Monday, 17 November 2014

The #Earlybird Challenge - an extra hour and less stress

As we hurtle towards Christmas, I don't think I'm the only mummy that is already feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of family admin. There's presents to buy, school fairs to organise, tombolas to donate to, cards to write and plays to find costumes for. There aren't enough hours in the day. Or are there? Last week I teamed up with Free Office Finder who are championing the benefits of early mornings. Get up early for a week they suggested - and seize the day! So I did. And this is what I discovered...

1. Early mornings are quiet

With less traffic on the roads, my children still tucked up in bed and planes not yet heading in and out of Heathrow, there's a lovely calming stillness that's best enjoyed with a solitary cup of Earl Grey. It's like meditating without the chanting.

2. Apparently I have a husband

When my alarm goes usually off I'm alone. I have to grapple with the kids and their breakfast demands and uniform preference peculiarities single-handed. My OH has already hit the motorway early - or is at the gym only to breeze in and out. I seriously couldn't tell a police officer what he was wearing that day if he got lost (my husband that is, I'd assume the police officer was in uniform...) . Instead I actually saw him and exchanged some (albeit limited on my part) conversation and affection. Which was rather good for the soul.

3. It's where calm comes from

If you can sneak an extra 30 minutes alone time into your morning you can ponder your 'things to do list' in an efficient way - and instead of feeling like you spend your life firefighting - desperately trying to remember who has a non-uniform day, who is supposed to be learning lines for an assembly and what on earth you are all having for dinner - you can prioritise your chores. This meant I felt in control and spent less time stressing over the little things.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Discover Dogs - and the ways they improve your health

Despite being a proud cat owner, I was brought up with dogs - and have a family that to non-pooch lovers could be described as canine-obsessed. Even my first editorial job was at Dog World Publishing (the flagship product being a weekly newspaper that covers the pedigree dog 'scene' - yes there is such a thing!). One of my daughter's (if not both) also has the dog-loving DNA too and in a few years I hope to be in a position to make her dreams come true and welcome four little paws into the family. Which is why we rocked up to Earl's Court 1 this weekend as it played host to the Kennel Club's Discover Dogs event - where visitors can meet over 200 different breeds of dog, and learn all about the distinctive personalities, traits and needs of each. It's a kind of canine matchmaking service!

Your new jogging buddy

While getting a dog is not a decision to take lightly, I truly believe it is one of the best things that you can do for you and your family's health. Not least is the exercise requirement of all dogs - they must go outside whatever the weather and however you feel. This fact alone will prevent you from leading a sedentary life - and allow you and your nearest and dearest to appreciate how enjoyable that daily constitutional is! Children that grow up walking will more likely continue it as they grow up.

Obviously some dog breeds require more exercise than others - with some able to go for many hours longer than their weary owner ever could! Some dogs will make perfect running or hiking partners (but you must wait until their bones are fully developed before pounding the pavements or scaling hills) - other may be suitable for agility work or flyball - great ways to get up and off that sofa. Other ways to keep fit with your dog include obedience trials and even dancing! Certain breeds also have very specific sports they can train for - like racing with huskies. That said, never underestimate how much walking a dog originally bred for 'working' will enjoy and make sure you are up to the challenge - otherwise you'll quickly find that your bundle of fur is becoming bored, naughty and destructive (say goodbye to your slippers, wallpaper, furniture...).

Monday, 3 November 2014

The kit to covet

I don't think it's too early to think about Christmas shopping - well not when it's for my own Xmas requests anyway! So if you've made it to the 'nice' list too (I have, right?), why not give Santa some little pointers to make sure you look as good as you feel when you workout in 2015?

Charli Cohen at a recent pop-up event in Carnaby Street

The best of both worlds

Charli Cohen is a twenty-something fashion graduate and a personal trainer. Since her debut collection last year, which was sponsored by Lycra®-owner INVISTA, Charli has turned heads in the Brit fash pack for combining the covetable sports luxe look with practical and wearable pieces you can actually get sweaty in. Yup, look in the pages of Vogue people, her designs are there! This is the sort of kit that you should definitely wear to the gym AND also to the school gates and - for the purposes of this article - is quite possibly the reason that cool rhymes with yule...

The Gymtote - WANT

Bags of style

Are you familiar with the expression 'You never know what is missing from your life until you see it in a shop window'? Well, that adage certainly applies to the range of Gymtote bags. Quite literally I cannot believe no one thought of this before! The Gymtote is a bag that 'looks like a handbag, but performs like a gym bag'. This means that you can carry it like a normal, smart shoulder bag but that the cleverly designed zips open up breathable, wipeable, water-resistant sections that are perfectly sized to store your kit, trainers and water bottle - all separate from the areas to pop your purse, phone, keys and travel card in. And it won't matter if your footwear is muddy, your water bottle leaks and your gym clothes are ready for the laundry, everything is protected and neatly tucked away. Of course you could also use the Gymtote as a stylish overnight/travel bag thus avoiding the 'I'm a tourist try to pickpocket me' look on a city break - and the padded handles make it comfy on the shoulder wherever you are off to. Sod slipping a sable under the tree, Santa baby, just get me one of these!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Jelly, jelly frightening!

