Wizarding World and Mission Crates

I’ve been a previous subscriber to the HorrorBlock and I do quite like the idea of geeky fun stuff in the post every now and then…so when LootCrate announced they were going to do a Star Trek Mission Crate, I was quick to sign up. Delay, after delay, after delay meant by the time I got the Star Trek Mission Crate I was a bit over the whole experience (which is why I never bothered to write about it). Still, the items were fun (nice t-shirt, Picard figure and an Enterprise D model) but I decided not to continue after the first crate. I did get some great photos of my guinea pig in the box though…

LootCrate also do a Wizarding World of Harry Potter crate and I rediscovered my love for the series after watching the utterly sublime ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ earlier this year. Despite not having the greatest of experiences with the Star Trek Mission Crate, I figured it might be a better experience this time round as the Wizarding World Crate has been going for some time. It was still delayed but not in the same way as the Star Trek Mission Crate had been.

So, what did I get? (excuse photo quality, I used my phone and the camera isn’t the best)

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Starting 2018 Again

In November last year, I had a very minor operation.

Really minor, but still surgery.

My post-op instructions kept me off my bike until at least January, and as you probably know the weather went a bit apocalyptic at the start of the year…so I kept postponing my first outing.  To the point where my first bike ride of the year was on 20th May! Oops.

I am not a hugely active person. I walk a lot and there are loads of stairs where I work, but I’m not active. My weight had been creeping up since Christmas (…I had a doctors appointment after Christmas which involved getting weighed, I really hope they put a little disclaimer on my file xD) and not riding my bike regularly wasn’t helping.

I’ve tried the whole gym thing on several occassions but I’m not a gym person – I don’t have that drive to do things myself. Also, cost. Being in London means joining a gym is a seriously financial commitment – my local ‘leisure centre’ charges £60 a month! The ones nearest where I work (in central London) are up to double the cost.

But that’s something I want to change. I never do ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ because I never know what I actually want to do in the New Year and I always fail…but with my weight increasing so much, type 2 diabetes running in the family and the realisation that some of my health issues at the moment would be greatly improved by losing weight I can no longer avoid a long-term excercise commitment.

Luckily, I’ve discovered a PureGym close to where I work which is half the cost of my local leisure centre…and they’re a little bit more 21st cenutry. There’s an App I can use to book classes, and they’re a 24hr gym so classes are at much more accessible times of the day for me. I could also go after work, which I may end up doing (depending on trains, of course). They also have their own version of weightwatchers, with a gym element…so I’ve signed up and have a six week commitment starting in June. Weightwatchers is something I’ve never been on board with, but I know people who have lost significant amounts of weight with them (and slimmingworld).

I’ve bought a Fitbit (my Garmin died and I’m in the market for a smartwatch type of thing), I had one before that was just a step counter but I’ve taken the plunge and gone for the new Versa – smartwatch elements, tracks steps & stairs and of course, exercise tracking. It doesn’t have a built in GPS but I’m not a runner and I have a cycle computer for tracking cycle stuff.

I tried blogging about my attempts to get fit before but I was a bit of a half-arsed type of thing. I don’t know if I will blog about my attempts this time round but I think the use of social media might be a reasonably driving force for me – as a photographer it’ll be nice to see a progression as I go from being my current stationary fat blob to (hopefully) a more active less fat blob.

 

Riding L’Etape London

The alarm clock went off at 5am and I dragged myself out of bed after three hours of not-so-great sleep. I’d prepped my bike and everything the night before so all I needed to do were the final checks and have breakfast.

My taxi arrived at 6am. I’d booked a ‘cycle cab’ from Addison Lee, which was basically a car with a large boot so I still had to remove my front wheel. It also didn’t take nearly as much time as Google Maps had suggested so I got there around 6:30am. The road leading to the Velodrome had been closed to traffic so I was dropped off on the otherside of the park so it was a short ride to the Velodrome itself. My start time was 9am so I had quite a bit of waiting to do.

