Riding Update – Lessons and A Wee Bit of Stubble Fields

Flame and I on the beachThis blog is called The Inelegant Horse Rider for a reason and that’s because I do horse ride! By the time you read this I will be on holiday in Ireland practising jumping and hopefully doing a jump or two in a row (my own small goal for the return visit to AnnaHarvey Farm). Over the last few weeks I have had some difficulties in my lessons twice being in tears and feeling incredibly frustrated with myself. Now I can safely say that an element of these episodes has been influenced by my stress levels being through the roof at my work. My lessons are after work during the week and while they definitely help me destress I also think my emotions are sometimes close to breaking when I get there. More on stress and how I am trying to manage it in a later post. Anyway, in one lesson I jumped off the horse in tears and refused to do anymore. It stemmed from the fact that once again I had failed to get the horse to canter when I wanted. It feels as though this has become a trigger for me beating myself as a rider, I have considered quitting the whole hobby after a previous lesson due to this.

In the lesson where I had jumped off my instructor Claire did manage to talk me round and got me back on (incidentally I managed to mount a moving horse from the ground – I was pretty chuffed with that, felt like someone from a cowboy film 🙂 ). I was determined I would only trot, maybe removing the expectation that I would fail to get canter would help. Well of course it did. 5 minutes later I was cantering and then…I did some jumps. Admittedly two times my horse simply trotted over the jump while I sat in jump position determinedly not looking down. Honestly I had strange staring contest going on with the wall at the far end of the school, I was looking very serious. Then on the last go at the jump Gem (the lovely horse I was riding) seemed to back off approaching the jump, without thinking the age-old jumping mentality kicked in and I pushed her on meaning we jumped and landed in canter! Wow – what a horse! I was grinning about that one. I also had my mate Gemma in that lesson and I think watching someone enjoy jumping, laughing as they do it, really does help inspire me. The following
week I jumped again (and again and again) which was great fun although I am still finding it tough and we are keeping in trot just now. I fancy trying in canter as if my memory serves it is much smoother. Actually famous last words there but hopefully in Ireland I can try cantering into jumps.

As for hacking that has been fun and pretty daft. I have been riding with the girls again, now on a more regular basis, and I am loving it. The wonderful idiot that is Bibi has been helping me grow my confidence and I am asking for other horses again. This weekend just past I rode Flame again and although I was nervous I cantered in the stubble fields and absolutely loved it. I took it steady as my previous experiences in stubble fields have always been very, very fast and I wanted to build my confidence in a new place. I let my friends canter separately while I opted to go just with the leader – she was brilliant with my nerves. After watching my mates I decided I wanted to go in the fields so we did a lovely canter up to them, Flame seemed to constantly check I was okay but next time I will let the old dude fly. On the second canter stretch I got a little nervous again thinking it looked like a racing strip but I needn’t have worried, myself and the leader walked and trotted down it then I asked if we could have a little canter? The leader agreed so I kicked on then as she shouted I realised she hadn’t been ready to go! I felt a bit bad on that front, she was fine and we laughed about it as my friends cantered up the field to join us. Mates, sunshine, laughter and horses – a perfect Sunday afternoon. We were only missing our 4th musketeer but we are all riding together on the 30th 🙂

horse in stable eating
Flame does pose pretty well doesn’t he?
horse and rider holding his head
Gemma and Ned

I won’t lie I am a little worried about Ireland this time around, my nerves are worse than last time and you all know how much I love beating myself up if I feel I didn’t meet my weird own standards. But I am trying to go with an open head and heart. I have set myself my two wee goals and the other bigger goal is simple to enjoy myself. I bought a GoPro camera so you are going to get some video action hopefully and the weather forecast isn’t looking too shabby. Maybe I will even believe I can ride following this holiday – here’s hoping huh?

horse and rider on the ground
Heather and the lovely Bibi
horse and rider on beach
“Oh I can’t possibly trot yet, my leg is sooo itchy”
horse and rider in yard
Our 4th musketeer 🙂
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My Edinburgh Fringe Experience – Short & Sweet This Year

In August Edinburgh is taken over by the Fringe festival, the International Festival, the Jazz & Blues festival ooh lots of festivals. I’m sure most people know that Edinburgh hosts one of the biggest arts and comedy festivals in the world over the few weeks in August. Lots of people will have been, it is now one of Edinburgh-ers favourite facts to let people know that the population of our small city doubles in size during August. It is busy, busy, busy – Edinburgh is often busy but never like somewhere like London except perhaps during this month where you start to try to work out the easiest routes to places avoiding the Royal Mile (which is difficult as I live on one side and work on the other).

