Taking a step back with a mini blogging hiatus

2014 has been a year of self-assessment and life examination for me. I have been blogging consistently, working full time, writing for Groupon’s City Guide and transforming my lifestyle and mental outlook. Hard work, let me tell you.

After a rollercoaster 9 months I have decided I need a break from something and despite my passion for writing and enjoyment of blogging, musicandeverything.com is going to have suffer slightly.

I’m at a place now where I have gained a lot of confidence and knowledge and I intend to spend the next six months increasing both of these to help carve out a future I can be proud of and, most importantly, that I will enjoy. While I’m doing that I need to remove one of my, I suppose, regular commitments, so I can also do the things that keep me balanced and happy like training, socialising and reading myself calm. It is taking a lot for me to admit this: I can’t do everything all at once, and lately I’ve learned that hobbies and looking after my mental health are as important as writing and as important as my future and my career.

I’m not giving up; it’s not in my nature to do so, and I’m not taking a full on break, but for the next six months I won’t be blogging as often; once a week at most. Hopefully when these six months are over my passion for blogging will have been reinstated and perhaps I will have experienced enough to generate new and exciting content for you.

I’ll have a couple of projects to entice you with come then as well, hopefully.

I’m aware I haven’t got the largest readership but everyone that reads, comments and shares means a great deal to me and I hope that you can continue to support the blog despite the lack of regular content.

I do have some beauty and fitness posts in the pipeline over the next few months and I hope to have some guest posts from wonderful bloggers and writers to keep you titillated.

Incidentally, if you wish to contribute content on any subject, so long as it’s not overly political/religious (Nana always said never discuss those two particular subjects), head to the contact tab and get in touch with me, or hit me up on Twitter. 

I’ll leave you with a little quote that I found to be quite apt.

life quotes

*source

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Lifestyle: 5 reasons to be glad Autumn is here

This post has been inspired by a lot of the sorrowful tweets I’ve read mourning the loss of Summer 2014.

We’re conditioned from our school years to dread autumn back to school, back to homework, back to exams.

Honestly though, this can’t be good for our mental health; we spend our winters complaining and waiting for the summer and, if you’re reading in Ireland or the UK, that can be a bit of a disappointment weather wise.

Summer is fantastic, yes; the warmer weather is good for us, we get to get the pins out, eat al fresco, enjoy longer nights. That being said, Autumn/Winter (It’s all one and the same in Ireland) gets an unjust bad rap; it has its own charms and there are plenty of reasons as to why we should be glad it has arrived.

Winter clothes!

Winter look

 

Image source frankieheartsfashion.com

Surely I am not alone in thinking that winter clothes are far superior to summer clothes? The cosy, stylish coats, the hats, scarves, oversized jumpers, boots. I spend most of my summer wishing I could wear my favourite boots without melting. As soon as the temperature starts to drop I get a fuzzy excitement for the new range of scarves and gloves to come into the shops.

 The colours are always more universally flattering, also; pastel yellows and greens and floral patterns are not for everyone.

Lack of night-in guilt

We all need a night in but there is nothing like a long, sunny, warm evening to make you feel guilty about wanting nothing more than curling up in your PJs and watching a film.

Once winter comes and it starts getting dark at around 9pm our psyche tells us that it’s ok to not want to go out, it’s ok to want to avoid other humans, and it’s ok to just want to eat and watch TV.

Cosiness!

Cosy winter nights

 

image source elvisduran.com

This summer in Ireland had been stifling. I have never lost so many nights’ sleep due to the humidity and soon we can no doubt expect the exact opposite; freezing cold nights, howling winds. The thing is, the howling winds, rain and low temperatures all lend to the charm of Autumn and Winter. It’s the perfect excuse to get some candles lit and snuggle up in your favourite PJs with a hot drink in your hand. Not to mention the hot water bottles. How could you favour Feeling like a hot water bottle in summer ahead of having a hot water bottle warm your bed up before your climb in. Lovely!

