Dogs in a tent!

We are back home after a fabulous few days in Polzeath, Cornwall camping with friends. Polzeath is glorious. It’s stunningly beautiful with both awesome surfing beaches and tranquil bays ideal for children and swimming. I managed to fit in running, swimming in the sea, surfing with an old friend and a water polo tournament. Miraculously we won the polo tournament and even got an actual medal! 

Libby had a great time learning to play football, playing in a soft-play area, swimming in the sea, digging in the sand and generally lapping up the fresh air. We managed to continue using our reusable nappies because the campsite had washing machines and tumble driers. It is safe to say that it was a successful weekend all round. 

Nobody wants to hear the intricate details of somebody else’s holiday or be bored by endless holiday snaps so I’m keeping it short and sweet and leaving you with a gratuitous photo of dogs in a tent. 




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First ever gifts

A few weeks ago, I noticed a tweet in which someone was asking for recommendations for fabulous gifts for newborns. At the time, I quickly recommended the 100 year diary that someone bought for Libby when she was born. There is one page per season for 100 years, plus space for a photo each year and some other pages at the front such as achievements and things to remember. This is a fabulous keepsake that I hope she will have for her whole life. 

That got me thinking about how important gifts for newborns and Christening gifts are. If I was buying a gift for someone that I wasn’t particularly close to, I’d probably stick with the usual cuddly toys or clothes, but if it was my sister or best friend, I’d want to think of something that the child would keep forever. 

I’ve always been a big fan of handmade gifts but it’s difficult to think of something handmade that would really stand the test of time. For people who are much more talented than me, I love the idea of a painting, perhaps of flowers that are in season at the time the child is born. If framed carefully, this could easily last a lifetime. When Libby was born, my aunt picked some flowers from where she was on holiday in France, pressed them and mounted them on a piece of card with Libby’s date of birth. What a lovely idea. 

If, like me, you’re not talented enough to make a keepsake that can really last, John Lewis have some beautiful christening gifts. They are all reasonably priced and many of them are really made to stand the test of time. My personal favourites are the name a star gift and the my first year photo frame. Both of these are really personal things that the parents and child can look at together as the child gets older. They are also things that I could imagine a child keeping even as adults when they move away from home. How lovely to be able to give a gift to someone of this age that will last them a lifetime. 


This post was sponsored but the views, opinions, gift ideas and super-cute newborn are all mine (even if she is rather less cute and newborn these days!).

Exciting new challenges!

This year, I made my usual start to the summer where running is concerned. I entered a half marathon in June, knowing full well that I probably wouldn’t have trained enough, but that I’d probably manage to get round. Sure enough, that was exactly what happened. As the summer went on, I became a bit more enthusiastic about my fitness and started trying to find a different challenge each month. July was a triathlon, August was an aquathlon, and now I’ve entered my events for September and October. What fantastic events they are too! 

In September I’ve got two runs planned and, for the first time ever, both of them are at night! The first is just a 10km trail run in a forest, which was exciting enough until I heard about the second one. By chance last night, I stumbled across the “Beat the Bore” run in Gloucestershire. Not only is it a seven mile run at night along the banks of the river Severn, but we will be getting a 15-20 minute head start on the Severn Bore, a massive wave that sweeps down the river Severn a few times a year. The aim is to reach the finish before the wave! I’ve seen the bore once and it is truly awe inspiring. Racing against it, at night with a head torch on, awesome. October will bring an even bigger challenge of a seven mile run on the Malvern hills. Virtually none of the course is flat and it is described as “definitely not a fun run”! Oh heck! 

As you can imagine, challenges like these call for some proper equipment. For my night runs, I will be investing in a really, really good head torch. I’ve never owned one before so if you have any recommendations, please do leave a comment. The main bit of equipment that I will be relying on though is my brand new D+ Flexi Wire sports bra that arrived at the weekend. Woop woop! 



I have already run twice in it. One was a short, mainly flat 5 KM, just a jog around the block to try it out. That went fantastically well, the bra is incredibly sturdy and pretty much cuts out bounce altogether. 

The second run I did was more challenging. I ran 8.6 KM with my husband, not far but it was still a challenge. The reason being- the first 2 KM was up a really steep hill. From then on, the whole run was either uphill or downhill. This is exactly the sort of run that tests a bra properly. I have to admit I was a bit concerned that an under-wired bra might not be comfortable for running, particularly a rather extreme run like this. My concerns were mainly based around the fact that I once ran the London Marathon in the wrong bra. I still have the scars. I’m pleased to say though that on this occasion, my concerns were totally unfounded. 

