Trying out some exercise: Pilates

pilates

A couple of months ago, I realised recently that I haven’t done any exercise for ages, not since my eldest was born before I got pregnant with the second. Now that I’ve got one of them at nursery most of the time and the other doing a day here and there, my time is getting freed up a bit more, so I’m managing to fit in a bit more freelance work, so I thought I should probably take advantage of the spare time a bit more and squeeze in some exercise.

I joined a gym when I was a teenager, paid the 6 month fee up front, did the induction and never went again, so I knew straight away that wasn’t going to be an option for me. I would never get my money’s worth or be bothered to go. I was thinking about starting running, but I’m not one for getting too out of breath.

So I decided to have a look at what classes are running in my local area and was surprised to find there’s actually loads to do. I skipped straight past all the hard ones like spin classes and boot camp after hearing of the torture some of my friends have been through when attempting them and singled it down to a few different classes to try: Zumba, Pilates and aquarobics. I decided to do one class each week and see what I liked best, then make a commitment to sticking with one.

aquarobics

The first class I tried was aquarobics, and it took me all of ten minutes to realise that this was going to be a disaster. While I don’t mind swimming, there was quite a bit of splashing going on and my hair and face kept getting wet, which I really don’t like. I finished up the class, then packed my swimming costume away only to see the light of day when we finally get a holiday somewhere hot booked.

I went for Zumba next and actually quite enjoyed that. It was pretty fast moving and I had some difficulties in keeping up despite half the class being the same as me or older. I enjoyed getting moving to the music a bit, although my muscles ached like crazy the next day and I bet I looked like a tomato when I came out!

Zumba

And finally I found Pilates was the one for me. I turned up to a morning class that was run by a lovely lady who welcomed me in straight away, asking if I was a beginner (yes!), and got me set up with a mat and set of weights. There were only 9 of us altogether in the class, and there was quiet music playing throughout. It was relaxing and yet we did plenty of hard work too. I felt like all my muscles had been stretched and strengthened, but wasn’t uncomfortable at all. So I’ve been going back every week to the same morning class, and I can already feel myself getting stronger and more flexible, as well as making friends with the other ladies who go.

Images courtesy of U.S. Army, Scott Ableman and Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto.

Easter news

Easter weekend ended up being a lot easier than I thought – my sister’s simnel cake was amazing and went down so well with the kids (surprisingly!) and I didn’t have any issues with the lamb I made. In fact, it was pretty good if I might say so myself, especially the gravy. It’s definitely a recipe I’ll be doing again soon, it doesn’t need to be Easter to have lamb. The chocolate egg making didn’t go too badly, although it was just as much of a mess as I expected so I think we’ll wait for the boys to be a bit older before letting them at melted chocolate again!

My sister actually managed to surprise me with some exciting news, it’s something she’s been thinking about for a little while: she’s bought a holiday home in Florida! Not only is that exciting for her, but also for me because I get to go out and visit her with free accommodation in the sun.

Disney OrlandoIt’s not too far from Orlando where Disneyworld is, and I know her girls are so exciting about meeting the Disney princesses. I think the boys would definitely enjoy it, especially as they start to get older. They haven’t seen the property in person yet, which I think is a bit risky, but they’ve booked flights over in a couple of months to get everything set up and ready. They’re thinking about renting it out to other holidaymakers while they’re not there because they won’t be spending that much time there, so it should be a good little money earner. But being my sister, of course she’s managed to go out and spend plenty on bits and pieces to fill the house without thinking about the fact that she’ll need to get them over there! Luckily she’s come across a company called Send My Bag that does exactly what she needs, collects her bags and delivers them for her so she doesn’t have to pay extra at the airport or carry all the heavy boxes over. To be honest, I’m not sure why she didn’t buy everything over there, I mean it’s just stuff like towels, ornaments, rugs and little things from IKEA, but it’s all bound to be cheaper over there, but never mind, at least she’s found a solution for it.

Florida

I think we’ll maybe go over with them later in the year, maybe September or October since we were planning a holiday then anyway but hadn’t decided on anything. They’ve got an amazing 5 bedrooms in the house so there’s loads of room for all of us, especially since the kids are still sharing at the moment. There’s an outdoor community pool that’s free for the complex to use just round the corner from the house – it’s only shared by about 15 or 20 houses, so shouldn’t be too busy. I cant wait to see it!

