Friday, 31 October 2014

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you have a fun and spooky day ;)

Today we are off to a Halloween party and then off to a birthday party tonight. Tomorrow night we are off to an adult Halloween/40th birthday party (so that's when the husband and I will be decked out in our scare wear!).

This year, the week leading up to Halloween has been more fun as the boys are a bit older and are starting to understand dressing up, pumpkins and trick or treating. I definitely think holidays become much more fun when your children have a better understanding of the day.

Yesterday we finally made it out to the pumpkin patch and it couldn't have been more fun!

We took lots of photos and did all sorts of pumpkin/Halloween activities. I even jumped on the miniature tracker ride! ;)

Looking back on the day, I think it was the first time I have been able to take both boys on an activity on my own with out a pram or reins. Of course the boys both don't always listen to me (yet) so there was some running after a super fast Dylan through the pumpkin patch but with bribes of face painting and pumpkin carving I was able to get everyone back to me in good time ;)

My little foxes!

Dylan's new friend, he really loved this skeleton :)

Another bonus to the day was seeing how all the other families were enjoying the pumpkin patch and all it had to offer. Coming from the US where Halloween is done BIG, I have felt a little underwhelmed  when it has come to Halloween over here in the UK...but not this year! Don't get me wrong it doesn't have to be super commercial and over the top but I definitely believe in having fun and celebrating whenever you can!

Anyway, hope you all have a fab Halloween and let me know what you and or your kiddies will be dressed as this year! 

P.S. Don't forget to follow me on facebook

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Autumn/Winter Running Kit

Good afternoon! I hope you are all enjoying this very lovely Tuesday. Unfortunately, we are not. We were supposed to be out enjoying picking our pumpkins at the pumpkin patch but my unruly car had other ideas. A couple of flat tires later and we are at home waiting for the RAC to help us get the spare on or to tow us to the local garage. Someday, I will have a car that consistently works, but for now fingers and toes are crossed for a repaired car!

At any rate, I have been meaning to get this post up for the last week or two and thought today would be a good day to post it. I know that I haven't been as good about working out recently and am still really struggling to get my working out mojo back but there is one thing that I am pretty happy with and that is my running. Despite my two week break from it, last week I managed a 6.5k run, keeping up with one of our clubs faster runners, and I felt fab! It is nice to feel that way and it keeps me looking forward to my next run. However, with that said I am also dreading late Autumn/Winter runs because I can remember them from last year and they were darn cold!

To lend you a helping hand when deciding what to get for your Autumn/Winter runs here are a few of my suggestions:

Head covering: When it gets cold you lose a lot of heat from your head and besides that your ears can get freezing cold with the lower temps and wind. I usually wear a headband/earmuff but many people go for a hat. Here are my picks for this winter:
UnderArmour, very comfy and warm

Lululemon hat with hole for ponytail!

Base Layers: Last winter, I probably looked like an amateur but at least I was warm. I had so many layers of non-running kit on it was crazy. This year I will be sporting my base layer wicking top, a hoodie and a windproof jacket. I'll also be donning my element shield running tights.

Nike Element Shield Running Tights
Hopefully these will keep me warm
Gloves: Last year I ran with mittens at first but soon discovered that I couldn't do much with my hands after I put them on. I upgraded to some gloves with a sensor finger so I could operate my touch phone and my shuffle while running. This year, I might upgrade again to some of these:

Brooks Running Pulse Lite Gloves

Basics: As usual you'll want a supportive sports bra (if you are a lady) and proper running shoes/trainers for the terrain that you'll be on. Additionally, I have found that running socks are better for winter runs than regular cotton socks as they tend to help with wicking away extra moisture (snow, rain, puddles, etc) and keep your feet warmer too.

Safety Vest/Reflective Gear/Lights: These are no joke people! It gets dark early now (like 4:30pm!) and you definitely want others to be able to see you whether it be other runners but more especially cars. Most running kit these days come with little reflective patches but I think the more the better. So invest in a reflective vest or some running lights, they don't cost much and you won't regret the investment.

Ronhill reflective vest for women
Bonus Kit: I use a running bag (fanny pack to you US readers), which is very thin and barely weights a thing. In it I usually keep my phone to track my runs and my keys. In the winter I add some lip-balm and some tissues. You just don't want to be that person who has to keep using their sleeve! ;)

Helpful little thing! 
That's it for now although let me know if I've missed anything.
Keep warm, keep safe and enjoy your runs! 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Food & Fitness 26th October

It's Sunday and it is an hour earlier than what your clocks say (if you are in the UK anyway)! Unfortunately, we did not get to take advantage of the clocks going back this morning as we had 4 children wide awake for some of the night and up pretty early this morning. We had the husband's sister and her family visiting so it was a big sleep over party at ours! Maybe next year we'll get to enjoy the clocks going back ;)

Otherwise, this weekend was full of fun times with cousins and family and today we went off to our local Autumn Festival. I have never been to this festival but it was a fun and hopefully can become a family tradition!