As is my usual experience with Shock Absorber, the bra took the challenge in its stride. It was comfortable throughout, it didn’t rub and I didn’t notice the under-wiring. I will definitely be wearing it for all the challenges I have lined up over the next few months. Bring it on! 

Keep on running…

I really want to be good at running. I do my best to get out for a run at least a few times a week. It can take as little as 20 minutes so there’s never an excuse not to to. Much as I would love to say that it’s time that holds me back, being too busy with work or with Libby, it’s just not true. The fact is, I’m just chronically lazy. 

Today, I really wanted to do our local ParkRun. My husband was free to look after Libby, the car was available so I could get there… but after a few glasses of vino last night, it clearly wasn’t going to happen. So it got to 6pm today and I was debating whether to run or not. Luckily though, as often, my motivation came from my equipment. 

Last week, I received a brand new product to review, called “The Running Mat”. Dragging myself out for a run today seemed like the perfect opportunity to review it. I’ve noticed on their website that the product will be on this season’s Dragon’s Den. The mat is cleverly designed so that, when not in use, it folds up into a neat little package that clips around your waist on a built-in belt. 

The idea is that you run with the belt clipped around your waist. It is really aimed at people participating in boot-camp style training. You can run from A to B and then do press-ups, sit-ups, stretches or any other exercise that you want to on the mat. 

I don’t personally participate in boot-camps although this is purely because it wouldn’t fit in with my lifestyle, I actually love the idea of them. I always enjoyed circuit training and an outdoor, circuits-style workout really appeals. I can see how a mat like this would be advantageous for this type of training, particularly in bad weather when you don’t want to be scrabbling about on the floor. 

Running with the mat on was perfectly fine. To start with I noticed it was there, there was a bit of the belt left over from wrapping round me and it was initially flapping around. Once I’d sorted that out, I forgot the belt was there. 

If you need to take a mat with you when running, I would definitely recommend this. It would also be great for walking with, providing a nice dry area to sit down on for a picnic. It was great for my aquathlon too, a big silver mat stood out really well in transition! 


This post wasn’t sponsored but I was sent a running mat to review. Views, opinions, laziness and determination to overcome it are all mine! 

Dib Dab Disaster

Since she was tiny, Libby has always had the nickname Dib Dab. I’m not sure why really, just one of those things that seems to have happened. Over the past few weeks since she’s started walking though, she’s become little Miss Dib Dab Disaster. 


Every child goes through a falling over stage not long after they start walking, but Libby’s seems to be a bit more dramatic for several reasons. Firstly, she is spectacularly clumsy because she can’t see in three dimensions, resulting in her going to grab things and totally missing because she can’t see how far away they are. The second problem she has is that we have two large (friendly) dogs. The third problem is that I utterly refuse to wrap her in cotton wool. And finally, as I’ve started to realise over the last few days, the way she has always been treated is a bit of a problem too. 

Ever since she was about 4 months old, I’ve hardly ever put her in a pushchair. She is either in a carrier or she’s walking. This has led her to see herself as just the same as everyone else. Whilst she is particularly interested in children and babies, if she’s in the company of adults, she acts the same as they do. If we’re in the kitchen talking, she’s in the kitchen talking. If we’re running around the field, she’s running around the field. If we’re walking round the supermarket or down the street, so is she. Unfortunately, she’s just a bit too small to hold her own in these sort of situations. This has been rather aptly demonstrated over the past few days. 

Situation 1; running around the field. 

We take the dogs for a walk every day. When we’re a bit short of time, we just take them over to the field, let them off the lead and we all have a run around. The dogs are very gentle and careful with Libby as a general rule, but there’s no getting away from the fact that they’re much bigger and heavier than her. So when Soxa suddenly decided to get up and run without looking where she was going, poor old Libby came an absolute cropper. Soxa ploughed into her, knocked her flying through the air and caused her a thick lip. Luckily Libby was ok, and with a smile like this, Soxa is quickly forgiven for almost anything. 


Situation 2: Shopping. As we were walking towards the high street to do some shopping the other day, Libby was walking along holding hands and chatting with her aunty Sophie and aunty Alice. Unfortunately, chattering away as she was, she wasn’t concentrating on where she was going and lost her footing. The resulting face plant gave her another thick lip, with a little cut thrown in for good measure. 

Situation 3: Chatting in the kitchen. There are often a lot of people in our house and when I’m making tea or snacks, everyone tends to gather in the kitchen, including Libby. Unfortunately our kitchen is pretty small so yesterday when there were several of us standing in there chatting, Libby headed towards me just as I was turning around. The resulting crash between her and my knee sent her flying yet again and off she went head first into the dog’s water bowl. Thank goodness she bounces back quickly. I wonder what today’s disaster will be? 