Halloween!

Taking the fools who go wild with the fireworks and bangers out of the equation, Halloween is my favourite time of year. I love it. I love dressing up as something ghoulish, I love planning my costume, I love seeing other people’s costumes , I love ritualistically watching Hocus Pocus and horror movies. I. Love. IT. I also love reflecting on the people I’ve lost over the years without having being forced to do so like at Christmas when the empty chairs and missing voices are so glaringly obvious. It is a feast for the spirits, after all.

 It’s like Christmas for people who probably could have been descended from The Addams Family had they not been fictional. The most wonderful time of year!

Christmas cheer is on the horizon.

Christmas lights

 

image source:  karlafitzpatrickfyb.blogspot.com

Christmas day, most of us could take or leave, but one of the best things about winter is the lead up to Christmas (from December only, bored of the overkill!); the lights, meeting up with people you may not have seen for months, the songs, the hot chocolates, the seasonal drinks, the jumpers, our younger relatives excitement about Santa’s visit; everything about it is automatically mood lifting; it’s like sprinkling cinnamon in your coffee, which incidentally would have been the 6th on the list if that didn’t make things uneven.

Hopefully this quick post has dashed away the immediate post-summer blues and instilled in you the warm, fuzzy feeling I get just thinking about Autumn and Winter. What’s really important is to look at the positives of the season; it’s going to happen whether you like having to wear a scarf or not!

Fitness and Health: My progress and how I do it Part 1 – Nutrition

Nutrition tips for losing body fat

People who follow the blog or follow me on the various social media sites I jam up with my mindless drivel and pictures of my food/cat/latest make up purchase will know that I have been embarking on a fitness journey since the beginning of the year.

Unlike my other fitness campaigns, which lasted no more than a couple of months before I gave up, I have stayed with it, missing only one week of training out of 26 and having a few dips in my nutrition every now and then.

Since sharing the picture below on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook a few people have been in touch with me to ask the rather unanswerable question: “What’s your secret?” I say it’s unanswerable, but really, I don’t have a secret. I’ve had amazing guidance from a professional trainer and the most knowledgeable nutritionist out there.  and I’ve been working hard.

Progress pictures

In Part 1 of  2 in this “how I’m doing it”  series, I’m going to talk about what I feel is the most important aspect of my lifestyle change; nutrition.

So what do I eat and what do I not eat? 

Sugar, dodododo, aaaaah honey, honey

It’s all about sugar, baby! Your body’s insulin levels react to the amount of sugar you have in your diet, and sugar, as is commonly mistaken, doesn’t just mean jellies, chocolate, donuts and so on, it means any carbohydrate; fruit, veg, rice and so on.

Carbs are our friend, but we also have to realise that some carbohydrates are not good for us and simply store as fat in the body if not used up as energy.

Your body burns energy in this way:

Carbs

Protein

Fats

Glycogen

When you want to lose weight, you want to get to the glycogen quicker, so if you are eating heaps of porridge in the thought that it will give you energy for your workout, you are hindering your body’s ability to get into the “fat burning zone”. This is why the mentality that you can eat as badly as you wish because you exercise doesn’t work; your body is burning off all starchy carbs before it gets to your excess body fat.

For this reason I get most of my carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables, I don’t eat bread, I don’t eat potatoes (sometimes I’ll have sweet potatoes) but I do eat brown rice after a workout with a high protein meal. I was never a potato fan so cutting that out was easy, and as for pasta, I cut that out long ago due to IBS, so I guess I’m lucky that I’m used to not eating it already.

Post workout dinner

Post workout dinner

I also only eat bananas after a workout because of their high sugar content. It’s often pegged as the best food to eat before exercise but the truth is actually the opposite; Bananas are a great post-workout snack because they are filled with the electrolytes you need to restock on after a sweaty session.