I work at the University of Edinburgh which hosts many venues, in fact each year they seem to squirrel more in – at some point I am sure that we will find a play being performed in the toilet in the office 🙂 Over the next couple of years McEwan Hall is being refurbished and changed to increase its usage, it should be wonderful when completed and McEwan Hall was ever so slightly falling down! Anyway that side note explains why all the tented festival venues have moved into the gardens near our office along with the shows happening in one of the lecture theatre and the other tents in the Meadows. The noise from shows, singers practising and drummers warming up is great and the food trucks are helping me put on a layer of winter fat.

I tend to leave the city for a week each August simply to keep my head and frankly some money – I won’t lie the festivals are expensive once you start adding them up. I always make sure to see a couple of shows and I do love circus acrobatic shows so I jumped at the chance to see Circa this year. My mates have seen them before but this was my first show and it was entitled Close Up. I thoroughly enjoyed it although I am immediately biased once I see someone doing the Chinese pole work! It was great, really engaging and I gasped at least twenty times. If you get a chance to see them I would recommend them.

There other show I saw was one I have seen for three years running and I would rate the show really highly – Austentatious. An improvised Jane Austen comedy play. Each day they ask the audience to give titles of “lost” Austen novels and pick one to improvise. I have laughed so hard my sides have hurt at each of their shows I have seen, they are really talented performers.

Obviously there are thousands of shows to choose from and if you do come to Edinburgh I recommend reading the reviews pasted up at Bristo Square and online at the main Edinburgh Fringe site plus Broadway Baby. If you do come please ignore the harassed locals – we do love the festival just sometimes when you are off to a work meeting getting asked for the billionth time to see a free comedy show gets a little tiring 🙂

Sewing – Striking Out on My Own

Red drawstring bag
Hmm I suddenly realise this isn’t really sewed straight is it?

A week or so ago I decided to head along to a sewing meetup. The website meetup is how the cycle group Belles on Bikes organise their rides and I had decided to see if there were any sewing or craft groups that could help me try to get making part of my normal routine. I have joined two and one group constantly puts up classes held in the organisers flat designed to get people making things and actually complete a project in a few hours. Now all the sewing I have done so far has been with my mum, which I love but unfortunately I only catch up with my folks every few weeks and not every occasion is a sewing one. My thoughts are to do a dressmaking course but I thought a couple of these meetup sessions could be a good way to dip my toes in the water.

It was a fun and relaxed evening. I made a simple drawstring bag. I found the different sewing machine a little tricky and I have a tendency to hold the fabric really tight – which oddly enough isn’t a problem, or at least something I had noticed when sewing previously. I enjoyed using the zigzag stitching as decoration on the patch on the front, something simple but different for me.
patterned cat patch on drawstring bag

The stitching isn’t perfect by a long shot but it is the first thing I have made by my own hand plus it has confirmed to me I would like to sew more regularly – I’m going to sign up for an autumn dressmaking course in the evenings.

I am also currently attempting to make a sewing bloggers favourite – the Scout tshirt. It is a pretty basic pattern and I have so far traced the pattern, cut out the pattern pieces and cut out everything in the cute sailing themed cotton I have. It is going okay although my cutting out of the fabric leaves a bit to be desired and my mum has suggested it is because I didn’t use a hard surface to cut out. I think I might prefer a more fitted tshirt in the end (do other sewers look at the pattern pieces they have cut out and think they are huugggeee?) but I am really waiting to sew it up and then work out if I want to put in darts or something. And to be fair since I managed to get paint all over my favourite boxy tshirt when painting the living room I could really do with a new version 🙂
pattern pieces for scout tshirt waiting to be cut out

On that – hmm will I like this item note I have also started working my way through the Colette Wardrobe Architect worksheets – this is with a view to making or indeed buying clothes that fit my personal style and to hopefully not end up with more skirts like the Delphine one I made. That skirt was very pretty but definitely not for me. My mate liked it though and that was a great feeling to give someone something I had made.

Plastic Free July – Some Final Thoughts

plastic waste
Only one week’s worth of my plastic!

I thought it might be nice to round off plastic free July by pulling together Kelly and I’s final thoughts on the challenge. Thanks to Kelly (@mninscotland on Instagram if you fancy some zero waste and baking inspiration) for answering these questions and for being my buddy on this challenge.

plastic rubbish in a jar and Styrofoam takeway
All of Kelly’s plastic from July!!!

Why did you decide to take part in the Plastic Free July challenge?

Kelly: I actually didn’t want to take part in the Plastic Free July challenge (PFJ) when I first saw it being publicised earlier this year.  I thought it would be really hard and time consuming and didn’t feel like I was in the right frame of mind for it.  Then I started seeing a lot of people on Instagram were going to do it which peaked my interest.  Also, my buddy said she was going to do PFJ and that we could support each other. I am all for doing challenges with buddies as it makes it nice to have someone to talk to when things get tough but also talk to when you have a good day too!

