Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Redundancy


For years I didn't have the time or inclination to treat myself, I didn't feel overly great about the way I looked and this put me off buying clothes. Of course as we were living in our own home, we didn't really have the expandable income to just buy things willy nilly, and for those years Leo was the only one who really befitted from any lovely new clothes. That was because Leo needed new items, he was a growing boy, and as fast as I could kit him out for the one size, he was moving on up into the next one! Leo is turning 4 years old in 2 months time, and I have been buying age 4-5 for the last few months now, just so that he can get the maximum wear out of his wardrobe.


It just so happens that yesterday I was made redundant from my job, so now money is looking to be a little tighter again. With that being said though, it is always down to budgeting, and it just means that I need to be a little more refined with my spending, which these days seems to happen much more freely than back in the days where I didn't feel I could pull of anything I wore...  

Of course it's times like these that you see all the items that you would just LOVE to buy. It sods law, and it literally is as though someone is having a really good giggle at your expense. Trying to tempt you to purchase that gorgeous new dress, or those shoes that would go perfectly with that bag you already have at home... But you know that you need to save. You need to be a grown up and make sure all of those bills of yours are paid each month, because you don't really know what is going to happen over the coming months. When will you be back in work again? Will you be able to cover all of your bills until you get back on your feet?


It's times like these that you really think about what you would do with an extra £100, and right now I can think of so many different things, from necessities that I really should be focusing my full attention on to all of the shiny items that capture my attention without trying. However right now my main focus is on my little man's birthday. Leo has been promised a Nintendo Wii U for his upcoming fourth birthday, of course this was before my job was on the line. An extra £100 right now would work wonders towards making my little guy's birthday. Leo is Mario mad at the moment, so he is hoping for Mario Kart 8 to accompany the console, and Mummy is going to be cooking up a storm in the kitchen baking a Super Mario Kart Birthday Cake!

I may have to have a look into the TSB Plus Account!


For now I am applying for jobs and deciding what I want to do with myself. I left my position yesterday after finding out that my job was now redundant, as I felt that I would be in a better position to think the situation and make the changes that need making from home. I feel like I have had a productive day, and I have even looked into the possibility of returning to college. One thing is for sure, I certainly have some decisions to make over the coming weeks.

What would you do with £100 extra this month?


Disclaimer: This is a featured post.

The Birmingham Baby Show


When I found out I was pregnant back in November 2010, it was a scarily exciting time all wrapped into one. I had no idea what I was doing, or even a clue as to how to look after a newborn baby. In May 2010, a month before Leo made his appearance into the world. I visited the Birmingham Baby Show with my 8 month bump wallowing out before me, but at The Baby Show this is a common sight. Pregnant ladies and newborn babies everywhere you turn.

Walking through into the show is always exciting, there is always an abundance of positive energy and excitement as everyone wanders in ready to shop until they drop! I find that the Baby Show is the perfect place to find all of your favourite brands all under one roof, it is the most efficient way to get everything you need for your baby’s arrival and take advantage of special show prices.

The show is full to bursting with first time Mum's to Mum's with 2 or more, everyone is out in force to see what is on offer to them. If their visits were anything like mine, then I am sure they were not disappointed.

The best bit of the baby show for me, is meeting the people behind the brands, being able to talk face to face with someone who holds all the answers to your questions. It is great that they will offer you all the advice in the world and still not expect to make a sale. For me this is what it is all about, gaining a confidence in the brand and the product that you are investing your hard earned pennies in, for your bundle of joy. It's only natural to want the very best.

The Baby Show opens up baby products like no where else does. If you want to see a certain pushchair that isn't usually stocked in the likes of Mothercare, then you can do that! You can have a side by side comparison, you can sit your baby in the helm and take it for a spin. 

You will quite simply not find a bigger collection of the pushchairs on the market anywhere other than the Baby Show, so my advice is if you are looking to buy a pushchair and you know that the one you are after isn’t stocked anywhere locally to you, head to the show. You will be able to have a proper play with it and also other models that people recommend. Not to mention having the brand right by your side to speak to directly about any of there products.



Why not stay over?

