The Monthly Scrapbook | April

April has kind of been a non-event for me. I’m not a fan of not having plans and not being busy (jeez, what a socialite) but because of revision, the fun has been limited. Boo. The days of fun I have had (work-life balance and all) have been particularly noteworthy, though. I don’t mean to sound like a proper adult but: April’s over?! Where IS this year going?!

Varsity.jpgSarah's.jpgGolfVarsity – Like many universities, Cardiff takes part in a Varsity, where their sports teams go head to head with another university’s sports teams. Cardiff take on Swansea and because of money – or lack of it – in my first and second year, I promised I’d finally go to the all-day event in third year. It was a hot early April day which meant sun cream was purchased and even so, burns were formed. We spent most of the day outside before heading to the main events in the evening: the women’s and men’s rugby. After the rules being explained to me (repeatedly) I now consider myself somewhat of an amateur fan. Cardiff grabbed the title and we headed out for dinner at Bella Italia to celebrate… being spectacular spectators.

A best friend’s 21st – One of my favourite people, Sarah, celebrated her 21st last week. With a marquee in the garden, her own bar (manned by her dad and his friend) and a fancy spread, it was the perfect way to forget about revision and essays.

Pitch and Putt – On our day off during the week, Aaron and I headed to Southsea and the local pitch and putt. I swore I would have at least a few hours with no mention of the R word. We did a similar thing last year and I enjoyed it even more than expected. Although I get a bit distracted half way through (this time it was by the Tenth Hole- the cafe with its famous giant, yummy cakes), I really enjoy pitch and putt. We finished the afternoon with sweet potato fries and a slice of strawberry and white chocolate pie.

I must also mention Zumbathon as a highlight of this month. I spoke about it more HERE! My mum and I headed down to a local hall to Zumba away for three hours. Exhausting but awesome. Also, a few days ago my mum and I got another one of her 50 challenges ticked with a lovely pamper evening full of whoopie-pie-making, nail-painting and 13-Going-on-30-watching! Mum wrote a little bit about it on her blog.

With 13 official days left of university everything is getting a bit more real. Hopefully I get through May without caving into my desire to pack a bag and fly to somewhere hot with sangria. There’s still time, though.

~ Kat ~

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Choice | Choose Feminism

A few months ago I realised what the core of feminism is: The lack of and desire to have choice. In so many contexts plagued by sexism and inequality, choice is the core bit of the puzzle (that needn’t be a puzzle) that is missing. And of course that puzzle piece is being forcefully hidden under the patriarchy’s ugly, old and dusty shoe. From the expectation for me to sit and do handstands at lunch time rather than play football with the boys, to the girls being forced out of education and into a non-consensual marriage at the very same age, what is missing, is choice. The choice to play football as a girl; the choice to stay in education and avoid society’s horrifying expectation and instruction to be a wife at an age that should be defined by innocence and learning. As it was for me.

GolffIt’s frustrating to hear people – of any age and/or gender – say feminism’s work is done. We are equal now. Finito. Bye bye. In my corner of the world, we have made massive, respectful strides in the name of equality but even experiences in the Western culture need to be significantly improved and addressed daily. My heart breaks again when I then cast my thoughts to places in the world where those far less fortunate are struggling daily, without even the chance to have the privileged voice I have that enables me to explore why inequality sucks so much.

Despite any choices I am not socially given – or easily given – I am, of course, lucky. I have the choice to marry when and who I want; I choose my profession; I am free to make so many choices I maybe take for granted. And yet this guilt of my freedom only lurks because of the millions and millions of people around the world who live their lives by a strict set of rules I thankfully don’t even need to entertain. To me, choice seems like such a simple concept because I have so frequently been given it. Yet, upon reflection, I am not given it nearly enough.

Although I feel so heartbroken considering the worldwide issues equality faces, it doesn’t mean my experiences and those alike are trivialised. And yet, those who protest that gender equality is over are trivialising my problems. This then encourages a lack of focus on feminism, potentially leading to more ignorance regarding worldwide problems. I think in considering choice to be one of the core characteristics of equality, the world may open their eyes a little wider. So wide they might just look shocked at the lack of choice we are given.

As choice increases, inequality decreases.

