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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

I know we've got a few weeks yet, but if you've got someone special in your life, it's probably time to start thinking about those dreaded Valentine's Day plans.

The kicker is, with it still being not-that-long after Christmas, some of us (okay, a lot of us) are still super skint. I don't often blog about Valentine's Day, but I'm feeling the pinch as much as anyone right now so thought it would be nice to share some ideas for the day whether you're skint or not - plus, I've got a competition where you can win £25 worth of M&S vouchers!

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Valentines Day | Competition

BUDGET
If you're really skint (aren't we all?) why not forgo trading gifts and instead do something a bit more thoughtful (& cheap). Cooking dinner is always a sweet gesture, but it doesn't always have to be just a standard dinner. You could cook their favorite meal (add some candles and some nice music to set the mood) or perhaps put together a cheap and cheerful picnic and go and eat it in a nice spot. Alternatively, buy lots of posh looking finger food, throw lots of blankets and cushions on the floor and have an indoor picnic/food splurge whilst watching a bunch of movies.

Food is the way to anyone's heart, trust me. For one Valentine's Day, an ex bought me a Happy Meal in bed for breakfast then bought me a bunch of my favourite sweets. I was happy as larry.

Crafts are always a fun way to show someone you love them, too. A handmade card with some beautiful words inside go a long way, or, if it's more serious, why not make a scrapbook about your relationship? There are plenty of 'XX reasons I love you' crafts that can be found via Google too. A jar full of reasons jotted down on scraps of paper costs next to nothing by only spending a few quid on some bits and bobs to make the jar look pretty.

BLOWOUT
Why not put some money towards a nice day out, followed by a hotel stay? There's always lots to do in London - a sightseeing day is always a lot of fun - but it could also be just as romantic to find some things to do in your hometown - after all, it's not often we really explore the tourist attractions near to where we grew up.

Finally, if funds allow, why not look into going away for Valentines Day or arranging a surprise holiday for a gift? A long weekend away or a week spent in the sun will benefit the both of you and means some time alone without any distractions. I don't know about you, but a simple long weekend to Amsterdam would suit me at this time of year. There's always the option of going further afield too, even if it is later in the year (but you can present your other half with the details on Valentines Day). Places like Lastminute.com, Expedia.co.uk or CLC World Travel Centre are ideal websites to keep in mind when searching for a holiday - and often, they're available on a budget too.

CLC WORLD TRAVEL CENTRE COMPETITION 
However, if you're skint like me, I am running a competition in collaboration with CLC World Travel Centre to win £25 worth of M&S vouchers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You could put these vouchers towards ingredients for a home cooked meal, M&S's Dine In For Two promotion or some sexy lingerie. And, if you're single, enter anyway and just treat yourself ;)

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Saturday, 28 January 2017

I am aware that this is the third fitness related post in a row, but I just wanted to check in and write a quick blog post about how I've been getting on with the fitness side of things in the past month.

In my '10 achievable resolutions post for 2017' last year, I mentioned that in past years I tended to set more general goals such as 'be more healthy' and that for 2017, I'd chosen specific ones like how I wanted to take up a new fitness class and go swimming more.

However, as well as those specific goals, I personally decided to continue with the goal of being more healthy and trying to be more fit. This is a goal I've tried to work on a little for the past year or so too as I believed I was happy with my body, but felt I wasn't healthy: I didn't do a lot of exercise, I ate a lot of junk food etc.

I slowly made progress with little steps - eating more healthy and homemade meals etc - which is good in itself, but I have to admit, I got to a point where I was becoming really self conscious about my weight. Although I wouldn't say I was massively overweight, I realized I wasn't thin or healthy either.

I didn't make a conscious decision to change this though, as I felt I was taking the right approach. I don't believe in dieting and I knew that by aiming to be more fit and healthy and by taking on some more healthy lifestyle choices, in the long run it would benefit me.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Fitness | Fitness in January | New Year's Resolutions

Anyway, in January, I decided to get a bit more serious (or fun) about it and mix it up it a bit. Rather than just consciously choosing to eat a healthy meal sometimes and working out when I felt like it (like I had done in previous years), this year/for 2017 I decided to genuinely begin to eat more healthy and try new exercise classes.

Although I decided I wasn't going to be hard on myself, I made a plan to mix it up so I do at least one exercise class each week (and a different one each week, if possible) as long as money allowed, try and walk more (even if it means pacing around my living room to hit my step goal most days of the week) and, again, generally eat more healthy. 

This month, I feel I've done particularly well.

The healthy eating part has been super easy what with taking on Veganuary of course. I've been eating a lot more vegetables and, er, lots of potatoes, which doesn't seem like a big difference but has really evened out my meals. I've gone from eating barely any vegetables at all to having them with nearly every meal for a start.

As for the fitness side of things, I've also been pleased with my progress. I've taken on a new fitness class each week, and here is a general look at what I've been up to:

WEEK ONE
My sister and I saw in the New Year (sort of - we'd planned the walk for January 1st but had to reschedule when it p*ssed down with rain!) with a long walk up Dunstable Downs. It was a beautiful fresh and frosty day - we took the dogs (and my neice of course), had a long gossip and treated ourselves to a delicious hot chocolate with soya milk (for me) and coffee (for her) afterwards at the cafe overlooking the scenery. We also flew a kite! This week, I also finally tried Pound Fitness. I absolutely loved this, but typically it's the one class I've been unable to find the time to return to so far!

