Saturday, December 29, 2018

My 2018 Book Challenge

I love reading but I mostly read fiction books. So this year I set myself the challenge of only reading non-fiction books. It was difficult at first because I don't know what kinds of non-fiction I'm interested in. If I read non-fiction it's usually because JD read something he's enjoyed and passed on to me. I resorted to wandering around the library picking up anything that looked interesting.

I started off the year with a few biographies.

This book was brilliant. Not only a detailed biography of Freddie Mercury's life, it follows the outbreak of AIDS too. Really interesting to read but also heartbreakingly sad. I loved it.

This book has everything Alan Bennett. His biography but also letters he's written, short stories and plays. I love his Northern voice and the mentions of Leeds where he grew up.  He talks about normal people but makes them so fascinating. It's a real talent.There's even a story about when he visited Harrogate to make a TV show at The Crown Hotel. Really good read.

Maya Angelou has a whole series of autobiographical books and this book was the next on my list. I really enjoy Maya's books, she's fearless and proud despite all she's been through. This one was just as good as others I've read.

Next I had a couple of exercise themed books to read.

Of course, I loved this book. I love my Zombies, Run! app. It's a book to compliment the app as well as a legitimate exercise advice book. I loved it. 

This book suits me well as my yoga is exactly what's being described here. I wasn't prepared for the authors heartfelt biography in this book. It brought me to tears more than once. I love how inclusive this book is, it's given me some great advice on practising yoga and makes me feel happy that such a book exists.

At the library I picked up a few books on politics and economics as they are both subjects I want to learn more about.

As the tagline suggests this book is about Easily Digestible Economics. Short chapters explaining a complicated subject. I really enjoyed it. It was well written, accessible and I finished it feeling I knew more on the subject.

Maybe more of a biography but a political one at least. This is the story of Jo Cox, the MP who was shot and killed in Leeds around the time of the Brexit referendum. It was sad to read but also inspiring. I admired her passion and need to take a stance against things she disagreed with.

Reeled in by the Dr Seuss cover I found this book really interesting. Another short chaptered book explaining difficult ideas in an accessible way. It gives you a lot to think about about the way things are now and how they could be improved. Great read.

I bought this for JD for Christmas and he passed it over to me. I don't like Russell Brands comedy much but this book is a passionate cry for change. I enjoyed reading about his ideas, I didn't always agree but do agree that change is needed. It's also part-biography which was interesting.

Also at the library I found a couple of comic books to read.

This book was really funny. It deals with strong subjects such as anxiety and depression but managed to have me laughing out loud constantly. Maybe just because of my experience living with two daughters feeling  a similar way to the author but probably because it's comic genius. A must read for anyone who suffers with depression or knows somebody who does. Loved it.

I didn't know what to expect from a tragicomic but this didn't disappoint. The comic is biographical and deals with many family issues including death of a parent. It's both funny and sad, so well written and sincere feeling. Great read.

Last few books.

I'd never read The Vagina Monologues so when I saw it in the library I thought, why not? It's an interesting read, a bit short though. I could've read more women's stories for days. Empowering and inspiring book.

I picked this book up because it's yet another subject I don't know much about. It's a well written FAQ book that gave me an intersting insight about what it's like to grow up feeling displaced in your own body. Great read.

Virgie Tovar is a fat activist who I follow on instagram. When I read she'd written a book I ordered it straight away. Another part biographical book that is also a call for an end to dieting and fat shaming. Brilliant read for anyone wanting to opt out of diet culture.

It's definitely been an interesting year of reading. Hopefully I've ended this year with a bit more knowledge that I started it with. I'm going to carry on incorporating non-fiction books into my reading. There are lots more subjects I want to read about as well as lots more reading on subjects I've read about already this year.

I really can't wait to read a fiction book now, my bookshelf is bulging with them. :D

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Playing Silly Burgers 19: Hakkebøf

This is like some sort of blog crossover post. It's a burger but from another country. Denmark! This burger has no bread bun but is served with soft onions and roast potatoes. Can do!


500g minced beef
3 onions
Stock or gravy granules
Salt & pepper

Season the beef with salt & pepper then form into 4 burger patties. Fry the burgers in a frying pan as usual. Meanwhile, slice the onions and saute until soft. Stir in some gravy to give them a meaty flavour. Serve with roast potatoes putting the onions on top of the burgers.

This was an interesting burger. It tasted quite different with the gravy flavoured onions on top. The burgers were lovely and meaty too. We would've liked to have actual gravy with this burger, maybe next time.

