Christmas Present Ideas

I’m being asked the dreaded question “what do you want for Christmas” at the moment. Christmas Present Ideas – I never can remember anything that I like or want and just mutter ‘oh you choose’.  I thought if I jotted down my faves I would remember them and maybe you can tell me what you want (just in case I am really missing something off my list!)

There are oodles of clothes that I would love to have, but practicality with a newborn is taking over this year (and because I’ve got weight to loose) so here are just a sprinkling of things that I like.

No idea why, but I LOVE this sweatshirt – £40 from Sea Soul and Snow.

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This jumper from Woodie & Morris – St Tropez Heart Sweater £59.99 perfect for daytime or a chilled evening out.  I love a bit of sparkle!

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Thanks to fellow blogger Does My Bum Look 40 writing about them……I’m loving giving and hopefully receiving any of these (take a look lots of colour ways) and a total bargain at £10 from Alices Wonders

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And these little lovelies…..I am totally in love with.  Dr Denim Plenty Flocked Denim – £45 This is a denim which I have written about before – and I am the proud owner of several pairs already.  These look great dressed up or down.  I may not be able to resist these until Christmas!

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Anthropologie has pretty much my dream wardrobe!  But this would be awesome under the Christmas tree! Cashmere V Back Jumper – £208

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Next post will be more accessories, bags, headphones and other ESSENTIAL bits!

 

 

Clean Eating and Fitness Week 2

images-3I’m 2 weeks in to my new clean eating and fitness and I have to admit – its been tough! The first week was hard core. I gave up sugar. That REALLY hurt. Headaches, grumpy, lack of energy. Around day 7 I felt like I turned a corner and things got a great deal easier.  My energy levels seemed more consistent and I wasn’t having big energy slumps throughout the day.

Exercise wise. I’m not going to lie. Working out when you have small children is a logistical minefield – whether you do it at home or go to the gym. The only way I have been able to make it work is to book it in to my diary a week ahead that way the commitment is made and I do it – otherwise I know I would think of a hundred other things to do instead. Two weeks on, I’m really enjoying it, I feel energised, stronger and am starting to feel like I might be changing shape a bit.

My biggest motivation has to be taking before photographs – if you want a kick up the arse (or just a terrible photo of your arse) then take pictures – mine are here.

I train at Stone Barn Fitness in the Cotwolds.  Its a gym, no classes.  I like that.  I can go in train and leave, I don’t have to stress about fitting in to a class timetable.  I also don’t spend ages on the treadmill (can’t bear it!) or static bike (booooring!).  I do weights and keep my heart rate up by doing cardio (stepping onto step) or kettle bells.  I am on a programme of personal training for 6 weeks to get me back in to the swing of things and to get myself in to the habit of going to the gym again.

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Here are my top reasons/tips for joining a gym or exercising regularly.

1.You will feel better about yourself – by sticking to an exercise routine and healthy eating, psychologically you will start to feel better about yourself. And as per the quote above, its such a small proportion of your day.  When you look at it like that, it is a great motivator!

2.Its a great stress reliever – Whether you are climbing the corporate ladder or herding unruly children. An hour in the gym is a great stress reliever!

3. If you work hard, you will get a nice body – no really, you will!

4. It makes you happy – those post workout endorphins will make your day a good one.

5. It makes eating healthier easier – there is something about exercising that makes you want to step away from the cookie jar. Clean eating becomes easier.

6. It teaches you to appreciate your body – when you start to see the progress, whether thats increased fitness, looser clothes or more sit ups.  Your body is responding to you.  Thats a great thing!

7. Your confidence will soar – committing to something and sticking to it is great for your confidence.

8. Be realistic about how often you can go to the gym.  I have committed to 3 days a week and potentially a 4th as a bonus.  Don’t start off going 7 times a week, you’ll get bored of it and will give up.  Better to be realistic and make it a lifestyle choice than a schlep.

9. When you exercise, you need to drink more water.  I’ve been trying hard to keep hydrated, my skin is loving it.

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Apple & Bears Natural Body Products – Giveaway

As some of you may (or may not!) remember, I reviewed Apple & Bears natural body products earlier this year.  I love them, the smell (beautiful, clean and pure), the textures of the products, the packaging, the NEW and very very smart gift boxes and I also love that they donate 5% of every sale (inc VAT) to Breast Cancer Care.  Any preggers readers?  I could stomach the Honey & Hemp whilst suffering from dreadful nausea – such a gentle and natural smell!