WEEK TWO
This week I stuck to the one fitness class (which was my original plan all along, but I actually accidentally spent some of the month doing two fitness classes per week instead of one!) as I was headed to Centreparcs that weekend and knew (well hoped) we would do a lot of walking there. This week, I chose Pole Fitness, which is conveniently pretty much across the road from me. I've actually done pole classes before and took three or four lessons last year which was fun, but this one nearby made much more sense to me, as I won't be wasting petrol money to get there and can't cancel due to traffic or anything like that. It was really fun - the class was small and intimate so we got a lot of one-on-one time, but my god the bruises I developed afterwards were worrying!

At Centreparcs, we didn't do any specific walking (I'd envisioned long, relaxing walks through the woods when instead we spent a lot of time partying), but did do a lot of walking since the pool was about a fifteen minute walk away. We didn't do a lot of swimming either, but with lots of time spent on the rapids and waterslides (then me almost falling asleep hungover going round and round the lazy river on the last day), I'm still counting it as a win.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Fitness | Fitness in January | New Year's Resolutions

WEEK THREE
Last week, I met my sister for a Zumba class with Fitness Milton Keynes, as I had some vouchers from the MK Blogger Network Christmas Party. This was super fun and the lady who ran it was so friendly and energetic - I can't believe it's taken me this long to try a Zumba class either! I'm in two minds about taking this class again though. I absolutely loved it, but being in Newport Pagnell, it's a little out of my way, especially as I've just joined my local gym which also runs Zumba classes. My sister really enjoyed it too though, so I think I'll probably look into attending the class maybe once a month when my sister does. 

I also did another Pole Fitness class and have pretty much given in to the fact that I'll likely be continuing this on a weekly basis too, as I enjoyed it so much! I feel like I'm really learning and acing some of the moves this time around.

WEEK FOUR
Finally, this week, I took another Pole Fitness class. I had hoped to take up another class this week with my local gym, but just haven't had the time. Instead, I've tried to make it up by trying to hit my 10,000 step count more this week (so far, I've nailed it on three days, which is impressive as a couple of those days saw me working from home and not even leaving the house), and working out at home (I started the 30 Day Squat Challenge, god help me!).

So, although I'm not pushing myself to work out every single day, I feel like for the month of January, I have made some really good progress so far. I feel like I've incorporated enough fitness changes in my life so that they can be realistic lifestyle changes in the long run - I feel that there's a good chance I can stick to doing at least one exercise class per week and trying to hit my step count as much as I can.

Keeping this long term and seeing this progress as a lifestyle change rather than a new year fitness regime which sees me pushing too hard and running out of motivation far too soon has really helped me stay on top of keeping fit this month and I really hope it continues.

I also believe joining the gym may help. I didn't plan to join a gym, but my local gym has a deal on where it is cheaper at the moment up until March, so I figured it would be a good time to try it out. It's a gym I hadn't been to until now and it's really nice with a little coffee shop area. The classes are more varied (although they do book up quickly), and membership includes entry to the swimming pool too which is nice as I want to start swimming more this year too.

I may not keep my membership after March - this is something I'm going to see about - but in the meantime, I'm really enjoying taking part in the classes on offer. Next week, I am already booked into yoga (straight after Pole Fitness!) and Zumba. I'll be booking another Pound Fitness class next week too.

So overall I feel like it's been a realistic success in January, and I really hope I can keep it up!

How are you getting on with your fitness goals, if you have any? Let me know with a comment!

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Thursday, 26 January 2017

I'm not usually one to jump on a fitness fad bandwagon, as I don't believe in quick and easy or overnight results. 

Likewise, I don't tend to give in and waste lots of money on products or diets that is promised to work by everyone - I didn't give in and purchase a Nutribullet (I like smoothies on the odd occasion but can use my Nan's old hand blender for a fraction of the price!) and although I've reviewed reputable teatoxes in the past, you won't find me running out the door to spend £50+ on a new diet regime.

So when my close friend Briony started banging on about getting a Fitbit, I took no interest. 

Until we went to Reading festival and she whacked up an impressive 120,000 steps (when according to Fitbit the American Heart Association recommends 10,000 steps daily for a healthy lifestyle) and I began to consider the idea. It was also when we spent at least two hours walking each day (half an hour from the camp to the arena multiple times a day) without her breaking a sweat and me, well, not sweating but definitely aching by the end of it all, that I thought, 'hmm. I'd like to be able to do that many steps a day - should the occasion arise - and take it all in my stride like she has done'.

I mean, I'm not as lazy as I used to be and all that walking wasn't too hard, but I definitely felt it by the end of the weekend. 

Beforehand, I'd also wondered what good just walking can do. It turns out a lot, really.

So I caved and bought one, feeling slightly sick and nervous at spending £99 on something that wasn't a necessity. I'd never spent that much money in one go before, except for when buying a laptop or that time I went to buy a bikini for holiday and accidentally-on-purpose spent £150 on lingerie in Boux Avenue.

