welsh cake and I’ll tell you about my 5 favourite places in Wales (although they are currently mainly Cardiff-based!).

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Roath Park wins at being aesthetically pleasing for me. I finally went there during my second year and now I love popping there for a wander or a run. Home to ducks and geese, I always giggle at how they own the place… As they should! With a sweet cafe, the best clotted cream ice cream and its very own lighthouse, Roath Park is a place I will miss oh so much when the sky is blue.

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I think Bute Park is always my go-to Happy Place when at university. During my first year at uni when I was super homesick, Bute Park is where I would end up. It’s where I really started to push myself with running which, in turn, made me far happier when I was feeling down. Then as I went into second year it’s where I ran and walked when I needed a break from revision. It became my best friend when it got warmer and I wanted to have a relaxing wander. Now it is also home to my Saturday mornings when I’m there for Cardiff Parkrun. I think Bute Park is the place I’ll miss the absolute most when I finally have to adult. I’ll miss it proving blue and green should be seen on super summery days and being the epitome of autumn with its oranges, yellows and greens in October.

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When Wales warmed up last year and I pretended that meant it was short season, Aaron and I went on an afternoon trip to Penarth. I fell in love immediately. With seaside-y gift shops scattered about, alongside pretty restaurants and cafes that overlook the beautiful beach, Penarth made for a lovely afternoon. I got to try some authentic Welsh cakes with a tea as the day wound down and I realised that it really wasn’t quite short season yet. I will make sure I’ll be heading that way when summer wakes up next year!

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As a Gavin and Stacey fan, I had to visit Barry Island at some point to see what was occurrin’. Although it was a super chilly and windy day, it was a lovely couple of hours, pointing out “that’s where Gav is when Stacey does this” etc. I’m excited to go back when it is warmer so that I can have the Proper Barry Experience and have a go on all of the rides.

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I don’t have any pictures of Cardiff Bay which would be another Welsh favourite so I thought I’d share with you the picture that makes me very proud of my university. So many of the buildings are so beautiful that when I pass them, I’m reminded exactly why I made the right choice with choosing Cardiff University. Although the view from the Arts and Social Studies Library only inspires further sadness when you can’t quite hit the word count, a lot of Cardiff is pretty enough for me to forget about returning to my cold and smelly student home.

It’s weird that I won’t be there this time next year so I’ll have to spend the next few months taking as many Instagram-worthy pictures as possible so I can keep “Throwback Thursday”-ing.

~ Kat ~

How to be a Morning Person

Despite what my mum says, I have always been a morning person. I, at the very least, enjoy mornings. I do like and sometimes look forward to a sleep in but sleeping away most of the morning makes me feel miserable when I do wake up. I become super upset that I may have wasted such a precious part of the productive day. And feeling unmotivated and mad at myself during the first half of the day isn’t the best way to kick off another Day in the Life of Kat.

sunrise

The three things I, like most of the world, believe are crucial in achieving The Morning Person status are eating well, a good level of exercise and (*drum roll please*) a decent and healthy amount of sleep. There are a plethora of articles you can read to find out about the genuine facts regarding The Right Amount of Sleep but for me, that’s eight hours. That might sound luxurious to you- greedy, even! To many I know that sounds like I’ve had a terrible night’s sleep. Secretly I adore nine but, I know, deep down, eight is my security. And a secret I have learnt is that a lot more sleep than that is never as glorious as I romanticise it in my head the night before- it leaves me feeling sluggish, unmotivated and really, super sleepy.

The things that make me happier (most of the time) when my phone shouts at me in the morning are these…

NUMBER ONE: HUMILITY – Getting up earlier than you’re telling yourself you want is not the worst thing to have happened in this world. I must practise grabbing a glass of Humble a lot more often and remembering I’m lucky and really can’t complain so – in the spirit of a primary school assembly – I must make today count, do as much good as possible and remember I have it better off than most. Each of my days are pretty great compared to a lot of people’s so I try to avoid saying, “I’m SO tired” every thirty minutes!

NUMBER TWO: MORNING TREATS – Wake up to your favourite things; not your alarm. (But, I mean, do set your alarm.) My list of happy things that make my eyes peel open with a smile include:

  • listening to a McFly song
  • reading a chapter of a book
  • planning exciting future things
  • having a cup of tea
  • a morning trip to somewhere with a pal

NUMBER THREE: A WHOLE NEW DAY – The day is ready and I get another chance at anything I want. A long with having as much of a hoot as possible, a new day means working harder at university, eating super fulfilling foods and stepping up my exercise game. I might have gone to bed stressed but I wake up forgetting about that thousands of pounds I’m racking up while at university and ready to stop feeling sorry for myself- ready to crack out a few words I think are kind of smart. Ready to cook yummy foods and ready to run further and faster!

