This week I have been... ...working out at the barre. A million years after first hearing about Xtend Barre, I finally got myself to a class. And a second. And booked a third. But what IS it, I hear you ask?

Xtend Barre (you have to get over the silly name) is a fusion of ballet and Pilates. Classes last 55 minutes and you utilise a range of accessories and a range of muscles. So far I have played with a little squishy ball (to grip between your legs), a little stretchy band (to provide resistance during exercises), a long strap with hand loops (to hold position whilst you do the moves), hand weights (because the exercises aren't strenuous enough on their own?) and a mat (for, you know, mat work).

There are ballet terms and ballet positions but they are not technical so, if you fancy it, don't be discouraged or worry that you are going to be asked to perform en pointe for an hour (although some of the class is spent on tiptoes). I could feel my triceps most in the days after the first class (the second was just a couple of hours ago - who knows what I'll feel tomorrow) but there's a lot of leg work too (much more than triceps, but my legs get more exercise than my arms so they're more used to pain).

I would say it is low impact so may not suit people wanting to pant their way through a class; this is not to say it does not HURT! Try standing with your legs fairly wide apart, toes turned out 45º, then bend your knees a lot, then get up on your tiptoes. Now just hold that for a while...

It can be a fine line between "That was a good workout" and "I'm going to faint"; happily, I stayed on the right side of consciousness and will definitely go again.

So there you go, that's Xtend Barre (really, it's not a good name - why not ballates or something?).

***Amazingly smooth segue coming up*** In the winter months, I may require more than a strappy vest and capri tights for the walk to class, so it's a good job I have progressed with my...

...knitting. Hurrah, it's coming on in leaps and bounds - at least, the practising is. I haven't actually made anything yet. So far I have pulled apart two hats in progress (one because I wasn't doing it correctly and one because it looked disgusting). I have high hopes of knitting (and completing) my first hat this month, then I want to bite off more than I can chew by knitting a shrug.

I used to have the perfect shrug: plain black, great sleeve length, no superfluous detail. It was extremely cheap and this soon began to show in the form of holes in the fabric. I continued to wear the holey shrug long past the point where the holes could be considered cool (yes, this is what I told myself: they are holes of coolness). My stylish other half raised objections about the shrug's condition on a regular basis and I take it as a mark of his respect for me that he didn't just throw it away when I wasn't looking.

Eventually, I saw the shrug through objective eyes, realised what an absolute horror it was and binned it, only to find that the shrug was irreplaceable.

Was. Now I can knit! I can make myself anything (that can be knitted). Why am I making hats and blankets in a city where the lowest temperature is around 10ºC about twice a year during the night? Why not make something I can actually wear with my new sleeveless wardrobe? Why not indeed. I am therefore rather excited about the forthcoming shrug. Winter, as it is laughingly called, starts on June 1; plenty of time to create a woollen/cotton masterpiece. Watch this space.

Oh, it has been such a good week. I am all excited about balletness and woolliness and have inadvertently pushed baking into third place! Baking baking baking. This week's endeavour was a bara brith. Here I must thank awesome fellow blogger Amy Prescott of Pass the Mixing Bowl. I'll tell you a bit about Amy: she is attempting to make every recipe in Mary Berry's Baking Bible. In a year. There are more than 200 recipes in this book! How much do you want to live in Amy's household :)

I came across Amy's blog when I was looking for a Welsh baking recipe for a St David's Day barbecue. Her clear instructions for the Welsh tea loaf aka bara brith convinced me I could make this bad boy.

It was my first loaf bake, so I purchased a couple of tins and, on Amy's recommendation, loaf tin liners (these are brilliant!).

Here's the bara brith story in pictures

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Looks good, yes? Here's where I tell you I didn't actually get a slice of it. But I did receive rave reviews from the recipients. So huge thanks to Amy for sharing Mary's recipe and giving me mega-confidence in being able to pull off preparing a Welsh dish for proper Welsh people on St David's Day!

Also baked this week: ANZAC biscuits (an alarmingly regular occurrence of late) and lemon slices (baked with a friend for a birthday party - have just left voicemail to see if these turned out okay!). I am not going to bake ANYTHING this week - it is all very well being homely and fabulous with a wooden spoon but I feel it is perhaps getting out of hand. Baked goods every week? It'll take more than ballates to counter that.

Any other business:

  • Finished one of the blankets, but it's a blustery day and the blanket kept threatening to blow away whilst I tried to photograph it. I'll show you next week.
  • Listened to a lot of Lorde. Loads of hype around this girl for ages now but I have resisted buying into it (for no good reason). Anyway, one particular song seemed to follow me around for a while so I looked it up, found it was her (the song turned out to be Team) and listened to lots of other Lorde tracks. I think her voice and music sound like a mix of Lana Del Ray, Ellie Goulding, MIA's Paper Planes and, gulp, Cher Lloyd. Royals is worth a listen even if you don't fancy anything else.
  • This. Just because it's beautiful.


See you next week x