The show goes on for from Friday 15th May 2015 right over the weekend and comes to a close on Sunday 17th May 2015. If you are going to be kitting the nursery out at the show, it really is easy to watch time run away without a trace. It is so easy to spend hours walking around and talking to people, so it may be advisable to stay overnight and maybe visit again on the second day. I especially advise this on the Saturday through to the Sunday, as you find that there are some extra special deals floating around at the end of play on the final day! 

If you are thinking of heading over to the Birmingham Baby Show, then there are some great places to stay within the vicinity of the show. The Crowne Plaza Hotel is only a stones throw from the NEC and makes a very attractive base for while you visit the show, which will be even more attractive when it comes to lugging your Baby Show haul back to the hotel!

This will be the first year that I haven't attended The Baby Show, but with Leo just about to turn 4 years old, we are a little to 'over the hill', but that does not change just how amazing the show is, and when the time comes to add another little person to our family, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be in attendance!

I hope everyone going along has a lovely time, and grabs some great bargains!

Disclaimer: This Post was written in collaboration with IHG.






How wearables could revolutionise online banking

Wearables have, until recently, been associated mainly with getting in shape: pedometers, calorie counters, and other methods to help you monitor your health.


Wearable fitness band (image courtesy of Griffin Technology via Flickr)

But in recent years, this area of technology has seen major developments not only in terms of personal fitness goals, but as a practical addition to the modern lifestyle. They are no longer simple wristbands or tiny devices to clip on your clothing: in essence, wearables are shaping up to be the next step up from a smartphone, but we’re going to expect them to go beyond smartphone functions.

The rise of the smartwatch
According to the Wearables Report, the global wearables market will increase at a compound annual rate of 35% over the next five years. And it should come as no surprise that the smartwatch will be the leading product category, thanks to the Apple Watch. 






























The Apple Watch (image courtesy of Ryan Ozawa via Flickr)

However, even with this steady expansion within the market and all the hype surrounding the Watch’s release, there are mixed feelings about wearables: while 40% of consumers surveyed in the UK want to buy a smartwatch, 35% said they would feel embarrassed or self-conscious about wearing one. In order to overcome these reservations, wearable tech needs to significantly improve the quality of life of the wearer.

Wearables could change our way of life
With this whole mobile revolution, one of the key features that’s being marketed is its convenience: everything you’d normally head to a computer or laptop to do, you can easily complete on your smartphone with a few simple taps. And in the case of wearable technology, everything you need is already strapped on to your body. As Otabek Saydikaharov, Business Analyst with Misys Financial Software, says in a recent article: ‘For wearables to be adopted, they should deliver a value proposition which mobiles cannot.’ Smartwatches, wristbands and other wearables eliminate the customer’s irritation with having to dig for their phone in their bag or pocket, and provide a smooth transition to productivity.

Banking revolutionised
Mobile banking should be preparing to take advantage of this wearable craze, as it could enhance the user experience and strengthen ties with customers. Surveys have shown that consumers are checking their accounts via mobile banking with increasing regularity, and wearable banking could make this even easier.

Wearables also have the power to reverse the common that mobile banking is less safe than internet banking: with Halifax trialling technology that uses the heart beat as an identification device, wearable banking could actually be the safest option of all. 


Card machine with Google Wallet capabilities (image courtesy of denebola2025 via Flickr)

Another feature of wearables that banks could capitalise on is easy payments – the ability to purchase using only your mobile device. With Apple Pay, Google Wallet and soon-to-come Samsung Pay, customers can make contactless, hassle-free payments with a simple wave of their smartwatch, enabling a seamless, quick shopping experience.

Better relations, better results
Wearables are poised to completely change the mobile banking game, if banks wise up and invest in the proper technology. We might even see an improvement in customer relations if they use the mobility as an asset: for example, Oscar Health Insurance paired up with wearable fitness device company Misfit to reward healthy customers with gift vouchers. If banks adopted a similar technique, general attitudes toward their company will improve.

Whether you like them or not, wearables are here to stay. They’ll revamp and restructure our attitudes towards what we can accomplish with technology – and banks should position themselves to take advantage of its success.

