Wednesday, 30 January 2013

And so it comes to an end

Wow. It's February on Friday. Where on earth did the last month go?

31 days that seemed like they were going to take forever - waiting to get paid, getting back into work again after the festive break and of course staying off the booze.

January 2013 has been rather positive for me though (aside from how ridiculously busy work has been!)

This month of 31 days has seen me try new things and experience a more cultured social life.

seen 2 ballets
visited 1 exhibition
read 4 books
written 14 blog posts
visited the gym 13 times
run six 5ks
taken part in 11 spinning classes
watched 2 films at the cinema
visited 2 museums
eaten 5 meals out
booked up an additional 1 exhibition, 1 opera, 1 music gig and 4 plays at the theatre


A huge change has been not consuming ANY alcohol for the whole month and being pleasantly surprised by the beneficial effects it's had on me.

I think that's a pretty successful first month for 2013 and a great start.

I'm really not sure what 2013 has in store for me to be honest, what is yet to come and how my life may change. If January is anything to go by it's going to be pretty actioned packed and full of new things though!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Bookworm: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

"My friend has just recommended a book to me, says it's the best book she's read in the last year," a friend at work said to me last week.

"Ooh what is it??" I asked. Across came a link on Amazon, to Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.

I laughed. "No way! I'm reading that right now!"

I'd seen this fictional thriller reviewed in Stylist magazine towards the end of last year and as always, had made a note of those that caught my eye. Straight on to my 'to read' list on GoodReads.

So last week I decided my next book to read - of the five or so I'd recently downloaded - was going to be Gone Girl.

A wife goes missing. Is her husband really telling the truth? A thriller, and so on... Sounds like a lot of books of its type. Although reviews promised this was different and very dark.

Immediately I was a fan of the style of Flynn's structure in this book, split between Nick the husband's thoughts on events as they happened, as his wife Amy goes missing, and then diary entries from said wife, in the past, leading up to the day of disappearing.

There is not an awful lot I can say about this book without spoiling it.

What I will say is nothing is what it seems. This story constantly surprises you. Just when you think you have thing figured out Wham! Flynn comes and smacks you in the face with another surprise.

Feeling one emotion towards a character and then Smash! Flynn comes and slaps you hard with a complete turnaround.

There is quite a big number of characters in this fictional tale, but there many likeable ones - some surprisingly so.

I loved being constantly surprised, the unravelling of events and thoughts. Constantly unsure what was going to come next.

As a reader you get hooked. I wanted to read this book constantly. Approaching the end I was desperate to read more and see how it would finish, but also hesitant since I didn't want the reading experience to end.

Good points
Addictive page turner
Constant surprises
Strong characters
Great storyline

Not so great
Unsure about the ending
Sad to finish it!

I finished the book and even in the last few pages things seemed to change considerably and still surprised me. I didn't really 'get' the end, I was unsure how I felt about it, it surprised me. It was so different.

Of course it was though and that's the beauty, expect the unexpected.

Really recommend as something completely different. Now my only issue is what to read next to match up to it?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Booworm: Dare Me by Megan Abbott

I've just finished Dare Me by Megan Abbott, a fictional tale set in the US and centred around a high school cheerleading squad.

I decided to download the ebook after reading a review in a magazine which recommended it. Talking about the realities of growing up as a female and high school angst etc, it sounded promising.

On finishing this story, and in fact reading it, I felt so down. The book makes for a depressing read.

However to me it doesn't offer anything that different. Cheerleaders in an American high school, young pretty girls, the popular ones, the bullies. Although not is all as it seems.

Sounds like a lot of teen books, Jodi Picoult, teen films and similar right?

I enjoyed the book at times as it kept me guessing who was involved in certain events that occur in this fictional tale.

However, the story was very dark and to me left me a bit drained and down to be honest. Pretty depressing reading how the ones who seem to have it all really are nasty people too and can manipulate things.

At first I liked Addy's character, but by the end I didn't like her either.