Annoyingly, my event pack never arrived but fortunately it was an easy replacement so my first ten minutes of waiting around was spent attaching all the labels to my bike, helmet and me.  The rest of time, I spen relaxing on a bench and watching the rest of the cyclists arriving. Apparently, there were 3,000 people registered! There were a lot of cycling clubs, most seeming to riding the long route (I think you’d have to be part of a club or group to get through the long route, I’m not sure it’s something you could easily tackle on your own). I was going to be riding the short route, 76km (or 49miles).

Riding a small bike means I don’t have a lot of room to put stuff on my bike so I had to use my rucksack. I’m not a fan of riding with a rucksack and it did make my ride much less fun because of it. I also made a bit of a big mistake at the start of the ride. I’m not used to riding in a group so set off at a much higher pace than I should have done as I got 25km in and started to struggle with the hills. It also started to get very warm so not only was I struggling with the hills (and there were a lot of those sneeky long ‘gentle’ gradients), I was starting to overheat.

My feet like to swell when I get hot so my Specialized 2FO shoes started out nice and comfy (but snug) but by 25km, my left foot was feeling very squashed. Lesson learned there, always buy a size bigger! I’ve exchanged them for a size bigger so any future rides hopefully won’t suffer from the squashed feet problem.

One thing you don’t really appreciate when taking on a long ride is how tough it is mentally, with each hill I struggled with, each time I noticed I was going at a snails pace or when other riders passed me at higher paces, it stuck a blow. By the time I reached the feed zone I was actually thinking about packing it all in, but I had some more food (flapjacks and cold potatoes, seriously…cold potatoes for the win!), applied some more chamois cream and just had a rest and I felt good to keep going. Luckily, there weren’t any hills in the final 44km (or at least not like the hills I’d struggled up in the first 35km!) so it was a nicer ride. I still struggled with the heat and had to stop a few times to pour water down my back just to cool down.

Finally though, I hit the final 1km throught the Velodrome and it was all over.

yay:

  • everyone was really supportive (a group of riders stopped at the top of a gnarly hill, they said they wanted to wait for me because the route went sharply to the left and they didn’t want me to miss the turning, I think they just wanted a rest :P, loads of people shouted encouraging things as they passed you and there were people out on club rides who said nice things.)
  • cold potatoes rock
  • it was really well organised and the route brilliantly sign posted
  • I did it in under six hours.
  • There was some beautiful scenary
  • I saw a pheasant.

nay:

  • Despite having done some longer rides, I don’t think I was prepared enough.
  • It was hot.
  • I didn’t have enough sleep. I should have taken a later taxi so I could have had a few more hours or taken the day before off.
  • hills suck.
  • Too many scary large round-abouts and you’d be surprised at how busy the traffic is on a Sunday morning!
  • 1 dead rabbit, 2 dead hedgehogs and a dead squirrel
  • my feet hurt

Switching Gear

I’ve been doing a lot of courses in photography with the City Lit recently and after several professional disapointments this year I decided that I want to switch gear completely and pursue photography.

I think the universe has been in agreement (if you believe that sort of thing) because since deciding that it’s time to stop pursuing something that will never be, many more things have worked in my favour. I placed an advert on a performers Facebook group asking for headshot volunteers, so far I’ve met two absolutely lovely people and have several more shoots lined up over the coming weeks.

Not only that, but I think I’ve discovered what sort of photographer I want to be.

After my second headshot shoot, I had quite a bit of time to kill so spontaneously decided to stop by the Photographer’s Gallery near Oxford Street. They had dedicated all the exhibition space to a photographer called Gregory Crewdson, displaying photographers from his series ‘Cathedral of the Pines‘.

Not being someone who knows much about photographers, I had no expectations and went in completely blind.

All I can say is wow.

Gregory Crewdson is famous for going to elaborate lengths to set up filmscene-esque photo shoots employing many techniques and people from the film industry. His photos are detailed, atmospheric and just beautiful. Looking at the photographs and the stories they conjured up made me realise that this is the sort of photography I want to do.

