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!


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

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

- 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:

-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.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Still Finding Me

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you will know that I have become somewhat of a health freak. In my mission to lose the chub I have become rather goal orientated, I have a new love for healthy foods, and I have even found that I am eating so many different foods that have been specifically intended for Vegan’s. Now although I will never be Vegan, as I love all food way too much, they do have some amazing food’s and recipe ideas that just work so well. Of course I add my own twists and usually always add meat!

I have been using my Nutribullet every day without fail, mixing up a selection of healthy nutritious fruit smoothies and protein shakes. I find these a great breakfast addition, as one of my week points before was never making time for breakfast. I used to be out of the door, usually running late and I would almost always never make time to prepare something, and this would always result in me paying a visit to the vending machine in the work canteen!

I have been consuming a high protein diet in recent months, and I have found a great way of getting a source of additional protein is by adding 1 scoop of Monkey Nutrition Primal 26. Primal 26 is a high quality Whey Protein that supports rapid muscle growth and is also fat free, sugar free, cholestral free and gluten free! This tastes delicious added in to a fruit smoothie, or even just blended up with some Coconut or Almond Milk. I love adding this to my breakfast smoothie as it keeps me going all morning and it beats a morning cup of tea ten fold! With the training I have been working on in recent weeks, this protein has been a great addition. 

10 weeks ago I purchased Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide, for those of you who haven’t heard of Kayla or the guide before I will explain a little further. Kayla is a personal trainer who lives in Australia. She has developed two separate eBooks, Bikini Body Guide 1.0 and Bikini Body Guide 2.0. I purchased the first guide back in February and it is made up of two eBooks that ultimately form the first Bikini Body Guide.
The 2 guides consist of a 12 week work out plan and a food nutrition plan (H.E.L.P) that is jam packed full of tasty recipe ideas, and tells you all of the great foods to eat to really help showcase the results you put in from your exercising efforts. You buy the guides directly from Kayla’s website and you will then receive an email enclosing your ebooks  in PDF format. It’s advisable to download these to your computer as soon as you can, as the email attachments will only work for a limited time to prevent you from forwarding them on to anyone else. What I loved straight away about the ebooks is that I can use them on the computer, and I can use them from my iPhone.

I wanted to take this seriously as after working so hard over the past 9 months I really wanted to take my training up a notch. What I adore about these guides is that the hard work of the plan detailing is done for you. I have been going to the gym since July 2014, and yes I have lost weight, but I hadn’t seen much change in terms of muscles coming into their own. After 10 weeks of following these guides, incorporating the food into my daily life and primarily only eating good wholesome meals, doing as Kayla’s guides advise with my exercise routines and lifting weights at the gym, I have come a long way in the 10 weeks I have been doing it. I can feel it, and I can SEE it!

The workout guide is easy to follow and is broken down as above. You have 3 days of resistance training and 3 days of LISS (Low intensity steady state) which is essentially a 35-45 minute walk, cross trainer or treadmill session. I try and push it to 50 minutes by breaking it into two 25 minute segments because I get so warm! If there is one thing Kayla does, it’s work you, and work you hard she will! It kind of explains the #DeathByKayla hashtag that you may see floating around on Twitter and Instagram! 

Last week I was completely caught off guard, Kayla herself actually shared a photo of my progress so far over her social media channels. The response was incredible, by the evening my photo had received over 30,000 likes, and it was all very surreal. Of course there was a mixture of comments, good and bad. But I was so happy to be recognised for the work I had put in, and by the very lady herself!

The sports bra I am wearing in the second photo is one of my favourites, it's the Shock Absorber Active Zipped Plunge Bra, and I have been using it alongside my training for the past few weeks. It's comfortable and supportive and looks really great.
Not only does it look the part but also boasts:
- Secure full-length front-opening zip for easy on and off with safety hook for added reassurance.
- Wide inner panel underneath the zip to prevent skin contact and chafing.
- Plunging neckline gives an ultra feminine look.
- Racer back design which is great for floor work.
- Made from moisture-wicking, breathable, sports performance fabrics

The Shock Absorber Active Zipped Plunge Bra can be purchased from Figleaves for £25.00.
I am at the gym on a daily basis, be it for weights or a cardio session on the cross trainer or rower. I get through a lot of gym gear, I need a sports bra on a daily basis, shorts or capri’s and a workout top. It’s safe to say I have a lot of sports washing on my hands, and my gym collection has grown somewhat in recent months. I have recently been sent a pair of rather gorgeous Helly Hanson Wicked Pace R2 Running Shoes. I love everything about how they look to how they feel on my feet. When the weather has been fair and dry, I have on occasion been running to the gym, and I have surprised myself with my stamina. Once upon a time I couldn’t have run very far at all, but I can, when I put my mind to it and concentrate on going at a steady pace… Go quite a distance! Of course to be able to do that I need the right footwear, and I haven’t put a foot out of place in choosing these beauties for my running purposes. 