Perhaps I just didn't get the message in this book, who knows.

If there wasn't the hint of mystery involved I think I would have liked the book even less to be honest.

Good points
Not an obvious storyline, certain elements do keep you guessing
Easy enough read if you need something for the commute

Not so great
Quite a few US references which I didn't understand and so not always sure what they were referring to/found it hard to picture things in my mind
Stereotypical, unlikable characters
Not offering anything new

In summary not one of my favourite reads, but not the worst book in the world. Now to decide what to read next from my list...

Can you comment?

Hi everyone,

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Thanks again

Snow, dieting and a bit of ballet

I'm sitting in my toasty warm flat - admittedly still in my pyjamas - relaxing as the snow continues to fall outside.

I've just realised I haven't blogged for a few days, so thought it was time for a bit of an update.

I'm considering doing a workout DVD for exercise (which if done will be my fifth day of exercise this week). I don't fancy venturing out in that snow! Last week I managed six days of exercise and healthy eating with a 'cheat' one day when I went out for a meal. I lost one pound. This I found really disappointing.

And of course there's been no booze. I'm still successfully working my way through Dry January, now on my 20th day and only 11 remaining! It's felt great if I'm honest.

Last night I enjoyed another meal out, a two course meal at Prezzo and a little treat of ice cream at the theatre too. Let's hope it's not undone all my hard work this week!

I noticed as well how I'm falling into getting used to not having alcohol - my third meal out now without drinking and I actually felt quite happy with drinking water with my meal. It doesn't seem a big deal anymore and doesn't need to be an automatic association of eating out combined with a big glass (or bottle) of wine.

The best bit of last night though was the entertainment afterwards - the ballet. I was back at the London Coliseum, this time with my Auntie, for her first visit to the ballet.

We were there to see The Sleeping Beauty. I wondered whether it'd feel so magical this time round - not being my first visit or still around the 'festive' season. On Friday as the snow came down I was also concerned the show might be 'snowed off' or we just wouldn't be able to get there ourselves.

Thankfully the snow held off and we trudged up to London in our wellies without issue.

In terms of the show? I wasn't disappointed. This time we were to enjoy the story of beautiful Princess Aurora and the curse set on her to fall into a deep sleep if she is ever to prick her finger - only a true love kiss from a Prince can awaken her.

If I was impressed last time at the Nutcracker, this time I was absolutely wowed. There seemed to be even more astounding displays of dance talent. 'Aurora' (Tamara Rojo) was so so talented. I couldn't believe how she moved and you were mesmerised by her pirouettes (I hope this is the right term!)

Again I recognised Daria Klimentova and Crystal Costa from The Nutcracker and this time they seemed even better if possible.

The costumes were again so so beautiful, the colours, detail, sparkle and amazing movement as ballet dancers leapt, turned and floated across the stage.

I think we can safely say I will be booking up to go to the ballet again!

As I relax today I really hope I get a good result in tomorrow's weigh in. I'm finally not quite so achey. I hit the gym on Friday for an hour's workout and decided to do a little bit of weight work near the end as I haven't done it in so long, then Saturday morning I did spinning as usual. I've been in agony since, so achey!!

Thankfully after a long sleep my muscles don't seem as bad and I can brave my Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred DVD later. Although again I've not done this in a long time so I might find I can't walk too well for work tomorrow (not ideal when you've got to negotiate snow and ice too!)

Monday, 14 January 2013

Dry January: my journey so far

Back in 2012 a friend at work was talking to me about detoxing and ‘going dry’ for the new year. A week or two before my boyfriend had jokingly pointed out an advert to me in a magazine advertising ‘Dry January’ – not drinking alcohol for the month and raising money for charity. I spent two weeks in December ‘celebrating’ Christmas – whether with friends or via work/client events – a lot of food and alcohol was consumed.

A lot of questions were asked/discussed – was it possible to go without drink for a month? Were there too many social commitments taking place to avoid booze? Would people give up on me being boring for not drinking for a whole 31 days?