Some pics from today:

An Autumn walk on the search for coloured leaves

Dylan trying his hand at the wood lave

Apples ready to go into the press for fresh apple juice
This week is half term break for students over here in the UK, so Francis will be off school all week, which relaxes our schedule a bit. Fingers crossed I can get a bit more exercise in this week (the mornings are proving much more reliable than evenings for getting workouts in).

Sunday- Chicken Stir-fry with Rice
Monday- Soup and Baguette
Tuesday- One Pot Pasta
Wednesday- Chicken Taco Salad
Thursday- Corned Beef, Red Onion and Sweet Potato Hash with Broccoli
Friday- Curry Friend's Birthday Celebration
Saturday- Halloween/Birthday Party

Sunday- Rest
Wednesday-Strength Training
Thursday- Running Club
Friday- Personal Training Session
Saturday- TBD

Hope you all have a great week!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Friday Faves 24th Oct 2014

Well, this week has really gotten away from me. Where has the time gone? I feel like I have been so busy trying to unpack, do laundry and get back to a regular non-holiday schedule that I haven't had much chance to do anything else. As much as I love holidays, I am not too keen on the pre-holiday packing or the post-holiday chaos but I'll take both for the chance to be away with my family! :)

So on this very rainy, cold and busy week here are a few of my favourite things:

1) Some new Yankee Candles! I am obsessed with Yankee Candle and all their beautiful candles and scents. I tend to go through them very quickly as well and so I have been trying to keep to buying them as treats really. This time around I got quite a few small jars and these three are my Autumn scented ones that I'm loving right now.
Cranberry & Pear, Halloween Candy Corn and Honey & Spice
2) Running. I haven't really been running in a couple of weeks which annoys me but it is one of those things that has just happened (or not happened as the case my be!). Anyway, last night I went to running club and ended up having a really good run. About 6.5k (4miles) and I felt so good afterwards. Hello Running, so nice to be back :)

3) Halloween Decorations. I have been slowly decorating for the Autumn and Halloween and have completed some parts of the house. I don't tend to go overboard with decorations any more as the boys pretty much wrote off all my Christmas decorations last year. They just think everything I put out is a toy. So here is a sample of a little Halloween area in the house!

The pumpkins are usually in a different formation but the boys have gotten ahold of them!
4) My new Sarah Chapman Skinesis hand cream. Oh man, my hands are pretty horrible right now. They are dry, my nails are splitting and I have such sore cuticles I can't stand it. So when I read a review of this hand cream (well, it is really an oil) I jumped on the band wagon. It is a little on the pricey side since I normally buy my hand creams at the supermarket, but it seems to be helping!

Bedside essential and treat!
5) Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and The Spending of A Great American Fortune. I started reading this book on vacation and it is so good!! It is non-fiction and I seldom pick up a non-fiction but the two writers have a fantastic style and I am so hooked into the story I can hardly put it down. I have so many questions about this woman and her family and I cannot believe this book is non-fiction!
I have downloaded this on my Kindle but here is the cover.
That is it for this week. I hope you have all had a great week.

What are your faves this week? Any good books? 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Portugal 2

So my last post left off just after I had taken a bite of a maggot (argh!)...well, nearly anyway! However, I guess I should really start at the beginning of our trip for a proper recap.

Yes, my suitcase has legs! 
Our holiday to Portugal was a little last minute. We had all been under a lot of various stresses: work, new school schedules, etc... and we also acknowledged that this would probably be our last year of being able to take the boys off whenever we wanted (versus half term school holidays) so we found some cheap flights, hired a car (another cheap deal) and booked some accommodation through Airbnb. I'm not sure if any of you have ever used Airbnb before, but 'regular' people (as opposed to companies/hotels) list either rooms or whole apartments/houses that are up for rent for holiday users and generally cheaper and more interesting than just staying in a hotel. We have used it before and are big fans! This time was no different.