Images courtesy of Peter E Lee and Stuck in Customs

Preparing for Easter Weekend

 

Easter Eggs

Now that we’re only a week away from Easter Weekend, I’ve had to start thinking about what I’m going to be doing. Hubby has Friday and Monday off work, so we were originally thinking about booking a weekend away somewhere for just the four of us, but decided it would be a bit pricey and busy during a bank holiday weekend. So instead I’ve invited some family, my sister, her husband and two girls, over for Easter Sunday and I’m planning to do a big Sunday Roast featuring the traditional roast lamb.

I’ve been trying think of what makes up the ultimate Easter Sunday lunch and think I’ve finalised the menu now. I’ve come across this recipe for a slow roast shoulder of lamb with anchovy and rosemary which sounds amazing. It takes a few hours to roast, so I’ll need to make sure I’ve got my timings spot on so that everything will be ready at the same time. We’ll be having it with a gravy made from the pan juices, mustard glazed roast potatoes, and a selection of vegetables including carrots, broad beans and peas.

My sister’s bringing along the dessert. It’s her version of a simnel cake stuffed with loads of dried fruit and topped with marzipan but chopped up into small squares. I’m not sure whether the kids are going to like it, but I’ve got something planning for just in case they don’t: over the next week, while nursery is closed, we’re going to be trying our hand at a bit of chocolate making. Nothing too fancy, but I’ve got some egg moulds and plain chocolate, so all you need to do is melt it down and pour it in. Sounds simple but is probably going to get very messy! I’m hoping the boys will be excited to share them with their cousins!

Easter eggs

I’m also planning a bit of fun with kids on Easter Sunday too – we’re going to have an Easter Egg hunt in the garden with some mini chocolate eggs in the afternoon (so they won’t get a chance to fill up on chocolate before lunch!).

We’re not especially religious, so we won’t be going to church on the day, but I like to think that the boys know the meaning behind the holiday, so their bedtime stories recently have been kids’ books about Easter – nothing too heavy, just explaining that it’s not just a day to eat chocolate eggs as everyone seems to think it is nowadays.

Images courtesy of Cait Hurley and tiaragwin.

Food Power Duo’s

Many of these foods are fantastic for boosting your health on their own, however when teamed with each other, they become super duo’s. Eating certain foods together can bring out their best nutrition benefits to boost your body and taste yummy in the process. These food combinations are great enjoyed as a meal such as breakfast, paired together as a tasty snack or as part of your main meals.

Tomatoes + Avocados

There must have been a reason why tomatoes and avocados were pair originally to make guacamole. Tomatoes contain a cancer-preventing antioxidant called lycopene and avocados contain plenty of healthy fats. Carotenoids in tomatoes, spread the healthy fats around your body to keep you healthy.

Sweet Potato + Coconut Oil

Sweet potatoes are a fantastic alternative to ordinary potatoes and coconut oil is a great alternative to vegetable, sunflower or similar poor processed oils. Add vitamin A in abundance from sweet potatoes and good fats from the coconut oil which allows vitamin A to be absorbed quicker and you have a recipe for fantastic health benefits.

Oatmeal + Peanut Butter

For a snack, keep away from processed so called ‘healthy’ snack bars, instead make your own from peanut butter and oatmeal. Not only do you know what ingredients go into it, but the complex carbs and fat in both will keep you fuller for longer. Perfect for workout snacks or pre gym breakfast.

Apples + Chocolate

Apples and yes chocolate a match made in health heaven? Yes! Both of these contain flavonoids that, when combined, improve cardiovascular health. You can also swap out apples for raspberries which also contain flavonoids.

Black Beans + Lime

A staple in many Mexican and South American diets are black beans and limes. There is a reason for this: Citrus fruits such as limes provide high levels of vitamin C, this then makes plant-based iron in foods like black beans easier for your body to use.

Almonds + Yogurt

Looking for a sweet pudding option? Then almonds and yoghurt are the perfect healthy answer, yogurt is great source of Vitamin D which are activated and absorbed when eaten with healthy fats like those found in almonds. This pairing is a great way to repair and strengthen your bones.