The outcome? I decided in December to commit to Dry January and stop drinking for a month, but for charity. I knew full well if I didn’t do it for a set cause I’d be easily waylaid by work colleagues and friends when they were next going on a big night out or ‘just for a quick one after work’.

The result? I’m now 14 days into ‘Dry January’ and frankly I am wondering what all the fuss was about and feel a tad embarrassed I was so concerned before signing up.

Friends and colleagues around me didn’t last too long on their detox for the new year and have all consumed alcohol (granted, many cases are on a much lower scale than normal though). Me, because I know this is for charity now and isn’t just about me I have stuck to it and I don’t plan to go off course before the end of the month either – how can I when I know I’m trying to raise funds for a worthwhile cause?

My boyfriend – who isn’t a big drinker himself – finds it humorous how I am discovering things now and seeing things in a new light. Some great world-stopping moments for me and a bright light shining over how much better you feel if you don’t drink? He is shocked it has taken me this long to realise.

I feel great. Yes I am participating in regular exercise and eating healthily too which I’m sure have a big impact in themselves. However, I have never felt so alert. I have felt run down for so long (particularly towards the end of last year) and yes while I was a tad grumpy at the start of 2013 (January Blues I guess), I haven’t felt so tired since. I seem more alert, I seem to be more coherent in my writing (you tell me if I’m right here or not!) In addition, I can get more done.

I’m not wasting hours to hangovers and having to break my healthy eating to ‘soak up the booze’ or eat a big stodgy meal to ‘line my stomach’. On a Saturday I go to my spinning class, maybe start some chores beforehand, I then either get lots of chores done around the flat and outside or I have plans with friends/family.

Most of all I am trying new things. Something I wanted to do this year anyway, but I feel I am really embracing now everything is not just about going out for a drink!

So far this year I’ve been to watch a ballet, I’ve finished reading 2 books and am currently a quarter of the way through a third, I’ve written 9 blog posts (10 including this one), I’ve visited a museum, I’ve booked an important health appointment I’ve been putting off since last June, I’ve filled in/sent off important paperwork which has been sitting around for ages in my flat, I’ve been to the cinema, I’ve been doing more running, I’ve done lots of spinning at the gym, I’ve discovered a new way to spend my lunchbreak (sipping skinny mochas in Costa whilst reading my Kindle), enjoyed Italian meals out (with water to drink), been to a pub and had orange juice to drink and I’ve finally organised to get broadband/home phone in my flat. On top of that I’ve booked up to go to another ballet, an opera, a theatre show and an exhibition. Not bad work in 2 weeks!

The only thing that’s lacking is my sponsorship!

Although I’m hoping everyone is holding off since they want to see the end result to believe I will last a month. Hopefully this will reassure you how well it’s going so far and how good I feel. Maybe even it might encourage others to try the same?

Friday, 11 January 2013

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Back in December I went to the cinema to watch a film. A film adaptation of a book called Life of Pi.

I'd heard about this book and had it recommended to me on a few occasions, but was still to read it. All I knew was that it involved a boy stuck in a boat with a tiger and other animals. I remember thinking of the story of The Owl & The Pussycat and their 'beautiful pea green boat' when I heard of it.

On visiting the cinema (an even more regular occurrence since discovering our local newly reopened cinema where all tickets are £4!) I'd seen the trailer for Life of Pi and had to see it, it looked amazing!

After seeing the magical and beautiful film (which I was pleased to see this week has been nominated for a number of Oscars) I vowed I must get around to read the award-winning book where it all began.

So today on one of my visits to Costa Coffee on my break (these regular visits and consumption of mochas - even if they are small and skinny - needs to stop), I settled down with my Kindle to read the remaining 8% or so I had left.

Needless to say on finishing this piece I felt sad for my reading experience to be over.

What a book, not just a magical tale with bright, vivid descriptions, but something that really makes you think.

There are so many themes going through this book - becoming an adult, religion, storytelling, God, beliefs, human survival...I could go on and on.