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 3

Coming up next - Sliders!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Emma's Exercise Experiments - The End of the Year

For the last month I've been swimming each week. Sometimes alone and sometimes with my daughter Erin. Swimming is great exercise for all of your body. Erin and I focused on swimming lengths, trying to improve our previous weeks total. We also did some exercises in the water which is really good resistance. We went to our local pool The Hydro which has been much used by me this year doing various activities.

Now swimming is finished I've reached the end of my year long goal of trying lots of new exercise types. There's just a couple of things to catch up that I haven't posted about yet.


This form of rock climbing is easier to try for beginners because you don't need much equipment to give it a go. No ropes, helmets or harnesses. You can wear climbing shoes and use chalk if you want.

We went along to Harrogate Climbing Centre for a bouldering taster session.

Next stop, Ninja Warrior.

The different colour holds show you how hard each colour set are. The spotted pink ones were the easiest so we started with those. You start at the bottom and work your way to the top sticking to the same colour as you go. I look very pleased with myself for being about two foot off the ground here!

JD showing off.
It was crazy how small some of the holds were, about as big as a credit card and only deep enough to get your finger tips on. Others were so smooth it was impossible to grip them. It was nice to have a go at bouldering but I don't think my knees would thank me for going back!

River Trekking


This activity is called lots of different things but is basically just walking up a river or stream. It's apparently very popular in Japan. It's just my sort of thing to do on a hot day. It felt a bit precarious and I wished I'd brought my walking poles as people often use them for walking in water. Luckily the water was quite shallow where we walked so I didn't get swept away. I'd like to try it again with poles in a deeper stream. It's a lovely way to enjoy a new perspective out in the countryside.

JD and I have just been recapping about our year of exercise and we decided we've learned quite a lot over the last 12 months.

For me the most encouraging thing about all the classes has been that I've been made to feel welcome at every one. As a fat woman it's quite intimidating to walk into a new class not knowing if you'll be able to keep up. Well after a year I can tell you that it doesn't matter if you can keep up or not. Whatever size or fitness level you're at the exercise can be adapted to suit you. If the instructor isn't willing to give you an alternative exercise to one you can't manage then you need a new instructor. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. With my knee problems over the last couple of years there are a few things I no longer feel comfortable doing and all the instructors I've come accross this year have been happy to work around any problems I had. If you don't feel happy in a class, try a different one or a different exercise. Exercise is most effective when you enjoy it because you'll keep doing it.

JD has discovered that he doesn't really enjoy aerobic exercise. He doesn't get the endorphin rush that I do at the end of a class. Maybe because he finds the class easier physically? That makes it less enjoyable for him and he's often feeling that an hour is too long for a class. We both agree that we enjoy trying new things. We've enjoyed learning new skills and adapting them for woking out at home. JD still does the Tai Chi stretches at home. We sometimes do the boxing moves we learned in Boot Camp alternated with squats, lunges and star jumps. I've got a yoga mat set up so I can do some yoga stretches and I've recently bought a kettlebell for home so I can do that too.

Our Top 3 picks:

JD - Yoga, Salsa and Kettlebells

Emma - Boot Camp, Aquafit and Boxing

There are still some exercise things (Zumba and Spin Cycling) I didn't get to try but with my new found class confidence I'll be trying those in the New Year. When I started trying new exercise things I was hoping to discover something I loved but to be honest my favourite thing is still walking in the countryside. I haven't tried anything that feels better than walking through woods, fields and along rivers for me. But I've had lots of fun looking!

Overall it's been a fantastic experience for me. I'm really proud of myself for getting out there and being brave trying new exercise types. I feel more confident in my body's abilities. I know what I can do and what I can't do now. I feel fitter than the start of the year and stronger too. This year has been the most exercise I've ever done. It's been a consistent 1 or 2 hour long sessions a week with only 4 weeks missed all year. Not bad for an arthritic 45 year old fat woman. :)

Previously on Emma's Exercise Experiments:






Tai Chi 

Pokemon Go 


Outside Gym 

Salsa Lessons

Other Activities 


Kettlebell Class 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Burger Off 18: The Burger Dog

Who knew there was such a thing as a burger/hot dog crossover? Also, why didn't you tell me? Anyway, now I know and I'm about to make them. Yay :)

It's basically a hot dog shaped cheeseburger in a hot dog bun. O_o

Make up some sausage shaped burgers using minced beef, salt and pepper. Also onion if you live in a house where everyone will eat it. I suggest making them longer than I did because they shrink a lot during cooking. Fry them until done in a pan, using the lid to steam them a bit for the last 5 minutes.