~ Kat ~

Strava | Slip on Your Running Shoes

I began writing this blog with the intention for it to be quite health and fitness based. For this reason, I want to bring about an entirely running-focused series of posts to talk a lot about running and my experiences with my favourite form of exercise. And I shall kick this series off with a post about the one thing that is with me on any run: rain or shine; motivated or unmotivated. Strava. The brilliant exercise app that records my distance and pace, and is the one cheerleader that is always with me.

StravaI have been running consistently in my spare time since I went to sixth form five years ago. A few years on from then and I was running long distances frequently, running around the route I knew to be a mile long for five or six laps. When I got to uni I started running super long distances. I would run around my local park for about two hours, estimating the distance. After my brother recommending to do so, I downloaded Strava at some point during my first year at uni and I’m not sure how I went so long without it. Strava is an app where exercise such as running or cycling can be tracked. It has been described as a social media app due to its “following” function and easy ways to interact with other exercisers.

I can’t say I’m particularly adventurous with Strava; I only see it through a runner’s perspective despite it catering for other forms of exercise. Its simplicity is what makes me click on the app every time I head outside for a run. I click the app, press the record button before the circular button and I’m on my way. My runs save to my homepage, whilst uploading for my (2!) followers to see. I just think it’s a brilliant log of progress and even, lack of progress. It’s all helpful for a runner who is trying to improve distance and speed- and for all of the runners in between!

I use the app while I run at events too! I need (although fellow runners look at me weirdly) to have my phone in my hand while I’m running (although I’ve had to awkwardly put a sleeve over it when raining- not so fun). Maybe not the safest option, but I have to check my pace and the distance covered every now and then (as I do on every day jogs) or I can run far too slowly or quickly. Strava is my cheerleader because it lets me know when I should continue as I am, when I need to speed up and when I can slow down if it’s best in the long run (waheey) (this is my favourite thing Strava has to tell me).

Yesterday I watched the London Marathon coverage and, as per usual, I teared up, felt proud of people I didn’t know and was reminded, again, why I adore running so much. I will be signing up for the ballot for the second time this year. I really want it to be my first marathon but I am aware of how long it can take to be accepted. I’m going to wait this one more time (although I will apply every year) and if I don’t get in, I will be searching for another special marathon to take part in in the next year/year and a half. Because of this, I am upping my running game. I want to get used to running distances I haven’t even run yet and I’m feeling very, very pumped about it. There’s no better app I’d like to help me along the way than Strava.

~ Kat ~

The Morning after Beauty and the Beast

As planned for months, three friends and I finally went to see Beauty and the Beast yesterday. At the time of writing, it is the morning after and I am still daydreaming about the music, the classic story and That Dress (well, not that dress. The very last beautiful and timeless dress that had my friends and I recreating the heart emoji face.) Disney (understandably) gets told off for some of its unrealistic characters that lack diversity. Emma Watson, however, played a brilliantly important Belle and that should be celebrated.

greyOf course, I must approach this – even if just for a little while – with my feminist goggles on. It’s not necessary to expierience art with this kind of perspective, but as Emma Watson is one of my absolute icons in terms of feminism, I’d quite like to. Emma Watson brings such a fresh portrayal of Belle to the big screen. She’s brilliantly feisty; she’s unapologetically inquisitive; she says no to ugly (Gaston’s ridiculousness and the Beast’s controlling, nasty ways). She’s unafraid of her frowned-upon love of reading and she laughs in the face of Gaston so awesomely. I cannot remember the quote for the life of me, but at the beginning of the film, she bites back at Gaston’s ignorance with a feminist line that made me want to stand up and clap.

I have recently realised how feminism is so closely linked with choice; the words are almost synonymous. Beauty and the Beast encapsulates this very idea in so many ways. Belle has never fitted the mould- the villager’s mould. It’s why we’ve always loved her. She chooses to read (*gasp* a girl reading), to want more and to question why. She chooses to be who she wants to be- not who everyone else wants her to be. Although sometimes her vulnerability shows (she doesn’t understand why she is supposedly “odd” and “strange”), we love her all the more for it. She’s normal. I recently wrote a post about why women in film aren’t supposed to be perfect and Belle’s confusion and feeling of being an outsider creates a relatable character.