Me: I did the Plastic Free July challenge last year, focusing on the big four single-use plastic items and decided to step it up for this year. I really enjoyed the challenge last year and this year hoped to do the same while upping the ante and cutting out as much single-use plastic as I could. Oh and then I roped Kelly in for support and inspiration.

How did it go?

Kelly: Since it was my first year of doing PFJ I thought it went really well as I didn’t have any expectations.  (Actually, if I am honest with myself my expectations were to have no plastic at all, bit think that was a bit unrealistic especially for my first year). I can only improve from this year and look forward to doing the challenge again next year!

Me: I took the decision that I wasn’t going to try and change my whole lifestyle for July – instead I planned to have mainly my normal routine, try to make more food from scratch and constantly take the minimal/no plastic route. I am one of those bloggers who actually dislikes cooking and food shopping – I find it all pretty boring. This makes me the type of unprepared person who is always ending up without any food or water when I am on the go and then I end up buying the most convenient option. Luckily for the environment last year’s plastic free July gave me the kick up the arse I needed to always remember my reusable water bottles.

I found the whole challenge really difficult and quite disheartening – I had to go to a few different shops to get various basics and then all the seasonal fruit and veg seemed to be in plastic. I reduced my cheese consumption but my bread quota went through the roof. My fruit and veg intake dropped too – which is kind of a problem as I am veggie – and I was generally hungrier than I usually am. If this sounds negative I don’t mean it to and I did thoroughly enjoy reading about how others got on and I did actually enjoy a couple of the bits of cooking I did.

What’s been the hardest thing?

Kelly: The hardest thing is not automatically being able to buy anything you want (hello instant gratification!).  I really really wanted chips and salsa from Pintos (fast food Mexican restaurant) when I was travelling through Glasgow.  I knew that it would come with plastic.  I had to talk myself out of getting it even though I really wanted it.  Instead I ate the snack that I had brought with me, a banana and some sultanas that I bought plastic free from the bulk shop.  As a consolation for not going to Pintos I bought a mocha from Costa Coffee which I had them put in my Keep Cup.  I was really proud of myself for doing this as I love food and it’s really hard for me not to buy what I am craving.  Basically learning not to have instant gratification for everything is the hardest part; patience and planning are a big part of being plastic free and zero waste which I think I am getting better at every day.

Me: What you want me to complain and be negative some more?? Okay the hardest thing for me – planning and organising when it comes to food. This came back to haunt me constantly. In the last week of July I ate takeaway a lot and often ended up in the local supermarket starting at the over packaged onions wondering what the heck I was going to eat – the answer was a red pepper (the only plastic free vegetable) and sweetcorn (from a tin) risotto.

Have you learnt anything surprising about your plastic use?

Kelly: I realize that I use a lot more plastic then I thought I did.  The only thing that is in my garbage these days is plastic, but I thought it really wasn’t that much and that I was doing so much better than most of the population so it was ok if I had some trash.  This is not the attitude that I should have, I was not being accountable and doing PFJ has made me be accountable for my trash once again.

The items that I still get in plastic are:

  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Milk (other dairy products)
  • Crisps
  • Take away (I love a chippy)
  • Straws (in drinks I order in restaurants or pubs)

As you can see almost all of my plastic comes from animal products that I buy. My next goal is to find a butchers and a cheese shop that will let me use my own container for their products.  Also, I am going to be buying my own straw so that I stop getting them in drinks when I am out at restaurants or pubs! I need to learn to say “I would like a gin & tonic, no straw please” or “I would like a gin & tonic, but I brought my own straw.”

Me: Biggest surprise is that plastic is everywhere! I found it impossible to get pasta that wasn’t in plastic and I ran out of pasta about two days in 🙂 Also my local Saturday market that has a local fruit and veg stall has the majority of produced packaged already in plastic containers so although I had all my bags and containers with me there was no point. I came away with a couple of things but not much, our bigger, nearby Tesco has a fair amount of package-free veg and that came in handy a few times – I really didn’t expect to find that supermarket as a helpful place during a challenge such as this.

Any tips or suggestions?

Kelly: I would suggest reading “Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson. I read this in August 2013 and it inspired me to start the Zero Waste Lifestyle two years ago.  There are so many helpful tips that can get you started on the zero waste / no plastic living.

There are so many helpful resources these days about where to begin with less plastic so I won’t repeat them but have put links below.  The one thing that has made a huge difference to reducing my plastic use is finding a bulk food shop.   I bring reusable cotton bags to the bulk shop where I fill them up with porridge, beans, quinoa, fruit, veg, spices and more.  I bought the cotton bags from Health Junction, but you can certainly make your own too!

If you don’t have a bulk shop near you, going to a Farmer’s Market is a great way to get lots of plastic free fruit and veg.

