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?

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