London, Still

The city I live in is pretty incredible. I notice it more and more every time I'm lucky enough to show it to others.

I Heart Visitors

The first of our summer visitors is arriving this afternoon - a friend will be staying with us for the next few days. We became friends in 2008, not all that long ago, but it feels like we've known each other a lot longer than that. 

Sarah and I in Colorado after we'd been 4-wheel driving through the mountains - hence the crazy hair. 
I met Sarah in Anaheim, California - the morning our road trip was due to set off across the States. Miss Kirby and I were standing around awkwardly by the bus ready to go, when this cute and tiny auburn haired girl appeared lugging a giant suitcase behind her. We started up a conversation and that was that. Instant buddies.

On the ferry back from Liberty Island in NYC - loving the sunnies, ladies. This picture was taken after our encounter with a crazy man on the subway.. who'd apparently seen us all in his dreams the night before. Riiiiight!
For the next six weeks, the three of us (plus another new friend, Carly) were together virtually every single day. Our awesome foursome explored famous places, took note of countless amusing billboards and laughed our way from the West Coast to the East Coast. Nearly every memory I have from that trip involves the girls.

Awake and (sort of) alert at 5am for our hot air ballooning adventure in Albuquerque! 
It's not easy travelling with people. I started that trip travelling with two good friends from home, and I ended the trip with only one of those friends still speaking to me. But I also ended that trip with two new and amazing friends, that I treasure. If you can survive each other for six weeks of travelling cross country, you can survive anything.

Sweltering in New Orleans on a Mississippi evening river cruise - why did we wear jeans?! Soon after this, we were stuffing our faces with beignets at Cafe du Monde and being covered in icing sugar.
The saddest part about ending our USA adventure was saying goodbye to the girls. We all lived in different parts of Australia, and I was returning to the UK. However as fate would have it, the very next year saw me stuck home in Sydney for three months while my Visa was renewed - and we had a reunion! Sarah flew in from Adelaide, Carly caught the train down from Newcastle and of course, Kirby and I hoofed it to Sydney, where we spent a weekend being tourists in the capital. And, as I'd guessed, we were all just as much fun to be around in this country too.

Hiding under bushes in the Sydney Botanic Gardens after a freak rainstorm hit. Good times!
I'm so excited to have Sarah staying with us - she'll get to meet Jase for the first time and I'll hopefully tag along with her to see the sights. And so begins a summer crammed full of friends and family. Bring it on!

Vlogging - Round Two

Be excited folks, today you get another chance to listen to my weird hybrid accent! You're getting a video rather than an actual post partly because I was lazy and couldn't be bothered to type, partly because I am actually dressed in non-gym clothes today (!) which doesn't happen often... and partly because I REALLY wanted to run away from the computer and finish a few books that I've got in the works. I'm drowning in books and I couldn't be happier.

Keep an eye out for a cameo from my attention whore of a cat. It appears that Oscar wants to be famous.

Vlogging Round 2 from Aly S on Vimeo.
Be sure to share your thoughts with us at the end of the vlog - if you make it that far! Happy viewing.

Whatever Will Be, Will Be

I hate to do it, but I feel a bit of a panicky post coming on: you have been warned!

Today, it's all about planning. Here's something you've probably gathered about me just by reading my blog - I love to plan in advance. I'm not a spontaneous person at all - for me to be comfortable and on board with things, I need to be organised and I need to know what's happening with time to spare. For the most part, that's fine - it just means I start looking at things a lot earlier than most people, and have the time to get all of the details worked out without bothering anyone else. It's not that I'm a super planner or anything like that; I'm just not big on surprises and I'm much more likely to enjoy myself when I know things are locked and loaded and ready to go!

Being this paranoid about pre-planning is a positive thing for me - and for others too. It's especially useful when I'm travelling, because I can make up a mean itinerary. (You're talking to the girl who had to create an itinerary to fit in friend visits while I was home for two weeks and in wedding planning mode. It had to be done.) One of the fun things about planning trips is either looking at the itineraries that are already designed, or tweaking them to make them perfect. Suffice it to say that not being in control of my situation really spins me out.

So what is it that has me worrying? It's this year. It's what happens next.

The original plan was looking like this: enjoy our last summer in London with lots of visitors passing through our doors, head off on a European adventure with the girls while Jase finished out his work contract, and then wrapping up our stay in mid-November, maybe squeezing in a short travel stint as a couple before we got back to Sydney ready for Christmas. It was going to be a very busy few months, but I've been looking forward to the travels at the end of the year, particularly helping plan a special and exciting trip away somewhere with the boy before we will move home for good and are both busy with a million other things.