That was back in September (buying the Fitbit, that is, not my shameful splurge in Boux Avenue) and just four months on, my opinion has changed completely and I absolutely love my Fitbit.

Here's five reasons why I believe Fitbits are worth the money.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Fitness | Fitbit | Fitbit Alta

IT'S NOT JUST A FITNESS FAD
..and you won't use it religiously for one month before shoving it in the back of your drawer. Trust me on this one. I'm the queen of picking up new projects and getting bored after a month or so, but five months on, I'm still using the hell out of my Fitbit. I don't always log my food (I do around 85% of the time) but I didn't buy it for that reason. I still use it all the time - I kind of have to without realizing it being that it's worn around my wrist 24/7 - but I mean, actively too. Nearly every single day I try to up my step count/hit my step goal/beat my friends etc.

IT MOTIVATES YOU
Don't get me wrong, you're not going to wake up one morning, look at your Fitbit and immediately go on a 5k run - but it does push you and motivate you to move more. I actively try to hit my step goal but there are times when I'll be sat in on an evening and I get a notification telling me that just 2,000 more steps to go before hitting my goal. I then make a conscious effort to get up and do that, whether it's taking the dog out for the walk or pacing around the house like a lunatic. Of course without a Fitbit I wouldn't know how many steps I've done, but I can't say that there's ever been an instance pre-Fitbit that at 7pm I've thought to myself 'I haven't walked much today, I better get up and do some form of walking/exercise to keep healthy'. In fact, even if I just get to at least 5,000 steps by the afternoon, that's enough for me to know that realistically if I move or push myself a little, I can easily hit 10,000 steps that evening.

YOU CAN TAKE ON CHALLENGES OR TRY TO BEAT YOUR FRIENDS
This is the real fun part if you have friends that have Fitbits too. You can set challenges on a workweek or on a weekend to see who gets the most steps and it makes me SO DAMN COMPETITIVE. I've beaten my friends a couple of times, but it's super hard when I work from home. One friend has a child also, so when I check it early morning, she's already wracked up so many steps! But it is fun, overall. There are also solo challenges, such as NYC 3.1 Miles (which is 8,000 steps). You can set these when going on a long walk and, as you progress, you can see different landmarks via the app. You basically digitally walk a path in NYC, embedded with panasonic photos. I haven't done one of these yet, but my friend did one for Yosemite Vernal Falls and the photos were beautiful.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Fitness | Fitbit | Fitbit Alta

IT TRACKS MORE THAN JUST STEPS
You can also track your water intake, your sleeping patterns and what you eat. Tracking your food is similar to MyFitnessPal, but it's super useful because you can set specific goals to lose, gain or maintain weight. I find it really hard to understand how many calories you should eat depending on your workout each day in general, and Fitbit does this for you. You can set a goal of, for example, losing 2.0 lbs per week by lowering your calorie deficit, and then when you log your food and exercises, it lets you know how many calories you can eat for the rest of the day. If you have a specific goal in mind, it really takes the complication out of it all. 

IT WORKS
Since using my Fitbit, I have lost 1 stone and five lbs gradually and in a safe manner. Although my biggest loss has been since going vegan, I am still super happy with the results because I am losing the weight bit by bit, rather than in one big go. For example, my friend explained that she often diets, loses a lot of weight quickly and then puts it back on again, but by walking more with my Fitbit, eating more healthy and taking up some new year fitness classes, it's clear to see that the weight I am losing is coming off safely and due to a long-term lifestyle change. Fitbit has kept me going; I didn't buy one and immediately go running every single evening and dieting but by making slow but gradual changes over the course of a few months, I have slowly become more comfortable in myself and all around more healthy.

Which, I think, was my overall goal when I decided to purchase my Fitbit!

Of course, different things work for different people, but I think at the very least, a Fitbit is a great way to simply just get walking and out of the house more - which can never do any harm really. 

Have you got a Fitbit or would you ever consider buying one? Let me know!

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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

I've said it before and I've said it again - one of the biggest motivators to get me to work out is stylish/cute sportswear! 

Even if my hair is a mess, I have no makeup on and I'm the only one in the gym with no one to see what I'm wearing, if I've got a cute slogan top on then I feel good.

Half the time, even when I'm at home and feeling like crap, if I know I have a new cute top to wear, that's what motivates me to go and workout so at least I get use out of it!

Now that we're well into the new year, I've been eyeing up some new sportswear I'd love to treat myself to. Here's my sportswear wishlist.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Fashion | Sportswear Wishlist | H&M | Tesco | Etsy | Fitness Freaks | New Look | Peacocks

ONE
I don't normally pay much attention to sports pants; as long as they fit then I'm good. I already have two pairs of pretty simple ones with a couple of pops of pink, but I really like this pair by Tesco from all places! They're a bit more bold without being too in your face and would go perfectly with just a plain work out top.

TWO
I absolutely love this zombie themed slogan top, by Fitness Freaks on Etsy. I've actually bought one of their tops before (another zombie slogan top), and think it's quite relevant as well as stylish. I don't know why I love zombie slogan tops so much; probably because I'm usually the only one wearing anything related to zombies and plus it works well/gets me in the right frame of mind when I'm running with my Zombies, Run app.