Our first point of call was the South of Portugal in the Algarve. I had never been to Portugal before but had heard many people talk about the Algarve and how nice it was. The beaches were lovely, the water wasn't too cold and the seafood was great! Unfortunately, we encountered a lot of rain. Luckily the rain was only intermittent so we just ignored it and carried on sight seeing and enjoying the pool. :)

Benagil Beach
Climbing the rocks at the beach
A few days later and after a 5 hour drive we had arrived in Amarante (just outside of Porto in the North of Portugal) for a few more days. The house we rented there was a lovely old farm house with a swimming pool and completely unbeknownst to us actually had fruit and veg aplenty growing right there on site. We had corn, squash, tomatoes, peppers, chilli peppers (the hottest I have ever had, which is saying a lot!), lettuce, oranges, grapes, kiwi, some strange kind of apple and many others. It was amazing. We also collected chestnuts one night to roast on an open fire. The historic town of Amarante was pretty but once again the weather was just not behaving. It was cold and raining (a torrential downpour kind of rain). :(

Roasting Chestnuts

Local sparkling green wine!
Finally, with 3 days left of our holiday we got into the car (armed with our own food, I wasn't risking bugs, maggots or anything else again) and headed down South to Lisbon, Portugal's capital city! Our apartment was right in the centre and had the most amazing views of the city. We stayed in a modern apartment right in Barrio Alto. The weather while we were in Lisbon decided to cooperate as well so we were blessed with some hot and sunny days! It was great. :) We went exploring the city, had ice cream, rode on a tuk tuk, rode on the trams, had many delicious pastries and coffees (and of course more wine!).

Castle at the top of a hill (blocked by silly van)

Grumpy pose
I guess we didn't get up to as much as a normal tourist would but we think that sometimes just taking things easy and working with what we think the boys can do and will enjoy will lead to the best family memories. :)

We are back home now and looking forward to taking on the next couple of busy months in the lead up to Dun Dun Dah.....Christmas!! ;-)

What are your family holidays like? Do you fill them with sight seeing, take it easy or a bit of both? 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Portugal 1

Hello from Portugal! Well, I was going to be blogging through out my trip over here but... Despite the promise of wi-fi at each place we have stayed, we have only just got it at our final destination with only two days left to the holiday! Oh, well!

Our trip has definitely been eventful. Full of good times and interesting things and also full of crazy stuff that really could only happen to me. I mean who else bites into a homemade baked good to find a maggot crawling into their mouth? Yes, this really happened and yes, my husband did nearly drive off the road when I screamed, threw the cookie and was literally paralysed with disgust! Poor husband, poor boys (what the heck is up with mummy?), poor me and poor maggot!

We have so far travelled from The Algarve in the south of the country to Amarante (just outside Porto, in the north) and now we are in Lisbon.

I will try to get my act together and write a proper holiday catch up post when I get home as I think this trip warrants a little post at least ;) but for now just wanted to say Ola! We are all alive and well...with the exception of the maggot (I hope) and I will be back to regular blogging soon my friends. :)

P.S. the below was meant to be my food and fitness post for this past Sunday! Pretty right on with the exception of the fitness. Despite bringing gym kit, I haven't done anything fitness related except walking. Back on it next week!

Well, I haven't got a clue but I can imagine it will be a lot of seafood, meats, cheeses, wine, pastries, and more wine.

Again, not sure. We are moving through Portugal on a bit of a tour so every location will be different.  I do hope to get out for some runs and if time allows do some body weight workouts too.

Have any of you been to Portugal? What was your favourite thing about it?

Friday, 10 October 2014

Friday Faves 10th Oct. 2014

Happy Friday! Yay, it's the end of the week and a long one at that. I suppose it has been long for us as we've all be looking forward to starting our holiday in Portugal next week! I am looking forward to a little bit of sun, warmer weather and fingers crossed a bit of time to relax - as well as, obviously, soaking in all the culture of Portugal.

Apparently, all the places we will be staying in have wifi so fingers crossed I'll be able to get a bit of blogging in while away, but if not I definitely promise photos and a post from the trip when we return!

Here are some of this weeks faves:

1) New key chain- this beauty finally arrived and I love it! All my keys fit (no need for a ghetto rubber band to hold things together) and it even has a little hook thing for my Sainsbury's cart token (ah, it's the little things!). Also, I am a big fan of cute owls and this one is fab :)

So cute!
2) A new training plan- my trainer has developed a new plan for me with a focus on core repair (still struggling with diastasis recti) so when I get back from my holiday I fully intend to embrace this new plan!