 Disclaimer: This is a Featured Post

Bingo Through The Ages


 photo Bingo_1.jpg

Disclaimer: This is a Featured Post

Friday, 24 April 2015

The Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide Review


Monday was your typical day, Leo had attended nursery in the morning. I had spent the day at work. After work I  completed my week 11 leg resistance training as per the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide, before heading off to the gym. The evening continued much as the day had, it was all perfectly normal.

I left the gym and arrived back home, when all of a sudden my phone lights up. I open it up and read: ‘Kayla Itsines has mentioned you on Instagram’. My heart started to beat a little faster, had she really!? Had the lady herself shared my progress!?

Of course I had to have a peek straight away, and sure enough on Kayla Itsines Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds… Was me!



When I started following the guide 11 weeks ago I wanted to put my all into it, I wanted to see results. I needed to see results. I had never been ‘fit’ before. Yes back in the day I was slim and happily fit into a size 8 but I had never been healthy. I ate rubbish on a daily basis and just hoped and prayed I would get away with it, and for years I did.

I knew it wouldn’t last, and I knew that the weight was creeping on way before I had Leo. My answer? Sucking it in and wearing belts to push it in. It used to work a treat and until more weight piled on, I got away with it. You see I wasn’t bigger because I had a baby. I was bigger because of my un-healthy lifestyle.


I dreamed of losing the weight, of having a tummy I could be proud of, of wearing shorts without my thighs clapping together like an audience applauding. I dreamed of being able to wear a bikini and feel confident, of losing that double chin. I had so many hopes and dreams but it seemed impossible, un-realistic and stupid. How was I going to achieve any of that? I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, no confidence to make that initial trip to the gym because I had no clue how to use any of the equipment…I had no idea about any of it, where did I start losing weight? What should I eat? How should I train? What trained what? I felt like I was a lost cause, and that I was just going to have to accept that this was now who I was.


 Until June last year that’s exactly what I did. I ate takeaways on a weekly basis and chocolate on a daily basis. My sides ballooned out, my tummy touched my thighs when I sat down and my chin wobbled when I jiggled my head. I was far from happy about how I looked. At 9 Stone 11 I was far from over weight, in fact my BMI was ideal and I was disappointed to discover that Weight Watchers and Slimming World wouldn’t help me lose any of the weight. I actually felt like I would be laughed out of the establishment had I dared go along, and all I really wanted was a push in the right direction and the support of  group of people wanting to achieve the same goals.

I decided to do it myself, I was the most determined I had ever been in my life. I had started many diets that had been forgotten about as quickly as they had begun, but this time was different. Week by week my determination grew stronger as  the weight came away. Month by month I re-discovered ‘Me’ again.

Then after losing pretty much all of the weight bar a few pounds, I discovered Kayla and the BBG Girls (Bikini Body Guide Girls!). I watched Kayla sharing these inspirational  women who had completely changed their bodies. I was in awe and I was inspired. Once upon a time I would have seen these girls and not appreciated the time and hard work they had put into turning their entire lifestyle upside down, but now I got it. These girls were AMAZING, they were inspirational and I was going to do it to. I WAS going to do it!

I found the support I was craving with the BBG Girls, and the sense of community ploughed me through the first 11 weeks. I was feeling fitter and stronger than I ever had in my life, and people were noticing the changes I was making. My body was changing and people could see it.

Even I, my own biggest critic could see it!


 Little did I know that 11 weeks later I was going to be featured on Kayla’s page, people were going to look to me in the same way I had looked to them. The funny thing is I never in a million years expected that to happen. Yes I was pleased with my results, but I couldn’t believe that Kayla had even seen them among the sea of other inspirational ladies making their own incredible transformations. The comments were surreal and it was hard to believe that they were talking about little old me, and now there are over 40,000 likes on that photo. The whole thing has just blown my mind.

Following my feature on Kayla's Social Media Channels I have been asked so many questions. So I decided to put together the below Q&A to answer all of the questions. I am no fitness guru, everything I know is down to Kayla and my own trial and error as I have progressed, and who knows I may actually be doing it all wrong, but something is working.