Since reading something Emma Watson said, I have had many thoughts about Belle being a victim of Stockholm Syndrome- falling in love with her capture in a less romantic kind of way than we like to see Belle and the Beast’s story. A few years ago I read an excellent book called Stolen by Lucy Christopher which tackles this very idea. After reading Emma Watson’s comments, my unwavering support of one of my OTPs, Belle and the Beast, wavered. Emma Watson’s portrayal of Belle is stubborn (an admirable flaw in this story- a flaw I like to showcase myself), ready to fight and challenges what she is told to do. She’s a grown up toddler, essentially. I joke, but she really does kick butt and I feel so more at ease at one of our favourite love stories. She doesn’t give in easily and her father is always at the forefront of her mind. She doesn’t easily fall for the Beast and she most certainly doesn’t fall for the selfish Beast we are first presented with.

2017’s live action Beauty and the Beast is everything I hoped for. Belle is loyal and Gaston is ridiculous. LeFou is silly and Maurice is lovely. ALL of the new additions to the film (no spoilers) gave me the Disney tingles and the music threw me back to my childhood Disney experiences. All of the references made Alissa and I fangirl up. I definitely recommend going to see it at the cinema while it’s still there. With classic Disney action, tied up with awesome characters and one-liners that you can only giggle at, I do think this version is one for everybody. A tale as old of time and a tale I will always reach for.

~ Kat ~

P.S. The Midnight After La La Land

Where to Find Fitspiration Online | Instagram

There are a million and one reasons why the internet sucks, but these are definitely contradicted by a million and two reasons why it’s awesome. After a few taps, finished with an enter button, we have information presented to us in abundance. We can educate ourselves about politics, history and breaking news after a second or so of entering some keywords. It is through the internet I have become somewhat in the know with regards to health and fitness. I thought I’d share a few of my favourite health and/or fitness personalities that I am inspired by daily when I scroll through Instagram.

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  • Carly Rowena – I get so excited about anything Carly Rowena- she’s the first person I go to for HIIT videos on YouTube and general health and fitness advice too. (Basically, she’s also one of my favourite and go-to YouTubers.) However I included her in my Instagram post because she has such a healthy, honest and varied feed. I love following balanced fitness and health accounts and Carly’s is so necessary and helpful because it depicts a realistic and yet completely motivational message.
  • Progress Pure – Molly is one of my absolute favourites in terms of YouTube, her blog and her snapchat as well (I love following the food she eats throughout her day- and she makes me chuckle, a lot). Her instagram is just super inspiring and it’s awesome to see someone my age kicking butt. She is super honest about her whole journey which helps discourage “falling off the bandwagon” as a taboo subject in the health and fitness industry.
  • Clean Eating Alice – Alice’s content is so realistic to me because her diet is pretty similar to mine and also what I aspire for mine to be like (although naturally every body and therefore diet should be different). She eats healthy cooked breakfasts and showcases awesome workouts. I aim to buy her book as soon as possible because it looks like a great reflection and expansion of her online persona and beliefs.
  • The Body Coach – Another fitness personality I follow religiously is Joe Wicks. He makes me seriously pumped to get better and better. His popular Instagram recipe videos make my laugh and my belly rumbles every single time I see one. My family and I are massive fans of his cookbooks; he’s a super helpful resource for anyone wanting to be fitter and healthier.

Being Instagram’s number one fan as it is, my favourite health and fitness accounts make the app even better. I think Instagram could and does do some amazing things for the health of the general public. Of course, it can be dangerous too. However my favourite accounts promote super healthy mantras. Even following one account and scrolling past one healthy meal each day inspires a bit of momentum, so I highly encourage Instagram-users to follow accounts such as these in order feel motivated! I will soon be posting about health and fitness YouTubers and bloggers that are accidentally my health and fitness cheerleaders.

~ Kat ~

50 Ticks Ft. Sous-Chef | A Foodie’s Easter

As I’ve spoken about before, for my mum’s 50th birthday, I made her a book of 50 things for her to do before she turned 51. With less than two months to go, my mum is keeping her cool and trying to find any way possible to legally disown me so she can put her feet up for the remaining 51 days. Yesterday – with a teeny bit of help from me – she ticked off two more ticks: to make an Easter showstopper, and cook a three course meal; each course being from a different culture and involving something she hadn’t cooked before (I don’t make it easy).

