Getting ready for a summer of sport!

I know that I am slightly guilty of harping on about sport too much on my blog, but it’s the one thing that I really love to do with my spare time. The other thing that you might have noticed is my timing when it comes to having babies. Libby was born in June 2012, which meant that most of my maternity leave was spent watching the Olympics and Paralympics slaving away looking after her. If I’m honest, we even managed to make it down to London to watch some fabulous Olympic water polo. By some strange coincidence, I find myself on maternity leave again, this time with the Commonwealth games coming up! So here I am, settling down for a busy summer of sport and here are the eight gadgets that this sports fan will need this summer.

1. An all singing, all dancing TV. We have a large, flat screen television, but unfortunately we don’t get 3D or HD. I wouldn’t usually be too bothered, but there are fabulous sports on TV this year and I may actually get the opportunity to watch them. Therefore when I win the lottery, we’ll be upgrading! 

2. Fabulous trainers! If there is anything that gets me motivated to go running it’s watching sports on TV. Next year, I intend to do some aquathlons so my training will start as soon as possible post-baby. These are my current favourite trainers, I reviewed them on my blog last year and they’re lightweight, comfortable and great for any sport. 

3. Sporty console controllers. For anyone who is into gaming, this year will have you taking the step to being a sporty gamer. These Sports PS3 Controllers are a great start, they are all geared up to being the best at sports gaming. This summer, whatever you are doing it’s all about the winning! Competitive? Me? Never! 

4. A sports watch. This is my must-have this summer. I don’t need it, but I really, really want it. It needs to track my speed, distance and time for running, swimming and cycling. It needs to motivate me to go faster than my husband ever before and get me ready for the following summer when I intend to be competition ready again. 

5. An electronic score board. Again, I don’t need this but we have only recently got a manual score board at our water polo club and having an electronic one would make such a huge difference to us when we’re in the water. 

6. Great open water swim goggles. This summer is going to be hot. No, I haven’t looked at the weather forecast, I’m just owed a hot summer on maternity leave because the last one was rubbish. Anyway, for me, hot weather means one thing – open water swimming. If the water is warm, you can get away with just a swimming costume and there’s no need to invest in a wetsuit but good fitting, clear open water swimming goggles are essential. 

7. Waterproof headphones. For any swimmer, the worst thing about training is the boredom. Imagine running for hours on end without your ipod, well that’s what us swimmers have to put up with. Fortunately, it is now possible to get both waterproof music players and headphones, fabulous. 

8. An activity band. If you don’t have time to fit in dedicated training sessions, it is really useful to know how much exercise you’re doing just by chasing around after a toddler, walking the dogs and doing general household chores. The only option used to be a pedometer, but these days you can get much more exciting gadgets like this fuel band from Nike. 

So those are my essential gadgets for the summer, now to get this (increasingly overdue) baby out and get sporty! 

Disclaimers; 1. yes, this photo is me, no I don’t currently look like this – picture the person in the photo but having recently swallowed a space hopper. 2. This post is sponsored but the views, opinions and crazy obsession with having babies to coincide with major sporting events are all mine. 

My Due Date – An Uneventful Day

Well, it’s nearly 9 pm on the 26th of April, the day I’m due to have my second baby. As I predicted, the day has so far passed without event. The baby has three hours to appear on time and it’s looking somewhat unlikely! 

I’ve tried pretty much everything to get things moving but none of it is having any effect. In two pregnancies, I’ve never experienced braxton hicks at all. I’m fully expecting to have to be induced again, much to my disappointment. I even tried the power of Murphy’s law; I booked lunch at a lovely restaurant for today, thinking that if I made plans they’d be bound to go out of the window because I’d go into labour. Unfortunately, I was wrong. 

I am considering booking an appointment for acupuncture next week to see if I can avoid another induction, so if anybody has used this method successfully I’d love to hear all about it. I can’t have reflexology without an epidural, my feet are much too ticklish but I have no problem with the pain of needles being stuck into me. 

So other than that, the only thing I’ve got to do is wait…. 

Luckily, I have plenty of things to fill my time with while I’m waiting. Looking after Libby and deciding how I’m going to make enough money to keep us going before I can get back to working full time are the  main ones. So I suppose I’d better go and make the most of the time I’ve got, even if there will probably be another two weeks of waiting! 