Me: Hmm not sure I have anything to add. I’m not convinced about Farmer’s Markets as a place to get lots of plastic free fruit and veg but maybe it is just the ones I have access to. I would suggest local greengrocers. There are a couple left here but I just never had the chance to use them due to other commitments. My biggest tip would have to be – be prepared and organised, be willing to spend a little longer on food shopping and prepping for the week ahead – don’t be like me essentially 🙂

Any positive plastic-free experiences?

Kelly: Definitely, I love the bakery that I have near my work called The Wee Boulangerie.  I had been having trouble finding plastic free bread, it never dawned on me to go to the bakery to buy bread that is plastic free (I blame the supermarkets for brainwashing our society that we can get everything there!).  Once I realized this I couldn’t wait to go into the shop and buy loads of baguettes.

The bakers are so lovely.  Every time I go in with my cotton bag and ask for the 5 baguettes to be put in the bag they smile at me and go “of course”.  Then I cut them in half and put them in my freezer when I get home and I just take one out when I need it.  The bonus of this is that I get fresh bread and I am supporting a local business that I want to succeed.

Me: The whole of Kelburn was a great plastic free experience for me. I also love the Wee Boulangerie and having access to a place like that is great. I also do like the fact that KeepCups and reusable cups are now just so common place nobody bats an eyelid when you hand yours over.

Finally a question all for Kelly, you are working towards being zero waste – can you tell us about what that is and how you have been working towards it?

Zero waste is having no waste/no trash.   As you will see in the resources above some people are really hard core and only produce a jar full of trash every year.  I am not one of those people.  I still produce trash but it has greatly reduced since starting the zero waste lifestyle two years ago.  You can see in the photo below; that is all my trash for the month of July during the challenge.  I am so proud of that!

I am very lucky to live in a country/city with wonderful recycling programmes.  I am able to recycle a lot of plastic along with glass, aluminium, textiles, small electrics but I also am able to get rid of my food waste through the council recycling programme which has made a massive impact on reducing my trash.  Many people do not have a food waste programme so a lot of the zero waste bloggers actually compost their food waste.

Zero waste thought is ultimately about producing no waste, which means not even having items to put in recycling.  The ultimate goal is to keep reusing the products so that they never have to be recycled or thrown away.

I am a slower mover and have made gradual changes over time, but I think they stick better that way. It’s sort of like a diet, if you lose 1-2 pounds every week the weight is more likely to stay off.  That is what I am doing with zero waste.  I make a few small changes every so often and then when I am ready I make a few more changes.  No need to overhaul your whole way of living overnight, you will just get frustrated and revert back to what you were doing (while probably feeling extremely guilty for doing so).

I am really enjoying working towards Zero Waste and I am excited to see what changes I make over the next few months.  I am actually going to keep collecting my trash to see how much I have at the end of the year, which will hopefully lead to me staying accountable and making more changes to reduce my plastic use and trash!

Resources: 

Zero Waste Home: http://www.zerowastehome.com/

Trash is for Tossers: http://www.trashisfortossers.com/

My Plastic Free Life: http://myplasticfreelife.com/

Plastic Free July: http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/

Zero Waste Chef: http://zerowastechef.com/

So there you have it, our experiences of Plastic Free July. I want to do a wee follow up about the habits I hope to adopt and take forward but I might need to a fair bit of thinking to work out how to fit some of these things into my life – I know, I know I need to make this a priority but I think I also need to be realistic and not expect to run before I can walk.

Oops – Regular Service will be Resumed Shortly

Hey folks. Sorry I go and tell you that I will post about the interesting things I did during July for the Nourish month theme and about how I was doing with plastic free July and instead…well only a few posts and hardly anything to show you a little more about the wonderful place I live. A wee disclaimer there, I do love living in Edinburgh BUT I would like to see just a wee bit of summer please?!?

Anyway the normal reasons apply as to why my poor wee blogging corner of the internet has been neglected. Work has gone fairly hectic here, it is normal in my office that all our updates have to be done while during the University’s summer break to cause the minimum disruption. Then the odd random occurrence has meant that I have had long, busy days at work (like we all do) and I really haven’t fancied coming home and sitting on the computer.

I did some great things during July, motivated to get out and about by the idea of sharing the other things I do on the blog. That will come throughout August and I will be posting my final thoughts on plastic free July and how I am going to try and incorporate it into my life more. I also cooked more and will share the things I made too. In fact I have just finished cooking some raspberry and chocolate flapjacks 🙂

In August I will be going on holiday twice and have two weeks away from the office, it will be wonderful and great to just relax. Also the Fringe festival has quite a few venues near my office and frankly it gets a little tiring battling around, obviously the festivals in Edinburgh are amazing but it can just get a wee bit irritating when I am just trying to go home 🙂 I am also determined to finish painting the living room of my flat and make the scout tshirt – in fact I am off to join that PDF pattern together right now!

Happy August everyone! It is also time for the augustbreak2015 – have a look on Instagram at the tag and join in if you fancy.