So here it is, my very first Q&A.

About me

How Old are you?
I am 25 years old.

How much do you weigh?
I currently weigh in at 7 stone 12lbs. 
This goes up and down. I usually weigh in at around 8 stone.

How tall are you?
I am 5 foot 5 inches tall.

Food and Diet 

Do you follow Kayla’s HELP Guide?
I follow the basis of the HELP guide, but I don't follow it religiously. I eat as clean as I can and incorporate all of the foods that are within the guide, but I don't follow it meal by meal. 

Did you have to maintain a strict diet to get results?
Now this is a question that would vary on who you ask! 

I wouldn't say it's a strict diet but I guess in reality it probably is. I can't remember the last time I ate chips, drank pop or over indulged in chocolate! I do count my calories, and I do watch what I eat. I do believe that you are what you eat, and as I want to see results I have been pretty set on doing everything I can to get those results. 

What kind of things would you eat on an average day?
On an average day this is a common line up.

Breakfast: A fruit smoothie in my Nutribullet or a bowl of porridge with my favourite fruit.


Lunch: I am a big fan of omelette right now. They are quick easy and filling. They are such a versatile food and you can put so many different toppings with them. Aside from omelette I also LOVE Dark Rye Crackers with low fat Philadelphia Cheese and salad. Throw in some Jalapenos and you have one of my favourite lunches! 


Dinner: Dinner is my favourite meal of the day, and I have found myself getting more adventurous as the weeks have gone on. 

Courgette Pizza, Chicken Stir Fry, Spinach Crepes, Omelette, Quinoa and Lentil Burgers, Pesto Chicken, Pesto Pasta and Chicken Salad. There are so many tasty combinations and recipe ideas out there, I am always finding new things to try and experimenting!

  
What snacks do you eat?
I LOVE my snacks! I have a snack mid morning following breakfast. It ranges from a piece of fruit such as a Banana or some Blueberries, to a Nakd Bakewell Bar (My absolute favourite!) which I would usually have alongside a protein shake, home made treats such as Cookie Dough (which is actually made out of Chickpeas!), Home made fruit crumble, Almonds or even a fruit smoothie!

I eat a second snack in the afternoon which again could be anything as listed above! I am a firm believer in giving your body what it needs, and I enjoy my food!


Do you eat much fruit?
I do eat a lot of fruit, so much more than I used to. I eat fruit on a daily basis, in my morning smoothie, or in my porridge. I eat fruit as snacks during the day and have been known to devour a punnet of Grapes or Blueberries! I do try and keep it in moderation, but fruit to me now is like popping sweets! 

How many calories do you eat?
I eat a minimum of 1,200 a day, it varies on a day to day basis. Sometimes I eat a lot more than that.

Did you cut out cheat meals completely?
 The last cheat meals I really ate were back in December. Over Christmas I managed to put on 6lbs and I was eating and drinking pretty much anything that I fancied. I was eating out way to much and this was probably the last tie I ate chips! I have however been out recently and indulged in a big pizza all to myself, and then followed that up with deep fried Brie Wedges! I ate the LOT! That was a few weeks ago now, so cheat meals do happen, but I do try to behave for the rest of the time!

Exercise

Do you do anything else alongside the BBG?
I go to the gym on top of the Bikini Body Guide on a daily basis. I complete the resistance training as per the guide at home and then head to the gym where I then add in weight training to that days particular agenda. 

Do you do cardio or only weights?
I do both, I follow the guide religiously. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are resistance training, and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are LISS (Low Intensity Steady State), or cardio days. 

Did you find it hard at the beginning?
When I started the BBG I was 8 months into my weight loss journey. So I was already in a habit of watching what I ate and going to the gym. It was more a case of polishing up what I was already doing. Of course I have days where I completely fall off the wagon, days where I want to eat all the food in sight and then some! There are always going to be harder days than others, but I want my results more than I want the chocolate!

How much do you exercise?
I exercise 6 days a week. Sunday is my designated day off. However if for any reason I cannot make LISS on the Saturday, I switch it to Sunday.