With Christmas (I can say it now as we are only a month or so away!) coming up these are really cool gifts to give.  The Apple & Bears natural body products are stocked in Fenwicks and also online at Lovelula.com which is a delicious website stuffed full of stylish natural products.

Here is what they are all about:

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APPLE & BEARS is:

  •  ECOCERT accredited
  •  Contains extracts of real fruit and flower
  •  Paraben and SLS free
  •  Free from animal testing
  •  Safe and recyclable
  •  Socially responsible and ethically bound
  •  Suitable for Vegans and Vegetarians unless stated
APPLE & BEARS invite you to discover the power and purity of nature with our exclusive Luxury Body Care Collection – created for today’s ethical man and woman. Made in the United Kingdom, our environmentally friendly collection promotes a healthy skin and planet by using the finest sustainably sourced and Eco-certified natural and organic ingredients that harness the healing powers of nature, whilst remaining true and gentle to your skin. Pure, natural extracts and gentle aromas cleanse, nurture and nourish your skin for an indulging and renewing body care experience. Our natural and organic ingredients produce a pure blend that cleanses impurities gently and effectively, nourishes the skin delicately and naturally, whilst revitalising the senses with a full and luxurious foam and cream. Welcome to APPLE & BEARS and our truly pure and luxurious body care collection.
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Our Beginning:

APPLE & BEARS started with a strikingly simple question, “Why don’t we make a truly good product, which helps make a difference to people’s lives?”

Before founding the company in 2011, Kay dedicated herself to volunteering for Breast Cancer Care and other charities, while Dean was helping an overseas company import their line of beauty products into Europe. Dismayed to discover that the “all-natural” promises on their labels didn’t live up to what was actually in the bottles, Dean had a crisis of conscience and left the position.

As they debated what to do next, Kay asked the fateful question “Why don’t we make a truly good product, which helps make a difference to people’s lives?”

APPLE & BEARS was their answer – a line of luxury cosmetics, made from natural and organic ingredients, which donates a portion of profits to worthy causes.

We believe the results are very good indeed.

Our Charity Pledge:

We are proud to support Breast Cancer Care, a registered charity in England and Wales (number 1017658) and Scotland (number SCO38104) by donating 5% of profits including VAT from the sale of our products as we continue to dedicate ourselves and support this cause by pledging to help those in need. This shows our strong commitment to this very worthy cause that affects so many men and women in the UK and around the world.

Our bottles and packaging proudly display the Breast Cancer Ribbon and affirms our continued commitment to support the Breast Cancer Care charity.
Our donation is not a seasonal contribution, but a long standing pledge for the lifespan of our Luxury Body Care Collection.

Mermaid And Koi Logo:

Our logo draws inspiration from the many men and women diagnosed with breast cancer in celebration of life, hope, courage and the promise of new beginnings. The Mermaids represent a graceful, loving and carefree being, true of heart and free to a life of adventure. The Koi fish is revered for courage and perseverance – the ability to express levels of strength and determination and a symbolism for those who have made it through tough times.

For those who have and are bravely fighting cancer, the Mermaid and Koi logo is a personal symbol of coming out on top, no matter how hard the fight to survive.

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I am hosting an Apple & Bears Natural Products Giveaway (3 individual winners will receive 1 box each which will be randomly selected i.e. you cannot chose the fragrance rrp £34.95) to enter see the box below…..

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Roast Tomato Soup

Its chuffing chilly outside today.  Its definitely a day to share with you a roast tomato soup recipe from The Clean Eating Kitchen a book which I am working my way through at the moment.  I’m loving the recipes – they are easy and all of them have been quick and simple to make.

This roast tomato soup is really delicious.  If you are on a strict diet – don’t make the croutons!

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Ingredients:

3lbs tomatoes (plum preferably, but not essential) halved

1 red onion

6 garlic cloves

4tbsp olive oil

6 sprigs of fresh thyme and extra to garnish

1 3/4 pints home made stock (urrr I NEVER have that so I used bouillon instead!)

juice of 1/2 lemon

For the Cheese Croutons:

3 1/2 slices of homemade bread (none of that so went with a farmhouse loaf)

1oz parmesan finely grated.

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Preheat oven to 160c/325f/Gas Mark 3.  Arrange the tomatoes, red onion and garlic on a large baking tray, placing tomatoes cut size up.  Sprinkle over  2 tablespoons of oil, 1/2 a teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and the thyme.  Roast for about 45 minutes or until soft.