But then we have our Sliding Doors alternative - my smart and talented fiancé has been offered several other prospects for work which he is considering at the moment. He's had one offer already and has another interview lined up, all while holding his current contracting role so he is in a really good position right now - particularly because both roles involve a higher salary and an additional couple of months work. I'm incredibly happy for him, but it throws our plans into a bit of a jumble; it means that our travelling will be put on hold and we'll likely not be home until January or February next year. We don't know what is going to happen yet - financially, the latter option makes more sense, but in truth? I was really ready to wrap up the year by being back home. We have so much to do when we get back - finding an apartment to rent, out laying money on cars, each of us finding a job, planning this wedding - it will all be so much more rushed if we delay our homecoming. It's so uncertain!

To put it bluntly, I'm feeling really useless about what happens next, simply because I can't plan for it. 
Either way, the plans will be on hold for now and both options are positive ones for us as a couple, so I have nothing to be complaining about. I'm grateful for the opportunities we've had; we're both so lucky.

I've always wished I could be more spontaneous; maybe this is the universe trying to tell me something?

This Is Him, Now

This cat.
Have I mentioned how much I love him?
We brought him home in May of 2008 - so he's a couple of months over two years old now. His personality has really come out over the last few years, and I want to take the time to remember what life was like living with Oscar in the here and now. With all the changes happening with us over the next twelve months, I have no doubt that he's going to be going through a lot of craziness himself, so it will be interesting to see how he takes it in his stride.
Oscar, you're so handsome.
  • He sits with his paws tucked up underneath him, so quite often it looks like he has no legs.
  • He has several favourite resting spots - the above picture shows one of them, which is next to our bed on the carpet near the window. You can usually find them by the amount of cat fur that has accumulated. Other locations include the arm of the lounge, the mat outside the bathroom door, the top of the treadmill, sprawled out on the wooden floors near the window and lying on Jason's laptop.
  • He has to be locked away in our bedroom when it's time to cook or eat. He has no concept of the fact that human food is not cat food, and goes mental when he sees milk, butter or yoghurt.
  • He will harass you for your breakfast cereal. He is unrelenting in his quest to EAT.
  • Despite being a short haired cat, he is currently shedding. Everywhere. He adores being brushed and I have to vacuum a few times a week. It's possible that he's even shedding more than me - that's impressive.
  • He's not a big cuddler. He'll choose when he wants them, and he'll let you know {aka he'll bite you} when he's done. If you pick him up at around dinner time, he will be patient with you and try his best not to bite, because he knows food is coming. We may or may not take advantage of this.
  • He's vocal. Oh so vocal. You only have to open the fridge door and you'll find out for yourself.
  • He wins visitors over fairly quickly. He's a fraidy cat at first, but he warms up quickly and becomes a bit nosey. His cute little white paws & nose smudge get talked about quite a lot and people think he is charming. {Until he starts stealing their food.} He likes to stalk people, and think it is all a big game.
  • He knows when Jason is getting home from work. Despite our heavy apartment complex door opening and shutting loads of times during the day, he can always tell when it's going to be his daddy. He'll wait in the hallway just for him. But when I come home? He doesn't even bother jumping off the treadmill. 
  • He is incredibly naughty. He knows when he's doing something wrong, and he'll give us this look of guilt before bolting.. only to come back and try it again to see what we'll do.
  • He is also incredibly clever. He wakes us up at least once every night {okay, he wakes ME up, since the boy conveniently sleeps through it all} to have a 3am snack. His first trick to wake me up was climbing up onto the bookshelf next to our bed and subtly (!) knocking things off one at a time. We thought we were being clever too, and stacked our books in a way that he can't fit up there anymore - but he's just found that he can walk over to our cupboard and stomp around, which will make just as much noise. We've raised a monster.
  • He knows his bedtime. Around 10pm every night, he'll come and sit directly in front of us and meow until someone gets up to feed him before bed.
  • He has developed this super cute habit with me while I'm trying to make tea or coffee. He'll jump up on the counter and give him giant nose rubs/head bumps over and over again. While he's probably just being territorial about the food cupboards, I'm going to go ahead and say it's just because he loves me so much that he feels the need to Eskimo kiss my nose. SO CUTE.
  • He'll happily sit at the window and watch the pigeons fly past for hours.
  • Every night, we bring him into bed with us for family snuggles. Sometimes we make him dance for us. Mostly, he just sits and purrs. It doesn't last for long. Yes, we're THAT kind of family. 
  • I have no shame in admitting that he's the most spoiled cat on the planet. He really, really is. 
Does your pet have any quirks that make them that little bit unique?

Everybody's Fool

I've been having quite a few introspective moments lately - I've been focusing so much on ME, ME, ME these days.

I think that I'm a nice person. Or at least, I'd like to think of myself as a nice person. I'm friendly, I'm polite and I have manners. I may be a little bit introverted and I used to be horrifically shy, but I'm a good person underneath all of that. If you fell over, I would help you up. If your leggings were tucked up in your skirt and you were flashing your knickers to the world, I would pull you aside and tell you, even if you were a strangers. When I read stories about people doing awful things, I can't even comprehend it. What can I say - I like being a nice person.