THREE
This is another slogan top which is basic but cute too. It's quite versatile and I'd probably wear it lounging around the house too. I think it's the type of top I could pair with leggings and trainers and just wear out regularly without anyone thinking I was on my way to or fro the gym. Plus, for only £8.99 from New Look, it's a steal.

FOUR
I have to admit, I'm actually getting to the point where I'd be comfortable working out in public with a cropped top like this. Sometimes when you're getting sweaty a top simply just doesn't do it, sticking to your skin and not cooling you down etc. I love this versatile crop top from Peacocks and I really like the straps too. 

FIVE
Finally, another slogan top, this time from H&M. I actually love H&M's sportswear range and find it's always really motivational as well as stylish. A lot of the range is filled with slogan items, but none of them are corny which I like. This one is super versatile, although I have to admit, I don't think anyone will believe what it states on the front, haha!

So that's my current sportswear wishlist, although in hindsight, I've picked lots of grey's and black's - I should have gone with a couple of items to add a pop of colour! Still, it means the range is super versatile, most of it goes together and nothing on the list is particularly expensive.

What do you think? What's on your current sportswear wishlist? Let me know!

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Sunday, 22 January 2017


So, it's safe to say I've struggled a lot this week.

I've found that in between feeling sick (nearly everything I've been eating I've been puking back up again) and being so busy, I haven't had much chance to meal plan or buy vegan specific food.

In my last post, I actually left off at Monday, so this post for this week will be a bit shorter.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Veganuary | Veganuary 2017 | Vegan | Veganuary Challenge

TUESDAY 17TH
Today I started off well with some vegan pancakes which did not go well and, later, some plain toast, which luckily I managed to keep down. So far, so vegan...until around 1am when I was starving and had to give in and have a Mars bar, with nothing else light and/or vegan in the house. What a fail.

WEDNESDAY 18TH
Wednesday was avocado on toast and I met my dad for dinner. I don't know what was going through my mind, but well aware that nachos are vegan as long as I don't have the cheese, for some stupid reason I associated the fact that tacos are very similar to nachos and would be the same. I got to the pub and was so hungry and hyped up for tacos that despite the fact they come with cheese and lots of meat, I ordered it anyway. I only had a small bit of meat, but I felt horrible afterwards because at the very least I could have gone for something veggie. Still, this made me feel unwell nonetheless, but I was at least able to keep it down. I blamed feeling unwell for my mistake.

THURSDAY 19TH
Thursday I was determined to get back on it and had (vegan) pancakes for breakfast and, for dinner, vegetable grills with mixed vegetables and garlic breaded mushrooms. I had a late supper of avocado on toast too. 

FRIDAY 20TH
Friday was another bad day for me as I had such a busy day, I skipped breakfast. I went out to visit my sister and we went for a long, long walk to the foresty centre, and for lunch I had a cheese and onion toastie with salad and crisps. The crisps were vegan, as was the salad obviously, but the cheese and onion toastie = not so much. Still, at least it was still veggie.

SATURDAY 21ST
Finally on Saturday I managed to get a proper shop in and get my head back in the game. I was sure to pick up lots of vegan treats and light food, like oreos, Chipstix and Nakd bars, but I couldn't find any courgettes for my beloved stuffed courgettes! I filled myself up with a mushroom and garlic pasta though and had some packets of Chipstix as a snack.

I think I've been terrible this week, but with having such a volatile stomach, I could have done a lot worse. I must admit, I've been trying to choose some food to settle my stomach, regardless of whether or not it's vegan and I finally seem to be feeling a bit better.

I have taken solace in the fact that I haven't given up completely and where I have had non-vegan meals, it's not been on purpose. For example, when I was out with my sister, I'd skipped breakfast and there were no vegan options on the menu, so I chose the nearest thing to vegan. So there have been a few slip ups here and there, but none intentionally.

There have of course been many points I've been tempted to pack it all in and drive to McDonalds since, y'know, I've already slipped up, but I persevered!

Saying that, my sister commented on how well I looked which made me feel good! I hadn't seen her in a couple of weeks and she pointed out that apparently my skin was glowing, my hair looked good and I'd lost weight - so that was nice!

Now that I've got my final big shop in I should be okay. I have plenty of supplies so if I'm absolutely starving at night and it's too late to cook, I have snacks that are vegan luckily.

There's not long to go now - only ten or so days - and I'm determined to be 100% vegan this last week! Wish me luck!

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Saturday, 21 January 2017

There are a few things I deem necessary to write a blog post.

Slouchy clothes, good relaxing music (right now it's Christine and The Queens), and, sometimes, my bed #sorrynotsorry.

But within the past year or so, I've come to realize there's a lot more to just writing a blog post. It's about writing content that is engaging and good for SEO (although SEO is something I'm still trying to get my head around!). It's about bright photography and necessary tags. It's about sharing the posts, trying to encourage readers to comment and share and of course, this is just one post - it's also about helping your blog to grow overall.

Now I'm no expert, but I think my blog has improved massively over the past twelve months and I can't lie - a lot of that has been down to research.

Of course I do stick to the basics - I write content naturally how I enjoy to write and I would never change something as big as my writing style etc. But I now put in the research to make said content as best as it can be.