Hardboiled Egg + Banana

I wouldn’t suggest eating this pairing together exactly, put snacking on a hardboiled egg and then a banana is a great way to keep your blood sugar levels from spiking. Healthy sugars in bananas will give you a much needed energy boost while healthy fats from the hardboiled egg will keep them level.

Lemon + Kale

Lemon and kale are key ingredients in green smoothies and for good reason. A chemical reaction is caused in your body when you add lemon juice to kale. It means you can easily absorb the iron in kale which stops you suffering from muscle fatigue. It also helps to boost your immunity as well.

Kombucha + Cashews

Fermented products like kombucha aid in the absorption of zinc into the gut. Cashews are a fantastic source of protein and zinc. The pairing between Kombucha and cashews is a great immune boosting combo. This is a wonderful snack, especially for the office.

Garlic + Fish

Garlic and fish, especially oily fish are a match made in health food heaven, not only does garlic enhance flavour but it also enhances the cholesterol-reducing properties in fish oils. Combing these allows the garlic to act as an anti-inflammatory agent.

New Greenhouse

We buy most of our veg from Riverford, as well as our meat, however we are intending on growing our own veg this year. We will still be relying on Riverford, as its going to take us a while to get ourselves established. So we have built a greenhouse to get us going and dug a few plots to grow veg in. As spring comes, we will be getting a few small plants going in the greenhouse, ready to plant for the summer.

Autumn Veg Delights

We don’t expect much this year after all first yields are never very successful, unless you’re lucky. Hence why we will still be keeping the organic veg box! Anyway I though growing our own veg would be fun for the whole family. The boys are getting bigger and won’t be too long until they can help out, plus it’s a great learning experience for them. Plus it has meant and means hubby gets to put his DIY skills to good use.

What it has made us realise is that we really needed to tidy up the garden, it’s been a little neglected since the boys were born. Plus the weather this winter really took its toll. So as well as adding a veg plot and greenhouse, I also looked at the Garden Trends for 2014 to get some inspiration. I defiantly need to add some more colour to the garden, there really aren’t many plants in there at the moment, so my task this spring is to get a few more potted up!

The garden is an important aspect to a home and whilst you can spend time and money of getting the inside right, the outside can become neglected, as ours has. That being said we still have work to do on the house, it’s a work in progress since we bought it. The boy’s arrival slowed things down though. But we will get back on top of our home improvements, after all you can quite easily double your house for half the money if you’re canny.

Image courtesy of TheCameraGirls

Spa Treat on Friday

I was treated to a spa day, with one of my girlfriends by the Hubby. A gift he got at Christmas, to be fair it was a voucher for a discounted treatment which was great value for money. He took the day off to look after the bots, even taking us to the spa and dropping us off, so we could enjoy some bubbly.

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The voucher was for the Feversham Arms, Helmsley their Verbena Spa. We were treated to good weather although not that warm and the whole day was nice and relaxing. We had pre booked the voucher special which was the Elemis Skin Specific Facial, also included was lunch and a complimentary glass of Prosecco. I was glad we book, the spa was pretty busy, many people taking advantage of these vouchers, however whilst we were using the spa facilities it didn’t seem busy.

We arrived 30 minutes before our appointment, which gave us time to get changes, tour the facilities and have a fruit tea. My facial was a wonderful experience, I have used Elemis products in the past, before going organic and have not had any problems with them. The facial was 60 minutes and very relaxing, I actually dozed off at one point! Afterwards my face felt super smooth and baby soft and it’s been a while since it felt that well.

Feversham-Arms 1

Afterwards my friend and I made the most of the spa facilities as it’s not something we get to enjoy very often. We started in the Aromatherapy Room, which is a warm and relaxing environment. It’s not too hot so you can spend a while in hear whilst all your troubles melt away. It’s a good room to for the respiratory system and to relieve congestion. Afterwards, we stepped into the Salt Vapour Room, here the humid room, filled with a salt mist is perfect for your skin. And again nice and relaxing, although we couldn’t spend as long in this room as we would the Aromatherapy Room.

