Monday, 2 March 2015

Sublime science - for a party with a bang!

A child's birthday is always reason to celebrate. For a start it gets the birthday child ever so much closer to 'that' ideal age they want to be (for mine it's 12 - the age I once said was suitable for ear-piercing) - and makes them feel all grown up (regardless of whether they are turning two, suddenly six, breaking into double figures or - LIKE FINALLY - becoming a teen). It's also an opportunity to make your child feel loved and special - and give yourself a sneaky pat on the back for a) keeping the child alive that long despite their best efforts and b) them not turning out so bad after all.

As much as OTT kiddie parties have been in the news recently for extravagant pressies and invoices for absentees, it's always nice for your child to see in their new age with some close, personal friends. Often about 20 of their closest friends in fact! 

But finding new and interesting places to go, or themes that haven't been done to death and adapting to their changing interests can be a struggle. You might well be sick of play centres and pass-the-parcel too - and long for the day your child no longer dreams of a complicated cake combining My Little Pony, Tinkerbell and the colour red (I have learnt that sometimes it's best not to ask...).

Monday, 9 February 2015

How to pack a healthy lunch

We've all seen the horror stories about how many grams of saturated fat and calories there can be in shop-bought sandwich and lunches, and the same goes for snacking on an innocent-looking fruit bar or smoothie when you need a little pick-me-up. So how can you eat on the move - and still stay healthy? The easiest solution (unless you are an absolute whizz at reading nutrition labels) is to pack your own lunch and snacks for the day ahead - be it during the working week or on a trip out with the kids. And as an added bonus you'll likely save money and, with the right lunchbox, cut down on wasteful packaging too.

Where to start

Never skip lunch! It's what gets you through the day - and will prevent you from being so ravenous that you'll pounce on any passing high-fat snacks at a moment's notice as the hours tick past. There's lots of research that suggests taking a break at lunch will also help your brain recuperate, allowing you to 'work smarter' for the rest of the day. Concentrating on what you are eating (rather than your computer screen or smart phone, guilty as charged!) will allow you to enjoy your meal and for your brain to register that its has eaten too, a great way to avoid over-eating. To ensure your lunch is healthy, and sustains you throughout the afternoon, try to pack one portion from each of the five main food groups:

Monday, 2 February 2015

Confident when it matters

In my twenties I spent a night at the Tibetan side of Base Camp Everest, with just a sleeping bag optimistically bought in Thailand for a fiver. The observant among you might notice that there's quite a temperature disparity between Bangkok and the North Base Camp. The 'room' I 'slept' in at Rongbuk Monastery (which has an altitude of 16,340 ft) was made of stone, but the walls didn't quite meet, and neither did the door fit the door frame (where's Nick Knowles when you need him). It was bitterly cold outside, and yes, pretty darn cold on the inside too. At that time of year average temperatures can dip to -12℃. I learnt a lot of things on that trip, and one of those things was to GET THE RIGHT KIT.

Fast forward another a few years (okay decades) and you'll rarely catch me under-equipped. If it's cold I'll have base layers, if it's wet I'll be waterproofed and if it's likely to be hot I'll be in sweat-wicking kit before you can say plyometric lunges. Which is why, when Helly Hansen invited me along to preview its new training range at BARREtoned last week, I said 'ja' (which is Norwegian for yes - geddit?). I said 'ja' because, while already well-respected for its professional mountain and sailing ranges, Helly Hansen now offers workout wear specifically designed for women that looks good and is still properly fit for purpose. We're talking Scandinavian style, fused with professional performance. And I didn't even have to set foot in Ikea. 

Photo credit: Antony Potts

Dressed for the barre

Set apart from the range for guys, Helly Hansen's female kit has a feminine silhouette (drawstring waists on running jackets, scoop necklines on vest tops), and seasonal colours and trends. The collection still uses the Lifa flow moisture-management technology, wind-block fabrics, reflective detailing, mesh for breathability and sun protection expertise as required, but adds in the kinds of fashion-forward colours, prints and shapes you want to be seen in. There's also a stunning range of trainers to complete the look. It would've been rude not too - am I right?!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Are you ready to raw?

Who doesn't like fresh veggies?
Spurred on by my addiction to Nakd bars, and my menu boredom that kicks in every now and again, I recently decided to dabble with some raw food recipes. Officially 'raw food' is a term that covers food that has not been heated above 48℃. Many proponents of this way of eating believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost their enzymes and nutritional value and that food in its natural state is free from the hidden nasties that lurk in processed food. Typically on a raw diet you'd be eating fruit and veg and nuts and seeds, but raw foodies also use raw nut butters and milks, cold pressed oils, seaweed, fermented foods (like miso) and vinegars and foods cured in vinegars. So how do you get started?

Monday, 12 January 2015

Winter skin - what not to do!

Don't let winter ruin your workouts
Image courtesy of tiveryluckyat
I think we can safely say that despite relatively mild Christmas temperatures, the winter weather is now here to stay - at least until March (sad face). And while it's a great opportunity to layer on some snuggly jumpers and enjoy a roaring fire from the comfort of your sofa, no one wants to emerge into spring looking more like a wrinkly chrysalis than a butterfly. But harsh winds and colder conditions combined with central heating and even super-hot showers will leave your skin parched and prone to sensitivity (and make you look older - eeeeek!). So what's a mum to do?

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Back in the saddle with Helly Hansen

In the continuing series of 'things my 8-year-old can do better than me' (cross reference swimming, the FlowRider and boogie boarding), on our last day of freedom/school holidays I went out for a bike ride with my eldest daughter. She's had a new bike for Christmas, her first with gears, and I've been trying to get out on my Pendleton I bought a while back but am daunted by the thought of traffic and (going down) hills. For me it's my first bike since I was about 11, when I ruined the 'shopper' my parents bought me scrambling over muddy bumps near the canal with a friend called Donna Gale. But since I can't improve my cycling unless I actually get on my bike (!) I thought the New Year period was a good a time as any to 'upshift' (that's a technical term - lol!) my ambitions! 

Having a child with you means that no one wonders why you aren't racing along at full pelt - and allows you to ride along the pavement for tiny bits when the road is really narrow (it's for her benefit you know - not mine). I chose a route that was mostly off-road anyway, and that I'd run along in the past - so I knew it well! In total we cycled about 7k, which was probably enough for her - and a good circuit for me to add on to as I learn some local rides. There was one tiny incline, which my daughter jumped off and ran up and then gleefully came down the other side at full pelt screaming 'wheeeeeeeeeeee!' and explaining that it's great when you don't have to pedal. Obviously I'm not allowed to jump off going uphill (and really it was barely worth it!) and use my gears and brake to ensure I don't go careering off at a speed I can't cope with (so any speed then really) in case I go 'endo' (look it up - it's more bikey lingo!).

Monday, 15 December 2014

Xmas craft - a great way to countdown to Christmas!

When the weather outside is frightful, why not have a day indoors making delightful Christmas crafts with your kids? It's the perfect way to pass the time in the upcoming school holidays - when the countdown to the big day dominates every conversation!

Get making with little wooden houses that can easily become home to lost teeth or found treasures. Decorate with paint, pens, stickers or gems. Give them to best friends or keep them for yourself.

They make a perfect stocking filler too - if you can sneak them past your kids! (I failed!)

If you've got some presents to wrap harness your helpers! Start out with some plain brown parcel paper and let them personalise it with self-inking stamps - you could even add some sparkly stickers.