I don't want to reveal too much and give away anything or spoil the book for anybody who is still to read it, so I'm going to be quite restricted in what I say here.

The main character Pi is such a strong and loveable character. I loved the descriptions of the animals and life in Pondicherry. You really can see it all in your head.

Not a particularly religious person, I really found the book got me thinking again and questioning beliefs. The way you are introduced to so many religions and in such an easy to understand way was great, I really felt I learnt so much from this book. Not just gaining a better understanding of other people's beliefs, but ways we look at life and approach and even simply facts about various animals and wildlife.

Good bits
Very compelling read
Strong and fascinating protagonist
Vivid descriptions
You can disappear into this book and transport yourself away from real life as you read

Not so great
At times references to wildlife facts do go on for a long time
I didn't always like the italicised comment chapters in between
The end - I didn't want it to end! That's not to say the ending is bad, far from it, it's very powerful!

I probably don't need to say it but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the hidden messages and values behind it. I plan to re-read it in the future and re-view the film to think more about the meanings behind certain events and characters. A great read!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Bookworm: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Not long before Christmas I saw a film of Great Expectations advertised, with the ever eccentric Helena Bonham Carter playing Miss Havisham.

Oh Miss Havisham the odd lady who lives in the dark, I thought. It looked like the actress would play her well and I thought it'd be a good film to see in the run-up to Christmas.

As I made plans to go to the cinema with my Auntie I suddenly realised something - I'd never read the classic.

I felt shocked, surely I'd read it at school, arguably one of the most favourite of Dickens' books? Recalling some memories from childhood I think I'd seen some adaptations on television at some point, then only snippets.

Yet I was very much aware of the name and character of Miss Havisham.

A few days before going to see the film I decided I would read said book and downloaded it to my Kindle. One of the amazing things about this e-reader is just how many great pieces of literature are available to you and for free.

Now, after reading the book? Well I saw the film and thoroughly enjoyed it. On finishing the book? I'm not so sure of the film, it seemed to have changed the story somewhat, and why?

I admit it has taken me a long time to read this classic tale, something which concerns me - has my brain turned to mush from the many easy-read fictional items I've indulged in of late?

This morning I finally finished the book and I have mixed feelings. The ultimate feeling is I really enjoyed the story, a strong and now well-known theme of love and loss, the realities of wanting and having, and then losing.

What really struck me is how so very old this story is, yet you can still relate to it and at times on reading certain parts and particularly certain dialogues I almost forgot how old this book was.

Good points
Great storyline
Strong characters
Miss Havisham by far my favourite
Keeps you reading

Not so great
I felt saddened by the ending and felt I wanted to know more about Pip or perhaps to have a stronger, happier end for him

I'm so glad the film did come out and catch my eye though as it brought to attention the fact I'd not read this famous piece of writing. Now I have I'm so pleased I did and how telling that even without reading it I knew so well of one of its characters.

Typically I've read a book and then a film version is made. This time I took the opposite approach, something I am set to do again after seeing the magical, powerful and thought provoking Life of Pi in film format. I can't wait to see what the book itself has in store...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Where has all this energy come from??

Last night I felt super lazy, I was tired (again! Seem to have been tired all of 2013 so far) and I just couldn't face the gym.

I'd planned to go and do a 5k on the treadmill and had lugged my bag of gym gear to and from work. Time I got off the train I didn't feel anymore up for it and I had a tummy ache so I headed home.

Although feeling tired I'd been in the mood to get things done all day. I'd finally got around to booking a test at the doctors I've been meaning to sort since June!

On my lunchbreak I went to finally get some passport pictures for my driving licence after having had the letter for weeks now to renew my photo. Then I made some calls to finally set up broadband for my flat (two weeks after ordering my laptop!!