But am I? There are events that have happened in the past that have made me question this part of myself. One falling out with a friend comes to mind, one that happened a few years back while we were travelling together. I thought I was being a nice person and I thought I was being supportive, but in the end it wasn't enough and the relationship ended around the same time as the holiday did. Was that my fault? Was I to blame for the turn of events that changed that friendship? I can absolutely say yes - at least in part. But isn't admitting faults a good thing? And does that mean that I'm not a nice person? If you asked this friend, I'm sure she would agree with that statement. And who decides what nice is, anyway?

I think that I'm a good listener. I've always been a person that others turn to when they need to vent or need advice. I think my quieter nature helped me in this field and it's also why I chose to study first psychology and secondly teaching at university. I volunteered as an online counsellor for teens when I was fifteen, and I still wonder if it's something which I should pursue again when I grow up. I may not have all the answers, but I can certainly give you my attention, if you need it. I think that I'm pretty perceptive when it comes to knowing when someone needs a chance to talk. Or just sit and be silent. Or be distracted with randomness until the time is right. I take things to heart and I over-think events more than I should, but it's mainly because I care about what happens to that person, and I want to do the right thing by them.

But am I? I try hard to be there for people when they need me, but I'll admit that I can be selfish. Sometimes I want to be the one that others listen to. One of my pet hates is when people tune out to what you are saying midway through the conversation - and turn it about themselves. It's one of the reasons why I find it hard to open up to people straight away in person, though it's often easier to offload here. But haven't I been guilty of doing that in conversation? Being overseas and away from my family and friends is bittersweet, because as much as you try, there are things you can't pick up on from a thousand miles away. I feel like I've let people down and have missed out on important life events, simply by being away for so long.

I think that I'm a good companion. I don't have a giant circle of friends; in fact, I could probably list my real friends on one hand. I have my moments where I'm more than a little irritating or less-than-fun to be around, like we all do, but once you're a friend of mine? I'll support you for life. I think a good friend is worth fighting for. I'm the kind of person who would take one good friend over a roomful of faces - because I want people around me that will be in it for the long haul. And that's the kind of friend that I want to be. I want to be a friend who knows everything about you, someone who your other friends & family members like. I try so hard to remember things like birthdays and special occasions, and I like to spoil people with gifts or words or appropriate musical lyrics.

But am I? Is there a reason why I've never been a member of a crowd? All my life, even when I was in high school, this never happened with me - and while it could be looked at as a positive thing, it could also be the opposite. I even notice it here, in the blog world. Over the past few years, my blog has gifted me with several strong online friendships that I treasure, but blogging now? It's different. There are new cliques forming everywhere I look, and it's difficult to break into them, as hard as you try. I tend to put my all into relationships, and because of this, I tend to be the one who becomes more attached. As such, I can sometimes be walked over by others - whether on purpose, or through unintentional means. I have tried so hard not to let others disappoint me, but it happens more than I'd like to admit. I wonder if this is because subconsciously I'm trying to make more friends, but it's just not working for me? Luckily, the boy is the same - he's always been a bit of an individual when it comes to friends, just like me. For the most part, it's a good thing. But sometimes, like when you're putting together a mock wedding guest list, it can be really upsetting to see just how few people have put in the time with YOU, even enough to warrant them an invitation to the most important day of your life. Maybe I'm not as good a companion as I think I am.

If you've made it down here, I salute you - this post rambled on for longer than I expected it to. Sometimes the whole soul searching thing can bring about more questions than it does answers.

Baby Steps

Today is a happy day - as I've lost my first kilogram!*

To say that I'm excited about that is a complete understatement - I'm ecstatic! I've been working my butt off (literally?) for the last month and I'm glad that things are finally starting to come together. The first few weeks were a bit disappointing, because in my previous weight loss efforts, I tended to lose a nice little sum at the beginning - and then things started to plateau out as the weeks progressed. This time around, just hitting this milestone has been a long time coming, so I'm celebrating it as the first of many. I'm not sure why progress has been so slow, but I'm just going to continue plugging away.

I've been experimenting with classes lately and I think I've put together a bit of a rough guide to my gym workouts each week. Here's what my schedule looks like:

Monday: Aqua Run class followed by swimming laps for half an hour.
Tuesday: Own workout - usually walking/couch to 5k jogs, cycling and weights.
Wednesday: Zumba class! Ai yai yai!
Thursday: Own workout - same as above with different weight exercises.
Friday: Spin class o'doom. Sweat, baby, sweat.

I still have to force myself to go. Every day. The classes make it easier because once I'm in there, I'm surrounded by other people and I have to keep going - but I really have to monitor myself with my own workouts, to make sure I'm pushing hard enough. That's why I've started doing some Couch to 5k interval training - I'm not following the entire program again, but I'm spicing up my usual walk with as much jogging as my shins will allow. And I am proud to admit that I'm the Mayor of my local Virgin Active gym on Four Square. Woohoo!