This is one of my favourites from his collection ‘Beneath the Roses’

Obviously I don’t want to do exactly what Crewdson does, but I want to create images which tell stories. I have no idea how I would even go about putting a project like that in motion but I have been considering applying to study an MA in Photography and I now feel I have a much stronger idea of what it is the future might hold.

Photographing the City of London

The increasing privatisation of land and private security, especially in the City of London, is making it harder and harder to take photographs.  The Gherkin and area around it is owned by the Kuwait government, no photographs (and incidentally, no protesting outside the Mayor of London’s office), Canary Wharf is all privately owned so don’t even think about taking photos and depressingly the fantastic looking new building known as The Scalpel is not only private but all on private land and they tend to pounce on you if you even look at your camera.

Many photographers innocently taking photographs of buildings, particularly in the City, are often detained under Section 44 of the anti-terrorism act just because they took a photo with a nice looking camera (I’ve not heard of anyone being stopped while taking photos with a point-and-shoot or with their phones). So far, I security have been reasonably polite when stopping me taking photos (although favourite question “what are you doing?”…I’m holding a camera, what do you think I’m doing?!) but I’m a 4ft 11 white woman. It’s perfectly legal to take photographs of private buildings from public land but they rarely tell you the divide between public and private is.

One of my current favourite views is the view of St Stephen Walbrook church (designed by Christopher Wren) between New Court on St Swithin’s Lane in the City of London.

Observing the View by Steph Dawson on 500px.com

https://500px.com/embed.js

New Court is the home of the Rothchild Bank HQ so I do understand why they’re a little iffy with you taking photographs but check out that view! New Court was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2012 and it’s a seriously stunning building.

Cooking for Beginners 1 – ‘Simply Cook’

I’m an okay cook, but I’m lazy. I have a few default recipes and that’s it, so I have taken interest in those recipe boxes. I’ve mentioned Earthmiles before where you earn points for being active and you can use those points to get treats. I usually use mine to try out subscription boxes.

Enter ‘Simply Cook‘.

Unlike the rest of the recipe boxes out there, ‘Simply Cook’ don’t send you the ingredients. They have these pre-mixed pots and you supply the ingredients. The big downside to this is you can’t recreate the recipes yourself and it’s more like buying those sauce mixes than actual cooking. Regardless of how well this turns out, I’m not going to be continuing with a subscription…my free trial was enough. Amusingly, I’ve recently received offers from ‘Hello Fresh’ and ‘Gousto’…which I’ll probably try out.

Anyway, ‘Simply Cook’.

In my box I got mixes to prepare BBQ Tandoori Chicken, Malay Laksa, Bokkeumbap and Thai Red Prawn Curry.  I opted to make BBQ Tandoori Chicken, as I had a lot of the fresh ingredients to had.

One big advantage I can see these boxes having over ‘Hello Fresh’ and the others, is the ability to adapt. The BBQ Tandoori Chicken recipe called for sweet potatoes to make the wedges, but I don’t like sweet potato so switched them for normal potatoes…and being lactose intolerant I chose to use Alpro plain yoghurt instead of natural yoghurt.

Step by step recipe card (including tear off shopping list) and mixes for ‘potato seasoning’, ‘smoked chili blend’ and ‘Tandoori paste’. Pretty basic.

The preparation was very, very straight forward and simple to follow.

And this was the result.

Tasty? Definitely, especially the wedges. Worth it? No, not really. I mean for one…it’s not a lot of food. I have more chicken & wedges leftover and that’ll be tomorrow’s dinner but…IDK, it doesn’t feel like much.

I thought about preparing some rice to go with it but decided that it would be a little much with the wedges. I probably should have added more salad but I had a salad for lunch so didn’t have a lot of salad leftover (and my guinea pig tends to demolish any remaining salad bits).

I’m reasonably sure I’m going to be hungry later.