3) Genius Gluten Free Bread- Ok, so I don't think I have any intolerance to gluten although I simply can not eat white bread (I feel bloated for like a week after I have a slice) but I picked this up on a whim with some suspicion that I may be eating too many glutinous things and boy is it good!! I am definitely a fan...mind you I may have cancelled out any good thing about it by adding Nutella but hey ho! ;)

4) Holiday- It's no secret, I have been pretty stressed out with things recently so a holiday is really just what the doctor ordered. Hoping my lovely husband and I will switch who gets up early with the boys each day and I get some time to read and relax. Although, I'm pretty sure some vino and sun will be enough to cheer me right up!
Attempts at packing! Disaster!
5) Palmers Cocoa Butter Formula Skin Therapy Oil- Ok, a friend of mine recommended this to me a week ago and I can't stop using it! Normally I use the entire bottle of cream or whatever it is I am using on my skin before I swap over to a new one but man this stuff is good. The smell is heavenly, the oil sinks right in (no sticky mess) and man oh man it seems to be working! I am currently using it on my stomach to help with stretch marks and generally to get the skin there back in shape...LOVE! Get yourself some  :-)

This stuff is fab!

That's it for today! Have a great weekend and hopefully be back with posts from Portugal soon!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

A Photo Shoot with Two Toddlers

About a month ago we decided that a long over due family photo shoot was in order. We kept saying that we wanted to do one for ages but then never really got around to doing it. We also didn't want anything too cheesy. I guess it is important to note that my husband is a very good photographer (and photo editor, thank goodness) so therefore he was leery about getting just anyone to take some mediocre shots and pass them over after we have parted with hundreds of pounds.

Admittedly, I did none of the research as 1) this is not my forte and 2) I would have just gone with the photographic studio in Mothercare or asked a friend to recommend one. At any rate, my husband picked out a photographer that he often saw the sign for on his way to work. What my husband failed to notice was that the sign on the studio said 'Commercial Photography'...whoops!

At any rate we made the mistake of really bigging up this photo shoot to the boys, so needless to say they were completely unruly when we arrived for the shoot. No, they didn't want to smile; no, they didn't want to change into something nice; no, they didn't want to sit/stand/lie down! My husband and I did a good job of making things work given the circumstances but the photographer didn't have a clue.

Unfortunately, this photographer was used to working with models so kept asking us how often we had practised with the boys? What?! Never! It is supposed to be fun and natural and we were expecting him to have had a bit more experience with children on shoots. The boys are normally quite happy and love to smile and laugh - just not that day. He also kept saying things like get rid of that toy or just hold them still. Again, not helpful and not happening! I think his biggest mistake was not taking the camera off the stand and walking around to capture less posed moments.

At that point, I told my husband that we should just make due with what the photographer had already and head out. We did get a few of the two of us as well which were nice, but not made without comments from the photographer such as 'you know you don't need to smile with your teeth!'. Cripes, sorry mate, that's how I smile when I'm happy!

I don't want this post to come across as a massive whine; after all we did manage to get a few beautiful family photos (after some editing by my husband), we spent the afternoon together, probably got a deal on the price and I'm sure we'll someday be able to laugh at this experience. Plus we have some good photos to show at the boys wedding (hehe!)! :)

So here are a few tips I took away from the experience:

  • Book a reputable family photographer who has a few year's experience (especially with little ones)
  • Don't make the trip to the photographer's a big deal (I think in hindsight it stresses the little ones out, this might be different for slightly older children)
  • Put the little ones in the clothes you want them in for the photos (changing doesn't work, or just change shirts)
  • Make sure clothes, props etc... are ready well before the shoot (yes, we were ironing about 2 minutes before we left the house!)
  • Bring only props that you don't mind having in photos (just in case they won't let go!)
  • Try for more natural photos (less posing = less stress for the little ones that don't want to sit still)
  • Go to the shoot with ideas of any poses you do want
  • Go to the shoot with ideas of what you don't want 
  • I would recommend a morning shoot (we had afternoon) but that is based on my children being happier and more rested then
  • Have fun and relax! Show who you really are toothy  grins and all! ;)
Have any of you had good or bad photo experiences you'd like to share? 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Food & Fitness 5th October 2014

Hello on this very very rainy Monday morning! It is pretty torrential over here today but luckily we can spend most of the day inside! Just a couple of soggy school runs to contend with!

We had a fantastic weekend just getting some things organised around the house and starting to get prepared for next week's holiday to Portugal! We still haven't finished our entryway room but it is nearly there and the last bits that need doing really must now be done by a professional so fingers crossed we'll have it done by the end of this month ;)

Passed out after all his hard work!

Here are my plans for this week:

Sunday- Coconut Chicken Curry with Rice (I could totally eat curry everyday!)
Monday- Salmon with Asparagus and Roasted Veg Couscous
Tuesday- Sausage Pasta
Wednesday- Meatballs with Mash and Peas
Thursday- Chicken Broccoli Gratin
Friday- At the airport
Saturday- Portugal Feast!