When did you notice your body changing?
I noticed changes by week 3, my body lost some of the chub and I saw the start of my baby abs. I feel like I may have accelerated the process by having lost a lot of my weight before starting the guide. Everyone is different, so even if you aren't seeing the changes as quickly as you might hope, it doesn't mean that they aren't happening! Trust the process and keep working hard!



Disclaimer: I purchased the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide and all views and opinions expressed in this post are completely honest and my own.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

How to Make a Courgette Pizza


I never used to be such a foodie, in the past I was happiest when I could grab a jar of something tasty and conveniently throw in my chicken and veg. It was always about the convenience factor, but now it is a very rare occasion that I reach for a jar of anything. I am all about throwing in a few choice purees, honey and spices to see what I come up with, of course there are days when it doesn’t go to plan, but for the most part I am really loving everything that I cook up in the kitchen. Everything is an experiment, and I am loving the idea of trying to make meals I used to love and relish, a healthy alternative.

This weekend was a bit of a learning curve, Saturday night consisted of Quinoa and Lentil Burger in a malt bun with Polenta Fries, and Sunday was Courgette Base Pizza and Polenta Fries (I have missed the idea of fries recently, so this is perfectly ok!). Now both of these options may sound crazy and anything but appetising, but the finished meals looked and tasted rather amazing! In fact… I would say they look as good (If not better) than the ‘real thing!?’.

I have been posting many of these creations onto my Instagram account, and many of you want to know how I am creating these meals. I have to be completely honest, I am not coming up with these ideas all on my own. I have taken great inspiration from Deliciously Ella, who is actually a complete magician in my opinion, but recently I have been adding some twists into some of her recipes. The Courgette Pizza was actually a complete fluke. I didn’t know if it was going to work or not, I didn't know if it was going to taste appetising at all for that matter.

Armed with my Nutribullet, a Courgette, Bramley Apple Sauce (YES REALLY!) Soy Sauce, Buckwheat Flour. I was ready to attempt my Courgette Pizza Base. I use the below recipe to make two pizza bases, but you could just as easily do one big base, Luke and I usually have different toppings on our pizza’s, so for us it works better to have a smaller pizza each, not to mention it halves the calories!


What you will need:
Food Processor
A Pizza Pan greased with oil and Buckwheat Flour
Mixing Bowl

Recipe
1 Courgette
Handful of Basil
1/4 of a cup of Bramley Apple Sauce
3 tablespoons of Soy Sauce
1 Lemon cut in half
1 and a half cups of Buckwheat Flour



Method
- First you will need to blend the Courgette and Basil up, I use my Nutribullet for this. Once this is completely blended together pour it into a mixing bowl.

-Pour ¼ of a cup of Bramley Apple Sauce into the cup, and then add it into your mixing bowl to mix with the Courgette and Basil.

-Now add in 3 tablespoons of Soy Sauce, (or a few more if you want some more flavour going on) and squeeze the lemon half’s into the mix.

-Add in your 1 and a half cups of Buckwheat Flour to the mix. This should give it a more dough like consistency.

-Now spoon your dough onto the Pizza Pan. As I use a Pizza Pan I always place a piece of baking parchment underneath the try to stop the dough leaking through the holes into the oven. The dough is runny until it starts to bake, and I find that cooking the base for 10 minutes and then flipping it gives it enough time to cook completely.

-Bake both of your Courgette Pizza Bases in the oven for about 20 minutes on 200C. Once the bases are firm and a little crisp, you can take them out and top them with whatever you want.

Of course now you need to top it, I always add Passatta as my pizza sauce, it’s tasty and low in calories. I HAVE to throw some Mozzarella on top, I only put about 30g, and that seems to satisfy my cheese cravings that are hard to avoid with Pizza! I Also throw on Basil, Coriander Pepperoni and Mushroom. You really can put whatever you like on it.