As for food, well, it's going fine. I'm watching my portions, I've switched all my 'white' foods to wholemeal foods, we've switched from sugar to 'half' sugar (baby steps..) and I'm really trying to cook with more vegetables to make sure I'm getting the right amounts. And for the most part, I'm doing okay. If I'm desperately craving something, I'll either have a small amount - like a mini box of Pringles or a fun sized chocolate bar - or I'll find something similar to satiate me. I drink a lot of tea though, usually around 3 or 4 cups per day, which I want to target next.

Today's bliss was buying a (crazily overpriced) ripe mango from the little store over the road, and indulging in it completely. There's only one way to eat a mango: over the sink. If you're eating it without making a mess, you're not doing it right. And that mango? IT WAS TO DIE FOR. Worth every two pounds and fifty pence that I paid for it.
Convert that into your currency and then feel free to pass out. Sigh. I remember the good old days of buying a whole BOX of mangoes and eating them until you couldn't bear the sight of another one ever again.


I can't help but wonder if the Metformin tablets I'm taking for the PCOS are actually doing anything? I take them religiously twice a day (with gentle reminding from the boy.. I always forget the dinner time one) and since April? I've had no cycles at all. This shouldn't surprise me really; from previous monitoring my cycles lasted for an average of 85 days. (!) But I guess I just assumed that things would start to kick into gear with the Metformin combined with the diet & exercise changes. It's been a month - I think maybe I'm expecting things too quickly. But still... I'm feeling a tiny bit cynical.

*Sorry to all of you who use lbs or stones - I'm using the Australian metric system!

Little Miss Thankful

It's the weekend. Weekends are good. And here are some other things that are good right now!

  • Jogging for ten minutes without stopping at the gym. If you know me, you'll know that's an accomplishment. Unfortunately my shins are (still) making me suffer for it today.
  • That even after nearly eight years together, I still discover random things about Jase. Last night's discovery? He's a closet Billy Ocean fan. We might just have to throw this little ditty onto our wedding DJ list.
  • Baking low fat Weight Watchers chocolate chip cookies. I love getting my hands dug into chocolate dough, reminds me of being a kid again. And soon we'll be eating the finished product, yum.
  • Having a big pile of veggies sitting in the fridge that I'm going to make a giant soup out of. I figure if I mash them up and blend them together, I won't taste them individually.. that is the plan, anyway. Talk to me in a few days and I'll let you know how that one went.
  • Watching the World Cup from the UK and making fun of the wimpy players.
  • Sunshine and beautiful weather without it being too hot.
  • Finding old tv episodes online - I don't know where I would be without them. (Oh wait, I know! I'd be re-watching Buffy for the nine thousandth time.)
  • Oscar being cute with his new little trick that makes me feel very loved.
  • Finding Marley & Me at a charity shop and finally getting to start reading - although I'm only a few chapters in and I've already bawled a few times. This isn't going to end well.
What are you enjoying lately?

Three Sixty Five

I've been looking forward to writing this post for such a long time; so much so that I've been compulsively checking the date on my laptop for the past few weeks. As of today, I can finally spit it out.

Today begins our 365 day wedding countdown!
Yes, this time in twelve months, Jason and I will be married in our beautiful church and I honestly couldn't be more excited about it. I can't believe it will all be happening this time next year...
It might seem a trifle silly to be so enthusiastic about hitting this milestone since it's still a year away, but you have to remember - we're doing everything the long way. We got engaged last August. By the time next June comes around, we'll be at almost a two-year long engagement. And even before then, we've been together since 2002. This day has been a long time coming. In the grand scheme of things, a year is nothing for us. And also? I'm far more happy than I should be to be rid of the somewhat condescending 'You have over a year to go!' status every time I log in to The Knot. Not anymore, Knot. NOW TELL ME IN MONTHS. 
In truth, long engagements are trickier than they sound. When you get engaged, you tend to automatically start thinking ahead to the wedding itself. We've had a lot longer to process everything and enjoy being the same old us (now with added bling!) with the future ahead of us to look forward to. But, as always, there comes a point where the future seems TOO far away and then the wait simply becomes frustrating. Booking the venue was a big thing for me because we had that date secured - but even still, I've been finding myself itching to do something more.
But now even with our official year barrier broken, there's not a great deal I can do. The crafty DIY bits and pieces that I'd love to tackle aren't really things I can do here - for starters, I don't have the resources and as well as that? We're going to be packing up and moving a thousand miles away in a few short months, and we simply don't have space to lug random wedding crafts around with us. (I'm already wondering just how much excess baggage is going to cost to get all of our stuff back home. Gulp.)
So for now I'll sit on my hands for a little while and do what I can from here - and make myself a nice little 'hit list' of things I want to do the minute we move back to Australia and I have the time. And I'll keep on counting down. 
Three sixty five... squee!