I do this by relying on/referring to many different blogging resources and I thought I'd share some of my favourite ones today so that hopefully they may help you too.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Blogging Resources | Blogging Help

BLOGLOVIN' / BLOG POSTS
This is the biggest one and probably the platform I use most to read and share/save content. Although I'm not very good yet at improving my own Bloglovin' page, I bookmark so many great posts this way and have a 'board' dedicated especially to blogging help.

Some of my most useful saved posts include:

9 Changes I Made When I Finally "Got Serious" About My Blog | This speaks to me because it wasn't up until last year that I began to get more serious about my blog, really. I've taken on a few of these tips such as using Pinterest more, trying to understand my analytics and adding ALT texts to images.

Making The Most Of Your Phone Camera | This helped me loads as I'm not in a position to buy a 'proper camera' and the tips in this post have helped make sure I still take somewhat good photos for the blog.

25 Blog Post Ideas For A Lifestyle Blogger | Blog post ideas is always a useful resource!

The Ultimate Blog Organisation Spreadsheet | I cannot begin to tell you how useful this post/spreadsheet is. I've tweaked it a little to suit my own needs, but I rely on this spreadsheet pretty much constantly. It has really help me get a grip on my posts and I wish I'd stumbled across this years ago.

Sponsored Posts; What Do You Charge? | Although obviously pricing varies per blogger, this post is really useful for deciding on a system to work out what you should be charging per post.

You can see my saved Blogging 101 posts here.

TWEETDECK
This is just a simple one, but probably one I use nearly every other day and as part of my blogging routine. There are lots of platforms to help schedule social media but Tweetdeck tends to be one I go back to time and time again. It's great for scheduling (& seeing what is scheduled!) as well as tracking replies to you etc.

FACEBOOK GROUPS
Facebook groups are super helpful and not just for making other blogger friends. I find groups like UK Bloggers and Bloggers Helping Each Other really useful for advice, and they also run lots of fun threads to help get more comments/instagram interaction etc. I also find UK Blogger Opportunities really great for, well, blogging opportunities! I've actually found/participated in more opportunities via this Facebook group than on dedicated blogger opportunity websites!

Off course there's also the obvious like Twitter, Instagram etc too, but these are some others you may not have heard of.

What are your go-to blogging resources? Let me know with a comment!

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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Over the weekend, I hit the halfway mark of Veganuary.

That happened so quickly and I can't believe that I've already succeeded in eating vegan for two weeks.

Here's how I got on.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Veganuary | Veganuary 2017 | Vegan | Veganuary Challenge

SUNDAY 8TH
Today I had a busy day followed by a date (!) so I skipped a big dinner today and instead opted for some avocado on toast for lunch and a large salted popcorn at the cinema. Please note, the popcorn was to share. Today is the first day I also found my appetite reducing. I don't know if it's because I was so busy or just because I've been filling up on more vegetables but I definitely began to eat less.

MONDAY 9TH
Today I also had avocado on toast and some butternut squash risotto I'd purchased ready-made from Morrisons. It was rank. I have no idea what possessed me to buy it.

TUESDAY 10TH
On Tuesday, I had just one big meal. I was busy running errands most of the day and I've been also upping my water intake loads, so I focused on pasta with a garlic cream sauce and mushrooms. It was nice and I actually managed to flavour the sauce for once!

WEDNESDAY 11TH
By midweek, I sort of got my appetite back a little. I had vegetable grills and mixed vegetables for lunch, then met my dad for dinner at a Hungry Horse, where I scoffed down a delicious Tandori Veg Malasi. It was lovely, if a little hot for me! I'm always pleasantly surprised at how many veggie and vegan options on offer at Hungry Horse. There was a lot and as it was a tad hot, I couldn't finish it all. By the evening, I was feeling a tad peckish, so I treated myself to a simple home favourite, spaghetti on toast.


Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Veganuary | Veganuary 2017 | Vegan | Veganuary Challenge

THURSDAY 12TH
Thursday was another busy day for me, so I stocked up on water and treated myself to a big dinner of Fry's Family Chicken Nuggets, bite sized roast potatoes, garlic breaded mushrooms and some mixed vegetables. I'm loving mini bags of mixed vegetables lately. You just throw them in the microwave and because they go with everything, I've gone easily from barely eating any vegetables to eating them nearly every single day with at least one meal.

FRIDAY 13TH - SUNDAY 15TH
This weekend I was away at Centre Parcs with some friends. To make it cheaper, we agreed to all cook for each other and I told myself I would try my best to stay vegan but not beat myself up too much if I couldn't, as obviously most of our group weren't vegan. I said I'd add an extra weekend onto Veganuary, but as it goes, it was pretty easy. One of the girls is a full time vegan and my other friend is doing Veganuary with me so we had no meat all weekend. I did have a couple of sides that I'd picked up thinking were vegan (but turned out not to be) but didn't beat myself too much about it, as I'd already chosen to be a bit more lenient that weekend.

MONDAY 16TH
I don't know what it was but Monday I felt horrible. At first I thought I'd just overdone it over the weekend, as I'd had a pretty bad hangover on the Saturday, but my stomach was killing me too so I thought maybe it was where I'd barely eaten with having no appetite. Anyway. I shamelessly gave in. I tried to eat some avocado on toast which I puked up again mere hours later and found nothing would stay down. I couldn't be bothered to cook so had some doritos which weren't vegan at all. I puked these up too, and I think Monday marked the end of Veganuary for me.

