Friday, 29 January 2016

Holiday Plans for 2016

January for me is the most bleak time of the year, it's the come down after the Christmas excitement and everywhere just seems so naked and bare without the Christmas glitter that was all around us until only a few weeks ago. It's no wonder so many people suffer from the January blues at this time of year, I myself seem to have been struck down with a case of it.

I think I have found the cure though, the cure for the January blues that is. It's pretty simple really, and it means looking ahead. Looking past this mere month that will very soon be coming to a close. Looking forward towards Spring, towards Summer, to warmer days that bring blue skies, flip flops and even the shorts! 

The cure is to book your Summer holiday.
To book your Summer holiday in January.

That's exactly what we have been planning this month, and it's not just any holiday. It's a big family holiday. A holiday abroad to Crete with around 15 members of my family. It wouldn't be possible without my good old Father who has decided to treat the entire family to this week away in the sunshine at a 5* hotel on the beach front. If that doesn't cure the January blues then I really don't know what will.

Having a holiday booked for Springtime means that the count down is on, and I am hitting the gym harder than ever in preparation to get my bikini body on the road. It's going to be fantastic to spend time with Leo by the blue sea, watching the waves crashing against the shore line and catching some rays. Ultimately it's going to be fantastic to just relax and take some time out for a little while, we are all guilty of not taking enough time to relax and sometimes it takes a holiday to really show you how much you need one.

I love Greece, I visited Corfu when I was younger and a few years ago we took Leo to Cyprus, so to visit another of the beautiful islands is an opportunity I am very excited about. Not to mention my love for Greek cuisine.

I may look at upgrading my camera before we jet away, I would love to improve my photography in 2016 and going abroad is the ideal time to try some new camera tricks, but I don't think my much loved camera has much fight left in her... It might be time to think about putting her out to pasture. I did see that Columbus Direct have a very attractive competition running at the moment though, giving entrants the opportunity to win a Canon Powershot SX400 IS Value Pack Accessories Kit which I couldn't help entering... Because you never know! All you have to do to enter is choose one of the multiple choice answers telling them where you think Columbus the dog has jetted off to from the photo he has shared!?

To say that I am a little bit excited about our holiday plans this year is an under statement, and I may have even booked a short trip away to New York in November, so January aside... 2016 is already shaping into a pretty spectacular year.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The first sport's injury

Pike on a Ball

I never expected exercise to become such a huge part of my life. When I set those initial goals back in June 2014 I didn't for a second expect to still be going strong 19 months later. Somehow those initial goals were surpassed, exceeded even, and my intention of just 'getting skinny' became a distant memory, because it was no longer about getting skinny, it was about getting stronger.

With each month that passed I saw myself pushing myself out of my comfort zone, whether it was trying a new class or trying a form of exercise that was foreign to me, I was giving everything a shot. Of course pushing my boundaries meant that I was opening myself up for a higher risk of injury, but I was so excited about all of the new things I was allowing myself to try, that I didn't really think much about the possibility of getting hurt.

I had a good run, no real injuries to speak of aside from the burn of leg day to contend with, but in honesty that was such a satisfying burn, and it let me know that my efforts were being recognised by my body. All good run's come to and end though, and at some point, you will get injured. It's just part and parcel to training.

2 weeks ago at a CrossFit session I was attempting deadlift's for the very first time. We practiced them and the instructor checked my posture and was pleased with my set up, so pleased in fact that he said to load some more weight on to it. Very quickly I was lifting 40KG and at first it was absolutely fine. We were taking it slowly and there was no pressure, but very soon we were starting the work out of the day, which just happened to be 20 minutes on the clock where we would perform every minute on the minute for the duration. The first minute was 4 deadlifts followed by a break for the remaining seconds left of that first minute. When the next minute started I completed 8 bar burpees, 4 either side of the bar. It was 10 minutes in when I lifted the bar for my deadlift set that I felt something give in my stomach. It felt like a tear and the pain hit hard. 

I was so annoyed at myself, but I didn't want to give up with 10 minutes to go. I was half way there, if I dropped the weight down then surely it would be ok, so that's exactly what I did. The pain got worse through the burpees and the remainder of the deadlift's but I was determined to reach the end. My pace slowed down to compensate and my once bouncy burpees were looking a little more like an old lady getting up after a fall, but I completed it. I did it.