Place in a cut hot dog bun and top with a slice of cheese plus whatever condiments you like on your burger dog. Ours were a bit small for the bun due to the shrinkage but we'll master it next time!

We were really impressed with these. I know it's just a burger shaped differently in a hot dog bun but it's a really convenient way to eat a cheeseburger. We've already made plans to make them again with different toppings. Also chilli burger dogs!!!

Ratings: Emma - 4, JD - 3.5 and Leigh -4

Saturday, December 1, 2018

It's Starting To Look A Lot Like Christmas

I'm usually one of the more laid back Christmas people. I steadily get presents bought and leave it until at least two weeks into December to put up the tree. This year I'm starting to get in the Christmas mood already...and it's only December 1st!

I've just finished making an Advent Calendar for the kids (I feel like I'm going to refer to them as 'the kids' forever and Leigh is 18 now). You're never too old to enjoy a daily dose of chocolate anyway.

I bought a pack of 24 little boxes from Amazon. the kind that you might get a necklace in. Then used my Sharpies to put a date on them all and then duct taped them all to the back door in the shape of a Christmas tree. Now they can be filled with chocolates or whatever else I like. Mostly chocolate!

There was a spare one which is a bit awkward and since I put them up they've been steadily falling off because the door gets really cold. Still, I do enjoy a homemade thing however crappy it may be. Erin was very impressed with a Kinder Snowman in the first box this morning, so it's already worth it. :D

A trip to Aldi this afternoon brought us these beauties. Salted Caramel Mince Pies, it's the stuff dreams are made of. They've already been eaten. It's officially Christmas now!

Next Friday is my work Christmas Party. Sunday is a festive present swap with my sisters. Monday is Secret Santa day at work. I have to admit, I'm excited!!!

What Christmas plans do you have? Are you feeling it yet?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Subscription Box Review: Gousto

We're trying another recipe box subscription service, this time it's Gousto's turn to try to impress us.

JD and I will be making and sampling 4 recipes for 2 which usually costs £34.99. I used an offer from another app which got me this first box for £12.

They deliver every day of the week from 8am - 7pm. Our box arrived on a Sunday and we were given a 1 hour delivery slot via tracking info on the day.

The box was well packed with all the veg/ ambient stuff on one side and the stuff to be chilled in a cold bag filled with wool and disposable ice packs on the other side. Everything is measured out and ready to use in the recipes. There were four recipe cards each with a day range (mostly 3-4 days) the meal had to be made by.

We  even got a wooden spoon included as a free gift.

On Monday JD made us Thai Basil Pork with Green Beans

This was served with Tilda microwaveable rice which was included in the box. It was really tasty! The recipe used pork mince and we've never used minced meat in a stir fry but it worked really well. One of the nicest things about this recipe was the garlic and ginger were in paste form in a plastic sachet. That makes things really quick on weeknight. Also really easy for a novice cook.

On Tuesday JD made us Minted Lamb and Feta Bulgur

Another minced meat dish but also really tasty. The bulgur wheat had chopped cucumber and feta mixed into it, so good. Then the minced lamb was mixed with tomato paste and spices to make a lovely sauce to top the bulgur. This recipe was another quick one to make. Very nice!

On Wednesday I made us Chicken, Kale and Butter Bean Broth

This dish was different to food we normally eat. Shredded chicken, kale and butter beans in a cream cheese thickened broth. It was lovely. So simple to put together with really fresh flavours from the lemon and black pepper. We really enjoyed it.

On Thursday I made us American Cheeseburgers and Potato Wedges

There was a bit more to this recipe. I made pickled mustard cucumbers and potato wedges as sides following the recipes. Then I actually had to peel and crush garlic (so not fair!) to make the burgers. Which were topped with burger sauce (which I made), cheese and fried onions (which I had to sprinkle on). It was really good. All the extra touches made for a decent burger meal.

All the meals were really well thought out. It's really luxurious to be cooking without any of the cleaning up you have to do when you're constantly weighing out ingredients. It just makes everything easier. And to think I once made fun of my Dad for buying pre-cut onions. (Sorry Dad).

It's nice to have so much choice in recipes on the Gousto site. You could have something different every day for a month. I enjoyed picking out 4 recipes to try, there were lots of interesting looking meals.

Again, some of the meals were on the small side portion wise. I'm starting to think it's some worldwide conspiracy to make me and JD feel bad. Well, we don't. :(

Just from using this service as a one-off I've picked up some nice recipe ideas to try myself. I think I might be getting addicted to trying out these subscription boxes. It's so nice to get a parcel of food. Send help (or food). :D

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Emma's Exercise Experiments - Kettlebell Class

When JD and I went to Boot Camp I really enjoyed using the Kettlebell weights occasionally during the exercises. So when I found out that our local pool's gym had Kettlebell Classes I was keen to give them a go. £6.80 a class on a pay as you go system. Which is great as the gym does lots of classes so it's great to be able to try as many as you want.