Protein is king

Because of the assumption that protein foods are high in calories, I always avoided them when I was restricting myself in order to lose a few pounds. I would have a meatless salad, plain porridge in the mornings, tomatoes on rice cakes and I would struggle to keep the weight off; largely because I wasn’t eating enough to kickstart my metabolism and also because eating in that way is absolutely not sustainable.

Now I try to get protein into every meal I eat. Why? Not only does protein help repair muscles after an intense workout, it helps create lean, toned muscles therefore defining them (I check my abs daily, still no luck yet), it’s essential for energy and physiological function and your body just needs it; it’s in our DNA and keeps your blood healthy and your hair, skin and nails in good condition. It’s the original “superfood”.

Calories and portion control be damned

Calories should be accounted for not counted.  Counting calories has never worked in a sustainable way for me because my body was never fuelled enough for a decent workout, my metabolism was most likely slowing drastically and let’s be honest with ourselves, calories don’t determine the nutritional value of the food.

We have become so obsessed with the numbers on food packaging, we have forgotten about what’s in them. Next time you go to pick up an 89 calorie cereal bar, look at the amount of chemicals and sugar present and reach for an apple instead. Not eating your dinner so you can have a massive slice of chocolate cake will not help your body in anyway. It doesn’t work like that.

Portion Control

Hows that for portion control?

The same goes for portion size; eating the same as you always have but smaller might make a temporary difference but again, that’s not sustainable. Eating a teeny, tiny salad every day is also not sustainable. As long as you are eating foods free of chemicals and high in nutritional value you can slap as much of it on the plate as possible (within reason, of course). So I eat big, but I eat clean; honestly I have never eaten so often or so much in my life and not worrying about calories is freeing.

Chemical counting

I have three general rules when it comes to what I eat:

  If it has more than 6 ingredients, put it back.

If sugar is a main ingredient, put it back.

If it has any scientific sounding ingredients I can’t pronounce, put it back.

The extra salts, sugars and god knows what they are additives you see in a lot of convenience foods and “diet” or “low fat” products are probably what are holding you back in your progress. Kick the chemicals and you will see a huge difference.

So those are the basic rule I follow and I credit my new-found knowledge and passion for nutrition with pushing the progress along. I will never forget after a bad food St. Patrick’s Weekend (my birthday weekend) I put on four pounds. Four pounds over four days. I was still training but the food cancelled out the hard work. Says a lot!

Exception to the 6 ingredient rule are Quest Bars – they keep me from binging on junk food and they have 20g of protein and only 1 gram of sugar. It’s a win.

I cheat!

A lot of people have a lot of different opinions about “the cheat meal”. I say, if it’s good enough for The Rock, it’s good enough for me.

The idea behind the cheat meal is that you are treating yourself to something you have been dying for all week; it makes “eating clean” that little bit easier knowing you don’t have to completely restrict yourself forever. It also reboots your metabolism, is great for your insulin levels and makes you feel warm and happy inside.

I have a strong disbelief in denying yourself of things you love for good, even if they are bad. If you have a favourite “bad” meal, save it for your cheat meal and you will enjoy it more than ever, without going back on the hard work you have put it. If you are “good” with your food 98% of the week, one carby, sugary, cheesy meal  should not make you feel bad; it should make you feel good.

My two favourite cheat meals are A big ol’ messy cheese burger and garlic cheese fries from the chipper OR cinema nachos and popcorn with a massive diet coke (I enjoy the taste of aspartame. Go on- judge me).

An example of my daily nutrition

Breakfast: 2 Poached Eggs with Flaxseed and a mixed berry protein smoothie

Snack: Almonds and a Nectarine

Lunch: Homemade Chilli Con Carne

Pre-workout snack: Greek Yoghurt (not Greek style!) with blackberries and protein (note, no starchy carbs)

Post-workout: Protein Shake

Dinner: Fish in an Almond flour batter (egg and sparkling water) with brown rice and mixed veg

The one thing I really want to make clear is that this isn’t a diet. This is how I eat all the time. Not for 6 weeks before I go on holidays, not for 2 weeks to “cleanse”- it’s my lifestyle and it’s much more sustainable than any fad diet you’ll see out there.