Sunday- Rest
Monday- Rest
Tuesday- Strength
Thursday- Running Club
Friday- Personal Training
Saturday- Holiday/Rest

Running with Racheal

That's it for now. Have a great week!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Friday Faves 3rd Oct 2014

Phew...another busy week has finished up! Although it was busy I really feel like I got a lot done and even caught up with some things that had been hanging over me for awhile.

This week my faves are:

1) Pumpkin Spice Latte - I love it! It isn't great for you but it tastes so good and it is only a treat ;)

Pumpkin Spice Latte robber!

2) Autumn Decorations - I have been Pinning on Pinterest and have come up with some good decor for this Autumn. I am also digging out some of my fast faves this weekend. Ikea had a lot of nice things I just got one but I may end up back for more!

3) Curry Night - Some nights when you can't be bothered cooking and you know you want something that will definitely be good and spicy; a curry is the best treat!

4) Finished Painting - I have finished what turned into a mammoth task of painting our entryway room! It looks fab if I do say so myself. Now to get a handyman in to hang some curtain rails, blinds, shelves and fix a step (an even tougher job!).

No more pink walls or magnolia!

5) Workouts - Yes, workouts have been back on the menu this week and I am happy about that. I got in a good strength workout this morning and a fantastic run on Thursday night! Fingers crossed my workout mojo is back!

Alright, well off to enjoy my curry! Have a good weekend :)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Weekly Mishaps

Happy Hump Day!

As fast as this week is flying by... I need it to slow right back down so that I can carry on catching up with all the things I want to do! I am doing so well at getting on top of all the back log I had from not doing much last week but I'll tell you what, things do pile up when you least expect it ;-)

Enough whinging! ;-)

This week, so far, has been full of mishaps. We are a few days in and I can probably count 10 at least and they keep on coming. I thought it might be fun to let you in on a few:

1) I went food shopping with the boys (I know, I know I really should hop on the online order and delivery option but I'm too lazy to take the easier option!) and as per usual, Francis had to use the toilet half way through the shop. Someone (ahem...Dylan) pulled the handicap cord that alerts everyone if you have fallen or are in need of assistance and lights started flashing AND an alarm sounded through out the entire store. A lady knocked and asked if we were ok. I blamed it on the boys! ;) She tutted and walked away. It wouldn't have been too bad except that the alarm kept going for about 15 minutes after we left the bathroom...the entire store knew it was us...whoops!

2) I bought paint for our entryway redecoration. Choose a warm brown/stone colour from samples we had painted on the wall (ahem...a year ago!!). Painted the entire room by myself taking a full day to complete. Woke up the next morning to a PINK room!! Not to fear, I bought new paint and we are back on track (sort of).
Pink almost gone!
3) Back in the day (pre-children and when I had a well paying job) I used to buy myself some luxury treats. At one point after my younger sister had had a breast cancer scare I bought a Coach Breast Cancer Key Ring. It was pretty and some of the purchase money had gone to a good cause so I was happy. Last month my husband broke it. Crystals had fallen out, paint chipped, metal bent and the darn thing wouldn't even open enough for me to put a new front door key on it. So being glamorous (don't cha know) I hooked myself up with a nice rubber band to hold everything together. This week the band was in tatters. Yesterday morning at the school run the whole thing fell apart so everyone could admire my ghetto key ring! ;)
Must get new key ring stat!
4) My husband plays soccer/football on Monday nights. This past Monday was no different but because we are redecorating our entryway room he had no place to put his sports bag. So into the main house came the stinking bag. This morning in my rush to get everyone off to school I noticed some green slime on the carpet. In fact there was still slime dripping on the carpet. This was  a puddle of green slim on our cream coloured (don't ask) carpet. My husband hadn't closed the cap to his body wash and it has leaked out of the supposed water proof bag straight through the chair the bag was on, onto the floor. Not quite sure how to sort it out yet. :/

Any ideas how to get this out?
5) Francis' class had invited parents to come to a new music class on Wednesday mornings. I decided that this morning I would go (they are optional for parents). The woman leading the class made the parents get up and dance and sing along too. I tend to not sing loudly at these things because our nursery rhymes and songs in the USA are different and the ones we have that are the same have completely different tunes over here. Unfortunately, everyone picked up on the fact that I wasn't belting out Jack & Jill. So the next song I thought I knew I got a little louder...unfortunately that was the song that was a different tune all together from what I was singing! So back to basic music class for me next week ;)

Good old Humpty, how could I get it so wrong!
Anyway, I think we'll leave it at that for today! Hope your week is going well and you haven't had too many crazy mishaps :)