Anyway as I mentioned in the evening I headed home from work, but when I got in my flat I suddenly got in the mood again to get things done. This led to - on a Friday night - me doing the following:

Packing up all my Christmas decorations in their boxes/bags so they could go up in the loft
Emptying all the rubbish
Sitting and going over all my budget/spendings for December
Writing out a big list of things I need to buy on my big food shop

When I went to bed I felt tired again but so pleased I'd managed to organise some bits rather than just sitting around.

This morning I woke up and again felt super sleepy, but I dragged myself out of bed to get ready for spin...and then after eating my breakfast I stripped my bed and loaded up the washing machine and then threw out my rubbish on the way to the gym.

Spinning was yet again pretty tough - a combination I think of being overweight and lethargic after Christmas and the fact the air con is still not fixed and it is so so hot in the studio.

After spin I knew I had lots to do (after putting my name down ready for Tuesday's class). I got home had a nice hot shower and ate some lunch. Then off I went again.

I've now done the following:

Defrosted my freezer
Sorted out all my bath towels, flannels etc
Made my bed with new clean sheets
Got my washing done
Hoovered all the carpets
Swept and mopped all the other floors
Cleaned the bathroom and kitchen

After three hours of chores I remembered I needed to post off my forms from last night and also put my asthma prescription into the chemist. I changed out of my lazing-round-the-house clothes and then jumped on a bus.

Once I'd put my prescription in and posted my letter I decided I didn't want to wait for bus back and so then I walked back home.

Where has all this energy come from??

I've finally sat down to relax, I've got a couple of hours before I need to leave and go to do my big food shop next! Yes that's how rock and roll mine and my boyfriend's life is. He finishes work at 7 and is meeting me in Tesco to help me get the shopping home!

I've already planned to go for a run with my boyfriend tomorrow as he's not at work and to go to the cinema.

Now what can I find to do next?...

Friday, 4 January 2013

What has happened to customer service in London?

I’ve blogged before about manners and people getting ruder. My latest gripe (yes I know it’s a new year and I shouldn’t be moaning already!) is with customer service.

Over the last few weeks I can name three situations which particularly stand out and thought I’d share with you all. These involve 1 restaurant, 1 nightclub and 1 shop – all are business to consumer establishments/businesses.

First off we need to rewind back to 2012 – namely December – and my work Christmas party. We ended up going to this club called Kanaloa (never been before, I think it’s the sister club of Mahiki and is Hawaiian themed, I’m not cool enough to know anymore!) Anyways bearing in mind we were one of many business choosing this venue for our Christmas do I was really shocked at how rude the staff were.

We seemed to have our own bar to go to and after eventually managing to squeeze my way into our area (space was tight, very tight and it was very hot and sweaty!), people informed a few of us we needed to go to the bar and go and grab our free welcome cocktail which wasn’t available for much longer.

Off we went squeezing and ‘excuse me’-ing our way through. We get to said bar and an abrupt woman who looks like she hates us already stated they were just in the process of making some. Fair enough. So we stood nearby and waited – she didn’t like that. Whilst waiting (and throughout the evening at various times) staff members regularly barged past me and knocked me with whatever they were carrying at the time. Eventually the ‘head barmaid’ or whatever she was that was assigned to our party told us to move away and they’d be bringing the drinks out shortly (adopt a school teacher/telling off tone and you get the point).

Aside from that it wasn’t the worst place in the world but the white wine and food provided left a lot to be desired!

Anyway that was December and they were probably busy at Christmas I guess. Excuses excuses…

So let’s move on to incident number two. This one involves us springing back into 2013 and happened this week. I decided to go to Bella Italia off of Leicester - the small cosy one on the corner, opposite a new steak restaurant. I’ve been here a few times and always liked it, even if it is a tad cramped. We thought it’d be a nice meal to have before we headed to the ballet nearby.

When we first got into the restaurant, we were one of maybe five or so tables, it wasn’t too busy. Yet we were given menus on sitting down but nobody came over to ask about drinks or any olives etc whilst we waited/decided. Eventually we placed our orders and then shortly before our starters arrived our drinks appeared (a shared baked cheese ensemble which was a tad disappointing since it was pretty small, not that hot and the Italian ham it was meant to be wrapped in was simply two pieces dumped on top).