Having not been able to keep anything down for the past few days - but not at all blaming Veganuary, cooking and eating vegan has been the last thing on my mind. The result of my sickness could well be the change in diet, but it could also be something as simple as a pro-longed hangover and not eating.

After two weeks/reaching the halfway mark, I came close to giving in for many reasons. I went as far as to end this post stating the reasons why I decided to give up - I'd already given in and eaten some non-vegan items when feeling unwell, and also that my circumstances had changed from last year and I was no longer in a position to splurge/stock up on vegan items every week being that I now only work part time.

But I also wrote about how proud I was for reaching the halfway mark and how good I felt in myself. I have noticed a huge change so far, I've lost weight, I had a lot of energy in the first week (when I was eating properly) and in general felt better in myself.

And then I decided that I'd just admit that those two days of feeling so terrible in myself can be marked down as a write-off and that I'm allowed slip ups now and then. It wasn't that I'd intentionally decided that I didn't want to try anymore and went out to scoff a massive bacon sandwich; anything I ate was not staying down, I turned to home comforts (like soup) to settle my stomach and just had no energy or motivation to cook.

So after a bit of a rough end to my second week, I'm hoping my third week will be a lot better!

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Monday, 16 January 2017

I love sharing new (well, not always new, but perhaps new to you) music on this blog and really enjoyed doing my playlist posts last year. This year I'm going to attempt to do one each month, but we'll see how I get on!

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Music | The January Playlist | Playlist |
I bought this ultra bold but cool sticker in Ibiza, I can't help it, it caught my eye! But just to note, I am in no way supporting sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll with this sticker. Wait, who am I kidding, I always support rock 'n' roll...

This month it was easy. I've spent the last month or so trying to clear my Shazam list, so I've found loads of cool new songs that way, but I've also been stumbling across lots of new music by accident this month too - in adverts, on Snapchat etc.

This playlist is a bit mixed - there's some pop punk, there's some dreamy electro (at least that's what I'm calling it!) and there's a fab collaboration between twenty one pilots and MUTEMATH thrown in too. I just had to include this and I love the song as it's so different and out there. And, of course, twenty one pilots' music is hard to explain at the best of times, let alone when they're collaborating with another innovative artist to remix an old song.


Waves by The War on Peace was suggested by a staff writer over at Debut Magazine - where we try to share a new song every day - and Ready Set Go was discovered when I was reviewing Home wrecked's (is that the right plural?!) EP for Invicta Magazine. Finally, I stumbled across the deliciously out there What We Could Have Been by Vesperteen via Josh Dun's snapchat.

The others I think were all from my Shazam list, but who knows at this point. Anyway, enjoy, and do let me know what you think!

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Saturday, 14 January 2017

Just before Christmas, I blogged about my New Year's Eve resolutions, and one of them was to take up Pound Fitness classes.

Pound Fit is a unique fitness class - it combines cardio with simulated drumming - so it's definitely a little bit different! It's inspired by the sweat dripping and infectious fun of drumming - which I think is an absolutely amazing way to sum it up.

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I booked myself into a class last week but before I even booked it I was surprised they ran classes over here in the UK. It's quite popular in the US, so I was really happy that I could attend an actual class over here.

The class that I went to is about a twenty minute drive away from me, only I went to the wrong school so ended up around 15 minutes late for my first class - oops! It's also typical of me.

This meant I missed the warm up and I was recommended to take it easy to begin with, which I had to do anyway as one of the first moves/songs was a sitting one, with our legs outstretched in front of us but raised off the ground.

Of course I couldn't keep my legs raised off the ground the whole time but it was fun *cough* challenging *cough* trying. 

Although there obviously were no drum sets, the idea is that you partake in an aerobic/cardio work out, whilst simultaneously doing drumming motions. So you're given a pair of bright and bold lightly weighted plastic drum sticks, and you drum the ground as you go along or occasionally make other drumming moves (tapping the sticks together etc) in the air, whilst in time to the beat.

It's fun because it really is an all over workout - you're constantly using your arms, and you also improve your rhythm, timing, coordination, speed, agility, endurance and musicality - which is great for me, as you all know I want to take up actual drum lessons too!

SWEAT.
SCULPT.
ROCK.

You can burn up to 900 calories per session and you really do feel like a total rockstar in the process.

Oh, and did I mention the music you listen to is awesome, too? I got to work out whilst listening to Paramore and Fall Out Boy = that's always a win in my eyes!

I also found it as a great way to get rid of stress - there's the opportunity to really drum hard and let out all that anger if you wish to, which, of course, then benefits you because you're working out harder.

Overall, I found the class super fun but a little bit challenging too which is great. It wasn't too daunting, but enough to make me want to push myself and I definitely felt the ache in my shoulders, stomach and thighs the following day.

I think the best part of the class though is that it's just so 'me'. It's different, it's edgy and it's the chance to rock out - and I'm already an addict!