The Wicked Pace R2 have been designed for the main objective of providing a responsive running experience, they boast maximum midfoot stability and breathability set to a 5mm midsole drop. I have found them lightweight to wear, which for me is an essential feature in a pair of training shoes, and they are well cushioned which makes them a joy to wear. The netted sections on the trainer are fantastic and really help to keep your feet cool, which now summer is making an appearance is a very welcome addition. The Helly Hanson Wicked Pace R2 Running Shoes retail at £90.00.
 Of course alongside eating 3 meals a day I still indulge in snacks. How can I not? Where possible I have been taking inspiration from Deliciously Ella, a health food blogger who is a complete inspiration to me! Following her fabulous smart phone app has allowed me to cook up a storm at home, and even a very tasty healthy Banana Crumble!
When I don't have time to cook my own snacks up I have been really impressed with Bounce Energy Balls. Bounce Energy Balls are a great little snack to indulge in between meals to boost your energy levels, which of course makes them a great pre-workout treat, or even to replenish your protein after a gym session. They come in a great selection of flavours and I haven't yet tried one I don't like, and for someone like me who has a rather sweet tooth, these really do hit the spot! I don't even find myself craving chocolate these days (She says!), and if I do the Cacao and Mint Bounce Ball is a satisfying alternative!
Not to mention Bounce Energy Balls are also:
- Energising and Nutritious
- Tasty and convenient
- Filling and satisfying
- Packed with good nutrients
- Gluten free

Very recently I have had the pleasure of trying out CLIF Bar, America's favourite energy bar which is now available in the UK! It's designed to give you the boost you need for an active lifestyle. It combines wholesome and tasty ingredients such as organic rolled oats and Dates all wrapped up in a delicious bar, that is ready when you are. CLIF Bar is a great source of protein, fibre and contains 11 vitamins including B6 and B12 which help contribute to the normal release of energy for use in the body.
There's an impressive flavour selection from Blueberry Crisp, Chocolate Chip, White Chocolate Macadamia Nut and Crunchy Peanut Butter, each equally as delicious! CLIF have very recently launched some new products to their line which are great to enjoy before training for added energy. The new SHOT BLOKS have been developed for increased athletic performance whenever and wherever you might need it. They are small enough to be popped into your pocket until the very moment it is required, and are available in four tasty flavours: Mountain Berry, Strawberry, Tropical Punch and Black Cherry.
Another new product to their line up is the CLIF SHOT GEL which again is great to have on your person for a moment where your energy could do with a quick boost. There are four great flavours available: Chocolate, Razz, Citrus and Double Espresso.

You can catch up on my fitness journey so far below:

Hello New Me - Week 1
A Healthier Me - 6 Weeks In
A Healthier Me - 9 Weeks In
A Healthier Me - 14 Weeks In
The Upbeat Blogger Challenge 
Finding Me

Disclaimer: I have been sent a selection of the products featured in this post if not described as 'purchased' within. All views and opinions are completely honest and my own.