None of this is that bad I know, just not ideal and the main course was yummy. It was when we got to dessert that I got a bit fed up. At this point the restaurant was pretty busy (however it was a Wednesday evening at around 630/7pm so not exactly in the full swing of things). I went through the menu and being a chocaholic narrowed my options down to two choices – a molten chocolate brownie offering or a white chocolate mousse cheesecake served with chocolate tagliatelle. Of course that won me over.

I love to try new things and had never had chocolate pasta before – what a treat and something very different. We sat waiting for our desserts and chatting about the ballet and then I saw some desserts arrive (they then got left on a side area for the next 5 minutes or more whilst people made drinks around them, new customers walked past etc). Then our desserts were bought to the table. In front of me I had a bit of rectangular cheesecake with the top covered in lots of chocolate powder and sugar. The tagliatelle? Nowhere to be seen.

In the end I mentioned this to the waitress and asked where it was – she looked at me clueless and then walked away to a colleague. On seeing the other girl’s shaking head I didn’t hold much hope, our waitress came over and simply said “It’s all finished, we don’t have any.” Right.

So midway through the week in a new year you already have run out of food? You have run out of something and not told people about it before ordering their meal? When this was queried you simply say it’s run out and that’s it?

This made me stroppy. I went on to say okay fine well we’ll have a discount. To this I got a confused look. To cut a long story short we didn’t get a discount, the waitress tried to get me to pick something else off the menu and then bought me a mini pot of chocolate sauce. Not good enough I’m afraid.

Finally, we move on to incident number three, I can’t say too much here as this wasn’t my experience. It was that of a friend at work. A friend who ordered a new phone from the Carphone Warehouse online with promises of free next day delivery, who then received an email to say the item would be delivered in two working days and then another to say delivery to be confirmed and it would be next week.

To try and get this sorted off he went to Carphone Warehouse on Bishopsgate. Surely when talking face-to-face they’d be able to shed some light and be more polite and helpful than a standard email?

Wrong. The staff were abrupt and downright rude. As my friend went to describe what had happened he was cut off and told “I don’t want to hear your story”. I actually can’t believe this happened. Then he went off and came back with half hearted answers and then told my friend to “come back on Friday, or come in on Monday”. No answers, no reassurance of delivery, no apology.

Is this really what we can expect now from these sorts of ‘services’ – grumpy, clueless staff who just don’t care?

I’ve just placed an order to set up a home phoneline in order to try and set up broadband in my flat and I had a call with my mobile phone provider regarding the broadband itself. Both were pretty good experiences – let’s hope there’s hope left yet!

Dry January Pledge

Day four of Dry January and a certain little gem has popped up…my pledge to stick to no alcohol for a whole month.

So of course I had to share it with you guys and give you the chance to have a laugh at my drunken rantings. Yes I was drinking alcohol when I made this pledge – I was in a chain wine bar in Romford – classy!

So sit back, relax and enjoy these few cringeworthy minutes

Check out my video pledge!

Oh and while you’re at pop along to my fundraising page please…

Thursday, 3 January 2013

First gym session of 2013 done!

I'm sitting here relaxing watching 'Celebrity' Big Brother. So far only two people have gone in jockey Frankie Dettori and X Factor Essex boy Rylan Clark. I'll see who else comes in as I carry on writing this blog post.

So after another four day break, lots of booze on New Years Eve and a three course Italian meal last night I decided today enough was enough.

I kept to a healthy diet today, tried to drink lots of water and packed my bag this morning ready for spinning.

I've been tired since this year started - January blues I guess - and so I wasn't as eager to get to the spin studio as usual.

Lo and behold yet again where I've planned to ease myself back in with the 'easy' class on a Thursday, the teacher wasn't there.

Tonight's class was covered by a great cover instructor (I've only had one class with him before), but oh my goodness it was tough. So tough I couldn't stop sweating and had sweat in my eyes and at one lovely point dripping into my mouth!