It became apparent that I was going to have to take it easy on myself for the next week or so, I couldn't train because it was painful and I only had to breathe in to deeply or sneeze and I would be in the throw of a muscle spasm. I took to Google and pretty much convinced myself that I had a hernia, and thought it best just to get checked out at the doctors to eliminate anything serious. They confirmed it was just a muscle strain and to take it easy, the appointment was pretty much a waste of time, all be it for the face the doctor made when she realised how I had injured myself in the first place 'But your only small!'.

I began to think of ways that I could help myself, rest, massage therapy at ML Chiropractic, a day at the health spa, anything really to just try and speed up the healing process, because sitting around was slowly driving me crazy. 

A week later my abdomen is feeling so much better, and the rest really has helped me feel better again. I spent a few days just sat around feeling sorry for myself with a hot water bottle, to scared to sneeze or knock it. It has definitely been an eye opener and I am so glad that I listened to my body even though the rest of me was screaming to get back in the gym and on with my training, but the reality is that if I had done that I would have most definitely made the injury worse.

We live and we learn.

Does where you live effect your health?

We hear a lot about post code lottery these days, from the health care we recieve to the care provided to us when we are older and need a helping hand, but could the risk of developing a serious medical condition change depending upon where we live in the UK?

Health and wellbeing provider Beneden have shared their findings after researching the varying risks of developing a number of medical conditions for different parts of the country. On the back of this research Beneden have developed a tool for the likes of you and I to check which major medical conditions are most likely within your region. 

The national average is based on occurrences per 1000 people, with statistics looking at how more or less likely you are to potentially develop a serious medical condition based on where you live. Where I live in Worcestershire it ranks 7th out of 71 counties across England and Wales for risk of a medical condition in Females, with Low Birth Weight topping the list. 

The tool helps us to understand the regional differences between Males and Females. For instance if you are a woman, you are 21% more likely to be at risk of breast cancer if you live in Cheshire compared to women who live in Cambridgeshire, and if you are female in Cornwall you are 14% less likely suffer from heart disease than a woman in Merseyside.

It has revealed that men living in London are 35 per cent more likely to develop heart disease than their equivalents living in Manchester, and men in Yorkshire, for example, have are 13 per cent less likely to suffer heart disease than those in Bristol. 

Interesting information right?

This ‘Risk by Region’ tool is designed to raise people’s awareness of the higher risk medical conditions in their area so they can take a more informed view of their approach to health and lifestyle. It does not make assumptions on your current lifestyle – instead it uses national statistics to build the picture of varied risk across the country.

The tool raises awareness to the higher risk of conditions in their area, it means that you and I can take a more informed view on our approach to our health and lifestyle. I myself like to keep active and eat well, and long term I hope this will reward me by having a positive effect on my over all health and well-being

The Daily Mail recently used the tool to talk about the different risks posed to the different regions throughout the UK and it makes a very interesting read. 

What are the statistics around where you live?

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

An Alternative Valentines Day

Valentines Day is just around the corner and Cupid is already sharpening his arrow as we prepare for the most romantic day of the year. I myself don't usually get wrapped up in the fluffiness of this commercial holiday, but admittedly it's hard to resist spoiling the loved ones in your life.

If your like me though and you don't like to go OTT with love hearts and soppy messages, you might want to consider alternative gift ideas that realistically will live to surpass Valentines Day in the sense that they are practical everyday gifts, and of course earn you massive brownie points in the process.

Jeepers Peepers Retro Sunglasses In Black Smoke - £22 from Asos

Luckies Smartphone Speaker - £23 from Asos
Tech21 phone case - From £29.95

Each of Tech21's products is the result of their desire for protection. You’ll notice the difference every time you pick up your phone or tablet and they happen to be one of Britain’s fastest-growing tech companies, let's face it the technology we have in our lives is fragile. When I dropped my iPhone 6+ in the first couple of months of purchasing it, I prayed that the cracking sound I heard was my leg. Of course I wasn't that lucky, my poor phone took a tumble and it's beautiful screen paid the price.

Tech21 use an ipact-proof Polymer technology that helps protect our everyday technology from the same unfortunate fate as my own phone. 