Raising a Little Foodie

When I was at school, cookery lessons were rubbish. We learnt very little about health and nutrition and generally actually cooked about once a term. As you can imagine, I dropped the subject as soon as I could and didn’t take it for GCSE. 

Fast forward ten years when my younger sister was in school, and things were completely different. All of my sisters learnt about the benefits of healthy eating and became very accomplished bakers during their school years. Unfortunately, it seems that cookery in schools has regressed somewhat and is no longer a priority. 

That’s why I was delighted to hear about the Kids’ Cookery School (KCS), that provides a mobile kitchen van teaching disadvantaged children about cooking and eating healthily. The KCS is supported by the water filter company Brita, who have recently donated £10,000 to the charity, allowing them to purchase ingredients to keep them going for the next 12 months. 

For us, eating healthily is an important part of our lifestyle and we are lucky enough to have been able to bring Libby up as a bit of a foodie. The tone was set long before Libby came along, when we went to Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant for hubby’s 40th birthday. That got us a little bit addicted to eating out at nice restaurants and we tend to do so around twice a year. We would rather do this than have birthday presents or go out more regularly to cheaper places. 

Libby has really had to fit in with this lifestyle, and if she was going to be eating at posh restaurants, she was always going to have to be a good eater. Luckily, Libby couldn’t agree more. So far, we haven’t found anything that she won’t eat. When we’re eating out, she behaves impeccably, just as long as we keep feeding her! 

Libby adores healthy food, olives are one of her favourite savoury items and if she could choose any dessert in the world, she’d definitely go for a big plate of blueberries. We put her great eating habits down to perseverance, if she wasn’t keen on something we’d just feed it to her every now and then until she got used to it. As I’m vegetarian, most of Libby’s meals are veggie too, although she will happily eat meat if she’s out. Of course, it’s not all health health health when it comes to food, Libby enjoys her chocolate as much as the next person and she certainly had a very happy Easter! Here she is enjoying her chocolate egg, despite half of it ending up on her face!

Baby Eviction Techniques!

At the moment I find myself in a very familiar position. I’m 39 weeks pregnant with absolutely no sign of an imminent birth on the horizon. My last pregnancy ended in induction, and even that wasn’t straight forward, taking the best part of four days. I have read every urban myth and medical recommendation about how to bring on labour and tried out almost all of them to no avail. I thought I’d share the list of (unsuccessful) suggestions that I’ve had, in the hope that some of my readers might share some tips too! So here are the things that I’ve tried, along with a couple that I won’t! 

1. Exercise

Walking is widely accepted to be great for bringing on labour, as is swimming. When I was pregnant with Libby, I was walking miles and miles, much of it uphill as late as the day before being induced at 11 days overdue. I also swam regularly, played tennis, squash and badminton even after my due date. I can safely say, this is a myth, it doesn’t work. 

2. Sex

My husband has been looking forward to this part of pregnancy because last time the midwife told us that it was one of the best things to bring on labour. It wasn’t, we checked. 

3. Raspberry Leaf Tea

This is a myth. It strengthens your contractions but won’t make you go into labour. I do drink this, I think it’s worth doing if it will make my contractions more effective, because it should result in a shorter labour. I’m a firm believer that keeping fit will also help with a shorter labour because the muscles will be more effective when it comes to pushing. 

4. Clary Sage

This has been recommended to me by my midwife if the contractions slow down during labour. However, she assures me that it won’t bring on labour so it’s not worth investing in myself, I’d be better to ask for an aromatherapy midwife if needed during birth. 

5. Pineapple

The core of a pineapple is supposed to contain something that stimulates oxytocin production. I ate so much pineapple when I was overdue with Libby that my mouth was stinging. It did nothing. 

6. Tonic Water

The quinine in tonic water is supposed to bring on labour, from what I recall, diet tonic water is supposed to be the most effective. It didn’t work for me. 

7. Dates

As in the eating variety. There was a study that showed that eating dates regularly in the final weeks of pregnancy could prevent the necessity for induction. I have only read this recently and believe me, I have tried to eat them but only dry dates are available at the moment and I just hate them. I tried eating them whole, putting them in a smoothy or putting them in porridge but I just can’t do it. I have resorted to having a couple of spoonfuls of date extract each day. It hasn’t worked so far but it tastes good! 

8. Nipple stimulation

This is something that isn’t recommended until after your due date because, apparently, it can be really effective. Expressing colostrum is supposed to bring on labour. It didn’t work for me last time. 