To make the cheese croutons, reduce the oven to 150c/300f/gas mark 2.  Toss the bread with the remaining oil, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Arrange the cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer, then bake for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for a further 5 mins.

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Put the tomato and onion mixture and the stock in to a blender and process until it becomes a puree.  You may need to do this on batches depending on the size of your blender.

Pour the soup into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 mins, stirring occasionally.  Just before serving stir in the lemon juice.  Serve immediately, with the croutons and thyme sprinkled over. MMM deeeeelish.

 

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Darling Bites – Artisan Gift Boxes – A Foodies Delight!

I love it when I stumble across a product that seems very timely in my discovery!  I’m talking the C word.  Yes, thats it CHRISTMAS…..its coming at us like a a rocket.  Anyway, whilst I stick my head back in the sand and pretend its not happening, I thought I would share this new find with you.

Its a company called Darling Bites.  Great name?  I thought so.

Darling Bites is a newbie, set up in 2013 and based in North London.  The aim is to provide beautiful artisan foods that you wouldn’t find in your day to day shops (unless you shop at Daylesford or Selfridges type foodie places – and then, I bow down to you!) and presenting them in a beautiful box, straight to the recipients door. A beautiful artisan gift box. Not only does it make a great Christmas pressie, but think of the options.  Sick friend?  Send ‘em a hamper (nice change from flowers).  New baby?  I’d have loved to receive one of these….a food parcel….yippee!

The quality of the boxes scream LUXURY.  They really have set themselves up to sit in the high end end of the market…..and thats good in my opinion.  I don’t think anyone wants to receive a present that doesn’t feel luxurious.  Obviously the content is important as well (although I am like a Toddler and could happily be satisfied with a good box!).  Inside, you get a variety of artisan products.  I’d never heard of The Grown Up Chocolate Company or Island Bakery….both products were DEEEELICIOUS!

There are loads of different combinations from Chocolate Heaven Treat Box – £27 – a nice idea for sweetening up a Mother-in-Law?!  Or for a cheeky relative The Cheerfully Fruity Treat Box – £25

So, without further ado…..take a look at the piccies which tell the story best…..This little gem of a company is growing all the time, so keep checking back as their suppliers increase and their hampers/treat boxes diversify….I definitely think Darling Bites is one to watch.

I was sent the Darling Bites ‘Late Breakfast Hamper‘ in return for this review.  It retails at £36.00.

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An artisan gift box

 

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artisan gift boxes

 

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Post Pregnancy Diet & Fitness. Part 1.

I’m 3 months post baby and feeling just a bit ‘meh’ about things.  The weight I gained (yes I did eat a few many cakes whilst I was pregnant, and I blooming well enjoyed myself) has got kind of stuck – there’s a stone or so to shift but more importantly for me……there is a total lack of muscle tone and fitness.  When I got pregnant with Eloise, I would have said that I was fairly fit.  I was enjoying circuit classes, TRX classes and running with my dogs.  I had recently completed Jillian Michaels Body Revolution and I felt really good about myself.  My energy levels were good, my sugar cravings nearly zero, clothes fitted.  Pregnancy landed me with horrendous nausea for 3 months so the exercising went out the window.  By second trimester I was out of the habit and by 3rd trimester, I couldn’t be arsed……I’ll talk more about my arse later…..

And this is what I was running on in the latter stages of pregnancy.  The VERY delicious Lardy Cake from Huffkins.

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So, when a new gym opened up a couple of miles away, I decided now was the time for me to get myself back in to shape. It was time to focus on my post pregnancy diet & fitness.  I haven’t been able to get myself back into my exercise DVDs – I can always find something better to do!  Its daunting going to a new gym, especially when you aren’t feeling particularly good about yourself.  Its horrible admitting to someone that you maaaaay have scoffed a truck load of cake and that sneaking chocolate in EVERY day was a habit that would be hard to break, but I’ve done it – I’ve confessed and got it over and done with.  I’m chuffed with myself that I have.  For local people reading this post, the gym I’ve joined is Stone Barn Fitness in Churchill.  Mark, who owns it has put me on a 6 Week Shred.  Sounds scary?  Not at all.  This is what the package includes