Valentines may be marketed as an overly gushy day, and I know that when I look at the supermarket shelves full of teddy bears and overly out there merchandise that makes you ultimately feel a little bit sick, I don't feel that I can buy into the holiday in that sense. I would much prefer to celebrate Valentines Day in my own way, purchase a gift that is going to be well received and actually useful. Something that won't sit on a shelf gathering dust, or thrown to the very depths of the cupboard.

I can remember a few years back standing in the shop and looking at the mass array of Valentines Day cards. The front's of some were perfect, they were humourous and not to mushy, until of course you open the card and the mush that's printed on the inside makes you almost drop it to the floor. It is for that very reason that I purchase all of my cards for every occasion online, where I can completely personlise it to my tastes.

To me Valentines Day should be about the company of someone special. A meal, quality time and of course a bottle of wine or two. You wont find any I love you Teddy Bears around these parts. 

How do you choose to celebrate Valentines Day?

Monday, 25 January 2016

Preparing for what's to come

Back in 2010 when I suddenly, and very unexpectedly discovered that I was pregnant, my world turned on it's head. It was a whirling and swirling state of affairs. I was scared, and in honesty I was so far past scared that I was absolutely terrified about all that was now to come. The toll that the next 9 months were going to take on my body, and how would I even begin to handle an actual real life baby?

Through the initial shock though, I found my way out of the other side and I began to get excited. I started to shop for everything that my baby was going to need, and my partner? He decide to purchase a special treat for himself. Something he had always wanted. 

A VW Caddy Pick Up. 

It was something that later became to be known as his mid life crisis, and when he announced his intentions I took a side step and let him throw himself into the hustle and bustle of finding the perfect pick up, because deep down I knew that this has been a life long dream of his, and I also knew that while he was busy car hunting...I could be busy shopping for our little one's arrival.

Of course it didn't actually work out that way, and I spent quite a lot of time heading up and down the country with him on the hunt for his new car. As the weeks went by, the bigger I got and the more determined he became in finding this car. People thought it was madness, because by getting rid of his nice sensible 5 seater car, and downgrading to a Caddy with 2 seats and absolutely no room for a baby... the idea did seem a little bit crazy. It wasn't completely preposterous though, being a driver myself and at the time having a 5 seater car of my own, it just meant that any family trips would have to be planned in my car, and getting Luke insured on that eliminated me having to drive all of the time. 

He hunted online car sales sites, wanted ads and Parkway Contacts who are a Volkswagen retailer, before he eventually found exactly what he was looking for not to far away from home. I can still remember going along and viewing it with him, I was pretty far along by this point and if memory serves, I believe it was only a couple of months before Leo's arrival into the world. It was love at first sight, and I knew that we wouldn't be leaving without this car.

I was right, and within that week Luke had his car. He finally had his car home and he really was like a child at Christmas. When it came to going anywhere over the next couple of months, he was always more than happy to drive, and it was on a family holiday to Cornwall at almost 36 weeks pregnant I discovered how Caddy's were not the most comfortable of cars to fit a huge tummy into, and 4 hours later when we finally arrived at the holiday home, my back was in need of a generous stretch.

Looking back I can't help but chuckle, of all the things we could have been doing in those months on the run up to Leo's arrival... Buying a new car was not something I anticipated doing.

Friday, 22 January 2016

How to buy your next family car

Ah, bigger cars. They’re one of the many symptoms of change in life when starting a family. And sure, it’s good change; the kind of change you wouldn’t, er, change for the world. But it is change nonetheless, and there will sadly come a time when that handy little run-around parked in the driveway that you love so much no longer cuts the mustard.

Time to say goodbye, and find a set of wheels that will provide a spacious home for the car seats, the sports equipment, the strollers and all the rest. But how best to do it? What’s the formula for ensuring that this important upgrade allows you to get the most out of it for the least amount of spend and stress?

Picking the right one
The first thing to do is determine what kind of car will best fit the bill physically. Have you thought as far as safety? Saloon, hatchback or estate? Are the seats flexible? And what about the colours of the interior materials? I found an article in Auto Trader which provides 5 helpful hints to ensure that your next family chariot ticks all the boxes in terms of specifications and body style. Have a peruse!

