Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Healthier Me - 6 Weeks In

I am now 6 weeks into my new found ways. I have pushed the temptation of takeaway far, far away and have been attending the gym on a regular basis. In 6 weeks I feel like I have come a long way, my appetite has changed, and I seem to get full on smaller portions of food, not to mention that I have barely touched a single piece of chocolate!

In the last few weeks my weight loss seems to have plateaued, I reached 9 stone 1lbs and that is exactly where I stayed for the next 12 days. I put this down to being more active in the gym and potentially building up muscle which would mask my actual weight loss. I do need to start taking measurements so that I can have a better idea of my achievements week by week.

Last Friday I finally lost that pesky pound that had been hanging around, and I found myself at exactly 9 stone. I felt happier about this than I had about the entire weight loss so far, it felt like I was reaching my first milestone, and it felt like I had to work so much harder to achieve it. 

This week has seen me rejoicing some more, in my 6th week I have now lost 12lbs exactly, bringing my weight in at 8 stone (Yes 8!) and 13lbs! I may have actually beamed from ear to ear when I saw the scales displaying these numbers, in fact I had to triple check just to make sure!

Phsically I am still not seeing any changes, but I guess as these things happen so gradually over time, I won't notice anything until I look back over the next few months.

With my new found motivation I am really excited about the months ahead, I am feeling energetic and incredibly motivated. 

As I have decided to share my weight loss journey I thought that it would be great to share my experiences as I go. I will be talking more in the weeks ahead about how I am getting on and how I am achieving each milestone. I look forward to using the Fitbug Orb to help me push forward and track my goals. I have a few fitness treats arriving over the coming week, and I will be providing full reviews on each of the products. 

One of the products I am especially excited about is the Brabantia Body Analysis Scales, they offer a whole range of statistics that the average bathroom scales don't. Having only used the average scales we currently own I did feel like I was missing a trick, I can view an accurate measurment of my BMI, weight, body fat, water and muscle percentages. I can even set up a personal profile with my age, gender and height that enables me to keep track of my progress.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

#NetflixStreamTeam - June

'Me' time becomes pretty scare when you become a parent. It is natures way of telling us that we can forget doing anything for ourselves, well for the first couple of years anyway! Now that Leo is getting older I seem to be getting a better balance, and I have even found myself with some spare time to do things.. for ME! 

I have recently started the gym and once Leo is in bed I have been treating myself to an hour or so out of the house. I guess that's the one benefit to having to move home, I now have built in babysitters, and as I have tucked Leo up in bed, and read him his bedtime story, I don't feel guilty about doing something completely for myself. 

Up until I found this new found freedom my evenings would be spent curled up with a new Netflix Boxset, and to be honest even these days I do love nothing more than a quiet evening with my favourite boxsets.

With June seeing the arrival of Season 2 Orange is the New Black, I very quickly demolished each episode. Now I am more than ready for season 3 to hit the screens! Last month I was invited to Soho to view the screening episode of Season 2... Along with the cast! Yes I was actually in the very same room as Taylor Schilling and Jason Biggs. Jason Biggs for me is someone I have grown up watching on the television, so it was a surreal moment to actually almost meet him!

When Leo isn't around there are a number of boxsets that I have thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish, one of the ones on my 'must watch list' at the moment is Gossip Girl. This is a series I actually started to watch a couple of months ago, and for some reason I just didn't get into it straight away. Fast forward a couple of months and I cannot get enough of it, I am still on Season 1 at present but I am pleased to see I have 5 more seasons to enjoy ahead of me.

24 is another show that I just LOVE, no matter how many times I watch this series I can still enjoy it again and again. I have recently caught back up on all of Jack Bauer's bad days in anticipation of the latest season coming around. 

I will end this post with a selection of my favourite Netflix selections that I enjoy when I do get some coveted time to myself...

Disclaimer: I was sent everything I needed to get started watching Netflix for the next 12 months. I have not been paid to write this post. All views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.