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From then we enjoyed a Monsoon shower, only with the warm water not cold, but we did make use of the ice cave. Here we rubbed ice into our legs, which helps the skin close your pores and cool down. We managed to fit in the foot spa, as there were only two, my tired feet (after running around after two small boys) needed this. Mice and relaxing before moving into the Saunarium which had been pretty busy. The heat soothed my body and completely relaxed me. Afterwards we headed outside to the hot tub, although nice and warm, the wind which had picked up wasn’t favourable, so we didn’t spend long in here.

ProseccoWe had a nice glass of Prosecco whilst warming up, before enjoying a delicious and healthy lunch. However the two puddings we shared probably weren’t so healthy but they were sure yummy. My friend picked up a couple of Elemis products, before we changed and headed out to do some shopping in Helmsley. Although the sun was out, it was chilly, so whilst we waited for my hubby and boys to come, we enjoyed some more Prosecco back at the Feversham Arms in front of a nice warm fire. A great end to a wonderful day. I would definitely recommend the Verbena Spa as it’s a really lovely and calming place with great staff.

Shrove Tuesday – Making Pancakes in the Prendergast House

My boys love, love, love Pancake Day, to be fair though who doesn’t? Growing up at Christian and attending a C of E school, I learnt the meaning behind the popular day. Not many people do I would bet now. Shrove Tuesday is observed by many Christians around the world, now no longer a practising Christian, I still share the meaning of the day with my boys. It is the last day before the penitential season of Lent. The basis behind this day is to indulge in the foods you are giving up for lent.

Many people give up rich foods for lent, many centuries ago, eggs, milk, and sugar, we considered a rich food (before the days of fast food) and pancakes were a good option to use these items up before lent begins on the Wednesday. This is where Pancake Day begins, and throughout the centuries has become a popular way to celebrate the beginning of lent. But it has also been taken up by non-believers as pancakes are so yummy.

There are a number of traditional celebrations which happen on Shrove Tuesday, for example back in the 12th century some towns held “mob football” games. These still happen now, with some places closing down streets (and all the paper work that it involves) so we can keep the traditions going. Today was also a “half-holiday”, at 11:00am with the ringing of a church bell, many would attend church. It is also when Pancake Races originated according to folklore a housewife from Olney, Buckinghamshire, was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake.

Pancake Recipe

Ingredients

100g plain flour

2 large eggs

300ml milk

1 tbsp. sunflower or vegetable oil, plus a little extra for frying

Lemon wedges, to serve (optional)

Caster sugar, to serve (optional)

Method

Put the flour, eggs, milk and a pinch of salt into a bowl or large jug, then whisk to a smooth batter. Set aside for 30 mins to rest if you have time, or start cooking straight away.

Set a medium frying pan or crêpe pan over a medium heat and carefully wipe it with some oiled kitchen paper. When hot, cook your pancakes (see Step 3, above) for 1 min on each side until golden, keeping them warm in a low oven as you go.

Serve with lemon wedges and sugar, or your favourite filling. Once cold, you can layer the pancakes between baking parchment, then wrap in cling film and freeze for up to 2 months.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, February 2013

Anyway, this afternoon the boys will be helping me make pancakes, in the meantime these are last year’s efforts, the extra-large pan used was for the hubby, the fatty he is!

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Grey Days

The weather this winter has gotten many people down, only now are we seeing a bit of a break. For the last two days we have seen the sun! However there is meant to be snow on the way, however it is preferable to rain. The kids much prefer playing outside in the snow than rain, but the cold really gets me. When I was young, free and single I would often pop away for a winter sun holiday. The Caribbean being one of my favourite destinations.

I do often wonder especially in winter what it would be like to like in another country, one which is warmer than ours. Some of our friends have recently immigrated to Australia it’s been a hard slog for them to go through the whole process, but now they are there they wouldn’t change it. The finance aspect for them was the hardest part, they are strict at making sure people have enough money to establish themselves in Australia and employment. According to a newspaper piece, Clever transfers and careful planning could help you fund your new luxury lifestyle.

I would love to be able to just fly off and start a new life somewhere else, however having a family makes it much harder. There is a lot you have to consider when you have children. Although our children are young, so it would mean moving to a new place would be easier as they’re at a good age to learn a new language and should find, it fine. In reality however as we are employed well here in the UK, we would be giving a lot up if we were to move to another country.