9. Blue and black cohosh 

I haven’t tried this, but it is supposed to bring on regular contractions. However, I have also heard that it isn’t safe and can cause some nasty side effects so I won’t be trying it. 

10. Castor oil

This basically give you diarrhoea, and the contractions from your bowel are supposed to trigger labour contractions. However, I WON’T be doing this because it is dangerous for the baby. What you eat, the baby effectively eats so the baby can also end up with diarrhoea, causing them to excrete meconium before or during birth. They can then inhale this, ending up with breathing difficulties after birth. Much as I want to evict baby, I wouldn’t put her at risk in order to do so. 

If you have tried anything that worked (or didn’t), please do share, I’d love to hear about it, I’m willing to give most things a try. Fingers crossed for an imminent labour, Libby is ready to meet you baby sister! 

Growing Up With Animals

Without wishing to make Libby’s life sound like something out of the Jungle Book, we have always tried to expose her to various kinds of animals, as well as having our own pet dogs and cats. 

As a result, Libby has always been a huge animal lover and some of our most successful days out revolve around animals. Today has been no exception. 

This morning, we walked the dogs for an hour (Libby walks all the way, we don’t use a push chair and I don’t pick her up). Two people stopped us on our road today to say how nice it was to see her being brought up with the dogs and getting plenty of fresh air. They both see us walking past every day whatever the weather. 

After we’d walked the dogs, we popped to see the midwife “to make sure baby sister’s ok” as Libby puts it, then headed off to a local countryside show for children. While we were there, Libby was lucky enough to be allowed to stroke various animals from sheep, cows and goats to horses, lamas, donkeys and rabbits. 

For me, the highlight of the day was when we went to have a look at some small animals, including a skunk (I’d never seen one before) and a snake. The snake was a lovely little corn snake and after we had touched it, the handler asked if anybody would like to hold it. Most of the children and all of the adults were too scared to hold it, but Libby excelled herself, immediately asking to hold the snake around her neck. I was happy for her to do so, as was the handler, so the snake was placed around her neck. Libby loved this, ignoring the shocked gasps from the adults who were around and she gently stroked the snake as it moved around on her. 

I was really pleased with Libby today, both for holding the snake and for being gentle with all the animals and polite when bigger people pushed her out of the way. A few times, she was stroking the animals when both older children and adults barged past her to get to them. Rather than being upset or annoyed, she waited patiently for them to get fed up and go, before resuming her position next to the animal she was stroking gently. 

The only disadvantage with taking Libby out for the day on my own was that there was nobody available to take photos, I had my hands full with her and the bag so unfortunately we didn’t manage to get a photo of her with the snake around her neck. In the absence of that, here is a photo of our latest addition to the family helping me with my work. 

Despite being a pedigree, Jemima was a rescue cat from the Cat’s Protection League. I don’t agree with anyone breeding or buying pets at the moment, there are so many put to sleep every day because there is no home or rescue space for them. When our last cat died, I waited nearly a year but there was just something missing from our house without a cat. I made sure that I found one that got on with dogs and children and Jemima has been the perfect addition to our household. I would urge anyone to consider rescuing a pet rather than buying one. 

My Celebrity Home Style Quiz

The fabulous bathroom style and inspiration specialist Victoria Plumb currently have a quiz on their website to let you find out your celebrity home style. I’ve just filled in the quiz and my results couldn’t be more wrong! Apparently, my style is most like that of Joey Essex or Sam Faiers from TOWIE. It says that everything about me screams glamour… what do you think? 

Na, I thought not! Nice idea though, I wish I was as glamorous as the quiz would have me believe! 

For me, the ideal house is all about practical luxury. I’d love a nice big, open plan farmhouse kitchen diner with stone floors, a breakfast bar and an aga. This would be complemented by a big garden with plenty of space for children, dogs, cats and chickens to all have space to play without getting in each other’s way. As far as the bathroom goes, I’d like a wet room shower as well as a luxurious, whirlpool bath with lights that you can dim so that baths with candlelight and champagne become practical. 

Sofas need to be huge, corner sofas with plenty of time for all the family to lie down on and relax. Bedrooms need to be minimalist with en suites, walk-in wardrobes and plenty of space to hide away all our belongings. Ideally, I’d live in the countryside in a detached house near to a fabulous local school. 