Getting good-value finance
Upsizing and upgrading has one unfortunate consequence… ‘up-pricing’. If you are trading in and don’t have sufficient funds to cover the difference, you’ll need to delve into the world of car loans. Obviously debt in itself isn’t that palatable, but given that you’re borrowing money to fund the purchase of an asset, there’s no need to feel too reticent. What’s more, with such low interest rates at the moment, and a more competitive loans market, you’re actually well placed to get a good deal. Peer-to-peer lenders in particular offer APRs as low as 6% for car loans, so with a bit of research, you can easily take the sting out of financing your new vehicle.

Petrol or diesel?
It’s an often misunderstood, dichotomising question. It comes down to personal choice, but the rule of thumb is that diesel cars are more fuel efficient and have low road tax costs. However, they are generally more expensive to buy, and usually – albeit not at the moment – more pricey at the pumps. So, to make it easy, ask yourself this: Am I going to be covering a lot of mileage with this car? If so, diesel may be the better option.

Your stats checklist
There are a few other things that may slip under the radar of uninformed eyes when discussing features and whatnot. 

Here are a few figures and stats to be conscious of:

·         Euro NCAP Rating – It is actually almost mandatory for cars to have a 5-star rating these days, so it’s a warning sign if yours doesn’t. But be sure to check the numbers and whether the car stacks up on individual, adult, child and safety assist ratings.

·         MPG – Miles per gallon, the ever present of the imperial system. It’s also the crucial benchmark in gauging comparative fuel efficiency of different cars. The lower, the better!

·         CO2 Emission – This isn’t just about being environmentally conscious (although that’s important too!). The lower your emission, the less you’ll pay in road tax. Save the earth by saving money!

·         Insurance Grouping – Be sure to scope this one out. Insurance is the cost that just keeps on taking, so the lower the group the car falls into, the better you’re setting yourself up going forward.

·         Warranty – The term of this will vary depending on what you’re after. Just make sure that in your excitement to grab the keys, you don’t forget to drive out of there with a peace-of-mind inducing warranty. It’s really important that if something goes wrong in the near future, it won’t result in hassle and/or a hole in the pocket for you.

That’s about it from this ‘car expert’. It’s a really exciting time, and I remember the smile on our faces when we drove out of the dealership with our bigger wagon. But in your haste to get behind the wheel of your new addition to the house, take care in order to go about things the right way. After all, you want to be sure that your new family car is as wonderful as your family itself!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Surviving January

Christmas shopping

January is the most depressing month of the year, well in my honest opinion anyway. With all the sparkle packed away from view and the magic tossed to the curb, all that is left is the realization of a dark and bleak month full of bills and New Year resolutions. 

The gluttony of Christmas seems like a distant memory, and it is time to pull those purse strings tight, avoid the sales that seem to be absolutely everywhere, and try to assume a sense of normality after a few weeks off.

Yesterday was said to be the most depressing month of the year, and I have to say that I did feel unusually blue all day, granted I didn't make it to the gym like I would usually in the morning and I am pretty certain that the lack of endorphin's was the reason I felt this way... that and because I just seem to want to shop at every given opportunity...

Although January is a pretty depressing month for everyone, it's the month that all the Christmas credit card statements roll in, and seeing what you really spent can sometimes be a bit of a kick in the teeth, especially when it's all over and done with. It really drums into you how important planning ahead can be, why not start Christmas shopping now and be ready for Christmas 2016 sooner rather than later?

Online voucher code retailer My Voucher Codes has found that starting your Christmas shopping early does have its benefits. They continued their research into saving families money and surveyed 2,358 Brits over the age of 18 and asked them: “Would you consider buying anything in the Boxing Day sales for next Christmas?” 44% of those surveyed said that they would. The most popular items those surveyed were wanting to buy were: Clothing i.e. festive jumpers, toys, cards/gift wrap, decorations and none perishable gifts. The majority (70%) of those surveyed stated that saving money was the main reason behind starting early, with 40% wanting to be organised and 20% wanting to save time. 

You can view the full article and all of the money saving tips on

I vow each year to shop earlier in order to avoid the crowds and make sure that I spread the cost. I am not one to splurge on a credit card and I like to source deals in advance so that I know I am getting the best value for money, especially on some of the bigger gifts. I have already stocked up on a few gifts for this Christmas in the sales, and it feels good to be making a head start. 