That's How We Roll

I spoke too soon after being in such a good mood the other day; by mid afternoon, I'd hit the wall and gone into a bit of a slump. As soon as the boy got home from work, he made me a cup of tea and we had a bit of a chat - and we somehow got onto the subject of children.

I just have this feeling that if and when I fall pregnant one day, I'll have a boy. I have no idea why and I can't really explain it, but that's what I see happening. And because of that? I really want my first child to be a girl. Jase (being a typical male) talked about how he wanted a boy to take along to rugby games and to do manly-man stuff with, and our conversation drifted off topic from there. We started comparing our own childhoods and what we were like as kids. I always like to rub his nose in the fact that I started kindergarten when I was four and a half years old, while he started it at 5.5 - therefore concluding that I am, in fact, much smarter than he is.*

You see, Jase and I are complete opposites when it comes to brains. He's logical, I'm emotional. He's good with techy stuff, I blow things up just by looking at them. He's Maths and I'm English. We enjoyed having a bit of a banter on who of the two of us is the smarter cookie, and which of our smarts are better in the real world. I don't even know how we get on to these subjects, I really don't. We're far too random for our own good.

But here's the scenario you need to picture: imagine you were on a desert island, and the only thing on that island were coconuts. But in order to get to the coconuts, you needed to solve a stack of mathematical equations. Who would win -  me with my emotional smarts? (aka 'Oh no! We're doomed! I can't live on coconuts forever! Whatever happened to Oscar? I miss the internet!' -dramatic weeping-) or Jason with his logical smarts? ('Let's just solve the damn puzzle and eat the coconuts!' -maths, maths, nerd, nerd.)

As you can imagine, the boy came up with that scenario, and of course, his smarts would reign supreme. But then, that was just his scenario - so I came up with my own.

Imagine you are stranded on the same desert island (and yes, you are still surrounded by coconuts) and all of a sudden, a ship appeared in the distance. The captain gets on his loudspeaker and tells you that he can help get you off the island, but only if you write him an extraordinary essay about coconuts and convince him to be a good samaritan. WHO WOULD WIN NOW JASON??? (Ahem. I would. I write good essays.)
And that, my friends, is why I'm awesome and have deemed myself the winner. (Aly - 1, Jase - 0)

How alike are you and your partner? And if you're single, would you look for an opposite?

*This post is very tongue in cheek. He's a very smart cookie and I lack common sense in the most obvious of ways, but combined, we'd figure out a way to get off the damn island. Or at least we'd grow old together smelling like coconuts and with a nice tropical tan, and that's a perk, right?

Cat vs Lobster

You all know Oscar. He likes fish-smelling food, appearing out of nowhere like a ninja to attack feet in his general vicinity and knocking heavy items off our bookshelf in the wee hours of every morning to make sure we wake up to give him a midnight snack. He's also just a tiny bit feral, but we still love him.

Oscar is one spoiled cat. He's an only child, and he knows it. He has more cat toys in our little flat than I care to admit, and he's got both of us wrapped around his razor sharp talons of doom paws. Despite the growing number of mice and jingly balls that are taking up residence under the lounge and in dusty corners of the room, sometimes I just can't help myself. Friends, I'd like you to meet Lobster.

He may not look it, but Lobster is deadly. You have to watch those giant claws and glittery hind legs. He moves fast. And those eyes. They're always watching you. Oscar, prepare meet your nemesis. Mwahaha.

Yes, Oscar is obviously very worried. This is the expression he tends to give us every time he gets a new toy. He's all 'You spent your hard earned money on me, and I don't care. Please tell me why I'm supposed to be excited by a toy sea creature? IT HAS SEQUINS.' This look of utter disdain is usually followed by him spotting a clump of hair in the distance, and we lose him for a little while while he chases invisible dust bunnies.

But he'll come back - he always does. See? Curiosity kil... oh, let's not go there.
I will spare you the onslaught of photos of Oscar turning feral and deciding that Lobster is indeed fair game. (I think he finally got whiff of the catnip stuffed inside its belly.) Just imagine fuzzy attacking cat pictures with neon green blurs of Lobster here and there, and you basically have it. Alright, just one then:
All in all, I think the look in Lobster's eyes is enough to tell you who reigned victorious in this little scuffle. Lobster has now had to be re-homed in our hidden shelf, because the cat was this close to ripping his face off.

I'm fairly sure this post is a good indication that I'm enjoying this time at home just a little too much?

Vlogging

I've never made it to any blogger meetups - not because I didn't want to (I WANT TO!) but because being based in Australia and then London, I've been thousands of miles away from most of my blog crushes who live in America.