6 Easy Ways to Improve Your Cooking Skills

Not everyone is a whizz in the kitchen, but there are some relatively simple things you can do to improve your cooking skills and ensure your next meal is something to be proud of. Take a look…

Start with the best ingredients

If you don’t have decent ingredients then you’re already at a big disadvantage. Better ingredients may be a little more expensive but the difference is huge and you’ll instantly notice the difference one you use them. For example, fresh pasta is nicer than dried pasta, whilst fresh fruit is better than tinned. Think about where the produce comes from, so get Italian food that comes from Italy, etc.

Buy some good knives

You may think that there’s not a huge amount of difference in the knives you use to prepare ingredients but you couldn’t be more wrong! A good set of knives will make chopping so much easier and quicker, so you can spend more time on other things. As well as the sharpness of the knife, also make sure that it’s weighted correctly. Knives can be expensive so if money is tight then choose a chef knife, paring knife and fillet knife. See here for more information on how to choose a good kitchen knife.

How good is your cooker?

As with the knives, it’s important your cooker is up to scratch or you’re going to run into problems. For example, is your oven distributing the heat evenly? If not then you will end up with hotspots which could burn your food. Neff ovens and cookers are some of the best around and should ensure your food is cooked properly.

Don’t rely on timers

Even though a recipe might tell you how long to cook something for, only use that time as a guide, not a rule. Cook until the food is done rather than stick to a strict time. Over time you’ll get better and better at recognising when the food is cooked.

Let meat rest

When you cook meat, all the juices are pushed to the centre of the meat. If you serve it straight away after cooking then the juices haven’t been given time to redistribute throughout the meat and it will be dry. Leave the meat to stand for half the time it took to cook before serving and it will be much moister.

Expand your repertoire

Test yourself and don’t rely on the same old dishes and techniques. You may be able to make a cracking fry-up, but how about trying eggs benedict instead? This means you’ll need to poach the egg, and try making your own hollandaise sauce to go with it. Do you know how to sauté or braise? Pushing yourself to learn new things will make you a better cook, even if you fail the first few times you try. 

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Lovely Budget Photo Gift Ideas for Teens

When it comes to purchasing a gift for a special teen in your life, it can be difficult to choose something that you know they’ll really love, especially when keeping to a modest budget. However, it’s far from may just have to get a little creative!

The teens of today are of the digital generation and are rarely seen without their favourite tech gadgets, whether it’s a phone, camera, iPod or tablet device...or all of them! Therefore they always seem to be taking photos of one thing or another, so using this theme to choose them something is a sure winner.

We’ve put together a list of some great budget photo gift ideas for the teen in your life to keep them snap happy on their special day.

Personalised protective gadget cases and covers
First of all, why not get them something to help protect the thing they care so much about?! A protective case for their favourite gadget doesn’t have to be boring or dull either (or expensive) as you can get things like customised photo phone and tablet cases at sites like My Photo Gifts. They also do next day delivery phone cases too if you’ve left things a bit last minute. Just upload their favourite snaps and wait for the finished product in the post!

Photo album or scrap book
Photo albums always make a great gift and are great for teens to help them keep their special photos safe and in one place. There are loads of nice photo albums on this website, but if you want something a little different you could purchase a scrap book so they can put other mementos alongside their favourite snaps too. This is a great, cheap gift that they’re bound to love.

Polaroid photo frames
Everyone loves the appeal of Polaroid snaps as they’re so classic, edgy and trendy. If the budget doesn’t quite stretch to a Polaroid camera, you can always go for the cheaper option of purchasing some Polaroid photo frames instead which will give their favourite photos the effect of being a Polaroid picture.

Smart phone camera accessories
Help them take amazing photos on the go of themselves with all their friends without breaking your bank by purchasing a camera accessory for their smart phone camera. There are quite a few different things you can buy, but we like this macro phone lens from Urban Outfitters as it transforms your phone into a fish eye camera. Fish eye lens cameras can be about £50 for a really decent one too, so this £18 accessory is a much budget friendlier option!

Photo-upload notebooks or diaries

If they love nothing more than writing and scribbling down their thoughts like lots of teens, a personalised notebook or diary with one of their favourite photos on the front cover is sure to be a winner and won’t set you back too much either, especially as you can get them online pretty cheaply nowadays. 