If there's not a class near you, there is an awesome Rockout Results System kit you can buy - although it is pricey, working out at around £73 pounds - or a DVD, which also includes the Ripstix used in the workout sessions. and there's also some awesome accessories and clothing in the merchandise store. 

Would you try a Pound Fitness class? Let me know!

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Thursday, 12 January 2017

If New Year's Resolutions aren't your thing, why not take on a one or two of these feel good projects this year?

Even if your New Year's Resolution is to just be more happy - as many of us hope to be this year - one of these projects are a fab way to do that. What's even better is that when 2017 comes to an end, you can look back on these projects to remember how the year has gone.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Feel good projects for 2017 | Feel good projects | The Happiness Jar | Plant Nanny | Photo challenges | 52 Lists

THE 52 LISTS PROJECT
I personally tried to start this project a few years ago and failed spectacularly - I didn't even get further than the first week. I think I was too worried about the end result, whether I should print out the lists as squares so I could make a scrapbook out of them etc. Unfortunately, not all of the lists are available online now as the founder has gone on to create a book about the project. So the project can still be completed - and believe me, the book looks so beautiful - but you can no longer go back to basics and print out a list week by week to be more creative with them. Luckily, there are lots of '52 lists' projects floating about online, such as the 52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge. It's sweet, because it's a really nice way to check in and take time to yourself weekly, it doesn't require too much commitment and is nice to look back on at the end of the year.

START A SCRAPBOOK
Scrapbooking is a really nice way to treasure old photographs and memories. If you're someone that enjoys taking a lot of photos but never prints them out, this is the perfect excuse to get those photos seen offline. What's great about scrapbooking is you can be so creative, creating pages upon pages with cut outs, envelopes, stamps etc for a family holiday, or even just one photo across a two page spread for a simple day spent with friends but one that you'll always like to remember. You can also use a scrapbook to display gig tickets, cinema tickets and much more. The opportunities really are endless, and you can even buy scrapbook kits for travelling and things like that.

DRINK MORE WATER
Okay, this one might be a little different from the other's on the list, but trust me, it's guaranteed to make you feel better. Drinking more water has so many benefits, from clear skin and flushing out toxins, to aiding in weight loss and giving you more energy. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make drinking more water fun. You could start a tally in your bullet journal, or record your water intake via your Fitbit. Buying a cute water bottle to carry around with you helps too, but my personal favourite is the app Plant Nanny! It's slightly similar to having a Tamagotchi, except every time you drink water, you log it on the app and feed your plant in the process. The app reminds you when the plant is hungry or when you're due to drink more water, and the plants are really, really cute which is a nice bonus!

INSTAGRAM PHOTO-A-DAY CHALLENGES
This is another one for those who are a lot more tech savvy, but at the end of it all, you could still choose to print out your photos and display them in an album or a scrapbook. Instagram challenges aren't new and there are so many to choose from, all varying in length and theme. So if taking a photo a day for a whole year seems a bit daunting to you, you could try a monthly project. You can also take on harder challenges, like #mustacheme, which also supports the Movember foundation, or more something more meaningful such as the #365gratefulproject, which encourages you to take a photo of something you are grateful for every single day. There's challenges that require you to take a photo with a certain colour each day - which is a great way to show of your photography skills - or take a photo with a stranger every day, too.

HAPPINESS JAR PROJECT
There's a super cute guide on Buzzfeed, even though it's pretty damn easy to do, but this article gives ideas for how to decorate and personalize jars. The idea is that you get an empty jar and throughout the year, jot down on paper every time something makes you happy or makes you smile. You can keep it simple or you can use coloured or patterned paper. At the end of the year, you can open the jar and reminisce about your year. I particularly like this one because day-by-day it can easily feel like life is dragging on and that you may not be getting anywhere, but in the long run, people tend to achieve a lot more than they realize.

So there we have it. Five feel good projects to take on in 2017, ranging from the more challenging photo-a-day, to the relaxed happiness jar project, that can be completed in your own time.

If you're feeling anxious about lots of New Year's Resolutions, why not scrap them and choose one of these instead as a way to just be more happy in 2017?

Will you be taking on any of these projects? Let me know!

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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Today I wanted to talk about this amazing new app launched by Yours Clothing.

The app is a fun way to trial a tattoo without actually committing to inking your skin, which I think is a great idea because I for one have a million tattoo ideas in my head that I'm too chicken sh*t to commit to right now.

Just think of so many people that regret their tattoos and how they could have saved themselves so much trouble/regret by using an app like this first.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Test a Tattoo app | Yours Clothing

Test a Tattoo app was launched in collaboration with renowned tattoo artist Barbara, who works at Parlour Tattoo in Shoreditch. There was a fun breakfast just before Christmas to help launch the app, and Barbara was on hand to help with any designs, answer any questions and just generally have a chit chat.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the event in the end, but I still wanted to write about the app and my thoughts on it because I think it's such a unique collaboration and it's quite refreshing to see a clothing brand feature an app related to tattoo's. 

The app itself is nifty to use with a wide variety of tattoo ideas you can try on your skin. You simply upload a photo, pick a tattoo (or type a text one!) and drag and drop. It looks super realistic and I found it quite eye-opening: for example, I really liked the idea of adding some lyrics to my arm, close to my first tattoo, but after trying it out on the app, I've decided against it as I think the area looks much too crowded.