The Imminent School Days

4 years ago I was pregnant. I was expecting a bouncing baby boy, and the weeks were flying by as I busied myself with everything I had to buy for the arrival of my teeny tiny newborn. Time was a blur, but I told myself that once he was here, I would have chance to catch my breath and the whirlwind in which I was circling around in would relent and time would stand still.
Of course Leo arrived and time did everything but slow down. Week by week he grew, he started to smile, laugh and become his own little person. He captured my heart and became my very reason for living. I dedicated all that I am to my mischievous and beautiful boy, and as the weeks turned into months, and the months turned into years, the time never did relent.
Leo started nursery and slowly but surely settled in, we encountered hurdles along the way but together we over came everything that tried to stop us in our tracks. We spent days together enjoying all that we were, he had become my right arm and my very best friend. The months continued to fly by and before I knew it I had a 3 year old on my hands. An actual 3 year old who was now more a pre-schooler than a toddler, and those baby days and night feeds were now just a distant memory.
Suddenly the time had come to start thinking about SCHOOLS! Yes schools! Somehow that little boy I had cradled in my arms, lay on my chest and burped on my lap was at the age I needed to relinquish him to outside teaching and experiences that I couldn't always be a part of. 
I knew exactly where I wanted Leo to go, and as the nursery he attends is based in the school grounds, I was determined that he would be attending. It's a beautiful village school and having been there myself back in the day, and having some of the very same teachers still teaching there that taught me, I knew many years ago where I wanted him to take those very first steps into education.
Of course when these applications went in, September 2015 still seemed to be so far away, a sun blazing on the very tip of the horizon, and not an imminent sunrise about to fire into the sky. But here we are in April, 4 and a bit months away to when my newly 4 year old will be starting his very first day in Reception at First School.
Last night at midnight I sat there refreshing the applications page, impatiently waiting to see if Leo had been offered a place at our school of choice. Midnight arrived and suddenly there was confirmation that Leo had indeed been granted a place at school for this coming September. It was all really happening.
I have such mixed feelings about Leo starting school, part of my thinks that it is going to do him the world of good, and the other half thinks that he is still so young and that he really will be one of the youngest in his year. Being a June baby he is at the younger end of the year, and even now there is a big difference between his over all appearance to some of the older children that are nearing the age of 5. Then I shake myself and realise that he is going to be absolutely fine, he's resilient and strong. Nothing is going to stop him or hold him back. I won't let it.
My biggest fear is handing over my baby boy on that very first day. Watching him walk into the classroom in his school uniform and leaving him in a class of 30 children, because once that has happened everything is going to change forever. What if someone is mean to him? What if he falls and needs me? What if he doesn't like it? What if he is bullied? What if he falls behind? There are so many 'what if's' buzzing around my head...
Once Leo has started school, he is going to grow up so quickly. He will learn new words, new meanings, life lessons. He will have outside influences that were never there before, he will grow up ten fold in a few short weeks. He will learn amazing things and some not so amazing things, and the next four years are going to be completely different to our first. It will never be the same... ever again. No longer will we have our exclusive Mummy and Leo time, days spent in the park and strolling around the town just the two of us, sipping Costa's by the river.
He will be at school.
These last 4 years have just completely flown. They have been the most amazing, exhilarating and emotional years of my life. Leo has learnt and grown so much, and I really do have to accept that my baby boy has grown up into a beautiful and kind little boy, and he is going to achieve so many amazing things over the coming years. It has been a learning curve for both Leo and I, because just as much as he has been learning about the ways of the world, I have had to learn about him, and being a Mum! I have made mistakes and I am by no means perfect, but when I look at Leo and his smiling Blue eyes, I know I got something right. I got him right.
In September I will be placing my trust in the hands of his teacher, I will be watching him take a step back from me and a step towards her. I myself will be taking a reluctant step back as he grows up a little bit more right in front of my eyes, and accepting that time will never slow down. It will only hurtle on, and our worlds are going to change forever.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

An Introduction to the Theradome LH80 Laser Helmet

We all have our insecurities, we are only human after all. There is always going to be something that we aren't happy with, be it our weight or even our shoe size. Some things are just completely out of our control and we just have to accept them as being part of who we are. A quirk, a blemish, a flaw in the make up that makes you, you and me, me. If we were all perfect, the world would be a very boring place to be don't you think?

You will have virtually met my other half Luke over the years, as he has popped up here and there on this here blog. This blog post is actually all about him. Luke has given me the go ahead to talk to you today about his personal insecurity. It is something that he has tried to brush under the carpet for years, but truth be told it's something that he is actually quite self conscious about, and that is his thinning hair.

If I was to cast my mind back, I personally cannot put my finger on when Luke's hair started to thin. In fact it wasn't something that I noticed, it was only when Luke presented a older photo alongside a more recent one that I really saw the difference. Of course Luke was very aware as to what was happening, especially when he noticed that his hair would come out in clumps as he washed it, or even ran his fingers through it. It was a sore subject for Luke, but it just seemed to be something that was going to happen regardless, and there didn't seem to be anything he could do aside from getting on with it and trying to accept that it was just part and parcel of getting older.

You could say that Leo and I have subsequently helped Daddy pull his hair out over the years (Some may say literally!). We don't really know what has caused Luke's hair to thin and fall out over recent years, stress? Age? Something else? Having seen Luke going through this though, having seen him looking into the cost of hair transplants, I did wonder if there was anything at all that could be done to help him. If he was over weight he would be able to diet and lose a few lbs, if he had a cough he could get some medicine, so there must be something to help him?

A few weeks back I had a very interesting email land in my inbox, and as I read through it I became a little excited. There was an opportunity that would just be PERFECT for Luke. Theradome the makers of the LH80 Laser Helmet that specialises in the promotion of hair growth and reduction of hair loss were looking for testers. The device is suitable for both men and women and can be used in the comfort of your very own home, and each treatment cycle consists of only 20 minutes per sitting.