Cheat Polenta Fries

Of course if you want the real Pizza experience, you are going to need some fries to accompany it! I cooked up some Polenta Fries to go with our Courgette Pizza. I couldn’t find the maize to cook it up completely from scratch. All Tesco’s srocked was the readymade Polenta which I had to make do with. It comes in a 500g pack, and all you have to do is cut the Polenta into chip like shapes and place them on a baking tray. Once on the baking tray you can throw on:

-Salt
-Pepper
-Paprika
-Parmesan Cheese


Put them in the oven with your Pizza for 20 minutes, turning the fries over half way through so that they are crisp on both sides. You could even add a few more of the above flavourings in that time!


That’s a tasty and nutritious Pizza and Chips meal that weighs in at 734.25 calories (less if you can sacrifice Mozzarella and Pepperoni!).

This may well be my new favourite meal combination!


Monday, 20 April 2015

Eat Clean with Virgin Coconut Oil


I have always had a healthy appetite for food, I have never been fussy and will always give everything a try, even if it is just the once. If you don't try it, how will you know whether or not you like it? Although my love for food has been great, my education into why certain foods are better for our bodies than others was not so great. 


Of course until I noticed the lbs starting to creep on in recent years, I didn't care. Even the lbs catching up with me wasn't enough to put me off ordering that high calorie pizza, or chowing down on that cheeky mid week curry. Of course there is always something, or someone for that matter who can snap you out of that. For me it was being told 'Your getting fatter by the day'. It may have been said in the spur of the moment, it may have not been said in malice. But it was still said, and I knew it to be true. Those words didn't upset me, didn't make me angry. They lit a fire in the very pit of my stomach to make a change. And make a change I did.


That very next day I put myself on the track to the lifestyle I now lead. I eat clean and prepare all of my own meals. If you could have seen me this time last year, my diet in comparison doesn't share a resemblance. I cannot remember the last time I drank a can of Coke, or sat and indulged in a larger than life Cadbury's Chocolate Bar. A year ago that would have been on a daily basis, those luxury items were just part and parcel of my everyday life. I would get into work and pop open my first can of pop for that day. These days? Well I'm all about the Green Tea and my sugar fix is adding a drizzle of honey! My mid morning snack use to mean a stroll to the works vending machine and tucking into a morning chocolate bar. Now I am more than happy with a Clementine or a handful of Almonds. 


This year has been such a big learning curve for me, a really important one that has made me reassess everything I eat. I didn't use to care what I put in my body, but now I want it to benefit my body and my training as well as satisfy my taste buds. I have really surprised myself on so many levels of late, and although my weekly shopping bill seems to increase thanks to the additional ingredients I need for my cooking, I am loving what I am eating so much more, and for that matter so is my body. 

When it comes to cooking, I have cast aside the low calorie sprays that I was swearing by, and in it's place I added in Coconut Oil. You can use Coconut Oil as you would any other oil when it comes to cooking and baking, but I find it so much more resilient. I use it to fry my chicken breasts, I throw it into my Nutriblast Smoothies and I even stir it into my morning porridge. Of course at the moment Coconut Oil is really making the news with it's miracle weight loss prophecies. A study recently looked at how the inclusion of virgin coconut oil in the diet affects metabolism, it was discovered that the oil appears to have an ability to change the way fats are handled by the body. 


It was found that when the virgin coconut oil is consumed, fat levels in the body tissues decreased, as did the amount of of specific enzymes involved in the conversion of sugars to fat in comparison to when Olive Oil, Sunflower Oil, or even basic Coconut Oil was used. 

Now although I really enjoy using Coconut Oil (Coconoil) in my cooking and baking, it is not for the weightloss benefits. I just find it a such a versatile product, and it is something that comes up in many of the recipes that I enjoy to cook with. 

Just this evening I cooked these little beauties up: Coconut Macaroons. So simple yet incredibly tasty and you won't believe just how little ingredients go into them!


- 1 Tablespoon of Coconut Oil
- A few drizzles of Honey
- 1 Cup of Desiccated Coconut  

- Put the Coconut Oil and Honey into a pan. Melt them together and add in the Desiccated Coconut. 

- Take an egg cup and spoon the mixture into the egg cup. Empty the egg cup onto a prepared baking tray before cooking in the oven for 20 minutes at 160C.


Disclaimer: I was sent a pot of Coconoil in exchange for my honest views and opinions in this post.