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In reality, I still do want something similar - lyrics, for sure - but I think perhaps on my other arm instead.

On the other hand, I've been convinced for a while now that I'd love to add to my mum's tattoo somehow, whether that be with a sweet and simple pattern running around my wrist, or something beneath.

I absolutely love the butterfly tattoo that I found on the app (as shown in the main image of this post) and I think that fit's in nicely - especially as my mum loved butterflies.

Likewise, I like the star pattern too, as I've been thinking about a way to incorporate something that resonates with the words in the tattoo - and stars certainly shine bright, after all.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Test a Tattoo app | Yours Clothing

I think by using this app, I've almost settled on the idea of adding a small butterfly tattoo to my existing one - perhaps a watercolour butterfly would be nice.

Overall, I really love the idea behind this app and how easy it is to use. I'm gutted I wasn't able to attend the event, however I'll no doubt be using the app a lot in future.

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Friday, 6 January 2017

It's that time of year again - my second go of Veganuary! I enjoyed the challenge so much last year that I knew right away I was going to do it again this year.

Here's how I've got on so far.

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SUNDAY 1ST
On the first day, I was well prepared unlike last year! I'd done an online shop a few days prior so I was all set and this made all the difference. I didn't make a meal plan as such, but I had an idea of what meals I would have during my first week (just not what day for each). So for breakfast I had a Blue Magic smoothie, which was with blueberries, almond butter and almond milk. I didn't have almond butter so I skipped this out and I found the smoothie didn't have much flavour, so this one needs practice with different ingredients. it did fill me up however. For a late lunch/early dinner, I had tomato mezze, which is basically a kind of smoked tomato sauce with rocket salad, a roll/bread and hummus sprinkled with smoked paprika. Snacks throughout the day included some tortilla chips, a banana and a Nakd bar.

MONDAY 2ND
Today I made vegan pancakes! I don't think I've ever made pancakes (well I've helped flip them before but that's it) let alone vegan ones! I was really happy with these - the first couple came out as a soggy mess, but the third was fine and when I stacked them all together, they looked okay and all tasted fine. For dinner, I had stuffed courgettes with bite sized roast potatoes and rocket salad, and for snacks, again I had tortilla chips and a Nakd bar.

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TUESDAY 3RD
On Tuesday, I had quite a busy day, running around and doing errands so I had simple avocado on toast for breakfast, and a hugely filling old favourite for dinner - stir fry with spring rolls.

WEDNESDAY 4TH
I tried my hand at another smoothie today, named Green Day (which was kale, pineapple, yogurt and water), which was nicer than the last one, but still a little bland until I added a banana to give it more flavour. Dinner was mushrooms on toast (simple yet so filling!) and a packet of chipsticks, since I recently discovered they're vegan!

THURSDAY 5TH
Thursday I had quite a busy day, so lunch was a simple cheese and onion sandwich with a packet of chipsticks, and for dinner I had stuffed mushrooms, although I picked up the wrong breadcrumbs and forgot to pick up onions. They still tasted good, just not as good!

FRIDAY 6TH
On Friday I tried to a tomato, mushroom and bean pan fry recipe from Tesco (which was basically like kale, tomatoes and mushrooms on top of toasted bread) and it did not go well. I burned half of it, the recipe said to use a little bit of mustard, which I did, but then the whole thing tasted overly of mustard...it was just a disaster, so I only had about four bites before giving up. For dinner, I had vegetable grills from Tesco (these were lovely and probably the first thing throughout the week that I hadn't made from scratch) with bite sized roast potatoes and some mixed vegetables. I had avocado on toast for supper.

SATURDAY 7TH
For the last day of my first week, I pretty much used up what was left from throughout the week. I had some of the filling from my stuffed courgettes left over, so I had this in a jacket potato with a vegetable grill from yesterday, and then, for supper, some avocado on toast.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Veganuary | Veganuary 2017 | Vegan | Veganuary Challenge

For my first week, what I've mostly struggled with is not using products up in time. I feel like I'm adulting properly when I arrange two or three recipes around one product, getting the most use out of it, but when a variety of ingredients go out of date at different times, it hurts my head. 

Next week I'll probably sit down and go through the dates and work out what needs to be eaten first. However, this could also be because I ordered things from Tesco a couple of days in advance, meaning by the time the 1st hit, not everything was as fresh. I won't have this problem when I shop in person next week (I only really do my first big shop online) - but I'll still remember to note what needs to be used first.

Also: smoothies. Super yummy, but I'm super bad at knowing what fruit goes with what. Some I have made that tasted bland so I had to add something else in, but I guess with most cooking this is just trail and error. I mentioned in the past how I was never good at just throwing stuff together when cooking but since doing Veganuary last year and becoming a bit more confident in the kitchen I am starting to find this easier.

So hopefully with practise I'll be more confident experimenting with different smoothie flavours too. I have, however, tried a few new recipes which I'll be having again, especially the stuffed courgettes and the pancakes. Today, during my shop for next week, I bought some pre-made vegan food, because although it's fun to make new things, I think I need to remember I don't need to try something new and experimental every single night of the week to be a vegan - sometimes it's just fine to have substitute sausages or something.

Roll on next week!

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