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

Friday, 18 July 2014

5 Facts you didn’t know about Dolly Parton

Unless you are an avid Dolly Parton fan, here are 5 facts that you almost certainly didn't know about this highly talented singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, writer, actress who is one of the best known celebrities in the country music scene.

Dolly Parton lost a Dolly Parton lookalike contest

OK, you might have heard about this one before, but until the singer herself confirmed the fact to ABC news a little while ago it appeared to be little more than a rumour. The contest took place at Halloween on the Santa Monica Boulevard, and all the other competitors were men. Dolly played a self-caricature and lost the competition by a large margin.   Speaking of the event she said “All the guys were dressed up like me and I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage. I didn't win. I didn't even come in close, I don't think."

Dolly Parton wouldn’t let Elvis Presley record here song "I Will Always Love You"

Not everybody knows that it was Dolly Parton who wrote "I Will Always Love You", the hit song that was featured in the movie The Bodyguard in 1992 and sung by Whitney Houston. It is the best selling pop song ever.  Dolly wrote the song in 1973 and released it as a single in 1974 which made it to number 4 in the Billboard Hot Country Songs. Elvis Presley wanted to make a cover version of the song, and no doubt he would have made an excellent job of it; probably a number one hit, but Dolly objected to the fact that he wanted half the publishing rights and so refused to let him have the song. It was a good decision; as a result she made many more millions of dollars out of royalties.

Dolly Parton had 11 siblings and 3 half siblings

Dolly was born in Locust Ridge, Tennessee in 1946 and she was the fourth of 12 children. The others were Willadeene, Denver, David, Bobby, Stella, Cassie, Randy, Floyd, Freida, Rachel and Larry who died when very young. However she also had at least 3 half siblings as her father tended to stray somewhat.

Dolly Parton has composed over 5,000 songs

Dolly Parton wrote her first song (about a corn doll) when she was just seven years old. Since then shehas composed around 5,000 more. She claims to write a song every few days and considers herself to be a songwriter primarily with singing being her second love.

Dolly Parton has her uncle to thank for recognising her talent and launching her career

Dolly has her uncle Billy Earl Owens top thank for recognising her talent and kick starting her career. He was so enamoured of her natural talent that he taught here how to play the guitar and helped here with her song writing. He introduced here to Cas Walker who ran a grocery store chain which he promoted on a radio show. She sang live on the show when she was ten years old and the rest is history.

If you want to see a selection of her 5000 songs live, you can grab tickets from here.

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Julian Bowen Elite Bed Review

I recently tried the Julian Bowen Elite King Size Bed , and as I am very fond of my sleep and catching some 'Zzzz's' I was more than happy to take on the task of telling you all about this incredibly luxurious bed.

It was dispatched and delivered quickly, it was on my doorstep within a few days of placing the order. It came in two large boxes with all of the bits and pieces needed to put it together, I cannot take credit for actually assembling the bed.. But I did watch and it was not over complicated at all. 

The frame is constructed out of wood, as are the slats that go across the bed to hold the mattress in place. From how it has all gone together I am confident that this bed is set to last, the finished bed is structurally sound and has so far demonstrated a real resistance to toddler bouncing. Unfortunately toddlers do bounce.. A lot.  

What I love about this bed is just how luxurious it looks, the high faux leather headboard is similar to one you would find in a fancy London Boutique Hotel, and it is all completely solid and finished to the standards I would expect of said swanky hotel bed.

The Julian Bowen bed features a really impressive headboard that stands at 125cm off the floor. I have found it in-valuable for leaning against when I am reading in bed (Twitter counts as reading...right?). It is nicely padded so that I don't get un-comfortable when I am sitting there schmoozing what is being shown on the television, and for those mornings that I just can't bring myself to get out of bed just yet. 

The measurements of this bed are 150cm by 218cm and after upgrading to a king size bed from a small double, it is safe to say I can feel the difference in the amount of room available to me on any given night. Even when Leo decides to come and star fish in the middle of the bed, there is still plenty of room for me to stretch out comfortably.