I sent in some shots of Luke's hair to demonstrate it's current condition and awaited to hear whether he would be a suitable candidate. When it was confirmed that Luke would be the perfect candidate I was so pleased, as it meant that I could actually help him, or at least try to. Having seen some of the results from reviews online, I feel optimistic that he will see results using the Theradome Helmet over time. 

Luke began using the helmet on the 7th April 2015, and for the first month he will be using it every other day. He has had around 5 or 6 treatments at this point, and we both know that we won't see any difference straight away. It is going to be a ongoing process that takes time, and over the next year we will be sharing with you his treatment and the progress that he makes. I have taken a number of photos and even video footage so that we can keep a real eye on any developments. 

The helmet is light to hold and comes equipped with velcro pads that can be popped inside to make it comfier to wear. Luke has been wearing the helmet in a evening when we sit down to watch some TV. It's the perfect time to do it as he can quite happily just sit down, relax and treat his hair at the same time without having to lift a finger.

Theradome is the only wearable clinical-strength laser treatment people can use at home, the treatment takes place over a course of 20 minutes where the helmet fires cool lasers at the scalp. The lasers target follicles and stimulate hair growth and development which is exactly what we are hoping it will do for Luke. As you can see from the photos he does have some apparent thinning, but if our expectations are confirmed, he may be able to benefit favorably from the Theradome Helmet. I expect it will be around 6 months before any real visual change is detected, but we have made a start.

It works by increasing the blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles in order to allow cellular repair, and stimulating the microcirculation for improving cellular metabolism and protein synthesis. It reduces the protein blocking enzymes so that it can promote hair thickness and density.

About The Theradome Helmet:

Promotes hair growth and benefits overall scalp health.

FDA approved for the treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia.

Features 80 lasers with a wavelength of 678nm.

- Lightweight, comfortable and completely hands free.

Unique shape to allow proper ventilation - generates very low heat.

Foam pads ensures a excellent fit for even the smallest head – One device for the entire family.

Employs voice technology for giving updates about the number of sessions and temperature.
Developed by former NASA biomedical engineer Tamim Hamid.

Hair loss can have a huge impact on a person's confidence, bigger than you would think. Luke really has looked into so many different avenues when it comes to this particular issue, but it is also something that he tries to shrug off, and to the rest of the world he will come across as though it doesn't bother him. Behind closed doors this is a different story, so I am really looking forward to pushing forward with the Theradome Helmet. For Luke to halt his hair loss, and help re-build hair growth, it would be like all of his Christmases had come at once, and I know that it would do wonders for his confidence.

I will be giving an update as to how Luke is getting on in August, but in the mean time you can keep in touch on Facebook and Twitter where we will be sharing further content.

The Theradome Helmet retails at £649 and can be ordered directly from the Theradome website.

You can find out more about Theradome over on their website, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels.

Disclaimer: We have received the Theradome Helmet in exchange for our honest views and experiences over the next 12 months.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Thomas Land Expansion is officially OPEN!

Last week we were invited along to a very special event, the grand opening of the brand new Thomas Land Expansion at Drayton Manor. Leo was thrilled when he discovered our plans to go along, we have visited Thomas Land quite a few times in recent years, and we have some fantastic memories of our time there. It was where Leo went on his first rides, his very first Roller Coaster at just turned 2 years old! That day was such great fun from start to finish, and my cheeks ached from simply laughing as much as I did.

With such fantastic memories of the old Thomas Land in my mind, I knew that we were going to have an amazing day and that this improvement was going to be superb. Drayton Manor’s Thomas Land is the only one in Europe, and after proving so popular with old and young alike (I actually love visiting!) the decision was made to extend Thomas Land by 40% and even introduce a selection of new rides. When Leo and I last visited in the Summer, we saw the plans for the extension and thought it was a great idea! I wasn't sure exactly what the extension entailed at this point, but the wait was almost over…

We arrived at Drayton Manor around 11am and rushed straight into Thomas Land, we were of course later than we had hoped and the Fat Controller was just about to commence the opening just as we arrived. We had made it, just in the nick of time! Catching my breath and taking in the new surroundings, we found ourselves in a sea of people looking up to the balcony of the new Sodor Airport. There on the balcony was the Fat Controller ready to get the opening into gear. You can see for yourselves how exciting this was, and even join in with the ‘PEEP PEEP’s!’.