I was lucky when I travelled through the US in 2008, as I managed to catch up with my longtime friends Janet and Jen who were just as fabulous in person as they are on their blogs. I also met the lovely Lala and Mick way back when, thanks to this here blog. I stalked Julie while she was vistiting London and I've been really close to meeting NPW, Elise and Lara too. But there are still so many amazing people out there I've yet to come into contact with.

Maybe one day our paths will cross and I'll get a chance to introduce you to my nerd-self in person - but until then? I've decided to be stupid brave and record my first video blog. Making the video was hard, but putting it up on the blog was even harder - so be kind, won't you?

And before I begin, you have to know what you're getting yourself in for just by checking out the freeze frame of the video. I mean, really? LOOK AT THE CRAZY EYES. I also seem to forget how to speak the English language when I'm nervous. And keep my eyes closed quite a bit, which is really weird - do I do that in person? I have no idea.

Anyway, you have been warned.

V-Log Round 1! from Aly S on Vimeo.

Sorry if the sound is strange - I recorded it through my webcam which I've never done before.

I Like Your Beard

It's Friday, lovelies! And what better way to celebrate that, than a Love/Hate post? (Props to Janet!)

Love: I am going strong my my June challenge of gym visits each weekday. This week, I managed to squeeze in swimming, a class of Zumba, my own treadmill/weights routine and a Spin class.

Hate: Despite three weeks of exercise & eating well, my weight is still. the. same. Not getting disheartened but..

Love: The awesome lasagne I cooked the other night. My word, it was good.
Hate: I just ate the last of the leftovers for lunch, so NOW what am I supposed to do? ;)

Love: Every six months or so I have a music downloading extravaganza and my iPod is now chock full o'lovely songs. Two Girl Talk albums (thanks to Lala for introducing me) the newest Glee songs, some gym beats, and a few random oldies and wedding inspiration music. My playlist is SO random, you have no idea.
Hate: I may or may not have downloaded some Ke$ha tracks. I hate Ke$ha. I kind of hate anyone who uses a symbol in their first name. Especially you, Prince. Please keep my questionable music tastes a secret, yes?

Love: My awesome new gym trainers. They are cushioned, supportive and feel great on.
Hate: Unfortunately my weird arches are still rubbing on them. After today's class, I could feel the beginning of a blister forming under the pad of my left foot. Honestly, I can't win!

Love: Eating well, drinking water, and being healthy = smug, smug Aly.
Hate: The break-outs that have attacked my face recently. Aly with a bag over her head = not so smug.

Love: Having lots of free time to research all sorts of fun things to do with the wedding next year and obsessing over string duos/trios/quartets for our ceremony. Rinse and repeat with hair, makeup, and flowers.
Hate: Weddings cost money: who would've thought? Ahem, friends - I need contacts. And fast.

Love: A recent discovery of old 'Are You Afraid of the Dark?' episodes on You Tube. Did anyone else watch this show on Nickelodeon growing up? It used to terrify me, but I watched them all the time.
Hate: It's reminding me how old I'm getting.

Love: This from Tiffany & Co.
Hate: It's from Tiffany & Co. Meaning I can't afford it, but I can drool dream over it.

And now it's your turn!
Leave your own Love & Hates (or just Loves. Or just Hates. Whatever floats your boat!) in the comments.

Just Keep Swimming

I promise that I'll take a breather from posts about the gym or posts about getting healthy at some point, but today, I just had to put this question out there to you all: how good a swimmer are you?
You see, I'm using swimming as another alternative workout, once or twice a week - it gives my muscles a rest from the high impact classes and gives me a chance to flail around in the pool. I went through all the usual swimming lessons as a kid and we had a pool in our backyard for a few years growing up, so I'm no stranger to them. 
But here's my dilemma: I can swim, but I can't swim. 
See this big old fish out of water? Well, that's me. Except, I'm not a fish. And I'm actually in the water. Sigh.
Right, so let me try to explain. 
To put it bluntly, I can swim. I'm not scared of water, I do a mean doggy paddle and I can breast-stroke just fine. If you threw me in a pool with a shark or an eel or heck, even some rogue pieces of seaweed in it, I'd be swimming out of there in no time. (Does anyone else get irrationally freaked out by seaweed? I hate the stuff. I tend to get a bit crazy and imagine that the seaweed is actually a shark or a jellyfish or one of those scary fish with giant teeth that hover around the ocean floor with lights danging off their hooks, or something.) These ones. (OH MY GOD.)
But I can't actually swim. All kicking and paddling aside, I never mastered the art of breathing whilst swimming, and because of that, I can't swim freestyle. I've tried, believe me I've tried! I've had people showing me, I've practised breathing in the gym pool with just me and a kick board, I've blown bubbles in baths, and more recently, the boy and I had simulated interpretive swim lessons right here in our lounge room. I just don't get it. I know what I should be doing, but when you get me in the water, it just doesn't happen.