IMG_1343.JPGIMG_1397.JPGIMG_1383.JPGIMG_1391IMG_1331.JPGIMG_1378IMG_1379IMG_1405IMG_1375.JPGIMG_1336.JPGIMG_1412.JPGAdmittedly, because of revision, I wasn’t able to help as much as I wanted to but, quite clearly, my mum didn’t need me. Therefore, I was sous-chef and photographer for the day. (Photo one will be my application to becoming Lakeland’s Instagram Person.) My brother also swooped in occasionally to get his hands dirty, which helped create the menu that (with a glass of bubbly) was:

Starter: Indian crabcakes packed full of delicious spices to tease your senses (with tamarind Mayonnaise sauce)

Main: Homemade spinach and ricotta ravioli with pea sauce

Dessert: Profiteroles

The cake as pictured above was a mission and a half. Mum bought a fillable cake mould, ready to make a showstopping piece worthy of Bake Off. Spoilers: by ten o’clock Friday night, it was a pale crumbly mess on the kitchen counter, us picking at it half miserably, half comically. We had followed a recipe and it hadn’t paid off. So, when I was at work the next day, my mum Mary Berry-d up and got the job done. Later that evening we made the chocolate moose for the middle and we (I) decorated it the following morning. I like to think the second photo is cut from an episode of Bake Off where they pan round on camera and the contestant stands there, proud of their masterpiece.

I was no help in the production of the crabcakes but they were delicious as the menu said (unsurprisingly, because I wrote it). Once again, I can’t pretend I was much help for the main. Mum used her new pasta machine, but when the going got tough, my brother and I entered the kitchen, making it tougher by taking silly selfies. As a team, we filled, rolled and pinched. And it made for the yummiest main. Earlier on in the day (“here’s some we made earlier”) mum and I had made the chauxbuns for the profiteroles. A couple of hours after professing we will never eat again (we were as stuffed as the pasta), mum and I whipped up (wahey) the cream, melted the chocolate and presented a messy but tasty pile of dessert.

We had a lovely Easter full of food, not much chocolate; but a lot of food. You can find my mum’s lovely blog where she will talk about both challenges HERE!

~ Kat ~

 

In the Spring of Things | The 52 Lists Project

For my birthday I received a brilliantly thoughtful gift from my friend, Alissa: The 52 Lists Project. Being a lover of lists and mindful books alike, I was thrilled. And what’s more, it’s the most beautifully put together book of happiness. With a prompt at the top the page, you are to write a list about this particular idea. A few weeks ago, I filled in the list about the ways you can cleanse your life for spring. As we are well and truly in Spring now – having even experienced some b-e-a-utiful weather – I wanted to talk about this list today and, by default, this awesome book that I think everyone should have- it makes the perfect gift.

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A few of the things I wrote down included:

  • Get back into smoothies
  • Keep my room tidy
  • Print photographs
  • Run a 13 mile run every week
  • Go to the beach

I fill in the required list for each week on a Sunday evening, an evening of the week that’s pretty synonymous for feeling mindful- for me, anyway. This particular list made me feel super excited for the happy season of spring, what it stands for and how I can make my spring as spring-cleaned as possible. I plan to make sure I’ve completed this list by the time the first summer day rolls about. I’m hoping I’ll create or re-create habits I once had (like frequently drinking smoothies) that will stay with me for ever.

Reaching spring and choosing to celebrate its meaning (I can’t say I ever have deeply thought about spring-cleaning my life before) is a bit like the notion of the New Year and creating resolutions. Realistically you shouldn’t wait until the first day of the year or the season of spring to make positive changes. In practice, it’s nice to have a metaphorical reminder of the concept of change, bettering ourselves and tackling things we always say we will tackle. My list was very inspired by exam season. I thought about the ways I could “cleanse” my life that would, by extension, inspire a better approach to revision. So far, the parts of the list I’ve completed/am completing have really helped.