  • 2 x 45 minute Personal Training sessions a week (12 in total)
  • 6 week membership to the gym
  • A personalised fitness plan for me to do on the days that I go to the gym in between the Personal Training sessions
  • Nutritional Analysis – I have kept a food diary and shown him what I have been shovelling in to my poor body!  In return, he’s advised me where I can make some marked improvements.
  • Shopping Lists – for help when shopping.  Making wise choices when at the supermarket or doing my Ocado shop
  • Email/Skype/Facetime support at least 2 x a week to keep up motivation, and give added support over the six weeks.
  • As an opening offer, ALLLLLL of the above is currently £299.  Normal price would be £450.  Its ridiculous!  Who gets a personal trainer for peanuts these days!  I snapped his hand (not literally) off as the offer is limited and once he’s got 12 people, he’s putting it up to full price!

I love the fact that the sessions are 45 minutes long.  I don’t have time to waft about at the gym.  I want to get in, train and leave – simple as that.  By doing it this way, I can fit my visits to the gym around kids, husband, and the biggest excuse – no child care.  My husband and I  have worked out a rota of times when it works for him to be around and me to get to the gym.  Its all in the planning.  Its now written in my diary.  A commitment in itself.

Mark the Personal Trainer and I had a good talk about what are my goals, what I like about exercise (I personally cannot stand running machines, static bike etc.  BOOOOOORING!).  My goal is to not look like I do at the moment, I want to have definition, I don’t want to be skinny, I just want to be toned.  Everything is covered in a layer of lardy cake fat and as you will see from the photos (unedited) *faints with embarrassment* I’m in a right state.  My brain keeps telling me – you got yourself here, you get yourself back out and its true.  As much as I can pay Mark to put me together interesting and effective workouts, he can’t actually do the job for me.  He told me that a 1hr PT session is only 4% of your day, a couple of sessions a week are just 2% of your total week.  What I choose to do (eating, exercise, lifestyle) with the other 98% will really make a difference.  That made it pretty clear!

So without further ado I am off to stick a photo of my LARD arse on the fridge and I’m also going to find a varicose vein surgeon because those are just insane (and not in a good way!).  I can’t quite believe I am posting these photos *shamed face* but its reality and it shows why my clothes are feeling horrid!  My saving grace is looking at my beautiful children and thinking that my body did a GREAT job of making them.

I have no intention of becoming like this – and I know that lifting weights is NOT going to make me look butch.

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So there we have it!  I will post another photo update at 4 weeks and see if there has been any improvement!  Wish me luck.  I’d love it if any of you were going through fitness campaigns if you commented below and we can follow each other on Twitter and Instagram.

I’m also going to post some interesting and delicious healthy recipes for you to try out.  If you have any I should try – send them over!

PS for you OX7 crew, Mark also does group PT sessions.

2ppl – £25 (per person)

3ppl – £18 (per person)

4ppl – £15 (per person)

All training includes nutritional analysis and support, lifestyle advice and ongoing monitoring.

WIN a very CUTE long sleeved Tshirt from Tommy & Lottie

When I reviewed the Tommy & Lottie Hedgehog Long Sleeved Tshirt (click the link to see the review), I got loads and loads of compliments on how cute Eloise looked in it.  So I thought it would be only fair to offer you the chance to WIN one of the long sleeve t-shirts.  The ages that they fit are from 3months – 24 months and they are 100% pure cotton.  They have poppers on the shoulder for easy on and off over the head.  These tshirts are sustainably and ethically made in Africa and are designed and printed in the UK.  They are printed using no harmful dyes and substances so are perfect for young sensitive skins.

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I love supporting innovative and growing businesses and Tommy & Lottie is just that!  The quality of these t-shirts was just SO outstanding that hosting a giveaway seemed like a great idea.  This is the PERFECT gift for Christmas – whether you are a parent, godparent, grandparent or just a generous friend.  Have a go, its SO easy to enter!