I really do blame my lack of any sort of coordination on this one. While I'm a great multi-tasking machine on land, I'm not so much of one in the pool. What with the swimming and the kicking and the arm movements and the head turning and the trying not to crash into the other swimmers in the pool and the head tilt and the breathing.. it's just chaotic. 
It really is a little embarrassing being nearly 26 years old and unable to do proper laps, and it's something I'd love to master at some point. Maybe one day my stubborn self will admit defeat, fork over the cash and invest in some proper swimming lessons - but for now, I'll be that girl floundering about in the pool at the gym. Be kind and prepare to ignore the flailing arms and gasping breath-sounds - and for the love of all things summer, if you're a good swimmer? GET OUT OF THE SLOW LANE.

Shake It Like A Polaroid Picture

Since becoming a lady of leisure, I've made good on my promise to get healthy. I rejoined the gym straight away and have made it my mission to visit at least once every Monday through Friday, so I can have the weekend off to rejuvenate and be completely guilt-free. And you know, it's been working so far. I've said it a million times before, but I really am my own worst enemy; so even though it's early days this time around, I'm feeling pumped and I'm determined to beat this thing and lose the weight. I can do it!

All flowers and rainbows and feelings of general enthusiasm aside though, I really do wish it was as easy to lose it as it is to put it on. It helps to know that my constant struggle with putting on weight and battling to get it off again has a medical background (why thank you, crazy hormones and multiplying ovarian cysts) but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with. The fact of the matter is that while I may be doing all of the right things in order to slim down, my body will be fighting me all the way. Brilliant!

But I digress: I'm not letting this thing kick me in the shins and mess with my motivation. I'm not expecting instant results, and I refuse to let it throw me off the bandwagon. As long as I keep plugging away, I'll be content and I'll know that I've done everything I possibly can on this journey - and that's all I can ask of myself.

And let's face it, this is a big thing for me. I'm just not a gym bunny. I don't look forward to my visits and I generally don't really enjoy being there at all. Add my general feelings of insecurity and self consciousness as well as my usually being the tallest, heaviest, sweatiest AND reddest-faced in the room, and sometimes the mere thought of going is enough to make me dive under the covers and pray for the weekends. (Seriously, why does no-one else sweat? I don't get crazy body odour/sweat patches, but the second I work out? My face changes colour and my hairline is sopping wet. It's hideous. Makes me feel like a really hot lumberjack.)

Any who, all paranoia and worries aside, I'm doing okay. This time last year when I joined the gym originally, I weighed less than I do now; which is terrible and makes me feel incredibly frustrated - so the first thing I want to do is get back down to that goal. I decided to spice up my gym routine, and a part of that involved being a big girl and venturing upstairs into the studio to try out a class or two.

I found a new take on my old favourite of Aqua aerobics called Aqua Run - which is quite literally running in water. It sounds pretty simple and easy, but you try spending 45 minutes doing laps around a pool. It's all fun and games until you have to switch directions against the water resistance, let me tell you. Losing your balance and face planting in front of twenty other bouncing ladies & random good looking male swimmers doing laps in the lane next to you is optional. I've added this class to my weekly routine, much to the dismay of my calf muscles.

And guess what else have I discovered? The joy of Zumba! I went for the first time last week and I've never been more nervous about a class before; there were so many people (read: women) queuing up to join it. There is something incredibly liberating about being able to pretend you are an extra in a Dirty Dancing spin-off with nobody judging you. Of course, I'm saying this after being the girl at the back of the studio, who spent her hour watching everyone else while they're shaking and shimmying and letting out high pitched South American wails. (But not in a judgy kind of way; more of a 'Why the heck can't I move like that?' kind of way.) It's pretty obvious that the natural rhythm gene completely skipped me. I've been uncoordinated since birth.

It was fantastic. I was huffing and puffing and trying to keep up with everyone else, while twirling off in the wrong directions and sweating like a trucker. I don't think the smile came off my face the entire time; partly because it was fun and the instructor is this hilariously tiny little Brazilian lady who cracked me up, partly because the music was awesome, and partly because I kept catching glimpses of myself in the mirror and that sight was so bad, it was good. And if I didn't smile, I would have probably cried, and that would have been awkward for everyone. So, I kept on shimmying and cha-cha-cha-ing and hoping that a Patrick Swayze look-a-like would walk through the door at any moment and lift me up over his head, all the while pretending not to notice that I was sweaty and red faced and weighed more than him.

So that part didn't happen - but I did make it through all the way through the class without dying.

At the end of the class, the crazy instructor asked me what I thought of it, and I then proceeded to do something slightly mortifying. Let me just say that there was a fist pump involved - proceeded by me giving my   sweaty gym trainer a big and dramatic kiss on the cheek. I'd never even met this woman before, and um, it's not routine for me to get smoochy with a fitness trainer. I blame the adrenalin. I think she thought I was insane. But there you have it: two new additions to my gym routine - and hopefully they'll spice things up enough to keep me going back for more.