Unusual gift ideas

I’ve always been a fan of imaginative gifts, often turning to websites such as this one. I have also recently got really into the idea of making gifts myself or buying them from charity shops. This is partly for financial reasons but also because I genuinely think people do appreciate it. My sister Emma writes an amazing blog about charity shopping and my friend Claire is fabulous at giving interesting gifts. I’m so proud that she wrote a blog post about a gift I gave to her- a bottle of elderflower champagne

You may notice from Claire’s blog post though, that whilst the gift was well thought out and crafted by my own fair hands, it was in a crap bottle. I’d given it to her in an old pop bottle because I didn’t have any pretty glass ones, so she’d decanted it into a nice bottle herself. 

I’ve been putting some thought into this recently. Whilst I love my handmade gifts, and hopefully the recipients do too, I think I may come across a little thoughtless by failing to put them in a nice container. So all this is about to change with my next handmade gift. I’ve been browsing the amazing range of containers and other homeware items available here and I’ve had an idea that can only be described as a stroke of genius! 

At the end of our garden, there is a nature reserve that is completely overgrown and not cultivated or cut back in any way. As a result, there are some brambles that tend to hang over to our garden a bit. I realised a few days ago that we were going to have some blackberries on the brambles, so this evening I asked my husband to pick up some cooking apples and went down the garden to collect blackberries for a crumble. Rather surprisingly, they are the best blackberries I’ve ever seen, anywhere. 


True to my word, these will be going into the crumble, but I have grander plans for the next load that I pick. Around 300 grams of blackberries and 350 grams of sugar added to 1.5 litres of vodka and shaken every day, until the sugar dissolves, will make fantastic flavoured vodka. The difficult bit will be leaving it alone for a further 3 months whilst it matures. And then comes my secret weapon… a fabulous container to put it in before giving it as a gift. And I really think that I’ve found the ultimate in imaginative containers. 

No, this isn’t an error, I haven’t accidentally put in a photo of a walkman. This is, in fact, a hip flask. Not only is it perfect for any retro fan, it’s the ideal container for me to decant my blackberry vodka into. You just take off the lid (volume control button) and pour in your chosen tipple. It’s perfect for cold winter days, ideal for fitting into a handbag or a jacket pocket and the finishing touch to my blackberry vodka gift. Now the only question is, will I be able to bring myself to give it away?! 

This post was not sponsored but I was sent one of these amazing hip flasks to review on my blog. Blackberries, vodka recipes and other handmade gift ideas are all mine (with a little help from my friends!). 



Aquathlon

Today, for the first time ever, I competed in an aquathlon. The fact that I’ve never done one before is completely ridiculous. I’ve done several triathlons but my cycling is terrible- I’m a swimmer who runs a bit. The bike just isn’t my thing. So the aquathlon suits me down to the ground- it’s a 750 metre swim in a nice, calm lake, followed by a 5 kilometre run. Genius. 

This is definitely my sport. Don’t get me wrong, I was rubbish today. Spectacularly slow in comparison to everyone else, but for me it was pretty good. I made two major mistakes. The first one was leaving it until the last minute to get my kit together last night, then realising at the last minute that I couldn’t find my number belt. That resulted in the world’s slowest split time when my number fell off my t-shirt as I put it on; my split was 2 minutes 45 seconds. How ridiculous.

The second mistake I made was being a bit over-ambitious with my first race. Having done next to no training in the last, well, several years if I’m honest, I mistakenly entered the National Aquathlon Championships. I’d seen that this was the BRAT Birmingham aquathlon, so it was quite local and pretty cheap to enter so, after a few glasses of wine (as is always the case with these errors), I entered. It wasn’t until the next morning that I realised it was a bit of a mistake. Still, I did it. 

My swim was pretty slow- 12 minutes 18 seconds. Swimming is my thing so I should’ve been a bit quicker really, but I swim about once a month these days. That’s clearly nowhere near enough. On the positive side, I completed my run in 24 minutes 15 seconds, giving me a total time of 39:18. My run time was really quick for me, so despite everything I’m really pleased. It does show me that I really need to keep up with my running training, I’m sure I could get a lot quicker if I wasn’t so lazy. 

My equipment

Unusually for me, I was delighted with the equipment I had available. I have already reviewed these fabulous Hi-Tec Illusion trainers on my blog. Today was the acid test for them- my first race in them; a run with wet feet and no socks. I am delighted to say, they passed with flying colours. For the first time ever in this sort of race, I had no blisters by the time I finished. In fact, they didn’t rub at all, it was just like I’d run all the way in socks. They’re so light that I didn’t notice them at all during the run, I can’t recommend them highly enough. 