Winner will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter at the end of the competition.  T-shirt will be send out direct to the winner in plenty of time for Christmas.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Clean Eating Sweet Potato and Beef Stew

I was asked by Parragon a publishing company to take a look at one of their books called The Clean Eating Kitchen – clean, simple, and natural recipes for the thoughtful cook.  Well Clean Eating is such a buzz word right now and it kind of ties in with my post partum eating sensibly to get rid of the excess lbs that are hanging on for dear life! I have cooked a couple of the Clean Eating recipes and this was definitely a winner with ALL the family. A simple Clean Eating Beef Stew.Clean Eating Beef Stew The ingredients are easy to get hold of I already had most of them in the cupboard. Clean Eating Beef Stew     Ingredients: 800g stewing beef cut in to cubes 2 onions roughly chopped 200g yams (sweet potato) cut into cubes 200g baby new potatoes halved and unpeeled 400g chickpeas 400g tinned tomatoes 200ml water Marinade: 2 tbsp olive oil 2 tbsp chopped coriander 2 cinnamon sticks 1 tbsp runny honey 1 tsp paprika 1 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp harissa paste Couscous (I used brown rice) 200g wholegrain couscous 1 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley 6 spring onions juice of 1 lemon 2 tbsp olive oil   1: Put the beef in to a large bowl.  Add the marinade ingredients, a 1 tsp of salt and stir in well.  Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight if you can. 2. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/375f/gas mark 5.  Transfer the meat and the marinade to a casserole dish and add the onions, yams (sweet potatoes) and chickpeas.  Pour over the tomatoes and water and stir well.  Bake for 1 hour. 3.  Stir well and check the seasoning.  If most of the liquid has been adsorbed, add enough water to create a generous sauce.  Bake for another 30 mins or until the meat is tender and cooked.  (I actually slow cooked it in the bottom oven of the Aga for several hours) 4.  Meanwhile, half fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil.  Add the couscous and cook according to the instructions on the packet.  Tip into a sieve and drain.  Transfer to a bowl, stir in the parsley and spring onions, then drizzle the lemon juice and oil. 5. Remove the cinnamon sticks from the stew and serve with the couscous. Clean Eating Beef Stew   Clean Eating Beef Stew Clean Eating Beef Stew   And here is the final result. Clean Eating Sweet Potato and Beef Stew  (I used wholegrain rice instead of couscous) Clean Eating Beef Stew IMG_4910

 

The book has a variety of recipes from breakfasts, smoothies, main courses and treats.  All the recipes are easy to follow so are absolutely fine if your inner Nigella needs a bit of a jump start!  Definitely a nice book to have.

What I Wore Wednesday

Brrr its been a bit chilly of late!  Here is What I Wore Wednesday….I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks because I’ve been flat out and just kept forgetting to take the photograph!  So here I am with my lovely squishy Eloise (who objected to being put down!).

What I Wore Wednesday

 

Shirt – M&S

Jeans - Woodie & Morris

Boots – Woodie & Morris

Necklace – Anthropologie

Eloise’s Cardigan – The Little White Company – SOLD OUT :0(

What I Wore Wednesday

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REN Flash Rinse 1 Min Facial

I was quite dubious when I was sent the REN Flash Rinse 1 Minute Facial with some pretty massive claims – I mean…..c’mon?  I spent 1 hour lying on my back last week having my face washed, polished and buffed by a seriously hard core facialist and I felt like my skin looked fabulous afterwards, but it cost a fair whack as well – so what could REN be doing in 1 minute that would make me want to tell you guys about it?  Again REN have pulled it out the bag with their products (I’m such a fan of the Hot Cloth Cleanser, I can’t even write a review as it would just read LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVELOVELOVELOVE).

Back to the product in hand – or rather on my face.  I’d like to think of my face as a product challenge at the moment.  I’ve hit 40. I’ve just had a baby.  I spend a lot of time outside.  I don’t spend enough time looking after my face (or any other part of my body).  It was going to have to be some product to make a difference.

REN Flash Rinse

 

Well, it seems to have got rid of the greyness, the kind of ‘I’m so sleep deprived, I may just fall asleep whilst typing this’ sort of stage I am at.  My skin looked like I had been having decent amounts of sleep. It looks refreshed, and I swear the crinkles looked less urrr crinkly…..and my serum and moisturiser just kind of sank straight in.  Seriously, if it can do that in a minute, I can’t wait till they launch their 5 minute miracle in a tube face lift or whatever is coming next!

Yes I have makeup on but its not edited.  I feel like I have a nice glow (but crap, my highlights need doing!).

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There you have it.  A short review for a speedy product.  WELL worth investing in.  I love vitamin C – it kind of got left in the wings for a while whilst we all slapped things on our faces with unpronounceable names, but recently its snuck back in to many products.  The simple fact is that Vitamin C on the skin helps for collagen and elastin (which is what we have oodles of in our teens and early 20′s).  Such a multitasker is this little beauty that it also is an antioxidant and helps to protect the skin from the harsh elements of the environment (sun, pollution etc)….