'The List': It's Back

Back in 2007 (oh my goodness, was it that long ago?) with the help of a few good blog friends, I put together a list. It was originally meant to tide me over during that six months where the boy and I were in a long distance relationship - and it worked. It got me thinking and more importantly, got me doing

I've decided I need a bit of a kick start with the motivation again. I have the time now, yes, but that's about it - and I'm the kind of person that is my own worst enemy. If I'm not achieving things, or if I'm feeling let down, that's generally all it takes to push me off the bandwagon and have me throw in the towel as a result.

So, 'The List' is back. It's re-jigged a bit, but if you've been around for a while you might notice a few similar themes on there. It'll be a work in progress, and hopefully I'll be able to to cross a few off over the coming months. Feel free to send through any challenges you'd like to see me complete as well - I'd love to hear your thoughts!

*****

Exercise at least 25 days of every month. I'm aiming to work out every day during the week, so that I can relax on weekends guilt-free. June: 0/25, July: 0/25, August: 0/25, September: 0/25. 

Have my eyelashes tinted. Since I have such pale lashes, having them tinted really makes my eyes pop. Last time I had them done, people really complimented my eye makeup - when I wasn't wearing any!

Visit the British Museum. Can you believe I've been here two and a half years and still haven't made my way there yet? That's what happens folks, you get lazy.

Go punting in Cambridge. Again, just another one of those things I haven't got around to yet. 

Visit Oxford. I want to see the buildings where the Harry Potter films were made.

Start de-cluttering our London apartment. We'll be moving home at the end of the year and you should see the amount of stuff we have accumulated since we moved here. I want to start cleaning out things we don't need, mostly clothing and books.

Watch three complete television series. I'm thinking the contenders will be Ally McBeal, Felicity and Alias since they are three of the box sets I brought with me.

Put together an outfit completely from a charity shop. Trickier than you might think; the plus size clothing on offer around here tends to resemble a tent, to say the least.

Walk across the Abbey Road zebra crossing. It's not that far from where I live.

# Learn a new skill. I'm thinking maybe calligraphy?

# Go fishing. No, really. 

Go down a dress size. It goes without saying, since that is the goal this year. Which leads to:

# Hit 95. Gulp.

# Hit 90. Where I was this time last year.

# Hit 85. Baby steps.

Hit 80. This is the lowest weight I reached back in 2007 after running for five months.

Hit 75. Wishful thinking.

Hit 70. This is my weight loss goal.

# Don't complain about anything for a week. Ha. Anyone who knows me, knows I will struggle with this one. I'm not that bad, I swear.

# Attempt at least one DIY Project. I don't have any resources here (oh, how I miss the stationery products in my mum's scrapbooking room back home) but a girl can try?

Read 20 new books. I'm a nerd. I can do this. 0/20

Go to a UK theme park. There are a few in England but require a day trip or two to conquer. I am going to see if I can find anyone to go with me, since theme parks on your own? Kind of sad.

# Give acupuncture a try. So, I'm scared of needles. But I've heard it can be good for regulating hormones, infertility and also as a stress reliever - I'll try that!

Buy a cross-stitch pattern and become a genius. I used to love these as a kid and let's face it; it's the closest I'll ever come to doing anything remarkably creative with a needle and thread. Can't sew.

# Work my way through a cookbook. Minus the seafood dishes, of course.

# Write a book review. Either on this blog or through a different avenue.

# Teach myself to breathe properly while swimming. It's official. I'm almost 26 and I can't swim underwater properly - I have something wrong with my nose.

Give up carbohydrates for a week. You'll notice I wimped out here and wrote a week - that's because I will really struggle with this one, as a lot of my go-to meals are full of carbs. Will be interesting to see how this goes.

# Find an extra interest to blog about/start a new blog. No, this blog isn't going anywhere - but I would quite like to find an extra writing endeavour sometime this year. I'm not sure what it'll be about OR if anything will come of it, but I'm determined to keep my brain active this year.

See at least one live band. The boy and I already have tickets to see a very special band play TWICE in London this October, so I'm sort of cheating on this one.

Head to the movies alone. Popcorn is optional.

Meet someone new. That sounds easy but guys, remember: I'm not at work anymore. And am a bit of a homebody.

Figure out a honeymoon location & itinerary. I'm giving the boy a little free reign on this one, but if he decides the place, I'm happy to chip in and start researching. 

# Take a self portrait in every country I visit this year. Ah selfies, how I love you.

# Buy a postcard in every country I visit this year. I have big plans for this one.

# Explore the Berlin Wall. Have never been to Berlin before, looking forward to it.

# Drink sangria in Spain. What better place to indulge?

# Get married to my best friend. Working on that one.





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