NUMBER FOUR: NO WAKING UP TO CHORES – In order to feel more of a positive, mindful and excited person I need to not wake up hating Past Kat. I’m not great at this but getting stupid little things out of the way the day and night before makes for a more excitable puppy-like Kat at 06:30. What a completed Before the Alarm List looks like:

  • washing up
  • clothes ready for the morning
  • bag packed ready for the morning
  • tidying
  • food prep/food made

NUMBER FIVE: EARLY WORKOUTS Yup, I thought I’d leave that one until last. I don’t have a fixed routine of always going to the gym or running in the morning – although I will when my life doesn’t involve inconsistent university hours – but, I promise you, there is no smugger, prouder and straight up rewarding thing than getting a workout under your belt before 6am/7am/8am/9am. For me, at the moment, when I decide the night before that it’s going to happen – *give me a standing ovation already* – it’s going to happen. By default it makes you a morning person. I feel productive early and ready to take on anything the day throws at me- except getting back up from sitting down after leg day. You might just realise that your alarm going off super early to remind you that you said you’d get up for your good pal Gym really does make you feel pumped… And maybe… kind of in love with mornings…? And to top it all off, exercising well is proven to up your quality of sleep, meaning your body can deal with less!

None of this for you? Change your alarm tune to an eighties classic so that waking up feels more like a party- Karma Chameleon is my saviour.

~ Kat ~

3 Irish Adventures

Two weekends ago Aaron and I went to Dublin for his 21st! We made sure we got up to a few of the Dublin Musts. The photographs aren’t the best, however the experiences really were and they definitely hugged us with Irish greatness. And all three experiences presented to us how friendly and lovely the Irish are!

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I booked a trip to the Guinness Storehouse as part of Aaron’s gift. When I realised I booked the trip too early considering our flight time, I easily changed it. This simplicity carried on when we turned up earlier than our slot (oops!) and they were completely okay with it- booking online definitely helped. It’s essentially a self-guided tour  where we found out how Guinness is made, the history of the Guinness family with a free pint and a tasting session. I also pre-ordered two engraved Guinness pint glasses as an extra present for Aaron which I had a hard time keeping secret. They really are quite special! The afternoon at the storehouse was brilliant; we learnt a lot and got to soak up a lot of Irish-ness!

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Stereotypical, but rightly so: Temple Bar was our favourite experience. Temple Bar is popular with tourists- a bunch of bars and pubs that produce the liveliest, most bubbliest nightlife. On Saturday night, after our dinner, we headed out to be greeted by some merry (Guinness might just be the suspect) nightlife. It was the authenticity of it that just made Aaron and I grin. As we walked along the cobbled streets there were buskers- way into the night, too!

Although we got the impression locals aren’t #1 fans, we bundled into The Auld Dubliner, falling in love immediately. We tested out Jameson Whiskey, ticking off another Irish must. The Auld Dubliner created a favourite memory that I hope never fades. Every – or it seemed to be the case – pub showcased live music. The pubs get crowded and, for me, that was what made it so lovely. Lots of people adoring the atmosphere, music and the perfectly pulled Guinness. As we listened to the performer in The Auld Dubliner singing songs sung by Irish acts, the man with the guitar sang The Fairytale of New York. The whole bar helped him out and not only did it create the most festive feeling, it really showed us the good nature of Temple Bar.

On the Sunday night we finally got ourselves a Guinness in the place we waited too long to experience… The Temple Bar pub itself. The atmosphere was electric. It was as busy as the crowds we experienced the night before- so busy we only had one seat between us. And the live entertainment, once again, was incredible. We fell in love so much that we went back in our last hour in Dublin, this time to soak up a performer who performed Irish songs. So brilliant.

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On the Sunday morning Aaron and I took a trip to a place that made us giggle when we found out about it: National Leprechaun Museum. It was a brilliantly unique experience. Completely silly and completely captivating all at the same time. We had a wonderful tour guide who explained the folklore and stories of the leprechauns who didn’t originate as the little green men with bears we picture now. We also got to muck around on super duper large furniture so we felt like little(r) people! It was so much like a theatrical experience and it made it super exciting and different.

I will definitely be returning to Dublin in the next couple of years- there were so many more places I wanted to visit! The city itself is so vibrant and pretty but I know we were only a bus trip away from some stunning places we definitely missed out on. However these three trips most certainly lived up to expectations!

~ Kat ~