Tips for a Perfect Family Holiday in Sicily

Tips for a Perfect Family Holiday in Sicily

Sicily is best renowned for its historical influence in the ancient world and as being the gateway to the Mediterranean. Its cross-cultural diversity- due to centuries of interactions with foreign states (beginning with the Romans and the Greeks, the Arabs, then Norman and Gothic influences during Medieval times and up through the Renaissance era and beyond)- has shaped not only its cultural and ethnic character, but also its lifestyle in our contemporary era, while still preserving the traditions and social aspects of the cultures which settled there or interacted with Sicily in one way or the other. 

This includes also the holiday festivities, and it is one of the major reasons why it is a perfect place to go on a holiday with the whole family. What best way than to spend the experience in perfect relaxation, in the midst of the ancient Sicilian wonders, and with a feel-at-home luxury - away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist motels- by renting a true Sicilian villa with a pool for the whole family to enjoy? There are many online resources like WishSicily, that offers a wide choice of Sicily Villas with a pool and comes highly recommended.    

For families with children, visiting Sicily especially during the holidays, it is a wonderful and highly rewarding experience for both adults and children of all ages. For the parent, it is an excellent opportunity not only to taste on its home soil the culinary delights which make Italy so special around the world (and which in the summer or Christmas holiday offers the traditional recipes that are made available only during that special season of the year), but also to explore the historical sights and true feel of ages gone by; immersing themselves fully in the atmosphere of an authentic, multi-cultural and cosmopolitan center where diversity in art, architecture and society are evident and imbued in every aspect of daily life.

For the children, the many events and festivals held at ancient and restored Greco-Roman amphitheaters and in the towns (especially the Christmas ‘Presepe’ festivals and the following ‘Epiphany’ represented by the Befana or ‘Witch’  celebrations held in the towns of the Palermo region, Caltanissetta, and in Mezzojuso, Gratteri, Contessa Entellina and Piana degli Albanesi, Agrigento, Trapani, Caltagirone, Catania, and Ragusa), the wonderful hikes through the many natural Park reserves (such as the Park of Etna, Madonie, Park of Alcantara, Nebrodi, and the archeological park of Segesta)  and trekking through exotic while adventurous volcanic locations like Mt. Etna near Catania, and those near the towns of Lipari, Stromboli, Vulcano and Panarea in the Aeolian Archipelago, in the North Coast of Sicily, are not only fun but highly educational experiences, that the whole family will enjoy no matter what age.     

Monday, 11 January 2016

Increase Your Productivity With Flowers in the Office

Increase Your Productivity With Flowers in the Office

Flowers are beautiful. They are colourful and have a pleasant aroma that most people love, they can provide a touch of green in an otherwise bland office setting,but flowers, surprisingly, can do more than that. It may seem unbelievable but having a vase of freshly-cut flowers in your workplace can actually increase your productivity!

Banish the Early-Morning Blahs

The benefits of fresh flowers on your workplace productivity begin before you even leave the house. Studies show that emotions like happiness and satisfaction do not usually arrive till later in the day. But if you look at fresh flowers first thing in the morning, it kickstarts your endorphins, the brain’s feel-good chemicals, and before you know it, you are feeling more happy and positive.

Erase the Anxiety

Flowers in the workplace can also have a calming effect. They have been shown to decrease anxiety, negativity and depression and to promote calmness, happiness and goodwill toward others. As a bonus, they also may improve memory. This way, you will not be as likely to forget your passwords, what report you were supposed to hand in, and when the next office meeting is, thereby decreasing stress.

Promote Creativity

The productivity-boosting effects of flowers do not just stop there! They are also wonderful at promoting creativity. Those who worked with flowers in their office showed an increase in innovative thinking and new ideas. They also were much better at coming up with original solutions for thorny problems.

Feeling Comfortable

Finally, study participants said that flowers made their offices feel more comfortable. This is very important, because as everyone knows, when your workplace is more comfortable, your productivity tends to increase.

Flowers can help you be much more productive. They can improve your mood, lower your anxiety levels, help you think more creatively and swat away your morning blahs, and the benefits are long-lasting for a relatively low cost. They make most people happy. You cannot go wrong. If you need a place to find great flowers, I  recommend Flowers for EveryoneThey offer flower delivery in Sydney. They also have an excellent range of fresh flowers to choose from. So the next time you have a bad case of the blahs, or if your stress is climbing steadily through the roof, think of setting aside a few minutes to order a vase of flowers, either for yourself or a co-worker.