I think what I really need rather than moving somewhere else, is just to have a holiday! We haven’t been anywhere since last year when we took the boys to Madrid. It was a wonderful city break, with fantastic weather and I think that is what I am missing the most. Good weather! Whilst we can’t go on holiday at the moment, it would be worthwhile just looking for holiday inspiration, I am sure it would put me in a much better mood!

Keep your home office organised

As someone working from home I know how important it is to keep your home office organised! I also love home décor and my home office reflects me and my home and allows me to be as creative as possible when I have two children under 3 running around!

Small Home-office

Keep Clutter to a minimum

This is achievable with some organisation and clever storage solutions. It’s a good idea to keep on top of your clutter by having a weekly cleaning spree. As a working mother I know it can easily clutter can build up. I start off with good intentions to tidy as I go, but children can easily stop you in your track doing that! Setting aside just 15 minutes a week to sort you clutter is all you need. I normally wait until my hubby comes home from work and can easily entertain the boys.

clutter free

Organisation

In small spaces storage is key to good organisation, so you can manage the first point. It’s no good clearing clutter if you have nowhere to put it! Luckily there are plenty of chic storage options out there that you can find to go with your décor! You don’t have to opt for ugly filing cabinets, get creative and cover with a coat of paint or wallpaper. Reclaim old wardrobes or cupboards and add shelving and storage boxes. All they need is a coat of paint to look good as new, for a fraction of the cost.

Bold Colours Home Office 2

I love the family/living/office space. My home office is in a larger room which also doubles as a playroom. I can keep an eye on my boys whilst getting on with some work. Sometimes for some people, rooms having multiple uses means you can make the most of your space and for families this is essential.

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You no longer have to go for the cheap nasty looking file organisers, modern Perspex can be chic and stylish or reclaim old glass jars and vintage boxes if you want to go for a shabby chic look instead. Not only do containers look pretty, but they do serve a useful purpose, so follow suit as you would your dressing table.

Desk Organisation

Decoration

I love bold colours in a home office, when I have worked out of an actual office, I always found them dreary and drab with grey being the most common colour. So now I work from home, I love adding colour into my life. It really does brighten up the day and can make a small space look bigger.I love the bright child-like primary colours which stand out against the white walls.

Bold Colours Home office

Mood boards are a favourite of mine, it helps me keep on top of my ideas and provides me with inspiration when I’m work or a much needed distraction if I have writers block. It also means you can keep on top of loose clippings, notes, cards and postcards from friends. I am obsessed with Pinterest the modern version of a mood board or notice board, but I still love the old fashioned notice board.

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 Photos Courtesy of House to Home, Stylizimo, Red andGlitterguide

Women and Clothing

Not wanting to sound stereotypical but I think it may be true that (most) women have a lot of clothes. Now obviously I know there are some women who aren’t that bothered about fashion, nor what they way and that there are some men who are just as bad but I think it is safe to say most women have a clothing problem.

clothing pile

The problem comes when your current crop of clothing will no longer fit in your wardrobe, bursting at the seams as it were. Something I am fairly familiar with as my vintage style armoire is pretty packed. It’s full of all my clothes, shoes and bags. My husband has his own wardrobe and storage in his office which is next to the bedroom. The decision was made after his clothes started to be put in under bed boxes and some ‘donated’. It was only fair that he got his own space.

Luckily the spare bedroom converted nicely into an office for the hubby and opened us up to extra smart storage options. Just recently we have had a fitted wardrobe put in as it was the best use of the space in the room. It looks smart and stylish and hides away all the husbands’ clothes and the rest of his man stuff. When my parents came round, they liked it so much they ordered a fitted wardrobe to replace the late 1980’s stuff they had in. They got it from the same place as us buying some like these which look so much better.

My mum noted that they have quite a bit of extra room and she could maybe go shopping to buy some new clothes. Can’t say my dad was impressed with that, but he did really like the finish and the quality of the product. I can’t quite bring myself to go for a larger wardrobe in the bedroom, as the vintage style I have going on in there wouldn’t suit a new style modern wardrobe. I did think about maybe buying another chest of draws or something similar, however hubby suggested just getting rid of the clothes I no longer wear. Or to stop buying new clothes. To be honest I don’t like his options. Anyway as you know I recently had a bit of a splurge online buying some pretty new items from Boden, which hasn’t helped matters!

Image courtesy of Ali Elangasinghe