The Hydro Pool, home to Brimhams Gym.
We went along to our first class on a Monday night and joined a class of about 12 people. We each had a mat and two kettlebells. A smaller one for overhead exercises and larger for other exercises. The instructor had organised an hour long class with lots of different exercises using the kettlebells. Squats with kettlebells, sit ups with kettlebells, lunges with get the idea! 60 sweaty minutes later we were done and I staggered out of the gym into the blessed cool night air.

Squats with kettlebells.

Each week there was a different instructor doing different exercises which meant the class difficulty was very varied but it stopped the class from being boring too. It was impressive the range of different exercises we did. The classes were all well organised and timed to make the most of an hour. We enjoyed the class in that thank god it's done way but we always left feeling pleased we'd done it too. The few days after each class we ached a lot, arms, legs and back. This is both terrible and great but it passes.

Windmill with kettlebell.
We'd definitely go back to Brimhams Gym to try other classes as everyone we met there was friendly and welcoming. The instructors were very inclusive and happy to suggest alternative exercises to anything I couldn't manage due to my dicky knees.

Only two months to go now, almost there!

Previously on Emma's Exercise Experiments






Tai Chi 

Pokemon Go 


Outside Gym 

Salsa Lessons

Other Activities 


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Book Review - One Pound Meals Fast & Fresh

I borrowed this book from the library and picked three recipes to try from it. First up was the Goan Cauliflower Curry.

The recipe makes a really creamy curry sauce that coats the cauliflower thoroughly. We really enjoyed this meal. It was a simple recipe to follow but made a lovely meal.

Next we tried the Spanish Chorizo Stew. Another simple one pot recipe that was easy to make but tasted delicious.

We had ours with some homemade bread and it was great. The last recipe we tried was the Hasselback Squash.

I totally misunderstood the recipe so I messed ours up a bit but it still tasted lovely. It was a real revelation to us that you can just roast a squash like this and eat it skin and all. The parma ham and feta cheese went beautifully with the squash. We'll definitely be having this one again.

The best thing about Miguel Barclay's recipes is that in the book they're all set up for 1 person making the book really accessible to everyone. Then you can just multiply based on how many people you're serving. I haven't seen a recipe book do this before.

A thing that usually bothers me about these cheap recipe books is that each recipe is costed only on what the recipe uses. Meaning if you buy a cauliflower but only use half of it then you're left with half a cauliflower to use up somehow or you have to have the same recipe again quick before your cauliflower goes bad. Not so with One Pound Meals, looking through the book you see a lot of ingredients commonly used. If you buy some chorizo and use some for one recipe there are easily 3-4 more recipes that use chorizo too. It makes it much easier to see someone struggling to afford ingredients get good value from their shopping.

A not good thing about this book (and many other recipe books) is that some of the meals are simply not enough food. We had the cauliflower curry and squash as sides and added some bread to go with the stew.

But overall this is a well thought out book that could actually save you money on your food shopping if you can carefully plan out a weeks meals using these recipes. Well done, Miguel!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Subscription Box Review: Tribe

Tribe is a service that sends you performance nutrition in the form of protein bars, trail mix, hydration and shake powders among other things. When you sign up they ask you questions about the kind of exercise you do and how often. I was recommended a box of 6 items. This would usually cost £8.65 but through an offer I got my first box for £2. Perfect for giving it a try.

My box arrived within a few days and it handily fits through the letterbox.

The contents included 3 bars, some trail mix, a hydration sachet and a shake mix. Every item has details on it telling you if it's for before exercise for energy or after exercise as recovery. There are calorie and nutrition details on everything. There was also a mission statement booklet which was quite an interesting read.

JD and I had one of the bars each 45 minutes before our Kettlebells class to give us some extra energy. I don't know if it worked or not, I got through the class but I don't know if that's due to the energy bars or not wanting to show myself up in front of other people!. They were pretty tasty either way, especially the cacao & orange one. Yum!

The price is a little high but these kinds of products are usually at least £1 each. These are all 100% natural ingredients, vegan, dairy and gluten free. If you do a lot of exercise then getting these products regularly would be really useful. I like that they have a mission and seem like an ethical company wanting to do good and help people. They are also developing plastic free wrapping, which is great.

We enjoyed sampling their products, everything we tried was well made and tasted good. Thumbs up!

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