Easy enough to follow? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Let’s Talk Blog Challenge: A Day in The Life

I never normally partake in blog challenges and tags but when I saw the wonderful Sarah of At The Beauty Desk tweet about her own blog challenge. As I read her blog on a regular basis I jumped at the chance to join in.

The first task in the challenge is to post about a “day in the life”. Mainly based around images, this post is an introduction for those who have not read musicandeverything.com before.

Firstly, for new readers, my name is Claire and I am passionate about writing. Musicandeverything.com is An Alternative Girl’s Lifestyle Blog; it focuses on styles and things slightly left of centre than most beauty and lifestyle blogs would.

For my Day in The Life post I chose to show you my typical Sunday. Sunday is my favourite day of the week when I get to spend time with those most important to me; my boyfriend and my family, especially my nephews and my new beautiful niece. It is also when I get my best work done and indulge in some of my other favourite activities like exercise, playing with my collection and getting out and about. So here it is; a day in my life in pictures.

Healthy Smoothie recipes

I always start the day with a healthy breakfast!

 When I started blogging and working full-time I quickly learned that the kind of lifestyle I want to maintain (a both ends of the candle kind of lifestyle) is impossible without a healthy diet. Check out my posts on healthy eating and exercise on the Fit Mind and Healthy Body section of the website.

Sundays are for Football- I almost always have my Football colours on on a Sunday

Sundays are for Football- I almost always have my Football colours on a Sunday

One aspect of my life that I never blog about, and probably never will, is that I am a massive fan of Football. I am a Liverpool Supporter and have been my entire life so weekends generally have a 90 minute slot blocked off on the weekends for  most of the year.

Quality time with my Niece and Nephews is important.

Quality time with my Niece and Nephews is important.

Again, one thing I will rarely blog about is my family; I don’t think they’d appreciate it. I do tend to flood Instagram with pictures of my nephews and my shiny new niece at the weekends, though. I love being an aunty, it’s probably my favourite thing about my life so I do like to keep it away from the blogging world – this is a once off in honour of the blog challenge!

Irish Beauty Blogger

Outfit and make up change for Sunday evening activities.

 In case you hadn’t noticed, I am a little bit of a make up addict. While a lot of girls would just fix their make up and change their top at the very most when heading to the cinema, I see it as an opportunity to use a whole different set of eyeshadows, lipsticks and blushes than I did just a few hours ago. I went from simple, natural tones to using my newly bought, more vibrant MAC and Beauty UK products that I will be blogging about later this week here in the beauty section.

Popcorn in the cinema

No date like a cinema date! Going to the cinema is one of my favourite things to do (mainly because of the food!)

Yesterday was topped off with one of my favourite pastimes; visiting the cinema and scoffing my face with butter popcorn. Even though I rarely blog about films I cannot watch enough of them and I hate waiting for a DVD release when it comes to films that truly appeal to me. I’m a genuine fan of comic book heroes so I popped in to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2. 

So that’s a typical Sunday in my world. It’s probably the slowest day of my week in terms of excitement; Week days very between alarmingly dull to hectic, bordering on wild.

So that’s me; I’m not absurdly interesting, but hopefully what you see is enough to keep you reading my blog posts.

Check out the hashtag #LetsTalkBlogChallenge on all Social Media sites to take a look at other blogger’s “Day in The Life” posts.

If you’re new to the blog you can keep up with all of my reviews and posts by following me on Google Plus or on most social networks (see the buttons on the side bar). You’ll find me bloglovin’ here also, if you’re a serial blog reader.

Are you doing the challenge? Share you links in the comments section, I’d love to see your take on the topic.