Freaky flavours

Halloween is a lot of fun sure, but rarely is it very healthy - especially for your kids as they trick or treat their way round the neighbourhood. So when Hartley's asked me to try out its 'monster' jelly range I wanted to throw a curveball into the equation - and at least try to sneak some nutrition in along the way.

If you wanted to go super healthy of course, you can make your own jelly using fruit juice and gelatine. But if you don't have the time or the inclination head to your local supermarket (Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, Morrison's or Ocado) and pick up these limited edition jelly packs, sachets or pots for as little as 45p.

Eyeballs for tea?

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

'We' time beats 'me' time (and wins stacks of prizes too!)

Ah, there's nothing quite like strapping an electrode to your head is there? Especially if while you're doing it you get a quick shoulder massage, a chance to catch up with Facebook and a squiz at a trashy magazine - all while someone else minds your kids for you. Or is there?

 Recently, my girls and I were part of an experiment organised by beloved British brand Pears Soap that identified a 'Golden Moments' scale. Along with some friendly boffins, Pears Soap, which is celebrating its 225th anniversary this year, set out to find out a quick-fix formula to help mums over  'Blue Mum-Day' - which statisticians have identified as the most stressful day of the year for mums when shorter days, half-term childcare issues and ongoing payment of the debts racked up in the summer holidays really hit home. You may know it as today!

Watch the video - and see if you can spot me in my fetching 'electrode headband'!

By wiring us guinea mums up to technology that could measure brain activity and physiological responses, the fist-of-its-kind experiment actually proved that 'we time' - activities undertaken with and alongside your offspring - was far more emotionally rewarding than 'me time'. In fact while a hug from their child tops the Golden Moments scale, checking social media scored the lowest and along with online shopping, actually left mums feeling drained rather than relaxed. Other moments with the feel-good factor included giving a child a small gift, decorating a fairy cake together and reading a story. Even everyday tasks such as helping a youngster wash their hands failed to score negatively. Put simply, 'me time' can't make a mum happy in the way 'we time' with her kiddies can. Those electrodes don't lie!

And the happiness doesn't stop there! Pears Soap is now running a Facebook competition with prizes including holidays and days out on offer. Readers of also have a chance of winning Pears goodies and a £50 John Lewis voucher too. All you need to do is submit a favourite mum moment (everyday moments that make you feel good) in the comment box below - and you'll be automatically entered for both competitions. The closing date is November 26th. 

Add your comment below - you could win weekly prizes from Pears Soap, a holiday or a John Lewis Voucher and a hamper. 
Competition open to UK residents only. Pears hamper and £50 voucher will be sent direct to winner by Pears Soap.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Event review: Run or Dye Oxfordshire

When I was a tad younger, standing in a field among thousands of other hyper individuals as a DJ dropped some tunes was not associated with the healthiest of activities. But times have changed - and novelty fun runs have hit the UK big time this year. Combine this with the mild Autumn and the rather lovely country pile that is home to Lord and Lady Rotherwick - and you've got the ingredients for a great Saturday morning.

Arriving at Cornbury Park in a convoy we'd become part of as we'd left the main roads, I realised this event was no small thing. The Run or Dye phenomenon was big news - even away from the bright lights of London (where most new run events pitch up, assuming us suburbanites can hop on a train). In fact my other half and I were among about two and a half thousand runners ready and willing to become 'part of the rainbow' - aka doused in plant-based powdered dye as we ran a 5k course. 

A fun-filled goodie bag

After a quick check-in (er, there were no queues, what's that about?) we slipped off to the portaloos to change into the t-shirt provided in the pre-race goodie bad - and proceeded to apply the tattoo to our faces. We'd also been given a packet of dye - and so got our kids to start the dousing. We were in good company as run revellers were already covering each other with the complimentary colour packs - and rushing off to buy extras well before the klaxon sounded.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Get your kit off - and keep it clean!

What else is growing in there?
Image courtesy of anankkml at
So, I received a press release, which mentioned Netmums research that showed the majority of people only wash their sports kit after every third gym session. That pretty much made me want to throw up as it wouldn't occur to me not to chuck my clothes straight into the laundry post workout. But it did make me reconsider how clean my washing actually is - particularly as my kit sits in the washing basket alongside my husbands' cast offs, waiting for a 'full load' to mount up.

Dirtier than you think

For a start, lab-coated experts have recently discovered that bacteria grow faster on high-tech polyester sports gear than on regular cotton clothing. It is also likely that close-contact sports encourage bacteria including the cold and flu virus (and even MRSA) to transfer across the team players. Add to that the chance that dirty gym equipment (from the guy who doesn't wipe down the spin bike after he's finished for example) can transfer yet more germs onto your clothes - and you're looking at more than just a nasty pong on your capri pants.

How should I be washing my family's workout wardrobe?