Now that I’ve thought about it, this does all sound quite glamorous. Perhaps I have delusions of grandeur!

This post is an entry for the #GreatBritishHome Challenge sponsored by Victoria Plumb, a source of quality bathrooms for every type of home. Take its “What’s Your Celebrity Home Style?” quiz to discover what your home says about you. 


Getting back to fitness!

My baby is finally due a week on Saturday. Much as I’m fairly certain she will be late like her sister, I’m definitely in the final month of my last ever pregnancy and I can’t wait for it to be over! For the last few months, I’ve been planning what to do about my fitness after having the baby. Whilst I managed to continue running, and even managed a 10k night run in early pregnancy, I haven’t run for over a month now, so training has been reduced to long walks and swimming. 

This has given me a bit more thinking time to decide the best way to get fit after having the baby. When I had Libby, I did a triathlon just three months after giving birth. I then did another triathlon, a half marathon and an aquathlon before getting pregnant again. This time though, I’m going to be starting up a new business, looking after a toddler and a newborn and there is no way I have time to train for long distance running or cycling. So here’s my plan. 

For the next 18 months, I’m going to focus on aquathlons. These generally consist of a 1500m open water swim, followed by a 5km run. Training will consist of one water polo session a week (for speed and fun), one sprint running session, one distance run and two 5k runs. Once a week, I will also do some strength work in the gym, followed by a swim. 

As I will be breastfeeding, looking after both children full time and running a business, this is going to be hard work. I’m also out of practice when it comes to the gym, so here are my plans for what will be in my gym bag: 

1. Water! Hydration is the most important thing when training, and the importance only increases when breastfeeding. 

2. Nutrition. This is the other thing that is incredibly important when training, particularly when breastfeeding as you use an extra 500 calories during the day just by feeding. I don’t get on particularly well with sports drinks personally, although I know that they are a godsend for a lot of people. For me though, it’s all about energy bars. They’re great for replacing calories between the gym and the pool or at the end of the workout. In fact, I swear by them so much that I’ve got a couple in my hospital bag to keep my energy up during labour. 

3. Towel. Lets face it, this isn’t going to be pretty. I hate seeing women in the gym who look beautiful and don’t break into a sweat, they give us all a bad name. So if that’s you, please stop it. Work up a sweat or go home, if you’re just there to socialise, go for a cup of tea instead. Thank you. 

4. Headphones. Our gym has great equipment that you can watch the TV on if you are clever enough to remember your headphones. I have never remembered them, ever. This time, they’re going in my gym bag from day one. 

5. Mobile phone. In case of emergencies. Whether that’s a home emergency (incompetent husband alert) or a gym emergency (overweight mother of two attempting to workout – I might collapse). I always feel happier when the phone is nearby, so as long as it doesn’t ring I can relax and concentrate on my workout. 

So there it is, I’m ready! Now to get this baby out! 

Here is Libby modelling the free bandanna from last year’s aquathlon! 
This post was sponsored but the views, opinions, lack of fitness, gym bag essentials and desire to evict baby number two are all mine! 

A New Drink Experience

A few days ago we were watching TV when an advert came on for Robinson’s Squash’d. My husband and I discussed what a great idea we thought it was and how we’d liked to try it. In a strange twist of fate, I was then offered the opportunity to review the product. 

Robinson’s Squash’d is a very concentrated squash in a tiny bottle. Because it is so concentrated, you only need to squeeze the bottle gently into a glass of water to make an excellent tasting drink of squash. 

Personally, I don’t drink a lot of squash because I’m happy enough drinking water. However, there are times when water won’t do and buying bottled drinks can work out really pricey. What I like about squash’d is that it is made with real fruit juice and no added sugar. I also love the size of the bottle. 

As I usually drink water, it’s really convenient to put one of these into a bag or pocket to add to water as and when I need it. I can certainly see why people would want to take it to the gym to add to the water available from drinking fountains. I have tried both the apple and blackcurrant and the orange and peach. Whilst I enjoyed both flavours, the apple and blackcurrant was my favourite.

Unfortunately, however much I like these little bottles and their flavour, I don’t think I’m going to be getting much of a look in when it comes to actually drinking them. My husband is very taken with them and intends to take them to work to add to water from the water dispenser. Whilst I’m not particularly happy about missing out, I like the idea that he’ll be saving a fortune by using Squash’d rather than buying bottled drinks.