The other thing that I have been lucky enough to be asked to review is this new, innovative running mat (slightly less innovatively named, “The Running Mat”, you can buy one at http://www.therunningmat.com). Whilst a review of this item having not tested it fully wouldn’t do it justice, I feel that it deserves a mention. This mat is fabulous- it is so light that it folds up and you can clip it around your waist. Perfect for stretching mid-run or doing outdoor circuits. Today though, I used it as my transition mat. What I loved about it was that one side is silver, so with the silver site up, my transition area really stood out. When I’d finished the race, I folded it up and clipped it round my waist, therefore having notably less to carry than if I’d been lugging a yoga mat around. 


The only equipment that I really missed today was my number belt. I will definitely use one next time, I’ve learnt my lesson. I might even put in a bit of training if I do another aquathlon, I have an unusual feeling washing over me, oh I recognise it… it’s motivation! Oh how I’ve missed you! 

Tuppence a bag…

Since moving back into my house 18 months ago, there have been numerous things I’ve wanted to do in order to improve it. Unfortunately, we haven’t managed to do much because we haven’t yet managed to sell our other property, my husband’s flat. It now sounds like someone is interested in the flat though, so we’re getting our hopes up and talking about what we would splash out on if it sells. The one thing I would love to do is to sort out the garden. 

We have a huge area of lawn at the front of our house that we don’t use because it’s not fenced. Libby adores being outside but our back garden isn’t great for her because it’s uneven and there is a greenhouse. The dogs also have a free run of our back garden because we don’t have any areas fenced off. As well as being a problem for Libby, this means that we don’t have a safe area to feed the birds in. 

When I was growing up, we lived in a beautiful little village at the foot of the hills. Our little bungalow was surrounded by fields and seeing birds of all different types was commonplace. I had no idea that barn owls were unusual or that not everybody had woodpeckers and wrens in their garden. Whilst we live on an estate these days, our garden backs onto a school nature reserve that has basically been left to its own devices for the past few years. As a result, we are lucky enough to regularly find birds in our garden and in the local area. 

Without a safe haven from the dogs though, I have been reluctant to put food down for the birds in our garden. I once went running after Pluto as he in turn went haring after a huge buzzard that was taking off on the field near to where we used to live. This made me realise that dogs can be almost as much of a risk to birds as cats… even if they do look like butter wouldn’t melt!



When we do start to feed the birds in the garden, I will be making absolutely sure that they are safe and well nourished. Excellent sources of food that you can put out for the birds include black sunflower seeds, peanuts, bird seed mixtures, bird cakes and food bars. The most important thing in terms of safety though is the feeder that you use. 

Bird tables are popular, but they can put birds at risk once feeding. When feeding, birds are understandably less aware of the dangers around them. The height of most bird tables is not too high for a cat to jump up to, as demonstrated by my beautiful old cat Simba. She was still sunbathing on the shed when she was old and weak, in fact a few days later she died of kidney failure. And yet she still had enough energy to jump up onto the shed roof. Imagine the potential for a young, fit cat. 

A fantastic solution that will allow you to keep the birds safe is to purchase a bird feeder. Feeders should be easy to clean and refill, sturdy enough to last and they should have no sharp parts that could hurt the birds in any way. They should be hung up high enough to make absolutely sure that no cats can reach them. There is a huge selection of feeders available, such as this fabulous range: http://www.gardenhealth.com/products/feeders

I can’t wait to get one of these in our garden. For the time being though, we will have to make do with feeding the ducks! 

This post was sponsored but views, opinions, naughty dogs and bird loving children are all mine. 





Please could you help with a quick survey?

Since last November, I have been working for an amazing new travel company. As with many new businesses, we are still finding our feet and we are always looking for additional services that we can offer to our customers. 

It’s recently been mentioned by a few people that there isn’t a travel website that gives information about all different types of trip. For example, the ability to search for a country and find information about everything from package holidays to volunteering to emigrating there. Or even a destination calculator that suggests your ideal destination based on your answers to a few questions. 

People these days are becoming more and more interested in the ethical issues surrounding their holiday. We thought it would be a great idea to give you some information about how you can help the people, animals or environment there. Another ethical issue is often the way that animals are treated in zoos, with most people not wanting to support a place that is not taking proper care of them. 

I have created a really short survey through survey monkey and I’d be so grateful if you could spare just a few minutes to fill it in. Here is the link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BTZ3W83. I know how precious your time is, so a really massive…