After the bed arrived I had to upgrade to a king size mattress, and after only ever having hand me down mattress's I decided it was my time to spring for a memory foam mattress. I was obviously feeling like spoiling myself, and I am so glad that I did. This bed combined with the new mattress is actually my idea of heaven, and when Leo does decide he is going to wake up in the night because he has dropped his Lightning McQueen car out of the cot.. Well it just makes it even harder for me to prise myself from my bed.

I absolutely love the look of this bed, and it is incredibly comfortable to sleep on. With the mattress on the bed it is quite a height off the floor, but how much depends on just how thick the mattress is you place on it. I quite like having this height when getting into bed, it makes it easier to get in and out of in the grand scheme of things. But even Leo can get in and out without any issues so it is not too high to keep the little people in your life at bay.

If you were thinking of storing things under your new Julian Bowen bed, then this is where you may fall short. There isn't much room at all under the bed, and you definitely won’t fit any storage boxes underneath. Personally for me though this isn't an issue. I have a big double wardrobe with lots of storage capability, so anything that was once under the bed is now safely stored away in the wardrobe. I am actually quite glad that the bed comes down so low, as I am always finding things that have gone AWOL under the bed, so this gives me a fighting chance of actually knowing where things are. 

Having said that though.. It will be a struggle if Leo accidentally drops something down the back of the headboard, as that won't be very easy to get to. 

All I have to do now is invest in a new duvet cover set for the bed, and I have been checking out the selection over at The Range as they have some really nice items available. I have the perfect image in my mind, and I am actually opting for the Shimmer Black Bedding. I think this is going to look really great against the faux leather. 

Over all I am really impressed with the Julian Bowen Elite King Size Bed. It is everything I could ask for, and has definitely made me look forward to bed time a little more each night. For the money it is actually a real bargain, it costs just £229.99 and includes free delivery. 

What more could you want out of a bed?

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

I'm Still Around!

It has certainly been quieter than usual around here lately, what with the house move and everything else that has been going on, there hasn't been time to catch a breath let alone blog about it! You see real life has been getting in the way of late, and among all of that I have been taking some time to do something new for myself.

I have pulled out a selfish card and put it to use straight away, since moving back home last month I decided it was now or never to give myself a theoretical kick up the back side… and I started the gym. Over the past few weeks the hours that I would usually spend catching up on blog posts, have been spent grafting in the gym.

I am feeling so positive about everything, and I love being able to do something just for me. I have been getting in from work and getting Leo ready to bed and off to the land of nod, and then handing the baby monitor over to Granny so that I can pop out for an hour or so. The silver lining to being back at home, is being able to leave the house in a evening, and the even more amazing thing is that I am not missing out on any time with my favourite little man.

In just under a month I have lost 10lbs, and it came away so much easier than I ever expected (Once I let go of chocolate and Coca Cola!). This month it seems to have halted and I haven’t lost any more, however I have maintained my loss thus far which is a reason to keep on feeling determined. I am by no means over weight, but for me to feel comfortable in my own skin I need to shed a few more lbs and get toning!

Leo has adapted really well to being back at Granny’s and it hasn’t taken long to get his room together. He has his car bed pride of place along with all of his worldly possessions. If anything Leo is loving being back at Granny’s and the change has just been an easy adjustment for him.

Over the weekend we even had our very first movie night, we were due to go to our local river festival and see the boats all lit up with twinkly lights. However rain put a stop to that and we decided to tuck up together in bed and watch Ice Age with a bag of Toffee Popcorn, Leo absolutely loved it. It was our very first movie night, and having Leo at an age where we can snuggle up with a good family film is just lovely. Leo had such a fun evening that the next morning he demanded to watch Ice Age with.. *wait for it* a bag of popcorn! I get the feeling we will be making this a regular activity!

My selfish card is also extending into vehicles… I am finally getting the pennies together and upgrading my clapped out car. The plan is to treat myself to a convertible Mini Cooper in the next few months!

Although life has been much busier than usual and I have been much quieter, I am still around. Normal service is being resumed and I am feeling so incredibly positive about absolutely everything that is happening.