We did a host of tough routines, including a few non-stop fast as you can spins for the whole of the track. In addition, we had to endure a long track split into 30 second sprints and 10 second recovery breaks in between.

My legs felt like jelly and I felt fit to drop by the time the class was over. I could just about manage the stretches at the end if I'm honest.

Okay Celebrity Big Brother update - Paula Hamilton (former supermodel) and now Tricia Penrose (used to be on Heartbeat). Hm...

Rylan and Frankie have to decide who goes in the grotty basement and who goes in the house. To be honest so far the program is already grating on me!

Anyway back to spinning. So the class was tough and it was due to be 45 minutes long but ended up lasting nearly an hour!

I've stuck to my healthy eating tonight and yes as I'm on Dry January I've not had any alcohol either. Three days and counting!

Before yesterday's visit to the ballet we went for a meal and I was shocked how I did feel it was an effort not to drink - wine glasses on the table, my boyfriend teasing me about drinking and (something I hadn't considered) lots of the dishes were cooked in or included a sauce which involved red or white wine!)

I made it safely through you'll be pleased to know. However I can tell people will need a lot more convincing before believing I will be successful in this challenge. Still not even one donation on my page!

Time now to sit back and zone out to this reality TV junk and then I'm off to bed this no drinking is an exhuasting business you know!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

What a cracking performance!

Tonight I did something for the very first time. No, not the fact I went out for a meal without consuming any alcohol to compliment it (thanks to Dry January).

Tonight I went to the ballet.

I have faint memories of some music and ballet dancers from when I was young, but I suspect this was something I watched on television as a child.

I can also recall constant weekly instructions to practice putting our 'hatbox' on top of the 'wardrobe' at ballet lessons as a little girl. Pink leotard, tutu, ballet shoes and a dark grey and pink bag.

However, the closest I've come to the ballet since then is watching Black Swan at the cinema and on DVD.

As part of trying more things in 2013 I decided I wanted to go and watch a production and since I'd seen a brief write up in Stylist magazine about this performance at the London Coliseum, I made my mind up to go.

So after a (somewhat disappointing) meal at a chain Italian restaurant myself and the boyfriend went to watch The Nutcracker.

As a ballet novice what did I think?

Magical, stunning, beautiful, amazing, fantastic, talented, awe inspiring are just a few of the words that spring to mind.

The spellbinding festive feel of Christmas, the excitement of the children awaiting their presents, the darkness of the Mouse King, the jaw dropping talent of the dancers. I was completely hooked.

At times I had tears in my eyes, the same eyes I just could not take off the dancers' nimble feet and flexible legs. Wowed by the spins, lifts and turns, I just did not know where to look next.

Before going I wasn't sure what to expect and was concerned whether ballet would be for me. Would I get bored after a while?

No chance.

The costumes are so beautiful, as a female you felt whisked back to being a little girl wanting to be that magical princess, that fairy, dressed in outfits full of sparkle.

Male dancers leapt across the stage with ease and similarly made a simple job of lifting the ladies who seemed as light as a feather.

The set was strong and scenes were well set out and seemed to seamlessly blend into each other. In particular, the tree change and the end as Clara wakes from her dream were very smooth.

Also my first visit to the Coliseum, I spent the interval alternating between reading the programme and looking up at the ornate decoration of the building (we were in the stalls).

It was lovely to see so many people dressed up too, one thing I always find a bit sad when going to the theatre is how people don't seem to dress up anymore like I can remember when young. Not the case at the ballet, well certainly not tonight anyway.

I'd booked tickets today to see an opera at the same venue, high up and at the back of the upper circle. On visiting today I'm no longer worried as I can tell we'll still have a great - if very different - view.

I've always been one to voice how I'm not into classical music too, but tonight? I found the music beautiful and found myself surprised how many pieces I recognised and liked.

All in all I loved it. The costumes, the dancing, the venue, the music, the characters, the story, the young children, the adults, the male, the female, the orchestra, the sets.