Once all of the confetti had fallen from the sky and the new Thomas Land Expansion was officially open for business (Or should I say play!?), we were one of the first families to get to have a play in the park. Of course this was rather exciting for all of us, Leo was thrilled and quickly made his way over to Jeremy Jets Flying Academy. Jeremy Jets Flying Academy has been relocated from its original position in Thomas Land to right outside the new Sodor Airport.

The extension to Thomas Land is a really welcome addition, it provides more space for guests to spread out into, and it gives you even more to do and see on your trip to the park. As we walked around the newly improved Thomas Land, music began to play. Not just any music, but a brass band. As I scoped out where the music was coming from and we moved towards it, we came across the brand new band stand where on occasion there will be a brass band playing classic Thomas tunes. I loved this addition and it really gave off a lovely atmosphere. That’s exactly what I have found on each visit to the park, everyone is having a great time, and it’s hard not to enjoy yourself!

In total there are 3 brand new rides to experience, Captain’s Sea Adventure, this was a little bit too wet for me but you can see exactly what it is all about in the clip of our day! Flynn’s Fire and Rescue and finally Toby’s Tram Express.

Daddy and Leo had a great time on Flynn’s Fire and Rescue, which again was a little bit too wet for my liking, but the smiles on both of my boy’s faces from the ground was a rather special sight as they rotated around shooting the water to put out the fire.

Toby’s Tram Express was the ride that Leo was really excited to have a go on, unfortunately there were a few technical issues on the day but we look forward to going back and visiting again.

In addition to the new rides there are a number of other gems just waiting to be discovered. Sodor Airport is actually a CafĂ© and they serve a very tasty Caramel Cappuccino if you feel the need for a caffeine fix while visiting, and there was a lovely selection of snacks and cakes available. You can sit inside or outside, and for me this was a really welcome addition, and I made use of it when the boys were having their ride on Flynn’s Fire and Rescue.  Another welcome addition that I was really pleased to see is the new toilet block. Having Leo in tow I like to know where the nearest toilets are, and obviously with more choice it eliminates waiting time. The new toilet block is right inside the Thomas Land extension meaning that you don’t have to traipse from one part of the park to the other when your 3 year old suddenly announces ‘I need the toilet! And I need it NOW!’.

As soon as you walk into the Thomas Land Expansion Thomas fans will be amazed, the Fat Controller Statue is impressive all on its own, and there’s no way you’ll miss it as you make your way in. Of course you can’t forget all of the other amazing rides that are within Thomas Land, and Leo insisted on a ride on the Troublesome Trucks Roller coaster. This is by far his favourite ride in the entire of Drayton Manor, and he never tires of it. We discovered on this visit that the height restriction has now changed to 1.0m. Luckily my little man has just hit this grand old height and he got his ride on the roller coaster!

The grounds of Thomas Land are now 3,200 square metres bigger than before and you would be very surprised to know that rider capacity has now topped the charts by 23% and now accommodates 5,130 people an hour! The expansion has cost 2.5 million, but due to its consistent popularity with guests from all over Europe, they made the decision to expand the attraction in order to accommodate the increasing visitor numbers.

Thomas Land is one of mine and Leo’s favourite places to visit, and we were so lucky with the dry sunny weather, that we got to enjoy such a full, action packed day. When we last visited, Leo was still under the 1.0m height restriction meaning that he couldn’t go on the Ben 10 Roller coaster, on this occasion we were really excited to be able to take him on board. I did show him what it was like beforehand and he was convinced that he wanted to ride. As you will see from the video… This one wasn’t one of his favourite rides of the day!

Another ride that Leo just HAD to go on was the Haunted House, I did clarify with him beforehand but after watching Casper the other weekend, he wanted to go in a ‘Scary house’. So with Leo adamant and completely decided, we made our way inside. He handled the experience so well, and he was so brave. When a couple of older children got scared and began to scream and cry, he just stayed quiet and snuggled into me. Not once did he cry or scream, but boy did he talk about it after. He talked about it the entire hour ride home ‘Mummy, I went in the scary house! I saw a ghost!’. Then when he got home he told Granny all about it, and for the days following it was all he would talk about. He seemed so pleased with himself, even though he doesn't want to go back in next time!

It was another amazing day, with so many new memories to remember. It’s a great place to visit for us as we live a stone’s throw away, and we find it the perfect size for our family’s needs. We look forward to visiting again over the Summer, and I know that Leo will be just as excited when we do announce our next visit! 

You can enjoy a snippet of our day below! Leo's face on the Ben 10 Roller coaster was rather special!

Disclaimer: We were invited along to the Thomas Land Expansion Launch. All views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.