The things I’ve really noticed have an impact on my work ethic are: drinking lots, walking lots and getting into bed before half ten. It’s impressive how accurate the information our parents give us as children is: drink lots of water, exercise frequently and get an early night, and you will feel good. Not for the first time on the blog, I am saying: mother knows best.

From writing about places I want to go to listing the ways I get energised, it’s the perfect book for someone like me. I feel like each list is naturally adapted to reflect whose book it is, in turn becoming a perfect book for any person. Every list seems to reflect the things I love: travel; fitness; food; reading. For someone else, it would mould to become their perfect companion. I am pretty much this book’s biggest advocate and highly, highly recommend it.

Happy Easter! ❤

~ Kat ~

P.S. Thank you Lissa 🙂

How to Combat Falling out of Love with the Gym

For nearly two years I have been head over heels with going to the gym; it seems we’ve run into that age-old case of the terrible twos. As soon as we fall out of love with a form of exercise, it’s so easy to think, “Well, there we go. That’s that. Exercise is not for me.” Instead of admitting defeat, we need to combat this resentment/meh attitude towards the gym (or whatever exercise). And by combating, I kind of mean don’t combat; don’t resist; embrace what can come of less or no time at all in the gym.

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I think I understand why I’ve taken off my rose-tinted glasses when it comes to the gym:

  1. I aim to start weight training this year and it’s something I can’t focus too much attention on right now. For the last two years I’ve predominantly been doing resistance training with a sprinkle of cardio and weight training when I go to the gym. I wanted 2017 to be the year I get to grips with weights. I devote a lot of time to the gym and although I still enjoy it, I’m not nearly as excited about it as I used to be. I’m waiting for exams to disappear and my time to hone in a new skill increase ever so slightly.
  2. Recently I wrote a post about a sucky experience I acquired at the gym: Gym Etiquette: How not to be a Twit. And it happened again. I’ll explain what happened before by telling you what happened last week. I was on the leg press, starting to notice a nearby guy hovering. Predictably, he interrupted, “How many sets have you got left?” Not again. “Two.” “Can I jump in in between sets?” “No, I won’t be long.” This time, I stuck to my guns. Huffing and puffing (trying to make it so super clear how uncomfortable I was with him WATCHING), I completed my final two sets. I jumped off, frustrated, again. (Oh how I wish I then watched him do his workout!) These weird experiences have left me feeling a bit deflated and a little less on the “Gyms Aren’t Full of Uncomfortable Scenarios!” side of things.

Instead of feeling downtrodden, I have been going to the gym three or four times a week instead of five, just so I can keep up any strength until I head to the gym with different motives in a month or so. I have then been devoting a lot more time into other activities. And I have l-o-v-e-d this alternative focus to mostly just going to the gym and running. I’ve been running further but just as frequently, walking as much as I possibly can and, while I’ve been home for Easter I’ve swapped the gym for bodyweight training and a Zumba class each week. I plan to get a few swimming sessions in so that when I’m home for good after exams I can develop a routine- it’s when I am swimming as well that I feel super motivated and strong.

I may have to cancel my gym membership at university for next month and I wouldn’t be disappointed to go without the gym for the month. It needs to be constantly reminded to everybody that you don’t need a gym membership to be fit- far, far from it. Exercising outside (running and walking) has been making me super happy and so I’d much rather focus more time into activities I enjoy rather than going to the gym frequently because I feel I have to- of course I don’t have to.

Ultimately, I have learnt the importance of focusing energy on the fitness activities I am currently enjoying and ignoring the ones I don’t for the moment or for ever. There are plenty of other activities that your body adores that aren’t gym-related. Whether they are alternative workouts that concentrate on the same muscles, or entirely different muscles: fitness loves variation. And that’s the brilliant thing that comes from falling out of love with one form of exercise and falling in love with an alternative or two.

~ Kat ~

Holding up the Universe | Review

I just finished yet another book that is a gigantic credit to the Young Adult category. My mum has been reading my favourite books, a few of which being Young Adult. She commented on their important messages, and their very serious undertones. Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven is absolutely no exception. I will definitely be making sure my mum gets to experience this brilliant tale too.