I did note earlier today when looking at the ENO site that the next production is Sleeping Beauty, again by the English National Ballet company and if I can get back in the Coliseum again to see it before the opera next month I'm going to make I'm there!

Day two: the first temptation

As if we needed any proof of how pathetic it is to be so worried about making it just one month without booze, I’m due to come across my first hurdle today.

This evening I am going to the ballet to see The Nutcracker (my first time and I can’t wait!) but beforehand my boyfriend and I will grab something nice to eat. And this is where the first hurdle pops up.

In my head (I guess because I’m so used to drinking!) I think yum a nice meal and a big glass of wine. But of course I’m not allowed a glass of wine am I? As I explained to a colleague at work earlier I’m not a big fan of many soft drinks, I tend to have water or orange juice, or tea and coffee. I don’t like the typical fizzy drinks of coke, lemonade etc and I don’t really like many other juices or even flavoured water (even my orange juice needs to be smooth!)

Don’t get me wrong, there is no way I would break this not drinking pledge, particularly as it’s for charity. Tonight I will have a lovely meal, but I will drink water with it.

Hopefully as time goes on I won’t link events/meals/items with alcohol as a standard accompaniment and being alcohol-free will feel natural. Who knows I might even go off it for good! (Yeah right…)

Somebody also suggested to me I might need to replace it with another treat – i.e. nice food. This is definitely a no go, I need to get back in shape and lose more weight this year so stuffing my face like a pig is not allowed. In fact tonight is going to be my last treat for a while that’s for sure. Once I get back into the exercise routine (spinning tomorrow) I’m sure this will help too.

I’ll let you know how I get on and what I think of the ballet too. I’m hoping both situations will be big hits and highlight to me all the new things I can try in 2013 as planned.

I’ve already booked up to go to the opera early next month, so that’s another cultural item to add to the list. Me and a friend at work have also talked about going to an art gallery together and she’s going dry this month too so hopefully we can support each other!

Here’s to a healthier and (culturally) wealthier 2013 to come…

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

And so it begins

1st January 2013, New Years Day.

Today is the first day of the year 2013 and also the first day I begin the challenge to not drink alcohol for a month.

Thankfully I haven't had too bad a hangover today - despite yesterday consuming rose wine, cherry shots, champagne and espresso martini cocktails.

Well I did have New Years Eve to celebrate and two birthdays! Although I don't think the point of Dry January is to try and consume the whole month's worth of alcohol the night before you start!

Thankfully I didn't plan to also strictly restart my healthy eating and exercise today. I've so far consumed bacon doorstop sandwiches, two pain au chocolate, a chunk of cheese and I'm planning on have thick pork sausages, beans and mash for my dinner.

Not the most productive of days I got up late, eat a brunch and then had a bubble bath. Since then I've put some photos on Facebook and been watching TV/falling asleep on the sofa.

Although nothing beats starting a day waking up with friends and sharing stories from the night before. Last night was a really good New Years Eve - no fancy overpriced night out with a crowd of people you don't really know (or like them all), no sitting indoors bored. No last night we spent our evening with friends and people who are all down to earth and up for fun and had a mix of a house party and a local pub. I really enjoyed myself. It was relaxed and it was fun. Perfect.

I have got a tad of the blues tonight (seems to be a given as you start off in January), this is probably somewhat down to the alcohol still in my bloodstream from last night and the fact my man has had to work 2-11pm again today. The main thing is how quickly this year has gone by and the Christmas and New Year festivities itself.

As I lie here on my sofa in jogging bottoms and a vest top with no make up on, with The Wizard of Oz on the television and feeling bloated, a tad hungover and tired I don't feel too full of positive thinking and raring to go with my plans for health, fitness and weight loss.

You know what though? Last night my man made it down to the venue we were at with time to spare before the clocks chimed at midnight. He was there to hug me, kiss me and give me reassurances about this year for us and he loves me as I am no matter what. That's enough for me for today thank you very much!