IMG_1265.JPGLibby Strout became somewhat famous for an eating disorder she developed after her mother died. While she had some supporters, others were disgusted, cruel and presumptuous. After her mother dying when she was very young, her father and her suffered with their grief, Libby turning to binge eating. Ready to get back to high school, Libby decides she will be the girl who can do anything. Take on the bullies and dance her way through high school. Meanwhile, Jack Masselin is fighting a battle no one knows about- and he wants to keep it that way. He suffers with prosopagnosia, meaning he cannot recognise faces; even those who are nearest and dearest to him. He follows the crowd in the hope no one will realise what he is suffering from.

I’ve been reading a lot of criticism about this story; it all suggesting Niven romanticised an eating disorder and a cognitive disorder. Reviewers don’t like that an overweight, unpopular girl and a slim, popular guy are the Romeo and Juliet of this story. For me, the lessons about Libby’s and Jack’s struggles were at the forefront at it all. The love story alongside it (what we open a lot of books for) was just another point of interest. And more interestingly, it showed how two teenagers – yes, perhaps stereotypically, unlikely characters; but isn’t that what Niven is challenging? – brighten up the other’s world accidentally and pretty nicely. More than that, I learnt about prosopagnosia which I had previously never heard of and listened to the voice of a character whose grief lead to an eating disorder people belittle every single day.

Holding up the Universe captures all of the elements of high school stories we love to read about, with an extra layer of This Is Important. The themes of this story were certainly unique and eye-opening; definitely themes young people would benefit from. And as usual, come to think of that, older people too. Libby is a particularly vital character for young people to read about. In so many ways I respected and adored her; I think her character is why I find this book quite so brilliant.

Ultimately, we root for both of Niven’s protagonists and that makes for a pretty awesome book.

~ Kat ~

The World of Zumba

Yesterday morning I took part in a three hour Zumbathon to raise money for two charities. Yep, you heard me right: Zumbathon. Local instructors and their classes came together to Zumba for three hours- the teachers taught and the classes got to grips with routine. The thought of three hours of my favourite dancing has been one of the things powering through the last few weeks that consisted of assignments and it did not disappoint. I’ve never been a dancer but Zumba makes me feel how I imagine Tracy Turnblad feels when she wakes up to the sight of Baltimore. Being a passionate advocate for the unique and brilliant dance class, I thought I’d write about why I find it so fulfilling.

meeeWhenever I am home from university I will make sure I get at least one evening of Zumba in, if not two. My mum and I head down to a local hall for 6pm, ready to sweat in the happiest way possible. On my imaginary list I have compiled about Why It’s Not So Bad University Is Ending, Zumba is pretty high on the list. I am super excited to be at home, with a routine, where a couple of days a week end with Zumba. And why does this excite me so much?

  • I am a lover of cardio and this high impact (Zumba classes will vary in this way so do your research considering your joints, body and desires!) class makes me s-w-e-a-t in one of my favourite ways possible.
  • I am surrounded by others who are there for a bit of a workout and a bit of fun and that’s exactly how exercising should be a lot of the time.
  • Dancing is really fun and most of my life I awkwardly teenaged away from the notion. It’s easy to forget it’s good for you when it’s just. That. Fun.

You either go in ready to make mistakes, or you learn an important – in the funniest way ever – life lesson about how to make mistakes. Multiple times – and still to this day – I have been facing the class while I didn’t realise we had to turn around in a routine. Luckily, the atmosphere is a jovial one, and every time it makes me laugh. A particularly poignant memory is my mum being forced to show us how it’s done at the front of the class. One simple mistake and she ended up facing the rest of us- I was beside myself. Fate intervened, and a routine or two later I did the exact same thing. *Queue mum’s giggles.*

There is no better way to start a Saturday than three hours of Zumba and I fear I’ll never enjoy a Saturday morning again. Everyone was excited, lively and ready to participate in new routines and show their Zumba instructor they aren’t as hopeless as it may seem sometimes (that was my plan, anyway). It was amazingly tiring and considering it’s a brilliant workout for one hour on and off, it’s safe to say I was feeling it after three.

From previous research, I think Zumba classes are pretty accessible and I’d definitely recommend that anyone should try out a Zumba class if they’re looking for a new weekly workout or simply a place to forget about everything else. If the world of Zumba welcomes me (not the most elegant of dancers), it welcomes anyone.

~ Kat ~